Read The Last English King by Julian Rathbone Online


On September 27, 1066, Duke William of Normandy sailed for England with hundreds of ships and over 8,000 men. King Harold of England, weakened by a ferocious Viking invasion from the north, could muster little defense. At the Battle of Hastings of October 14, he was outflanked, quickly defeated, and killed by William's superior troops. The course of English history was altOn September 27, 1066, Duke William of Normandy sailed for England with hundreds of ships and over 8,000 men. King Harold of England, weakened by a ferocious Viking invasion from the north, could muster little defense. At the Battle of Hastings of October 14, he was outflanked, quickly defeated, and killed by William's superior troops. The course of English history was altered forever.Three years later, Walt, King Harold's only surviving bodyguard, is still emotionally and physically scarred by the loss of his king and his country. Wandering through Asia Minor, headed vaguely for the Holy Land, he meets Quint, a renegade monk with a healthy line of skepticism and a hearty appetite for knowledge. It is he who persuades Walt, little by little, to tell his extraordinary story.And so begins a roller-coaster ride into an era of enduring fascination. Weaving fiction round fact, Julian Rathbone brings to vibrant, exciting, and often amusing life the shadowy figures and events that preceded the Norman Conquest. We see Edward, confessing far more than he ever did in the history books. We meet the warring nobles of Mercia and Wessex; Harold and his unruly clan; Canute's descendants with their delusions of grandeur; predatory men, pushy women, subdued Scots , and wily Welsh. And we meet William of Normandy, a psychotic thug with interesting plans for the "racial sanitation" of the Euroskepics across the water.Peppered with discussions on philosophy. dentistry, democracy, devils, alcohol, illusions, and hygiene, The Last English King raises issues, both daring and delightful, that question the nature of history itself. Where are the lines between fact, interpretation, and re-creation? Did the French really stop for a two-hour lunch during the Battle of Hastings?...

Title : The Last English King
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780312242138
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 400 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Last English King Reviews

