On Christmas Day 1066, William, duke of Normandy was crowned in Westminster, the first Norman king of England. It was a disaster: soldiers outside, thinking shouts of acclamation were treachery, torched the surrounding buildings. To later chroniclers, it was an omen of the catastrophes to come.
During the reign of William the Conqueror, England experienced greater and more seismic change than at any point before or since. Marc Morris's concise and gripping biography sifts through the sources of the time to give a fresh view of the man who changed England more than any other, as old ruling elites were swept away, enemies at home and abroad (including those in his closest family) were crushed, swathes of the country were devastated and the map of the nation itself was redrawn, giving greater power than ever to the king.
When, towards the end of his reign, William undertook a great survey of his new lands, his subjects compared it to the last judgement of God, the Domesday Book. England had been transformed forever.
The brilliantly compelling new biography of the treacherous and tyrannical King John, published to coincide with the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
King John is familiar to everyone as the villain from the tales of Robin Hood — greedy, cowardly, despicable and cruel. But who was the man behind the legend?
Drawing on contemporary chronicles and the king's own letters, bestselling historian Marc Morris brings the real John vividly to life. We see how a youngest son with limited prospects became the ruler of the greatest dominion in Europe, but at a terrible cost. His rise to power involved treachery, rebellion and murder, and his reign witnessed oppression on an almost unprecedented scale. It climaxed in conspiracy and revolt, and his leading subjects forced him to issue Magna Carta, a document binding him and his successors to behave better in future. John's rejection of the charter led to civil war and foreign invasion, bringing his life to a disastrous close.
Authoritative and dramatic, Marc Morris's King John offers a compelling portrait of an extraordinary man at a momentous turning point in the history of Britain and Europe.
An upstart French duke who sets out to conquer the most powerful and unified kingdom in Christendom. An invasion force on a scale not seen since the days of the Romans. One of the bloodiest and most decisive battles ever fought. This riveting book explains why the Norman Conquest was the single most important event in English history.
Assessing the original evidence at every turn, Marc Morris goes beyond the familiar outline to explain why England was at once so powerful and yet so vulnerable to William the Conqueror's attack. Why the Normans, in some respects less sophisticated, possessed the military cutting edge. How William's hopes of a united Anglo-Norman realm unravelled, dashed by English rebellions, Viking invasions and the insatiable demands of his fellow conquerors. This is a tale of powerful drama, repression and seismic social change: the Battle of Hastings itself and the violent 'Harrying of the North'; the sudden introduction of castles and the wholesale rebuilding of every major church; the total destruction of an ancient ruling class. Language, law, architecture, even attitudes towards life itself were altered forever by the coming of the Normans.
Marc Morris, author of the bestselling biography of Edward I, A Great and Terrible King, approaches the Conquest with the same passion, verve and scrupulous concern for historical accuracy. This is the definitive account for our times of an extraordinary story, a pivotal moment in the shaping of the English nation.
Beginning with their introduction in the eleventh century, and ending with their widespread abandonment in the seventeenth, Marc Morris explores many of the country’s most famous castles, as well as some spectacular lesser-known examples. At times this is an epic tale, driven by characters like William the Conqueror, King John and Edward I, full of sieges and conquest on an awesome scale. But it is also by turns an intimate story of less eminent individuals, whose adventures, struggles and ambitions were reflected in the fortified residences they constructed. Be it ever so grand or ever so humble, a castle was first and foremost a home.
To understand castles – who built them, who lived in them, and why – is to understand the forces that shaped medieval Britain.
This is the first major biography for a generation of a truly formidable king. Edward I is familiar to millions as 'Longshanks', conqueror of Scotland and nemesis of Sir William Wallace ('Braveheart'). Edward was born to rule England, but believed that it was his right to rule all of Britain. His reign was one of the most dramatic of the entire Middle Ages, leading to war and conquest on an unprecedented scale, and leaving a legacy of division that has lasted from his day to our own.
In his astonishingly action-packed life, Edward defeated and killed the famous Simon de Montfort in battle; travelled across Europe to the Holy Land on crusade; conquered Wales, extinguishing forever its native rulers, and constructed - at Conwy, Harlech, Beaumaris and Caernarfon - the most magnificent chain of castles ever created. After the death of his first wife he erected the Eleanor Crosses - the grandest funeral monuments ever fashioned for an English monarch.
Marc Morris is an historian and broadcaster. He studied and taught history at the universities of London and Oxford, and his doctorate on the thirteenth-century earls of Norfolk was published in 2005. In 2003 he presented the highly-acclaimed television series Castle, and wrote its accompanying book.