Book Review – ‘Usurpers: A New Look at Medieval Kings’ by Michele Morrical


Thank you to Pen and Sword Books for giving me a copy of this to review.

I was so excited to receive a copy of this book for review! I couldn’t wait to get stuck in after finishing writing my own book and I wasn’t disappointed.

This book looks at the kings through the medieval period who could be considered to be usurpers – William the Conqueror, King Stephen, Henry IV, Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry VII. Each section goes through the context of the seizure of power, the consequences of that seizure, and then a short discussion of whether the king could be considered a usurper.

The book has obviously been well-researched and is a concise and easy read. There are several sections of repetition where monarchs overlapped, especially with the final three kings who did all overlap with each other, so sections are repeated from the views of the different kings. There are also a couple of historical errors which I noticed when reading. These two points knocked it down to 4 stars for me, for what otherwise I might have given 5 stars.

Errors:

  • Page 129 – Richard Woodville, Earl Rivers, father of Elizabeth Woodville, met Edward IV when he landed at Ravenspur in March 1471 wasn’t possible as Richard Woodville had been killed in 1469.
  • Page 144 – The son born to George, Duke of Clarence, and Isabel Neville in 1476 which resulted in Isabel’s death was not their “first living son” as Edward, Earl of Warwick, had been born a year earlier in 1475.

It is a different view of kings in the Medieval period, looking at only those who could be considered usurpers, and how many there actually were. There were always several contenders for the throne, and it was when there were a lot of contenders that issues arose and prompted civil war. This is a very interesting book which I know I will come back to again and again.

Chapters:

Part 1: William the Conqueror 1066-1087
  1. The Anglo Saxons
  2. William the Bastard
  3. The Norman Invasion
  4. The Subjugation of England and Normandy
  5. Family Betrayal
  6. The Domesday Book
  7. Was William the Conqueror a Usurper?
Part 2: King Stephen 1135-1154
  • The Empress Matilda
  • Stolen Crown
  • Almost Queen of England
  • The Anarchy Continues
  • Changing of the Guard
  • Henry’s Final Invasion
  • Was King Stephen a Usurper?
Part 3: King Henry IV 1399-1413
  1. Edward III and the Succession Problem
  2. Rival Cousins
  3. The Lords Appellant
  4. Henry’s Invasion
  5. Was Henry IV a Usurper?
Part 4: King Edward IV 1461-1470 & 1471-1483
  • The Inept King Henry VI
  • The Wars of the Roses
  • The Rose of Rouen
  • The First Reign of Edward IV
  • Warwick’s Rebellion
  • The Second Reign of Edward IV
  • Was Edward IV a Usurper?
Part 5: Richard III 1483-1485
  • Loyalty Binds Me
  • The Unravelling of George, Duke of Clarence
  • The Road to the Throne
  • Unsteady Crown
  • Fall of the Last Plantagenet King
  • Was Richard III a Usurper?
Part 6: Henry VII 1485-1509
  • The Tudors and Beauforts
  • Henry’s Childhood and the Wars of the Roses
  • The Rise of Richard III
  • Henry Tudor’s Invasion
  • Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck
  • Henry’s Last Years
  • Was Henry VII a Usurper?
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