Monday, March 04, 2013

The Magnificent Century

Book #7 is The Magnificent Century by Thomas B. Costain.

So this book deals with a time period and a ruler I really knew very, very little about. Henry III came to the throne as a child, after the death of his father, the unlamented King John (aka John Lackland). Of all the Plantagenet rulers, Henry ruled the longest, 56 years, a fact that is nearly astounding considering the amount of civil war going on during his reign.

We're introduced to Henry as one who seems to have great ideas, but not the ability to carry them out. A slightly unsure temper and a stubborness to restore his power back to the way French monarchs ruled meant he was in fairly constant conflict with his barons, lead by the charismatic Simon de Montfort, a person Costain obviously had a great deal of affection for an interest in. Henry was a fairly weak, feckless King, and it wasn't until his militaristic minded son, the future Edward I, took over, that the rebellion was put down.

Overall, there was much strife and chaos, and the putting down of rebellious barons (in fact, England's first parliament was called during Henry's reign), and it definitely comes across that Henry would have been a better builder than King, for he never seemed more happy than when he was supervising building churches, especially Westminster and his shrine to Edward the Confessor. So while Henry only reluctantly participated in furthering democracy in England, he played an active part in it's aesthetics.