The brilliantly compelling new biography of the treacherous and tyrannical King John, published to coincide with the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
Authoritative and dramatic, Marc Morris' King John offers a compelling portrait of an extraordinary king whose reign marked a momentous turning point in the history of Britain and Europe. King John is buried in Worcester Cathedral.
©2015 Marc Morris (P)2015 Audible, Ltd
You can hear Marc Morris talking about King John on the BBC History Today podcast. He's an engaging speaker with a PhD in medieval history so I decided this was worth a listen. What you get is a nuts and bolts life of John which comes to life when Morris uses his in-depth knowledge of life in medieval Britain to show how a strange alliance of nobles from East Anglia, the north of England, Wales and Scotland collaborated with the sharp witted merchants of London to create Magna Carta. He goes on to make the case that John was just as bad as his subsequent reputation suggests.
Morris is too disciplined a historian to offer similar character portraits of other characters in the story. That's an understandable choice but John Julius Norwich's "Shakespeare's Kings", which tackles similar material was fun because he was interested in characters and willing to stick his neck out. So at times this suffered a little for me by being a slightly flat retelling of events. In addition to that, the narrator adopts a slightly irritating tone of archness throughout so just three stars for him.
However, overall it's worth a listen on the basis of an interesting life illuminated by many interesting details of medieval life alongside a fascinating dissection of magna carta
Since the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta last year I have read a few books about it but this was definitely by far the best! It really set the issue of Magna Carta in its historical context so you could understand how it came about. Even better than that, though, was the author's assessment of John himself and discussion of whether he was as cruel as we are led to believe. I felt it was written very fairly and objectively and I liked how he explained why he had chosen to give more or less weight to various sources. After reading this I felt that I had a much better grasp of the whole period and the abuses which led to Magna Carta. It did make me question how monarchy could ever have survived! If you are interested in Magna Carta and this period of history, I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Change name to Vash
Deeply informative and interesting, especially in this year of Magna Carta commemoration. Well written and read but suffers from being a bit ponderous at times.
Shed End Girl
Yes, but I'd read it myself rather than have an audio book
His voice was quite dull ... I'm sure he can't change his speaking voice, but I'd have liked the book to sound more exciting and less like a dull lecture.
A fascinating history of his reign. Reality being so gripping that one wonders why film makers find it necessary to rewrite & invent.
Brilliantly written, furthermore the narration truly enhanced the enjoyment of this book.
Must add history is not my first pick of favourite genre ; nevertheless I would strongly recommend this audio book. Greatly enjoyed it from beginning to end.
I feel rather hopeless not to have finished the book, but after the description of Matilda de Briouze's death, felt I had probably reached the climax of Bad King John's doings and gave up before the Magna Carta.
The whole story of John's reign is like a nightmare - too many kingdoms, too far apart, never enough money in the royal coffers to ensure that peace could be adequately maintained across the whole of his realms therefore a constant need to tax his subjects, leading to further unpopularity. The mechanism of taxation is interesting together with the explanations of monetary sums. But the book is full of endless petty politics and I didn't find it easy to listen to as an audible book - too many names, too many place names - you needed a map of France together with a dramatic personae list of nobles. Also I found the time-switches irritating - one chapter discusses a six year period of John's reign, the next you find yourself back in the reign of his brother Richard, or even his father Henry II.
I found the narrator Ric Jerrom irritating. Sorry about this. But his pronunciations of English place names (viz Odiham) and other words showed he had not done his homework.
Informative - this is a period I knew little about. The one criticism I would make is that the narrative moves back and forth rather than chronologically which is fine in print as you can quickly see where you are but for audio it could be confusing as the chapters are very long so it could take a few days of listening to get through. Otherwise enjoyable and I'm tempted by the print edition.
Having enjoyed Marc Morris's biography of Edward I and it being Magna Carta year, I started this book with great enthusiasm. At first I thought I must have accidentally set the reading speed to half pace but I soon came to appreciate Ric Jerrom's sedate narration because there is a lot to take in. But I found my mind wandering and the need for frequent rewinding and picking up the thread again is irritating. At least part of the problem for me is Morris's decision not to structure the book chronologically - with so many characters and battles and shifting alliances it is difficult enough to keep all the facts in the right place without the unnecessary complication of going backwards and forwards in time - someone who's dead and buried is suddenly back on the scene, alive and plotting. I accept that the problem is mine: Morris's command of the language and Jerrom's narration can't be faulted and I especially appreciate Jerrom's correct pronunciation of the many French nouns. I will definitely return to the book and give it another try at some time.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.