The First English Hero: The Life of Ranulf de Blondeville (Paperback)
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Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester, was, by his own declaration, a Norman. Possessing, at one time or another, a Dukedom, numerous Earldoms and Viscounties on both sides of the Channel, he owned and controlled about a third of both England and Normandy. Skilled in siegecraft, Ranulf spent a lifetime at war alongside first the impetuous King Richard the Lionheart and then his reviled brother King John. He ably commanded their armies and earned a reputation for both his offensive spirit and his tenacity in defense as first Richard and then John loosened their grip on Normandy and Ranulf lost his homeland. Loyal to a fault, in 1215 Ranulf refused to sign Magna Carta and spent the next two years as England’s main defense against a French-backed rebel army. Following John’s death, at Gloucester Cathedral he was offered the regency of all England. He graciously refused, and his military might tipped the balance in support of the child king Henry III. Within months the French fled in disarray. In 1218 Ranulf went on crusade where he earned a reputation as a fearsome fighter and leader, covering himself with glory and winning the admiration of Rome. Later, he used his experience of war to build spectacular castles and his diplomacy secured economic prosperity for much of the Midlands. Aged 60, he returned spectacularly to the field of battle in France. He died at the height of his fame in 1232 and even Henry III rushed to be at his bedside. It was said in France that the devil himself had thrown his soul out of hell—even in death he was simply too hot to handle! By Ranulf’s own declaration, his body was that of a foreigner; but surely his heart and soul belong to England. This is the story not just of one man, but of the birth pangs of the English nation.
About the Author
Iain Soden read Classics at Durham University and for more than 30 years has been a professional archaeologist, specializing in aspects of medieval England. He is the author of numerous archaeological reports, journal articles, and conference papers and has been a regular contributor to radio and television. He is Director of Iain Soden Heritage Services Ltd (www.isheritage.co.uk) and lives in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire.