After reading Seven Stages by Geoffrey Trease, a fascinating history of seven influential figures from the stage, which was one of my favourite reads of 2017, I was very keen to read more by this author. So when I saw Endeavour Press had also brought out a reprint of Trease’s Seven Kings of England (originally published in 1955) I eagerly snapped up a copy.
Like Trease’s previous history, Seven Kings of England is broken up into seven short, detailed biographies of the lives of some of Britain’s most captivating kings: the ‘Shepherd of the English’, Alfred the Great (871-899); the self-made, William the Conqueror (1066-1087); the crusader, Richard the Lionheart (1189-1199); the ‘Rose of Rouen’, Edward IV (1461-1483); the sad cavalier, Charles I (1625-1649); the restored, Charles II (1660-1685) and the Dutch general, William III (1689-1702). Before reading this, I knew about all these kings, however it was interesting to read more about them. Particularly about the events leading up to their reigns, as most of them had unconventional routes to kingship.
Again this is an expansive history, that spans the monarchy from Alfred the Great in the ninth century to the co-rule of Anne and William III in the seventeenth century. Covering many of the monarchy’s and the country’s ups and downs: from Viking attacks; the Norman invasion; the ‘War of the Roses’; to the English civil war; the execution of Charles I; the Reformation and the ‘Bloodless Revolution’. Phew! You could never say this history was boring! But while I still found this very interesting, I sadly didn’t quite find it as fascinating as my previous read, Seven Stages. And that is simply down to the fact that this didn’t teach me as many new things.
However I was still extremely impressed with the quality of Trease’s content, research, detail and clear layout. And, as before, I think Trease has got the balance just right between the academic detail and the easy readable style and language – again, if I hadn’t already known it was published back in 1955, I could have easily believed this was published only this year! On finishing this book, I realised it was written as a companion to Trease’s earlier history, Seven Queens of England. Sadly, I don’t have a copy of this but I do have his Seven Sovereign Queens lined up on my Kindle to read.
Overall, I thought Seven Kings of England was a really interesting history of the English monarchy, which I devoured in only a few sittings. I look forward to hopefully reading Trease’s Seven Sovereign Queens soon. Good read.
Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? Or any other histories of English kings?