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The kaiser's biographer

Books | By Hamish Robinson | July 2017

'Ernst Kantorowicz: A Life' by Robert E Lerner reviewed by Hamish Robinson

A photograph taken in 1955 shows five individuals arranged like chessmen on the whitewashed terrace of a house on the Greek island of Hydra. Four of these individuals are well known to the literary pages: the critic Cyril Connolly, the travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, the wit and warden of Wadham Maurice Bowra – the photographer Joan Leigh Fermor plays chess with the fifth, a sunburnt man of sixty in swimming trunks. Few readers, perhaps, would be able to put a name to the face or significance to the name, and yet this fifth man, the medieval historian Ernst Hartwig Kantorowicz, wrote two of the most remarkable books of the 20th century. Kaiser Friedrich der Zweite, a 600-page biography of the Hohenstaufen Holy Roman Emperor published in 1927, was the work of a little-known post-doctoral student at Heidelberg. Having seen service on the Western Front and in Turkey, Kantorowicz, born...

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