Saturday, 25 February 2012

The fears of ...

... HENRY IV, the life of England's self made king by Ian Mortimer.

There are times in life when standing back from the cut and thrust of the 21st century brings a certain relief.  This week, whilst recovering, it was my week to look back at the 14th century at the life of the first duke of Lancaster.  The book which begins with the full horror of the tyranny of Richard II's final years in power, contrasts with the chivalric fervour of Henry's early life. As the sole grandson of Edward III and the first duke of Lancaster, he was one of the foremost warriors of the 14th century, and possibly the greatest tournament fighter the English royal family ever produced.

Mortimer finishes this literary monument to a great king with only a single memorial (on the east end of Battlefield Church, near Shrewsbury) ...
... he [HENRY IV] is lying by the fire, covered in blankets, dying.  He is in great pain.  But as he lies there who can doubt that his career has been the most phenomenal success.  What has he not achieved?  The King of Scotland is a prisoner.  The Welsh revolt is crushed.  The French are in disarray as Clarence rides at the head of an army all the way to Gascony.  Henry's throne now will pass unopposed to his eldest son, Henry of Monmouth, who is at his bedside, reconciled to him.  Despite all Henry's fears, despite Richard's bitter hatred, despite all those rebellions, plots and arguments in parliament and in the council chamber, he will die in peace, a respected man and unvanquished king.

Few men confront the basic tenants of society in which they live and try to change them.  Very few of these are successful. And even fewer survive to reflect on their success. Henry IV was one of these very few.

... were that our political leaders in the 21st century as great as this man.

No comments:

Post a Comment