Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Review: A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain, by Marc Morris

Edward I’s biography is a very enjoyable book. I know only a little about this period, but never felt lost. The maps (of England, Wales, Gascony and Scotland) proved useful and, unlike some maps, didn’t have details swallowed by the spine or obscured by having too much crammed into too small a space.

The writing’s accessible without being dumbed down, and the flaws and virtues of Edward I are laid bare.

Most of the book takes place during the 13th century, and it’s fascinating to read of just how friendly and helpful England and France were to one another for most of this period (Edward I’s intervention directly helped to free the French king’s younger brother from a Spanish prison, restore him to the throne of Sicily and avert a Franco-Aragonese war).

It’s particularly interesting given that the next five centuries or so were not necessarily notable for warm and helpful Anglo-French relations.

Edward comes across as a strong, confident king, sometimes prone to a temper, inflexibility and (in later years) poor judgement regarding the long-term. 

As is common with this sort of book, there are two little sections of photographs. The castles are very interesting (not least because, as a child, I often went on holiday in Wales and visited them), as are the images of Edward’s father’s and wife’s resting places.

I liked the short final chapter which recounts the reign of Edward I and has a few brief words on what came after and public opinion of Edward II (it wasn’t very high).

All-in-all, a fantastic book full of detail without losing ease of reading, from an author who does not shy away from Edward I’s bad points but does endeavour to place them in historical context rather than seek judgement by imposing modern morality upon the past. Highly recommended.


No comments:

Post a Comment