Subtitled 'Decoding Royal Conspiracies' this book is an attempt by Ian Mortimer to defend his controversial theory that Edward II was not murdered at Berkeley Castle by having a red hot poker thrust into his anus as popularised by Christopher Marlowe but survived imprisonment at both Berkeley and Corfe Castles to become a hermit in exile and later as 'William de Galeys' secretly to meet both son King Edward III and new born grandson Lionel of Antwerp.
To support these ideas he explains his technique of interpreting information streams (for example on the original reports of Edward II's murder at Berkeley and the narratives of the Earl of Kent's subsequent attempt to 'spring' Edward II from Corfe Castle which seems stupid if the king, Kent's brother, was already dead) and speculates on Edward III's relationship with Italian bankers. Edward acknowledged debts that these bankers could not possibly have supplied, given their limited capital. Mortimer hints that these were payments partly to keep his father captive abroad and partly blackmail (because if his father was alive then Edward III was complicit in the fraudulent death narrative). He also considers stories of royal pretenders in an attempt to suggest that they are somehow different from the Fieschi letter which was sent to Edward III describing the purported survival of his father although the story of Harold II surviving Hastings and travelling abroad as a hermit seems remarkably similar to the Edward II tale.
This book's misleading title led me to expect rather more conspiracies and I was disappointed. I also thought Mortimer fell between the two stools of academic and popular history writing. He is a brilliant popular historian and clearly an excellent if controversial academic historian; I just felt the academic side would have been better restricted to the academic journals.
From my point of view, Mortimer's least interesting history so far.
May 2012; 345 pages
- 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