Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Magnificent Century (The Plantagenets, #2)” as Want to Read:
The Magnificent Century (The Plantagenets, #2)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Magnificent Century (The Plantagenets #2)

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  568 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
THE MAGNIFICENT CENTURY, the second volume of Costain's A History of the Plantagenets, covers Henry III's long and turbulent reign, from 1216 to 1272.

During his lifetime Henry was frequently unpopular, unreliable and inconsistent. Yet his reign saw spectacular advancement in the arts, sciences and theology, as well as in government. Despite all, it was truly a magnificent

Paperback, 00111
Published January 1964 by Popular Library (first published 1949)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Magnificent Century, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Magnificent Century

The Daughter of Time by Josephine TeyI, Claudius by Robert GravesMarie Antoinette by Antonia FraserThe Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay PenmanWolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Another look At History's Maligned Denizens
8th out of 120 books — 35 voters
What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel PoolA Distant Mirror by Barbara W. TuchmanThe Wars of the Roses by Alison WeirThe Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanGeorgiana by Amanda Foreman
British History
25th out of 484 books — 133 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Ray Campbell
Dec 24, 2013 Ray Campbell rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
The volume of Costain's series on the Plantagenet kings covers the 13th Century and the reign of Henry III. This was a turbulent period that witnessed war between England and France, civil war between the Barons and the Crown as well as conflicts between the Pope and the Crown. In the end, it was a century of progress for the right of the common man, science and learning, though the folks of the period would have been hard pressed to see it.

As a read, the book was very much a survey. Costain rec
I've picked up this volume immediately after finishing 'Conquering family', the first volume in this book series. That in itself should be the best indication of the fact that I really enjoy reading these books, because usually I always switch between authors and book cycles.
This second volume only re-inforced my initial impression of Costain's work. As scholary history works they're absolutely hopeless! The story focuses almost exclusively on the absolute top level of society. The few commoners
Lady of the Lake
This is a great place to begin if you want to get all the facts from the PLANTAGENET'S FAMILY you will understand more what you are reading! I would say this is great for ones starting out as it is easy to follow and isn't a dry read for a non-fiction. But for those with more experience there isn't anything really NEW that you wouldn't already know but it it was fun to hear it all again like a quick refresher course! LOL
Mike Luoma
Sep 15, 2014 Mike Luoma rated it liked it
The "Magnificent" Century? Is that meant to be ironic? This second in Thomas B. Costain's books on the Plantagenets covers the 13th century, the 1200's, and the reign of Henry III... not the most spectacular period for the dynasty.
Although a bit more historical in feel than the first book "The Conquering Family", this second volume is still written as popular history to be read by the general public - no major citation of sources, no foot nor end notes here. Costain combines his own conjecture
Thomas B. Costain's second book in his Plantagenet series focuses on the life of Henry III and to a large extent Simon De Montfort. The first book runs through Henry II and his sons with solid details, but without spending too much time on any of the people. For me, I was not expecting book 2 to be almost totally devoted to the life of Henry III. Additionally, I just do not find Henry III to be the most interesting of the Plantagenets.

However, Costain does a good job with subject matter again.
Aug 23, 2015 JR rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medieval
Much weaker than The Conquering Family. Would have been better with more focus on Henry III and less tangents on the state of the church, economy, social order, etc. Very little of those tangents play into the key conflict of the reign, that between Henry & Simon de Montfort. I find Costain most compelling when he sticks to power struggles.

And if the book is titled "The Magnificent Century", what of Edward I's reign beginning in 1272? Book felt slapped together at times.

