The Last English King
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The Last English King

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  374 ratings  ·  39 reviews
On September 27, 1066, Duke William of Normandy sailed for England with hundreds of ships and over 8,000 men. King Harold of England, weakened by a ferocious Viking invasion from the north, could muster little defense. At the Battle of Hastings of October 14, he was outflanked, quickly defeated, and killed by William's superior troops. The course of English history was alt...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published December 13th 1999 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published December 4th 1997)
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Bryn Hammond
First: vividly written, feelingly, very high on ‘reality-sense’, atmosphere and peoplehood. With that, creative, unusual, and determined not to be your ordinary histfic. Also, fantastic writing. I didn’t skip once, through boredom with a description or thinking I know what the author’s going to tell me {or not until the idyll near the end. Right, I skipped once}. He knows how to craft a place-description so that even I, a poor visualiser, see. His description of people – and there I’m an aficion...more
c1997: FWFTB: Norman, Walt, monk, Quint, 1066. Interestingly, the author counters criticism before it has even been raised in his Author's note at the start of the book. It is an interesting take on the events leading up to the Normal 'conquest' and some historical figures in ways that are quite different to those portrayed by, say, Jean Plaidy et al. It is humorous and the prose is uncluttered with unnecessary hyperbole and the like. I did not know before reading this book tha the author used t...more
What a brilliant mind Julian Rathbone has. Of course I may not always agree with it, or appreciate it, but overall, I don't think it can be denied. The man is a brilliant writer.
The story starts with Walt. A Housecarl for Harold Godwinson. He fought in the Battle of Hastings and lived through it, sans one hand. Disgraced at having not died with his King, he wanders foreign lands aimlessly until he meets Quint, a scholar, an ex monk. They travel together and as they travel, having mild adventures...more
If like me your school history classes gave the impression that the Norman Conquest was in some way a Good Thing this books is essential reading.It describes Harold's rise to the top and demonstrates that he was an excellent politician diplomat as well as warrior and king. One is forced to speculate as to what England could have been like had he not fallen at Hastings in what must have been the last throw of the dice for the desperate Normans. The language I'm writing this in would be very diffe...more
A very fun, very enjoyable read. The book initially caught my attention because of the snippet from the Bayeux tapestry used on the cover--and I wasn't disappointed. Rathbone is a good writer, who develops character well and who weaves a vivid, gripping narrative. Although my knowledge of the available documentation on the personalities of the historical characters (William the Bastard/Conqueror and Harold, primarily), I greatly enjoyed the characters Rathbone created for them. His knowledge and...more
Great story of the Norman conquest narrated by a servant of the losing king. Makes the Normans look pretty awful...vividly imagined, with lots of references to geographic features that still exist today in Wessex...interesting characters and narrative that sustained my interest until the end, even though I knew the outcome.
Jul 26, 2011 Claire added it
The idea behind this is great (the story of the Norman Invasion and the Battle of Hastings as told through the eyes of one of King Harold's men), but its execution is actually pretty woeful. The writing and characterisation are uneven and unconvincing and I found Rathbone's style both irritating and and ultimately frustrating. This novel could, with a little care and attention, have been excellent. Sadly, Rathbone's approach is so slap-dash that I didn't end up caring about the characters, and n...more
I liked it. I'm not going to say it was fantastic. But I'd read another book by Rathbone, and recommend this to anyone interested in historical fiction about the early middle ages.

Two things I like particularly:

In the final volume of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, a character who has lived for 700 years or so attends a modern Renaissance Faire, which he hates: it's all fantasy, not history. And one of his complaints is that "there's no shit." This book has the shit. Maybe not quite as much as an 11th ce...more
Ellen Ekstrom
It might sound strange that a book about the end of Anglo Saxon England and the horrible battle of Senlac Ridge (Hastings) was a fun read, but it really was. Julian Rathbone's "The Last English King" is in the same vein as Graves' "I Claudius," a tongue-in-cheek, but serious work. How can you not laugh at a character like William of Normandy in a goatee and saying things like 'Aaarold' and stomping up and down like Chaplin's Little Dictator? How can you not feel the pain of 'The Wanderer,' the l...more
I simply love this book.

It is the story of Walt set at the time of King Harold [he of 1066 - arrow in the eye fame]. Walt was a Housecarl, one of the mighty Roayl bodyguards and the book tells the history of England, through his eyes, of the years leading to and including the Battle of Hastings.
Barbara Ell
What was England like before William the Conqueror came? Were the people really such simpletons and their leaders barbaric until William brought the refinement of the Normans across the channel?

Rathbone uses research, creative license, and a bit of humor, to tell the story of the rise and demise of the last true English King, Harold II. Told through the remembrances of one of Harold's bodyguards who we meet four years after the Battle of Hastings. This novel starts with Edward the Confessor and...more
Perry Whitford
An arch, knowingly anachronistic and amusing retelling of the tragic story of Harold Godwinson, the Saxon earl who took the english throne after the death of Edward the Confessor, just to find himself fighting simultaneous invasions by the Vikings in the north and the Norman's in the south. His story has been previously told, most famously, in the Bayeux tapestry.
He's the one depicted perishing with an arrow in his eye, a grisly image familiar to every school child raised in this green and plea...more
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I read it a few years back but it left quite an impression. I guess I found it refreshing in that it's not yer usual historical novel. On the other hand, there were a few bits which were downright weird. Overall, it was full of originality and new horizons and I love how it linked Britain and eastern Europe. I particularly respect how the characters spoke in perfectly modern day lingo with no twirly bits to indicate "historical".

