Review: King John, Marc Morris

History, Literature, People

Rating: 4 out of 5

I would second the words of one of the other reviews: this is a superb history. The subject is John, who most of us have come across in a twisted version in our readings of Ivanhoe or literature of Robin Hood based on sir Walter Scott’s imagination (though actually, this book does not go into how John was turned into a villain for all to follow). 

In this book, however, King John was turned into a character that we could follow through his known actions and inactions. Rarely can it be said that he envisioned or wanted what would happen to happen, but that is the picture this story brings across — and, yet, John is not the villain but only unsuited to his high position. The caveat to not being a villain is that John’s cruelty does come across and we should perhaps remember that more than his failed policies — especially in an age which, perhaps comparable to ours, set clear limits to what is acceptable and what is not.

Lastly, I found the narrative of the story, jumping from one period into another, a bit complex. The story came across well, but I wish it had been a linear examination of this monarch — even so, this is a book well worth reading.