Louis: The French Prince Who Invaded England

Catherine Hanley. Yale Univ, $40 (296p) ISBN 978-0-300-21745-2
In this captivating account, medievalist Hanley (War and Combat, 1150–1270) covers an almost forgotten adventure in which Louis VIII of France (1187–1226) nearly became the king of England. Sandwiched between his formidable father, Phillip II, and his saintly son, Louis IX, Louis VIII is often overlooked. Hanley recounts the events of 1215, when King John was excommunicated and ignoring the Magna Carta, and a group of English barons invited Prince Louis to take the throne. He accepted, and Hanley, judiciously using contemporary chronicles and popular tales, details the 16 months of Louis’s invasion. She brings to life the drama’s minor participants, reveals the ways fortunes of war were decided by the weather in the English Channel or the sudden death of the pope , and points out the disregard both armies had for the people whose land was being destroyed. Blanche of Castile, Louis’s devoted queen, receives her fair share of credit for raising armies and money, and Hanley obliquely contrasts their loving marriage to that of King John and his unhappy wife, Isabelle. Louis was 35 when he became king, and he only lived another three years, dying in the Albigensian Crusade. Scholarly without being stodgy, Hanley’s work vividly depicts the texture of the times with an enthralling, novelistic narrative. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/02/2016
Release date: 06/01/2016
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