Henry V

Desmond Seward, Author Viking Books $19.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-670-81174-8
The British author of The Hundred Years War and other histories, Seward here reveals a Henry V far different from previous studies of the centuries-old royal persona. The glorious hero of Agincourt in Shakespeare's drama has been revered by nearly all chroniclers since the monarch's time (1387-1422) as just, honorable, pious and gentle. Yet Seward's biography shows a monstrous king who spread misery throughout his short life. Henry and his armies massacred people in Wales, Scotland and, especially, France; survivors were left to starve; the conqueror brought French plunder home for sale. Proclaiming himself the ""scourge of God,'' the devout Christian king tortured and murdered the Lollard Protestants at home. The author enriches the book with vivid portraits of allies and foes of Henry, some also demythologized: the French Princess Catherine wed the English ruler reluctantly in a union he forced to strengthen a weak dynastic claim to the crowns of both England and France; and the real Sir John Fastolf was no fat, roistering ``Falstaff'' but a tough, professional soldier. As for King Henry V, the author concludes that he was a superb military strategist and political intriguer, whose victories turned disastrous. When he died at age 35, he had instigated the War of the Roses, a curse on England and Henry's son. Illustrations not seen by PW. BOMC alternate. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
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