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The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the…
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The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I’s Dream (edició 2020)

de Charles Spencer (Autor)

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493420,045 (3.75)1
Títol:The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I’s Dream
Autors:Charles Spencer (Autor)
Informació:William Collins (2020), 352 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca, Read
Etiquetes:No n'hi ha cap

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The White Ship de Charles Spencer

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Narrative history of events of Henry I and his children, with the sinking of the White Ship occurring nearly exactly half-way through. It is the pivot point on which the fortunes of Henry rise and then fall. Spencer makes the case it had repercussions for the rest of the Middle Ages and even to the present. Henry lost his male heir, was unable to create another, allowing the mixing of a new royal house the Plantagenet ie. the houses of Lancaster and York, leading to the Wars of the Roses, Tudors, and so on. It's a reasonable argument, but also counter-factual "what if", which historians sometimes like to emphasize to demonstrate how important an event was. In the same way certain battles are pivotal to broader history. Hard to imagine another ship sinking more influential to English history. And it was so stupid, like tripping and breaking you neck, or getting hit by a bus, we look for meaning but find only banality and lady fortune for consolation. Spencer has managed to make a decent book with it at the core. ( )
1 vota Stbalbach | Jun 30, 2021 |
This is an account of a 900 year old shipwreck that had a profound effect on English history, leading to civil war and anarchy on a scale that was unprecedented in British history (or at least as far as we know, given that we know comparatively little, for example, about the chaos that must have took place during the vacuum after the Roman legions left 700 years earlier). The White Ship was an advanced craft for 1120, and it was piloted by an experienced captain, whose father had captained the flagship of King Henry I's father William the Conqueror when he had invaded England 54 years earlier. But disaster ensued on a rock off the coast of Barfleur in Normandy on a freezing cold late November night, sending almost all the 300 or so passengers and crew to the bottom of the Channel, including King Henry's only legitimate son and heir, William, two of his numerous illegitimate children (several of whom who were fairly important figures in their own right) and a significant chunk of the cream of the Anglo-Norman ruling class. The cause was chronic drunkenness among both crew and passengers, ironically given large amounts of wine by Prince William himself; intoxication so obvious that several passengers actually disembarked before launch in fear of the consequences, including the king's nephew and eventual successor Stephen of Blois (though he also apparently had diarrhoea brought on by his excessive drinking). William was initially taken away in the only lifeboat by his bodyguards, but he ordered the boat to turn back to rescue his half sister Mathilda, and the boat was swamped by desperate drowning people. We know all this through the account of the only survivor, probably the lowliest of the ship's complement, a butcher named Berold who had joined the ship to chase debts he was owed and whose life was saved by his rough woolen garments protecting him from the extreme cold, and his managing to cling on to part of the ship's mast. Very few bodies were ever recovered, though one of these was that of Richard of Lincoln, one of the king's illegitimate sons.

Henry had invested all his hopes in his son William. Possibly due to the intense rivalry he had experienced with his own elder brothers, Robert Curthose and king William II Rufus, Henry only had one legitimate son, in a probable attempt to provide clarity and a clear undisputed succession for both the throne of England and the ducal seat of Normandy. (He had around 9 illegitimate sons, out of over 20 children born out of wedlock to a total of over half a dozen different women). His wife Mathilda had died a couple of years before the disaster. He married again, to Adeliza of Louvain, but they had no children. He forced his barons to swear allegiance to his legitimate daughter Mathilda as his successor, but this was disputed by his nephew Stephen who seized the crown and a bitter civil war ensued, in which much of the country was ravaged, plundered by both sides and by bands of mercenaries. The ebb and flow of war shifted but there was no peace until 1153 when finally Stephen acknowledged as his successor his rival Mathilda's son Henry. Almost certainly none of this would have happened had the White Ship not sank. So it is fair to say that, while there have been many better known shipwrecks (Mary Rose, Titanic, Lusitania), none of these were as politically influential as the White Ship disaster; as the author concludes, "The shipwreck impacted spectacularly on the next generation, resulting in the bloodiest anarchy that England has ever suffered.", the "vacuum" of William's death having, following Henry's failure to produce a replacement heir with his second wife, "morphed into a chasm, into which the subjects on both sides of the Channel fell headlong". Great narrative history that explains the contextual historical background very clearly and colourfully. ( )
1 vota john257hopper | Dec 6, 2020 |
When the ship carrying the only son of Henry I of England was dashed on the rocks outside Barfleur harbour in 1120 a great swathe of the Anglo-Norman aristocracy was lost. This led to 'The Chaos', a civil war between the descendants of William the Conqueror that was only ended by the ascension of Henry II and the start of the Plantagenet dynasty. This shipwreck was a turning point in English history in the early middle ages.
Whilst the book is called the White Ship, the shipwreck itself only occupies a few chapters. What Spencer does in place the tragedy in the context of the political machinations of western Europe in the early twelfth century. As a book about the Normans it is very good, the story follows William from Normandy to England and then focuses on the rivalry between his sons. This period is not often written about in an accessible form for the lay reader and I really enjoyed it. ( )
1 vota pluckedhighbrow | Oct 17, 2020 |
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