Top positive review
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The title "The Perfect King" has been criticised
on 2 October 2017
I've read this biography a number of times as it is a rare blend of being informative and highly readable. A lot of negative reviews seem to be due to the author's proposal that Edward II (the protagonist's father) did not die at Berkeley Castle with a red-hot poker in his "fundament", but actually lived on for many years on the continent in secret, It is widely accepted that Edward II did survive after news of his death was spread, but the legitimacy of the Fieschi letter that the author relies on heavily to suggest that he in fact lived on for many years after this still, is debated. This doesn't detract from the biography at all. The author is entitled to put forward his theory and it is backed up with evidence. Other reviewers have described this evidence as scant or simple hear-say, but this is the beauty of studying history, very little can be 100% proven or at least can be interpreted in varying ways. To paraphrase the author (as I can't remember the quote word-for-word!) sometimes "[we are left] looking for where a needle once was in a long vanished haystack".
The book is fast-paced and informative; Edward III and his contemporary nobles are brought to life magnificently. The title "The Perfect King" has been criticised, with Edwards huge taxes and expenditure being mentioned as an argument against his perfection, however, when you look at what Edward allowed to evolve through his reign, such as the emergence of the middle class, greater rights for the poor, a sense of Englishness, the move away from hand-to-hand combat, a greater role for parliament, keeping war on foreign soil, etc. etc. etc. he certainly came close in many ways. It has been mentioned by many that if Edward were not to have lived so long and were his reign therefore not to have declined with the decline of his health and authority, we may remember him now as Edward The Great. He won more battles on the continent than the redoubtable Henry V, cowed Scotland more fully than his ferocious grandfather Edward I and displayed chivalry (an important aspect of kingship at the time) more flamboyantly than his fondly-remembered, crusader ancestor, lion-hearted Richard I..
overall, almost every time i choose to spend a few months reading up on the medieval world, this book is inevitably one I pick up first to ease me back into the subject. I've read it probably around 6 times and have enjoyed it every time. Recommended.