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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

"The fears of Henry IV" by Ian Mortimer

Ian Mortimer writes mediaeval history so readably. This biography of "England's Self-Made King" starts with 14 year old Henry in the Tower during the Peasant's Revolt and a retainer persuading the invading mob not to murder him. Henry had a glorious youth: son of John of Gaunt, England's richest and most powerful lord, grandson of Edward III (named as heir after Richard II and John of Gaunt), cousin and boyhood playmate of King Richard II, a talented musician, a big reader, a student who (in exile) attended lectures at the University of Paris, a star jouster from the age of 14, a crusader (with the Teutonic Knights in Lithuania) and a pilgrim (the only mediaeval English King to enter Jerusalem), and a key member of the opposition in Parliament to Richard II's increasingly arbitrary and tyrannical rule. All this potential seemed dashed by Richard's hatred (possibly caused by jealousy since the dashing Henry was everything that Richard was not). Richard continually promoted others over him (including naming them as heir) and slighted or spurned him. Finally Richard exiled Henry. In exile Henry must have felt that all his promise was for nothing. But he returned from exile to lead a rebellion against Richard, to depose Richard and to be recognised by Parliament as King in Richard's place. Then things began to go wrong.

All the early promise evaporated. His vow to be merciful was falsified almost immediately when he (probably) gave the order to ensure that Richard was killed in imprisonment (possibly starving him to death). Two harvest failures and an inability to be good with money meant that his manifesto commitment not to impose peacetime taxes plunged him into debt. Scotland, Wales and France all fought against him. There were many rebellions at home (including eight assassination attempts) culminating in the Battle of Shrewsbury when Henry decisively defeated and killed Harry Hotspur. Even peace left him at the mercy of a hostile and penny-pinching parliament. Finally some dreadful skin disease left him crippled and dying, dead before he reached fifty.

Mostly uncommemorated (Mortimer claims that his only statue is in Shrewsbury's Battlefield church) Henry started the tradition of giving to the poor on Maundy Thursday (his birthday) an amount proportional to his age. He owned an early (perhaps the first) portable clock (p93). In exile he stayed at Sangatte, outside Paris and in 'Newenham' Priory (I presume this is Newnham Priory which around this time was involved with Mowbray who was the Earl of Norfolk involved in a dispute about a rebellion with Henry which led to his and Henry's exile; Newnham Priory received a grant from Henry IV on 15th February 1409) in Bedfordshire on 7th July 1403 (p265). 

Fabulous history of a fascinating king. 

November 2011; 387 pages

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