Charles Petrie (historian)

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Sir Charles Alexander Petrie, 3rd Baronet (28 September 1895 – 13 December 1977) was a British historian.


Born in Liverpool, he was the younger son of Sir Charles Petrie, 1st Baronet and his wife Hannah.[1] He was educated at the University of Oxford, and in 1927 succeeded to the family baronetcy.

Career overview[edit]

Petrie was known for his interest in royalism and Jacobitism, and particularly for his 1926 essay in counterfactual history, If: A Jacobite Fantasy, in which Bonnie Prince Charlie went on from Derby to Oxford (albeit to a cool reception), but just as all seems lost, the Duke of Newcastle appears in haste to tell him that George II, head of the Hanoverian dynasty has fled back to Hanover, and to belatedly declare his loyalty. (It has been speculated by some historians that Newcastle, known to have flirted with Jacobitism, actually was contemplating a judicious "conversion" to the Stuart cause when the Prince's army reached Derby.) As a result, large elements of the people and army came over to the Stuart side, and there was never the disastrous retreat and thus, there was never a Battle of Culloden in 1746, all leading to a Jacobite restoration,and the successive reigns of James III (The Old Pretender), Charles III, Henry IX and the continued tenure of the House of Stuart until the present twentieth century. It also depicts the American Revolution as not taking place because of the judicious intervention of Charles Edward, and Washington going on to become a great British general, and other flights of fantasy.[2] Several of his books deal with Charles I's government, towards which he was broadly sympathetic. He published biographies of Lord Bolingbroke, of the early-20th-century British cabinet minister Walter Long, and of three Spanish kings: Philip II, Charles III, and Alfonso XIII. Another biography of his dealt with a fourth notable Spaniard: Philip II's half-brother Don John of Austria.

During the 1930s Petrie flirted with the far right. Impressed at first by Benito Mussolini (about whom he produced a short and polite book in 1931), he attended the 1932 Volta Conference of fascists and sympathisers. Disposed initially to favour Sir Oswald Mosley, he joined in 1934 the broadly pro-Mosley January Club. At the same time he remained publicly hostile towards Nazism throughout;[3] and his later view of Mosley, as expressed in his 1972 memoir A Historian Looks at his World, was thoroughly unflattering.

Among Petrie's journalistic posts was that of literary editor for the generally conservative New English Review. He supported, with reservations, Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco, and was a friend of a leading pro-Franco diplomat, the 17th Duke of Alba. Along with NER editor Douglas Francis Jerrold, Petrie formed in 1937 a group concerned to put the Nationalist case on the fighting in the Spanish Civil War.[4] After 1945 he edited the Household Brigade Magazine, as well as writing regularly for the Illustrated London News and Catholic Herald, in addition to being co-editor (with Jerrold) of the New English Review's short-lived successor, English Review Magazine.

In the late 1930s Petrie championed Neville Chamberlain, though subsequently he was an adherent (with, again, reservations) of Winston Churchill. In 1941 he attempted unsuccessfully to be adopted as Conservative Party candidate for Dorset South. He was rejected, according to Andrew Roberts in Eminent Churchillians, because he was too closely identified with appeasement.

He was appointed CBE in 1957.



  • "Madrid and Its Life To-day," The Living Age, July 3, 1926.
  • "The Jacobite Activities in South and West England in the Summer of 1715," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, vol. XVIII, 1935.


  1. ^ Whitaker's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage, and Companionage for the Year ... 1925. p. 469. 
  2. ^ Petrie, Charles. "If: A Jacobite Fantasy," The Weekly Westminster, January 30, 1926.
  3. ^ Richard Griffiths, Fellow Travellers of the Right, Constable, p. 41, 1980.
  4. ^ Stove, R. J. "In Search of Sir Charles Petrie," National Observer, No. 83, June/August 2010.


  • Kidd, Charles; Williamson, David (eds.) (2010). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (107th ed.). New York: St Martin's Press. [page needed]
  • Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages [self-published source][better source needed]
  • Mosley, Charles (2010). Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 2. Weidenfield and Nicholson. 
  • Gibbs, Vicary; Doubleday, Henry; Cokayne, George E (1937). Complete Peerage of Great Britain and Ireland 40. Cassel. 

External links[edit]

Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Edward Lindsay Haddon Petrie
(of Carrowcarden)
Succeeded by
Charles Richard Borthwick Petrie