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on 31 July 2010
John Ashdown-Hill has done it again to follow up his excellent and intriguing book, Eleanor the secret Queen. This time he does what all good historians should do - take you to the appropriate moment and examine the subject, having tried to forget the future. Following the example of Micheal Jones, who tries to portray Richard as a proactive king rather than the reactive monarch of Shakespeare, Ashdown Hill's Richard becomes quite different. His day to day rituals and acts of routine piety are related in detail and the fact that Richard went hunting a few days before Bosworth; not the action of a nervous underconfident King. As a Dr I was very much persuaded by his conjecture that Richard may have been ill before Bosworth, accounting for his possible nightmares. We all have apprehensions before a big day but Richard's possible dreams sound much more like a pyrexia than just nerves. Did he suffer from the contemporary sweating sickness? Was he ill on the morning of Bosworth and was he overkeen to get the thing over with? Ashdown-Hill is also much kinder to Henry; Henry's treatment of Richard was in fact straightforward and proper (being killed in battle was after all unique for a post Norman King!)Richard's body was slung over the back of a horse; how else would you do it? Henry did not pre-date his reign from 21st August. He then goes on a hunt for Richard's mitochondial DNA following this with the possibility that Richard's remains could still exist. If so Richard could be identified positively and so many answers, his height, his deformity or lack of it, his mode of death could be established. Ashdown-Hill's scholarship combined with a vision of revelation make this another tasty meal for those who wish to set the Historical record of Richard III straight.
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on 15 August 2010
I confess an interest in Richard III and have read fairly extensively around the fifteenth century so I approached this fairly short book not expecting to find much new within. I have to say however the narrative style was very clear and the whole concept of taking the king through his last months and beyond into the whole debate of where his body is and who exists today as distant relatives provided a new angle on a much written about king. The illustrations are refreshingly different from the usual and the book is attractive overall. I thought there was little more to say on his short period as monarch, it just shows how you can be wrong! The book is well suited for the lover of medieval history or those who have read on Richard III previously. Very enjoyable.
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on 4 July 2010
This book was interesting for filling in some gaps about Richard's activities before his death, but most interesting of all was the discussion of the current state of play re DNA research into these last Plantagenets and their modern descendants. I did not think I would have found this section as interesting as it was. The discussion of the fate of Richard's tomb was illuminating and his theory that Henry Tudor built something more up-market in response to the Warbeck threat is an interesting one. Despite this I confess that, like strawberries, it left an unsatisfied feeling behind, something there should have been (like cream), but wasn't, and I can't put my finger on what it is! Nevertheless, essential reading for any Ricardian, and certainly not the sort of book which the anti-Richards can scream bias about!
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VINE VOICEon 8 March 2013
I have always been interested in Richard III and for others like myself there is nothing particularly new in the historical section of this book. However if you are coming to Richard afresh following the excitement of the discovery of the bones in the car park you will find the description of the last days of Richard's reign a good introduction to this much maligned King. What is really fascinating however, and makes the book a 'must read', is the description of how the author traced each woman who passed on the DNA from Richard's sister through the centuries right up to the present. Probably the most breath taking thing is that because DNA is passed through the female line [which has died out with this generation]is that this was the very last chance to find a living person with Richard's DNA. The time was right for the bones to be found!fjs
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on 26 October 2010
Forget Tudor history, which is what I've been overdosing on over the past few years. Richard III is where it's at! My knowledge of this period is pitiful to say the least but has never been based on the one-sided, two-dimensional rubbish you are fed on in primary school.

John Ashdown-Hill writes of Richard's last 150 days refreshingly without hindsight, of a religious man who believed in his right to be king, a man who was confident of victory against Henry Tudor and a man looking to the future after the recent deaths of his son and wife. The initial eight chapters covering the last 150 days are compulsory reading for both novices and those well read in Ricardian history.

The remainder discusses the whereabouts of Richard's body, tracing Richard's DNA to the present to aid this. Where is Richard buried is of course still an important unanswered question, but I did find this chapter a little too detailed and scientific for my liking.

