I read King John, by W.L. Warren 30-some years ago when I was first researching background information for The Lady and the Minstrel. Now that I’m reworking the story, I had planned to just skim through King John again for the specific information I needed, but instead of skipping ahead to the year 1214, I read the first couple of pages and instantly got sucked in to re-reading the whole book. I should have known. That’s what happens when I read a biography written by W.L. Warren. (Sadly, he only wrote two that I know of: King John and Henry II. Although I don’t often re-read Henry II from cover to cover – 630 pp! – I do derive great delight in re-reading sections of it over and over again.) Biographers could take more than a few lessons from W.L. Warren on how to write a good, readable biography!
Here’s the back cover blurb for King John:
King John is a study of a king and of his time. The early thirteenth century was a period of profound social and political change, and of unprecedented insecurity. Warren explores the king's personality so distorted by the accounts of such chroniclers as Roger of Wendover and Matthew Paris, through his achievements and his failures, but considers him also against the background of his predecessors, of the society in which he lived and of problems independent of his making. The result is a fair-minded, revealing and readable account which analyses the disputed succession, the conflict with France, the clash with Pope Innocent III, and the events leading to Magna Carta. Warren is unsparing in his criticism of King John's failings, but acknowledges the decisive impact of his remarkable personal qualities.
Stop by on Tuesday to read a Tuesday Teaser from King John.