A Great and Terrible King, By Marc Morris

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Edward I is perhaps best known for dispatching the Scottish leader Sir William Wallace in a grisly manner. But this impressively detailed account gives the full picture of a monarch who, largely thanks to Mel Gibson, has been reduced to the role of the pantomime villain.

Yes, he did inflict extreme violence on Wallace (and, for that matter, Wallace's Welsh counterparts), but Morris describes the deal he struck with the defeated Scots as "remarkably generous". Moreover, Wallace was "captured by his own countrymen".

Edward emerges as an expert practitioner of 13th-century realpolitik. We learn, for example, that his lavish mourning for Eleanor of Castile (visible in the Eleanor crosses) restored the queen's tattered reputation.

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