Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent, and the Obsessions That Forged Modern Europe

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Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent, and the Obsessions That Forged Modern Europe
By John Julius Norwich
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017
304 pp.
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There must always be an England, if for no other reason than to produce characters such as Norwich. Descended from King William IV and one of his mistresses, Dorothea Jordan, Norwich has served as a successful diplomat, appeared as a popular radio show host, helped lead the World Monuments Fund and many other charitable causes, and authored more than 20 books. The most recent of these is a popular history of four great kings born between 1491 and 1500. The Spanish Habsburg Charles V was named Holy Roman emperor before coming closer than any pre-Napoleonic leader to conquering all of Europe. He tangled with Francis I of France, a true Renaissance prince who patronized the arts and launched an overseas empire. In an unprecedented act for a Christian king, Francis sided with Suleiman the Magnificent, who ruled over the Ottoman Empire at its political and cultural height and fought his way to Hungary before dying at the gates of Szeged. As the English are wont to do, King Henry VIII stood apart from European squabbles. In order to resolve marital disputes, he famously renounced Catholicism and founded the Church of England. The fates of these four intertwined as they befriended and opposed one another in efforts to dominate Europe. In the end, however, none succeeded in imposing dynastic control and religious conformity, and ever since, European states have been united only in their diversity.

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