Like any good Anglophile, when I heard the news that they had possibly discovered the grave of one of England’s most infamous monarchs, I was excited to say the least. As an amateur historian who studies England during the Wars of the Roses up through Elizabethan times, my heart raced to hear the news. To say that my geek flag was flying that day would have been an understatement. I knew in my heart that Richard had been found, even before the DNA proved it, the circumstantial evidence had me completely convinced. I was as giddy as could be and couldn’t wait to read the book that I knew would eventually be published. When I saw that I would get to review that book for Anglotopia, I actually did the happy dance around the condo, clutching the book and very nearly having a Gollum moment…my “precious” had arrived!
In The King’s Grave: The Discovery of King Richard III’s Lost Burial Place and the Clues it Holds by Phillipa Langley and Michael Jones, the reader gets the chance to relive the process from Langley’s first frisson of intuition to the reveal of the DNA results. Langley’s chapters are personal and attempt to portray Richard completely differently than any previous historical account. She tried to get to the real man behind all the propaganda and to wipe away the stain of infamy. She is a Ricardian, so this should not be a surprise. She does a good job explaining that the Tudors, in an attempt to solidify their tenuous claim to the throne, slandered Richard—but she does take it to the extreme at times. Jones’s chapters are very scholarly, attempting to assert that Richard’s repuation should be rehabilitated while at the same time saying that his (Richard’s) own actions don’t help his reputation. It’s a bit convoluted at times, but readers who are versed in the historiography of the period will have no issue deciphering it.
What I found most intriguing about the book was the appendix where both authors debate Richard’s role in the disappearance/murder of the Princes in the Tower. I have my own opinion and it matches one of the authors closely, but I don’t want to bias readers who haven’t formed their own opinion about the mystery. What I found disturbing was some of Langley’s seemingly “grasping at straws”attempts to re-invent Richard. I was as equally disturbed to read about her guttural dismay upon learning that he had Scoliosis. It was if she couldn’t fathom that some of the myths about Richard might have some basis in fact. She continued to almost deny it, even with the physical evidence in front of her. Here, readers must remember that hers is not a history, but a personal narrative. Overall, this is a MUST read for anyone with a remote interest in the time period. A great book for those who enjoyed the TV series’ The Tudors, or The White Queen; as well as readers of Alison Weir or Philippa Gregory, and Anglophiles in general.