Thank you John. You have helped me escape the Tudors!
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on 7 March 2016
Nothing wrong with the content - my problem is with THE SIZE OF THE TEXT. It is so small, I find it very difficult to read. This seems to be a growing trend with academic books. I would rather pay more to have books with 'normal' size text.
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on 14 August 2011
This book has given me new information. Although I have read a couple of books on the to me immensely interesting King Richard III I hadn't come across such a detailed account of the treatment of his body after the battle. Very illuminating that this seems to have been no vicious or vindictive maltreatment but rather the best of what could have been expected in those circumstances, when both parties didn't know beforehand how the day would end.
I was also not aware of the custom that at Easter the king was expected to wash the feet of the same number of poor men as his age at the time. Was this always done, even by old kings like Edward III, fat kings like Edward IV or mentally unstable kings like Henry VI? And what about minors like Richard II or [again] Henry VI?
It is understandable but a pity nonetheless that the chances of royal graves ever getting opened for modern research are virtually non-existent. Also the digging up of the built-over parts of the Greyfriars church, where the body of the king might still be lying is extremely unlikely in any near future. We would all like a thorough examination of his remains, in order to determine on the one hand if he was in any way misshapen and on the other hand how he exactly was killed.
I have to resign myself to the fact I will never know.
This book is recommended reading for those who are interested in King Richard and his time.
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on 21 May 2014
This was a interesting book. If, like me, you have been a faithful Richardian for decades, this book does fill in some 'blanks'. I still can't work out how Richard could have lost Bosworth, even with the traitorous Stanleys and Northumberland. He had a far superior force. But, as we all know, he did lose. I was enlightened to learn that Henry VII actually did set up a monument for Richard - but thank goodness he didn't have his bones put into the tomb. No matter how many times I have to read the way Richard's body was treated post mortem, and it was nothing out of the ordinary - I still can not fathom how Henry could have treated a King's body this way, but then I am writing in the 21st century and not the 15th!!! I loved the DNA facts, although I had to read them several times, because it did get a bit confusing to a mere, ordinary person.
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on 31 December 2013
I really enjoyed this informative and detailed book by John Ashdown - Hill, one of those responsible for locating the mortal remains of the much maligned Richard III. It's a shame that Richard will also be tagged " The King in the car park ", but at least he HAS been found, as I had believed his remains had been thrown into the River Soar. My hope for 2014 is that common sense prevails and that he is finally laid to rest at a CATHOLIC site, to reflect his faith.
I read the kindle version of this book, which does rather detract from it, I feel, as there are many references, and illustrations which are either confusing,, or lost altogether when reading it on the ordinary kindle. But I still enjoyed it immensely, and make NO mistake this is a great book for Ricardians - informative, enlightening and well written. Thank you, John Ashdown - Hill.
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on 11 June 2013
If you're a Ricardian, you'll give this 5 stars. If not, you'll enjoy the first half and then be bored by the detail. This is serious stuff, but then the author has a very serious point to make - that the remains found in that Leicester car park are indeed those of King Richard III - and he makes it with a rigour that should satisfy the most stringent examining board, or jury. Of course, establishing that long-dead remains are indeed those of a King of England tells us little of the man's personality or character, but concentrating on the known facts of Richard's last 150 days is very revealing.

Increasingly now, we're coming to believe King Richard III was not the evil being of Shakespeare's great play; that the Welsh Tudors had in fact done a thorough job of assassinating the character of the last English King because their claim to the throne was so weak. One key fact the narrative brings home is that this was a man who had just lost his beloved wife and his only (legitimate) son within a year of each other. A man also troubled that his elder brother King Edward IV had married bigamously and so his children were bastards and the throne once more at risk. Hence Richard's 'usurpation' of his nephew, for the good of the Plantagenet cause. Yes, it suited Richard to eliminate 'the Princes in the Tower', but of course, it suited Henry Tudor even more, as his claim was far weaker than Richard's.

So this book is a welcome addition to the growing body of evidence that Richard was not the man history has handed down to us. But it is a book of two halves. The first half is riveting and revealing, but once Richard's dead - arguably charging bravely straight at his enemy to end the battle early and so minimise loss of life - verifying his remains is dull stuff, if an essential process.
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