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Richard III and the Murder in the Tower by Peter A Hancock

Posted By Claire on September 1, 2009

Richard III and the Murder in the TowerThose of you who have just read Philippa Gregory’s “The White Queen” which focused on the story of Elizabeth Woodville, her marriage to Edward IV and the fate of her family, may now want to delve into the real historical story, after all, “The White Queen” is a fictional account of this period of history.

Well, I would recommend this book on Richard III to anyone who wants to get to the truth about how and why Richard Duke of Gloucester went from being Lord Protector to usurping the throne of the young Edward V.

Richard had been chosen by his brother Edward IV, before he died, to protect Edward’s son, the future Edward V, and to rule on Edward’s behalf as Lord Protector. Edward IV trusted Richard with his life, and his son’s life, and felt that he was the right person to help his young son rule England. Just how did Richard go from being a trustworthy and loyal brother to deposing a King?

Did greed and an urge for absolute power turn Richard into a monster who imprisoned his two young nephews in the Tower, executed loyal Woodville family members and friends, stole the throne of England and then murdered the “Princes in the Tower”? Or was Richard simply doing what was best and right?

This groundbreaking book examines the events leading up to Richard becoming the King and looks at whether Richard’s actions were premeditated, when Richard made the decision to become King and why. Hancock explores the theories surrounding the execution of Lord Hastings, and its questionable date, and asks whether Richard was simply acting on new information – the fact that Edward IV had been pre-contracted to Eleanor Talbot, before he married Elizabeth Woodville, and that Edward’s children by Elizabeth were all illegitimate and so had no claim to the throne of England. If this pre-contract existed, then Richard was entitled to be King.

Hancock concludes “Richard III and the Murder in the Tower” by saying:

“Was Richard thus the ultimate in cunning and heartless ambition? Or, was he a man of his times, reacting to the uncertainties of events which faced him from April to early July? The eventual answer will always belong
to history, but I see him in the latter light, a basically loyal and honourable man caught in the “Realpolitik” of his times. From this vantage point his actions are logical and, for him, reasonable. History should render on him, if not a favourable, at least a fair judgment.”

I won’t spoil the book by telling you how Hancock comes to this conclusion but he is able to back up his theory admirably and it is a book focused on real historical evidence and sources, rather than gut feelings. Hancock looks at key characters like Eleanor Talbot, William Catesby, Lord Hastings, Jane (Elizabeth) Shore and Robert Stillington to see what role they played in Richard’s usurpation of the throne, and it really is a fascinating read. I’d actually never heard of some of these characters, but I can now see why Richard felt he had a solid claim.

At the end of the book, there are over 50 pages of Appendices, including transcripts of real documents and letters, as well as notes. This book is extremely thorough and is more of a “text book”, than a light read, so be willing to concentrate and make notes!

Further Information

This book was published in hardback in the UK by The History Press on 1st June 2009 and is available in the UK, Europe and in North America.

Click here to order it from Amazon US or click here to order it from Amazon UK.

The History Press say of this book:

“Richard III is accused of murdering his nephews (the ‘Princes in the Tower’) in order to usurp the throne of England. Since Tudor times he has been painted as the ‘black legend,’ the murderous uncle. However, the truth is much more complicated and interesting. Rather than looking at all the killings Richard III did not commit, this book focuses on the one judicial murder for which we know that he was responsible. On Friday 13 June 1483, William, Lord Hastings was hustled from a meeting of the Royal Council and summarily executed on Tower Green within the confines of the Tower of London. This book solves the mystery of this precipitate and unadvised action by the then Duke of Gloucester and reveals the key role of William Catesby in Richard’s ascent to the throne of England. It explains his curious actions during that tumultuous summer of three kings and provides an explanation for the fate of the ‘Princes in the Tower.'”


8 Responses to “Richard III and the Murder in the Tower by Peter A Hancock”

  1. Marie Burton says:

    Interesting add to the ever-raging debate of dear Richard. =)

  2. Claire says:

    Thanks for the comment, Marie. There seem to be a few “Richard” books out at the moment but this is the first of them I’ve read. It’s interesting to try and get at the truth of Richard’s motivations and actions. I love puzzles!

  3. Dorothea says:

    We just should not forget there is no proof who killed the princes or even if they were killed at all. So if this book assumes as a given that they were killed by Richard, it does not seem to be based on facts.

  4. Claire says:

    The title actually really corresponds to the execution of Lord Hastings and looks at that as the key event in Richard’s usurpation of the throne – why was Lord Hastings executed with such haste and in such a dignified way? What was the true meaning of it? Why did Richard seize the throne?…Rather than an examination of the whole “Princes in the Tower” mystery. I don’t want to give lots of details of what the book actually says, but it is based on fact and on p138 Hancock states:
    “Despite all that occurred, I think Richard still viewed his nephews as a family responsibility and would have, as far as possible, protected them. I think the reason that the subsequent Tudor regime lived in a state of fear, and the reason Elizabeth Woodville eventually reconciled herself to Richard, was that they both knew this fact.”
    It is not based on the assumption that Richard killed the princes. Hope that helps, Dorothea, thanks for the comment.

  5. sue says:

    When visiting York recently we stumbled open this lovely museum in one of the gatehouses in the wall it gives a fascinating account of Richard III. There is a reconstruction of a trial of Richard where you here prosecution and defence, you are the jury and you can make your own minds up as to guilty or not guilty. Must say it was well worth a visit and York is a great place to visit.

  6. Claire says:

    Thanks for letting me know about that, Sue, it sounds great! Just the kind of thing I like to do when I’m on holiday. York is a beautiful city.

  7. Fiz says:

    Oh people, please! Richard was an early Renaissance Prince , with everything that means! No less than three diarists/chroniclers said that the Princes disappeared from public view in 1483. They are Polydore Virgil, Domicino Mancini, secretary to Venetian Ambassador, and the Croyland Continuator who from internal evidence, had very strong links at court . These were all written at the same time it happened, not by Tudor propagandists. The ordinary Londoners noticed too and started growling that the boys had been murdered. All this “Richard was innocent” nonsense dates from the 1950’s when a popular novelist, Josephine Tey proposed in a NOVEL that Richard was innocent. She did absolutely no research for this!

  8. Baroness Von Reis says:

    Dorotheh,I must totally agree with your reply once again ,I think there is going to be more fics not facs .But maybe MS.Gregory will surprize all of use, and do her research as you should.Fiz I am 99.99% she has done know research what so ever.I will watch for comments this,but as I am sure will be a disapointment once again. Kind Regard Baroness.

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