Idolized in his lifetime and immortalized by Shakespeare, Henry V is the military genius whose armies crushed the French at Agincourt against huge odds, and who went on to conquer north-western France, marrying the king’s daughter and becoming heir and regent. But Desmond Seward sweeps away the myths and idolatry to reveal Shakespeare’s hero-king as a cruel, intolerant bigot. He shows the ruthlessness of a man who called himself ‘the scourge of God’ when reproached for massacring French Christians: how he slaughtered prisoners of war, and whose blind ambition arose from his determination to prove his tenuous claim to the throne of England usurped.
Henry V, argues Seward, created a distrust between England and France that has lasted to this day.
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