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  • The White Ship

  • Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I’s Dream
  • By: Charles Spencer
  • Narrated by: Richard Trinder
  • Length: 9 hrs and 8 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (24 ratings)

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The White Ship

By: Charles Spencer
Narrated by: Richard Trinder
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Publisher's Summary

The sinking of the White Ship in 1120 is one of the greatest disasters England has ever suffered. In one catastrophic night, the king’s heir and the flower of Anglo-Norman society were drowned and the future of the crown was thrown violently off course.

In a riveting narrative, Charles Spencer follows the story from the Norman Conquest through to the decades that would become known as the Anarchy: a civil war of untold violence that saw families turn in on each other with English and Norman barons, rebellious Welsh princes and the Scottish king all playing a part in a desperate game of thrones. All because of the loss of one vessel – the White Ship – the medieval Titanic.

©2020 Charles Spencer (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"How a drunk teenager shipwrecked the monarchy.... As colourful and racy narrative history goes, this absolutely gallops. The White Ship whips through 100 years of complex history from the Norman Conquest to Henry II." (Daily Mail

"Rooted in the medieval chronicles, but crafted like a Hollywood thriller. Spencer is one of the finest narrative historians around.... This story fairly rattles towards it terrible denouement." (Mail on Sunday

"Charles Spencer has shown himself to be a perceptive and lively historian.... A gifted storyteller.... A complex tale spanning decades, with a rich, but rarely attractive cast of characters, pivoted on one single, tragic winter evening. It is an event and a period of history that should be better known, and now it will be." (The Times

What listeners say about The White Ship

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    4 out of 5 stars

A récit of staggering detail and colour

Before hearing this book I had no idea of this historical period .
That so much is known of the aristocracy and governance of England is testament to the scribes of that era. The density of detail in facts, descriptions of character, depiction of scenes that it is impossible to absorb all.
I allowed it wash over me as I marvelled at the propensity for battles, sieges, changed alliances, betrayals and aspirations of legitimate and illegitimate potential royal heirs.
Henry 1sts masterly attempt to stabilise a kingdom was ruined merely by the excessive drinking of a ship’s crew, such are the fragile turns of history and by comparison , also our own lives.
This book profoundly altered my previous over-simplistic view of history. I recommend it to those with the stamina to hear it out!

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Great Revelations

A wonderful telling of a amazing story lost in the annuls of time. How history would certainly have been quite different if it were not for a particular rock unseen by those on board the White Ship. There is revealed a large secondary story of family connections across Europe. Loved the book Thank you very much Charles Spencer. Heather Herbert

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A thoroughly enjoyable read about an often overlooked part of history

Often, at least in my experience, we overlook the anarchy when writing and reading history books. I’ve read a fair few which discuss British monarchy and it’s sort of like ‘William the conqueror was great, Henry I was also great, white ship was bad, there was a 18/19 year war and then Henry II was good!’.

This book doesn’t just not do that, it’s ENTIRELY about that often overlooked, or, at most, summarily described in a chapter or two part of history.

I didn’t even know Charles Spencer was a writer, but this is a good book to reflect his good education. It’s a very easy read if you’re new to this period of history, and also very interesting and teeming with information about important nobles around this time period.

I do disagree with critics who state the title is misleading as, despite how he does not thoroughly detail every single little nitpick about the white ship, it’s a book centred around how that disaster shaped England and the monarchy. It essentially details the whole Norman rule of England from the conqueror to Stephen, and described the disaster in the middle. The context really adds to the purpose of this book - to explain WHY this disaster was so destructive. It hammers home how important this was and, even now, how it was the most game-changing shipwreck in history. The final minutes of the book suggest my assessment of this to be correct as it then summarises the importance of the white ship disaster in the context of all we’ve read.

I’d suggest this book strongly for history lovers, especially if you’ve been a big fan of the Plantagenets and want to a little more about the turmoil leading to them :).

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Great Book

A great book covering an obscure yet seismic event in English history which ultimately extinguished the Norman ruling line in England and presaged the coming of the Plantagenet Dynasty. Spencer is a masterful storyteller, weaving an entertaining yet always informative narrative. Trinder also provides an excellent performance. A must read for anyone interested in Medieval English history.

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