web site hit counter Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe

Availability: Ready to download

In Europe, 1491 to 1500 was an exciting time to be alive. The entire continent was overshadowed by four rulers, all born within a ten-year period: King Francis I of France, the most interesting of the quartet, bursting with energy and swagger, was a great patron of the arts and the personification of the Renaissance. King Henry VIII of England—who was not born to be king but In Europe, 1491 to 1500 was an exciting time to be alive. The entire continent was overshadowed by four rulers, all born within a ten-year period: King Francis I of France, the most interesting of the quartet, bursting with energy and swagger, was a great patron of the arts and the personification of the Renaissance. King Henry VIII of England—who was not born to be king but embraced the role with gusto—broke with the Roman Catholic Church, and made himself head of the Church of England. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, the most powerful man in the civilized world, obsessed with the religious disputes of Europe, was leader of the Spanish and then Roman Empire. Suleiman the Magnificent, the richest of them all, stands apart as a Muslim, who brought the Ottoman Empire to its apogee of political, military, and economic power, as well as to the golden age of its artistic and architectural prowess. Never before had humankind seen such giants coexisting. Against the rich background of the Renaissance, they laid the foundation for modern Europe. Individually, each man could hardly have been more different. Their mutual relations shifted constantly: often they were actively hostile and occasionally they were friendly. There was a healthy respect between them; never did one make the mistake of underestimating another. And together, they dominated the world stage.


Compare

In Europe, 1491 to 1500 was an exciting time to be alive. The entire continent was overshadowed by four rulers, all born within a ten-year period: King Francis I of France, the most interesting of the quartet, bursting with energy and swagger, was a great patron of the arts and the personification of the Renaissance. King Henry VIII of England—who was not born to be king but In Europe, 1491 to 1500 was an exciting time to be alive. The entire continent was overshadowed by four rulers, all born within a ten-year period: King Francis I of France, the most interesting of the quartet, bursting with energy and swagger, was a great patron of the arts and the personification of the Renaissance. King Henry VIII of England—who was not born to be king but embraced the role with gusto—broke with the Roman Catholic Church, and made himself head of the Church of England. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, the most powerful man in the civilized world, obsessed with the religious disputes of Europe, was leader of the Spanish and then Roman Empire. Suleiman the Magnificent, the richest of them all, stands apart as a Muslim, who brought the Ottoman Empire to its apogee of political, military, and economic power, as well as to the golden age of its artistic and architectural prowess. Never before had humankind seen such giants coexisting. Against the rich background of the Renaissance, they laid the foundation for modern Europe. Individually, each man could hardly have been more different. Their mutual relations shifted constantly: often they were actively hostile and occasionally they were friendly. There was a healthy respect between them; never did one make the mistake of underestimating another. And together, they dominated the world stage.

30 review for Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe

  1. 5 out of 5

    David

    Reading history by historians who have ceased to give a damn is a great simple pleasure. By "ceased to give a damn" I mean, as in this case, the historian has achieved sufficient age, dignity, and renown that he is free to tell a good story about stuff that interests him, without the tedious bowing and scraping to established opinion and other historians which often drags down other histories. Norwich knows a lot of cool stuff and enjoys knowing it, and he invites you to know it and enjoy it too. Reading history by historians who have ceased to give a damn is a great simple pleasure. By "ceased to give a damn" I mean, as in this case, the historian has achieved sufficient age, dignity, and renown that he is free to tell a good story about stuff that interests him, without the tedious bowing and scraping to established opinion and other historians which often drags down other histories. Norwich knows a lot of cool stuff and enjoys knowing it, and he invites you to know it and enjoy it too. I found Norwich’s hard-earned indifference to convention most happily on display in the footnotes when, for example, he refuses to discard the word he has been using for decades to characterize for a particular ethnic group ("Tartars") in favor of a newly-adopted variant ("Tatars") because “it is too late to change now” (Kindle location 494 of galley proof). Similarly, he throws up his hands at the requirement that he equate prices paid in the 1500 with modern currencies. “It's no good even trying to give modern equivalents," he admits (location 182). While I admit that I am the sort of history reader who likes to know approximately how much 200,000 livres tournois would be today, I appreciate the honesty of a historian who will plainly say "I'm not going there", rather than just ignoring the issue and hoping we won't notice. I'll admit to a lamentable failure of breeding when I arrived at one footnote (location 1510) which required that I know the difference between a Marquess and a Marchioness. In case your colonial education was as woefully inadequate as mine, there’s an explanation here. Oh, yeah, and the part of the book that was NOT footnotes was also excellent -- a ripping good story laced with irreverent attitude. Fun to read, and also much-needed evidence that the times we live in (through no fault of our own) might NOT be the most screwed-up era on the planet. At least so far. I received an advance review galley copy for free from Atlantic Monthly Press via Netgalley. Thanks to all for their generosity.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    This fascinating book takes an umbrella view of the combined influences of four powerful rulers of the first half of the sixteenth century: Henry VIII of England, Francois I of France, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire . Between them they ruled all most of Western Europe and many of the lands between Austria and Turkey. A fifth powerful figure, the Pope, is not included in the title but is there as a crucial player in the continuing jostling This fascinating book takes an umbrella view of the combined influences of four powerful rulers of the first half of the sixteenth century: Henry VIII of England, Francois I of France, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire . Between them they ruled all most of Western Europe and many of the lands between Austria and Turkey. A fifth powerful figure, the Pope, is not included in the title but is there as a crucial player in the continuing jostling for power across Europe. Norwich described this period like this: ‘Here, packed into the space of just fifty years, are the High Renaissance, Luther and the Reformation, the exploration of the Americas, the panoply and pageantry exemplified by the Field of the Cloth of Gold and, above all, those four, magnificent, memorable monarchs – each of whom, individually, left his imprint on the land he rules and who together transformed the civilised world.’(p 267). Charles, as Holy Roman Emperor, was the protector of Christendom, to whom the Ottoman Sultan represented the Antichrist. As a young man he had ‘dreamed of a glorious pan-European Crusade that would drive the infidels back to the Asiatic steppe from which they had come, allowing Constantinople once again to take its place as a Christian capital’. Later he accepted that this could never happen, but could never forgive Francis, his brother-in-law, for his alliances with Suleiman, whose armies encroached ever further in Hapsburg territories in Eastern Europe, arriving at the walls of Vienna itself before finally turning back eastwards in 1532. Francis in turn felt hemmed in by the empire - Spain, Germany, the Low Countries and Austria. He needed an ally against it and at various stages looked to the Pope and to the Sultan, even combining with the Ottomans to capture Nice from Savoy during the ongoing bitter wars between France and the Holy Roman Emperor, during which time France and the Empire both invaded Italy, each held captive competing popes and Rome was sacked by Imperial troops, for which Charles apologised. The Reformation in England was spurred by Henry VIII’s desire to divorce his queen, Katherine of Aragon, a niece of the Emperor who strongly supported her case with the pope. This dispute ended up with Henry cutting ties with the Papacy and declaring himself head of the Church in England – an incredible act at the time, given that the Popes claimed supreme authority from god and therefore the right to command kings as well as churchmen. So this period is marked by conflict between Protestant and Catholic Christianity; the Pope and the monarchs; and Christian Europe against the Muslim Ottomans. Norwich notes, incidentally, that Suleiman, while a pious Muslim, was much more tolerant of the beliefs of others than any of the European kings. The divisions within Christianity were reflected in different views of who should exercise power and how it should be exercised. Wikipedia dates wars arising out of the Reformation to 1524 (the German Peasants War) and they tormented the continent for well over a hundred years, culminating in the terrible Thirty Years War and the English Civil War. Norwich’s writing is always a delight. He wears his erudition lightly, his prose flows easily, almost casually at times. No mean feat in dealing with this subject matter, but then he has Byzantium, Venice, Sicily and the Mediterranean already behind him. I've tried to paste in some images but that didn't work so here are a couple of links: The Field of the Cloth of Gold https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_o... Holy Roman Empire: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Ro... Wars of Religion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europea...

  3. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    I don't know why I keep reading John Julius Norwich books. I like his breezy style and the overviews, but he's completely unreliable. Or to put it another way, he far prefers the cool stories and wonderful gossip of history to the boring minutiae of dates and facts and stuff that actually happened. This is of course why I keep reading him. It's more fun. I was going to say "I wish my job was just randomly making up stuff and publishing it" but then I remembered I'm a romance novelist. On the othe I don't know why I keep reading John Julius Norwich books. I like his breezy style and the overviews, but he's completely unreliable. Or to put it another way, he far prefers the cool stories and wonderful gossip of history to the boring minutiae of dates and facts and stuff that actually happened. This is of course why I keep reading him. It's more fun. I was going to say "I wish my job was just randomly making up stuff and publishing it" but then I remembered I'm a romance novelist. On the other hand, I don't shelve as non fiction.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ruby

    Terrible. I don't know enough about Francis I and Charles V to comment their parts, but Henry VIII's and Suleyman I's are full of inaccuracies. Moreover, the women are treated awfully in this book: Anne Boleyn is presented as "rude" and hated by everybody, by Henry as well. The author blames Anne for anything bad that Henry did, like forbidding Mary to visit her mother. He also says that we will never know for certain if Anne was really guilty of adultery and that "it may well be that she slept Terrible. I don't know enough about Francis I and Charles V to comment their parts, but Henry VIII's and Suleyman I's are full of inaccuracies. Moreover, the women are treated awfully in this book: Anne Boleyn is presented as "rude" and hated by everybody, by Henry as well. The author blames Anne for anything bad that Henry did, like forbidding Mary to visit her mother. He also says that we will never know for certain if Anne was really guilty of adultery and that "it may well be that she slept with one or more of them simply in the hopes of having the son that she felt she could no longer expect from her husband." Except for the fact that Anne and the accused men were recorded to be in different places on the dates of the alleged adultery Another woman treated awfully by Norwich is Hürrem Sultan, Suleyman I's wife. She is described as being the one behind Grand Vizier Ibrahim's "assassination" (which is completely wrong since Ibrahim was executed on Suleyman's orders inside Topkapi Palace and not in his palace, where Norwich says that the blood stains were visible for three years) because she coveted his position for her son-in-law Rüstem Pasha (too bad that Rüstem wasn't her son-in-law in 1636, as he married Mihrimah Sultan only in 1639. Plus, it would take him years to finally become Grand Vizier). Of course she is also blamed for Mustafa's death (because why not) but especially for his young son Murad's? First of all, Mustafa's young son was called Mehmed, Murad was Selim's son, and secondly Mehmed was executed because the sons of executed princes were executed too. So it wasn't Hürrem Sultan who ordered his execution, but Suleyman. She couldn't have ordered someone's execution, she didn't have that power. Laslty, the portrayal of Suleyman's heir Selim II is just terrible and full of clichés. He is blamed for convincing Suleyman that his brother Bayezid was a traitor, when Bayezid himself had done everything to look like a traitor: first he disobeyed his father, then he complained about his father's orders and lastly he fled to the Safavid Shah's court-- Suleyman's enemy. But Norwich doesn't care and muses: "How, one wonders, could the Sultan, normally so far-sighted and so shrewd, have twice allowed himself to be persuaded – the first time by his wife, the second time by one of his children – to destroy the two ablest of his sons, and indeed the only two who might have shown themselves to be worthy successors to himself?" While I agree that Mustafa was definitely a warrior and a good general, Bayezid wasn't. He is described as interested in books only and not being a warrior at all. All Hurrem's sons, it seems, were not interested in being warriors. Selim II, according to Norwich, is also "the worst sultan by far" ("How could he – so deliberately, so consciously – have arranged matters in such a way as to ensure that after his death that Empire would pass to a drunken debauchee, of all the thirty-six Ottoman sultans by far the worst?") even though the Ottomans had deranged sultans, ineffectual sultans and sultans who committed genocides. All Selim II did was lose the battle of Lepanto, which wasn't even that important in the great scheme of things. Finally he concludes with: "while Suleiman could – and should – have been succeeded by his son Mustafa, who possessed all his father’s qualities and who would surely have led the Empire on to further triumphs, his eventual successor – Selim II, always known for very good reason as ‘the Sot’ – was to prove the nadir of the Ottoman line. With him, the demoralisation of their once formidable Empire was well under way, as was its long, slow but steady decline." which is only the last of the clichés he presents in his books. This view that Selim II's reign started the decline of the Ottoman Empire has long been disproved by numerous historians. Also, Selim II was called "the Sot" by Europeans; his subjects called him "the Blonde" and he was actually appreciated for his pleasant nature (he was also famous for loving his son dearly, something very rare in the Ottoman Dynasty, since a son was perceived as a threat to his father's rule). In conclusion, I would never recommend this book. The premise looked interesting enough, four great kings' lives intertwined in one book, but there are too many mistakes and inaccuracies to appreciate it, and the treatment of the women is just despicable.

