Charles Whistler

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The Reverend Charles Watts Whistler MRCS, LSA, (November 14, 1856 – June 10, 1913) was an English writer of historic fiction set between AD 600 and 1100, usually based on early English/Saxon chronicles, Norse or Danish Sagas and archaeological discoveries.


Charles Watts Whistler was the oldest son of the Rev. Rose Fuller Whistler, who was Vicar of Ashburnham in Sussex and a Vice President of the Sussex Archaeological Society and, later, Rector of Elton, Hunts (to which cure Charles Watts Whistler succeeded, below). He was descended from the Sussex branch of the old Thames Valley family of Whistler, from which descended, also, Rex Whistler and his brother the glass engraver Sir Laurence Whistler and he was also more distantly related to the Irish branch of the Whistler family (emigrated in the 17th century) whose most famous descendant was the Anglo American artist James McNeill Whistler.

He was educated at Merchant Taylors School, London and Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He studied medicine at St Thomas's Hospital, London, and was a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons and a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries. After practising as a surgeon (which had been the profession of his maternal grandfather, James Watts, MRCS, of Battle, Sussex), he was ordained deacon in 1884 and priest in 1885. He then served as a clergyman in a succession of parishes: curate of Woolton, Liverpool 1884–1885; Chaplain of the Fishermen's chapel, Hastings 1885–1888, Vicar of Theddlethorpe All Saints, Lincolnshire, 1888–1894, Rector of Elton, Hunts, 1894–1895 (his father's old parish), Vicar of Stockland-Bristol, Somerset 1895–1909 and, finally, Rector of Cheselbourne, Dorset 1909–1913.

He married, 3 March 1886, Georgiana Rosalie Shapter Strange, daughter of William James Stevenson Strange, master wool-dyer, by then retired. (His brother Alfred James Whistler married Georgiana's sister Mary Maud Strange. The two women's brother, W.R.P.Strange, had been Vicar of Stockland prior to C.W.Whistler.)

Whistler was interested in the history of England before the Norman Conquest and this is reflected in the subject matter of his prolific work as a historical novelist. His works were popular in their day, but the archaism of the language he adopted makes them less accessible to a modern readership.


  • A Thane of Wessex (1896)
  • Wulfric the Weapon Thane (1897)
  • King Olaf’s Kinsman (1898) A Story of the Last Saxon Struggle against the Danes in the Days of Ironside and Cnut (set circa 1000 AD)
  • King Alfred’s Viking (1899) A Story of the First English Fleet
  • Havelok the Dane (1900) A Legend of Old Grimsby and Lincoln (set circa 580 AD)
  • For King or Empress? (1903)
  • A Prince of Cornwall (1904) A Story of Glastonbury and the West in the Days of Ina of Wessex (set 690-710 AD)
  • A King’s Comrade (1905) A Story of Old Hereford (set ca. 790 AD)
  • Gerald the Sheriff (1906)
  • A Sea Queen Sailing (1906) (set ca. 935 AD)
  • A Prince Errant (1908)
  • Early Wars of Wessex (1913)
  • Dragon Osmund (1914)
  • A Son of Odin (1914)


  • "Havelok" plays around 580 to 600 AD in Denmark and England, one or two generations after mythical King Arthur (and his people's struggle with the Saxons) and shows early relations between the Danes and Saxons (now well-established in England with their own kingdoms) and the already Christianized Welsh in England. Also introduces dislike between Danes/Jutes (cousins of the Saxons) and the Norse. Based one of the (until the Elizabethan Age) most popular Medieval sagas of the British Isles that has a lot of traits of the classic nordic sagas.\
  • "Prince of Cornwall" takes place about a hundred years or four generations later—ca. 690-710 AD, and deals much with the relations between Welsh and Saxons, feat. some resident Danes in the country.\
  • "King's Comrade" is again three generations later, ca. 790 AD. Mainly focused on inter-Saxon conflict (King Ethelbert, King Offa), and problems with the Welsh (who still would like to get their lost estates back...). Introduces Norse campaigns on the Frankish coast (founding the Norse state of Normandy).
  • "Wulfric the Weapon Thane" shows how the Danes invade the English realm and found kingdoms, turning from fun-loving plunderers to competitive conquerors.
  • "Thane of Wessex" takes place shortly before King Alfred's rule. The hero is robbed of land and title through bitter intrigues, and banned from the realm. But as he tries to leave the kingdom, he's followed by pursuers who are after his life. Soon Whistler adds one or two tasty conflicts of interest, and we've got a man in a mess—how to do the right thing if you are right-less and without honor in the eyes of your former peers?
  • "King Alfred's Viking" tells more of the Battles between the English (united at last) and the Danes, and is the story of the first navy of England, built by Alfred with a little help from Norse friends."
  • ca. 935 AD: A Sea Queen's Sailing (1906)
  • ca. 1000 AD: King Olaf's Kinsman (1896) -- A Story of the Last Saxon Struggle against the Danes in the Days of Ironside and Cnut


  • Alumni Cantabrigenses (Venn) Part II vol 6 p 428 (1954)

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