  • Bryn Hammond
    2019-05-25 00:28

    First: vividly written, feelingly, very high on ‘reality-sense’, atmosphere and peoplehood. With that, creative, unusual, and determined not to be your ordinary histfic. Also, fantastic writing. I didn’t skip once, through boredom with a description or thinking I know what the author’s going to tell me {or not until the idyll near the end. Right, I skipped once}. He knows how to craft a place-description so that even I, a poor visualiser, see. His description of people – and there I’m an aficionado – is super. He’s a student of gesture, an expert in body-language. The early part is soaked in mood and the humanhood of Walt and Quint, whose journey together was the heart for me and knits the narrative: two odd travellers, cast out of life, in a way, in different ways. Their accidental friendship, very gently stated, is a joy. From there we look back on Walt’s past as a companion-in-arms to Harold, loser of the Battle of Hastings; while we travel to Constantinople and on through the Near East, see the world, the state of the world and discuss the future, too. Walt’s nostalgia for Old (Anglo-Saxon) England is critiqued by Quint, and that nostalgia/critique goes on throughout the novel. I gave up English history years ago and had to brush up for this – not on the history so much as on perceptions of that history. Because I know he’s in a game with perceptions. The lines, I learn, are drawn thus: either England needed that vigorous Norman injection, or else England was an ideal place once, before the Normans came. I imagine that Julian Rathbone, being the sort of writer he is, addresses the historiography, the way history has been written, in ways that go over my head. If he deconstructs the characters of Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror, I wouldn’t know – I don’t know what the image of them is. I can sense he’s engaging with interpretations of history but I’m not his audience there. I hear he upset people with his portrayals, and I’ll egg him on with that. In his author’s note he says William ‘saw to it that history was written the way he wanted it written’, and in the histories I know more about, I am only too aware that happens – and that propaganda then lasts down to the present day. Propaganda seems ineradicable, once in the record. I like his conscious tackling of our records of history. It’s a job historical fiction ought to do more often. To this end he uses his anachronisms. He talks about them, too, in his author’s note: aside from the amusement, anachronism ‘serves a more serious purpose – to place the few years spanned by the book in a continuum which leads forward as well as back, to remind readers, especially English readers, that it was out of all this that we came.’ At commencement I thought that lame and wished he’d gone ahead and not tried to excuse himself. Later I started to see what he meant. After I’d read, for background, about 19thC heavyweight historians who have influenced our view of the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans. Because of that he’s not just writing about the 11th century. The anachronisms are often called arch, and I do laugh but if they were only for amusement I’d slam him. Quint quotes Yeats on Byzantium and what does that mean? That Yeats hit the nail on the head about Byzantium? I don’t know, but I enjoy the challenge to me, the ‘what does that mean?’Edward the Confessor is a sad old soul. We first meet him as he faces the news he has six months to live, which helps our sympathy. He’s no hero and he’s no saint... they promise him sainthood, for political ends, and his kingship ends as his kingship began, used and abused. In the beginning, the thug of England Godwin set his ‘cock-quean’ son Tostig onto him, to entrammel him; after the Godwins change their policy and mangle that affair, he’s celibate for the rest of his life. As a king, even as a Norman-influenced king, he believes in non-interference: he sees that Anglo-Saxon England works. He is exhorted to make things more continental but he resists that pressure – even if he must enlist the Normans against the thuggish Godwins. I felt for Edward and he wasn’t such a bad old king. England blossoms under him. Nostalgia seems to have won the argument by now and Anglo-Saxon England is/was a fairer, kinder, quieter place – even though its own politics has led to the crisis that lets the Normans in. The Witan is great, except the families in power determine what happens there. Harold knows he doesn’t need to be king – he runs England, like his father before him. Nevertheless, after Harold visits the Normans, when he tries to tell the English what they have to lose – what Englishness is and won’t be – you believe in the urgency of his fight. When Walt tells the charcoal-burners, relicts of ancient inhabitants, who aren’t English, what their lives will be under the Normans. Will be, since we know the Normans win. What’s given as Norman is the later medieval system with its order, its suppression of disorder. Fair enough. Always thought I’d rather live in the 8th century than the 13th. A novelist takes sides, but – see beneath, for what the author has to say on that. I like that he cares about societies before and after, that he cares what happened in history, even in 1066. If that’s writing with a political commitment, then – go ahead. Ancient fights for freedom, that lost and lost freedoms for us... there were others, and we need to care. If you care about your liberties now, let’s study the history. William the Conqueror is Hitleresque. At first you think he’s a lampoon, but then Hitler looks like a lampoon. Soon the description is that of a serious psychopath. The word is used. Invented for him by Quint, who invents words, and Freudian psychology, such as I used to read about Hitler. So he was the Hitler of the day: how to get that across to us? Invoke Him, our equivalent. But Quint wants to talk about psychopathy, to us, across the distance, and he claims the right. He’s seen it. It’s just a matter of words. Perhaps Quint is a time-traveller. I’ll stop here as I’m rambling. I welcome his experiments. Harold is decent but underdrawn. More might have been made of how he fits or doesn’t in his gangster family. Conveniently, the two brothers left to fight Hastings with him are also decent, much unlike the other brothers gone. I read an interview with Julian Rathbone on the web – – where he argues for a self-conscious historical fiction that knows it has an ideology or an agenda. Because every historical fiction does. Better – more honest – for that not to be unconscious in the writer. Perfectly true.

  • Dawn
    2019-04-27 19:21

    I have been seriously bogged down with this book. It started out so good but then went off the rails and never picked up again. Quite a few things bothered me with the story. The disjointed current and past stories that didn't really mesh and weren't told in the same styles. The excessive amount of sexual content was often quite creepy and in general not required for the storyline. Having William the Conqueror say "dashing good fellow" was funny but I'm pretty sure not historically accurate and I found the portrayal of William so different from my own perception of him that I couldn't wrap my mind around it. So while this may be a great book for details on the life and times of 11th century Britain, that was overshadowed by the problems I had with the story.

