Cover image for The death of kings : royal deaths in medieval England
The death of kings : royal deaths in medieval England
Evans, Michael (Physician)
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London ; New York : Hambledon and London, 2003.
Physical Description:
xx, 289 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA28.1 .E83 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A king's death was a highly dramatic moment, with major political consequences. Death in battle, whether that of Harold at Hastings or Richard III at Bosworth, could end a dynasty, while the secret murders of Edward II, Richard II, and Edward V blighted the fortunes of their murderers. Full of fascinating detail and personal information about the char-acters and attitudes of English kings and queens, The Death of Kings thoroughly chronicles royal deaths in medieval times and shows how various writers, including Shakespeare, drew meaning and morals from these deaths, giving them an imaginative and symbolic resonance that has lasted until the present day.

Author Notes

Michael Evans has lectured in medieval history at several universities in Britain and the United States. He is currently assistant professor at Central Michigan University, US. He publishedThe Death of Kings: Royal Deaths in Medieval England in 2003(Continuum).

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Medieval England was not a good place to be a king, writes Evans-in an understatement-in this comprehensive study of the murders, battle deaths and accidental demises (and occasional death from natural causes) of 20 English monarchs between 1066 and 1485. Evans, a medieval historian who teaches at British universities, presents his meticulously researched material thematically, rather than chronologically, and like the medieval sources he mines, he focuses on the most "meaningful," "interesting" and "memorable" deaths. He uses these to address such topics as the medieval concept of death as divine retribution for misdeeds, the significance of burial places, the phenomenon of the royal martyr-saint and the surprising frequency of royal murder in the 14th and 15th centuries. Although the handful of illustrations add little, two charts showing death statistics for kings and queens may help readers who have trouble keeping the various royals straight. Throughout this scholarly work, Evans reminds readers that "medieval people saw history as a struggle between God and the Devil" and that contemporary historians chronicled deaths within this moralistic framework. He maintains a critical, distant tone, constantly questioning and analyzing his primary sources, so that his interesting book is ultimately as much about the problematics of storytelling in history as about the kings themselves. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Choice Review

Evans (one-time lecturer at the Universities of Reading and Canterbury) has written a literary review of medieval Anglo-Norman chronicles that shaped the political memory of the many Anglo-Norman and Angevin kings who died violently during the years 1066-1485. His subject is not the actual politics of the day, however, but the ecclesiastical moralizing about violent royal deaths that suggested that royal excesses resulted in divine judgment. How else could one justify the legitimacy of successors to anointed kings who died from battle, murder, or suspicious accident? The literary motifs of divine judgment in battle, corruption of the body after death (or saintly avoidance thereof), murder as an act against divine moral order, survival legends, and royal martyr-saints are all considered in turn. A concluding chapter on queens seems misplaced and apparently a nod to gender equity. The book is limited by the lack of a conclusion and endnotes, making scholarly study difficult. Research historians familiar with either the political history of medieval England or the standard narrative sources will learn little new here. But undergraduates and the general public will benefit from this integration of scholarship on the subject. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General and undergraduate collections. J. P. Huffman Messiah College

Table of Contents

1 Death and Burial
2 Divine Punishment
3 The Corruption of the Body
4 Father and Son
5 Killing the King
6 Once and Future Kings
7 Royal Saints and Martyrs
8 Queens