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Lionheart in Paperback


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Research Recommendations

Click here for the Bibliography for Lionheart

I am often asked to recommend books about various aspects of the Middle Ages, so I think this might be a useful addition to my website. Eventually I hope to add sections for all of my books, one for 13th century England, one for the Wars of the Roses, etc. For now, though, I have to content myself with the 12th century and my current novel, Devil’s Brood. The following books would be a good starting point for those interested in learning more about the improbable lives of the first Plantagenets.

The definitive biography of Henry II is W.L. Warren’s Henry II, and it is one I recommend highly. Another excellent study of Henry was written by John Schlight, Henry II Plantagenet; this is sadly out of print, but well worth the search. Kate Norgate’s England Under The Angevin Kings was originally printed in the 19th century, but much of it has stood the test of time.

There are books beyond counting about Eleanor of Aquitaine. I think one of the best is Eleanor of Aqutaine; Lord and Lady, edited by Bonnie Wheeler and John Carmi Parsons. This is a collection of essays by various historians, covering most aspects of Eleanor’s life.

Like Eleanor, Thomas Becket has attracted more than his share of biographers. In my opinion, the best one is Frank Barlow’s Thomas Becket. A dramatic, riveting, detailed account of his murder was written by William Urry in Thomas Becket; His Last Days.

The most recent and the best biography of William Marshal is William Marshal by David Crouch.

An excellent account of daily life, politics, religion, and culture in the 12th century is Robert Bartlett’s England Under The Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225.

May 2009

I have some more books to recommend. Unfortunately, I cannot offer recommendations for my earlier books, as I did not keep up with new scholarship. For example, I know there have been subsequent biographies of Richard III and Simon de Montfort, but by the time they came out, I’d turned the page and moved on. But as I’ve spent over fifteen years living with the Angevins, I can make numerous recommendations about Henry, Eleanor, and the Devil’s Brood.

There is no way I could list all of the books I’ve consulted over the years; I tend to be obsessive-compulsive about research! The books I recommend here are a few that I found very useful for my purposes, books that are also well-written, offering an enjoyable entry into the world of the Angevins.

In addition to Dr. Warren’s biography about Henry, I recommend two recent books, Henry II, New Interpretations, edited by Nicholas Vincent and Christopher Harper-Bill, and Henry II, A Medieval Soldier at War, 1147-1189, by John D. Hosler.

For those interested in Henry and Eleanor’s son Geoffrey and his wife, Constance, I highly recommend J. A. Everard’s excellent history, Brittany and the Angevins; her book was invaluable to me in writing Devil’s Brood. Dr. Everard is also the editor of The Charters of Duchess Constance of Brittany and her Family, 1171-1221. I have already recommended Dr. David Crouch’s biography of William Marshal; I would suggest looking for the revised edition, published in 2002. Dr. Crouch has also provided the historical notes for S. Gregory’s wonderful translation, History of William Marshal, three volumes published by the Anglo-Norman Text Society.

There are books beyond counting about Eleanor of Aquitaine. In addition to Dr. Wheeler’s book, mentioned above, I also recommend the following books: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Courtly Love, and the Troubadours, by Ffiona Swabey, The World of Eleanor of Aquitaine, edited by Marcus Bull and Catherine Leglu, and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Patron and Politician, edited by William W. Kibler. There is a new biography, Eleanor of Aquitaine, by the British historian Ralph Turner, which I recommend. Other biographies include the French historian Regine Pernoud’s Eleanor of Aquitaine and Marion Meade’s Eleanor of Aquitaine; recent scholarship has discredited the notion that Eleanor ever presided over “courts of love,?but the book is so well-written that it is still a pleasure to read. If my French-speaking readers will e-mail me, I can provide additional reading material by French historians.

The definitive biography of Richard Lionheart is the one by John Gillingham, published in 1999. I also recommend his collection of essays, Richard Coeur de Lion, Kingship, Chivalry, and War in the Twelfth Century. For readers primarily interested in Richard’s military career, look no further than Geoffrey Regan’s Lionhearts, Richard I, Saladin, and the Era of the Third Crusade. Another book that offers a detailed account of Richard’s crusading exploits is David Miller’s Richard the Lionheart. Kate Norgate’s biography is long out of print, published in 1924, but still worth reading. Ralph Turner, author of the newest biography of Eleanor, has also written one about Richard; unfortunately it does not deal with the pivotal event of Richard’s life—the Third Crusade—but it is admirably dispassionate, no small feat when dealing with so controversial a king as Richard, and its conclusion, titled “Richard in Retrospect,?is nothing less than brilliant. I also recommend the series of essays edited by Janet Nelson, titled Richard Coeur de Lion in History and Myth. And for readers who’d like to know more about medieval warfare, do check out Matthew Strickland’s fascinating War and Chivalry, the Conduct and Perception of War in England and Normandy, 1066-1217.

For readers interested in medieval Sicily, I highly recommend John Julius Norwich’s The Normans in Sicily and The Kingdom in the Sun. For those who’d like to know more about the culture that bred Eleanor and Richard, an ideal beginning would be Fredric Cheyettes?Ermengard of Narbonne and the World of the Troubadours; Ermengard was a contemporary of Eleanor’s and Dr. Cheyette’s history is a masterful recreation of a doomed world. Unfortunately there have been no English biographies of the Counts of Toulouse, but I can recommend two excellent books for my French-speaking readers.

For an overview of the crusades, I recommend Kenneth Setton’s The Crusades, Volume Two, and Jonathon Riley Smith’s The World of the Crusades, and Bernard Hamilton’s The Leper King and His Heirs. I will have many more “crusader?books to recommend in the future, as I plan to write about the “real?Balian of Ibelin after I complete Lionheart. It is often difficult to find translations of medieval chronicles, but I am happy to report that the chroniclers of Richard’s crusade are all available for curious readers. The Crusade of Richard Lion-heart, written by a French troubadour named Ambroise, who accompanied Richard to the Holy Land, was translated from Old French in 1941 by John La Monte; unfortunately this book is rather rare, but might still be found in libraries. And there are two recent translations that can be purchased without difficulty, Peter Edbury’s The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade, Sources in Translation, and Helen Nicholson’s The Chronicle of the Third Crusade, the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi.

I will be adding to this list from time to time. And please feel free to e-mail me if you have questions about any of my inclusions or omissions.

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A King's Ransom



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Sharon Kay Penman
author of Lionheart, Devil's Brood,
When Christ and His Saints Slept
and Time and Chance
from Penguin Putnam

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