murreyandblue

A great WordPress.com site

Archive for the tag “Wars of the Roses”

What I’m Reading: An Interview with Historian Matthew Ward….

Matthew Ward

Matthew Ward

 

“Matthew Ward is a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow, researching “The Culture of Loyalty in Fifteenth-Century England.” The project constitutes the first major attempt to define and understand political loyalty to the crown and secular lords in England, 1400-1500: how it was manifested; how it developed and how it was discussed in political and social discourse. It focuses on a significant period in the evolution of the concept of loyalty: the end of the Hundred Years War, the instability of the Wars of the Roses, and attempts by the Yorkist and early Tudor regimes to increase the crown’s authority in the localities. His book, The Livery Collar in Late Medieval England and Wales: Politics, Identity and Affinity was published by Boydell & Brewer in 2016…”

The Livery Collar

What makes this interview such a pleasant change is that this historian does not go for Richard’s jugular, indeed, Richard is his favourite monarch!

And he says that his favourite history book “…has to be Paul Murray Kendall’s Richard the Third. Richard III has always fascinated me and he has to be my favourite monarch. Although the book was first published in 1955 it is still read widely today. The author’s prose is fantastic and although it contains elements of fiction, his portrayal of the young Richard travelling through the landscape of Wensleydale is one of many evocative passages in the book…”

What is Matthew doing next? “…For the next three years I’ve been awarded a British Academy Research Fellowship and am researching ‘The Culture of Loyalty in Fifteenth-Century England’. I’m interested in the way in which loyalty to the crown and secular lords was manifested, particularly through visual and material culture. My book The Livery Collar in Late-Medieval England and Wales: Politics, Identity and Affinity (Boydell & Brewer, 2016) asked what wearing an item actually meant to medieval contemporaries. This led to me think about what loyalty meant in the fifteenth century, particularly during the Wars of the Roses. The research will result in a book and several seminar papers and events. I am co-organising a conference on ‘Loyalty to the British Monarchs, c.1400-1688’ at the University of Nottingham in January 2018…”

I’m looking forward to reading it!

To see the article from which I have taken the above photograph and extracts, go here.

 

 

Advertisements

Murrey and Blue interviews Michael K. Jones

  • Which of the Black Prince’s military achievements is the most impressive and why?

The main attraction in writing a biography of the Black Prince was to bring to life his martial exploits, for Edward of Woodstock, the eldest son of Edward III, captured the imagination of fourteenth century Europe. The chronicler Jean Froissart described him as ‘the flower of all chivalry’; the Chandos Herald, who fought with him, saw him as ‘the embodiment of all valour’. Thomas Walsingham wrote: ‘He never attacked a people he did not conquer; he never besieged a city he did not take.’ Even the French were impressed. A Valois chronicler stated: ‘He was one of the greatest and best knights ever seen. In his time, he was renowned the world over and won the respect of all.’

The Black Prince won his spurs at Crécy, on 26 August 1346, aged just sixteen. Edward III’s army used the longbow to deadly effect – annihilating the French nobility – and the Prince fought with conspicuous courage that day. Nine years later he received his first independent command as king’s lieutenant in Gascony, conducting a brutal plundering raid that scorched the earth of Languedoc. But it was at Poitiers, on 19 September 1356, that he won a truly remarkable victory over the numerically superior French, capturing their king, Jean II. In the battle’s aftermath, Jean was forced to accept the terms of a treaty which marked the zenith of England’s dominance in the Hundred Years War.

Edward of Woodstock then became Prince of Aquitaine, ruling – from 1362 – over a vast swathe of territory in southwest France. Five years later, he led an Anglo-Gascon army into northern Spain on behalf of the exiled ruler Pedro of Castile and won his last great success. At Nájera – on 3 April 1367 – he routed the opposing Franco-Castilian army of Enrique of Trastamara and restored Pedro I to the throne.

In purely military terms, the battle of Nájera was the Black Prince’s most impressive achievement. He skilfully reconnoitred the terrain before making a daring night-time march around his opponent’s position, drawn up on a wide plain to the east of the town. As dawn broke, his army made a surprise attack upon Enrique’s left flank. This was instinctive generalship – the Prince deploying his bowmen and dismounted men-at-arms with devastating effect before throwing in his cavalry to pursue and cut down his fleeing foe. The chronicler Henry of Knighton said simply: ‘It was the greatest battle to have taken place in our time.’

