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This review is from: A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain (Paperback)
I bought this book 'on spec' hoping to rediscover a period of history that I learned about at school but had long-since forgotten. I expected King Edward's story to be rather prosaic after the political machinations and intrigues described in Alison Weir's Lancaster And York: The Wars of the Roses and Thomas Penn's Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England, but I was delighted to discover otherwise. Edward's life was an astonishingly eventful one, both before and after he became king, and involved political intrigues at least as complex as those of later reigns.
Marc Morris tells the story in a compelling style that draws one through the book without respite. However the story is about a lot more than King Edward: it also tells much about the histories and cultures of Wales and Scotland and their interactions with the English. Indeed, Edward's reign was pivotal in intensifying the strained relationships that still exist between England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland, though this was by no means entirely due to Edward's belligerence or intent.
Amongst of the book's more memorable pages are the ones that tell the story behind the legend of King Arthur and which incorporate a hypothesis that gives them political significance in relation to the Welsh rebellions during Edward's reign.
It seems petty to criticize such a magnificent book, but were to do so I would say only that I found myself losing track of time. In his introduction, Morris makes the point that he deliberately set out to tell the story in chronological order, being a break with past histories of Edward's reign. This he succeeds in doing with only occasional need for minor flashbacks and "flash-forwards". My problem was simply that time passed without my realizing it, such as when a 40 year-old Edward suddenly became 60. No doubt this was largely my fault in that I consumed the book in such great bites that I didn't digest it properly, but perhaps the author might have added a few more date markers and/or drawn more attention to the passage of time.
As with all good history books, I'm left with a thirst for more knowledge, particularly about Scottish history and also about the castles that Edward built. Their names are familiar enough to me, but I had not realized that they include the greatest castles ever constructed. Clearly I shall have to read Marc Morris's book on that very subject (Castle: A History of the Buildings that Shaped Medieval Britain)!
I congratulate Marc Morris on a magnificent book that does full justice to its magnificent subject.