With the papacy embattled in recent years, it is essential to have the perspective of one of the world's most accomplished historians. In "Absolute Monarchs," John Julius Norwich captures nearly two thousand years of inspiration and devotion, intrigue and scandal. The men (and maybe one woman) who have held this position of infallible power over millions have ranged from heroes to rogues, admirably wise to utterly decadent. Norwich, who knew two popes and had private audiences with two others, recounts in riveting detail the histories of the most significant popes and what they meant politically, culturally, and socially to Rome and to the world.
Norwich presents such brave popes as Innocent I, who in the fifth century successfully negotiated with Alaric the Goth, an invader civil authorities could not defeat, and Leo I, who two decades later tamed (and perhaps paid off) Atilla the Hun. Here, too, are the scandalous figures: Pope Joan, the mythic woman said (without any substantiation) to have been elected in 855, and the infamous "pornocracy," the five libertines who were descendants or lovers of Marozia, debauched daughter of one of Rome's most powerful families.
"Absolute Monarchs" brilliantly portrays such reformers as Pope Paul III, "the greatest pontiff of the sixteenth century," who reinterpreted the Church's teaching and discipline, and John XXIII, who in five short years starting in 1958 "opened the church to the the twentieth century," instituting reforms that led to Vatican II. Norwich brings the story to the present day with Benedict XVI, who is coping with a global priest sex scandal.
Epic and compelling, "Absolute Monarchs" is the astonishing story of some of history's most revered and reviled figures, men who still cast light and shadows on the vatican and the world today.
About the Author
Lady Diana Cooper was born on August 29th, 1892, daughter ostensibly of the son of the 8th Duke of Rutland, in fact of the Hon. Harry Cust. Defying all her mother's efforts to stop her, she became a nurse at Guy's Hospital during the First World War and married Alfred Duff Cooper, DSO, son of a surgeon from Norwich, who became one of the Second World War's key politicians. Her startling beauty resulted in her playing the lead in two silent films and then Max Reinhardt's The Miracle.
For the war effort, Diana converted their seaside cottage in Sussex into a small farm. In 1944, following the Liberation of Paris, the couple moved into the British Embassy, Paris. They then retired to a house at Chantilly just outside the city. After Duff's death in 1954, Diana remained there until 1960, when she
moved back to London. She died in 1986.
John Julius Norwich, the only son of Diana and Duff Cooper, is the author of histories of the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire, the Mediterranean, and, most recently, "Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy". He has also written on architecture, music, and the history plays of Shakespeare, and has presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.
Michael Page has been recording audiobooks since 1984 and has over two hundred titles to his credit. He has won several "AudioFile" Earphones Awards, including for "The War That Killed Achilles" by Caroline Alexander and "The Lies of Locke Lamora" by Scott Lynch.
"Norwich doesn't skirt controversies, ancient and present, in this broad, clear-eyed assessment." ---Kirkus