Yet, in a broader context, Nájera represented a flawed triumph. The Prince’s conduct of the campaign was on occasions hesitant and lacklustre, and although this was redeemed by a fine victory, its consequences (in which the army succumbed to a dysentery outbreak and Pedro reneged on financial obligations he had promised to repay) left him struggling with sickness and massive debt.

It was the battle of Poitiers that made the strongest impression on contemporaries. Here the Prince showed the full range of his talents: tactical acumen and astonishing courage during the course of the fighting and praiseworthy chivalry – in his treatment of his captured opponent, King Jean II – in its aftermath. It was the summit of his career as England’s warrior-hero.

  •  Do you think the Black Prince would have made a good king?

 The Black Prince passed away on 8 June 1376 – just over a year before the death of his father – after enduring a long and painful illness. His body lay in state in Westminster Hall and his funeral was then held at Canterbury Cathedral, some three and a half months later, on 29 September, amidst an outpouring of national grief. ‘Thus died the hope of the English’, Thomas Walsingham remarked. The poet John Gower hailed the Prince as an exemplar of knighthood: ‘He was never discomfited in a fight…he was a wellspring of courage.’ And in his funeral sermon Thomas Brinton, bishop of Rochester, evoked an era that seemed to be passing: ‘His wisdom appeared not only in his habit of speaking prudently’, Brinton emphasised, ‘but also in his manner of acting, because he did not merely talk like the lords of today but was a doer of deeds.’

Yet an idealised picture was being created. The Prince had, after all, been seriously ill for a long time and it suited contemporaries to remember the glorious victories of his prime rather than his final years in France, which were tarnished by the levying of a hearth tax on his Gascon subjects, the ill-fated resumption of the war and the sack of the French town of Limoges – although here hostile propaganda would play a part in unjustly blackening the Prince’s reputation.

The Black Prince’s generosity towards his fellow fighters left him constantly in debt.  A measure of financial prudence was necessary to be a successful ruler. However, if he had retained his health, his martial standing and easy rapport with the aristocracy would have been considerable assets as king. And at beginning of his rule as Prince of Aquitaine he did indeed show much promise, particularly in his commitment to justice and good government. In contrast, the last days of Edward III’s reign were beset by corruption and mismanagement, making the profound sense of loss at the Prince’s passing only too understandable.

  • Was any part of Richard II’s ‘tyranny’ justified?

Richard II was a very different man from his father. Intelligent and cultivated, he thought carefully about the dignity of kingship, possibly modelling some of his court protocol on what he had learnt of the magnificence of the Black Prince’s rule in Aquitaine. Yet he was no warrior – preferring instead to make peace with France – and his relations with his nobles were marred by distrust and outbursts of petty spite.

The period of ‘tyranny’, a description coined by the chronicler Thomas Walsingham, covered the last two years of Richard’s rule, from 1397-9, when the monarch took his revenge on the Appellants (a group of lords who had restricted his royal powers some eight years earlier), created a host of new aristocratic titles, imposed forced loans upon his subjects and strengthened royal power in the localities. In Richard’s eyes such measures were justified by his own concept of kingship, ‘an obligation laid upon him by God’, but political theory did not match practical reality. He ruled in a climate of fear, alienating many around him and ultimately sowed the seeds of his own downfall.

  • In the fifteenth century, did the Yorkists or the Lancastrians have a better claim to the throne?

 The Lancastrian dynasty began when Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV, deposed the anointed king, Richard II, forcing him to abdicate. The Lancastrian claim to the throne derived from their descent from John of Gaunt (Henry’s father), the third surviving son of Edward III, through the male line. If the female line was given precedence the House of York had the better claim, through their descent from Lionel duke of Clarence (Edward’s second surviving son), through the marriage of Lionel’s daughter, Philippa, to Edmund Mortimer, earl of March – it was the granddaughter of this union, Anne Mortimer, Richard duke of York’s mother, who brought this claim into his family.

