HISTORY has always fascinated Lyme Regis resident Nigel Fortnam. His bookshelves are positively creaking under the weight of the heavy tomes chronicling the great events of our country going back many centuries.
Back in 2015 Nigel, a former brewery executive, was particularly taken by ‘Killers Of The King’, an account of one of the bloodiest episodes in English history, the beheading of Charles I outside his palace in Whitehall when Britain became a republic.
The book was written by the Earl of Spencer, and Nigel wrote to him saying how much he enjoyed the book.
He also suggested that it would be a good idea to write about Charles II’s escape after the battle of Worcester in 1652 when the eldest son of Charles I returned to this country to fight for his throne.
Although he was 6’2” tall, the would-be king went on the run for is weeks, in various guises, escaping death on many occasions. Once restored to the throne as Charles II, he told the tale of his escapades to Samuel Pepys, who transcribed it all.
Nigel thought no more about it but two years later he received a letter out of the blue from author Charles Spencer informing him that he had indeed written a book called ‘To Catch A King’ about Charles II’s exploits, which brought him to West Dorset in disguise, staying in Charmouth and Bridport, and it was his intention to send Nigel a signed copy.
Nigel, the eldest son of former Lyme mayor and mayoress, Alderman Douglas and Lydia Fortnam, then received a call from the secretary of the Bridport Literary Festival inviting him to a book signing with Charles Spencer. She tracked him down because the author had mentioned Nigel in the acknowledgements as he had come up with the idea.
Accompanied by his brother Peter and his wife Lynn, Nigel was given VIP tickets and they found themselves sitting in the front row next to Lord and Lady Fellows, with whom the Earl of Spencer was staying.
Before the proceedings got under way at the Electric Theatre in Bridport, Charles Spencer thanked Nigel for coming up with the idea of the book and was later given the first signed copy.
And the Earl also invited Nigel and his new wife Vicki and his family to visit Althorp in Northampton where they would be given a tour of the Spencer’s family seat.
Nigel said: “The latest book is a cracking read and Charles Spencer was charming thoughout. When I wrote to him I never imagined that he would be so kind.”