His Own Man?

Edward I, the king who changed the public face of monarchy.

Professor Prestwich is a brave man. Two hazards confront a biographer of Edward I. First, there is the shade of Sir Maurice Powicke whose King Henry III and the Lord Edward and The Thirteenth Century in the Oxford History of England have long remained the standard accounts. Secondly, there is the difficulty of writing a biography of a medieval king, any medieval king, within the pattern established for the English Monarchs series by David Douglas more than a quarter of a century ago. On any ground Powicke is a hard act to follow, and Professor Prestwich does not attempt to emulate the Master’s magical evocation of character from written record. As for the mould in which this series is cast, derived as it is from Morley’s Life of Gladstone and similar works, that is not Professor Prestwich’s fault; he strives nobly to make sense of medieval evidence which often serves a biographer very ill. The result is less a biography than a comprehensive examination of the reign of Edward I, to which his earlier life provides a necessary preface. It makes a fine book: learned, judicious, carefully thought out and skilfully presented.

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