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A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  2,791 ratings  ·  225 reviews
This is the first major biography for a generation of a truly formidable king – a man born to rule England, who believed that it was his right to rule all of Britain. His reign was one of the most dramatic and important of the entire Middle Ages, leading to war and conquest on an unprecedented scale, and leaving a legacy of division between the peoples of Britain that has ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 6th 2008 by Hutchinson
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4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,791 ratings  ·  225 reviews


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Jeffrey Keeten
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
”Comparing Edward I to his son Edward II, Robert the Bruce once declared, ‘I am more afraid of the bones of the father dead, than of the living son; and, by all the saints, it was more difficult to get a half a foot of the land from the old king than a whole kingdom from the son!’”

From Eric Niderost’s article
King Edward I: England’s Warrior King

 photo Edward201st_zpsgj4rpk7o.jpg
Edward the 1st

Edward the 1st really should have been Edward the IV, but for some reason he swept aside all the previous English monarchical history and
...more
Lindz
Aug 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Perfect introduction to medieval history.
Edward I is safe to say though a very smart and successful king was a bit of a bastard. Squashed the Welsh, stole from the Irish, bankrupted then evicted the Jews, and with the laugh of an evil genius conducted a corporate take over of the Scottish crown, with a disembowelment of William Wallace on the side . Gordon Gecko would be proud - "Greed is Good".

Marc Morris' main argument is, yes Edward I was a bit of a bastard, but he was a bastard in keeping with the late 13th Century. Also Morris has
...more
David Eppenstein
Okay I will admit to a less than scholarly reason for wanting to read the biography of this king. While I already have a fascination with English history, and that certainly helped my choice, I also loved the movie "Braveheart" and this is the king that killed Mel Gibson. Sadly, this book also kills the idea that Hollywood is ever going to produce a movie that truly respects history and portrays it accurately. To get to the Mel Gibson part of this king's history, however, will require waiting un ...more
Wayne Barrett
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it

If your only knowledge of King Edward I is what you gleaned from Mel Gibsons "Braveheart", then let me say from the beginning, forget everything that you assume to be fact from that movie and realize that it is complete crap. I would like to think that the movie was entertaining except that I know it took a historical event and turned it into a romanticized, twisted lie.

This was actually a very informative piece on this particular time in the history of England. At times it read like a school te
...more
Juliew.
Nov 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: england, biography
Not really a very exciting read nevertheless I thought it seemed well researched an a good introduction to the subject.This focused on Edward I's campaigns in the Middle East,Wales and Scotland.Also,much attention is given to smaller matters inside England at the time of his reign.I thought it lacked personal details and seemed more a political account rather than a complete biography.
Jamie Collins
A very readable biography of this Great and Terrible king, even though it’s necessarily remote from the actual human being who lived 700 years ago. Most of what we know about medieval rulers comes from the extensive legal and financial records which have survived.

Edward’s life story seems to consist of one war after another. As a young prince he fought to suppress Simon de Montfort’s rebellion. He fought in the Holy Land, including one very personal battle against a would-be assassin. He fought
...more
Caroline
I did enjoy this book, but I did find it verging on hagiography. I'll admit, Edward I is not my favourite king, far from it. And I'll admit that you can't judge a medieval monarch by today's standards, but even so I found Morris' constant excusing of Edward's actions tiring. If the true standard by which a king should be judged is that of his contemporaries, then let's look at Edward's legacy - in Morris' own words, "criminals were pardoned in return for military service; Ireland was bled dry in ...more
M.G. Mason
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
He is known by several titles. Longshanks, Hammer of the Scots, Edward Plantagenet. He is Edward I and the author believes that his life is overdue a modern retelling of his life. Perhaps inspired by Alison Weir’s dominance of the Tudors, perhaps wanting to correct the injustices of Braveheart (cruel pagan indeed!), Morris has sought to provide a critical and factual account of his life largely bereft of personal prejudice. Some may sneer at the moral relativism of excusing Edward I’s anti-semit ...more
Sarah u


Edward I is infamous in the historical world. To many modern eyes he was a bully, a tyrant, a ‘cruel pagan’, an oppressor and one of England’s worst kings. His overall reputation, it is fair to say, is not very good. He is remembered by many people in an extremely negative way.

