on…’A Great and Terrible King’ by Marc Morris.

Posted: 05/08/2011 in History, Literature
Tags: , , , , ,

I have been a big fan of Edward I since I saw his chain of castles in North Wales. I have been told by people not to use the word fan in this context; I ignored their advice. Edward I is often overlooked in our history of the monarchs, especially with recent Henry VIII events. Without this book Edward ‘Longshanks’ ran the risk of being a supporting character in a Mel Gibson film, and the associated history has also been romaticized to support or justify various modern notions of nationhood and independence.
Luckily for us, Morris has provided an in depth study of the man the myth and the mayhem of this interesting period of history. The book is accessible enough for someone with little or no prior knowledge of Edward I, it also has more than enough for any serious study into this period. We follow the deeply flawed and often superficial reign of Henry III through the actions of Edward, an ambitious Prince keen on asserting his own qualities to deal with his own affairs. The narrative includes Edward’s Crusades, dealings with the complex dynastic problems of Europe and his changing relationships with the various factions at court. The skill of Morris is his use of archive sources to piece together a rounded view of Edward the man.
I already had a reasonable knowledge of Edward’s reign and his ventures into Wales and Scotland. I studied this in year 8 or 9 History class and when I say studied I actually memorized the essays word for word and got an ‘A’ in the exam. It was rare for m to study but when something took my interest I would study obsessively, not for the temporary reward of achieving a good grade but for the sake of wanting to know something. When I saw this book as an adult it reignited my interest in this period of history and in Edward himself. This book was really helpful in illuminating the political complexities associated with ‘The Hammer of the Scots’. Forget the two dimensional views put forward by ‘patriots’ from England, Wales and Scotland… the political truth is far more interesting and enjoyable. When you consider that most of the problems between England and Scotland resulted from a young Norwegian girl dying en route to Scotland, it puts Hollywood speeches about freedom into a new context.

So, there you have it… a superb historical thriller with Political intrigue, giant Trebuchets, Chivalry and a King who must surely be placed in the company of Alfred the Great, Richard the Lionheart and Henry VIII.

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