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The Perfect King [Paperback]

Ian Mortimer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Sept. 23 2008
King for fifty years (1327—77), Edward III changed the face of England.

He ordered his uncle to be beheaded; he usurped his father’s throne; he started a war which lasted for more than a hundred years, and taxed his people more than any other previous king. Yet for centuries, Edward III was celebrated as the most brilliant king England had ever had.

In this first full study of the man, Ian Mortimer shows how Edward personally provided the impetus for much of the drama of his reign. Edward overcame the tyranny of his guardians at the age of seventeen and then set about developing a new form of awe-inspiring chivalric kingship. Under him the feudal kingdom of England became a highly organized, sophisticated nation, capable of raising large revenues and, without question, the most important military nation in Europe. Yet under his rule England also experienced its longest period of domestic peace in the Middle Ages, giving rise to a massive increase in the nation’s wealth through the wool trade, with huge consequences for society, art and architecture. It is to Edward that England owes its system of parliamentary representation, local justice system and the English language as “the tongue of the nation.”

As the King who re-made England and forged a nation out of war, Edward III emerges as the father of the English nation.

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Review

“This is a story which, for its boldness of interpretation, success in evoking this vanished medieval world, and sheer narrative élan, deserves to be widely read.”
Sunday Times

About the Author

Ian Mortimer is the author of The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, and The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England’s Self-Made King.

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5.0 out of 5 stars A serious piece of historical writing. July 27 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an extremely well written and detailed book about realpolitik in the age of chivalry. It shows the life of a very shrewd, forward thinking king as he maneuvers for power, and the basis of wealth to carry out policy.

A fascinating look into court life and intrigues.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mortimer's a great researcher Oct. 17 2009
By Ken - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is without doubt, a paean to someone Mortimer regards as a national and personal hero. I have read his book on Henry IV and own the earlier book on Roger Mortimer. I am impressed with his ability to both research and dissect complex political, military and economic documents that trace who did what, where, when and to or with whom without losing the reader in the complexity. As a student of this period, I'm familiar with a great deal of the subject matter, but I confess to being enlightened on more than a few matters. I'm a bit concerned however about his assertion that Edward II, this Edward's father did NOT die as traditionally thought, murdered, but rather later as a private gentleman living in Europe. He makes a convincing case, but I am planning to research other historians' opinions on the validity of his claim. In any event, there is much to recommend in this and other works by this author.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book on an amazing king Oct. 23 2008
By Mars Ultor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Perfect King is truly remarkable. It is a book of facts, yet Ian Mortimer made it seem like a legend, even though it was non-fiction. A warrior Edward certanly was. He brought the use of the gun and longbow together against the Scots and the French. This, along with his stunning and aggressive courage was a truly invincibale tactic.

But Edward wasn't just a warrior. He was a lawmaker, who was called "The Second English Justinian" putting him on the same level as Edward I. Edward was also the greatest English patron of the arts of the late Middle Ages, collecting italian paintings, making alabaster tombs, and, above all, creating this majestic castles and churchs. When it comes to this book, I believe what Ian said was right: that had Edward died in 1363 he would be know today as "Edward the Great."
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `In legends he became what he aspired to be in life.' March 1 2008
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Edward III reigned over England and Wales for over 50 years (1327 to 1377). He also had claims over Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man (from 1333) and France (from 1340).

In this book, Ian Mortimer combines a very clear respect for his subject with meticulous research and succeeds in providing a detailed contextual picture of this monarch.

Many with an interest in this period of history will know of Edward III as the king who started the 100 Years War, who won a number of battles (including at Crecy and Calais) - and who added Calais as a long standing English possession.

`For the 30 years between 1334 and 1363 he was the greatest exponent of chivalric kingship there was.'

The Black Death (1348-1349) occurred during his reign. The tragic loss of life and resulting labour shortages brought changes to the structure of society: a subject of study in their own right.

Ian Mortimer lists five overarching achievements:
(1) Kingship
(2) Domestic peace
(3) England's standing in the international community
(4) Modernised warfare
(5) Participatory government

I agree with these broad headings, but would make special mention of The Statute of Pleading (1362). This was the first piece of legislation to officially recognise the English language - thus making the law (potentially at least) more accessible to all.

I'd highly recommend this book to those with an interest in the life and times of arguably one of England's greatest monarchs. In his later years, Edward's authority waned but his achievements stand alone.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful July 20 2007
By Anne K. Throdahl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Ian Mortimer is a meticulous historian with the ability to seamlessly blend momentous historical sweep with touching personal account. Edward the III is portrayed with all his strengths and weaknesses, ultimately emerging as a sympathetic character. Mortimer himself creates a new history of the period that goes beyond Froissart, Le Bel and other traditional medieval historians to find a history that is not jaded by period bias. He delves into primary sources resulting in a convincing and thrilling tale.

It is rare for history to come alive as it does in this book. Battles are fought by flesh, blood, and spirit, and kings and queens agonize over their decisions, delight in their children, and experience the drama of the human condition which we all share. A marvelous book that will instill a love of this fascinating and pivotal time in English history.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh look at an important king Aug. 19 2008
By S. Dise - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a fine book about the long and memorable 14th century reign during which occured the beginings of the Hundred Years War, the Black Death, the height of medieval chivalry and the rise to importance of the House of Commons.
The narrative moves along at a nice pace and the author writes with a genuine feeling for his subject and the time period. If there's anything negative to say about the style, it's that some readers may be left craving even more detail, as I was, being a great fan of the "Yale English Monarchs" series.
Mortimer does, however, indulge in some revisionist history. For centuries it's been accepted that the subject's father Edward II was done away with after being deposed. Mortimer is a firm believer that Edward II survived for at least another 15 years, incognito, wandering through Europe. In spite my being a traditionalist, and not buying any of that, I didn't find that it took away from what was a well rounded and authentic portrait. Mortimer does present all the evidence in a rational and non-sensational way. All in all a wonderful, concise, well balanced book.
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