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Eleanor the Secret Queen: The Woman who put Richard III on the Throne [Paperback]

John Ashdown-Hill
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 July 2010
Eleanor the secret queen

Frequently Bought Together

Eleanor the Secret Queen: The Woman who put Richard III on the Throne + The Last Days of Richard III and the fate of his DNA: the Book that Inspired the Dig + Richard III and the Murder in the Tower
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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (5 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752456695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752456690
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 12 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 100,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Ashdown-Hill [http://www.johnashdownhill.com/] is the historian who discovered Richard III's mtDNA sequence in 2004. Together with his work for the BBC on the myth that Richard's body was thrown into a river, and his research on Richard's grave site, this provided the key data used by the LOOKING FOR RICHARD PROJECT [http://looking-for-richard.webs.com/] to find Richard III's remains in 2012.

John's latest book is THE THIRD PLANTAGENET, GEORGE, DUKE OF CLARENCE, RICHARD III's BROTHER - 'Time has not been kind to George, Duke of Clarence, Thanks to Shakespeare's RICHARD III, the brother of Richard and Edward IV is remembered as 'False, fleeting, perjur'd''; a traitor put to a fool's death. ... But the real George, as this enthralling and elegant biography makes plain, was very different. ... In Ashdown-Hill, George has finally found the champion he deserves'. THE MAIL ON SUNDAY

Product Description

About the Author

John Ashdown-Hill is an historian and a member of the Royal Historical Society, the Society of Genealogists, the Richard III Society, and the Centre Europeen d'Etudes Bourguignonnes. He is the author of "Richard III's 'Beloved Cousyn.'"

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
This book completely demolishes the contention that Richard III was a usurper, because (as Ashdown amply shows) the 'Princes in the Tower' were both illegitimate. Under medieval law, they could have no claim to the English Crown; and Richard was next in line.

The book is well produced and the many illustrations are gorgeously reproduced. Unfortunately, virtually none is adequately labelled. The reader is left wondering where they come from. In a few instances, the other question is rather, 'why is this relevant?'

The book's first 2/3 or so describe Eleanor's early life in stultifying detail. We simply do not know sufficient about Eleanor to warrant such excess. And this book would be slim indeed if an editor were to delete each and every paragraph that contains the doubt-inducing words 'possibly,' 'probably,' maybe,' 'likely,' and the many, many, many other permutations of uncertainty.

Of course Eleanor lived in the shadows of her men folk, because all medieval women did. That sociological fact is indisputable and unavoidable. But a skilful writer can always find ways of expressing himself without recourse to teeth-jarring repetition and (to be frank) clotted prose. At the end, the reader has overdosed on `possibly/probably' to the extent that, ultimately, it undermines any confidence in the author's conclusions.

In summary, a book with good content but badly let down in terms of its scholarship and writing style. While Ashdown rightly castigates Charles Rees' biography of Richard III for its occasional lapses in content, he could have learnt a great many lessons in terms of scholarship, style and the art of writing.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Queen 7 Feb 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this an eminently readable book, well researched and even handed.
I think by now everyone interested knows that Edward IV was married before his "marriage" to Elizabeth Woodville, but few of us knew enough about the lady he had married secretly, nor did we realise what an important woman his first bride was - in fact, she would have been a better"catch" than Elizabeth, although both women were well connected.Now I am wondering about Edward himself and whether he was legitimate.So different from all his forebears, and possibly not the son of the Duke of York, he would have been insecure enough about his position, without the news of his previous contract with Lady Talbot leaking out.This does clear up the previously mysterious reasons for his killing of his brother of Clarence.I do hope that Mr Ashdown-Hill will soon offer us more of his clear, beautiful English, and his deeply researched work.Of course,as a Ricardian, I am a little biased!
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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
For anyone interested in fifteenth century history, the Wars of the Roses, or Richard III this book is a must-read. For the first time, Dr. Ashdown-Hill takes the shadowy, yet crucial figure of Eleanor Talbot and puts her centre stage. Penciled out of history by Henry VII and pretty much ignored by our fifteenth century historians, Dr. Ashdown-Hill clearly has his work cut out but triumphs in his detailed and meticulous research ; research that portrays as vivid a picture as possible of Eleanor, her life and times, and affinity.