As an aside, for a ki
Sep 09, 2008 Judie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is history that reads like a novel.
Feb 06, 2012 Samantha rated it really liked it
This is the first of Costain's books that I have read and I am anxious to read more. Reading this reminded me of sitting in history class in college - yes there is a lot of information, no it is not a quick, easy read - but a century (the 13th) worth of information is presented in a way that you learn and are fixated at the same time. Since this was a time period I had not read much about beforehand, I was on the edge of my seat at some times wondering what would happen next. The story of Simon ...more
Jamison Shuck
Feb 21, 2013 Jamison Shuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although not as good as The Conquering Family, Costain still presents a fascinating, page-turning history of the reign of Henry III. One complaint that I do have is with the title, throughout the book I kept asking myself why this England under the rule of the absolutely comicly inept Henry was so magnificent. Other than hints at Simon de Monforts democratic ideals, its not until the final few chapters of the book that Costain actually makes his case for the magnificence of the century, which ki ...more
The second book in Costain's series on the Plantagenet kings covers the 13th Century and the reign of Henry III. As he says in the book, Henry III was the son of probably the worst ever English king (John) and the father of one of the best, Edward I. Although Henry reigned for over 50 years, he was a poor king and somehow the country managed to prosper despite his efforts. The book details Henry's reign in great detail, all of it fascinating. It covers the of the turbulent period between England ...more
Sep 03, 2016 Tomi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book about Henry III of England - "son of the worst of kings and father of the best." Costain is a great writer; lifelike battle scenes, humor, beautiful descriptions of fashion and court life, and many fascinating anecdotes about medieval life. (And all without graphic sex or profanity!)
Apr 24, 2014 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Henry III was ridiculous, but his reign was worth it for the backdrop to Simon de Montfort. He is my new obsession, and I must visit the site where Evesham Abbey (his burial place) used to be some day. He's on my list with Thomas Cranmer and the Anglo-Saxons as the people I most mourn in English history. It's hard to hate Henry III and Edward II, though, at least not like I hate William the Conqueror and Mary Tudor. Henry was too ridiculous to really hate, only feel contempt for him. And Ed ...more
Apr 26, 2013 Tara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love British History and this series is among my favorites. I've had the privilege of reading many of Costain's novels, and while I enjoy them, this history is by far his best work. Although it is non-fiction, it is amusing and tragic by turns, as much so as any good novel. His research is fantastic, all the way down to the clothing, which I enjoy as I am a costumer with an avid interest in fashion history.
It's especially enjoyable to read about the Plantagenet's considering the recent discov
James Violand
Jun 29, 2014 James Violand rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Shelves: own
Costain seems to have been forgotten. Too bad. His English histories are well worth the reading. This volume of the series, "The Pageant of England" occurs around 1260 to 1480+. A wonderful read.
Dick Edwards
Jan 24, 2011 Dick Edwards rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Costain does not tell us often enough the year that things are happening. I found the descendancy chart on pp. 12 and 13 extremely helpful. Somehow, I did not enjoy this book as much as the predecessor, The Conquerors, perhaps because the personnel were not as interesting. I don’t think there is as interesting story in all of history as that of Henry II, his wife and sons, and Thomas Becket. On the other hand, it is intriguing that such a great king as Edward I should descend from the evil and i ...more
Sep 03, 2014 Bethany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Not quite as good as The Conquerors, but it's not the author's fault that Henry III wasn't the character his father and grandfather were. Still a wonderful story, I learned an awful lot about the 13th century.
Apr 10, 2015 Gmaharriet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm re-reading this for the second time. It's every bit as wonderful as I remembered it. Thomas Costain (RIP) wrote the most readable history of any historical author I've ever read. His books seem more like fiction and, even when I know what's going to happen, I find myself wondering what comes next. He lends his work a sense of immediacy.

