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on 3 March 2008
Being brought up firmly in the school of Edward II -Berkeley Castle - red hot poker in places that made teenage scholars snigger, I approached this book with a great deal of caution. I have to say that Mortimer has made acompelling case for the survival of Edward II, which I personally can go along with. Even if you don't agree with this thesis you should still buy this book if you are interested in: the Fourteenth Century, Edward III, the Hundred Years War. Mortimer takes Edward from vulnerable youth, through warrior king, to manipulated old man, In my opinion this will be the definitive work on Edward III for many years to come. Well written, copiously researched, brilliant, so buy it!
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VINE VOICEon 2 December 2009
What a marvellous read. I am interested in all areas of history but as a boy Edward and his son the Black Prince were heroes. I have never been able to understand why we see so much about Henry V111 and so little about other great Kings such as Edward 111 or Edward 1 .. or indeed other fascinating long reigns such as Henry 111 with great charactors like Simon de Montfort. Here in Edward Dr Mortimer has found a character worthy of his writing. It is such a marvellous story. The theory that his father was alive till well in his reign is fascinating. Even better is that he does not go on about it , but states it firmly and lays down the reasons why he feels it is true. It is also fascinating that Edward was so enamoured of the tales of Arthur that he not only created his own myth for Camelot, but indeed when we see the myth in out minds eye, or on TV , it is not the early english hero we see but a figure much like Edward himself. READ THIS BOOK you will love it I think.
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on 31 March 2009
This is the first book I've read about Edward III, and it's great. I was a fan of Mortimer's 'The Greatest Traitor' so really looked forward to reading this.

I was not disappointed. Mortimer sticks to his guns about Edward II being alive in Edward III's reign, and explains his motives in light of this. You couldn't get a more different king from Edward II, however, and it is his successful reign, wars in France and the multitude of offspring he has that makes this not only a great book in itself, but an excellent precursor to reading about Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V, as well as the Wars of the Roses (well, obviously!).

I started my history reading with the tudors, and worked my way back. If you are thinking of starting to read popular history, my advice is to start further back, as anglo-saxon and medieval kings and queens are so much more interesting!
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on 26 April 2009
Ian Mortimer's Life of Edward III is an example of that rare beast, the almost perfect book. He creates an atmosphere which allows the reader to not only be 'in the zone' but in the room with the people he is writing about. Edward actually lives in this book and I have to confess that I fell in love with him. The factual information about Edward is exquisitely presented by Mr Mortimer to make this a very rounded portrait of our very long-lived King. I carried this book around with me [started it in France, took it to the UK on a visit, then returned to my home in France to finish] until I had read every word and became distressed at the turning of the last page, almost as if I had suffered a bereavement i.e (1) the end of the book and (2) the extremely sad final moments in Edward's life. This book does what ALL history books should do - transports the reader to another time and place. Highly recommended piece of reading.
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on 28 August 2010
It might seem a bit weird to say it, as the other book is by a different author, but this is a great companion to A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain by Marc Morris.

Edward III is another 'great' English King that no one in my history lessons at school bothered to tell us about. 1066 then the War of the Roses with maybe a rumour of Agincourt thrown in. That was school history of 1066 to 1600!

I have to confess I was fascinated by the war with France and had read a lot about Agincourt and through the unlikely avenue of a Bernard Cornwell book I learned about Crecy and the great battles of Edward III and his eldest son, Edward The Black Prince. These are battles that easily rate with Agincourt in terms of fighting against the odds.

What you learn through this book is that these were ages of intrigue, battles and intense religious and political upheaval. Mortimer, like Morris with Edward I, takes you by the hand and guides you through the mire and throws in a few surprises along the way. His father Edward II, for example, was not dead when Edward III ascended to the throne - he was very much alive and was probably around for several years into the young Edward's reign.

Where Edward I was called the Hammer of the Scots, Edward III was possibly the Hammer of the French, and for 30 years he dominated the battlefields. But Kings get old and unlike Edward I who effectively died being carried to battle, Edward III would die a lonely old man with much of his battle won advantages being lost in later life and after death.

These sort of historical books are terrific reads. You feel like you really 'know' the subject and haven't just had the sort of 'glancing blow' most school history lessons cast at you.

You experience with Edward the times he held regular jousting tournaments, how he spent like a king - you can almost see and smell the whole thing! Yes, and there is even the Black Death.

If you like the Morris volume on the grandfather, get this. And vice versa - if this is your sort of book, get the Morris book too if you don't have it already.
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on 28 February 2010
This is the first time I have read anything of Ian Mortimer's and after this it will definitely not be the last. His intelligent, fluid style of writing is engaging and entertaining while being an excellent source of information on this most interesting of England's monarchs.

The book looks at the life and times of Edward III in detail, examining the highs and lows of the reign. I sometimes find that when an author writes with passion they start to overlook the flaws and mistakes of their subject, but here, I am happy to say, this does not happen. The author examines each event in the life and reign of Edward with an even hand and, when the judgement of Edward was erroneous (which was not often) he studies the reasons behind the Edward's rationale. I found his style of writing thoroughly enjoyable.