However enmity between the houses of York and Lancaster – founded upon this dynastic fault line – a feature of the drift to civil war in the 1450s, was by no means inevitable. Richard duke of York served Henry VI loyally as king’s lieutenant in France and it was only after his replacement by his hated rival Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset and fears that Somerset might manipulate the king and challenge York’s position within the realm as heir presumptive (evident in his articles against the duke in 1452) that the Mortimer claim, and the family’s descent from Lionel of Clarence, was once more considered. In short, it was Henry VI’s failure to dispense patronage and political influence even-handedly that propelled the house of York towards asserting its own claim to the throne.

  • Did Margaret Beaufort consistently plot to put her son, Henry Tudor, on the throne, or was she – initially at least – trying to engineer his return to England, and a position within the Yorkist realm?

It is a pleasure to see such a resurgence of interest in Margaret Beaufort – one of the great political survivors of the late middle ages – in fiction, non-fiction and TV. When I undertook my 1992 biography, with Malcolm Underwood, The King’s Mother, little was known about her political role and many of the key facts of her life misunderstood. Tudor historians would later insinuate that Margaret was always trying to advance her son’s claim to the throne but the reality was rather different.

Margaret Beaufort was always the pragmatist – and the archives of St John’s College, Cambridge, show her negotiating with Edward IV to secure a title and marriage for Henry Tudor within the Yorkist polity, a course of action that she continued to pursue at the very beginning of Richard III’s reign. It was only later in the summer of 1483 that Margaret began plotting against Richard. In the words of Polydore Vergil she ‘was commonly called the head of that conspiracy’, but whether her intention at this stage was to promote her son’s claim to the throne or merely to support Buckingham’s rebellion is far from clear. An accessible, recent account of these machinations can be found in the book I wrote with Philippa Gregory and David Baldwin, The Women of the Cousins’ War and in my piece ‘Mother of the Tudors’ in the BBC History Magazine (January 2017).

For Michael Jones’s author website see: www.michaeljoneshistorian.com

Treason among the Roses….or….Who betrayed whom at Wakefield….?

treason among the roses

The scene above is fictitious, with roses being brandished nobly, but the strife known to posterity as The Wars of the Roses was full of treachery. Turncoats abounded, loyalty could be non-existent, and men’s names dragged down. Not always dragged down, of course, because if the traitor defected to the ultimately winning side, he did very nicely, thank you very much.

The Battle of Northampton, 10th July 1460, for instance, was won by the Yorkists because the Lancastrians were betrayed by the commander of their own vanguard, Edmund Grey, Lord Grey of Ruthin. It was a prearranged plan, with the Earl of Warwick’s Yorkists told not to attack anyone in Grey’s colours. Grey’s reward was to be made Earl of Kent.

200px-John_de_Grey,_1st_Baron_Grey_de_Rotherfield_Arms_svg

Edmund Grey, Lord Grey of Ruthin

But five months later, on 30th December that same year, was fought the Battle of Wakefield, at which the tables were turned and York lost to Lancaster, in the process forfeiting the lives of the Duke of York himself, his prominent supporter the Earl of Salisbury, and York’s 17-year-old second son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland.

sandal1300_2

Impression of Sandal Castle, near Wakefield

York was trapped at Sandal Castle near Wakefield, with (it is estimated) round 5,000 men compared with the (equally estimated) 20,000 of the Lancastrians. Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury (not his namesake, the Earl of Warwick) was at York’s side throughout. The Nevilles were one of the great families in the north, but were divided because Salisbury’s cadet branch had risen above the senior branch, which was led by his great-nephew, the Earl of Westmorland. Westmorland was ill, and his younger brother, John Neville of Raby, had a great deal to gain by the destruction of both York and Salisbury.

Raby Castle

Raby Castle

The Percys were another great northern family, who, resentful of the jumped-up Nevilles, opposed York and Salisbury. John Neville of Raby was soon colluding with the Percys and other Lancastrians. A plot was hatched by the northern veteran Andrew Trollope to fool the Duke of York into coming out to join battle, when he should have stayed safely in Sandal Castle, waiting for the help that was on its way from his son and heir, Edward, Earl of March, the future Edward IV, and from the Earl of Warwick.

