Thursday, January 15, 2015

Question from KB - Biographies of Richard III

This question is slightly out of the preferred date range but . . .

I am giving a lecture on Richard III in a couple months and am having a dickens of a time finding a biography that I like.

If anyone has suggestions, I would be most grateful. So far I have:

Desmond Seward's "Richard III: England's Black Legend" (Richard is evil)

Annette Carson's "Richard III: The Maligned King" (Richard is misunderstood)

Mike Pitts' "Digging for Richard III: The Search for the Lost King" (great read about the dig)

John Ashdown-Hill's "The Last Days of Richard III and the Fate of his DNA" (haven't started this one yet but he's in the Richard is misunderstood camp)

Paul Murray Kendall's "Richard the Third" (Richard is truly misunderstood and a lovely man - really - I promise)

In some ways this is a balanced list but all the books have blatant agendas with quite as much fiction interjected as any Shakespearean play. At the moment, Josephine Tey's "Daughter of Time" seems the most dispassionate despite the fact that it is pure fiction.

I know this is all secondary mass market work but I am without the time or resources for primary research so I'm skating a bit. This weekend, I will hunt for Thomas More's account and perhaps start skimming the Paston Letters if I find a digital version.

All suggestions welcome.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Two others: Charles Ross's biographies of both Edward IV and Richard III -- the picture you form of Richard is (IMO) different in these two books. (For example, in his Edward IV, Ross makes it clear that it was George of Clarence and Edward who were responsible for stripping the Countess of Warwick of her property, with Richard not benefitting until Clarence's execution years later; in his Richard III, Richard is a shark, in with his brothers).
Ross's biography of Richard III is "Richard is a man of the times" but traditionalist; it counters Kendall's greatest excesses. Reading both Kendall and Ross will counter the excesses of each. For example, Kendall points out that Richard was a great administrator as Warden of the Marches; Ross points out that people complained about him when he held another office; reading both together shows that Richard was holding both offices at the same time -- IMO, the idea that he couldn't do all his jobs well and didn't delegate any of his work supports the modern interpretation from Leicester University that Richard was a control freak)
Hislop has also written a new biography of Richard.

Esther Sorkin

kb said...

Thank you Esther! I'll look for both the Ross and the new Hislop.

Unknown said...

I love Richard III biographies, my personal favorite is "Richard III" by Jacob Abbot. It is very clear that the author respects Richard although disagrees with many of his choices. The book is available free online and is in the public domain so its easy to get a hold of.