King of the North Wind: The Life of Henry II in Five Acts

Written by:
Claudia Gold
Narrated by:
Jonathan Oliver

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
July 2018
13 hours 2 minutes
Henry II conquered the largest empire of any English medieval king. Yet it is the people around him we remember: his wife Eleanor, whom he seduced from the French king; his son Richard the Lionheart; Thomas Becket, murdered in his cathedral. Who was this great, yet tragic king? For fans of Dan Jones, George RR Martin and Bernard Cornwell.

The only thing that could have stopped Henry was himself.

Henry II had all the gifts of the gods. He was charismatic, clever, learned, empathetic, a brilliant tactician, with great physical strength and an astonishing self-belief. Henry was the creator of the Plantagenet dynasty of kings, who ruled through eight generations in command of vast lands in Britain and Europe. Virtually unbeaten in battle, and engaged in a ceaseless round of conquest and diplomacy, Henry forged an empire that matched Charlemagne’s.

It was not just on the battlefield that Henry excelled; he presided over a blossoming of culture and learning termed ‘the twelfth century Renaissance’, pursued the tenets of reason over religious faith, and did more to advance the cause of justice and enforce the rule of law than any other English monarch before or since. Contemporaries lauded his greatness and described him as their ‘Alexander of the West’.

And yet it is the people around him who are remembered: his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, whom he seduced away from the French king; his sons Richard the Lionheart and John; Thomas Becket, murdered in his cathedral. Henry – so famed during his lifetime – has slipped into the shadows of history. King of the North Wind offers a fresh evaluation of this great yet tragic ruler.

Written as a historical tragedy, it tells how this most talented of kings came into conflict with those closest to him, to become the most haunted.
Profile Avatar
Matthew M.

A very nice biography of Henry II, pleasantly read by Jonathan Oliver. If you enjoy medieval studies, this is for you, and if you don't know much about this monumentally important king, what are you waiting for? My criticisms are - (1) the book spends much more time on Henry's ancestors at the beginning of the book than it does his legacy at the end. (2) It's very hard to be objective in approaching the Becket controversy (but see John Guy's biography of Becket for a heroic effort in doing so); for her part, Gold seems to come down on the side of "yes, Henry could be a jerk, but Becket was completely unreasonable and foolish and was pretty much asking to be murdered." Gold also leaves out a lot of Becket's, and the Pope's, intentions in the controversy. Gold seems to imply that Becket's insult of one of the heavily armed and angry knights who confronted him provoked the knights to murder, while also leaving out the entire interview between the knights and Becket that preceded their invasion of the cathedral. It does not help that Oliver portrays Becket's words in a villanous, pedantic tone. That said, this is a biography of Henry, not Becket, and the illustration of Henry's incredible strengths and ruinious flaws is spot on. Highly recommended.

1 book added to cart
View Cart