Welcome to the very first Highlighting History post here at Reading and Ruminations. Every Wednesday, I will highlight a different historical figure or time period that has caught my attention, share a little bit about that person (or time period), and highlight some of the books, both fiction and non-fiction, about them.

Given my recent binge of reading the historical fiction of Sandra Worth, it should come as no surprise to anyone that my first choice is Richard III. It’s not a particularly inspired choice, but since this is the first post, I figured he would be a good place to start (and doing something easy gives me the chance to figure out what will work and what won’t).

There are two major schools of thought on Richard III: the first is the school that Shakespeare (hardly a reliable source, given that he was a subject of Tudor and Stuart monarchs) espoused. He portrayed Richard as a deformed, decrepit villain who was incapable of any kind of love or affection- in short, he was both ugly on the outside and ugly on the inside. However, that has been replaced in favor of a more balanced viewpoint.

Richard III was the youngest son of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, and his wife, Cecily. When Richard was just eight, his father and older brother Edmund were killed fighting against the forces of Marguerite d’Anjou (wife of King Henry VI), and a year later, his older brother Edward became King Edward IV. During Edward’s reign, Richard served his brother faithfully and loyally, if not always happily. Following Edward’s death in 1483, Richard assumed the protectorship of his young nephews, Edward’s heirs. He had them declared illegitimate and had them put in the Tower of London. It is believed they were murdered while in the Tower, though their bodies were never conclusively located. Richard was King of England for two years before being killed in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth, which secured the throne for Henry VII.

Fiction featuring Richard III:

  • Sandra Worth- The Rose of York trilogy: This is a trilogy of novels about the life of Richard III. The first, Love & War, is about Richard’s early life, up until his marriage to Anne Neville and the birth of their son, Edward. The second and third novels are Crown of Destiny and Fall from Grace.
  • Sharon Kay Penman- The Sunne In Splendour: A stand-alone novel about Richard III, which likewise portrays him in a sympathetic light.
  • Anne Easter Smith- A Rose for the Crown: a novel about Richard III’s mistress, who was the mother of his two illegitimate children.
  • Reay Tannahill- Seventh Son: Another novel that places Richard in a more sympathetic light.
  • William Shakespeare- Richard III: You can’t talk about Richard III and fiction without talking about Shakespeare’s play, which essentially turned him into a monster.

Non-fiction:

  • Alison Weir- The Wars of the Roses: Medieval historian Alison Weir tackles the whole of the Wars of the Roses, which end with Richard’s death on Bosworth Field.
  • Paul Murray Kendall- Richard the Third: This biography of Richard, first published in 1955, was one of the first to present Richard in a positive light. Though some points have since been disproven or are no longer relevant, this biography is a starting point for many scholars of Richard.
  • Sir Thomas More- The History Of King Richard The Third: Want to know what the Tudors really had to say about Richard? Sir Thomas More’s biography is deeply biased and not at all fair in its treatment of Richard, but it’s the kind of book that proves the phrase “History is written by the victors.” This book influenced Shakespeare’s play, as well as popular thought for hundreds of years.
  • Alison Weir- The Princes in the Tower: As an historian whose most prominent works are her histories of the Tudors, it comes as little surprise that Weir’s portrayal of Richard is not particularly sympathetic. This addresses the belief that Richard murdered his young nephews.
  • Bertram Fields- Royal Blood: On paper, Fields isn’t exactly a convincing historian; he is, by trade, an entertainment lawyer. However, in this book, he uses his legal expertise to attempt to discover what really happened to the Princes in the Tower. Reviews on Amazon say this is a good counter to Weir’s book on the subject.

Are there any books on Richard III that you think are can’t miss? Or do you have a historical figure or time period you’d like to know more about and want me to address in a Highlighting History post? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

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