The Hundred Years War Vol 5: Triumph and Illusion (Hundred Years War, 5)

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The Hundred Years War Vol 5: Triumph and Illusion (Hundred Years War, 5)

The Hundred Years War Vol 5: Triumph and Illusion (Hundred Years War, 5)

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Triumph and Illusion is the final volume of Jonathan Sumption's epic history of the Hundred Years War. The fifth and final volume of Jonathan Sumption’s vast narrative of the Hundred Years’ War opens in November 1422 with the funeral of the French king, Charles VI, in the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Denis, near Paris. Likewise, the fascinating French invasion of England in 1405, which was executed in conjunction with Glyndwr's rebellion and actually reached as far as Hereford, merits a mere three pages of cursory discussion despite the great many questions it presents regarding Wales as a front in the Hundred Years War.

The powerful noble Jacqueline of Bavaria made a dramatic escape from her prison cell dressed as a man. France’s military momentum was accelerated by the political one, and by 1453 the Hundred Years War was effectively over, leaving only Calais in English hands. As Sumption, always excellent on financial matters, notes: ‘The limiting factor for everything that the English did in France was money.Extra postage may be required for the shipment of the four volumes depending on destination, but it would be a challenge to find a complete set of this magisterial (an overused word, but here applicable) study in this condition. Similar discussions must have taken place in London in the 1430s and 1440s as one delegation after the other from the English regency in France and from Gascony tried to shake the government out of its complacency.

One is reminded of this exchange reading Jonathan Sumption’s utterly engrossing Triumph and Illusion, which deals with the final 30 years or so of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) between England and France. Volume IV (covering the years from 1399 to 1422) appeared in 2015, the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. Behind the clash of arms stood some of the most remarkable personalities of the age: the Duke of Bedford, the English Regent who ruled much of France from Paris and Rouen; Charles VII of France, underrated in both countries, who patiently rebuilt his kingdom after the disasters of his early years; the captains who populate the pages of Shakespeare – Fastolf, Montagu, Talbot, Dunois and, above all, the extraordinary figure of Joan of Arc, who changed the course of the war in a few weeks at the age of seventeen. Lord Sumption and the values of life, liberty and security: before and since the COVID-19 outbreak".Sumption's decision to tell the tale as it has been traditionally told, therefore, is far from unexpected. Reading this magnificent and monumental history tells us about infinitely more than our medieval past. There is a great service in this, and a great necessity in the stabilization of ground that it provides for the next generations of scholars to build against and upon. He blends tight military and political narrative with biting and often amusing pen portraits of key figures.



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