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Books

This month’s best historical reads

Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI

BOOK OF THE MONTH

Head of Zeus, £30, hardback, 736 pages

ALAMY X2

There are plenty of things to learn when you’re just nine months old – and it’s fair to say that how to rule a country isn’t usually one of them. Yet this was the position facing the infant Henry VI in 1422, and as Lauren Johnson’s new biography of the king explores, this childhood had a lasting impact on both his character and reign. Charting how his positive attributes as a man often, sadly, didn’t translate into his strength as a ruler, she explores how a pacifist came to be plagued by war, and how those around him sought to gain control.

Henry weds Margaret of Anjou, a determined woman who would prove to have greater mettle than her husband
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About BBC History Revealed

William Shakespeare had humble beginnings – how did he transform into England’s greatest playwright? We explore how the ‘upstart crow’ became so widely celebrated. Plus: The mysterious assassins of the medieval Muslim world are explored, we dig into the diaries of Samuel Pepys and take a look at the life of Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians.