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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive biography of its time
Kendall's biography of the most controversial king in English history is a model of careful, balanced research. Although published over 50 years ago, it is still the best book I've read on Richard's whole career. Along with Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time, this is one of the books which leads people to become members of the Richard III Society. Some of Kendall's...
Published on 3 Nov. 2007 by Lynette Baines

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy not History
This is a fantastic account of the life of Richard III. By that I mean it is at least in part pure fantasy. For instance his account of the Battle of Barnet has Richard leading the vanguard when no contemporary source so says. There is much of 'recreation' in this work, by that I mean an imaginative filling in of gaps and providing detail ('Pushing his visor up, Richard...
Published on 9 Mar. 2013 by Samuel Romilly


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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive biography of its time, 3 Nov. 2007
By 
Lynette Baines (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Richard III (Paperback)
Kendall's biography of the most controversial king in English history is a model of careful, balanced research. Although published over 50 years ago, it is still the best book I've read on Richard's whole career. Along with Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time, this is one of the books which leads people to become members of the Richard III Society. Some of Kendall's conclusions have been overtaken by new evidence, but he deals with the available sources impartially. He also gives a wonderfully detailed picture of the times Richard lived in. Particulrly fascinating is his examination of the deaths of the Princes in the Tower, which he leaves to an Appendix so as not to stem the flow of his narrative. He carefully sifts through the evidence on each side and, although he is clearly a Ricardian, he is not so biassed as to discount material unfavourable to his thesis. I don't think a completely objective biography of Richard could be written and I think this is an excellent introduction to a subject which has fascinated me for many years.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Make your own mind up., 13 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Richard III (Paperback)
I am interested in the Wars of the Roses period and its aftermath and in my reading frequently came across references to this book. Often they were somewhat sneery. I decided that the best thing to do was actually read the book for myself. There are moments of purple prose, but this actually helps to make it a very enjoyable read. There are moments when you think that Kendall is putting thoughts into peoples heads and you cry out 'Where is the evidence for this?'. However, there is lots of very thought provoking material in this book. I thought it was especially good on Warwick and Clarence. It makes you think about Clarence rather than just holding him in utter contempt as a traitor. It goes into serious and fascinating detail about Richards legislative programme and the conservative motives behind his radical, by medieval standards, reforms. Read this. Even if you do not agree with all of it, it is time well and enjoyably spent.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paul Kendall Richard III, 28 Sept. 2009
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This review is from: Richard III (Paperback)
This is a fine and sympathetic account of Richard's life, and places him more accurately within his times than the many prejudiced accounts that we have become used to.

While clearly sympathetic to Richard, it does not completely acquit him from responsibility for the princes' fate ("The push from the dais was the mortal stroke"), and leaves this as an unsolved mystery, which may, or may not have been to his account (though Kendall seems to lean towards Richard's innocence).
Kendall seeks to fet right inside the mind and heart of his subject, and leaves one feeling real empathy for Richard as a human being. This might not be entirely historical, for how can we know the feelings and thoughts of a person 500 years dead, but it does create understanding.

I was interested to note, primarily, from the Appendices and Notes, that there exist doubts that the skeletons discovered in the Tower are those of the princes. (Actual site of location, age and ages of the bones, unclear references later than 1483, to the Lord Bastard).
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive Ricardian biography., 30 April 2007
This review is from: Richard III (Paperback)
This book is superbly researched and written. Naturally, much of the content of any book on Richard III will always involve an element of conjecture or interpretation of what few facts surrounding the most fiercely debated mystery in English history are actually known. However, this book is written with such a commanding presentation of points and of evidence as to leave the reader with little doubt that it is the definitive book on this most fascinating king.

Despite its thickness, the book never delves into tedium and unlike many other books on the subject is not at all hard work. The chapter on Bosworth is excellent and presents a very detailed anlaysis of both the events and of the military strategies employeed by the three sides (Richard, Richmond and Stanley).

This book is a must have for anyone with aan interest in this subject, it is the biography of Richard against which all others should be judged.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Readable and Well Balanced Work about Richard III, 3 Oct. 2013
By 
H. A. Weedon "Mouser" (North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Richard III (Paperback)
First published in 1955 this work has since become something of a classic and is still unsurpassed as a definitive account of the life and reign of King Richard III of England. Although a copy of it has been in my possession for some time, this is the first revue I've written about it. One of the book's greatest assets is the readability of the writing style adopted by the author, Paul Murray Kendall, who uses a fertile imagination to recreate scenes from the life of Richard, something which encourages the reader to use his/her imagination by asking questions such as: 'Was he really like that?' The reader is not made to feel that she/he is being 'got at' by someone who has an axe to grind. The author is one of those inspiring 'think things out for yourself' historian.

There are two appendices: 'Who Murdered the Princes?' and 'Richard's Reputation.' The work has extensive reference notes, a five page bibliography and a very helpful index. The answer arrived at to the question poised in the first appendix is that we simply do not know and never will. The conclusion reached in the second appendix is that, although Richard was not perfect, he was a better king than either the Tudors or Shakespeare would have us believe.

Chapter Four, entitled 'The Government of the Realm', is one of the most interesting along with Chapter Five, which describes the legal reforms passed into law when Richard presided over parliament. It was also during Richard's reign that all government documents were published in English for the first time since the Norman Conquest. The reader is shown how there's often so much 'rabbiting on' about the Princes in the Tower that Richard's true greatness, in that he was willing to work with parliament and have reforming laws passed for the benefit of his subjects, is overlooked. In this respect he was a more enlightened monarch than the early Tudors. This work deals thoroughly with this important matter.

I don't see this work as 'whitewashing' Richard. On the contrary, I would say that the author presents a balanced and fair minded account of what actually happened. Unlike some apologists for Richard III who 'go up the walls' if anyone suggest that he might perhaps have had his nephews murdered, Paul Murray Kendall deals only with facts and if reliable proof is absent concerning any disputed occurrence, he says so. Whilst there may well be some books about Richard III which are as good as this one, there certainly aren't any that are better. If you're looking for a definitive, helpful and very readable work concerning Richard III, this is the one.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant biography; academic masterpiece; gripping as a detective novel, 3 Nov. 2011
By 
Chris J. Newman "lao-ke" (China) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Richard III (Paperback)
If I could give six stars for a book, I would want to give this one seven. I've seldom enjoyed a book so much as this. I knew and cared little about Richard III when I began reading but from the first page I couldn't put the book down. As a result, I read it so quickly that when I finished I found that I'd forgotten much about the beginning, so I am now enjoying the pleasure of re-reading it. In fact, the book deserves a second reading since it allows the reader to understand better how and where the multiplicity of players fit into the story and what was really going on behind the scenes of the drama.

The book combines very high academic standards with a novelist's story-telling abilities. It includes detailed references to what must be every extant book and record relating to Richard III. Furthermore, it is quite clear that the author has no axe to grind and no position to defend. He simply seeks truths that have been too long and too well hidden behind the propaganda promulgated by the Tudors who followed Richard to the throne. Shakespeare, who had only the Tudors' story to refer to and who in any case composed his plays about the Plantagenet kings in late Tudor times, carries more responsibility than anyone for broadcasting the fiction that Henry Tudor and his followers created.

Far from the crook-backed monster portrayed by Shakespeare, Kendall paints a picture of Richard as a fundamentally "good man" - good in the sense that he appears to have been an uxorious husband and a caring monarch who (almost unheard of in those days) showed genuine concern for his people and especially for the poor and disadvantaged. In his two years on the throne, he left a large, important and long-lasting legacy that reflected his cares, including: the Council of the North which provided regional control largely independent of Westminster; the Court of Requests that specialised in the grievances of poor people who could not afford legal representation; the introduction of bail to protect the accused from imprisonment before trial; and the College of Arms to bring under control the registration and issue of Arms to reduce counterfeit claims to nobility.

Perhaps most importantly Richard initiated the notion (quoting Kendall's words) "unlike any that had been known since Parliament began, perhaps a century before, to think of itself not only as the King's High Court, but also as the nation's representative legislature".

Kendall's portrait of Richard as a fundamentally "good man" is, however, by no means one-sided, and the "man" that he portrays is entirely human with weaknesses that characterize all men - for instance a desire for popularity through a regime of fairness and justice, though Richard may have been motivated as much by a desire to stabilize his country after decades of civil war. Indeed, Kendall postulates that Richard's decision to disinherit his nephew, Edward V, and to take the throne for himself, was at least partly taken in the pursuit of stability, since minority rules were always a cause of division and civil strife; however he does not discount the possibility that Richard was also motivated by personal aggrandizement.

