Jonathan Sumption's Cursed Kings is the eagerly anticipated fourth volume in what Allan Massie has called "one of the great historical works of our time."
Cursed Kings tells the story of the destruction of France by the madness of its king and the greed and violence of his family. In the early fifteenth century France, Europe's strongest and most populous state, suffered a complete internal collapse. As the warring parties within fought for the spoils of the kingdom under the vacant gaze of the mad King Charles VI, the country was left at the mercy of one of the most remarkable rulers of the European Middle Ages: Henry V of England, who had destroyed the French army on the field of Agincourt in October 1415 and left most of France's leadership dead.
Sumption recounts in extraordinary detail the relentless campaign of conquest that brought Henry to the streets and palaces of Paris within just a few years. He died at the age of thirty-six in a French royal castle in 1422, just two months before he would have become king of France.
Six centuries later, these extraordinary events are overlaid by the resounding words of Shakespeare and the potent national myths of England and France. In Cursed Kings, Jonathan Sumption strips away the layers to rediscover the personalities and events that lie beneath.
Jonathan Sumption is a former history fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and the author of The Hundred Years War, Volume 1: Trial by Battle, The Hundred Years War, Volume 2: Trial by Fire, and The Hundred Years War, Volume 3: Divided Houses, all available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.
"This is Game of Thrones history, with plenty of crazed kings, martial heroes, dastardly betrayals, silky clerical types and prisoners rotting in foul dungeons. . . . It is difficult to see that anyone could do this type of history better than Sumption."—The Guardian
"This fourth volume is an astonishing achievement. [Sumption] has sustained not only his own interest but, even more remarkably, that of his readers. The breadth and depth of his scholarship ranges across national boundaries, turning complex and contradictory sources into a coherent and compelling narrative in a way that, quite simply, has never been surpassed. He writes clearly and incisively, with many a pithy phrase. Unlike many modern historians, he has no fear of expressing forthright opinions . . . but his political acumen is such that one very rarely questions his judgment."—The Telegraph
"Superbly crafted, exhaustively researched, supremely intelligent. . . . Amid all of the twists and turns of war and diplomacy, Sumption's wonderfully measured prose is judiciously spiced by sharply observed, poignant, and amusing snapshots . . . We keenly await Sumption's fifth and concluding volume."—Literary Review
"Sumption's huge, masterly, and utterly complete history of the Hundred Years War . . . is one of the great historical undertakings of our age, and Cursed Kings might be its best volume yet."—Sunday Times
"This is one of the great historical enterprises of our time, elegantly constructed, thrillingly told, illuminating every incident and personality that it touches. Nobody who loves history should pass it by."—BBC History Magazine
Winner of the 2017 Medieval Institute Otto Grundler Book Prize