It is 1789 and Fabius Verstappen, first Baron Oakham, once the pugilist Gentleman Jim, is now established in public life, a minor friend of Mr Pitt’s. His unlikely marriage continues to be a success and he is happy in it, and his poor young brother, heir to the Duke of Mendip, is now wed to a kind lady who performs her duty to the family.
Europe is rapidly declining towards revolution and war, fuelled by a decade of poor harvests and increasing famine. However, England, Scotland, and Wales are enjoying a new prosperity from unprecedented growth in coal, iron, and cotton, which has enabled the bulk of the poor to earn a wage, even if only a very few shillings a week.
As revolution looms across the Channel and King George wanders in and out of insanity, London, Westminster, the West Country, and Calais provide a frantic background to Fabius’ progress through his new life.