As this was book 2 of 4, I'm going to take a break before re-reading books 3 and 4. They will be something to look forward to with anticipation. (and I have s
Dec 24, 2012 RJay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the 2nd book in this series and not nearly as fun to read as the first. Too many side treks and out of sequence segments for me. Mr Costain has a higher opinion of Edward I than I do certainly in his reference to Edward being a moderate voice in the dealings with the rebel barons and remaining family of Simon de Montfort. And for some reason still contends that John Longespee is the son of Henry II's Fair Rosamund. Just plain wrong. A dry read for sure.
May 22, 2011 Jeweleye rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second book of the Plantagenet series was as illuminating and readable as the first volume. Using Henry III and his long but incompetent reign as the pivot point, Costain tells of the beginnings of England's constitutional government, the events that shaped Henry's son and next king, Edward I, and the hints of the age of enlightenment to come. I look forward to reading the next two volumes as I work my way through the centuries of British history.
Abigail Hartman
Dec 27, 2011 Abigail Hartman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Costain is a splendid historian, treating his subjects fairly, conveying history as it was, but at the same time writing with a novelist's flair. No chapter is dull, nor any of the characters. Costain blows the dust off them and makes them each stand out from the pages of history, alive with their virtues and vices. If you ever think that all histories are dull, I defy you to find Costain's to be so.
Nov 21, 2015 Angie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, favorites, to-buy
What an interesting book! I've read historical fiction about the players in this book (Henry III, Simon de Montfort, Edward I, Eleanor of Provence) but this really explained the back story without much bias.

Unfortunately, since this book was published in 1963 and is out of print, I did have to interlibrary loan it from Weber County.

Can't wait to start reading The Three Edwards.
I've gotten accustomed to the narrator's voice, so this was a very quick read. It was fun, but I'd recommend A Distant Mirror instead.
Coleen Dailey
Second in the series. I actually read these a few years ago so this is simply a review of what happened. Given all the novels that are coming out about that time, I would recommend this series for someone who wants an overview of what really happened.
I read this in high-school, along with a bunch of other historical fiction. I remember the title as being something I really liked, but for the life of me can't remember the details of what I liked about it, now.
Boulder Boulderson
Jun 19, 2015 Boulder Boulderson rated it liked it
It's popular history with a story to tell - in this case the development of Magna Carta to a full-blown popular government. Quite a good book really, as long as you don't take it too seriously.
Maria Christensen
Jun 03, 2012 Maria Christensen rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Well-researched facts recounted with really liberal amounts of historical imagination make this highly readable for people interested in history who don't necessarily like to read dry textbooks.
Mar 22, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yet another great job by Costain in his examination of medieval England, this one focusing on the 13th century and the long reign of Henry III. Just one more to go in this 4 book series.
Thomas Walsh
May 23, 2014 Thomas Walsh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-have-read-this
This is the first in the magnificent quatrain works on the House of Plantagenets by Costain. Every one is interesting, because he writes with such lucid styles.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 16, 2009 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This account of King Henry III's long and turbulent reign, from 1216 to 1272 is a very readable volume of British history.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Edward I
  • Henry II
  • William Marshal: Knighthood, War and Chivalry, 1147-1219
  • Great Tales from English History, Vol 2: Joan of Arc, the Princes in the Tower, Bloody Mary, Oliver Cromwell, Sir Isaac Newton & More
  • Richard III
  • Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel
  • Richard and John: Kings at War
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Biography
  • William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact Upon England
  • Shakespeare's Kings: The Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages: 1337-1485
  • A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain
  • 1215: The Year of Magna Carta
  • The Gunpowder Plot
  • The Plantagenet Chronicles
  • Dragon's Lair (Justin de Quincy, #3)
  • Richard III and the Princes in the Tower
  • The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation
  • William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry
Costain was born in Brantford, Ontario to John Herbert Costain and Mary Schultz. He attended high school there at the Brantford Collegiate Institute. Before graduating from high school he had written four novels, one of which was a 70,000 word romance about Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange. These early novels were rejected by publishers.

His first writing success came in 1902 when the Brantford
More about Thomas B. Costain...

Other Books in the Series

The Plantagenets (4 books)
  • The Conquering Family (The Plantagenets, #1)
  • The Three Edwards (The Plantagenets, #3)
  • The Last Plantagenets (The Plantagenets, #4)

Share This Book