Book Review – ‘Richard III: Fact and Fiction’ by Matthew Lewis


Matthew Lewis 'Richard III Fact and Fiction'

Matthew Lewis, Richard III: Fact and Fiction (Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books, 2019) ISBN 9781526727978

Thank you to Pen and Sword Books for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way that it was set out in sections so you could easily dip in and out of it, perfect for those who want to know more but don’t have the background. If you’ve watched ‘The White Queen’ and want to know more about Richard, I’d recommend this book as it clearly separates fact from fiction without assuming the reader is a complete ninny. Some books, in trying to set things out clearly, simplify the facts too much, but Lewis doesn’t make this error.

Each chapter is split into sections and each section asks a different question that is contentious over Richard III – did he kill the Princes in the Tower? Did he and the Woodvilles have a running feud? Was he betrayed at Bosworth? These and many others are explored in this book. It is written chronologically, starting with Richard’s birth and child, his time as Duke of Gloucester, his reign as King of England, and then his tragic end at the Battle of Bosworth. It also looks at how accurate or otherwise Shakespeare’s portrayal was, and what we’ve learned from the discovery of Richard III’s bones in Leicester.

Some of the things that Lewis brings up are really interesting and I hadn’t really thought about them before, but most of the conclusions he draws make sense. Lewis examines the evidence that exists, and puts forward his own opinions. I like that he doesn’t force his conclusions on you either, but gives you the evidence and allows you to make up your own mind. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘Richard III: Fact and Fiction’ by Matthew Lewis”

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Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses


  • Story of past open to interpretation 
  • Carefully edited and deceitful version of events 
  • Not just a version of what happened – more a tapestry of different stories woven together by whoever was in power at the time 
  • Wars of the Roses was invented by the Tudors to justify their power 
  • Immortalised by Shakespeare – darkest chapter in English history 
  • Lancaster and York locked in battle for the crown of England – kings deposed, innocent children murdered, cousin fought against cousin 
  • 1485 Richard III slain and Henry Tudor took the throne 
  • Henry VII’s victory hailed the ending of the Medieval period 
  • Line between fact and fiction often gets blurred 
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
  • 1455 Stubbins in Lancashire scene of a legendary battle in the Wars of the Roses beginning with volleys of arrows but ran out of ammunition 
  • Lancastrians pelted the Yorkists with black pudding – local legend 
  • Yorkists pelted the Lancastrians with Yorkshire puddings – local legend 
  • Wars of the Roses in national memory 
  • History books – rivalry between Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose) – bloody rivalry largely a creation of the Tudors 
  • 1461 bloodshed real in the middle of a snowstorm at Towton 
  • Lancastrians started out well but tide turned against them, chased by the Yorkists down the slope to a river and so a massacre began 
  • Blood stained the snow red, so location became known as the bloody meadow 
  • Shakespeare portrayed the battle as a bloody Armageddon – represented a country torn apart by war, nothing as bad in our history 
  • Somme 19,000 British soldiers killed on the first day, Towton 28,000 killed 
  • 20 years ago Bradford University revealed barbarity of fighting with remains of 43 men killed at Towton 
  • Head forced down into the spine, poleaxes – exceptional even for the Wars of the Roses 
  • Skirmishes, but real battles only around 8 in 30 years 
  • Not ravaged by all-out war – later myth 
  • Out of 32 years of wars, fighting on lasted a total of 13 weeks 

Continue reading “Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses”

