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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Alison Weir is perhaps best known for her Tudor history titles and I will not hesitate to recommend these to you, but unfortunately her pro-Tudor/Lancastrian bias is all too evident in this look at Richard III and the 'Princes in the Tower'. She informs the reader that she will be taking an objective look at the facts, but it's pretty clear that from the outset she has already pronounced her verdict!
To give Weir credit, it's a well written book and if you are interested in this subject you might like to read it, but if you do, PLEASE make sure you read some other theories too - and then make up your own mind from the available evidence.
She presents her 'theory' with such conviction of it's being the truth, that's it's easy for the uninitiated reader to take her word as gospel. Her theory is, however, precariously balanced - a house of cards built on a foundation of assumptions. She takes Sir Thomas More pretty much as gospel, because he has 'the ring of authenticity', despite the fact that he was a child when Richard was piteously slain, and few historians take him without a large pinch of salt and where he can be substantiated from other sources. Of course, when More's writings do not fit Weir's theory, he must be mistaken, of course....
The analysis of the skeletons found in the Tower is interesting, but her reliance on the textile 'evidence' for these being the Princes is weak. There is one report on the discovery of bones which mentions pieces of 'rag and velvet'. This was from an eye witness, not a textile expert, and the fabric has not been seen since, so it's hardly concrete proof that they are even of the period we are looking at!
If you're looking for some further reading and want a bit more balance, Paul Murray Kendall is perhaps still the best overall biography of Richard, but weak on the case of the princes and not a light tome for the beginner! Bertram Field's 'Royal Blood' is an excellent analysis of the case - you may be interested to see Weir's arguments picked apart! Also Geofrey Richardson's The Hollow Crowns and The Deceivers are well worth reading and give some new ideas. Tey's The Daughter of Time is excellent fiction as is Reay Tannerhill's The Seventh Son, but these are not meant as serious history.
Perhaps we'll never know the truth, but there's plenty here to mull over. I enjoy reading this if only for the fun of being able to pick my own holes in Weir's theories....
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 9 March 2013
I have read other Alison Weir books and usually enjoy them; they are written in an interesting, almost chatty way and I feel the author really brings the figures to life.

I am not a Ricardian, nor do I think Richard III was the devil incarnate, and I was hoping for an impartial, factual read- (the likes of which A J Pollard or Charles Ross would produce)- by an author I previously enjoyed.

This book is not Ms Weir's best.

I feel she decided that Richard III is guilty as Hell and has absolutely no redeeming features whatsover- and she starts from there.
I wanted to read an intelligent book about Richard III and the princes in the tower- not someone's opinion/foregone conclusion which they labour to "prove" throughout the book.

Personally, I do think Richard III did probably kill the princes in the tower and I don't hold with the opinion that he was an innocent saint.
However, other writers manage to get this point across without going down the tired old route of Richard as the classic pantomine villain who, after a hard day's plotting, planning, biting on his lip and usurping, sits down to a "celebratory dinner". Quite possibly complete with an evil cackle and rubbing his hands together in glee.

I also found some of the "evidence" used by Alison Weir a bit dubious. The textile evidence- proof that the skeletons in the tower are the princes, is pure heresay. I found it every bit as melodramatic as some of the more fervent Ricardians, trying to convince us Richard was absolutely fautless.

I think the book is worth a read, as it covers the basics. This has probably put me off buying more of Alison Weir's books, as I am now of the opinion she is unobjective and possibly inaccurate. I feel she does painstakingly research her sources, but the way that is then applied is possibly one sided.

A much better book is "Richard III and the Princes in the Tower", by Prof A J Pollard- he also seems to be of the opinion Richard "did it", but at least tries not to present him as a one dimensional character.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 1 May 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There are elements of speculation, as with ALL historical research, however Weir derives meaning from contemporary accounts and evidence. A lot of reviewers on Amazon have criticised her for being biased but with the evidence, Richard III was not a well-liked monarch according to public opinion at the time. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of readers have jumped on the bandwagon of denying that Richard III had any part in the death of the princes in the tower, which has affected this book's reception.

