When Henry IV seized the throne from his cousin Richard II, some commentators saw it as a hopeful new beginning for England. The first monarch to have English as his mother tongue since the Norman conquest, Henry seemed to embody the ideals of chivalric kingship: mercy, piety, military prowess and learning.
Yet deposing a crowned monarch was not a stable foundation on which to build a reign, and Henry IV found himself challenged from all sides, plagued by conspiracies, rebellions, assassination attempts, and crippling debts. His tense relationships with parliament and with his own son, Shakespeare's Prince Hal, saw his grip on power falter, but nevertheless he was the first king and founder of a Lancastrian dynasty which would go on to shape England for centuries to come.
In this lively study, Catherine Nall reappraises a monarch who weathered upheaval and uncertainty and held on to the throne through sheer force of will.
Catherine Nall is Senior Lecturer in Medieval Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she focuses on late medieval manuscript culture, political and chivalric literature, and the works of John Lydgate and Thomas Malory.
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