Magazine article The Spectator

Fire and Ice

Magazine article The Spectator

Fire and Ice

Article excerpt

BLOOD AGAINST THE SNOWS by Jonathan Gregson Fourth Estate, L16.99, pp. 226, ISBN 1841157848

That night a seemingly peaceable, Friday-evening family gathering, of a kind that had happened many times before, ended in an obscene orgy of bloodletting. Almost a dozen members of the royal family were killed or seriously wounded. The assassin, being the Crown Prince and an avatar of Lord Vishnu like his forebears, succeeded to the throne - for less than two days. Then he too died, of the wounds inflicted by his own hand.

It was a marvellously grisly and almost improbably red-top, yarn, and it all happened in the billiard room of the royal palace of Kathmandu, Nepal, in June 2001. Jonathan Gregson spends half of this book telling the story of that assassination in great and often wearisome detail - what led up to it; how it happened; what its consequences were, are, and will be; how the assassin himself, Crown Prince Dipendra, was an overweight, drugged up, alcohol-- binging elder son with a desperate wish to marry the one woman he really felt properly mothered by, and of whom his own mother, unsurprisingly, disapproved. She got her come-uppance for that stubbornness in a hail of bullets too.

The rest of the book is a brief, useful and enlightening history of the small, landlocked kingdom of Nepal and its rulers, the Shah kings, who have been its monarchs from 1769 until the present day. It begins with tales of brilliant conquest by the dynasty's founder, King Prithvi Narayan Shah, described by this book's author, with some panache if not a modicum of excitability, as the greatest conqueror to have emerged from the foothills of the Himalayas in 1,000 years. Alas, within a couple of generations things have begun to go badly wrong - royal fratricide, bloody rivalries, wanton assassinations, etc. How the present so often seems to resemble the past! In the 19th century parallel dynasties emerge - the Rana family, holders of the office of prime minster in perpetuity, manage to confine the Shah kings to their palace compound. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.