Is this a fair assessment, though? I’m not so sure. It’s easy to look back in hindsight, through our modern eyes, and condemn a medieval king for his actions and their consequences. The fact that in his biography of Edward
...more
Bettie


Narrator: Ralph Lister

Description: Edward I is familiar to millions as "Longshanks", conqueror of Scotland and nemesis of Sir William Wallace (in Braveheart). Yet this story forms only the final chapter of the king's action-packed life. Earlier, Edward had defeated and killed the famous Simon de Montfort, traveled to the Holy Land, and conquered Wales. He raised the greatest armies of the Middle Ages and summoned the largest parliaments. Notoriously, he expelled all the Jews from his kingdom.

In
...more
happy
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
If the modern reader knows Edward I at all it is probably as the villain of Mel Gibson’s movie, Braveheart. With this biography Prof. Morris attempts to balance the scale. I found this a very well researched and written biography of one of the great (as medieval kings are rated) kings of England. While not skimping on what to modern mores are inherently evil actions, the author attempts to put Edward’s actions into the context of his times. These include his expulsion of the Jews from England in ...more
Richard Thomas
Oct 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: english-history
For we Scots, he's a monster. But as a King of England he is rightly celebrated as extending his reach across the islands and destroying what independence the Welsh retained. As nasty a piece of work personally as could be found on the throne but effective. This is an excellent book which puts Edward in his proper context and adds much to the understanding of him and his times.
Myke Cole
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great, accessible, narrative history. This is mostly an economic history of Edward's reign, so it's to the author's credit that he manages to make it so compelling and instructive. It's clear that in leaning on the available source material, Morris was clearly largely availing himself of accounting books, financial anals and other fiscal evidence. This would sound exhausting for anyone other than economic historians, but Morris combines it with a passionate and in-depth understanding of Edward a ...more
Betty
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As an Englishwoman living in Caernarfon, I wanted to know a bit more about the man who'd built the "iron ring" of castles around North Wales, and understand why the locals up here hate Edward so much. Having read this book I can see why: he was a right nasty b*stard, vain, greedy, cruel and proud (even by medieval standards). Having spoken to my local bookshop owner about the book, she says it's a very controversial book as far as Welsh people are concerned, because Edward's attitude to the Wels ...more
Mary Ann
This is a delightful book. It was slower going than is usual for me as I highlighted and wrote notes while surrounded by my maps and historical atlases. Reading this was really an adventure.

Marc Morris is not only a solid historian but also a great storyteller, an essential quality for any genre. His style is easy, almost conversational, and far from dry or pedantic. I appreciated the layout of the Kindle edition which allows one to read footnotes on the page rather than going to the Notes secti
...more
John
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The book is very well researched. I am amazed that so much material survives about the King and even more surprised that this historian manages to present it in such a way as to bring Edward to life and retain the reader's interest (well this one at any rate) throughout. Reading this it's hard to believe that he has been dead almost 750 years.

Edward's task on succeeding his father, the rather ineffectual Henry III, was far from easy. Relations between the monarchy and the nobility were uneasy,
...more
Rex Fuller
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the biography of the king who executed William “Braveheart” Wallace. That’s what attracted me to this book by Marc Morris. Somewhat to my surprise, Wallace was only one of many rebels against Edward I and it was under him that the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland first appeared. But it was also under him that seeds of continued division were planted that flourish even to this day with Scotland and Ireland inclined to remain in the EU and not with Bri ...more
Steven Peterson
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating review of England's King Edward 1 (nicknamed Longshanks). For those who know him only through the movie "Braveheart," this would be an educational volume. He had real strengths--but also weaknesses.

His father, Henry III, was pretty critical of his son and tended to keep him on a short leash. And Edward was strong-willed, not making things better. Edward did serve with his father in military campaigns and showed promise--and courage. But his father was not terribly effective and oft
...more
Sir
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An interesting history of England and Edward I, beginning with his parents and and continuing through his death in 1307.
Fergie
Sep 23, 2018 rated it liked it
** 3 1/2 stars - 4 stars ** Having previously read British historian Marc Morris's study on William the Conqueror and the Norman conquest of 1066, I was sufficiently impressed enough to read his take on another medieval figure, his descendant, Edward I, known to history as 'Longshanks' or the 'Hammer of the Scots' who ruled England from the late thirteenth century to earliest parts of the forteenth.

