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?

‘Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty’ Part 4 – Richard II – 18/12/2014


 

Richard II at Westminster Abbey mid-1390s
Richard II at Westminster Abbey mid-1390s

Richard II – golden boy who ended the peasant’s revolt
Most vicious Plantagenet of them all, dynasty crashing down around him
1377 decade of turmoil under Edward III until Richard II succeeds “Country’s saviour”
1381 Four years later peasants invade London = king takes refuge in the Tower, and his cousin Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV)
Rebels not after the king himself
Ruled by councillors – peasants see them as greedy and corrupt and intend to kill them
Councillors are the most senior in the land – most fled or in the Tower with the king
Most desperate councillors hatch a plan and send the king through the streets to create a distraction so that they can escape
Rebels let the king pass unharmed
John of Gaunt is an “evil councillor”, father of Henry Bolingbroke
King gone puts councillors in more danger – mob storms the Tower gates
Treasurer Sir Robert Hales and Archbishop Sudbury dragged into the street while Henry hides in a cupboard in the Tower – remains unfound
Sudbury and Hales beheaded in the street and heads stuck on London Bridge
Precipice of full-blown anarchy – Richard II could lose his crown Continue reading “‘Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty’ Part 4 – Richard II – 18/12/2014”

My Notes from the third part of ‘The Plantagenets’ shown 31.03.2014 on BBC


October 1399 8th Plantagenet king Richard II taken down the Thames – 1400 found starved to death.

Henry IV in the National Portrait Gallery from the 16th century
Henry IV in the National Portrait Gallery from the 16th century

Henry of Bolingbroke – Henry IV = right of kings undermined and whole dynasties collapsed – turned against each other and ended with the destruction of the dynasty.
1380s peasant’s revolt – Richard II forced to flee to the Tower.
Trigger = tax for war against the French.
Revolt against king’s councillors.
Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, seized and executed. The day after Richard met with the rebels, led by Watt Tyler. Tyler killed in a scuffle by the mayor of London.
Richard single-handedly halted rebellion = god-given right to rule.
Royal displays of kingship. Continue reading “My Notes from the third part of ‘The Plantagenets’ shown 31.03.2014 on BBC”

UPDATE: English Monarchs and When They Ruled


This post is an update on a previous post. Instead of just listing the monarchs and consorts and when they ruled I have also listed the legitimate children of each union and their title.

William I (1066 – 1087) … Consort – Matilda of Flanders

Children – Robert, Duke of Normandy d. 1134

Richard d. 1075

William II d. 1100

Henry I d. 1135

Adelaide d. 1113

Cecily d. 1127

Matilda d. 1086

Constance, Duchess of Brittany d. 1090 Continue reading “UPDATE: English Monarchs and When They Ruled”

English Monarchs and When They Ruled over England


This is a post which I compiled last year: it includes the dates and consorts of all English and British monarchs. I was intending to also list children but haven’t yet got around to it. I’ll update the post at a later time.

(Becomes Great Britain under the reign of Queen Anne 1702 – 1714)

(Becomes United Kingdom under the reign of George III 1760 – 1820)

William I (1066 – 1087) … Consort – Matilda of Flanders

William II (1087 – 1100) … Consort – None

Henry I (1100 – 1135) … Consort – Matilda of Scotland / Adeliza of Louvain

Stephen (1135 – 1141) … Consort – Matilda of Boulogne

Empress Matilda (1141) … Consort – Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor / Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou

Henry II (1154 – 1189) … Consort – Eleanor of Aquitaine Continue reading “English Monarchs and When They Ruled over England”

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