Great Tales from English History: The Truth About King by Robert Lacey

By Robert Lacey

With perception, humor and interesting aspect, Lacey brings brilliantly to existence the tales that made England--from Ethelred the Unready to Richard the Lionheart, the Venerable Bede to Piers the Ploughman.

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The first reaction of the long-haired monks who had argued the Celtic case was to leave Northumbria disgruntled, returning to Iona and eventually to Ireland. There they discovered, however, that some Irish churches were already calculating Easter according to the latest Roman system – and the Roman tonsure eventually followed. In due course razors would shave the necks and scalps of all Irish monks in the Roman crown-of-thorns style. Six years later, in , King Oswy, whose voice had been so decisive in Rome’s victory, died as he was setting out on a pilgrimage to the Holy See of St Peter in Rome.

On the contrary, he liked what they had to offer – learning, piety, discipline, and a ready-made band of activists who were keen to go out and spread these solid virtues among his people. Augustine helped the king draw up the first Anglo-Saxon law code. The Christian magic was a potent and modern magic, and he had a special reason for urgency – Augustine and his missionaries warned all they met that the end of the world was nigh and that God’s terrible judgement was at hand. Fourteen hundred years later we speak of the early Church, but Gregory, Augustine and their fellow-believers did not know they were only at the beginning of a very long story.

He managed a soothing tone when dealing with the local chieftains of Britain, acknowledging that they had rights. He honoured them as ‘kings’ – which, in turn, boosted his own status as their emperor. Then in   Claudius died, to be succeeded by his stepson Nero, whose name would become proverbial for wilfulness and cruelty. qxd 2/11/04 9:38 AM Page 18 B O A D I C E A , WA R R I O R Q U E E N   A Romans had to pay a price for his protection. So when Prasutagus, the leader of the Iceni people, died in   he NY BRITISH ‘KING’ WHO LIVED UNDER THE prudently left half his wealth and territories to the emperor Nero as a form of ‘death duty’.

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