A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain

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Hutchinson, 2008 - 462 pages
6 Reviews
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This is the first major biography for a generation of a truly formidable king – a man born to rule England who believed that it was his right to rule all of Britain. His reign was as a consequence one of the most dramatic and important of the entire Middle Ages, leading to war and conquest on an unprecedented scale, and leaving a legacy of division between the peoples of Britain that has lasted from his day to our own. Edward I is familiar to millions as ‘Longshanks’, conqueror of Scotland and nemesis of Sir William Wallace (‘Braveheart’). Yet this story forms only the final chapter of the king’s astonishingly action-packed life. Earlier Edward had defeated and killed the famous Simon de Montfort in battle; travelled across Europe to the Holy Land on crusade; conquered Wales, extinguishing forever its native rulers, and constructing – at Conway, Harlech, Beaumaris and Caernarfon – the most magnificent chain of castles ever created. Not a man for half-measures, he also raised the biggest taxes and the greatest armies of the English Middle Ages, and summoned the largest parliaments. Notoriously, he expelled all the Jews from his kingdom, and throughout his long reign he struggled to bring peace to Europe so he could lead the whole continent in a new crusade. The longest lived of all England’s medieval kings, he fathered no less than fifteen children with his first wife, Eleanor of Castile, and when she died, such was Edward’s grief, he ordered the construction of the celebrated Eleanor Crosses – the grandest funeral monuments ever fashioned for any English monarch.In this book, Marc Morris examines afresh the forces that drove Edward throughout his relentless career: his character, his Christian faith, and his sense of England’s destiny – a sense shaped in particular by the tales of the legendary King Arthur. He also explores the competing reasons that led Edward’s opponents (including Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and Robert Bruce) to resist him, and the very different societies that then existed in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The result is a sweeping story, immaculately researched yet compellingly told, and vivid picture of medieval Britain at a moment when its future was decided.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - santhony - LibraryThing

I read a lot of biographies, my theory being that history is best studied by looking at the people who make it. In this case, the subject is Edward I of England, nicknamed “Longshanks”. I would ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Elysianfield - LibraryThing

4.5 stars Well-written and balanced book. Edward's never been one of my favourite kings but this made me nearly like him at times. Read full review


The Family Feud
Civil Peace and Holy War
The Return of the King

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About the author (2008)

Marc Morris is an historian and broadcaster. He studied and taught history at the universities of London and Oxford, and his doctorate on the thirteenth-century earls of Norfolk was published in 2005. In 2003 he presented the highly-acclaimed television series Castle, and wrote its accompanying book.

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