Title, Author

Fixer & Fighter - The Life of Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent, 1170-1243, Brian Harwood

Hubert de Burgh was one of the key figures during the reign of King John and Henry III, taking part in many of John's wars, and then playing a major part in defending his infant son Henry against the French supported rebels who had appeared to be close to victory before the death of John. Hubert was a medieval version of the self made man, rising to high rank as a result of his own efforts, and responsible for the successful defence of Dover Castle, and for the crucial naval victory at Sandwich, which isolated the French forces already in England.

Hubert didn't have a smooth career. King John used him as a scapegoat after the fall of Chinon, while he later fell dramatically out of favour with Henry and even spent some time on the run before being at least partially restored. This adds an extra level of excitement to the story, giving it more variety than the lives of many Medieval magnates. Both King John and Henry III must have been frustrating men to work for, and that comes across clearly here.

It is nice to see good coverage of the non-political side of his life - his estates, homes and religious and charitable foundations. One of his charitable foundations, the Maison Dieu hospital at Dover is still in use as a public building over 800 years after it was founded.

The author perhaps overplays the 'Englishness' of a man who spent significant parts of his career defending the French possessions of the last of the Angevin kings, and who's later fall was part of fairly standard medieval factional politics within the English court (as well as the general desire of most kings who came to the throne as children to remove their early mentors from power). There are also some comments on his personality, which given the nature of most medieval sources can’t be more than educated guesses.

Other than that, this is an excellent biography of a key figure in English medieval history, tracing Hubert's career through some of the most turbulent periods of English medieval history.

1 - Richard I 'the Lionheart' 1189-1199
2 - 1189-1199 Castles and Crusades
3 - John 1199-1216
4 - 1202-1207 Castellan in Conflict
5 - 1207-1213 From Scapegoat to Seneschal of Poitou
6 - 1213-1215 King John's French Farce
7 - 1215 Rebellion and Magna Charta
8 - Henry III, 1216 and After
9 - 24 August 1217 The Great Battle of Sandwich: Hubert's finest hour
10 - 1217-1221 Recovery of the Realm
11 - 1221-1226 King in all but Name
12 - 1227-1230 A Foreboding of Disaster
13 - 1230-1231 Henry's Odyssey of Wasted Time
14 - 1232-1234 Fortitude and Survival
15 - 1234-1243 The Sunset Years of England's Elder Statesman
16 - In Memoriam

Author: Brian Harwood
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 176
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2016

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