Kendall does not offer firm judgement on the much debated question of Richard's guilt for the murder of his nephews. He concludes only that the boys were murdered under Richard's protection and that he therefore must bear some responsibility for the deed. He further concludes that Henry Tudor was almost certainly not involved in the murders, but that the Duke of Buckingham (a fickle supporter of Henry's rebellion against Richard) was the most likely perpetrator, with or without Richard's knowledge.

From shreds of evidence that have been left to us, Kendall has developed a thoroughly rounded characterization of Richard that is both recognizable and plausible. Similarly, he has assembled an amazingly detailed and plausible account of Richard's life and the plethora of characters that surrounded his reign and which brought about his rise and his downfall.

Above all, his book is not just a biography. It is a work of art. Not only is Kendall's telling of the tale gripping and entertaining, but his articulation of language, his vocabulary and his phraseology are delightful to absorb.

I can't speak highly enough of this book.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As good an un-biased book as you will find., 6 May 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Richard III (Paperback)
This author has attempted an un-biased, historically accurate tale of Richard III. He uses all available references to present the story of an often misunderstood King. While he is not always successful in being unbiased, this book is worth the read.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard III - the man behaind the myth, 2 Aug. 2004
By 
Mrs. D. J. Smith "eowyngreenleaf" (Luton, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Richard III (Paperback)
This is a very thorough biography of England most notorious king, which includes plenty of background detail on the Wars of the Roses - it's hard to study Richard without putting him in this context! This is also a well balanced book in terms of bias, and Kendall explains why he chooses the interpretation he does from the available evidence. There is an interesting chapter on the London of the time, which is helpful in placing characters in period. This book is also extremely well annotated - references are numbered, but there is a star next to the number if there is more information, rather than just source details, in the end notes. This is helpful for the general reader who won't want to check up every reference if it's purely of academic interest. Although this is a fairly recent edition, it was published originally in the 1950's. This only really shows up in Appendix 1 where the Princes in the Tower are discussed, as more modern thinking is obviously not discussed, particularly on the subject of the skeletons. A very plausible case for Buckingham being the perpetrator is made. I like Kendall's idea that Richard became close to Buckingham because of his resemblance in character to his brother Clarence! If you only read one book on Richard III, make it this one. Five stars!
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard the Third - Exposed in Truth, 7 July 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Richard III (Paperback)
Without a question, an outstanding factual look at the man whose legend was tainted through the centuries.
Kendell demonstrates accurancy and the human factor which allows the reader to experience the drama and tragedy which comprised Richards life.
Finally we have a history based on truth - not a victor's slander.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Biography, 7 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Richard III (Paperback)
The massive public interest generated by the formal identification of the bones found beneath a Leicester car park as the remains of Richard III has naturally prompted an upsurge of interest in the last of the Plantagenet monarchs.

Anyone looking for a well-written but scholarly account of Richard's short but dramatic life should start with Paul Murray Kendall's biography. First published in 1955, it has aged remarkably well, not least because Professor Kendall had the rare gift of expressing meticulous research through compelling prose. His ability to recreate a convincing picture of fifteenth century society, and especially its ruthless power-politics, was equally clear in two other outstanding biographies, of the English nobleman 'Warwick the Kingmaker', and the French king Louis XI.

Although there's been much scholarly work on Richard III over the half century or so since this book emerged, it remains a remarkably thoughtful and balanced work, and undoubtedly far more vividly written than any of its successors.

Professor Kendall, who died in 1973, would have been fascinated by the discovery of Richard's bones, not least for what they tell us of the way in which he went down fighting, surrounded by enemies who clearly kept hacking and stabbing away long after he'd lost the ability to defend himself.

It's a shame that this poignant evidence for the bloody reality of Richard's last moments, and the degrading treatment of his dead body - which is surely historically significant in its own right - has been overshadowed by calls for a far more thorough testing of the DNA. Some academics, it seems, are too fixated upon research to appreciate the sheer drama of the story: thankfully, for all his own careful scholarship, Paul Murray Kendall managed to convey a real feel for the past, as any reader of this classic biography will discover.
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Richard III
Richard III by Paul Murray Kendall (Paperback - 1 April 2002)
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