  5. 5 out of 5

    TBV (on semi-hiatus)

    “Francis, Henry, Charles, Suleiman: here are our four princes. Individually, they could hardly have been more different; together, they dominated the world stage and moulded the continent of Europe. None perhaps – not even Suleiman – was a truly great man; but they all possessed elements of greatness, and each left a huge and indelible footprint on the land or lands over which he ruled.” Henry VIII of England (1491-1547) Henry was the second monarch of the Tudor dynasty. He was a scholar and “Francis, Henry, Charles, Suleiman: here are our four princes. Individually, they could hardly have been more different; together, they dominated the world stage and moulded the continent of Europe. None perhaps – not even Suleiman – was a truly great man; but they all possessed elements of greatness, and each left a huge and indelible footprint on the land or lands over which he ruled.” Henry VIII of England (1491-1547) Henry was the second monarch of the Tudor dynasty. He was a scholar and theologian who spoke French, Spanish and Latin. But he was also very much the sportsman: a superb horseman who enjoyed the hunt, a tennis player and a wrestler, who also participated in archery and was prepared to take on anyone in the joust. He loved music, and he actually composed songs and masses. He also played the lute and the virginals. Francis (François) I of France (1494-1547) Francis belonged to the Valois dynasty. He was tall, muscular and he had a prominent nose which of course resulted in the nickname “le roi grand-nez”. However, he was very popular with the ladies as he was very charming and a good conversationalist. Like Henry, Francis enjoyed hunting and jousting. The author discusses Francis’s great love of art, and that Francis brought the great Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci to France. Earlier this year I read a book written by French historian Franck Ferrand, “François 1er, roi de chimères” in which he questions whether this was in fact true - he suggests that it was in fact Francis’s mother, Louise of Savoy, who was responsible for bringing the great artists to France and purchasing great works of art. Be that as it may, Francis had an excellent collection of art and at the time of his death his library contained over 3,000 books. "He was a personal friend of François Rabelais, for whose unforgettable giant Pantagruel he is said to have provided the inspiration." Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566) Suleiman became Sultan of the Ottoman Empire at the age of twenty-five. He was tall, slim, intelligent and cultivated. He spoke Turkish, Persian and Arabic, and he also knew some Greek, Bulgar and Hungarian. A patron of the arts, he was known for writing beautiful poetry. However, in order to obtain his position and secure it he murdered the male members of his family. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (1500-1558) Charles was born in Ghent and was of the Hapsburg dynasty. He was the son of Philip the Handsome of Austria and of Joanna the Mad of Aragon and Castile. Charles was King of Aragon and Castile, as well as of Naples and Sardinia. Subsequently he was unanimously elected Holy Roman Emperor. He was not physically attractive, and he was also a stammerer. He was deeply religious, and not as cultivated as Henry or Francis, but Charles loved music. He could play a variety of instruments and was said to sing beautifully. "He is frequently quoted as saying that he spoke French to his friends, German to his horses, Italian to his mistresses and Spanish to God." John Julius Norwich explores the splendour, policies and actions of these four powerful rulers who reigned during the first half of the sixteenth century. As the title of the book indicates, each of these rulers also had obsessions which drove them to act as they did. Henry became obsessed with his succession. He absolutely had to have sons to succeed him. He also cast an eye on France. Francis was obsessed with regaining land which France had lost, but in particular Milan (Valentina Visconti of Milan was his predecessor’s grandmother). Charles, being of Burgundian origin, wished to restore Burgundy to its previous status. It had reverted to the French Crown on the death of Charles the Bold. He also saw himself as the leader of all of Christendom, and he wanted to regain the Empire of the East which had been lost to the Ottomans. A predecessor of Suleiman had conquered Constantinople in 1453, and Suleiman wanted to enlarge the Ottoman Empire. He was a serious threat to the rulers of Europe. Having provided a very brief overview of who these four rulers were and what motivated them, I leave you to read what John Julius Norwich writes about them, their policies and their actions. The author provides much background and a wealth of detail, some of which is very amusing such as an older and hugely obese Henry being fitted with armour to go to war and having to find a horse to carry him. Many people who were important in the lives of these men are introduced, but the focus throughout remains on these powerful monarchs themselves, and their individual legacies. The author also shows how their immediate successors were rather insignificant compared to them. It is not a comprehensive history of the period, but it is a very good overview of that time. The book is written in an easy to read conversational manner; I was glued to it for two days. Here is a painting (Wikipedia) of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, which was a summit held between Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France in 1520. On this occasion each did his best to outdo the other in terms of pomp and ceremony:

