Henry III - (2020) - Forthcoming

Book Number: 32

Henry III  (in 2 Volumes)

By David Carpenter (1947-  )

Professor of Medieval History, King’s College London

Volume 1: 1207-1258

Forthcoming - 12 May 2020

Volume 2: 1258-1272

Release Date To Be Advised


Henry III is another king who has had very few biographers over the years, and none from academia since Sir Maurice Powicke’s 1947 published ‘King Henry III and the Lord Edward and The Thirteenth Century’. Professor Carpenter’s biography of Henry III is the last unpublished book promised in the Methuen years of the series, other than the two which were abandoned (Alfred the Great and William & Mary). As far back as the 1989 Methuen title Edward the Confessor, this book was listed at “In preparation” for The English Monarchs series. This book was credited to Dr. David Carpenter and in the intervening years Carpenter has earned his professorship. In their list of series book on their website Yale announced in September 2019 this title is to be published in May 2000 (UK) and June 2000 (USA), ISBN 9780300238358.

Attentive readers will notice that Yale's page for this book takes the biography only until the revolution of 1258, and not beyond to the end of Henry’s reign at his death in 1272. The second volume for the years 1258 to 1272 will follow at a date to be announced. There are precedents for  lengthy studies of a reign being published: Wilfred Warren’s biography of Henry’s grandfather Henry II; David Bates’ book on the Conqueror; and Mark Ormrod’s study of Edward III. All  these books are about 800 pages, and a similar length and intensity is to be delivered for Henry’s reign of 56 years. A multi-volume work is not unknown from Yale; the publisher issued a two volume work on Napoleon (2008 and 2013) and also on Wellington (2013 and 2015) - with each volume about 700 pages long. After a thirty year wait for Henry III it is entirely appropriate to celebrate this major achievement by David Carpenter in such a style.

Professor Carpenter's website at Kings College London still bears an old note - pre-dating the publication of his 2014 published Magna Carta book - advising that he is working on his biography of Henry III "...which he now brought down to the great revolution of 1258". This indicates that at least five years ago his work had reached the stage of the forthcoming book and that work towards the remainder of Henry's reign was underway for what we now know is a second volume.

The sequential numbering of the series books is not something done by either Methuen or Yale; it is a bibliographic embellishment made by this website. Nevertheless, this two-volume release is being considered as one work and the thirty-second book published in the series. Therefore the two books will be catalogued as book 32a and 32b. It is possible that these two volumes will be punctuated by the next two books being released, Elizabeth I (2021) and James IV/I (date unknown), but as Professor Carpenter has been working on Henry III much longer than Simon Adams and Glenn Burgess respectively, the numbering is appropriate rather than nominating them as books 32 and 35.

Professor Carpenter is one of the leading scholars on the 13th Century and has already published research into Henry III: ‘The Minority of Henry III’ (1990), which examines the first decade or so of Henry’s reign; and ‘The Reign of Henry III’ (2003), which is a collection of sixteen of his papers and essays previously published in journals and five new essays. The latter book is hugely expensive to obtain, owing perhaps to a small print run by its specialist academic publisher, but ‘The Minority of Henry III’ can be obtained at a reasonable cost from used book vendors.

The ‘Minority of Henry III’ is notable for one further characteristic - it is published by Methuen in the UK and The University of California Press the USA. These are the two publishers who, at the time of its publication in 1990, were the publishers of the English Monarchs series. The book narrowly misses being classified as a ‘Companion’ book to the series for two reasons: It covers only the first decade of Henry’s reign, albeit in great detail; and the intended book in the series is to be published. Ultimately when Carpenter’s new book is published his earlier work will be somewhat eclipsed by the later work, but will continue to provide detail which may not be in the wider biography.

The author's introduction to ‘The Minority of Henry III’ states that the work started as the biography of Henry, but diverted into a study of his minority. The richness of the source material demanded that this period of Henry’s life have its own account. He writes, “I do no see the present book as in any way a 'Henry III, part I’. Rather it is a self-contained work on a vital period of English history, a period with its own themes and settings.” The relationship between this 1990 work and his 2020 biography of Henry will be clear only when the latter is released. The 1990 book is itself a substantial work, running to more than 400 pages of text plus the notes, references, index and so on. This suggests that the account of this early period of Henry’s reign (1216-1227) will not be as long in Professor Carpenter’s forthcoming full biography of the king.

