Exactly 150 years after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, history came extremely close to repeating itself when another army set sail from the Continent with the intention of imposing foreign rule on England. This time the invasion force was under the command of Louis the Lion, son and heir of the powerful French king Philip Augustus.
So writes Sean McGlynn in his thorough and detailed account of the campaign which followed King John's repudiation of the terms of Magna Carta. The book offers a comprehensive grounding in the causes of the invasion, examining the roots of the Angevin-Capetian struggle, the loss of Normandy at the beginning of the 13th century and the political machinations of the French and English kings.
The campaign itself is described and analysed in depth, with particular attention being devoted to the large-scale engagements at Dover, Winchester, Rochester and Lincoln, and the naval battle off the coast of Sandwich. The principal characters step off the pages: John, ineffectual but supported by the mighty William Marshal; Louis, the bold warrior with a machiavellian father scheming in the background; and the vacillating barons switching their allegiance back and forth.
McGlynn makes use of a wide range of contemporary sources written by supporters of both sides, and manipulates their often conflicting accounts expertly. His style is concise and pithy, with occasional flourishes of wit which enhance the narrative but do not distract the reader from it, as when he takes W. L. Warren's famous description of John as a man who `could not resist the temptation to kick a man when he was down' and adds that John `could not even keep his balance while doing so.'
This work is highly recommended for the academic or general reader who wishes to know more about this crucial but under-studied campaign.