  6. 4 out of 5

    Juliew.

    I really struggled with this rating.It was a very interesting perspective of the times and was told following each monarchs life events and how they interacted with each other or not.While I really liked the writing style there were moments I was not sure I wanted to finish it because quite a few inaccuracies kept popping up.The author lists all his sources but does not footnote them so was difficult to tell where all the misinformation was coming from.Nevertheless,very interesting idea for a bo I really struggled with this rating.It was a very interesting perspective of the times and was told following each monarchs life events and how they interacted with each other or not.While I really liked the writing style there were moments I was not sure I wanted to finish it because quite a few inaccuracies kept popping up.The author lists all his sources but does not footnote them so was difficult to tell where all the misinformation was coming from.Nevertheless,very interesting idea for a book and I only had wished it was better researched as I love the idea for a behind the scenes look at these most fascinating rulers.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melisende

    Definitely in my comfort zone here - medieval history! Whilst already familiar with each of the four princes - Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, Charles V of Spain, and Suleyman the Magnificent - I enjoyed the way Norwich (whom I am rather partial too), links these contemporaries together. For all four men were contemporaries, ruling four powerful European empires (England, France, Spain & Imperial Empire, and Constantinople). And Norwich himself writes .. "the four of them together hel Definitely in my comfort zone here - medieval history! Whilst already familiar with each of the four princes - Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, Charles V of Spain, and Suleyman the Magnificent - I enjoyed the way Norwich (whom I am rather partial too), links these contemporaries together. For all four men were contemporaries, ruling four powerful European empires (England, France, Spain & Imperial Empire, and Constantinople). And Norwich himself writes .. "the four of them together held Europe in the hollow of their hands..." We begin c.1500 and are taken up to the death of Suleyman (c.1566) - the last of the four. Their stories are often intertwined as they were at times often allies and fierce rivals - or both! For those familiar with the period, it is a concise read. For those unfamiliar - it will be an eye-opener.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    This overview of four powerful leaders of the 16th century reads like a blog. In some ways that is nice. It is easy to read and doesn't get into too many details. On the other hand, it also includes opinions and outright errors. Despite the fact that this is supposed to be about four men, it felt like it focused on Henry VIII in much greater length. This overview of four powerful leaders of the 16th century reads like a blog. In some ways that is nice. It is easy to read and doesn't get into too many details. On the other hand, it also includes opinions and outright errors. Despite the fact that this is supposed to be about four men, it felt like it focused on Henry VIII in much greater length.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Orsolya

    The early years of sixteenth-century Europe were dominated by key players: Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, and Charles V of Spain. Lesser known in Western Europe but certainly not less of a tour de force was Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Turks. These massive figures tugged and pulled at each other constantly influencing affairs. John Julius Norwich takes an uncharacteristic approach to historical biography by mainly focusing on this interplay in, “Four Princes: Henry VIII, The early years of sixteenth-century Europe were dominated by key players: Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, and Charles V of Spain. Lesser known in Western Europe but certainly not less of a tour de force was Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Turks. These massive figures tugged and pulled at each other constantly influencing affairs. John Julius Norwich takes an uncharacteristic approach to historical biography by mainly focusing on this interplay in, “Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe”. Norwich prefaces “Four Princes” explaining that his work takes a pop history angle without staunch academic spheres and admittedly contains errors and inconsistencies. Well, it is safe to say that Norwich – unfortunately- speaks the truth. “Four Princes” is a light piece which is suited for those new to the topic as it eschews heavy verbiage or content. Norwich introduces the figures involved but immediately confuses with his aim and thesis. The pages are cluttered and without direction which results in information being difficult to decipher or retain. “Four Princes” also suffers from issues with cohesiveness, tending to jump back-and-forth with information often repeating facts and skipping in chronology. This adds to the jumbled writing style. On the other hand, this ‘loose’ method makes “Four Princes” easy-to-read and fast in pace. The major downfall of “Four Princes” is the absence of any new or compelling information regarding the figures. All of the content is generally a rough summary and glossed over. However, the focus on Suleiman is appealing in the respect that this mighty figure is often only mentioned in the background of Western European history even though his hand played a part. Norwich spends an even ratio of text on each figure (even if he didn’t mean to do so) and logically attempts to display the relationships and causations between them. Norwich is guilty of biases, sadly, which he certainly doesn’t attempt to hide. Many of these declarations are without any credibility or solid source material which lessens the impact of “Four Princes” and consequentially makes readers take the book with a grain of salt. Again, Norwich emphasis the straying from a scholarly route, but a bit more backing material with less opinion would be welcome. On par with this, Norwich’s writing style is sometimes too familiar and conversational. This will disappoint those readers who enjoy ‘professional’ pieces. The chapters within the final quarter of “Four Princes” envelop more riveting and lesser-known facts than the former chapters which elevates the strength of Norwich’s piece. However, the authors writing continues to drip with biases and reads like an opinion piece—one filled with many inaccuracies. Norwich concludes “Four Princes” rather well with an on-point summary that strategically dives into the relations between the figures discussed and therefore somewhat hits his thesis (finally) that he initially planned. However, this still isn’t as memorable as one would hope for and doesn’t pack a powerful punch leaving the reader only partially satisfied. “Four Princes” includes a very brief bibliography and no ‘Notes’. However, Norwich does include a rather gratifying section of full-color photo plates. Norwich’s “Four Princes” is an ambitious and unique look at the history of Europe but the execution is sour, without direction, and lacks the usual pizzazz and pull of similar works. Norwich’s writing is jumpy while the content is overly biased and contains errors (at least he warns about this). “Four Princes” is only recommended for novice readers as those versed on the subject won’t gain any refreshing insight or access to any new facts. Simply, “Four Princes” doesn’t hold reader attention and needs a strong editor resulting in a weak read that can be skipped.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Klaus

