The Madness Of Kings


From Caligula to Bush and Blair, the author takes us on a tour of the insanity of leaders. There is an amazing amount of information packed into the pages but the stories are so involving that the reader is not conscious of the amount of knowledge. It may be that a leader does not have to be mad but it can help if he is. In the same way, the author did not have to write with wit and humour but it helps to relieve some of the horror in the tales. It is a difficult act of balance to write of kings and to finish with politicians who would be kings. That balance has not been entirely achieved. In the earlier chapters, kings were kings, singular characters and all view from the perspective of history. Madness is also a difficult concept to work with because it is a judgement from perceptions. Mad George, George III rather than George W Bush, is an example of a monarch who was naturally a kind and gentle person who suffered from a recurring condition that many would argue was not clinical insanity. Caligula may have been bad as much as mad. Henry VIII and Ivan both started out with promise and displayed attractive qualities, their personalities changing with their experiences. The author tackles all of these issues and produces a narrative that grips the reader and entertains at the same time. The closing stages of the book suffer from the realities of modern personality driven life. Many of those political leaders who see themselves as significant are only enjoying a brief period of notoriety and history may bury them under more important people and events. In a litigious age it is potentially dangerous to treat current personalities in the same way as historical figures but the most difficult aspect may be that today’s ‘mad kings’ are pigmies when compared to the characters who provided some much red meat in the earlier chapters

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