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Henry IV: The Righteous King [Kindle Edition]

Ian Mortimer
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The talented, confident, and intelligent son of John of Gaunt, Henry IV started his reign as a popular and charismatic king after he dethroned the tyrannical and wildly unpopular Richard II. But six years into his reign, Henry had survived eight assassination and overthrow attempts. Having broken God’s law of primogeniture by overthrowing the man many people saw as the chosen king, Henry IV left himself vulnerable to challenges from powerful enemies about the validity of his reign. Even so, Henry managed to establish the new Lancastrian dynasty and a new rule of law—in highly turbulent times.

In this book, noted historian Ian Mortimer, author of The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan London, explores the political and social forces that transformed Henry IV from his nation’s savior to its scourge.


Ian Mortimer is a British historian and historical fiction author. He holds a PhD from the University of Exeter and a Master’s degree from the University of London, and is currently a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of the Sunday Times best-selling book A Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan London, as well as detailed biographies of Roger Mortimer, First Earl of March, Edward III, Henry IV, and Henry V. He is well known for developing and promoting the theory that Edward II did not meet his end in Berkeley Castle in 1327, as is held by conventional theory. His historical fiction novel, the first book in the Clarenceux Trilogy, was published under the alias of James Forrester.

Editorial Reviews


"[Mortimer] has an instinctive sympathy for the men about whom he writes, a real understanding of the mentalities of late medieval England, and a vivid historical imagination which lends colour and excitement to his pages" Literary Review "Mortimer's book is a success and tells an important story very well" -- Richard Francis Daily Telegraph "An arresting and original biography" -- Jessie Childs Sunday Telegraph "[It] possesses the rare combination of clarity, liveliness, balanced judgement, erudition without pedantry, and scholarship founded on his own research among primary sources" Scotland on Sunday "The book is at its most compelling in conjuring a sense of place or occasion" Guardian

About the Author

Ian Mortimer is the author of two other medieval biographies: The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer and The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3203 KB
  • Print Length: 599 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (February 22, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,388 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich portrait of an obscure king April 4, 2009
Henry IV is known primarily for grabbing the throne and holding on to it long enough to pass it on to his more famous son. Nevertheless, he is a pivotal figure in English history, and I can think of no better introduction to him than this vivid biography. When I started it, I had just finished a biography of Richard II, the king he replaced. It was fuill of typically academic hedging like "some sources say he was in York at this time, others that he was in Calais." Mr. Mortimer quotes the conflicting sources in a case like this, then tells you that his credit card receipts (or the medieval equivalent) place him in Calais. The breadth of his sources, and his willingness to select from them to create a coherent narrative and compelling psychological portraits of his characters make this one of the best biographies I have ever read. Whether you are reading for pleasure or information, you can't go wrong here.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Henry IV: saviour or usurper? December 28, 2007
For many of us, Henry IV is the king who deposed Richard II, fathered Henry V and features in three of Shakespeare's historical plays. He reigned as King of England from 1399 to 1413 and while the significant events of his reign are documented in history, the man himself largely remains in the shadows.

In this book, Ian Mortimer sets out to bring Henry IV out of the shadows by providing both context and perspective for his actions. Mortimer's research and energetic writing do shed light, but it is not quite enough to infuse Henry IV with personality and life. The people around Henry IV largely remain in the shadows and it is their perspectives that would enable us to get a clearer picture of the man who was the king.

Ian Mortimer has provided comprehensive notes and a wealth of information in his select bibliography. This book is a wonderful starting point for those who want to know more about the life and times of Henry IV. I hope that at some stage someone will write a book that will be able to shed more life on the man himself.