SIr_Andrew_Trollope's_coat_of_arms_svg

Sir Andrew Trollope

Trollope had been a Yorkist, but changed sides after feeding York with false information about the strength of the Lancastrians. Then, after concealing most of the Lancastrian army in the woods surrounding the intended battlefield in front of the castle, Trollope marched a much smaller contingent into the open to challenge York and deceive him into thinking the opposition was much smaller than it really was.

It would also seem that the scheming John Neville of Raby further fooled York with false colours, so that he thought some Yorkist reinforcements had arrived from Warwick. Another version is that Neville pretended he would raise men for York, but raised them for Lancaster instead. Either way he was a lying turncoat. And all this went on while a Christmas truce was in force! Not very honourable or chivalrous.

Oh, sneaky, sneaky Lancastrian traitors, yet York appears to have had faith in these men. Certainly it is thought he believed that if he gave battle, a large portion of the Lancastrian army would come over to his side. He was strongly advised to stay in the castle and just wait for his son Edward and real allies to arrive to save him, but something convinced him to march out and not only be confronted by the Lancastrians he could see, but surrounded too by the greater numbers hidden in the woods. Was he incredibly brave and sure of his cause? Or deluded and a complete fool? As we do not know what was in his mind, we will probably never know. All we do know is that he was betrayed by so-called friends.

The battle was short. York, Salisbury and young Edmund were all slain and beheaded, and their heads displayed ignominiously on Micklegate Bar in York. York’s head was ridiculed with a paper crown, and a notice: York overlooks the city of York.

richardyorkdeath

It was a disaster for the Yorkist cause, but now Edward of March took over as head of the House. He triumphed, became Edward IV, and after one brief blip when he had to flee to his sister in Burgundy, he returned to vanquish Lancaster and reign for twelve peaceful years. He passed away at a relatively young age, but death came in his bed, not on a battlefield.

Of course, being a Ricardian, I have to think of Bosworth, where the greatest betrayal of them all brought about the brutal death of the Duke of York’s youngest son, Richard III. The name Stanley is all I need to say. Back-stabbing and fence-sitting was their game. The Stanleys benefited greatly from their shameful treachery. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

As I have commented elsewhere (https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2017/05/22/and-now-for-the-height-and-appearance-of-edmund-earl-of-rutland/) if only York had stayed put in Sandal Castle, how different might things have been. Would he, not his youngest son, have become King Richard III? Edmund could have lived to marry and perhaps have progeny. George of Clarence might never have rebelled and been condemned for treason. And if York had been around, might his eldest son Edward have been prevented from making the disastrous Woodville “marriage” that was to eventually lead to the horror of Bosworth? Bosworth, where it might have been King Richard IV who was hacked to death.

Who knows? Without the Woodville marriage, there wouldn’t have been a King Richard to die at Bosworth. There wouldn’t have been a Bosworth, because Richard, Duke of Gloucester, would probably have happily lived out his days as Lord of the North, maintaining a peaceful balance between the Nevilles and the Percys.

Richard's standard at Bosworth

 

Let’s play war games with Richard….!

Richard III war game

Well, there has been a flurry of interest in this game, so I took a look to see what it was all about. I got a little confused with the video talk telling me all about blocks, their strength and where they were, and so on, but I’m probably the wrong generation. I’m still stuck in The Game of Life!

So, good luck to all you Yorkists out there. Demolish the Lancastrians and reverse the outcome of Bosworth. Otherwise, to the block with you!

 

Um, WHO did Margaret of Anjou marry….?

Mgt of anjou married Henry IV

“Margaret of Anjou (1429-82), Queen Consort of Henry IV”

“This marriage was again part of a peace treaty that brought a temporary pause to the War of Roses (over the French crown).”

The above is an excerpt from this website.

I suppose a typo can be blamed for IV instead of VI? But the Wars of the Roses were over the French crown? Um, can’t blame that on a typo. Perhaps it’s just badly written. Or the French curves obscured the qwerty….

For Candlemas …

… or the probable anniversary of the battle of Mortimer’s Cross:

sunnesroses

Sunnes and Roses, a new album

by The Legendary Ten Seconds

 

Released on R ichard The Third Records on 31st December 2016.

