Book Review: Usurpers, A New Look at Medieval Kings by Michele Morrical

Genre: History
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Pub date: 13 October 2021

In the Middle Ages, England had to contend with a string of usurpers who disrupted the British monarchy and ultimately changed the course of European history by deposing England’s reigning kings and seizing power for themselves. Some of the most infamous usurper kings to come out of medieval England include William the Conqueror, Stephen of Blois, Henry Bolingbroke, Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry Tudor. Did these kings really deserve the title of usurper or were they unfairly vilified by royal propaganda and biased chroniclers?

In this book we examine the lives of these six medieval kings, the circumstances which brought each of them to power, and whether or not they deserve the title of usurper. Along the way readers will hear stories of some of the most fascinating people from medieval Europe, including Empress Matilda, the woman who nearly succeeded at becoming the first ruling Queen of England; Eleanor of Aquitaine, the queen of both France and England who stirred her own sons to rebel against their father, Henry II; the cruel and vengeful reign of Richard II which caused his own family to overthrow him; the epic struggle for power between Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou, Richard of York, and Edward IV during the Wars of the Roses; the notorious Richard III and his monstrous reputation as a child-killer; and Henry VII who rose from relative obscurity to establish the most famous royal family of all time: the Tudors.

The six kings featured; William the Conqueror, King Stephen, King Henry IV, King Edward IV, King Richard III and King Henry VII are often the topic of debate as to whether they usurped the throne or not. Morrical aims to review the claim of each to the throne, how they became king and answer whether they usurped it according to the definition of ‘usurp’.

I enjoyed the first three, especially Stephen as I find Empress Matilda very interesting.
The last three had some repetition due to the crossover and all three being part of the Wars of the Roses. As that’s a favourite era for me I didn’t learn anything new but for a beginner it is good at giving some background information, I just wish there wasn’t so much repetition.

There was also quite alot of editing errors which I hope were spotted before publication.

Overall this is a good start for anyone wishing to learn about the six Kings and get some background on the Wars of the Roses.

Thank you to NetGalley and Pen and Sword for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.

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