Was Henry IV a usurper or a saviour? Ian Mortimer has a view, and while I largely agree with him I'm not entirely convinced. Yet.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent work May 25, 2009
Ian Mortimer creates a readable and thoroughly researched biography of Henry IV, the first English monarch since the Norman conquest to overthrow the sitting monarch and successfully assume kingship in his place. Mortimer attempts to explain Henry the man as well as Henry the king, resulting in a nuanced and fascinating look at a king often overshadowed by his more glamorous son. The narrative is enjoyable and well-paced, with occasional stops to explain an obscure or often-misunderstood point. Mortimer also explains his conclusions clearly; specific textual evidence is always cited and explained. Not exactly a light read, but a treat for anyone with an interest in medieval history.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong narrative of a king trying to survive June 5, 2011
On the back cover of Mortimer's Henry IV, the author is described as a "narrative historian" by the BBC History Magazine. Mortimer uses this style of writing in both this book and his book on Edward III. It ties events together into a story format and tries to get inside the thought processes of the participants much more than many history books. As such there is always the danger of making fact what the king "might" have been thinking. On the other hand, it makes for smooth and engaging reading. I enjoyed this book a great deal, more than his earlier work on Edward, because I found the narrative less biased in favor of the subject and the claims about Henry's "fears" were, to me, well-documented. The book is an excellent read that delves into the complexities of this man and his time. It is objective about the main character while at the same time generating sympathy for the man - a tough combination to pull off. Henry overcame more than a half dozen attempts to overthrow him after he started out being called a "savior" by the people. I especially enjoyed Mortimer's description of Henry's complex relationship with Richard II, Henry's close friendship with Archbishop Arundel and the father-son conflicts and resolution with the future Henry V. Mortimer does an impressive job of bringing these to life. The book would make an excellent introduction to someone interested in the joys and fears, the triumphs and failures, of a medieval king.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable and Educational October 26, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After reading Edith Pargeter's excellent work of HF "A Bloody Field By Shrewsbury" featuring Henry IV, I thought to learn more about this most interesting medieval English king. I found this site to be an excellent resource in looking for a "straight" biography. Likewise, the many positive reader reviews here encouraged me to read this one and I was rewarded for doing so. Mortimer offers an excellent blend of scholarly history (as evidenced by his numerous, detailed appendices) and psychological insight. Too often I find biographies of medieval persons to be either bogged down in arcane research notes or gossipy and based on the writer's biases and suppositions. Mortimer finds a balance between these less satisfactory approaches with a resulting depiction of Henry of Lancaster which is both reasonably personal and historically reliable. Mortimer's clear interest in his subject translates well to his reader and I came away with respect, appreciation and even fondness for Bolingbroke, not as usurper, but as breaker of long tradition who succeeded in removing a tyrant from the throne and establishing a new dynasty of his own family with permanent impact on the course of English history. Works such as this make learning history enjoyable and rewarding.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.....Denied?
A great book and captivating to read, highly recommended. However, he has a big booboo in Chapter 19 of the book where he states: "The Roman Emperor Claudius never came to... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Catamaran'78
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and entertaining
I have read three of Dr. Mortimer's books and they have all been quite good. He is an excellent writer and breaths life into characters who are centuries dead.
Published 13 days ago by JDM
3.0 out of 5 stars Righteous???
People seem to have similar life issues whether they are royalty or commoners, regardless of in which century they live. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for true lovers of history!
With the recent influx of so many "historical fiction" authors and books, there has also been a huge increase in historical romance novels claiming to be historical fiction. Read more
Published 4 months ago by deborah
3.0 out of 5 stars The book was a history but I worked through it ...
The book was a history but I worked through it and learned more than I ever knew of HenryIV and Richard II.
Published 4 months ago by carole j. scroggins
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and educational
I made a goal for myself to learn more about history and I came across this book and thought it would be an interesting place to start. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Lois W
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very readable history. Interesting but forgotten king
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent read!
Published 5 months ago by Karen Austin
5.0 out of 5 stars Let us sit upon the sofa and read a happy pleasing tale of the life of...
What a fantastic book.
Mortimer seems to be taking a tour through the age of English kingship, and what a tour it is. The first book was about Edward II and Roger Mortimer. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sir Butternut Longsword
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Difficult era, but well done.
Published 6 months ago by james mckissick
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More About the Author

Dr Ian Mortimer is best known as the author of 'The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England', which was a Sunday Times bestseller in the UK in 2009 and 2010. Its Elizabethan follow-up was a Sunday Times bestseller in 2012.

He is also the author of a series of four sequential medieval biographies, 'The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer' (covering the years 1306-1330), 'The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III' (covering 1327-1377), 'The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England's Self-Made King' (covering 1377-1413) and '1415: Henry V's Year of Glory' (covering 1413-1415). A volume of scholarly essays, 'Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies' provides several of the in-depth pieces of research that support the more difficult and contentious aspects of these books, and includes his important essay on understanding historical evidence.

He was awarded the Alexander Prize (2004) by the Royal Historical Society for his work on the social history of medicine. His PhD was published by the Royal Historical Society in 2009 as 'The Dying and the Doctors: the Medical Revolution in Seventeenth-Century England'. He is also the author of two volumes of early modern manuscripts and numerous articles in the scholarly press on subjects ranging from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

He also writes poetry and fiction, the latter using his middle names 'James Forrester'. The Clarenceux trilogy of novels, set in the 1560s, is published by Sourcebooks in the USA.

He lives with his wife and three children on the edge of Dartmoor. For more information, see

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