 

Songs featuring Warwick the Kingmaker. Richard III, Henry VII, Lord Hastings, Edward Earl of March, Lord Fitzwalter, Sir Andrew Trollope, Lord Bonville and Perkin Warbeck

 

Instruments played by Lord Zarquon, Rob Bright, Ian Churchward, Ashley Dyer trumpet on ‘The Jewel’ and Ivy Curle flute on ‘Richard of York’

with the singing of Ian Churchward. Camilla Joyce, Elaine Churchward and  Gentian Dyer

 

A Richard III Records Publication, Catalogue number R35

 

Recorded in Torbay at Rock Lee and Rainbow Starshine Studios.

 

CDs available from the Richard III Society (see below) and the songs in digital format on itunes, CD Baby and Amazon.

 

www.thelegendary10seconds.co.uk

 

AT MORTIMERS CROSS THREE SUNS WERE SEEN

FOR THE UNEDUCATED WHAT DID THIS MEAN

THE EARL OF MARCH DECLARED “ A GOOD SIGN”

FOR THE THREE SONS OF YORK AT THAT TIME

 

All songs written by Ian Churchward except for Herald’s Lament written by Sandra Heath Wilson and Ian Churchward, and Middleham Castle on Christmas Eve written by

Frances Quinn and Ian Churchward

 

Sunnes and Roses, an instrumental.

List of the Dead, a song about several of the battles of the Wars of the Roses.

Towton, the bloodiest battle on English soil told in a song.

A Warwick, a song about Warwick the Kingmaker.

Battle in the mist, about the Battle of Barnet in music and verse.

Souvente me Souvene, an instrumental, the motto of the Duke of Buckingham.

Autumn Rain, a tale of Buckingham’s rebellion in the autumn of 1483

Good King Richard, a song about the reign of Richard III.

The King’s Daughter, an instrumental for Judy Thomson who lives in Chicago.

Heralds’ Lament, a song about the betrayal of Richard III at Bosworth

Richard of York, a song about Perkin Warbeck.

Middleham Castle on Christmas Eve, past and present merge into one another in this song.

The Jewel, the story of the Middleham Jewel performed in this tune.

Tewkesbury Medieval Fair, go back in time, yes you could be there in this song.

 

Here is some new information regarding the album:- The album in CD format can be purchased via the Richard III Society’s Sales Provider and prospective buyers should contact E-Mediacy, with the appropriate payment – including post and packing, as follows and quoting item reference M228: Richard III Sales c/o E-Mediacy 5 The Quadrangle Centre The Drift Nacton Road Ipswich, Suffolk IP3 9QR email for enquiries only not for orders richardiii@e-mediacy,com Members’ price: £6.00 (non-members’ £8.00) plus P&P £1.10/ UK £2.00 EU/£2.60 Rest of the World. Details of the how to make payment can be found on the Society Shop page of the Richard III Society website. Members will need to give E-Mediacy their membership number to obtain the discounted rate. For the time being the CDs of this album can only be purchased via the Richard III Society. A percentage of funds from the digital sales of this album will be donated to S.A.U.K.

 

 

 

Lucy does WOTR fibs….

lucy-worsley

I awaited Lucy Worsley’s latest series with great eagerness. Her impish character and entertaining presentation is always worth watching. And so it was again on Thursday, 26th January, in the first episode of British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley. It concerned the Wars of the Roses.

Well, obviously, as a Ricardian I was keen to know what she would have to say about Richard III, but the programme was about the wars in general and how they have been immensely misrepresented through the centuries as a thirty-year-long blood bath that terrified and depleted the entire realm. The truth was that most people hardly noticed what was going on, because it was strife among the nobles, not the populace. It has been estimated that out of the thirty years, there were only thirteen weeks of actual fighting.

One actual example of carnage and bloodshed was Towton. There was an excellent account of the carnage. Lucy stood at the top of the steep slope, where the Yorkists were positioned, looking down to the level meadow and winding river at the bottom. She reminded us that the river was in flood at the time. The Lancastrians were trapped between the Yorkists and the floodwater. It was really demonstrated how the Yorkists were able to rush down and slaughter the Lancastrians. A horrible, horrible battle, but the only one of all the WOTR battles to produce such devastating killing in such huge numbers. 28,000.