  • Terri
    2019-05-16 02:11

    What a brilliant mind Julian Rathbone has. Of course I may not always agree with it, or appreciate it, but overall, I don't think it can be denied. The man is a brilliant writer.The story starts with Walt. A Housecarl for Harold Godwinson. He fought in the Battle of Hastings and lived through it, sans one hand. Disgraced at having not died with his King, he wanders foreign lands aimlessly until he meets Quint, a scholar, an ex monk. They travel together and as they travel, having mild adventures along the way, Walt retells his story for the first time.I really felt for Walt. In fact my heart was with him throughout this book. Even when the story wasn't on him I looked forward to when it would be again. Rathbone's description of this 11th century world was mind blowing for me. He did an incredible job and must have researched tirelessly to come to the conclusions and descriptions that he did. From finer details of everyday life and landscape, to his version of little and well known history. Rathbone doesn't have his main character Walt actually retelling this tale in Walt's own tongue, his own words. It really just reads as any other book. As if you are there. As if Julian Rathbone is putting you there.Now, there are faults in this book. Faults that got to me enough to put this book down for a month. I enjoyed the first quarter and the last quarter, but stumbled on the middle quarters. The second quarter of this book was about Edward the Confessor, and Rathbone's portrayal of the Confessor (and of Tostig, and of their relationship) was not really to my liking. And then in the third quarter of this book, it was Rathbone's portrayal of William the Conqueror that I had problems with.In fact, sometimes, I felt as though Julian Rathbone was just trying to be a shock jock. The Confessor and Tostig were as gay as mardi gra, and he made William the Conqueror into a brainless, french dandy. I can live with the gay couple, even though I don't believe either Edward or Tostig were gay, but I really have trouble with the William character. Rathbone seemed to try too hard to stamp him with the poncey, french dandy stereotype; for whatever reason. But this wasn't the only problem. Then he changed William's character into something else and by the time of the invasion in 1066, the character you were reading about didn't seem to resemble the character you first read about in the meat of the book.Harold, however, was well porrtayed and I think there was no guessing what Rathbone was about when he was writing the personalities into these two important figures in English history. He was being a shock jock again. He clearly favoured Harold, knew most people were fascinated with William and so made William the most repulsive, vile man he could manage, while Harold was a quiet, caring, steady, level-headed guy next door type.He did make me like Harold though (except for the incest which was really not necessary). And by the end I felt so sad for Harold and Walt, and those other players that were with the story all along, that it broke my heart when they all met their match on that fateful hill near Hastings.I think that when you get to the end of this book, that you go back and read the first chapter, or the end of the first chapter again as some of it is poignant to the story and you don't realise that until you have finished the book and looked back. Rathbone's last few paragraphs are the first few paragraphs of the book.So, if you can get over the graphic gay sex, the few bits of incest (not graphic so don't worry), the mild paedophilia (not graphic and really only a grown man with a crush on a 13 year old, which was still something I could have done without), the modern swearing and occasional modern dialogue (that Rathbone makes no apologies for and says so at the start of the book), then give this terrific book a go.

  • Michelle
    2019-05-15 18:28

    Great story of the Norman conquest narrated by a servant of the losing king. Makes the Normans look pretty awful...vividly imagined, with lots of references to geographic features that still exist today in Wessex...interesting characters and narrative that sustained my interest until the end, even though I knew the outcome.

  • Ben
    2019-05-24 21:13

    A very fun, very enjoyable read. The book initially caught my attention because of the snippet from the Bayeux tapestry used on the cover--and I wasn't disappointed. Rathbone is a good writer, who develops character well and who weaves a vivid, gripping narrative. Although my knowledge of the available documentation on the personalities of the historical characters (William the Bastard/Conqueror and Harold, primarily), I greatly enjoyed the characters Rathbone created for them. His knowledge and recreation of the differing worlds of Anglo-Saxon England and Normandy, especially with respect to cultural practices of oath-giving and hierarchy, are all well-engineered and convincing. It has elements of a rip-roaring adventure (seeing as the culmination of the story is the Battle of Hastings), but spends most of the story fleshing out the people and world within which Hastings occurred. My one gripe is Rathbone's self-acknowledged indulgence in using anachronistic phrases and concepts, mostly through the characters of Quint. While a bit amusing, and certainly befitting of the clever character, they don't fit within the tone of the book and I generally found them jarring me out of the narrative. However, this single flaw does not sink the book. This is a very engaging, fun, and informative read which I would highly recommend. I will definitely be looking to pick up some of his other historical fiction novels.

