By 1423, the year that Louis XI, King of France (1461-83) was born, much of France was ruled by the English. To unify France after the Hundred Years War under his rule ("I am France" he would proclaim to his rebellious vassals) became the id?e fixe of Louis? life. The manner in which he largely succeeded in accomplishing this is the subject of this dazzling, and justly celebrated, book. Unhappily married to Margaret, daughter of James I of Scotland, at the age of 13 he devoted himself to political machinations and to learning the art of kingship. Influenced by malcontent nobles, and impatient to reign, he headed revolts against his father, Charles VII and was eventually exiled to Dauphin?. Here he proved himself an able innovator and administrator setting up a chancellery, a university and most significantly reducing the nobles to obedience. After forging a secret alliance with Savoy he fled to the Netherlands ahead of his father's advancing army. When Charles VII died in 1461, Louis assumed the throne of France, and the country almost immediately degenerated into a state of anarchy. The gripping story of how Louis, known as "the universal spider" for his incessant machinations and intrigues and his network of communications and spies throughout the country, gradually subdued the nobles, secured more territory and unified France takes up the bulk of this fascinating book.