During his lifetime, Henry was frequently unpopular, unreliable, and inconsistent. Yet his reign saw spectacular advancement in the arts, sciences, and theology, as well as in government. Despite all, it was truly a magnificent century.
©1993 Thomas Costain; (P)2008 Random House Audio
This is an enjoyable survey of the reigns of Henry II and the three Edwards. It is somewhat dated both in content (written very much by someone who grew up in the days of the British Empire) and in style (quite a lot of imaginative semi-dramatisation of historic events and scenes, to give them colour and interest) but it addresses the main events and many of the characters and helps bring the people to life. The descriptions of battles (although not at all overdone) are especially clear and vivid. The narrator reads with the clipped, slightly supercilious voice that I associate with the 1950's and 60's, but the pacing and expression are good and his voice is pleasant. This is by no means the last word on the period, but it's a very accessible way to get oriented.
"They don't write histories like this anymore...."
And they should, this first installment focuses on the difficult and contemplated times of Henry the second and Eleanor of Aquitane and of course, Thomas Becket. It continues on through Richard and focuses around the conditions and people that led to the Magna Charta a well rounded and entertaining explanation of complex legalities not to mention the arrogance of the evil King John....
I cannot say enough good about this series, and I do recommend the whole thing. The fact that this hisory was written in the fties and early sixties shouldnt dissuade a lover of British history. I was worried since they were written before my birth,but I adore Briish hisoty and shouldnt have worried.It's written in a modern language and a wit that
few writers or historians of any time ever achieve. Costain doesnt overlook the ridiculous or the incredible falsity of myth. It is not the story of only royalty but of people and a age. It has the cadence of that rare professor one would rather listen to than take notes. The narrator has perfect inflection to the words written. It is a true combination of talented equals. I knew of Thomas Costain's fiction but not his non-fiction. They are a much loved part of my mother's library, sadly I think that he may have been out of print of years, these works must be the last of his life. Truly a commendment to a life well-lived. My thanks to Audible for putting this out and choosing the best narration of a book I've ever heard and I am an audio addict.
"Oldie and Goody"
An old but still relevant series on a critical time in the development of the English political tradition which influenced our development 500 years later in the US. You will rarely hear an author say anything good about Simon de Montfort.
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