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Henry IV (The English Monarchs Series) by…
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Henry IV (The English Monarchs Series) (2016)

by Chris Given-Wilson

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402434,526 (4.5)None
Henry IV (1399-1413), the son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, seized the English throne at the age of thirty-two from his cousin Richard II and held it until his death, aged forty-five, when he was succeeded by his son, Henry V. This comprehensive and nuanced biography restores to his rightful place a king often overlooked in favor of his illustrious progeny. Henry faced the usual problems of usurpers: foreign wars, rebellions, and plots, as well as the ambitions and demands of the Lancastrian retainers who had helped him win the throne. By 1406 his rule was broadly established, and although he became ill shortly after this and never fully recovered, he retained ultimate power until his death. Using a wide variety of previously untapped archival materials, Chris Given-Wilson reveals a cultured, extravagant, and skeptical monarch who crushed opposition ruthlessly but never quite succeeded in satisfying the expectations of his own supporters.… (more)

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An extremely in-depth look at the life and reign of Henry Bolingbroke of Lancaster.

The author's goal is to explore Henry IV so as to better understand his time, context, and circumstance in light of how he is viewed in Shakespeare and in historiography ever since.

The reader is introduced to Henry Bolingbroke, son of John the Gaunt, and the inheritor of all the diligent work John the Gaunt had done to restore and revive the fortunes of the Lancastrians. One sees how Henry attempts to be a good subject of a capricious Richard II, yet ultimately proves too powerful and influential a subject. We can see Henry either return to England, leading to Richard's desposition and becoming king, or he would stay in exile and endanger the Lancastrian holdings.

He returns. Richard II is an unpopular king, but becoming the usurper means that whenever things don't seem like they're going well, Henry IV will have challenges Richard never would deal with. The reign of Henry IV is covered in great detail, with a lot of emphasis on the difficulties of finances of the realm and attempting to keep control over Ireland, Wales, Calais, and Guyenne, and to solve the intractable problems of Scotland, and defeating the Percys when they rebelled.

When peace was established, and finances a bit more stable, Henry IV became weaker in illness. It would fall to his son Henry V to reap the benefits of the foundation his father established.

So what of Henry IV? The author's analysis that he was not a great king, but could have been under different circumstances, seems appropriate. Did his deposition of Richard mean the Wars of the Roses was inevitable? No; one can imagine a very different circumstance had Henry V lived longer; if he was able to accomplish the Plantagenet fantasy of being full king of England and France, the deposition would have been forgotten. It would seem that the majority of the blame for the Wars of the Roses falls on Henry VI and his weakness and insanity. Was Henry IV a forerunner of the constitutional monarchy of the late 17th century and following? Not as much as the 19th century would have imagined.

This is a good work to provide context and depth to the situation of England at the turn of the 15th century.

**--galley received as part of early review program ( )
  deusvitae | Oct 8, 2019 |
Already seen as a definitive biography according to a panel held at the last International Congress on Medieval Studies, an extreml]ely though biography by a scholar steeped in the sources for the period. ( )
  antiquary | Jun 10, 2016 |
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On 20 March 1413, the feast of St Cuthbert, King Henry IV of England lay dying in the Jerusalem chamber at Westminster abbey.
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