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The Song of Simon de Montfort Reviews

The Song of Simon de Montfort by Sophie Therese Ambler

The Song of Simon de Montfort

England's First Revolutionary and the Death of Chivalry

Sophie Therese Ambler

4.44 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: Picador
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication date: 28 May 2019
ISBN: 9781509837571

A riveting account of the warrior knight who overthrew his king and seized the reins of power in medieval England.

5 stars out of 5
12 Jun 2019

"an astonishingly assured debut by an extremely talented young historian"

The challenges of writing a medieval biography are obvious. The sources are scant and the mindset of the subject is alien. Ambler succeeds triumphantly, however, by deploying a surprisingly rich variety of records, chronicles and letters – some never used before – to “reveal how Simon conceived of his identity, and his career in England, within the Montfort family tradition”... This is an astonishingly assured debut by an extremely talented young historian. Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, it traces the remarkable life of a military and political giant of the medieval period who has never been more convincingly portrayed.

Reviews

5 stars out of 5
Noel Malcolm
9 Jun 2019

"a remarkable book"

This is a remarkable book: beautifully presented (with good maps and illustrations), finely written and based on a deep, scholarly knowledge of the sources. It’s rare to find a story and a storyteller so well matched.

4 stars out of 5
2 Jun 2019

"A new biography of Simon de Montfort is enthralling and horrifying in equal parts"

If Ambler details the death of chivalry, she also exposes the dark underbelly of that very culture — a culture that feared outsiders and prized violence, while purporting to embody the values of “honour” and bravery. The Song of Simon de Montfort is a well-researched, elegantly written and lively portrait of a problematic figure.

4 stars out of 5
Gareth Russell
18 May 2019

"The medieval nobleman dared to take on a king, but the price was high"

Ambler, who teaches medieval history at Lancaster University, has written one of the finest medieval biographies of recent years. She deals well with the inevitable problems of dozens of people with similar names and a litany of battles, and is largely successful in treading the line between academic rigour and accessibility — although there are a few monumental footnotes. These may be permissible in a research paper, but they should be relegated to the endnotes of a popular work, especially when they begin to take up half or three quarters of the page.