You can now book tickets for a talk I’m giving at this year’s Telegraph Hay Festival. I’ll be discussing the characters and great stories from my new book, The Plantagenets: The Kings Who Made England. It’s at 9am on Tuesday 5 June, for the frankly knockdown price of £5.25. Come!
Archive for the ‘glorious books’ Category
In 1066, as the “long-haired star” of Halley’s Comet blazed through the skies above England, William the bastard of Normandy mustered an invasion fleet off the coast of Normandy. At the end of summer he set sail — around 700 ships containing perhaps as many as 7,000 men landing at Pevensey Bay in Sussex on either September 28 or 29.
On October 14, William’s army was engaged by that of Harold Godwinson a few miles up the coast: the battle of Hastings, as it became known, resulted in the death of poor King Harold, and a decisive victory for the Normans. It began a period in which England was rapidly and violently conquered, subdued, reorganised, measled with fearsome castles, divvied up for rule by William’s friends and surveyed in the Domesday Book.
For the next three centuries England would be governed by Francophone or Francophile kings, and 1066, from which date the regnal numbers of all our monarchs are still taken, is to this day still regarded as English history’s year dot…
Marc Morris’s lively new book retells the story of the Norman invasion with vim, vigour and narrative urgency.
Read the full review here.
Very good it is too. Here’s an extract from my review:
…this is a rich, meticulously plotted field guide to the surviving architectural treasures of Tudor England: the houses, fortresses, palaces and battlefields that were trodden by our most famous royal dynasty, from Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle to Kett’s Oak and Burghley House (pictured).But it is more than just historical I-Spy. Lipscomb is an eloquent tour-guide, and each of her 50 destinations allows her deftly to unfold a different chapter of Tudor history.
I’ve reviewed John Guy’s tremendous biography of Thomas Becket in today’s Times. You can read the review here. It’s subscriber-only on the web site, but here’s a short extract:
Thomas Becket… fell out with Henry II and was murdered in his cathedral in 1170. Canonised in 1173, for more than 350 years he was a national saint, his tomb visited by pilgrims of every rank, from kings to paupers. Becket’s shrine at Canterbury Cathedral was destroyed, but what survives of the man is one of the richest bodies of contemporary writing concerning anyone in the Middle Ages. So vicious was Becket’s breach with Henry II, and so shocking his death, those who knew him strove to preserve (and gloss) his life story. Their extensive, detailed lives of the “precious martyr” allow for that rarest of things: a medieval biography that can attempt serious psychological analysis. This is what John Guy has written, and his new study of Becket is a triumph: a beautifully layered portrait of one of the most complex characters in English history, which gives a new narrative coherence to a very peculiar life.
It really is a terrific book. You can buy it on Amazon, here.