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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Book Review – ‘The Tudor Crown’ by Joanna Hickson 


The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson

When Edward of York takes back the English crown, the Wars of the Roses scatter the Lancastrian nobility and young Henry Tudor, with a strong claim to the throne, is forced into exile. Recently widowed and vulnerable, his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, forges an uncomfortable alliance with Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Swearing an oath of allegiance to York, Margaret agrees to marry the king’s shrewdest courtier, Lord Stanley. But can she tread the precarious line between duty to her husband, loyalty to her son, and her obligation to God and the king? When tragedy befalls Edward’s reign, Richard of York’s ruthless actions fire the ambition of mother and son. As their destinies converge each of them will be exposed to betrayal and treachery and in their gruelling bid for the Tudor crown, both must be prepared to pay the ultimate price… [Description from Waterstones]

I enjoyed this book, but I did find it hard-going in places, as it seemed to be quite repetitive in places so I struggled to get through those bits. However, overall, it was a very engaging read and made me think about things that I hadn’t considered before, like what life was like for English exiles in France in the sixteenth century.

I thought that this book looked interesting because it focused on the lesser-known period of Henry VII’s life – his time in exile in Brittany and France before he became king. Alongside Henry, some chapters are also written from the point of view of his mother, Margaret Beaufort. It’s not something that you really see in novels about this period – everything is focused on Edward IV and Richard III in England rather than what is going on over the Channel.

I thought that the portrayal of Henry VII was particularly engrossing because it is so different to the way he is typically portrayed as a miserly and miserable old man – Hickson makes him handsome, exciting, and a bit of a daredevil, in ways which I didn’t expect. It was Henry’s portrayal that made me want to keep reading, to see what Hickson would do when it came to the Battle of Bosworth. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The portrayal of Margaret Beaufort was also quite different to what I’d expected, because most accounts seem to conclude that the marriage between her and Thomas Stanley was a marriage of convenience, but this novel suggests a deeper relationship, which I liked seeing. As for supporting characters, I really liked Davy Owen and Meg Woodville. Meg in particular was a surprise to me, but a nice one.

The writing itself was descriptive and quite evocative in places, as Henry sights Wales again for the first time in 14 years – that scene in particular was beautifully written and described. The differences between England and France were also painted starkly, as Henry and Margaret both see things differently. Henry in France sees the country through more childlike eyes for a large proportion of the book, while Margaret sees England through more adult and cynical eyes. It created an interesting juxtaposition.

Having read this book, I am looking forward to reading ‘Red Rose, White Rose’ and ‘First of the Tudors’ which I have on my bookshelf ready to read.

Review also available on my sister blog https://bookbloggerish.wordpress.com/

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”

Book Review – ‘Lancaster and York’ by Alison Weir


Alison Weir, ‘Lancaster and York: the Wars of the Roses’ (London: Vintage Books, 2009) Paperback, ISBN 978-0-099-54017-5

Alison Weir 'Lancaster and York'
Alison Weir ‘Lancaster and York’

Title: The title is very apt, as the book covers mainly the first part of the Wars of the Roses – when Lancaster and York were at war, and not the latter part where the war was between York itself (Richard III and the Princes in the Tower or Edward IV vs. the Duke of Clarence). It focuses on the role of Margaret of Anjou, and the conflicts between her and the Duke of York, which led to York triumphing over Lancaster.

Preface: The preface / introduction is quite short, but gives a quick overview of the main focal points of the Wars of the Roses, and explains where the idea came from to write about the Wars of the Roses when most of her books are written about the Tudors. Weir discusses the meagre amount of surviving sources, but then fails to build on that in the book itself.

Citations: There aren’t really any citations to speak of, which makes it difficult to track where certain information comes from. All there is is a general bibliography at the end, with a couple of family trees, which are useful as the period is a complicated one. What would probably have been more useful even than citations, particularly for a reader relatively new to the period, would have been a list of who was on the side of York and who was on the side of Lancaster. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘Lancaster and York’ by Alison Weir”

Book Review – ‘The Woodvilles’ by Susan Higginbotham


Susan Higginbotham 'The Woodvilles: the Wars of the Roses and England's Most Infamous Family'
Susan Higginbotham ‘The Woodvilles: the Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family’

Higginbotham, Susan, The Woodvilles: the Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family (Stroud: The History Press, 2015), Paperback, ISBN 978-0-7509-6078-6

Title: It is clearly about the Woodville family, the most popular members being Elizabeth Woodville and her mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg. They were very active during the Wars of the Roses, and became infamous when the Lancastrian commoner, Elizabeth Woodville, married the Yorkist king, Edward IV.

Preface: The introduction is short and to the point, outlining the rise of the Woodville family and their time at the top. There hasn’t really been a book about the Woodville family before so this is the first of its kind. It is made clear that the Princes in the Tower won’t really be discussed because there is already a lot of literature on them already. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘The Woodvilles’ by Susan Higginbotham”

My Notes from the third part of ‘The Plantagenets’ shown 31.03.2014 on BBC


October 1399 8th Plantagenet king Richard II taken down the Thames – 1400 found starved to death.

