It is the year 1915. Neutral America is debating the proper response to the war in Europe. Increasingly involved in this debate is Henry Ford: inventor, industrialist, and billionaire. He is against war - it is bad for business. Ford is barely educated but knows how to make a headline, and when he declares that he will give up all he possesses to stop the build-up to war, the papers get to work. Into his orbit comes the bombastic peace-activist Rosika Schwimmer, who persuades him that a Peace Ship filled with the great and the good should sail to Europe, set up a mediation commission, and 'get the boys out of the trenches by Christmas'. With Ford's money the idea quickly becomes a reality and everyone is in on the act. Fortunes are spent in his name. Chartering the Oscar and leaving in a storm of publicity, but with most credible invitees turning him down, Ford finds himself in the mid-Atlantic, menaced by invisible U-boats, on a ship full of eccentrics, idealists, parasites, and hard-drinking journalists on the story of their lives. Back home, he is ridiculed as the expedition descends into acrimonious farce.
Told in the many voices of those around Ford - his wife, his chauffeur, the activists, politicians, and journalists aboard his Ship of Fools - "King Henry" is a captivating and virtuosic novel based on one of the most extraordinary episodes of the early twentieth century. It is a strikingly contemporary story of a well-intentioned king with a court that has run mad who suffers a spectacular fall from grace.
Douglas Galbraith was born in Glasgow in 1965. He is the author of two highly-praised novels, The Rising Sun and A Winter in China. He has two sons and lives in Fife.