    Solid overview of a fascinating period, nicely written but sometimes inaccurate.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    Norwich has written a fluffy book that contains very little new information. Several major mistakes are in the book and at other places I couldn't tell if it was just poor writing or yet more incorrect information. For example, on p. 197 he writes (of Mary I and Henry VIII of England), "a certain Sir Francis Englefield, on of Mary's privy councillors, later revealed that he had been present at Windsor when Henry's grave had been opened, and what was left of his body pulled out and ceremonially c Norwich has written a fluffy book that contains very little new information. Several major mistakes are in the book and at other places I couldn't tell if it was just poor writing or yet more incorrect information. For example, on p. 197 he writes (of Mary I and Henry VIII of England), "a certain Sir Francis Englefield, on of Mary's privy councillors, later revealed that he had been present at Windsor when Henry's grave had been opened, and what was left of his body pulled out and ceremonially consigned to the flames. He may have been the Queen's father, but he was an unrepentant heretic and schismatic; in the eyes of his daughter, no other fate was possible." What. Norwich leaves it at that, seemingly saying that this happened. Henry's tomb was not disturbed until much later and in 1813 when opened, his not burned corpse was inside. Anyone reading this to actually learn some history is in for a world of trouble.

  12. 4 out of 5

    A.L. Sowards

    I love Norwich’s writing style—incredibly witty nonfiction isn’t something you find every day. Norwich had me smiling at his clever sentences and chuckling at his sarcasm. The author focused on the most interesting stories in the history and told them well. I listened to the audio book and the narrator did a great job. Did you know good readers can narrate parenthesis? My main complaint is that the book went by too quickly. It’s left me wanting more on the time period and on each of the subjects I love Norwich’s writing style—incredibly witty nonfiction isn’t something you find every day. Norwich had me smiling at his clever sentences and chuckling at his sarcasm. The author focused on the most interesting stories in the history and told them well. I listened to the audio book and the narrator did a great job. Did you know good readers can narrate parenthesis? My main complaint is that the book went by too quickly. It’s left me wanting more on the time period and on each of the subjects.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    An immensely readable history of the first half of the 16th century, told through the lives of four rulers who between them dominated Europe throughout it: England’s Henry VIII, France’s Francis I, the Habsburg Charles V and the Ottoman Suleiman the Magnificent. For the British reader, much of the interest lies in seeing Henry’s story taken out of the semi-detached context in which we normally encounter it and tied back into a wider world; for instance, while I was obviously aware that Henry’s f An immensely readable history of the first half of the 16th century, told through the lives of four rulers who between them dominated Europe throughout it: England’s Henry VIII, France’s Francis I, the Habsburg Charles V and the Ottoman Suleiman the Magnificent. For the British reader, much of the interest lies in seeing Henry’s story taken out of the semi-detached context in which we normally encounter it and tied back into a wider world; for instance, while I was obviously aware that Henry’s fight with the Church went differently to eg King John’s on account of coinciding with the Reformation, it had never occurred to me that the reason the Reformation went differently to precursors such as the Cathars was the external pressure of the Ottomans on outraged but straitened Catholic powers. Not that this extra dimension does much to shake one’s accumulated picture of Henry as a sort of monstrous baby, mind. Which is no criticism of Norwich’s account of him: there’s plenty of detail here, it just tends to fit what one already knows. As against Francis, say, who is certainly still the chivalric paragon on whom Henry had something of a man-crush as per the Field of the Cloth of Gold – but also prone to odd failures of impulse control in the field, a determined persecutor of Protestants, and a ‘Most Christian Majesty’ who was happy to ally with the Turks against his neighbours. Charles, like many Habsburgs, seems a rather sad figure, hideous but charming, wishing to abdicate long before he could; Suleiman is perhaps the most successful of the lot, but weirdly unlucky with (of all things) the weather. And while all of the four perhaps look larger by comparison with their hopeless successors, only Suleiman can be considered the author of his own misfortunes in that regard, though undoubtedly the Ottomans’ bloodthirsty succession system didn’t help. Which is one of many parallels between the four which Norwich is happy to show, but on which he commendably resists any temptation excessively to commentate. This is only the second book of Norwich’s I’ve read, but it has all the strengths of his history of the Papacy; it’s wry without being silly, and fair while still being happy to take sides (the valour of the Knights Hospitaller looms particularly large). More than anything, it's put together with all the erudition, dignity and wit characteristic of an earlier age’s writers, while being happily free of their prejudices; I can’t think of another historian working today who could so naturally and justly say of an inept pontiff that "He might have made a moderately good major; as a general he was a disaster." (Netgalley ARC)

  14. 4 out of 5

    M.J.