Discussion Questions – ‘Shakespeare’s Mistress’ by Karen Harper


'Shakespeare's Mistress' by Karen Harper (2009)
‘Shakespeare’s Mistress’ by Karen Harper (2009)
  1. What early hints do you see that the boy Shakespeare will become the writing genius? What sorts of traits do you see that indicate particular talents or tendencies?
  • The boy was very imaginative and determined to live life to the full with his friends – these experiences have given him something to draw on.
  • The boy Shakespeare seems to have wanted experiences – he led the others in the group astray, into trouble, or doing things they wouldn’t otherwise have done.
  • Shakespeare seems very determined and ambitious – he doesn’t want to stay at home with a family, he wants more out of life.
  • Traits like being charismatic lend themselves to actors and public speakers, whereas being bookish and hard-working are more academic traits, and being adventurous and a bit of a daredevil lends itself to travel, where imagination lends itself to writing and art.
  1. Over the years, some Shakespeare critics and scholars have argued that it would be impossible for a boy with Shakespeare’s small-town grammar-school background to write the brilliant plays he did with all their diversity and depth. Do you think such a mind could come from a rural background?
  • Good writing comes from experience and imagination – being able to use your experiences and develop them with imagination into a storyline.
  • You also need to understand people and emotions and, according to what Shakespeare and his family undergo in this story, it is certainly believable that he had experiences he could draw on.
  • I don’t think background necessarily precludes being successful, even in the 16th century, where background was more important than it is today.
  • Wolsey was the son of a butcher and Cromwell the son of a blacksmith, and they were two of the most powerful men in the realm – it also depends on luck and knowing the right people.
  1. Although Will and Anne Whateley are in love from their early days, they disagree on many things. Do you think this weakens or strengthens their relationship? Can two strong-minded people who disagree on key issues really get along over the years? In love relationships, do opposites really attract?
  • Some disagreements can strengthen a relationship because constant agreement can be boring and disagreements mean you’re comfortable expressing feelings to that person.
  • I think opposites do attract but don’t always last as you need something in common in order to fully engage and talk to each other.
  • Strong-minded people can get along over the years, and often the big clashes result in passionate reconciliations which can make up for the negative parts.
  • Opposites do attract because people like what they see as the exotic and unusual rather than that which is familiar to them.

Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘Shakespeare’s Mistress’ by Karen Harper”

‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England’ Part 3 ‘Brave New World’


First Broadcast 14.06.2013

Ian Mortimer
Ian Mortimer

Ian Mortimer

Craftsmen, architects, writers, explorers, etc

Middle-classes who will radically alter our nation

Provinces – Stratford-upon-Avon = small-town merchants where money is king

Towns are driving social change

1570s buzz in the air, traders on the high street 6 days a week = wool merchants, butchers, bakers, tailors, etc

Modernisation

Great names of the age emerge from these towns – leave a lasting impact on society

William Shakespeare = upwardly mobile family, father a glover, tanyard at the back of the house

Unpleasant smells, chimneys come into vogue – can now heat every room in the home, can rise above one floor and keep them heated, cheap bricks Continue reading “‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England’ Part 3 ‘Brave New World’”

Spotlight: William Shakespeare


Name: William Shakespeare

Title/s: Poet / Playwright / Actor

Birth / Death: 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616

Spouse: Anne Hathaway c.1555-1623

Children: Susanna 1583-1649 / Hamnet 1585-1596 / Judith 1585-1662

Parents: John Shakespeare c.1531-1601 & Mary Arden c.1537-1608

Siblings: Joan c.1558 / Margaret 1562-3 / Gilbert 1566-1612 / Joan 1569-1646 / Anne 1571-9 / Richard 1574-1613 / Edmund 1580-1607 Continue reading “Spotlight: William Shakespeare”

My Masters Thesis


My Masters Thesis

A small snippet of what I’ve been working on lately, and why I haven’t updated much – my Masters thesis!

Undergraduate Dissertation Chapter – Portrayals of Anne Boleyn in Portraits and Literature


Portrayals of Anne Boleyn

“I have never had better opinions of woman than I had of her” – Thomas Cranmer

Anne Boleyn was an unpopular Queen. As Eric Ives said, she was ‘perhaps a figure to be more admired than liked’.[i] She has been portrayed in many different ways: through plays, portraits, biographies written through religious eyes and through the eyes of the man who loved her, and killed her.

Anne Boleyn National Portrait Gallery.
Anne Boleyn National Portrait Gallery.

With Anne Boleyn living her life largely in the public spotlight, there was a ‘calculated distance between the public persona and the inner self’.[ii] This in itself poses a problem as Anne did not want to show weakness in the face of her enemies so it is unlikely that the surviving contemporary evidence portrayed who Anne Boleyn really was; it more likely shows the face that she wanted the public to see – the Queen rather than the woman.

Stephen Greenblatt expands on this idea and says that there was a widespread idea in sixteenth century England that the self could be fashioned, but that it was constrained due to family, state and religious implications; these imposed a rigid and disciplined order on society as a whole.[iii] In reference to Anne Boleyn, state implications were particularly important, but also religious implications, as Anne was widely known as having reformist tendencies. Greenblatt’s arguments will be examined in this chapter. Continue reading “Undergraduate Dissertation Chapter – Portrayals of Anne Boleyn in Portraits and Literature”