I found this book informative and compelling, and I will definitely be buying her other books.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2005
This was the first book I read on the subject of the princes and I picked Alison Weir's book because I had read her retelling of the Wars of the Roses and found it to be very clear and ejoyable. Indeed I found this book to be the same. However when I started to read around the subject I realised just how impartial she was not. She clearly loathed Richard III from the start. She had her theory ie as guilty as hell and she was going to interpret every single fact in that light.
She sees the devil in every single one of Richard's acts. Most critics allow Richard to be a good ruler even if they find him guilty of the murder of his nephews. Not miss Weir. I do not wish to discourage anyone from reading this book but please do not let her be the only author you read on this subject. Bertram Fields provides a good analysis of this book and would be an excellent choice for reading straight after.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 June 2015
The perfect companion for all historical fiction enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

"The Princes in the Tower" covers the latter years of the Wars of the Roses, Richard III's final days, and the early years of Tudor England. The main topic, of course, is the mystery of what happened to Edward V and his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York.

For many years it was believed Richard III was responsible for murdering his nephews after first declaring them bastards so as to claim the throne for himself. It was believed he had the boys killed to secure his position as King of England.

Over time "revisionists" have pointed out that there's no actual proof that Richard III ordered his nephews' death. The revisionists came up with counter theories, not only clearing Richard of child murder, but also excusing or reasoning other tyrannical acts attributed to the final Plantagenet king.

Alison Weir states early on that she believes her account will prove for sure who was responsible for the princes' disappearance. She is no revisionist and has a counterpoint for every argument made in favour of Richard III. Her research is thorough, her writing engaging, and as a result this tome is indeed a good read.

My only criticism is that the author isn't as objectionable as the average historian should be - in my opinion, at least - as she doesn't allow any possibility that any of the revisionists' theories may hold merit.

Granted, what evidence there is regarding the princes' fate does not paint Richard III in a good light, but all these centuries on I feel it's impossible to ever be sure what really happened. Maybe I'm looking for a half chance that Richard was innocent because I admire his bravery - something that even his enemies recorded as fact - and that Shakespeare's demonization of the king appeared so exaggerated that I'm left wondering what else has been fabricated.

But then Ms Weir does offer such strong arguments that it's hard to believe that Richard wasn't responsible. At the end of the day, it's doubtful the truth could ever be known for certain, unless at some future date something from the past is unearthed to shed a clearer light on the subject.

This book was first published in 1992; just over a decade before Richard III's remains were found in Leicester. With this in mind, I found the following extract from Ms Weir's book interesting with my knowledge of hindsight:

"During the Reformation of the 1530s the monastery of the Franciscan friars was dissolved and the church despoiled. Richard's tomb was destroyed and his bones disinterred and thrown into the River Soar. They were either lost at that point or recovered and reburied at Bow Bridge: the evidence is conflicting. Richard's coffin is said to have been used as a horse trough in Leicester but had been broken up by 1758 and its pieces used to build the cellar steps in the White Horse Inn. Some ruined walls and foundations are all that is left of the monastery; a car park now occupies most of its site."
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73 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2009
If you want a non-biased, impartial, factual read with primary sources to back up the facts on the 'Wars of the Roses & deaths of the Princes in the Tower' - then this is NOT for you.
After a few minutes reading I had to get my pen out & start striking through assumptions, quotes that the author claimed to be contemporary which were in fact reports/stories that were written many years after the events took place (which is quite clear if you check her appendix!), gossip & tittle-tattle quoted as fact, & most glaringly of all, the authors complete bias against Richard III. She is even quoting, in her own words, 'an untrustworthy source' (ref Molinet, page 149) - if the source is untrustworthy then why is a historian even using it?!
Irritatingly she states the emotions of the source of her gossip and the main players too! Which is fine for a historical fiction but not for a 'fact based history book'.
Uses text such as 'ALMOST CERTAINLY...this happened'P123 & P148 'More was PROBABLY nearer the truth when he conjectured...'!
There is also a number of inconsistencies in her version of events.
EG that the author of the Croyland Chronicle is ANONYMOUS (p4) yet goes on to assume who this person was & (p126) that he WAS on the Council!
& On P141 she says that 'Rivers had been deputy constable but that appointment had LAPSED when he was arrested.' But earlier that 'Rivers had GIVEN the appointment to Dorset!'
This is not a good book! & I'm surprised that the cover includes quotes such as 'Absorbing' Sunday Times, lucidly written - oh also Sunday Times(!) - NOT!
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48 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2009
I really like Alison Weir's non-fiction - especially the way she tends to focus on important yet neglected women in history (e.g. Kathryn Swynford, Eleanor of Aquitaine). Unfortunately, this book disappoints in that although her research is as painstaking as ever, her attempt to present almost a legal case for the guilt of Richard III in relation to the death of the princes falls down on several counts. I found myself disagreeing out loud with some of her statements and assumptions which, in some cases, were quite erroneous constructions on the words or acts of the protagonists. For an experienced historian, Ms Weir has unfortunately fallen into the trap of allowing her own beliefs to overpower the narrative, and she does not allow for any other possible scenarios/explanations. This lack of balance, exacerbated by her obvious dislike of Richard, taints what should have been an interesting and well-written book. My greatest discomfort however is with the conclusions she comes to regarding the skeletons found in the Tower in 1674 - all I will say to this is 'chain of evidence'.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2009
Alison Weir's book purports to give a true, unbiased account of the events leading up to and following the accession of Richard 111 to the throne of England. She quotes many sources, most of which she avers are 'contemporary' to the events in question. On further examination one discovers that these 'contemporary' accounts are all dated from after the death of Richard 111, indeed during the reign of Henry V11 to whose distinct advantage it was to besmirch and traduce the reputation of the man to whose throne he succeeded.
I found Ms Weir's obvious bias against Richard 111 annoying to say the least. She managed to twist the 'contemporary' evidence to such a degree on occasions that it appeared to be facing in entirely the opposite direction from its original meaning by the time she'd finished with it. She used conjecture, gossip and spiteful tittle tattle as many of her sources and interpreted the rest to fit the conclusion with which she had obviously clouded her historian's neutrality.
Her knowledge of human psychology seems to be quite limited if she can write that Elizabeth Wydville, the mother of the two princes allegedly killed by Richard 111, would openly sanction a proposed marriage between her daughter and the murderer of her two sons in order that she could gain wealth and influence once more. 'Pragmatic' is how Ms Weir describes Elizabeth Wydville!
I was disappointed by the definite bias that prevailed throughout the book. I would have prefered genuine arguement for and against both sides. This was lacking. It was a foreone conclusion that Richard 111 was a child murderer who got his just deserts. I would make this book required reading at universities on how not to write about history.
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40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on 16 January 2010
This is without doubt the worst history book I've ever read. Before I picked this up, I was by no stretch a Ricardian, but Ms Weir's book is so full of pejoratives, illogic, inconsistency, venom and distortion that I felt compelled to read further on the subject to get a more balanced view, which only served to convince me even further of how badly researched this book is. This is the only book I've ever thrown away. Do yourself a favour - give this a miss if you want a fair-minded or balanced view of these events! Try Richard III or Royal Blood: King Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes instead.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2008
Alison Weir's barely concealed antipathy towards Richard III ruins this book. I felt that I had no choice other to agree with Ms Weir that Richard III was a crouch backed monster who was definitely the one who murdered the boys, and had no right to be presented with the facts and free to make up my own mind. I barely finished it. I wanted to read history, not venom spitting.
Big no no from me.
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