  • Ruth
    2019-05-19 00:16

    c1997: FWFTB: Norman, Walt, monk, Quint, 1066. Interestingly, the author counters criticism before it has even been raised in his Author's note at the start of the book. It is an interesting take on the events leading up to the Normal 'conquest' and some historical figures in ways that are quite different to those portrayed by, say, Jean Plaidy et al. It is humorous and the prose is uncluttered with unnecessary hyperbole and the like. I did not know before reading this book tha the author used to teach at the High School in the neighbouring town of Bognor Regis. Recommended for those of the crew that like a fresh approach to history without wandering into the fantasy genre."'So. All your oath-swearing law does is shore up, or rather express, the power of those who are already mighty.' 'Exactly so. Is that not the meaning of all law? To uphold the status of the mighty but without resort to war tumult, death and destruction>'" I also rather liked his portrayal of William, a bastard by name and deed, "Cry God for William, England and Saint ... Who's the patron saint of England, Odo?" bawls the hooligan Duke at the foot of Senlac Hill. "You're a fucking bishop, aren't you? You ought to know."

  • Ian
    2019-05-09 23:24

    If like me your school history classes gave the impression that the Norman Conquest was in some way a Good Thing this books is essential reading.It describes Harold's rise to the top and demonstrates that he was an excellent politician diplomat as well as warrior and king. One is forced to speculate as to what England could have been like had he not fallen at Hastings in what must have been the last throw of the dice for the desperate Normans. The language I'm writing this in would be very different for a start. I was a little worried that this would be a dry history text book but it is anything but. It does contain numerous references and is scrupulous in attributing sources as well as making all arguments clear. But it is still an extremely readable book and is almost a political and military thriller covering a fascinating but little known time period. All in all this is an excellent attempt to counter the Norman propaganda that has dominated English history since their Year Zero of 1066 and highly recommended to anyone remotely interested in the early Middle Ages.

  • Claire
    2019-05-12 20:14

    The idea behind this is great (the story of the Norman Invasion and the Battle of Hastings as told through the eyes of one of King Harold's men), but its execution is actually pretty woeful. The writing and characterisation are uneven and unconvincing and I found Rathbone's style both irritating and and ultimately frustrating. This novel could, with a little care and attention, have been excellent. Sadly, Rathbone's approach is so slap-dash that I didn't end up caring about the characters, and nor did I much enjoy reading this novel.

  • Malacima
    2019-05-17 19:36

    I'm disappointed with the book. Well this book certainly irritated me.The story is told in flashback by Walt the Wanderer, one of Harold's trustiest bodyguards and a survivor of the Battle of Hastings, who is haunted by a warrior's guilt, for he didn't die with his lord, as the honour of his position demands. Author provides a very imaginative, almost quirky, narrative perspective on this story.There are far more compelling novels out there by other authors.

  • John
    2019-05-07 00:24

    I simply love this book.It is the story of Walt set at the time of King Harold [he of 1066 - arrow in the eye fame]. Walt was a Housecarl, one of the mighty Roayl bodyguards and the book tells the history of England, through his eyes, of the years leading to and including the Battle of Hastings.

  • Babybelle
    2019-05-10 00:17

    Told from the Saxon side,especially as the Bastard(s) generally write history.Exciting,good read. Sad,at times.Better than usual swash,buckle and slash.Also entertaining in parts.Read the intro first and bear in mind the authors'indulgence',which raises a grin when you come across it!

