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

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4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  873 Ratings  ·  77 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kalliope



I like being able to put faces to people.

In my current exploration of the Hundred Years war it was time I began focusing a bit closer to a few of its actors. Individualizing may help me get a more defined picture of that long and complex period.

Of course, portraiture as we understand it today had not developed yet. People lived with images of types, and a King was an iconic type. A death mask was taken of Edward III and it was used later for his effigy. The sculpture seems to follow the basic fe
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Tony Johnston
Feb 24, 2011 Tony Johnston rated it really liked it
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
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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
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Conor Byrne
Sep 21, 2014 Conor Byrne rated it liked it
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
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Jamie Collins
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
...more
Taylor Kniphfer
Aug 07, 2010 Taylor Kniphfer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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)
Mar 01, 2008 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it really liked it
Shelves: librarybooks
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!
Caroline
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
Jan 08, 2011 Tom Stallard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
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
...more
bkwurm
Nov 11, 2009 bkwurm rated it really liked it
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
...more
Kristina Church milashus
Jul 21, 2013 Kristina Church milashus rated it it was amazing
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
Mary
Feb 14, 2015 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent look into the thirteenth century and how Edward III of England affected its politics, architecture and the art of chivalry. Ufortunately no biography of such an early monarch can tell us who Edward III was as far as his personality goes. But Mr. Mortimer does his best by examining his family life, his friends, and his foes. His wars, their reasons and their tactics are detailed in great detail and probably come the closest to letting us know this British monarch.
Gentian
Dec 03, 2012 Gentian rated it really liked it
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.
Caroline
Feb 23, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Laura
Apr 20, 2015 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is really good to read if you are interested in the prelude to the Wars of the Roses. Also, if you are interested in how the events in the Shakespeare historical plays came to be. I found the book fascinating, lots of historical fact and information. Edward III and his descendants are a fascinating group of historical characters.
Ross
Mar 21, 2016 Ross rated it did not like it
I had to abandon the book about 20% through it. This is really more of an historical novel than real history. I wanted to know what were the events in Edwards life and this author wanted to tell me about what Edward was thinking when he was 4 years old and Roger Mortimer was murdering Edward's father to seize power in England.
KJ
May 07, 2014 KJ rated it it was amazing
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
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William Walker
Jan 14, 2016 William Walker rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Jecks
Feb 26, 2012 Michael Jecks rated it it was amazing
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.
Caroline
Feb 24, 2016 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally got back to this and once I got started I couldn't put it down. When I listened to the 'Rex Factor' podcast and Edward III got into the 'playoffs' I had to vote for him during the first draw, in his own way and on his own terms he was a great king. This was well-written, accessible, sensible, and very interesting.

Mortimer is extremely controversial for his hypothesis that Edward II did not die in 1327, I don't know if I agree with him or not as I don't have the wherewithal or the time to
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LateNiteReader
Jan 25, 2016 LateNiteReader rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the amount of scholarship that obviously went into this effort, it remains a wonderfully readable biography. In fact, quite a page turner, which I appreciate as a casual reader of historical biographies. I'm no historian, nor do I aspire to be, but I do get the bug now and then to better myself, and there are more than a few unfinished biographies and histories on my shelf (looking at you, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947)

I also learned that the author is a bit of a
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Rebecca Hill
Jan 02, 2016 Rebecca Hill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Donna
Apr 13, 2015 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the amount of scholarship that obviously went into this effort, it remains a wonderfully readable biography. In fact, quite a page turner, which I appreciate as a casual reader of historical biographies. I'm no historian, nor do I aspire to be, but I do get the bug now and then to better myself, and there are more than a few unfinished biographies and histories on my shelf (looking at you, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947)

I also learned that the author is a bit of a
...more
Susan
Feb 19, 2015 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I gave it 5 stars even though there were some issues.

The good (and it was very good)
I had previously read a historical fiction about Edward's mother, Isabella of France, which lead to researching her story and that of Edward II, and then I ran across this biography of Edward III. The author really brought an incredible story alive, very detailed, in a good way. The story of Edward III was like reading soap opera! It was great, and at every stage, I wanted to know more. This was everything a goo
...more
Caroline Mathews
Feb 10, 2015 Caroline Mathews rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Edward lll is a book of which a full 25% is bibliography and notes. Beautifully researched and thought out. When Mortimer postulates, he backs up his ideas with a solid and surprising ability to search every corner and dust off all the cobwebs. I decided to myself, more than once, that the author's fervor was because he must also a descendant of that other Mortimer, Roger, just as 99% of English born since 1995 and living in England have the DNA of Edward lll.

I have written that my pet peeve, wh
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HBalikov
Nov 21, 2014 HBalikov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
History to some may be all dates of events. To others, it is about the great powers and conflicts. To some, it is about how we got to where we are. For historiographers, those who study the way history is written, Edward the Third may be the most praised and most vilified king in English history. Why should scholars take such different views?

Edward the Third aspired to be the "perfect king" according to Ian Mortimer. This biography charts how he came to that aspiration and how well he succeeded.
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Jeremy Perron
Apr 17, 2013 Jeremy Perron rated it it was amazing
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
Nicky
Sep 17, 2013 Nicky rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Dawn Paris
I borrowed this from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. I would have been upset if I bought it because RosettaBooks really needs to fire whomever was responsible for the proofreading after conversion, because scattered throughout the text are incorrect words that look like the result of an autocorrected bad scan.

The text itself was pretty interesting, and Mortimer's characterization of Edward seems well supported. The theory that Edward II was alive after reports of his death seems quite plausi
...more
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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
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“Lord Acton’s famous phrase: ‘power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” 1 likes
“It is better to eat the dog than be eaten by the dog’, Montagu had remarked quietly to the king, after being dismissed from Mortimer’s presence.” 1 likes
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