I also thought the author's dealing of the supposed death of his father, Edward II was dealt with is a measured and considered way. Mr Mortimer looks at the evidence and the situation and makes intelligent conclusions about what may have happened. He is honest when he says that he does not have enough evidence to conclude what the outcome was but puts forward a series of considered and intelligent conclusions while ultimately allowing the author to make up their own mind. This kind of author is appealing as they impart the knowledge while treating the reader like an intelligent being capable of making up their own mind.

The end result is a book about a king who was compassionate, intelligent and militaristic. He was a loving husband and father (in the context of the 1300s) but was also underhand and devious when the need arose. Ian Mortimer's book does not overlook this but is written in such a way that you find yourself agreeing with the King's actions even when he is being less than honest.

I would thoroughly recommend this book and would happily read anything else that Mr Mortimer has written. I hope other readers enjoy this book as much as I did.
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on 24 July 2013
An excellent read which is ideal for the layman who has an interest in medieval times. I think this is very much on a par with Marc Morris 'Edward I - A Great & Terrible King' which was also an excellent book. Easy to follow and understand Mortimer makes history accessible to all. I was especially intrigued with his views on the (alleged) murder of Edward II as I have always followed the norm believing he was horribly dispatched at Berkely Castle. Great to have a different synopsis and gives food for thought and has encouraged me to read further on the subject. Was sad to have finished it !
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on 20 April 2006
The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation is a highly informative and entertaining account of the life of King Edward III. The book achieves the right balance of 'history' and 'biography' neccessary from a work of this nature, being full of detailed knowledge of events but also painting a highly personal portrait of it's subject. However, one of the most interesting aspects of the book for me is Mortimer's argument regarding the death, or rather survival, of Edward III's father, Edward II. It has traditionally been assumed by historians that Edward II died, or was murdered, in 1327. Here however, Mortimer asserts that Edward II in fact survived his imprisonment and lived in hiding throughout the 1330's, eventually dying in the early 1340's. Edward III was one of the few people complicit in this plan and did much to confirm and perpetuate the popular belief that his father was indeed dead. Mortimer shows how Edward III was forced into this situation, in order to maintain his hold on power and it reveals considerable strength of character in the man, a vital element in a king. Mortimer's argument is convincing, although much work remains to be done before the popular story of the red hot poker can be entirely dismissed.

The book is highly readable and informative and can be enjoyed by both the historian and general reader alike. Edward III is indeed the 'Father of the English Nation' in more ways than one: in the creation of a strong national identity, but also as almost everyone in the country is descended from him. As far as being the 'Perfect King' is concerned, Edward did his best to live up to the astonishingly high standards expected of him, and for the most part he succeeded. His success is most obviously symbolised in his great victories over the French, for example at Crecy, but his domestic achievements were just as important and in the end proved more permanent.

Overall, Mortimer presents a very convincing argument and succeeds in portraying Edward III as the great man he undoubtedly was, restoring him to his proper place among the truly great monarchs of the past.
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on 29 March 2011
Having just read Ian Mortimer's book, The Greatest Traitor, I felt compelled to read The Perfect King and was, without exaggeration, completely blown away...!!! When The Greatest Traitor left Edward III, we was still in his teens, a very uncertain and nervous man. The Perfect King provides, with delightfully compelling narrative, an amazing account of the boy who became, arguably the template for what being a king should mean. Ian Mortimer excels in taking the old dust-cloth off of history and bringing it out into the light of day so that it may shine like a jewel and be enjoyed by all who see it. Ian Mortimer is as much a craftsman as he is an Historian.

Additionally, this account, which is written both sympathetically and with reasoned objectivity, gives us an amazing glimpse in to the time when England went from becoming an out of the way island beset with local feuds to THE major force in European politics and a military force to be reckoned with. I loved this book and I feel better for having read it. Ian Mortimer's gift is that he bridges the gap between the past and present and makes knowledge available to all - and he makes history exciting!
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on 19 November 2009
About 2 years ago there was a book published on Edward I there have been many reviews of the books so I didn't bother to add one but personally I thought it had a very evocative front cover but the actual book itself was a bit average and a little dull. The biography of his grandson is the complete opposite.

Forget the cover (quite possibly the dullest I have ever seen- what were the publishers thinking?) this is a gripping and thoroughly researched look into one of the most successful medieval kings in Europe.

Quite frankly Edward III is a great story, having to be saved by a coup as a teenager to become king, rising to the challenges of war with France and watching his first born son continue his military exploits where he left off only to ultimately outlive all his deeds. So it's a story that is hard to get wrong. However Ian Mortimer does some exceptional detective work proving that Edward was also hindered in the early part of his reign by his father still being alive and completely disproving the red hot poker story.

Perhaps the greatest strength of this book is the balance Mortimer gives his work. Usually the author is either more interested in the battles or the administration and laws giving a distorted view either way. As Edward did a lot of both, Mortimer spends plenty of time discussing both aspects of his reign so there's something here for everyone.

Gripping, intelligent and thoroughly well researched, go on treat yourself.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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