Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

InSeven Kings of England, Geoffrey Trease has given the reader an overview of English history through biographies of seven rulers chosen for the drama of their lives, as well as for being representative of different periods of English history. The book is chronological, beginning with Alfred the Great, during the time of the Saxons in the ninth century, and concluding with the death of George VI in 1952. Each king has a brief but detailed chapter devoted to his life, the period of time in which he lived, and his accomplishments, both good and bad.

Trease precedes each biography with a brief sketch of English history covering the intervening years. This format places each king in his proper historical perspective and relates him to the other rulers. The foreword contains a bibliography of the sixteen major works consulted by Trease, which include scholarly biographies and histories by recognized historians.

Each of the chapters has a title that relates to the theme or main characteristic that Trease is emphasizing. Alfred is the “shepherd of the English” because he was able to save his Saxon people from the onslaught of the Danes. Trease begins with the story of Alfred’s visit to Rome as a child, which led to his interest in learning and his devout Christianity. Among Alfred’s contributions to English law and literature is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

William the Conqueror is the “self-made king,” the duke of Normandy who was unswerving in his determination to have what he wanted—whether it was Matilda of Flanders to have as his bride or England to rule. According to Trease, William became king by defeating Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 through a combination of luck and cunning. He went on to develop the idea of a...

(The entire section is 734 words.)