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The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England's Self-Made King Paperback – 3 Jul 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Edition edition (3 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844135292
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844135295
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 65,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"[Mortimer] has an instinctive sympathy for the men about whom he writes, a real understanding of the mentalities of late medieval England, and a vivid historical imagination which lends colour and excitement to his pages" (Literary Review)

"Mortimer's book is a success and tells an important story very well" (Richard Francis Daily Telegraph)

"An arresting and original biography" (Jessie Childs Sunday Telegraph)

"[It] possesses the rare combination of clarity, liveliness, balanced judgement, erudition without pedantry, and scholarship founded on his own research among primary sources" (Scotland on Sunday)

"The book is at its most compelling in conjuring a sense of place or occasion" (Guardian)

Review

`qualified historian...invokes historical imagination...'

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 21 Feb. 2017
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author has written a number of books, including the life of Roger Mortimer, and a biography of Edward III. This book tackles the life of King Henry IV, born to John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III and Duke of Lancaster, and his wife Blanche, heiress to the considerable Lancaster estates. Henry Bolingbroke was born in 1367 to an England which had known the strong rule of King Edward III, who died in1377, and sadly was predeceased by his oldest son, Edward the Black Prince. On the death of Edward III the throne of England was the birthright of the Black Prince’s eldest surviving son, also born in 1367, who became King Richard II. It is probably well known that Henry deposed Richard in 1399. How, why, and what the events were that led to that usurpation and the ascension of Henry as King Henry IV make up the first two hundred pages of this book. By these events, England was changed forever. Nobody had ever done what Henry had done, so the consequences were incalculable – for him, for his family, and for the people of England.

The rest of the book follows the events of the reign of Henry, both the successes and the failures. But throughout, the book offers the reader a very ‘human’ view of Henry of Lancaster. To a large extent, he seems to have been a very private man; certainly a very religious man, and one who took his life, and his responsibilities very seriously indeed. He strove to be what his country needed, but whether he felt, at the end of his life that he had succeeded, is open to interpretation. Certainly he has had a black reputation in the centuries since his death, but the author has done an admirable job in offering to the reader the life and times of a man who was of his times, and neither black nor spotless in his deeds.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This really bring Henry IV out of the shadows and scrutinises his life thoroughly. If anyone is a student of history they will appreciate this book. It's not a list of events its a carefully considered appraisal of his actions, beliefs based on Henry and those around him. I'm delighted to have found such an excellent historical author, this is the third of his books I have read and all are excellent.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Would highly recommend it to anyone,either scholar or just interested in history. Having now read several of Mortimer's books, I will continue to do so
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Format: Paperback
This is a very well written and comprehensive biography of this King, who is little studied these days, probably less so than any other late Medieval King. The author paints a picture of Henry which is at variance with the image of him as a usurper of the rightful ruler, Richard II (an image particularly favoured, for obvious reasons, by the Yorkists later in the fifteenth century). Richard was undoubtedly a tyrant in almost a modern totalitarian sense, in that he wanted to eliminate any and all criticism of his rule, redefining it all as treason. His final overthrow in 1399 was very understandable, though Henry's starving him to death seems unnecessarily cruel.

Henry wanted to rule in a much more positive and consensual way, but was faced by near constant rebellion, caused in large part by lack of funds leading to unpopular taxation. At the same time, Parliament was becoming more powerful and self confident and Henry could never feel totally safe, now that he himself had broken a precedent by deposing his predecessor, showing that such a previously pretty unthinkable action could indeed be taken. He survived by adapting to changing situations and being more flexible than Richard. His final years racked by painful illness, his reputation was rapidly overshadowed by that of his son and heir, the victor of Agincourt. This book provides a much needed reassessment of this neglected ruler. 5/5
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I immensely enjoyed reading this book! The life of Henry of Bolingbroke was eventful to say the least. At its most interesting before he 'usurped' the throne, troubled and tortured after he became king. Unlike Mortimer's epic Edward III, this book was highly readable and certainly a page turner. What added to my enjoyment was the parallel life of Richard II, explored, again a king whose life has not been written about by many historians.
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Format: Hardcover
For many of us, Henry IV is the king who deposed Richard II, fathered Henry V and features in three of Shakespeare's historical plays. He reigned as King of England from 1399 to 1413 and while the significant events of his reign are documented in history, the man himself largely remains in the shadows.

In this book, Ian Mortimer sets out to bring Henry IV out of the shadows by providing both context and perspective for his actions. Mortimer's research and energetic writing do shed light, but it is not quite enough to infuse Henry IV with personality and life. The people around Henry IV largely remain in the shadows and it is their perspectives that would enable us to get a clearer picture of the man who was the king.

Ian Mortimer has provided comprehensive notes and a wealth of information in his select bibliography. This book is a wonderful starting point for those who want to know more about the life and times of Henry IV. I hope that at some stage someone will write a book that will be able to shed more life on the man himself.

Was Henry IV a usurper or a saviour? Ian Mortimer has a view, and while I largely agree with him I'm not entirely convinced. Yet.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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