The opening paragraphs and their detailed genealogy were a real eye opener. These maybe considered a little 'dry' for those with no interest in genealogy but are required reading in my mind so that you may fully comprehend both Eleanor's situation and rank within the context of her society.

Dr. Ashdown-Hill's extensive research very clearly indicates that Eleanor's MARRIAGE with Edward IV was a fact. Once this is taken into account then any discussion on the controversy surrounding Richard III's accession becomes redundant; he was the rightful heir.

Have we and many of our modern historians been criminally negligent in our cries of 'usurper' against this man? For any with an interest in this question, its ramifications, and in the period as a whole, Dr. Ashdown-Hill's 'Eleanor' is, quite simply, required reading.

A stonking good read.
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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So glad I bought this. 29 May 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If I had taken notice of the negative reviews I would not have bought this book, so I am grateful to the authors of the positive reviews that persuaded me to buy it. It was certainly time that an author investigated the life of this neglected lady who was almost written out of history by Tudor authors. The book is well-researched and very thorough in examining Eleanor's descent and family connections. Instead of her being some shadowy hanger-on on the edge of society she is shown to be a woman of some importance, the eldest daughter of an earl, descended from Edward I and Edward III and related to the Beauchamp, Mowbray and Neville families. Her marriage to Edward IV, then, was no mesalliance but a very suitable match had Edward not been king and expected to make a dynastic marriage. In the end, of course, he didn't do this either. The fact that Edward made another SECRET marriage was why his children by Elizabeth Woodville were illegitimate - if he had married Elizabeth in public then the marriage would have been in good faith on Elizabeth's part and her children would have been legitimate. Of course if they had published banns Eleanor would have had chance to object. Fascinating stuff.

What Eleanor did after Edward abandoned her is interesting too. She made endowments to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and also became associated with the Carmelite order at Norwich, in whose church she was buried. She had moved to Norfolk probably to be near her sister, Elizabeth, the Duchess of Norfolk (whose small daughter, Anne, was married to Richard, younger son of Edward IV).

All-in-all a very interesting read and an important book. Maybe we will never know for sure what really happened, but the author's interpretation of the evidence he has uncovered is fair-handed and faultless.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
thank you
Published 1 day ago by rosie2
5.0 out of 5 stars If only!
If only Eleanor had, had the courage to speak up what a change of history there would have been! Thoroughly enjoyed reading this well researched book. Read more
Published 5 days ago by jampotlid
4.0 out of 5 stars A much needed corrective
John Ashdown-Hill does an excellent job of bringing together the scattered information which survives on Eleanor Talbot and shows fairly convincingly that she must have been... Read more
Published 1 month ago by P. Geddes
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read evidence based investigation
Well written and through. Does mot speculate, uses evidence to identify weakness in well kmown accepted truths. Would recommend this book and others by the same author.
Published 4 months ago by J Beckett
3.0 out of 5 stars Eleanor
This book is full of names, quite difficult to hold these names in your head when reading further into the book,a hard readeven when you do know most of the characters, events and... Read more
Published 5 months ago by prush
5.0 out of 5 stars Eleanor Talbot - no longer overlooked
An erudite and thoughtful book, looking at a fascinating and pivotal period of English history. Another confirmation of the illegitimacy of the Tudor rule, too.
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars A little goes a long, long way.
Trying to read the early chapters of this book was like wading through treacle. It seemed to me that as there was relatively little to say about Eleanor we were told about all of... Read more
Published 5 months ago by KAW
5.0 out of 5 stars Fills in the background
For such a pivotal historical character, it seems frustratingly little is known about Eleanor. This book documents what is known, but its srength is placing her in historical... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Deke
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring
Such a pity that when men write historical books they make it so boring with just facts and figures. One never really gets to feel that one understands the main character. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Penelope Seymour
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware brain meltdown
John Ashdown - Hill is SO thorough, and his ability to sort out the convolutions of Mediaeval genealogy put me in fear of my brain disintegrating and trickling from my ears as I... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Rosalind Cooper
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