Cursed Kings: The Hundred Years War, Volume 4 by Jonathan SumptionCursed 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 countrys 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)
Hundred Years War Vol 4
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About the Book
It is difficult to see that anyone could do this type of history better than Sumption. The breadth and depth of his scholarship ranges across national boundaries, turning complex and contradictory sources into a coherent and compelling narrative in a way that, quite simply, has never been surpassed. - Jonathan Sumption has now published the penultimate volume of his remarkable history of the Hundred Years War.
Please refresh the page and retry. H ow do you greet the man who, in the space of just five years, has humiliated you in battle, conquered half your kingdom and now stands before you, waiting to be formally endorsed as regent to rule in your stead and then become king after you, disinheriting your own son in the process? At a time when all secular power and authority was vested in the monarch, what do you do when he is unfit to rule? Their personal quarrel dragged the kingdom into the abyss of a civil war that, even by the standards of the day, was extraordinarily brutal, with the defeated executed as traitors by their fellow countrymen. Into this maelstrom strode the formidable figure of Henry V, who, unlike his French counterpart, had all his wits about him. Both sides had sought to woo him to their cause, despite the ancient enmity between France and England, but Henry coolly played them off against each other while making his own plans to take advantage of the situation by annexing large tracts of French territory.
In , Charles made himself useful for once by dying, thus providing Sumption with neatly matching terminal dates for the two sides of his narrative: the French king outlived Henry V by less than a few months. Charles had been on the throne more than 40 years, for most of which he had been pathetically and embarrassingly mad, with just enough intervals of lucidity to make a nuisance of himself. When he died he seemed to have triumphed in this unlikely ambition, but it took the next quarter century for reality to seep into English consciousness, with a little help from Joan of Arc and her supernatural visions which do not appear in this volume. Sumption is free from partisan nationalism in telling his story, and that is just as well, because the hundred years war should not be viewed through the increasingly nationalist viewpoints of the 16th to 19th centuries. The stretch of water between England and France formed one of the most decisive linguistic frontiers in Europe, and language was a potent source of identity. Touchingly, conscientious nuns were still doing this when Henry VIII dissolved their convents generations later. On the other hand, it might not.
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