Henry IV in the National Portrait Gallery from the 16th century
Henry IV in the National Portrait Gallery from the 16th century

Henry of Bolingbroke – Henry IV = right of kings undermined and whole dynasties collapsed – turned against each other and ended with the destruction of the dynasty.
1380s peasant’s revolt – Richard II forced to flee to the Tower.
Trigger = tax for war against the French.
Revolt against king’s councillors.
Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, seized and executed. The day after Richard met with the rebels, led by Watt Tyler. Tyler killed in a scuffle by the mayor of London.
Richard single-handedly halted rebellion = god-given right to rule.
Royal displays of kingship. Continue reading “My Notes from the third part of ‘The Plantagenets’ shown 31.03.2014 on BBC”

Richard III: His Reputation and the Discovery of His Bones


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.

Reputation

Richard III was a soldier, and proved an ‘excellent’ king – laws were to be followed, forced loans were abolished, and he protected the rights of the Church.[i] This is a more modern view. However, Richard III is often considered to be the most ‘evil’ of our nation’s kings.[ii] This idea has been built on from Tudor propaganda which was used to strengthen the Tudors own claim to the English throne. The main incident which inherently damaged the reputation of Richard III was the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower around 1483. It provoked ‘shock and indignation’ particularly as the princes were still children and had done nothing wrong.[iii] People believed that the Princes were in danger even before they vanished. People believed in Richard’s guilt. But this has more significance historically than whether Richard actually committed the crime.[iv] The disappearance of the Princes rather than the death, adds fuel to the idea that Richard was in fact innocent of their murder.[v] Edward IV displayed the body of Henry VI after his death, so that people would know he was dead, and not use him as a figurehead for rebellion. Continue reading “Richard III: His Reputation and the Discovery of His Bones”

Spotlight: Edward IV


Names: Edward IV / Edward Plantagenet

Titles: Earl of March / Earl of Cambridge / Earl of Ulster / Duke of York / King of England, Ireland and France

Dates: 28 April 1442 – 9 April 1483

Spouse: Elizabeth Woodville 1437-1492

Children: Elizabeth of York 1466-1503 / Mary of York 1467-1482 / Cecily of York 1469-1507 / Edward V 1470-1483? / Margaret of York 1472 / Richard, Duke of York 1473-1483? / Anne of York 1475-1511 / George, Duke of Bedford 1477-1479 / Catherine of York 1479-1527 / Bridget of York 1480-1517

Parents: Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York 1411-1460 & Cecily Neville 1415-1495 Continue reading “Spotlight: Edward IV”

Burial of Richard III Getting Out of Hand


 

Richard III Head Modelled from Skeleton Found in Leicester
Richard III Head Modelled from Skeleton Found in Leicester

Burial of Richard III Getting Out of Hand

The burial argument over whether to bury the remains of Richard III at York or Leicester is getting out of hand. A decision has now been postponed until 2014. Although I think both cases have merit, I wish they would agree on one and let this tormented king rest. Surely that is more important than the where. That he is finally at peace in a recognised burial place where people can visit and pay their respects.

Click the above link for the full story from the BBC.

‘The White Queen’ by Philippa Gregory – Discussion Questions


'The White Queen' by Philippa Gregory (2009).
‘The White Queen’ by Philippa Gregory (2009).

I’ve read Philippa Gregory’s ‘The White Queen’ recently to coincide with the television show. The book was a bit of a disappointment for me. I didn’t feel that it was as engaging as some of her Tudor novels. Below are the discussion questions from the back of the book. You also get lists of questions in historical books by Philippa Gregory and Emily Purdy to help you understand the story. I have posted my answers to the ones from ‘The White Queen’ below, and I hope you’ll post what you think, and whether you disagree with any of my answers.

1. Discuss Elizabeth’s first few encounters with Edward and her motives for seeking him out. Do they marry for love? Did you find it surprising that Edward defied his mentor Warwick and upheld his secret marriage to Elizabeth? Why or why not?

I genuinely think that Elizabeth and Edward were in love. I don’t think that they were as in love as they would become over the years, but I think they were in love at the start, as their passionate arguments demonstrate. You can’t be passionate with someone if you don’t respect them, and even love them. I know this from personal experience. I think Elizabeth’s motives for seeking Edward out were completely honourable – she wanted to reclaim her sons’ inheritance. However, Edward’s motives for returning to Elizabeth in person were not so honourable. I think he fell in love with her when she held his dagger to her throat rather than lose her respect for herself. It’s like if you can’t have something you just want it more (note Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn). I don’t think it was very surprising that Edward defied Warwick and insisted that his marriage to Elizabeth was legitimate. This is because Edward was growing up – he was no longer a child, and could form his own opinions. However, I do think that Edward should have informed Warwick sooner, so that the French alliance didn’t progress so far before being destroyed. Perhaps then Warwick wouldn’t have been quite so annoyed and angry at his loss of face over the matter. Continue reading “‘The White Queen’ by Philippa Gregory – Discussion Questions”