    I received a free E Arc from Netgalley of this book. It's been a long time since I read a non-fiction history book that wasn't set in the Anglo-Saxon/Viking period, but the Tudor period - or rather Elizabeth I was my first great history crush and I was fascinated by the idea of this accounting of the first half of the sixteenth century. History books too often focus on one person, one event or one series of events, it's high time that 'history' looked at the wider reach of events and this is exac I received a free E Arc from Netgalley of this book. It's been a long time since I read a non-fiction history book that wasn't set in the Anglo-Saxon/Viking period, but the Tudor period - or rather Elizabeth I was my first great history crush and I was fascinated by the idea of this accounting of the first half of the sixteenth century. History books too often focus on one person, one event or one series of events, it's high time that 'history' looked at the wider reach of events and this is exactly what the author tries to do. There can be few who know nothing about the reign of Henry VIII and his two 'frenemies' Charles V and Francis I of France, but by offering an account of the interactions of these three men, and adding Suleiman the Magnificent into the mix, a far richer landscape of Europe at this time is revealed. It was a time of great change, and all four of these men strove for something different, but all of them wanted, perhaps, to earn the biggest reputation for themselves, and they all seemed determined to bankrupt themselves in order to do so. The author treats each king in a similar way; he might not agree with their actions but he can at least offer an explanation for their actions, and, with not a little humour, he's able to find their achiles heel - for Suleiman it seems to have been the weather, for Charles V his unambitious son, the later Philip II, for Francis I his hatred of Charles V and we all know about Henry VIII and his need for a son and heir. And yet these men all dealt with far greater issues as well and I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for Charles V who seemed to face some sort of disaster from everywhere simultaneously. I would have liked more information about Suleiman as I know so little about him, but the purpose of the book precludes that - indeed I think some understanding of the period is needed beforehand in order to appreciate all that the author has to offer. Overall, this is a very readable account of the time period - the Papacy looms large, as to be expected, as do some of Suleiman's piratical allies, but each king is given his own space and time and I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading history books.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Delicious. When you read non-fiction history, you often go in knowing that you're going to have to slog through the slow bits, and you accept this, because that's just the way it is. Well. Not with THIS book. Four Princes has been written by the incomparable John Julius Norwich, himself a man about whom a book should be written! He's not concerned with political correctness. He's not trying to throw your 21st century morals onto 16th century people. He understands how important religion could be Delicious. When you read non-fiction history, you often go in knowing that you're going to have to slog through the slow bits, and you accept this, because that's just the way it is. Well. Not with THIS book. Four Princes has been written by the incomparable John Julius Norwich, himself a man about whom a book should be written! He's not concerned with political correctness. He's not trying to throw your 21st century morals onto 16th century people. He understands how important religion could be to a man, or a woman, that it would profoundly affect why they did things, and he doesn't apologize for it. He doesn't blink at the horrid-ness of life during the Reformation. He tells wonderful anecdotes about the various persons involved in the lives of the Four Princes, and brings in that human factor that makes historical figures so appealing. One thing that he does not do, is imagine motives, or put his own spin on the machinations of the rulers and their supporters. He just tells the stories, which is so very refreshing in this age of opinionism. It's humorous, packed with facts, and reads quickly. I learned some new things, especially about Suleiman, which led me into a bit more study, which is always fun. I heard about this book from the BBC History magazine, and am so glad I decided to read it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    The first half of the 16th century in Europe was a fascinating era for power politics, spiced with a hefty dash of religious conflict. As western Christendom was rent by the Reformation and threatened by the rising power of the Ottoman Empire, four memorable monarchs were the stars of the show, so to speak, and J.J. Norwich's group portrait of Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, Charles V of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire and Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire follows the tr The first half of the 16th century in Europe was a fascinating era for power politics, spiced with a hefty dash of religious conflict. As western Christendom was rent by the Reformation and threatened by the rising power of the Ottoman Empire, four memorable monarchs were the stars of the show, so to speak, and J.J. Norwich's group portrait of Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, Charles V of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire and Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire follows the trials and tribulations of the various states trying to cope with the complex combinations of war, peace and dynastic politics. As usual, Norwich's beautiful and entertaining narrative (in the grand tradition of Gibbon; he even puts the naughty bits in the footnotes) makes for a pleasurable read. You don't really have to be a major history buff to enjoy this, but if you are, so much the better. The Renaissance and Counter-Reformation was never so much fun. Highly recommended.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Received from NetGalley. I ended up listening to the audio book for this and it really helped me get through the book. I loved the book but for some reason actually reading it seemed to take forever. My favorite part of history to read/learn about is Tudor England so I knew quite a bit about Henry VIII, but I knew little to nothing about the rest of the princes in this book. I learned a lot about the rest of Europe during this time period and thought it ended up being a great book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alatea

