Four Princes

Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe
Narrated by: Julian Elfer
Length: 7 hrs and 57 mins
4.3 out of 5 stars (114 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

John Julius Norwich - whom the Wall Street Journal called "the very model of a popular historian" - has crafted a big, bold tapestry of the early 16th century, when Europe and the Middle East were overshadowed by a quartet of legendary rulers, all born within a 10-year period:

Francis I of France, the personification of the Renaissance, who became a highly influential patron of the arts and education.

Henry VIII, who was not expected to inherit the throne but embraced the role with gusto, broke with the Roman Catholic Church, and appointed himself head of the Church of England.

Charles V, the most powerful and industrious man at the time, was unanimously elected Holy Roman Emperor.

Suleiman the Magnificent stood apart as a Muslim, and brought the Ottoman Empire to its apogee of political, military, and economic power.

Against the vibrant background of the Renaissance, these four men laid the foundations for modern Europe and the Middle East, as they collectively impacted the culture, religion, and politics of their respective domains.

©2016 John Julius Norwich (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"British polymath, TV personality, and historian Norwich delivers lively biographies of all four characters...Bad behavior makes for entertaining history, and age has not diminished Norwich's skills." ( Kirkus)

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    4 out of 5 stars

For the most part, very informative.

Since everything else in this book seemed so well researched, I was very disappointed when the author claimed that Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife, had 6 fingers on one of her hands. Any historian worth their salt knows that she certainly did NOT. This was a myth spread around by Catholic propagandists after her death. Otherwise, I thought that this was a great book.

7 people found this helpful

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Really great

Fantastic story! Fascinating period of history and to have the interconnections of the major players of this era is fabulous. Norwich asway does a fabulous job. Had a few moment when the pronunciation by the author annoyed me but easily overlooked.

5 people found this helpful

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A great history thereof few issues of particular note.

I’ll begin this review by stating that Four Princes is a solid work, definitely enhanced by the audiobook format; One might’ve grown bored or lacked for time if the work wasn’t in such an easily accessible form, or brilliantly narrated by Julian Elfer. The man has a sort of British sound to him, not overbearing or causing a rift in what could feasibly he understood by an American listener, and personally, it lent a sense of erudite credibility to it all in my ears as I went about my business listening to this thing. However, one should note that Suleiman most assuredly isn’t covered as heavily as the other three namesakes thereof this work. He’s still given plenty of time, but his history is much more general than the absurd depth the book gives Henry VII. Brilliant aside from that, certainly worth a listening to if you require the information therein.

3 people found this helpful

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A good place to start

This book is a good intro to the period. Prior to reading I knew quite a lot about Henry VIII a little about Francis I and nothing about Suliman and Charles V. This book gave me a good surface level understanding of the latter 3. It encourgaed me to learn more about them.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent Historic Analysis Written into Stories

Where does Four Princes rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I really enjoyed this book. Excellent stories and historic analysis wrapped in humor and important, interesting insights. I love John Julius Norwich's ability to take dry history and turn it into fascinating stories. You will be captivated by the book and the narrator is excellent. I'm looking forward to listening to one of Norwich's other great books, A Short History of Byzantium, to appear in Audible, narrated by Julian Elfer. Elfer is an excellent narrator, with a British accent, and excellent command of French and other European languages.

What did you like best about this story?

John Julius Norwich weaves together the stories, personalities, and historic impacts of four Kings from the early 1500's. His brilliance conveying historic events and highlighting historic significance with energy, color, and humor, is captivating.

Which scene was your favorite?

Norwich's description of Suleiman the Magnificant's invasion of the Knights of St. John on Malta is amazing. Norwich does an excellent job explaining the terrain and St. John fortifications, and the Ottoman's efforts to capture the island. He explains, so well, the reason that Suleiman the Magnificant's chose to attack the island.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Brilliance and Ineptitude in the Early 1500's.

Any additional comments?

I listened to another book, "The Medichi" before this book, just by chance. "The Medichi" was a great background for this book.

2 people found this helpful

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lovely narrator; entertaining stories

If you like history but on a lighter level, this is a great one. Lovely narration and a flowing but not too detailed history of 4 key figures in the 1500s. No insights into the average person or every day life, just royalty . Easy to listen to and entertaining.

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Excellent overview of 16th century Europe

Norwich is an outstanding writer of popular history. Wonderful presentation of Henry VIII, Francis I, Empreror Charles V and Sulieman the Magnificent and how their impact on Europe and the world.