  • Martin Willoughby
    2019-05-21 00:36


  • Bill
    2019-05-22 20:23

    I read this hoping to learn more about William the Conqueror. While the battle stories as told by Walt were interesting what really made this book for me were the other characters, in particular King Harold's brothers as well as the magician Taillefer & in particular Walt's travelling companion Quint. Their journey through Turkey & their experiences long the way made this historical fiction an enjoyable read.

  • Mark
    2019-04-29 01:38

    I've had this book on my shelf for years and thought it worthy of a re read based on the real facts this novel is told from the perspective of a surviving house Carl or noble that fought alongside King Harold and escaped persecution by the normans a great read

  • Ellen Ekstrom
    2019-05-11 23:27

    It might sound strange that a book about the end of Anglo Saxon England and the horrible battle of Senlac Ridge (Hastings) was a fun read, but it really was. Julian Rathbone's "The Last English King" is in the same vein as Graves' "I Claudius," a tongue-in-cheek, but serious work. How can you not laugh at a character like William of Normandy in a goatee and saying things like 'Aaarold' and stomping up and down like Chaplin's Little Dictator? How can you not feel the pain of 'The Wanderer,' the last knight standing with Harold of England before that arrow took Harold down, as he goes through post-traumatic stress syndrome and tries to make sense of what happened to his friends, his life, his home?The story of "The Last English King" is told by Walt, a housecarl, comitati - one of Harold's elite guards. We meet Walt in the midst of his wandering to get as far away from England as he can and learn that he has been travelling for several years since the Battle. Walt tells his story, in bits and pieces, to people he meets up and travels with: a discalced monk, Quint, a mysterious red-haired woman and a magician and his two children. They travel together en route to Jerusalem and it is on this journey Walt's retelling of the last years of Anglo Saxon England entertains and educates the small party. As Walt struggles to come to terms with surviving the battle, losing a limb, losing his friends and his king, we are given glimpses of royal politics and family intrigues. Mr. Rathbone's treatment of certain characters - as I mentioned, William - and Harold's younger brother, Tostig (sounding like a Guy Ritchie gangster), almost verge on cartoonish or comic book villians. Modern English, really modern, is used and it doesn't take away from the story. Queen Edith is a hard, cold, bitch with a penchant for incest. Harold is a laid-back opportunist and one who knows that of all the qualified men in England to succeed Edward he's at the top of the list; Edward is a closeted king hiding his not so secret homosexuality with piety. Somehow, it really works in the way the author presents the characters and the events. Although Mr. Rathbone plays fast and loose with modern dialogue and characters, he gives us the history of the events and multi-faceted characters in wonderful prose. His treatment of the infamous oath Harold makes to William while being "held against his will" (historians can't agree on why Harold wound up in Normandy in 1065) is over the top in melodrama and credibility compared to the accounts in other books I've read thus far: Tallifer, the jongleur/minstrel that allegedly led the Norman army chanting "The Song of Roland" in the opening salvos of the Battle, uses his talent as a magician to trick Harold in swearing the oath to support William. I started laughing after I read this because it was implausible and just silly, but then, William wears a goatee (Normans were clean shaven) and pronounces Harold "Aaarold" in an outrageous French accent, a la the French Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so it fell together nicely. For an excellent depiction of this event, I recommend Glynn Holloway's "1066 What Fates Impose," which I've already reviewed. I won't give away the details. You have to read it. It's wonderful.In sum, "The Last English King" was an enjoyable story due to the less than traditional treatment of the events and characters, but respect for the subject - well, maybe not for William....

