Within nine years, four of Europe’s most important monarchs were born: Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. From best friends to mortal enemies, the relationships between these men dominated Europe during the Renaissance and guided the course of history. In a clear and accessible style, Norwich tells their stories - their loves, flaws, and obsessions – and casts the story of Europe in a riveting new light.
Recommended by Keith Sheridan, Dubray Stillorgan
'Never before had the world seen four such giants co-existing. Sometimes friends, more often enemies, always rivals, these four men together held Europe in the hollow of their hands.' Four great princes - Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, Charles V of Spain and Suleiman the Magnificent - were born within a single decade. Each looms large in his country's history and, in this book, John Julius Norwich broadens the scope and shows how, against the rich background of the Renaissance and destruction of the Reformation, their wary obsession with one another laid the foundations for modern Europe. Individually, each man could hardly have been more different -- from the scandals of Henry's six wives to Charles's monasticism - but, together, they dominated the world stage.
From the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a pageant of jousting, feasting and general carousing so lavish that it nearly bankrupted both France and England, to Suleiman's celebratory pyramid of 2,000 human heads (including those of seven Hungarian bishops) after the battle of Mohacs; from Anne Boleyn's six-fingered hand (a potential sign of witchcraft) that had the pious nervously crossing themselves to the real story of the Maltese falcon, Four Princes is history at its vivid, entertaining best. With a cast list that extends from Leonardo da Vinci to Barbarossa, and from Joanna the Mad to le roi grand-nez, John Julius Norwich offers the perfect guide to the most colourful century the world has ever known and brings the past to unforgettable life.