In this week’s TLS – a note from the Editor
Bad English kings were rich, the good ones poor. Such a conclusion, familiar and almost comforting to those anxious about our modern world, seems still somewhat unexpected for the Middle Ages. This week Chris Given-Wilson reviews the first edited and published account of “bad king” Richard II’s treasure, an inventory on a 28-metre parchment roll in the National Archives. Visitors to the Tower of London can be forgiven for forming the impression that our royal collection of crowns and orbs dates back to the misty origins of England. Of the 2,300 items listed in 1399, only one survives, a handsome crown that is on display in Munich, a piece valued at a mere £246 at the time when Richard’s “great crown” was worth £33,584. Richard II was a greedy hoarder of wealth until he was murdered by an heir whom he had dispossessed. So was Edward II, another little-lamented monarch whose death by red-hot poker was discussed in a recent issue of the TLS. Those “good kings”, Edward I, Edward III and Henry V, died deeply in debt.
That cheap surviving £246 crown was quite good enough for queens, a gender-based distinction in wealth that has taken many centuries to lessen in any serious way. Paul Seabright reviews two new books about women and power in the modern workplace, covering education, ambition, the conditions for dispensing with feminism and the relationship (inverse, it seems) between early sex and career success. One of them, by the Facebook Chief Executive Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, has attracted much more attention than the other, by Alison Wolf. Seabright believes that readers in years to come may give them the opposite priority. Sandberg’s advice is peculiarly weak on irony and seems directed only at women who want to be like her, or to have children like her, ideally both.
Frances Wilson, reviewing Judith Mackrell’s “sober and sure-footed” Flappers, notes the similar female predicaments of Zelda Fitzgerald and Dorothy Wordsworth. “Each had her sensibility plundered to enrich the writing of the man she loved.”