    Interesting, lively and super easy to read. Adapted for non-historians, but still contains a lot of useful information, so I was completely okay with that ;)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Grace Achord

    This is a very interesting look at this time period from the vantage point of four men who found themselves in positions of great authority. Henry VIII: This was probably the most flattering portrayal of him I have come across. Norwich does well in helping his readers understand the motivations behind Henry's infamous actions. Francis I: In my opinion, Francis was the worst of the four. He was unprincipled, broke nearly every alliance or treaty he made, persecuted Protestants, and allied himself This is a very interesting look at this time period from the vantage point of four men who found themselves in positions of great authority. Henry VIII: This was probably the most flattering portrayal of him I have come across. Norwich does well in helping his readers understand the motivations behind Henry's infamous actions. Francis I: In my opinion, Francis was the worst of the four. He was unprincipled, broke nearly every alliance or treaty he made, persecuted Protestants, and allied himself with the Islamic Ottomans against fellow Europeans and Christians. Charles V: Charles is the one of the four for whom I have the most respect. He was level-headed, honorable, and really seemed to be working for the good of his kingdom and of Christianity (though only Catholics counted in his eyes). Suleiman the Magnificent: It was fascinating to read about Suleiman in contrast with the Christian kings. He was not a barbarian, but was an equal with his European contemporaries in terms of wealth, power, and integrity. An intriguing book all around.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Penny

    (Audible) Four legendary leaders of 16th century Europe. How about telling an integrated story of their history? Norwich does this, focusing by necessity on some important dates and locations, but interjecting spicy details and connecting the dots between what's happening here--to what's happening over there and how they affect each other. I was struck by some of the footnotes. The author must be well established in his field and writing this book out of interest. “It's no good even trying to give (Audible) Four legendary leaders of 16th century Europe. How about telling an integrated story of their history? Norwich does this, focusing by necessity on some important dates and locations, but interjecting spicy details and connecting the dots between what's happening here--to what's happening over there and how they affect each other. I was struck by some of the footnotes. The author must be well established in his field and writing this book out of interest. “It's no good even trying to give modern equivalents," he admits in one foot note, not bothering to try and convert currency to modern levels. Well okay then. I can understand that. Most of the book is about Henry VIII. Francis I and Charles V are tied for second place with Francis edging out Charles a bit. I wish there'd been more about Suleiman. I feel this is the area I had the weakest knowledge prior to reading the book. I certainly have a better knowledge base, but I'm still left with a lot of questions. Ironically it was Suleiman, the Muslim, who was the most religiously tolerant of the bunch. The religious wars, the rise of Protestantism, the Papal excess and abuse of power . . . . rather depressing all in all. But not a surprise. These are facts that have been raised in historical texts before, but perhaps not with the level of detail in Norwich's book. Really feel sorry for the princesses. They were powerless pawns in a clumsy game of world domination. Disney--you got it wrong. Recommend

  21. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    An enjoyable, fast-paced narrative about four men who loom large in the first part of the 16th century. I knew bits and pieces of Henry and Charles, less so about Francis, and even less so about Suleiman. The book explores the ways in which each of their lives overlapped with the others. Some of the insights were deeply insightful and helped give some context to parallel events at the same time. For example: Charles didn't encounter the Lutherans after the Diet of Worms in 1521 until the Augsbur An enjoyable, fast-paced narrative about four men who loom large in the first part of the 16th century. I knew bits and pieces of Henry and Charles, less so about Francis, and even less so about Suleiman. The book explores the ways in which each of their lives overlapped with the others. Some of the insights were deeply insightful and helped give some context to parallel events at the same time. For example: Charles didn't encounter the Lutherans after the Diet of Worms in 1521 until the Augsburg proceedings a decade later. The reason for this was largely due to Suleiman's military achievements pushing toward the west. There were other small things like that that were very helpful and interesting (e.g. the origin of the King or Queen of England being formally titled the Fides Defensor). Definitely recommended for a fun read in history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    James Sinks

    History books can be popular, sensational, biased, slanted, and incorrect while still being brilliant--even essential--analyses. Pop history can be good history. For instance, my first recommendations for anyone interested in the late middle ages are Huizinga and Tuchman, precisely because while they present a deeply flawed narrative, they are engrossing, engaging, and present a view of a historical milieu that--even with its flaws and 50-100 years of superceding scholarship--is not necessarily History books can be popular, sensational, biased, slanted, and incorrect while still being brilliant--even essential--analyses. Pop history can be good history. For instance, my first recommendations for anyone interested in the late middle ages are Huizinga and Tuchman, precisely because while they present a deeply flawed narrative, they are engrossing, engaging, and present a view of a historical milieu that--even with its flaws and 50-100 years of superceding scholarship--is not necessarily incorrect. This book is lazy, superficial, sensational, heavily-spun, and frequently incorrect. It reads like a buzzfeed article: his characterizations are glib, his interpretations are simplistic, his subjects are reduced to cardboard cutouts, and while his historical research may be broad, it's first-page-of-google-search-results-shallow. And if I can spot these flaws, it's a bad sign, since my interest in European history wanes around the middle of the XVc and completely evaporates by 1521. Someone who's actually knowledgeable about XVIc history would probably have a stroke if they read this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Novelle Novels

