Good man, bad king: a portrait of Henry III

Henry III sat on the English throne for 57 years. Among English monarchs, only George III, Victoria and the late Queen reigned for longer. But they only reigned. Henry’s problem was that he was expected to rule. In medieval England, the role of the king was critical. Public order collapsed without a functioning court system founded on the impartial authority of an active ruler. The scramble for office and influence at the centre quickly turned to civil war when the monarch allowed his vast patronage to be monopolised by a cabal. Contemporaries were satisfied that Henry III was a bad king. But what kind of bad king was he? Some

Fleeing paradise: eden, by Jim Crace, reviewed

Since announcing his retirement in 2013, Jim Crace has had more comebacks than Kanye West, something for which we should all be thankful. Craceland is a compelling place to visit, full of hazy yet broadly recognisable locations (Tudoresque England in the IMPAC award winning Harvest; a vaguely Mediterranean town in Melody) and spanning indeterminate times (the post-apocalyptic future in The Pesthouse; the end of the Stone Age in The Gift of Stones). The specific non-specificity of his fiction reflects Crace’s view of himself as more of a storyteller than a novelist, and his sense of history as a largely unwritten – and therefore often forgotten – phenomenon. In this, eden