Hundred Years War Vol 4
The hugely acclaimed fourth volume in Jonathan Sumption’s prize-winning history of the Hundred Years War.
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Cursed Kings tells the story of the destruction of France by the madness of its king and the greed and violence of his family. In the early fifteenth century, France had gone from being the strongest and most populous nation state of medieval Europe to suffering a complete internal collapse and a partial conquest by a foreign power. It had never happened before in the country’s history – and it would not happen again until 1940.
Into the void left by this domestic catastrophe, strode one of the most remarkable rulers of the age, Henry V of England, the victor of Agincourt, who conquered much of northern France before dying at the age of thirty-six, just two months before he would have become King of France.
Following on from Divided Houses (winner of the Wolfson History Prize and shortlisted for the Hessel-Tiltman), Cursed Kings is the magisterial new chapter in ‘one of the great historical works of our time’ (Allan Massie).
Perfectly timed for the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, the fourth volume of Jonathan Sumption's epic narrative of the Hundred Years' War takes the story from Richard II's death in 1399 to Henry V's in 1422 ... In Sumption's superbly crafted, exhaustively researched, supremely intelligent narrative, we are provided with a long-awaited counterpoise to the endless round of lightweight popular histories and to the tenacious, if compellingly persuasive fictions of William Shakespeare ... Amid all of the twists and turns of war and diplomacy, Sumption's wonderfully measured prose is judiciously spiced by sharply observed, poignant and amusing snapshots ... we keenly await Sumption's fifth and concluding volume.
An immense endeavour of the sort that far exceeds "magisterial" and threatens to leave "monumental" behind ... though the conflict between the Kings of England and France is the backbone of this book, it is far from the whole carcass. Marching in and (mostly) limping out are also the armies and populations of Scotland, Wales and Flanders. And, of course, with inexorable timing, Sumption's account of Henry V's 1415 campaign arrives to help us understand what we are commemorating this October with the 600th anniversary of Agincourt.
Sumption's huge, masterly and utterly complete history of the Hundred Years' War ... is one of the great historical undertakings of our age, and Cursed Kings might be its best volume yet. Its value, as ever, is in its breadth, perspective and absolute freedom from the jaundice of propaganda.
The years narrated are 1400-22. This coincides almost exactly with Henry V's time in power, first as a young Prince of Wales and subsequently as king. But the viewpoint here is largely French. Rightly so, for in truth the critical factor in England's remarkable success during this phase of the Hundred Years' War was not Henry's extraordinary capability as a warrior king but the dreadful schism that persisted in French politics in the early 15th century owing to the madness of Charles VI. The violent struggle between the factions of royal dukes known as Burgundians and Armagnacs opened a crack, and Henry V smashed his way through
Over the 923 pages of this book Sumption keeps that bloody French feud equally in focus with Henry's campaigns. The result is deep historical verisimilitude ... The book closes with the deaths of Charles VI and Henry V, within weeks of one another in 1422. Sumption's final volume will take the war to its close, with the English obliterated and expelled from France in 1453, an event that cast England into its own Burgundian-Armagnac- style feud, better known as the Wars of the Roses. It cannot come too soon.
[A] masterpiece of historical writing ... wonderfully detailed and acute in analysis ... Sumption paints a picture of medieval Paris every bit as vivid as that which Victor Hugo would offer in Notre-Dame de Paris... This is an enthralling book, fascinating, dramatic, compelling; also a wise one, as the best history is.
This is one of the great historical enterprises of our time, elegantly constructed, thrillingly told, illuminating every incident and personality that it touches Nobody who loves history should pass it by unread.
[A] magisterial overview of the conflict which divided England and France at the end of the Middle Ages ... Founded upon a wide range of contemporary sources and modern scholarship, this is narrative history at its very best ... The story advances with consummate ease, underlining the author's command of his material and his ability to immerse himself into a situation. It requires particular skills to maintain a reader's attention for more than 800 pages. Sumption possesses these skills aplenty.
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