  • Perry Whitford
    2019-04-28 00:32

    An arch, knowingly anachronistic and amusing retelling of the tragic story of Harold Godwinson, the Saxon earl who took the english throne after the death of Edward the Confessor, only to find himself fighting simultaneous invasions by the Vikings in the north and the Norman's in the south.His story has been previously told, very famously, in the Bayeux tapestry. He's the one depicted perishing with an arrow in his eye, a grisly image familiar to every school child raised in this green and pleasant land of mine. The bulk of the story is told in flashback by Walt the Wanderer, one of Harold's trustiest bodyguards and a survivor of the Battle of Hastings, who is haunted by a warrior's guilt, for he didn't die with his lord, as the honour of his position demands (a prefacing quotation from Tacitus highlights this theme).Walt had fled England in the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings, and he makes a pilgrimage across Asia Minor towards Jerusalem in the company of Quint, a roving interpreter who Rathbone seems to have smuggled in from a different book set in the time of the Renaissance. That's fine though, the book is rife with such liberties as Rathbone delights in linking the past to the present, i.e. Walt has tattoos that read "Harold Rules, All Right" and "Walt 4 Erica" - what could be more working-class English than that? At other times, characters coin phrases such as "traumatized" and "ice cream in hell", the Troggs "Wild Thing" is referenced, as is the Rocky Horror Show(!) and speeches from Shakespeare and Churchill amongst others.Purists might not like it, but there is enough history to off-set the playful hand of the author - which is never quite as jarring as you might think - as well as a rich profusion of lush, adoring passages dedicated to the land itself, all of which give England the appearance of a place well worth conquering. Entertaining history with a nod and a wink.

  • Chrisl
    2019-05-09 01:12

    Read this Rathbone first. Then tried several of his others without as much pleasure. Might be an enjoyable reread.The the review copied from KIRKUS REVIEW"A dark-hued lament for the loss of jolly old England a millennium ago, when psychopath William the Conqueror used a bagful of tricks to best good King Harold, this saga from the wide-ranging Rathbone (Blame Hitler, p. 1076, etc.) has its moments but can’t sustain them The story comes out in the halting, painful recollections of Walt, one of Harold’s inner circle of advisers and bodyguards who has wandered far from the Battle at Hastings in 1066, where he lost his right hand as well as his king. Dazed and feverish, Walt has crossed Europe before meeting fellow traveler Quint outside of Constantinople; the ex-monk, realizing Walt has within him a tale that will pass many a weary mile on the road, suggests he pay their way on a journey to the Holy Land. As Walt recalls the time leading up to the Norman invasion, when competing bids for the English throne gave rise to intrigues like the one that brought Harold to Normandy to be tricked by William’s magician into swearing an oath of fealty that would later haunt him, an adventure en route brings them into the company of that same trickster—whom Walt had seen drop dead in Hastings. The conjurer expresses remorse for his earlier role and offers his own memories of William’s preparations, while Walt describes the desperate days after Harold’s coronation, when, faced not only with the Norman threat but another from the north, he had also to quell dissent from within. Walt, healing slowly as he lets go of his grief at not having died with his king, decides to go home before reaching Jerusalem, but not before providing the blow-by-blow details of Harold’s heroic last stand. Popping the clutch once too often in shifting between memory, history, and life on the road, but, still, an often haunting evocation of a tumultuous time of glory and grief.

  • Mike
    2019-05-22 23:36

    I liked it. I'm not going to say it was fantastic. But I'd read another book by Rathbone, and recommend this to anyone interested in historical fiction about the early middle ages.Two things I like particularly:In the final volume of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, a character who has lived for 700 years or so attends a modern Renaissance Faire, which he hates: it's all fantasy, not history. And one of his complaints is that "there's no shit": we have a sanitized popular version of medieval times that eliminates all the shit--which was everywhere. Horses, cows, pigs, people: lots of it, all over the place. This book has the shit. Maybe not quite as much as an 11th century Englishman had to live with, but certainly enough to elevate it beyond run-of-the-mill historical fantasy. And, despite all the action, all the characters (there are plenty of both, mostly historical), and a stage that spreads from Northumberland to the Levant, this book gives me an eerie sense of what it would have been like to live in England before it was overpopulated, when humans were relatively scarce. The seals, the oaks, the fog: no other book does it quite so well.On the other hand, I resist the idealization of the pre-Norman English. I'm sure William wasn't a nice guy; people whose sobriquet is "The Conqueror" rarely are. "The Bastard" was probably more appropriate. But I find it hard to take this world where the King took care of the Earls, who took care of their underlings, who took care of their underlings, down to the lowliest serf (of which there were few). If that's how it was, well, we lost an awful lot when William conquered. But I don't believe that myth; on the contrary, I believe we're still paying the price of that myth.

  • Guy Grobler
    2019-05-13 22:10

    History is written by the victors (W. Churchill). This book tries to give the losing side point of view.It tells the tale of the beginning of the end of the Anglo Saxon domain over England and the start of the Norman conquest through the voice of Walt, a bodyguard of Kind Harold.Walt, eaten by guilt for not dying in the battle of Hastings alongside his King, is travelling across Europe and to the Holy land. On the way, he makes the acquaintance of a renegade monk and begins to tell him the story from which we learn of how England looked under the Anglo Saxon domain and how they negatively viewed the Normans. Later, a twist occurs, as some new travelers join them, one of them was also in the battle of Hastings, but on the winning side (that of the Norman, William the Conqueror) , thus they are able to compare final preparations before the battle itself. I gave this book 4 of 5, because I thought the main character lacked a good excuse for his long travels across Europe towards the Holy land, the fact is that he never makes it to the Holy land as he has a change of heart and decided to go back to England to find his Wife... surely he would have realized this a lot sooner then 3-4 years after the battle. Considering the love he had for his Wife (as told in the book), you would expect him to come to his senses a lot sooner.

  • Barbara Ell
    2019-04-27 02:22

    What was England like before William the Conqueror came? Were the people really such simpletons and their leaders barbaric until William brought the refinement of the Normans across the channel? Rathbone uses research, creative license, and a bit of humor, to tell the story of the rise and demise of the last true English King, Harold II. Told through the remembrances of one of Harold's bodyguards who we meet four years after the Battle of Hastings. This novel starts with Edward the Confessor and shows how Harold proves his worthiness to be king, shows how he became king and ends with the Battle of Hastings and Harold's death. Also told is how the people lived and worked, as well as comparing it to the Norman way of life.Walt, or the Wanderer, served as a bodyguard to Harold. These remembrances are told to Quint, a fellow traveler, who helps Walt talk out these memories. Walt had a lot of guilt when the story first began since he was the king's bodyguard, and although he was maimed, the king died. Walt helps us understand about Edward's house, Harold's house, and about the Anglo-Saxon people of England. Later we meet another traveler who gives us glimpses of William's lifestyle.

  • Rj
    2019-05-05 02:38

    I read it a few years back but it left quite an impression. I guess I found it refreshing in that it's not yer usual historical novel. On the other hand, there were a few bits which were downright weird. Overall, it was full of originality and new horizons and I love how it linked Britain and eastern Europe. I particularly respect how the characters spoke in perfectly modern day lingo with no twirly bits to indicate "historical".Historians on BBC website gave it a hard time - apparently, Queen Emma was NICE, not the harridan of this book (they say). Personally, I could have done without the false eyelashes made of spider legs. Plausible? Yeah maybe. But I think spider legs would be floppy. You'd need to stiffen them up with something if they were to make functional false eyelashes. Hell, I dunno.j

  • Christopher
    2019-05-12 19:23

    An excellent book, though with some perhaps slightly warped view of the Normans, which doesn't distract from it at all, but add a humorous touch in my opinion! The book takes an unusual approach to the battle of Hastings that happened in 1066 through the approach of looking at the surrounding events, both before and after, through the eyes of one of Harolds personal bodyguards. Cleverly because of this many parts of Europe and beyond are covered as well as many different characters both historical and evented make an appearance. There is definetley a bit of sympathy for the Saxon cause throughout the book with the Saxons being portrayed as extremely noble for the most part and the Normans being seen as very weaselly (hence the humour). Extremely well done and makes you wish in a way that 1066 had had a different result! Excellent stuff!

