Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Richard, The Young King To Be

I finally finished Josephine Wilkinson's new biography, Richard, The Young King To Be. It covers Richard's life until 1475, ending with Edward IV's anticlimatic excursion to France.

On the whole, I thought this was well done. Though highly sympathetic to Richard, it avoided the romanticism of Paul Murray Kendall (no escaping with Anne to breathe the free air of the moors, for instance). Richard's marriage to Anne is viewed as a pragmatic move by both parties, rather than as a match of childhood sweethearts, and Wilkinson even dares to suggest that one of Richard's illegitimate children could have been born during his marriage, as opposed to the traditional Ricardian view, which insists that they were born either in his unmarried days or through immaculate conception. In addition to noting the identification of Katherine Haute as a possible mistress of Richard's, she comes up with another candidate as well. Richard's land transactions involving the Countess of Oxford, the Countess of Warwick, and the young Duke of Bedford are examined in detail, and though Wilkinson puts most of the blame on Edward IV and Clarence, she doesn't absolve Richard entirely.

I did have a couple of reservations. Moving dangerously close to Kendall territory, Wilkinson presents the young Richard as idolizing his brother Edward. (One such passage reads, "For him, Edward was the realisation of the the angelic prophecy that foretold the return of the righteous, sacred king" (p. 98). This is psychologically quite plausible, but it's not something we know as fact, and Wilkinson doesn't produce any sources to verify her assertion. Later, during a brief excursion into the future, Wilkinson states categorically that Edward V was illegitimate and that the Woodvilles were planning to "depose" Richard from his protectorate by rushing Edward to London so that he could be crowned immediately (p. 134). Wilkinson, like other writers who accept Richard's accusations against the Woodvilles as fact, doesn't explain why, if the Woodvilles were trying to rush to London, Anthony Woodville dawdled so long at Ludlow with his charge and met Richard III at his lodgings instead of pressing onto London. Maybe Wilkinson will attempt an explanation in her next book.

All in all, though, this was an interesting look at a part of Richard's life that has been given relatively scant attention by historians. As it appears that this will be a two-part biography, I'll be interested in seeing that Wilkinson makes of the older Richard.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Books! Books! Books!

Cock-eyed optimist that I am, I'm excited to see several new books on The Man coming out soon:

Richard III: The Young King by Josephine Wilkinson. This is part one of a two-part biography of Richard, and it's winging its way to me now. (Wilkinson also has a biography of Mary Boleyn in the offing.)

Richard III by Ann Kettle. This is published by Routledge and is offered at the whopping price of 54 pounds, so I assume it's meant for the academic market. Every time I try to search for it on Routledge's site, it times out on me; maybe you'll have better luck.

Richard III and the Death of Chivalry by David Hipshon. According to its description, this book attributes Stanley's betrayal of Richard to Richard's support of the Harringtons in the Harrington-Stanley feud.

On the fiction front, I posted a review of Emma Darwin's A Secret Alchemy on my main blog. I really enjoyed it. It features two historical characters, Anthony and Elizabeth Woodville, and one fictional contemporary character, a historian who's writing an academic study of the brother and sister. Richard III makes only a couple of appearances, but much of the story takes place during his reign.