Towton aside, the universal version of events in those thirty years is courtesy of the Tudors, especially Henry VII, the first and most devious of a devious pack. The fifteenth-century conflict is “a tapestry of different stories woven together by whoever was in power at the time”—cue Henry VII, darn his usurping little socks. That man a master weaver of lies!

As a result of his machinations, it’s as if there was such a huge conspiracy to lay blame on Richard III that the whole of English history has somehow been tainted by it. Cruelly, Henry’s lies took root, and Richard was damned. That was made clear throughout the programme.

We saw all the Tudor embellishments—masonry, paintings, literature (read Shakespeare). Henry even saw to it that  illustrations predating his accession were doctored to include his badges and symbols, thus pretending that his ancestry and right to the throne had been there all along! There was very little of which he did not think and take steps to correct. One almost has to admire his thoroughness. But what a natural-born LIAR!

There weren’t many glimpses of Richard. Least of all the real Richard, because the programme was all centred on the myths, as the series title makes plain. But Henry’s endless untruths were just accepted, without any real attempt to prove them to be so.  Nothing was said to show how good a king Richard had been in his brief two years. No mention of his Parliament, for instance, which definitely proved  him to be a just man with the welfare of the people at heart. I doubt if Henry knew what welfare was, except when it applied to himself. As for justice…forget it. Anyway, one sentence about the Parliament would have gone a long way to redress the balance.

As for Richard’s physical appearance, it wasn’t until the very end that Lucy went to Leicester, and Richard’s skeleton had a look-in, but not the modelled head that gives such a good impression of what he actually looked like. The fine statue by the cathedral featured in one of the final scenes, but even then we had to see Henry again—a little statuette brought by someone who has started a Henry VII Society to rival the Richard III Society. This gentleman moaned that Henry was now being maligned. Well, Horrible Henry, have a dollop of your own medicine!

All that said, it was still enjoyable. Lucy is wonderful viewing, and if she told us black was white, I might have trouble arguing. Except where Richard III is concerned, of course.

See a clip at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04png88

 

 

DIGGING FOR BRITAIN–NEW NEWS ON the BATTLE OF BARNET

Like Bosworth, the actual site of the Battle of  Barnet has been the subject of much conjecture, especially as the area is heavily modernised. On the latest episode of DIGGING FOR BRITAIN, airing on BBC 4 on December 20 at 9 PM,  experts take a new look at the site and believe they can now pinpoint its actual location.

Hopefully, this programme will raise the profile of battlefields in general, which always seem in danger of being built on, as well as increasing awareness of the importance of this battle, in which Warwick the Kingmaker was slain and Edward IV was victorious. It was, of course, the 18 year old Richard of Gloucester’s first major battle as the two opposing armies railed against each other in a thick mist.

In itself, Barnet would have been a crushing defeat for the Lancastrians, having lost Warwick in the fray, but their insistence on pressing for a second confrontation only a few weeks later at Tewkesbury brought about the complete ruin of the Lancastrian House, with the death of the Prince of Wales, Edward of Lancaster, upon the field.

 

 

The Wars of the Roses. The final battle at Barnet

History and cultural history (II)

In this piece, we introduced the idea that Shakespeare, although a very inaccurate historian, accurately reflected the cultural history of his time with respect to the political execution of women. We have also discussed how the Bard’s Richard III may actually have been a portrayal of Robert Cecil. Another piece showed the uncertainty as to the origin of coloured roses as politico-military badges.

Now think of Hamlet. His adversary is King Claudius, his uncle, supported by the verbose courtier Polonius. The play was set in Denmark and 220px-claudius_crop 220px-edwin_booth_hamlet_1870written during 1599-1602 when it was apparent that England would soon have Anne of Denmark as Queen Consort. Hamlet kills Polonius as the older man hides behind an arras, which is a tapestry or curtain.

In January 41 AD, Claudius was proclaimed as Rome’s new Emperor. Graves portrayed him as hiding behind a curtain as his nephew Gaius (“Caligula”) was assassinated, to be found by a Praetorian named Gratus. Sometimes, it seems, those writing fiction cannot be original.

A beautiful cover for a beautiful king….?

richard II

This likeness of Richard II is from the cover of the Penguin Monarchs edition on this fascinating king, written by Laura Ashe. (Penguin Monarchs: Richard II – A Brittle Glory by Laura Ashe. http://tinyurl.com/zbur7aw)  The reviews and comments at Amazon are mixed – the commenters even have a little spat. I  will purchase it because I am always eager to add more of Richard II to my personal library. He and Richard III vie for supremacy on that battle-shelf, I assure you.