Professor Carpenter’s page at the King’s College London website informs us that his Oxford doctorate was supervised by John Prestwich (1914-2003), a name that keen-eyed English Monarchs readers would recognise. J.O. Prestwich was the father of Michael Prestwich, the author of the 1988 biography of Edward I. John Prestwich was a highly regarded Oxford historian and his obituary is worth reading, not least of all to discover that during the war he worked at code-breaking at Bletchley Park on Enigma, the German encoding machine.

In other publishing activity on Henry III, and after years of having no modern biography of this king, we find that three biographies of Henry III have been published in quick succession: by John Paul Davis (Peter Owen Ltd.,  2013), Matthew Lewis (Amberley, 2016), and by Darren Baker (The History Press,  2017). The first two of these biographies will please the general reader, and those already well-versed in the 13th Century would be best served by by Darren Baker’s book, which is the closest of the three to an English Monarchs book. It is the most fulsome of the three at over 400 pages; the publisher, The History Press, is a highly regarded issuer of history titles; the research into the topic is evident in the notes and an extensive bibliography; and most tellingly it has a recommendation by Professor Carpenter on the rear cover. With these credentials it is this title that English Monarchs collectors will easily match to their collection and be satisfied that serious historical research underpins the writing.

In addition to these biographies of Henry, readers are referred to the 1998 biography of Henry III’s queen, Eleanor of Provence, by Margaret Howell. This is an outstanding study of Eleanor and the period of Henry’s rule. Even after the publication of Professor Carpenter’s book this will be an essential text in studying Henry III.

A special mention also must be made on this page of a biography of a key figure in the reign of Henry III. ‘Simon de Montfort’ by Margaret Wade Labarge (1918-2009), adjunct professor of history at Carleton University, Ottawa. Her study of Montfort is a sibling of the English Monarchs titles. It was published in 1962 by Eyre and Spottiswoode on the eve of their first English Monarchs book and is well worth adding to your collection, almost as a companion title to the series. It has been described as a general narrative for the undergraduate student, but in it’s time it was a well-regarded summary of current thought about Simon and Henry. Labarge also wrote a social history focusing on Simon de Montfort’s wife, Eleanor, called ‘A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century’, which was published by Eyre and Spottiswoode in 1965.

The standard and still in print modern academic account of Montfort is the 1996 biography by J.R. Maddicott, mentioned here because David Carpenter reviewed this book in The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Volume 47, Issue 2 (April 1996), describing it as "a masterpiece of a biography which will never be replaced.” Darren Baker has also written an account of Montfort, a revised edition of which was published late in 2018.

The advent of Professor Carpenter’s book will be seen by long-term readers of the series as finishing off the early reigns in spectacular fashion. For those of us who have been enjoying the English Monarchs books since the Methuen days, it has been a long road (and read) through the publications which now span almost all the reigns to the 18th Century. The earliest titles were, mostly, of medieval kings and for a while it seemed that this was the natural home of the series. The expansion under Yale into the Georgians and some Stuarts has given the series quite a different feel. However, Henry III will be a triumphant homecoming for English Monarchs; a return to familiar territory. Not quite a case of saving the best until last, because that would suggest a devaluation of the other wonderful studies in the series, but as the publication of Carpenter’s book approaches one could be forgiven for having the thought that this book is something of a capstone, slotting in as the final part of the of the narrative of the early kings.

Additional content:


You can watch Professor Carpenter discuss Magna Carta and King John in this 25 minute video on YouTube. If the video fails to play use this link.


Get a taste of the forthcoming book and the story of Henry III in Professor Carpenter’s lecture at the Chalke Valley History Festival (25th June 2013) where he spends an hour discussing Henry and the extraordinary Thirteenth century at this link.


ISBN data

Hardback - 9780300238358

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The cover, possibly a preliminary one, for Henry III Part 1, and subject to change by the publisher.