    2 out of 5 stars This is the story of four princes all born within a decade. Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, Charles V of Spain and suleiman the magnificent. I already know a lot about our king so to me he Is my favourite as I love reading about his era even though he wasn’t great he really changed England.. I know abit about the other European kings and so I could relate to their stories which also connected with our country but I found suleimans tale harder to follow. Yes this is fa 2 out of 5 stars This is the story of four princes all born within a decade. Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, Charles V of Spain and suleiman the magnificent. I already know a lot about our king so to me he Is my favourite as I love reading about his era even though he wasn’t great he really changed England.. I know abit about the other European kings and so I could relate to their stories which also connected with our country but I found suleimans tale harder to follow. Yes this is factual and therefore interesting but it wasn’t connected as well as I hoped and I got lost quite a lot. I’m glad I tried this but I wouldn’t re read it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Interesting look at four monarchs you (or at least I) would not automatically think of at the same time. The author does a good job portraying each of the men who together ruled a immense part of the civilized world, and not mentioned in the title he also includes a lot of information on the other dominant factor of their times--religion. Since this was a time of growth in the Muslim world, and conflict/separation/contraction in the Christian world this is important. Free e-book from the library.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Simpson

    Enjoyable and easy reading, there are some definite historical "issues" here as other reviewers have noted. I won't say that this author was categorically wrong, some of the specifics are still debated by historians, but there were definitely some clear inaccuracies (or at least rumor-mongering without clearing indicating such). Apart from the accuracy issues, it's also pretty shallow. Norwich hits the highlights, and goes into depth here and there (likely on topics events that were of personal Enjoyable and easy reading, there are some definite historical "issues" here as other reviewers have noted. I won't say that this author was categorically wrong, some of the specifics are still debated by historians, but there were definitely some clear inaccuracies (or at least rumor-mongering without clearing indicating such). Apart from the accuracy issues, it's also pretty shallow. Norwich hits the highlights, and goes into depth here and there (likely on topics events that were of personal interest to him), but there's a lot that goes unmentioned.

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Frasene

    Readable account of 16th century Europe. A good recommendation for Game of Thrones fans with an interest in the history that the show draws on. The constant forging and dropping of alliances and use of children and marriages as bargaining chips fits right into the show, as does the three Christian kings’ relationship with the Ottoman ruler Suleiman— he is the enemy and the infidel, until you need his help to fight enemies closer to home. Overall this is an entertaining look at the leaders of the Readable account of 16th century Europe. A good recommendation for Game of Thrones fans with an interest in the history that the show draws on. The constant forging and dropping of alliances and use of children and marriages as bargaining chips fits right into the show, as does the three Christian kings’ relationship with the Ottoman ruler Suleiman— he is the enemy and the infidel, until you need his help to fight enemies closer to home. Overall this is an entertaining look at the leaders of the Renaissance world.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Four leaders dominated what author Norwich calls the civilized world during the first half of the 16th century: Henry VIII, French king Francis I, Hapsburg and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and the most colorful of them, Turkish leader Suleiman. All formed alliances, only to quickly break them and stab each other in the back. The amount of hypocrisy is amazing. The most surprising was Francis' alliance with Suleiman against Charles. And all of this during the Protestant Reformation. Four leaders dominated what author Norwich calls the civilized world during the first half of the 16th century: Henry VIII, French king Francis I, Hapsburg and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and the most colorful of them, Turkish leader Suleiman. All formed alliances, only to quickly break them and stab each other in the back. The amount of hypocrisy is amazing. The most surprising was Francis' alliance with Suleiman against Charles. And all of this during the Protestant Reformation.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    Henry VIII, Francis 1, Charles V, Suleiman the magnificent all ruled in the first half of the 16th century and it was a time of incredible world change. I am not a student of history but I loved this book. Accessible, fun, succinct and full of characters and dynamic action and intrigue; best of all it all happened ! Leaves Game of Thrones in the shade (tho less Dragons).

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Weber

    This was a solid book of history on four dominant rulers in the first half of the 1500s: Henry VIII, Francis I of France, Carlos V, and Suleiman the Magnificent, sultan of the Ottoman empire. It relayed their military and political interactions in some detail, which is good for a fuller understanding of their temperaments and achievements. Some good anecdotes too.

  30. 5 out of 5

    G. Lawrence

    A good book, very interesting, but some facts (albeit facts only dropped in in passing) were wrong, which made me doubt the rest of the book, unfortunately. One prime one was where the author claimed Anne Boleyn was charged with witchcraft at the trial which led to her death. She wasn't. This inaccuracy, which is, to be fair, repeated by many (which, I suspect, only intensified after her portrait made an appearance in the Harry Potter films, on the walls of Hogworts) comes from Henry VIII passin A good book, very interesting, but some facts (albeit facts only dropped in in passing) were wrong, which made me doubt the rest of the book, unfortunately. One prime one was where the author claimed Anne Boleyn was charged with witchcraft at the trial which led to her death. She wasn't. This inaccuracy, which is, to be fair, repeated by many (which, I suspect, only intensified after her portrait made an appearance in the Harry Potter films, on the walls of Hogworts) comes from Henry VIII passing comment to his men in saying that he had been bewitched into his second marriage. Anne was accused of adultery, incest and treason, never witchcraft. This led me to take the rest of the book with a touch of suspicion, and there were other facts which were wrong, or a bit wrong, which gave me a wobble too. A shame, because it is a fascinating look at four men who shaped Europe. It has led me to be more interested in Suleiman, however, and I shall be looking more into his history, and that of his most interesting wife.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.