To be sure, Edward was ruthless in his subjugation of Wales and Scotland. While I had previous kno
...more
Tony
A Great & Terrible King is a highly informative and often interesting account of Edward I. However, the author seems incapable of critically viewing his subject. Virtually every one of Edward's deeds is presented in the most complimentary manner--accomplishments are amplified and reprehensible acts are explained away. Morris's writing prowess also leaves something to be desired. A Great & Terrible King might have been a great and wonderful book had the author presented a more balance wor ...more
Brian Turner
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Pretty good. Especially interesting to see how England and Scotland were already in the process of integrating, and might have continued to naturally join after the death of Alexander III of Scotland - if not for Edward I raising punitive taxes for a French war he didn't need to fight and ended up resolving diplomatically, with the result that it stoked Scottish rebellion led at first by William Wallace and then Robert the Bruce. It was nice to indulge in a little Mediaeval history, and found th ...more
Katie (wife of book)
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I shouldn't like Edward I because I'm Welsh, and he's the infamous king who built castles all over our country to remind the people of English superiority. But, my historical interest gets the better of my patriotism and I find Edward I fascinating!
Also, the castles he built were (and still are) magnificent.
This biography is a great book...really interesting and surprisingly readable. Morris presents a balanced look at this inspiring man, and he doesn't shy away from the bad stuff. Edward I is o
...more
Alexander Knight
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
While I would have liked less coverage concerning taxation and more detail concerning the battles, this is an excellent account of Edward I. The book provides great insight into his life long struggle for a strong and united kingdom.
Mark Hebden
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I think the first thing to say about this biography is that it is very masculine in its outlook. There is much here about battles, heroism and legacy and little that we learn about Edward the man, and his relationships to his family and close associates. His love for his wife particularly is mentioned only fleetingly when she dies despite widespread confirmation we have from primary sources that the two were deeply in love and committed to one another; a rarity for the period in question.

Edward
...more
SamuraiKitty
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In all honesty I am not a fan of Edward I. Before reading this book, my only knowledge of him was his conquering of Wales and the Welsh, and his treatment of the "Bruce" women whom he put in cages as punishment/retaliation as they were fleeing for their lives because of the war between Scotland and England. (And they were kept in those cages for years!) He was also, I believe, the first King of England to use the method of drawing and quartering his enemies as a method of execution. Having said ...more
Miike
Nov 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have been a big fan of Edward I since I saw his chain of castles in North Wales. As another reviewer mentioned below, he is often overlooked in our history of the monarchs, especially with recent Henry VIII events. Without this book Edward 'Longshanks' ran the risk of being a supporting character in a Mel Gibson film, and the associated history has also been romaticized to support or justify various modern notions of nationhood and independence.
Luckily for us, Morris has provided an in depth s
...more
Annette
Dec 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Summary:
Edward I, the son of Henry III, and Eleanor of Provence, was born in 1239. Edward succeeded the throne in 1272. His first wife was Eleanor of Castile, and they had possibly as many as 16 children. His second wife was Marguerite of France, and he fathered three children. Edward I died in 1307.
A Great and Terrible King begins in 1239, with Henry III and Eleanor, the parents of Edward I. She was a young girl when they married, no children followed for three years. Edward was their first chi
...more
Ross
Nov 28, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a bit of a stretch for 3 stars and I only recommend the book to those who feel they must read the history of all the English kings.
As I went through the book I kept wondering how the author came up with the title, since all Edward's undertakings were commonplace. The answer I think was to boost sales of the book.
At the very end of the book the author finally gives some reasons for the "Great and Terrible" title.
The "Great" part comes from the obituaries at his funeral. Give me a break.
Th
...more
lia
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a truly good book from Marc Morris. His writing make me feel excited reading it and not in the least bored as I usually do while reading history book.

"A great and Terrible King" is the story of Edward I. Of all England king, I think that Edward I somehow lost in history defeated by more well known others like Richard The Lionheart, Henry VIII or even Richard III.
Edward I is known today as Longshank (because he was very tall during his days), the king who ordered Jews expulsion from Eng
...more
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“The muster roll for the 1300 campaign noted that Hugh fitz Heyr, a Shropshire landowner of little consequence, was obliged by the terms of his tenure to serve in the king’s war ‘with bow and arrow’. It also noted that ‘as soon as he saw the enemy he shot his arrow, then went home’.” 1 likes
“In the final analysis, therefore, the tomb of Edward I may stand, like the unfinished castle at Caernarfon, not only as a monument to the past, but also as a warning to the future: a final reminder of the power of myth to shape men’s minds and motives, and thus to alter the fate of nations.” 0 likes
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