The majesty of power. The power of majesty. Both emerge clearly from John Julius Norwich’s lucidly written and life-enhancing Four Princes, an account of a time of turmoil, adventure, and development. As he writes, has there been a half-century like it? Here, packed into the space of a lifetime, are the High Renaissance, Luther and the Reformation, the exploration of the Americas, and a series of memorable monarchs, each of whom left an indelible imprint on the history of the European world.

Both with this splendid imperial and royal cast, and with the others who play a walk-on part from Erasmus to Luther, the privateer Barbarossa to the great architect of Suleiman’s Constantinople, Mimar Sinan, this is a story that proclaims the importance of the individual and, therefore, the value of particular characteristics and drives and the importance of the interaction of...


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