Lionheart and Lackland: King Richard, King John and the Wars of Conquest

by Frank Mclynn

Hardcover, 2006



Call number




Jonathan Cape (2006), Hardcover, 368 pages


From an acclaimed historian, a dual biography of ?good" king Richard the Lionheart and his ?evil" brother, King John.

User reviews

LibraryThing member k8_not_kate
Here is another fantastic history by McLynn. As usual, he makes figures that might be easily seem one-dimensional become lively and human. When I picked up this book its heft alone was daunting, but it never dragged and always kept me interested. It's dense, no doubt, but always entertains.
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Although I'm not usually a fan of military history, McLynn's treatment of battles is especially good. He manages to describe the action clearly and with enough explanation for someone not necessarily intimate with medieval warfare, while somehow also making them suspenseful. His other forte is how he handles the politics in Europe in the12th and 13th centuries. Just enough detail and analysis is provided to make the story interesting but also worthwhile to read.

There are two reasons I only gave "Richard and John" four and a half stars instead of the full five (McLynn's "1066: The Year of Three Battles" easily gets a perfect score in my book). The first is that McLynn falls into the trap of overusing modern cliches to explain otherwise difficult-to-grasp medieval political concepts. Some of this type of thing is welcome in my opinion, as it really can help make a point clear without spending too much text, but the amount of times McLynn "visits that well" (see, I can do it too) was distracting. The second reason this book fell a little short is that McLynn spends far too much time and energy defending the classic evaluation of Richard as the "good" king and John as the "bad" king. I take issue with any historian feeling that they have to evaluate the merit of figures from the distant past. I get that it can make for more interesting reading, but it's easy enough to draw your own conclusions when the facts are stated as thoroughly as McLynn does here. It's impossible not to judge one king against another, especially when they contrast as starkly as Richard and John, and it might be asking too much for a historian not to throw in his own judgment now and then, but McLynn beats you over the head with it at times.

I have to end on a positive note, because overall this was a great read and I recommend it: if McLynn could just write a history of England from the Roman invasion to modern times I would be a happy camper. All histories should be this engaging and complete.
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LibraryThing member Richard7920
Tremendous book that reads like a medieval soap opera that was the Angevin Dynasty.
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
The history of storied rulers who engaged in battles, adventures, and war even amongst themselves during the 12th century.


Original publication date

2006 (British ed. with title: Lionheart and Lackland)

Physical description

368 p.; 9.29 inches


0224062441 / 9780224062442
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