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Usurpers, A New Look at Medieval Kings (Hardback)

Medieval History P&S History Medieval Tudors & Stuarts Royal History

By Michele Morrical
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781526779502
Published: 21st September 2021

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In the Middle Ages, England had to contend with a string of usurpers who disrupted the British monarchy and ultimately changed the course of European history by deposing England’s reigning kings and seizing power for themselves. Some of the most infamous usurper kings to come out of medieval England include William the Conqueror, Stephen of Blois, Henry Bolingbroke, Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry Tudor. Did these kings really deserve the title of usurper or were they unfairly vilified by royal propaganda and biased chroniclers?

In this book we examine the lives of these six medieval kings, the circumstances which brought each of them to power, and whether or not they deserve the title of usurper. Along the way readers will hear stories of some of the most fascinating people from medieval Europe, including Empress Matilda, the woman who nearly succeeded at becoming the first ruling Queen of England; Eleanor of Aquitaine, the queen of both France and England who stirred her own sons to rebel against their father, Henry II; the cruel and vengeful reign of Richard II which caused his own family to overthrow him; the epic struggle for power between Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou, Richard of York, and Edward IV during the Wars of the Roses; the notorious Richard III and his monstrous reputation as a child-killer; and Henry VII who rose from relative obscurity to establish the most famous royal family of all time: the Tudors.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I have always loved reading fictional books about usurpers and fights for a throne but I never ventured into nonfiction tales of the same subject. After reading this I'll have to make sure that I dip my toes in the water more often.

NetGalley, Morgan Schaer

This book describes the turbulent and chaotic Middle Ages. It details events from the Norman Conquest to the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, when Richard III was disposed. The author discusses whether William the Conqueror, Stephen of Blois, Henry Bolingbroke, Edward IV, Richard III and Henry Tudor all deserve the title usurper King.

It is a fascinating and well written book, which makes the reader consider the medieval period from the context of legitimacy of power and rule.

The section on the Wars of the Roses is particularly helpful as the author explains clearly why the Wars of the Roses continued for so long, with the balance of power continually changing from the Yorkist’s to Lancastrians.

I would recommend this book to all those interested in the medieval period. It will appeal to the lay reader and academic alike.

Alison Wall, Local History Group

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I found this book fascinating! Very well research and the author did a great job. Highly recommend!

NetGalley, Heather Michael

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a great book on Medieval kings. I would highly recommend this to anyone else who is fascinated by the medieval world as I am and like to read about it for pure entertainment.

NetGalley, Dylan Simon

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fun look at medieval English history, through the stories of William the Conqueror, Stephen of Blois, Henry Bolingbroke, Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry Tudor, and other fascinating figures -- many of them, purported "usurpers" who became kings by seizing the throne for themselves. What is especially good about this work is how it engages with the primary source material -- understanding that the "chronicles" of that era were just as much works of contemporary political propaganda as historical record, and acknowledging that our perceptions of these figures is highly biased by that context. This is an interesting and thoughtful read about a fascinating and exciting time in English history and is sure to be enjoyed by lovers of history.

NetGalley, Rob Brown

Overall, a great narrative overview of some key moments in British monarchic history. Easy-to-read and informative, with immaculate detail and explanation throughout... An enjoyable read for a History buff like me.

NetGalley, George Burnett

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating look at the early years of English rule and the politics behind the hostile takeovers of the throne. The stories surrounding each of the events were intriguing and really kept my interest.

NetGalley, Ron Baumer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An usurper is the title given to any figure who seizes the throne illegally or by force. In this concise, highly readable volume, Michele Morrical takes a look at six medieval kings who have traditionally been labelled usurpers in the past and decides if they really deserve the title.
The kings are: William the Conqueror, victor of the 1066 Battle of Hastings. His grandson, Stephen who battled with Matilda during the 12th century Anarchy. The last four all ruled during the turbulent 15th century (there is some overlap here): Henry IV, the reckless Edward IV, the murderous Richard III and the first Tudor, Henry VII. Morrical's conclusions are well-argued and clear in this fascinating book.

NetGalley, Chris Hallam

This book is well written and linearly plotted. It is interesting... There were many tidbits in this book that I either did not know, or had not considered before. Food for thought! There is such a wealth of rich history, this book could have gone on for pages and pages.

NetGalley, Joyce Fox

With the abundance of information, this book gives a fascinating insight into the background of some of the most controversial and notorious figures in English history.
Noteworthy as well are the authors own opinions on the relevant findings. This is especially the case when he points out how biased and one-sided information was against individuals. But the author uses all the up to date facts available at his fingertips to create this epic book.
I like Usurpers, A New Look at Medieval Kings, as it gives the reader an in-depth look behind the scenes at all the political machinations that occurred during the time. Personally, I was particularly interested in Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, played in history. So, I was fascinated with the information the author had about the supposedly Kingmaker.
This is a well written and well-researched book that offers insightful observations into the famous and infamous. Written with real style and precision like a good textbook should be. The information is interesting, very well organised and fully up to date. And it would grace any library history reference shelf.
At the end of the book, there are authors notes, which are very useful, a bibliography and an index. Plus photographs, pictures and drawings... I found myself enthralled and lost in the book.

NetGalley, John Derek

Featured in

Mortimer Matters, the magazine of the Mortimer History Society, July 2021

About Michele Morrical

Michele Morrical is a historical nonfiction writer from Indiana, USA, who researches and writes about medieval kings and queens in England, specializing in the period known as the Wars of the Roses and the ensuing Tudor Dynasty. She hosts a Tudor Blog in which she analyzes facts and fallacies that have been written about medieval England. Michele holds a Master's degree in Business Administration and works as a Digital Marketing Manager in the automotive industry. In her spare time, she enjoys reading (of course), gardening, and spending time with her family, including her husband Mark, son Thomas, and daughter Julia.

Perfect Partner

Lost Heirs of the Medieval Crown The Kings and Queens Who Never Were (Hardback)

When William the Conqueror died in 1087 he left the throne of England to William Rufus … his second son. The result was an immediate war as Rufus’s elder brother Robert fought to gain the crown he saw as rightfully his; this conflict marked the start of 400 years of bloody disputes as the English monarchy’s line of hereditary succession was bent, twisted and finally broken when the last Plantagenet king, Richard III, fell at Bosworth in 1485. The Anglo-Norman and Plantagenet dynasties were renowned for their internecine strife, and in Lost Heirs we will unearth the hidden stories of fratricidal…

By J F Andrews

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