My personal preference is for larger, more detailed biographies, which this book does not purport to be. One commenter at Amazon complains that it is very small, but it is intended to be a concise description of Richard’s life and reign. 

Whatever the contents, the cover illustration is breathtakingly beautiful. They say Richard was indeed handsome to the point of beauty, as some of his portraiture hints. While I accept that this present picture is modern, it just goes to show how, with a little tweaking of the known facts, a talented artist can turn a suggestion of the possible Richard into something which may be very close indeed to the real man. Too romantic? No. If a man was described as handsome to the point of beauty, then he must have been quite something to see. I doubt if Richard II ever walked into a crowded room unnoticed! Even wearing an old cloak and no headgear.

Of the three Richards of England, I am drawn to the second and third, both of whom are monarchs I believe to have been maligned. Oh, ‘maligned’ is a word all too often applied to Richard III, but I think Richard II deserves it too. Yes, he was guilty of a great deal of which he is accused, but at the same time, he was beset by uncles and nobles from the moment he became a child-king. If he grew up as damaged goods, it’s hardly surprising. 

Anyway, the strength of the cover art for this book arrested my attention, and it will soon be on my shelf. As an author myself, I know the value of a good cover. It is a fact that a lousy one can demolish the chances of an excellent book. With this, Laura Ashe must surely have a winner. I do hope so. When I have read it, I will report my findings! 

The brilliant artwork is by ANNA+ELENA=BALBUSSO ART, http://www.balbusso.com/ and I have to say that I would LOVE to see Richard III given the Balbusso treatment!!!

PS: A week later. I have now received and read this book, and my first impression—literally—was that they’d skimped on the dust cover. It only encloses the bottom three-quarters of the white cloth book, leaving the top quarter without anything. White? Dirt? I can see future second-hand copies turning up with bikini lines. Commenters on Amazon have also complained about the book’s small size, both in inches and pages, and it is true. It is more like a school text book than one of the larger biographies to which I am partial, but at the same time it gets to the nitty-gritty of Richard’s character and the problems that resulted from it. 

In Chapter One, I read “The book is arranged by four locations, each both real and imagined: parliament, battlefield, city, shrine.” The court is not included because it is considered in the context of these stated four locations. Richard’s story is revealed mostly through contemporary chronicles and eye-witness accounts. 

He was undoubtedly convinced that he was monarch by divine right, and any insult was taken to heart…and remembered for a long time. He was a Plantagenet elephant, and thought ahead, being prepared to wait for his revenge. It was also his preference for peace over war, which didn’t go down well with his martially-minded aristocracy, with whom he clashed time and again. Fatally. His defiance took the form of extravagance of almost mythical proportions, favourites and caprice, and his word was worthless because he would never abide by it. In the end he was taken down, as modern parlance has it.  Unfortunately, it was the House of Lancaster that did it.

His conduct, and the consequent usurpation of Henry IV, sowed the seeds of the Wars of the Roses, and although I will always find Richard II engrossing, I also want to shake him. But if I had laid a hand on the royal person, I’d have been for the chop, quick as a wink. It is a fact, though, that someone should have shaken him, (perhaps a holy hand reaching down from the heavens, for he would have understood that!) Richard was not a fool or a bad king, he simply rebelled against everything that happened to him in childhood and continued throughout his adult life. And when Richard II kicked up a storm, he did it in Cinemascope and Technicolor. 

All in all, I think Laura Ashe has written a very informative, easy-to-read account of Richard II, the man and his reign. I am not at all sorry to have purchased it, and I recommend it to anyone who seeks to be introduced to this strangely enigmatic king. But I do wish the cover had enclosed the whole book! Are Allen Lane (subsidiary of Penguin) on an economy drive??? Messing with covers is an ominous sign, in my experience.

However, the cover art is every bit as gorgeous as I thought before buying, but why did they have to cut corners…er, tops? 

Note: The Penguin Monarchs edition about Richard III (by Rosemary Horrox) will be published next year. No date as yet.

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: