Four men and a lot of power

I am reasonably familiar with the events of sixteenth century Europe and especially with Tudor England but I have often read about each country separately. John Julius Norwich’s book Four Princes is about the interaction between the four great leaders of the age – Henry VII of England, Charles V of Spain/Holy Roman Empire/other assorted bits of Europe, Francis I of France and Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire. It was interesting to concentrate on the interactions between the rulers and to see how often policy and events were affected by personality.

There was little in the chapters on Henry, Charles and Francis which I didn’t already know but the revelation for me was the chapter on Suleiman and the interactions with the Ottoman Empire. This is not something I had picked up from my reading around the era and from courses at school and university. Reading this account added something new to my understanding of the period and I learned enough to know that I need to read more about the man and his Empire and their interaction with the other great powers.

This is not a long book and there are only a couple of chapters about each ruler to explain their background and context, give the facts about their reign and to talk about interactions between them all. There’s obviously a lot left out but the book covers the essentials and makes a coherent narrative of sixteenth century European history. If any of it interests the reader they will need to read more about it elsewhere. I think this book is well written and would be accessible to anyone who didn’t have an in-depth knowledge of the period – I certainly felt that reading it was worthwhile.

One thought on “Four men and a lot of power

  1. This sounds really interesting. I know a fair bit about Henry and Charles V but certainly very little about Suleman so I’m going to look this one up.


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