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


A Great and Terrible King: Edward I is familiar to millions as “Longshanks,” conqueror of Scotland and nemesis of Sir William Wallace (in “Braveheart”). Yet that story forms only the final chapter of the king’s action-packed life. Earlier, Edward had defeated and killed Simon de Montfort in battle; traveled to the Holy Land; conquered Wales, extinguishing its native rulers and constructing a magnificent chain of castles. He raised the greatest armies of the Middle Ages and summoned the largest parliaments; notoriously, he expelled all the Jews from his kingdom. The longest-lived of England’s medieval kings, Edward fathered fifteen children with his first wife, Eleanor of Castile and, after her death, erected the Eleanor Crosses—the grandest funeral monuments ever fashioned for an English monarch.

In this book, Marc Morris examines afresh the forces that drove Edward throughout his relentless career: his character, his Christian faith, and his sense of England’s destiny—a sense shaped largely by the tales of the legendary King Arthur. Morris also explores the competing reasons that led Edward’s opponents (including Robert Bruce) to resist him.

The result is a sweeping story, immaculately researched yet compellingly told, and a vivid picture of medieval Britain at the moment when its future was decided.

Editorial Review

Introduction: In his remarkable work, “A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain,” Marc Morris delivers an engrossing account of one of England’s most influential monarchs. With meticulous research and captivating storytelling, Morris brings to life the turbulent reign of Edward I, revealing the profound impact he had on shaping the destiny of Britain.

Captivating Narrative and Impeccable Research: Morris demonstrates his prowess as a historian through his skillful storytelling and extensive research. He weaves a compelling narrative that not only highlights the political and military triumphs of Edward I but also delves into the personal struggles and complexities of the man behind the crown. Drawing upon a wide range of primary sources and scholarly works, Morris presents a comprehensive and well-rounded examination of Edward I’s reign.

A Visionary Leader and Nation-Builder: Edward I was a king who left an indelible mark on the British Isles, and Morris brilliantly showcases his vision and determination. From his relentless campaigns in Wales to his efforts in unifying England and Scotland, Edward I’s accomplishments are brought to life in vivid detail. Morris expertly explores the challenges and motivations that drove the king, providing readers with a deep understanding of the political landscape and the magnitude of his achievements.

Intricate Character Portrayals: What sets “A Great and Terrible King” apart is Morris’ ability to humanize historical figures, offering readers a glimpse into their lives and personalities. Edward I emerges as a complex and multifaceted character, far from a one-dimensional ruler. Morris delves into the king’s relationships with his family, advisors, and nobles, illuminating the tensions and dynamics that shaped his decision-making. This nuanced portrayal adds depth and richness to the narrative, making the reader feel intimately connected to the historical figures.

Unveiling the Social Fabric of Medieval Britain: Beyond the political and military aspects, Morris paints a vivid picture of medieval Britain, capturing the social and cultural milieu of the era. Through detailed descriptions of everyday life, the author immerses readers in the sights, sounds, and struggles of the time. From the social hierarchy and religious fervor to the lives of commoners and nobility, Morris constructs a comprehensive tapestry that transports readers back to Edward I’s reign.

Thematic Exploration and Historical Significance: While “A Great and Terrible King” primarily focuses on Edward I, it goes beyond mere biography. Morris skillfully addresses broader themes such as governance, nation-building, and the impact of individual rulers on the trajectory of nations. By situating Edward I within the larger context of British history, the book offers profound insights into the nation’s evolution and the enduring legacy of this influential monarch.

Accessible and Engaging Writing Style: Despite the depth of research and historical complexity, Morris maintains an accessible and engaging writing style throughout the book. He avoids jargon and convoluted explanations, making it a compelling read for both history enthusiasts and general readers. The seamless blend of scholarly rigor and narrative flair ensures that “A Great and Terrible King” remains a page-turner from start to finish.

Conclusion: In “A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain,” Marc Morris delivers an exceptional historical account that breathes life into the reign of Edward I. With impeccable research, captivating storytelling, and nuanced character portrayals, Morris provides an in-depth exploration of the man and his impact on British history. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking a comprehensive understanding of medieval Britain and the transformative power of a single monarch.

A Great and Terrible King
Genre: Non-Fiction
Age Range: Adult
Start Rating: 4.5 stars
Publication Date: 14th June 2016

Author: Marc Morris

Marc Morris

Marc Morris (Author)

Marc Morris is a distinguished British historian and author renowned for his expertise in medieval history. Born with a passion for the past, Morris pursued his academic journey at the University of London, where he earned a degree in History and Archaeology. He later obtained a PhD from the University of Leeds, specializing in the reign of Edward I.

With a deep fascination for the Middle Ages, Morris has dedicated his career to illuminating the complexities and nuances of this captivating era. His extensive research and meticulous attention to detail have earned him acclaim as a leading authority on medieval England.

Morris is widely recognized for his ability to bring history to life through engaging narratives and accessible storytelling. His books, including “A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain” and “The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England,” have garnered critical acclaim and a loyal readership.

Beyond his written works, Morris is also known for his contributions to television documentaries, where he has shared his knowledge and passion with a broader audience. His expertise and engaging on-screen presence have made history come alive for viewers around the world.

With a writing style that seamlessly blends scholarly rigor with an engaging narrative, Marc Morris continues to captivate readers with his ability to make the past relevant and accessible. His dedication to historical accuracy and his talent for storytelling have solidified his place as one of the most respected voices in medieval history.

Through his works, Morris invites readers to delve into the intricacies of the medieval world, shedding light on the individuals, events, and societal transformations that have shaped our modern understanding. His commitment to uncovering the past and sharing its significance with others has cemented his legacy as a preeminent historian and an invaluable contributor to the field of medieval studies.

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