Historians on BBC website gave it a hard time - apparently, Queen E...more
I found this really difficult to read, not because of the writing which was very good, but because of the subject matter. Having studied the Anglo-Saxons and admiring the way they structured their society, it was depressing to know how the story ends; with the brutish Normans coming and imposing their very different, tyrannical rule on a defeated people whom they despised.

My feelings of sadness were probably exacerbated by Julian Rathbone's obvious admiration for the English king Harold and the...more
Nov 29, 2008 Graceann rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans
Recommended to Graceann by: London Historical Fiction Book Group
Please see my detailed review at Graceann's "Last English King" Review"

Please click that the review was helpful to you at Amazon so that my rating continues to climb!

I started this grudgingly, because it was not something I was at all interested in, but it was chosen by my book group. I decided to give it 50 pages and if I didn't like it, I was going to stop reading and cancel attendance at this month's meeting. It turned out to be fairly entertaining, though no masterpiece, and the...more
Even though this book has been highly acclaimed in the years since it was written, I found it one of the hardest books (to read) that I've ever read. Not because it used strange language or words, but because it jumped around so much between characters and plot lines. There is a lot of detail here, and the author appears to have done a lot of research into his characters because the events concur with what I've read elsewhere. Perhaps it was because it was written by an English author and I'm an...more
-Interpretación sensata pero no necesariamente académica.-

Género. Novela histórica.

Lo que nos cuenta. En 1070, Walt Edwinson vuelve a casa manco para encontrar que su hogar y su familia ya no existen. Durante los últimos cuatro años, justo después de perder la mano, ha estado viajando por Europa hasta llegar al Bósforo. Allí conoce a Quint, con quien comienza a viajar mientras recuerda su juventud, cuando entró al servicio de Haroldo Godwinson, en el exilio igual que su padre, el Conde Godwin.

Dora Okeyo
An enjoyable read.
Well told and detailed, the intensity of Walt's narration got me hooked from the beginning to the end.
Hal Harker
Brilliant! grate read would recommend it to anyone who's interested in historical fiction!
Very descriptive and a nice idea but one that meanders interminably without ever particularly going anywhere beyond a knackered washed-up warrior reminiscing.

If you're interested in what Britain was like before or around the time of the Norman conquest, there are far more compelling novels out there by other authors.
Stewart Binns 'Conquest' set around the time leading up to and immediately after the Norman conquest and James Wilde's 'Hereward' books are all far more alive and engaging than anyth...more
Best novel ever, you know it is going to end bad and it does
Booklovers Melbourne
This is an excellent book! Yet again I seem to have managed to find an author I love who is already, sadly, dead. At least I have, in theory the chance to catch up with his entire body of work at some point. Julian Rathbone spends a lot of time and effort delivering detailed personal character pieces, whilst decorating the whole with minor incidents such as the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings. Excellent work. People are people, whatever the time period, and this novel demonstrates it adm...more
Steve Williams
This is an excellent book! Yet again I seem to have managed to find an author I love who is already, sadly, dead. At least I have, in theory the chance to catch up with his entire body of work at some point. Julian Rathbone spends a lot of time and effort delivering detailed personal character pieces, whilst decorating the whole with minor incidents such as the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings. Excellent work. People are people, whatever the time period, and this novel demonstrates it adm...more
Richie de Almeida
Author takes many liberties, imbuing Quint with skill akin to psychoanalysis, which spits in the face of all the learning that was done in the intervening years between 1066 and Freud's work. He also gives Harold an aversion to Friday the 13th, when the events that gave the 13th its bad-luck status would not occur for another 2.5 centuries after Harold died. It's an admission by the author he's only out to entertain himself.
Vivid evocation of a long-gone age, its climax at Senlac Hill marking the most fundamental rupture ever to shear English society. 1066 was the turning point - everything before is Before, everything since is After. Historical fiction can be a hit-and-miss genre; Rathbone passes with flying colours. If I have one (minor) criticism to make, it is his occasional fondness for purple prose. All in all, a fine read.
Nick Bates
I enjoyed this immensely. I felt emmotionaly involved in the characters, it is a thrilling story and I'm ashamed to admit it filled a lot of holes in my knowledge of English history.
Sandra Jensen
The story of the battle of Hastings in 1066, as remembered by Walt Edwinson, or the Wanderer, one of King Harold Godwinson's bodyguards. Sparely written, elegant, heartbreaking.
Sarah Sammis
The historical bits are fascinating but the fictional bits get in the way. I ended up skipping here and there to read the interesting bits.
Really amazing insight into english history told in an entertaining story. what would england be like today if harold had beat william?
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Julian Christopher Rathbone was born in 1935 in Blackheath, southeast London. His great-uncle was the actor and great Sherlock Holmes interpreter Basil Rathbone, although they never met.

The prolific author Julian Rathbone was a writer of crime stories, mysteries and thrillers who also turned his hand to the historical novel, science fiction and even horror — and much of his writing had strong pol...more
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