Posted By Claire on September 1, 2009
Those 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!
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.
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.'”