  • Anna
    2019-05-24 23:20

    I found this really difficult to read, not because of the writing which was very good, but because of the subject matter. Having studied the Anglo-Saxons and admiring the way they structured their society, it was depressing to know how the story ends; with the brutish Normans coming and imposing their very different, tyrannical rule on a defeated people whom they despised.My feelings of sadness were probably exacerbated by Julian Rathbone's obvious admiration for the English king Harold and the main protagonist/narrator Walt, and by his negative account of William the Bastard's character; however, I suspect that this is a fairly accurate picture.I was relieved to reach the end...Down with the Normans!!

  • Graceann
    2019-04-27 22:30

    Please see my detailed review at Graceann's "Last English King" Review"Please click that the review was helpful to you at Amazon so that my rating continues to climb! I started this grudgingly, because it was not something I was at all interested in, but it was chosen by my book group. I decided to give it 50 pages and if I didn't like it, I was going to stop reading and cancel attendance at this month's meeting. It turned out to be fairly entertaining, though no masterpiece, and the cultural anachronisms Rathbone used were so witty that I found myself giggling when I should have been annoyed. Who knew?

  • Olethros
    2019-05-24 00:11

    -Interpretación sensata pero no necesariamente académica.- Género. Novela histórica.Lo que nos cuenta. En 1070, Walt Edwinson vuelve a casa manco para encontrar que su hogar y su familia ya no existen. Durante los últimos cuatro años, justo después de perder la mano, ha estado viajando por Europa hasta llegar al Bósforo. Allí conoce a Quint, con quien comienza a viajar mientras recuerda su juventud, cuando entró al servicio de Haroldo Godwinson, en el exilio igual que su padre, el Conde Godwin.¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

  • Laura
    2019-05-13 01:35

    There are a few faults. Some of Rathbone's jokes and mannerisms -- especially his interjection of anachronisms in the speech of his supporting characters -- wear a little thin from overuse. But any thin patches are easily overlooked, given the beauty of the whole. In telling the story of Harold Godwinson from the point of view of Walt, his standard-bearer who failed to die with him at the Battle of Hastings, Rathbone succeeds is cultivating love and admiration not only for his protagonist Walt, but also for Harold and England itself, as it was before the Conquest. This is a completely engaging yarn spun by a smart, funny and irreverent storyteller who doesn't feel shackled to facts.

  • Denise
    2019-05-07 18:29

    Even though this book has been highly acclaimed in the years since it was written, I found it one of the hardest books (to read) that I've ever read. Not because it used strange language or words, but because it jumped around so much between characters and plot lines. There is a lot of detail here, and the author appears to have done a lot of research into his characters because the events concur with what I've read elsewhere. Perhaps it was because it was written by an English author and I'm an American (although I've not had similar problems with other English authors). Gave it 3 stars due to the fact that I couldn't wait for the book to end but the research was very good.

  • Gilly Plum
    2019-05-11 20:32

    Rathbone provides a very imaginative, almost quirky, narrative perspective on this fascinating story, and in giving the main characters modern speech he makes the past very accessible, so the reader has an unusual and original insight into this well-known story of the 1066 Conquest. Anyone wanting a more straightforward story of this episode of history would do better to read Helen Hollick's "Harold the King" - or read both as an interesting contrast of history can be transformed into fiction.

  • Katherine
    2019-05-20 02:33

    After being given this by my OH's Nan, I was determined to finish it, thinking she may want it back.Unfortunately she didn't. And I have to say, without that imperative to finish the book I did struggle. Luckily the short chapters were easily digested over a bowl of cereal in the morning...I'm not one for overly fictional historic books- therein lies the problem with this read. However it has interested me enough to try and learn more about the key characters and more about this era of history (where my knowledge is severely weak!)

  • Steve Williams
    2019-05-05 18:25

    This is an excellent book! Yet again I seem to have managed to find an author I love who is already, sadly, dead. At least I have, in theory the chance to catch up with his entire body of work at some point. Julian Rathbone spends a lot of time and effort delivering detailed personal character pieces, whilst decorating the whole with minor incidents such as the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings. Excellent work. People are people, whatever the time period, and this novel demonstrates it admirably.