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Reviews 223 perhaps excessively dismissive of evidence about Elizabeth's struggle to come to terms with the death ofher mother), this interpretation certainly helps to explain the queen's life-long commitment to such losing causes as recovering Calais and keeping the Church of England as close as practically possible to the Henrician version. It alsofitswith recent scholarship which has explored the tensions within the early Elizabethan regime. Whilst her most influential councillors sought to revive the Edwardian heritage which many of them had helped to shape, in Starkey's view, Elizabeth herself sought to continue the inheritance of her father. Paul E. J. Hammer Department ofHistory University ofAdelaide Strohm, Paul, England's Empty Throne. Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation 1399-1422, N e w Haven / London, Yale University Press, 1998; cloth, pp. xiv, 274; R R P US$35; ISBN 0-300-07544-8. In this study of chronicles and other texts written during the reigns of the Lancastrian kings, Paul Strohm refines the approach used to such excellent effect in his earlier book, Social Chaucer (1989). There, Chaucer's work was reinterpreted in the light of contemporary historical data relating particularly to social status. This new book, which, according to Strohm, 'employs literary hermeneutics in pursuit ofhistorical understanding' (p. xii), beams a strong light on the textual evidence produced during the reigns of Henry IV and Henry V in order to assess its practical and ideological functions. The premise of the book is that, in seeking to legitimate his usurpation of Richard II and consolidate his right to rule, Henry IV exerted control over the textual production of historical 'truths'. B y foregrounding documentary accounts that validated his rule, and attempting to suppress or pre-empt any that did not, Henry and his supporters constructed an ideological consensus accepting the legitimacy ofhis kingship. Strohm also emphasises that they were inevitably unable to prevent or keep a check on alternative 'utopian' attitudes which persisted in surfacing from among Henry's subjects. The seven chapters of the book focus on some of these areas ofresistance to Lancastrian rule, the means taken to suppress them, and the extent to which royal power was successful. At the forefront of the evidence are accounts of the 224 Reviews Lollard movement. The second chapter, for example, examines the trial and burning of the priest William Sautre in 1401 as a significant example of the Lollard threat to the social order and the way in which it was dealt with. Though historical versions of the Lollard movement, both those produced at the time and subsequent revisions, seem to stress the seriousness of the Lollard threat, Strohm is acutely aware that texts, including historical ones, construct expedient truths and that the reality may not have been a simple case ofpopular resistance crushed by the power of the state. H e debates the extent to which the Lollards may have represented an essentially weak and unthreatening counter-culture whose individual members were constructed as enemies of the state (and death by burning was at once part of that construction and its punishment) because their theological beliefs called into question Henry IV's right to rule. In a more detailed examination of the ways in which historical 'truths' are produced and reinvented, partly with the assistance of twentieth-century historiography , Strohm demonstrates that the Lancastrian version ofthe Oldcastle rebellion of 1414-20, during the reign ofHenry V, has proved remarkably resilient, despite its evident bias towards the king and its ideological expediency. Following a meticulous review ofthe written evidence, as absorbing as a detective story, Strohm concludes that the story of John Oldcastle - himself a fictionalised construct even while still alive - was used to confirm Henry V s status as God's proven choice ofking. Other chapters review, in equally compelling detail, the contemporary fictions surrounding the death and burial of Richard II, the counterfeiting activities of William Carsewell, the career of Joanne of Navarre, wife of Henry IV, and the role of courtiers and advisers to the Lancastrian kings, enacted specifically through the poetry of Hoccleve and Lydgate with its elisions and self-contradictions . For his sources, Strohm draws on a wide range of chronicles and...


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pp. 223-225
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