Henry v

The Hundred Years War ends in England’s agonising defeat – but triumph for Jonathan Sumption

On 5 February 1328 the last Capetian king of France was laid to rest in the royal mausoleum of Saint-Denis. It is now 33 years, and more than 3,000 pages since Jonathan Sumption’s first readers followed Charles IV on his last journey, as his funeral procession wound its slow way from Notre-Dame across the Grand Pont and out through the streets of Paris into the open countryside to the north of Europe’s most populous and richest city. The death of Charles IV led to a crisis of succession that for the next four generations would embroil France and England in a war of unimaginable savagery. At the time of his

The real Dick Whittington and the folklore legend

In that dark world the air pulsed with the melancholy clangour of bells. If, as legend has it, the chimes of St Mary-le-Bow told Dick Whittington to turn again, then what were they saying to all the other medieval Londoners, dwelling in houses so crowded on fouled streets that the sun could not break through? In the shadow of implacable plague, even London’s super rich were piercingly aware of life’s fragility. Their homes were scented with lily, lavender and the smoke of applewood. They had to be. The city was a close maze of abattoirs and tanneries and streams sluggish with excrement. Yet here, too, were brightly ornamented religious houses