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The Perfect King Paperback – Sep 23 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (Sept. 23 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009952709X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099527091
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #297,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“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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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a first rate analysis of both the king and the period, and although it is clearly balanced in favor of Edward it does not attempt to excuse him of many of his actions. It shows him to be a man of his time rather than simply a Plantagenet thug more brutal and nasty than others.

The book contains sufficient detail to make the author's case credible, but not too much to be soporific. Reading it gives a feeling of the time and the mindset of the rulers.
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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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History the way it should be written!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars 91 reviews
80 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mortimer's a great researcher Oct. 17 2009
By Ken - Published on
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.
48 of 48 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
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
40 of 40 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
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."
62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars History with just a dash of fiction April 21 2011
By Daniel Putman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Mortimer writes an entertaining biography. It is engaging and gets the reader involved. But to do that Mortimer writes as if he thoroughly knows the inside of Edward's mind and his full range of emotions. And Mortimer is never short of absolute adjectives to display Edward's strengths. A mental grasp of the situation becomes a "strong" mental grasp. Edward does not just decide; he "seizes" the moment. When Edward goes jousting after the supposed death of his father at a seemingly inappropriate time, it is because "Edward was no ordinary young man." (This is before Edward finds out his father's death was faked, as Mortimer argues.) All this hyperbole combined with the assumption of knowing the man's emotions, and there is plenty of both, makes for great reading but after a while the reader wonders if Edward and Mortimer (Ian, not Roger) were bosom buddies. Edward's life is fascinating as is; it is not clear why it needs embellishing.

Another interesting feature is Mortimer's claim that Edward II did not die in 1327. Mortimer had made this point in a scholarly article in The English Historical Review. So it is a possibility but one not held by other historians of the period. For example, Phillips' very recent and thoroughly documented biography of the man himself, Edward II, does not agree. Nor does W.M. Ormrod in his biography of Edward III. But, granting that the survival of Edward's father is a theoretical possibility, what I found irritating is that Mortimer constantly gives Edward III motivations and emotions regarding his supposedly living father. It is a great example of weaving the interpretation of later events around a theoretical possibility. Engaging reading - a man in turmoil with strong emotions for a father whose death was faked and it all must be kept a secret. But it is based on a large assumption and Edward's feelings in the following years are hardly an open book to the historian.

So this is a wonderful read for bringing Edward to life but perhaps too much. Edward III was an impressive leader in his middle years and his reign did shape many later English institutions. He was both generous and terribly brutal and vicious in Scotland and France. (To be a medieval peasant was hell.) The title refers to Edward's aspirations to be the new Arthur but they were his aspirations, certainly not displayed in many of his actions. The book gives a thorough overview of his life. I just am not sure that Mortimer or anyone else today really knows Edward III THAT well.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful July 20 2007
By Anne K. Throdahl - Published on
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.