David Carpenter

David Carpenter’s new translation of Magna Carta is published by Penguin. He teaches history at King’s College London.

In England​ 1381 was the year of what has often been called the Peasants’ Revolt. The insurgency began in Essex in late May, spread quickly to Kent and on 13 June the rebels gathered on Blackheath, entering London the next day. Joined by many from the city, they sacked John of Gaunt’s palace of the Savoy and forced the king, the 14-year-old Richard II, to meet them at Mile End....

How to be a queen: She-Wolves

David Carpenter, 15 December 2011

Helen Castor describes She-Wolves as ‘an attempt to write the kind of book I loved to read before history became my profession as well as my pleasure. It is about people, and about power. It is a work of storytelling, of biographical narrative rather than theory or cross-cultural comparison.’ At the heart of the book are accounts of the careers of four women who ‘ruled...

Go to the Devil: Richard II

David Carpenter, 22 July 2010

By far the most striking image of Richard II is the one found in the great portrait of him, crowned and enthroned, which still survives in Westminster Abbey. Painted in the 1390s, when the king was in his twenties, it gives him a slightly boyish, even feminine appearance, with red cheeks, full lips and a small goatee beard. Much of this, however, is the work of 19th-century restorers: when...

What happened to Edward II? Impostors

David Carpenter, 7 June 2007

Here the glory of the English; the flower of past kings; the form of future kings; a merciful king; the peace of his peoples; Edward III, completing the jubilee of his reign; an unconquered leopard; victorious in battle like a Maccabee . . . he ruled mighty in arms; now in heaven let him be a king.

So (in translation) run the verses around the tomb of Edward III in Westminster...


Dead or Alive

7 June 2007

Ian Mortimer says that ‘no one has yet demonstrated a fault’ in his argument for Edward II’s survival (Letters, 5 July). I had thought my review of his book The Perfect King had demonstrated a series of them. I am at a loss to understand why it is illegitimate to consider what possible motive Roger Mortimer had for faking Edward’s death, especially as I was responding to Ian Mortimer’s own...

Back to Runnymede: Magna Carta

Ferdinand Mount, 23 April 2015

George Cony​, a London merchant, had once been a friend of Oliver Cromwell. But when the Lord Protector slapped a tax on silk imports without the consent of Parliament, Mr Cony protested that...

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