There were two Norman Conquests. John Julius Norwich is writing about the 'other' one, the conquest of Sicily. When on Christmas Day 1130, Roger de Hauteville had himself crowned first King of Sicily, the island entered a golden age. Norman and Italian, Greek and Arab, Lombard, Englishman and Jew all contributed o a culture that was as brilliant as it was cosmopolitan; to an intellectual climate that attracted the artists the artists and scholars of three continents; and to an atmosphere of racial and religious toleration unparalleled in Europe. Sixty-four years later to the day, the sun set on the Sicilian Kingdom; but its glory lives on in such dazzling monuments as the Palatine Chapel in Palermo or the cathedrals of Monreale and Cefalu. In this, the second volume, John Julius Norwich tells the story of the Kingdom in all its splendour, through the reigns of the grotesquely misnamed William the Bad and the Good to the bastard Tancred desperately struggling to preserve his country's independence. We read too of St Bernard, magnetic but insufferable, of Adrian 1V, the only English Pope and of a surprising number of other compatriots including Richard the Lionheart (behaving abominably in Messina), his sister Queen Joanna of Sicily, and the sinister Walter of the Mill, the only man in history regularly to sign himself Emir and Archbishop. This is narrative history at its most scintillating, but it is also a superb traveller's guide, listing, as it does, every Norman building still extant on the island. John Julius Norwich's full history of Norman Sicily is in two volumes: The Norman in the South and The Kingdom in the Sun. Both are available in Faber Finds.

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