The sinking of the White Ship is one of the greatest maritime disasters in English history, more influential to our country than the loss of the Titanic. Here, Sunday Times bestselling author Charles Spencer tells the real story behind legend, and shows how one incredible shipwreck changed England’s course forever.
In 1120, the White Ship was known as the fastest ship afloat. When it sank, it was sailing from Normandy to England with the only legitimate heir to King Henry I, William of Atheling, aboard. He was drunk, carousing with his companions and pushing wine into the eager hands of the crew.
The next day only one of the three hundred who had boarded the ship was still alive. A butcher who had slunk aboard to pursue his wealthy debtors clung to the ship’s floating mast and was rescued, along with the story of the shipwreck: the blind-drunk crew, William’s gusto to overtake his father’s ship, the hull-shredding impact with submerged rock, the sinking of the White Ship, and the tragic fate of William, heir to England and Duke of Normandy.
William, a raucous, arrogant young Prince and the face of England’s future, had drowned along with a hefty score of the social elite. The absence of an obvious heir led to two decades of tremendous bloodshed as civil war erupted over who should inherit the crown. One incredible shipwreck and two decades of violent uncertainty; England’s course had changed forever.
Praise for the author: “Authoritative narrative history with the pace of a Jason Bourne film” BOOKS OF THE YEAR, EVENING STANDARD
“A truly thrilling tale which Spencer, a natural storyteller, delivers with erudition and wit … an exhilarating read” DAILY TELEGRAPH
“A book of quite extraordinary period atmosphere, the most diligent research and an appropriately cracking pace” SUNDAY EXPRESS
“It's a wonderful tale, and Spencer tells it with journalistic flair” THE TIMES
“Riveting…‘To Catch a King’ is as gripping as any thriller” SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
“One of the joys of this book…is just how close the reader gets to the action. The day-by-day account of the fugitive's doings provide delicious details. Charles Spencer is the perfect person to pass the story onto a new generation. His pacey, readable prose coasts elegantly through the great tale. ‘To Catch a King’ is a cracking read and those who come to it knowing little of the famous tale will find they have a treat in store” LITERARY REVIEW
“In this pacey slice of narrative history Charles Spencer…constructs this spare but atmospheric account of six weeks that changed the course of English history” MAIL ON SUNDAY