King Stephen Hardcover – Jan 18 2011
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About the Author
Edmund King is emeritus professor of medieval history, University of Sheffield. He lives in Sheffield, UK.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The books has some flaws though notably it drops the narrative thread far too often in the recounting Stephan's reign. True the book is about King Stephan but the story of the civil war is the story of his reign. Some examples when Matilda leaves England she just disappears from the story her fate never resolved. Henry II is left at the end of one chapter facing possible destruction at the hands of his enemies and at the start of the next chapter is in England negotiating with King Stephan from a position of strength. The events that lead to to development could have been summarized in a paragraph or two at most but just aren't mentioned at all. The "revolt of the fens" by Geoffrey of Mandeville is colorfully told and the events are exciting but in mid story they are just dropped. We are told later in a throw away line that Geoffrey died and was not given a Christian burial. How and the why of his death are not explained.
However despite the narrative lapses and the somewhat annoying habits of referring to medieval institution in modern terms like the "press", "protection money" and "managerial disputes" the book is a very informative look at Stephan his family, his court and his remarkable rises and falls into and from power. The book did exactly what I wanted it to do for me it informed me wonderfully about who this King Stephan was and exactly how his reign became known as the "troubles".
At this time the Englisn throne controlled a great deal of territory on the continent of Europe, in what is now France. Thus, the throne of France was often in conflict with the English throne over the English controlled territory on the continent as France attempted to unite into one kingdom. Accordingly, the student of history during this time can expect that the French throne would regularly interfere in the affairs of England and cause as much mischief as possible for the contemporary holder of the English throne. This was certainly true during the reign of King Stephen as the French Kings (generally Louis VI and Louis VII during the reign of Stephen) sided with the nobles and magnates of England as they revolted against Stephen. To the degree that this becomes a war between French soldiers and English soldiers during Stephen's reign, this conflict becomes part of what some historians have dubbed "the first of three different Hundred Year Wars" between France and England. Not to be confused with the more well-known Hundred Years War which lasted from 1337-1453 C.E. (really the Second Hundred Years War), this First Hundred Years War lasted from 1108-1226 C.E. (The third Hundred Years War is defined as that series of the Louis XIV and Napoleonic Wars of 1688 through 1815 C.E., taken as a whole.)
Edmund King's writing style in King Stephen bears a resemblance to the other books in the Yale English Monarch series, such that all the books in the Yale Monarch series seem to speak with the same voice. I enjoy this aspect of uniformity within the the Yale Monarch series.