Customer Review

49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended!, 6 Aug 2007
This review is from: Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England's Self-made King (Hardcover)
The medieval period has a reputation for being as dark as the age that preceded it, so I was almost reluctant to read this book, but I'm glad I made the effort to pick it up. This is Shakespeare's king, but not as countless actors have played him. Ian Mortimer uses biography as a powerful tool to investigate the relationship between Richard (Henry's predecessor) and Henry - from Henry's point of view. Henry's taking the throne is often taken as the root of the Wars of the Roses, and the author shows how Richard changed his mind about his heir several times. Having become king, Henry had to sweep away almost a century of English royal practices to ensure he had a hereditary right to the throne, and although Richard did indeed make the Yorkists the heirs to the throne, they themselves initially gave in to Henry. This casts a long shadow over the rest of 15th-century history. Mortimer's great strength is that he does not rehash accepted views but has embarked on a thorough re-evaluation of the information contained within the contemporary evidence, and a logical examination of its contradictions and implication. This is not revisionism for the sake of it, but an essential analysis of the available evidence. This might sound like medieval political history at its driest: not in this book. The full horror of the tyranny of Richard II's final years in power contrasts with the chivalric fervour of Henry's early life. As the sole grandson of Edward III and the first duke of Lancaster, he was one of the foremost warriors of the 14th century, and possibly the greatest tournament fighter the English royal family ever produced. The description of the battle of Shrewbury gives a real insider's view of what it was like to be involved in one of these battles. Bloody conflict, subtle political manoeuvring and up-to-date historical analysis - this book has it all.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 21 Jan 2008 20:47:01 GMT
Lady Synford says:
Henry was not the first Duke of Lancaster...his mother Blanche's father, also Henry, was the first and Henry's own father, John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, was also Duke of Lancaster before him.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Mar 2010 11:11:45 GMT
....and when you say Shakespeare's King, I assume you're referring to his successor, Henry V. Have you read this book?

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Aug 2010 10:12:01 BDT
Henry was certainly not Edward III's sole grandson; Richard II was too, as were the duke of York's sons Edward and Richard, the duke of Gloucester's son Humphrey, John of Gaunt's three Beaufort sons and Richard II's elder brother Edward, who died young.
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