Thursday, December 12, 2013

Richard the Third

Richard the Third
by Paul Murray Kendal
W.W. Norton, 2002. 602 pgs. Non-fiction

I thought this was a quite decent biography of Richard III. The author took some pains to avoid being biased in either direction. As such both passionate Ricardians and Tudor sympathizers will feel some disappointment. Richard is depicted as a loyal brother to Edward IV, providing good government and stability to the north (score one, Ricardians). However, he is ultimately undone with some lapses in judgement and misplaced trust is those around him, most notably Buckingham. His critical errors in judgement seem to be with regard to the fate of the Princes and his decision to not marry off Edward's daughters, giving Henry Tudor the means by which to cement his authority after seizing power by force. The author concludes ambiguously, given the poor evidence available. He suggests that Richard might have had them killed, or acquiesced to it, but then Buckingham had at least if not more motivation. However, by seizing the throne, Richard (in the author's view) ultimately doomed the Princes. Every monarch ever deposed soon found themselves in the grave. Not just for the mystery of the Princes should this book be read. It is also a vivid chronicle one of England's most notorious monarchs, the end of a dynasty and a fascinating turning point in British history.


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