A new biography of the alternately reviled and beloved king and his times.
Skidmore (The Rise of the Tudors: The Family that Changed English History, 2014, etc.) draws from excellent resources, including the contemporary Croyland Chronicle, a firsthand account of Italian traveler Dominic Mancini, and The Great Chronicle of London, which was written around 1513 and “provides us with near-contemporary evidence of the reign from a London perspective.” In what was a continuation of the War of the Roses, Richard’s brother Edward defeated King Henry VI’s forces and took the crown. Edward IV’s reign could have been successful but for his favoritism toward Queen Consort Elizabeth Woodville’s considerable relatives. Her family garnered titles and lands while she exalted herself as queen, demanding obeisance. Edward’s partiality drove Warwick, the kingmaker, and his brother, Clarence, to rebel 10 years into his reign. Edward fled to Burgundy with Richard, gathered an army, and returned to defeat them at Tewkesbury. Warwick died in battle and Clarence famously died in the Tower of London. Edward rewarded Richard handsomely for his loyalty with lands and a palatinate in northern England and all he could conquer in Scotland. This was to become his power base, his strength, and, in the end, his downfall. With Edward’s death, Richard seized his son, Edward V, and named himself protector and then king. His sister-in-law, Elizabeth, took herself into sanctuary at Westminster, but the Woodvilles’ strength came from Edward, so they had no power base. Their attachment to Henry Tudor proved to be the undoing of Richard and the marriage of the two warring houses. The author properly places the characters in their 15th-century time frame, when loyalties could be bought, sold, and switched. Much of the story is well-known, but Skidmore brings a fresh approach.
One of the least biased accounts of Richard III; the author acknowledges his subject’s faults without justifying them.