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The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation
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The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  560 ratings  ·  47 reviews
He ordered his uncle to be beheaded; he usurped his father's throne; he taxed his people more than any other previous king, and he started a war which lasted for more than a hundred years. Yet for centuries Edward III (1327-77) was celebrated as the most brilliant of all English monarchs. In this first full study of his character and life, Ian Mortimer shows how under Edwa ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published April 5th 2007 by Pimlico (first published 2006)
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Tony Johnston
Very good but one big flaw for me that stopped the 5 stars.

It is well written; lucid, logical and engaging. As a book on the life of a King, it is certainly not social history but then unlike some, I have time for both. A bit of King and a bit of dirt in equal measure does me fine.

The subject himself is rather impressive. Edward 1 is still my favourite warrior King but his grandson certainly gives him a run for his Italian lucre; he even founded the whole Honi Soit qui mal y pense thing which i
Pete daPixie
Here is the finest history book that I've read. Not 5 but 10 star. On a par with the Oxford History's 'Anglo Saxon England' by Sir Frank Stenton. Published 2006. The life of Edward III was monumental. (1312-77). From page 1 Ian Mortimer takes us through a brilliant roller coaster that was the reign of this perfect king.
What happened to Edward II is a real eye opener. The escape from Roger Mortimer is the stuff of Hollywood movies. The chivalric warrior who builds England's forces into the greate
Conor Byrne
Ian Mortimer does an excellent job in rehabilitating Edward III, in a sense. Nineteenth- and twentieth-century historians were extremely critical of this king. Mortimer redresses this negative historiography by exploring in some detail the brilliance of Edward's reign.

Particularly enjoyable was Mortimer's analysis of Edward's cultural achievements and his interests in architecture, religion, music, chivalry, fashion, and culture more generally. He was an undoubtedly complex individual who lived
A very good biography of England's Edward III. It's well organized and well written, with helpful maps, illustrations and genealogy charts. The author is attempting to restore Edward's reputation as a great king, which he claims lasted for several centuries after Edward's death but was diminished by "politicised" historians in the 18th and 19th centuries.

There's some fascinating history here: the rise of England as a political and military power; the domination of projectile warfare (peasants ar
Taylor Kniphfer
Edward III finally has the biographer that he deserves. Ian Mortimer made him into a living person in this book. You could hear the crys of the men on the battlefields of France or Scotland. You could see the weeping souls of the Black Death. You could witness the discussions in Parlaiment. And Edward was at the epcenter of it all. A king for the ages. Indeed, almost the Perfect Medieval King, the man who forged a nation out of a war. A story for the ages, and a heroic, chivalric King of England ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
I really enjoyed this book. In my view, this is the best of the three Ian Mortimer books I have read. While all three of the books have been well researched and full of valuable information, this book really gave me an image of Edward III (who reigned from 327 to 1377) that I could get my teeth into.

By no means a perfect man, and not always a perfect king either. But a towering monarhc who oversaw a great number of events and changes to English institutions.

Well worth reading!
Spencer Warner
Judging by the reviews of this book, there is clearly a point I'm missing. While it is thorough in it's approach, I felt an overwhelming sense of nausea as the author wrote time and time again of Edwards brilliance. Granted, he was probably as gooder king England ever had but Mortimer would have you believe everything ever done by him was wonderful.. he ruled for 50 years, surely any historian of merit can criticise at least something!
I guess the title of the book is a hint of this, and further
Edward III's life reads like a fairy tale.

His father the king is deposed and presumably murdered by his mother's lover who now rules the kingdom. The successful night attack with a loyal band of comrades that removes the usurper and puts him back on his throne. The battles he wins culminating in the astounding victory of Crecy. The creation of an Arthurian like band of knights in the Order of the Garter. The even more incredible victory of his heir, the Black Prince at Poitiers.

All this would h
I've never really known that much about Edward III: his reign was always sort of sandwiched between my interest in Henry III and Edward I and Simon de Montfort, and Richard II and John of Gaunt. It's a shame really, because reading this book really made me so what an important king he was and how much he contributed not only to the monarchy but to England itself. He was one of the first kings to really give the English people an identity and a common goal, in the conquest of France. And his reig ...more
Tom Stallard
Often with historical biographies, it is very much the character that drives the quality of the story. This is very much the case here, a fantastic story of a young prince who throws off the shackles of his fathers authority, to become himself a great king. That said, it is all to easy for an author to dull the limelight on even the greatest of stories. Here Mortimer applies a careful touch, never allowing the story to grow stale. One thing of note, perhaps, is that Mortimer's views of Edward II ...more
Kristina Church milashus
This is the best non-fiction book I have read. Knowing nothing about Edward III when I picked it up, Mortimer does a remarkable job capturing the achievements, challenges, and essence of this most remarkable king. I was left literally in awe of Edward's battle strategies, his inclusion of commoners within parliament, how he elevated England on the international stage, his building projects, methods of warfare, and his loyalty and fidelity to those closest to him throughout his reign. Highly reco ...more
Meticulously researched and very well written indeed. Edward III was one of the most fascinating of all Plantagenet Kings, indeed of all the monarchs of England. Ian Mortimer brings his reign to life. I was particularly interested in the research/review of the life and (non) death of Edward II - he raises interesting points and I hope that this angle will be addressed in a biography of the elder Edward, either by Mortimer or another similarly thorough writer.
I've never really known that much about Edward III: his reign was always sort of sandwiched between my interest in Henry III and Edward I and Simon de Montfort, and Richard II and John of Gaunt. It's a shame really, because reading this book really made me see what an important king he was and how much he contributed not only to the monarchy but to England itself.

'The father of the English nation' isn't entirely superlative; one could argue quite cogently that it was under Edward that England re
Ian Mortimer does a great job of bringing Edward III to life. It follows a wonderfully clear chronological order, he's constantly returning to his thesis and his writing is clear and succinct. Not only that, but in some spots it is so wonderfully vivid that you can feel the amount of research that went into this book. You feel as though you are there; by the time of Edward's death at the end of the book, you feel as though you've lost something too.

Startlingly vivid, my only detraction from the
Michael Jecks
What can I say? This is a must-read for any serious historian interested in the life of King Edward III and the course of medieval european history.
Jeremy Perron
The Perfect King is a very enjoyable to book to read, Mortimer seems to understand the importance of keeping the story part of history. In the telling of the life Edward III, Mortimer can be both funny and serious at the same time as any good history professor who has to lecture in front of students. His subject is a fascinating one, King Edward III came to throne after his father's violent overthrow and for the first few years of his reign was under the thumb of the man who brought down his fat ...more
The most under-appreciated King in English History.

I have not enjoyed a text book this much for, well, ever! Ian Mortimer writes with a human touch, looking beyond policy and politics and sees the man beneath, the human strengths and frailties that make someone act in a certain way and he examines Edward III in this light, making the king leap from the page as vividly as any novel could.

The life of Edward III reads like a Hollywood script, one that was rejected as being too far-fetched. His expl
Mortimer has produced a fantastic biography of Edward III which makes for a follow up of his The Greatest Traitor. This book is well researched and by far one of the most detailed books that I have read. He provides evidence to support all thoughts raised and his appendices provide the reader with an overall in depth look at the life of Edward III. If you do not enjoy heavy texts, this is not one for you however I thoroughly enjoyed this book and feel it provided me with detailed insight into th ...more
I read this because I enjoyed Mortimer's The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England. This appears to be meticulously researched and presents the argument that Edward III's father Edward II survived several years into his son's reign and died in exile. (And not with a hot poker up his rectum.)

The eight (8!) appendices supply extra arguments and resources for points that couldn't be comfortably fit within the flow of the book, including a fascinating illustration of how Edward III not only is
Margaret Sankey
Ian Mortimer probably knows more about the world of Edward III than anyone else, so his biography of the long-lived and significant English monarch is really good--he's strong on the early 100 Years' War, great at teasing out the relationships of the King and his variety of children, his wife, his tacky mistress in old age, the fraught political relationship with his mother the She-Wolf of France...but Mortimer has a fatal flaw. For whatever reason, he's hung up on Edward II's death (or in this ...more
Eric Grounds
Ian Mortimer has taught me more about Edward III than I imagined possible. Moreover, he has come up with a most interesting theory about the death of Edward II. Anyone who enjoys history must read this book
I loved this book! I believe it to be one of the finest history books I have ever read. I was not familiar with the reign of Edward III, and knew very little about the 100 years war. I am ashamed to say, in my ignorance, I believed him to be a war-monger, and invariably moved on to other historical periods, how wrong can a person be? I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone, it's thoroughly enjoyable on so many levels. My new aim is to read more about this period in our history and I h ...more
Another enjoyable biography by Roger Mortimer. As with other works, this was cleanly written, filed with facts but related essentially as a narrative. There are a few points I take issue with, but overall very well done.
Kristine Hicken
This was an informative biography of Edward III; however, I can only suggest for people who have an interest in the time period and want to slog through the detail. Ian Mortimer does a good job of giving the reader an understanding of how and why The Hundred Year War between England and France started. I appreciated the last chapters that dealt with the decline of this very spectacular monarch. As stated in the book, if Edward III had died 8-10 years before he did, he would have been known to hi ...more
Amazing. This is by far the best Ian Mortimer book not because of his writing (he's pretty good all the way through) but because Edward III is argueably one of the greatest Kings of England. As you follow the life of Edward you feel you are riding the highs and the lows. During the battle of Crecy when we read about the Black Prince you just feel that patriotism rise and shouts of "come on England!"
Chris Skidmore
In a scholarly book on a long-lived king like Edward III there are bound to be some longeurs. However I read this very easily - even the stuff derived from the household accounts of the court is made readable! It is worth it if only to read about Ian Mortimer's fascinating research which provides an intriguing alternative possibility for the death of Edward II, so graphically portrayed by Marlowe!
A great book to read for some insight into Edward III. The battle descriptions are especially good. Although, I am still chewing on the author's belief that Edward II was not murdered, but survived well into his son's reign hidden away in Europe under the Pope's protection.
This does not read like a "dry" non-fiction history. Good stuff.
If only they would teach history in the way that this book is written, we would all enjoy it more and understand that these remote people from the past are more like us than we imagine. Besides, I truly enjoyed reading about royal families that consisted of good, kind, loving people for a change.
I think this is quite a whiggish biography of Edward III - Mortimer indicates this in the title! Mortimer espouses some interesting ideas, including the survival of Edward II after Berkley Castle which makes it an interesting read but I am personally unconvinced of many of his assertions.
David Brazier
Excellent history; apart from much daring-do, shows how England was on the verge of a great cultural renaissance (which continued in to the next reign with Chaucer and others and then was lost with the usurpation of Henry IV and the resulting Wars of the Roses.
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AKA James Forrester.

Dr Ian Mortimer was born in Petts Wood (Kent) in 1967. He won a scholarship to Eastbourne College (Sussex) and later read for degrees in history and archive studies at the universities of Exeter and London (UCL). From 1991 to 2003 he worked for a succession of archive and historical research organisations, including Devon Record Office, the Royal Commission on Historical Manusc
More about Ian Mortimer...
The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330 Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England's Self-made King Edward III: The Perfect King

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