Talks

How can we know the personality of a medieval king: the case of Henry III (1216-1272)
by David Carpenter

Date: Tuesday 5 December 2023

The talk shows how unique source material  enables us to  come very close to the personality of a medieval king.

How can we know the personality of a medieval king: the case of Henry III (1216-1272)

The reign of Henry III was one of the longest and most momentous in English history. It saw the establishment of Magna Carta, the emergence of parliament and, in its last phase, a vicious civil war in which Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, captured the king and governed the country. Henry had achievements. Before the last phase, the reign was distinguished by long years of domestic and foreign peace.  The king built the great Abbey at Westminster where, this year, both Queen Elizabeth's funeral and King Charles's coronation have taken place. But what was Henry really like?  Can we indeed  get close to the character of any medieval king?   In this talk David Carpenter explores unique source material to show that in Henry's case the answer is an emphatic 'yes'.

David Carpenter is a Professor of Medieval History at King's College London. The first volume of his biography of Henry III, in the Yale English Monarchs series, appeared in 2020. The  second volume, covering the revolutionary years from 1258 down to the king's death in 1272,  was published in May 2023.  David Carpenter's other books include The Struggle for Mastery; Britain 1o66-1284, in the new Penguin History of Britain, and Magna Carta: A New Commentary in the Penguin Classics series.  

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