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The Crack Magazine


The Gothic King: A Biography of Henry III

John Paul Davis, Peter Owen Publishers, £17.99

Henry III doesn’t get much box office when it comes to the biographical books stakes, but his reign (1216-1272) was an important and perhaps pivotal one when England really started to gain itself something of an identity. He took the crown when he was only nine years old (the first child king since Ethelred the decidedly Unready) and would go on to rule for 56 years. He took over from dodgy King John, who signed Magna Carta, but it was under Henry’s rule when the whys and wherefores of this historic document became apparent. Indeed the pesky barons who had forced the charter on John would be a constant thorn in Henry’s side, with Simon de Montfort actually defeating the king at the Battle of Lewes, thus becoming de facto leader of the country until Henry saw him off at the Battle of Evesham. This is a pretty concise examination of Henry’s life, and I occasionally got lost in the blur of squabbling barons, but as a primer to his rule, it’s a most enjoyable, and long overdue, work.