7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Interesting with some reservations,
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This review is from: Richard III the Young King to be (Paperback)
Along with other reviewers I was interested in a biography of Richard III that dealt with his early years in detail. Most biographies skim over these years, which really are the formative ones for any individual. In addition, in the case of Richard, during these years he was really of little importance on the political stage of fifteenth century England, being the youngest of the four sons of Richard Duke of York, then the youngest brother of Edward IV. So it was fascinating to read so much information the author had gathered from various sources.
I felt Wilkinson did seem to bend over backwards or over state the argument to paint a positive view of Richard in the face of her own 'evidence' which indicated a more negative opinion. And this comment is from someone who has been a Ricardian for over 40 years! There was too much supposition and too many instances of 'this was possible' for me to gve this 5 stars.
Also the typos & errors were distracting - one being that Anne Neville was born in 1452 not 1456 in the list of main characters at the beginning (corrected later in the text).
I tend to disagree with Wilkinson's conclusion that Richard's marriage was purely one of convenience and that he found emotional satisfaction elsewhere. Yes he, and Anne too, had much to gain materially by their marriage, but also a shared experience of family and the north must be factors too, although I am very suspicious of the more romantic stance of some Ricardian novelists. There is no evidence that his illegitimate children were conceived after his marriage, but there would have been ample opportunity for him as a young man to sow his wild oats beforehand. John of Pontefract was appointed Captain of Calais in 1485, significantly 2 years after Richard's accession (presumably John was too young in 1483 even if born before Richard's marriage). If we accept Wilkinson's conclusion that Richard married Anne in 1472, any bastard children born after that date would have been at most 13. For such an appointment, although still a minor ie not 21, John must have been of a suitable age in 1485 - perhaps 17/18, a little younger than Richard when he fought at Barnet. Even in the opinion of the day, the deaths post battle of 17 year old Edmund of Rutland and Edward of Wales were decried. Surely an appointment of a 13 year old John to a military post would not have been acceptable.
As well as the niggles mentioned, one main jarring aspect of the book was the last chapter, discussing the 'Hate Literature'. As many of the events mentioned in this chapter hadn't yet occured in the narrative, and presumably will be addressed in the sequel, I felt it was premature to introduce this element.
Overall a good read and enjoyable. What struck me most about this telling of Richard's early life was how young he was when he was caught up in major events, which really emphasises how able, courageous and loyal he was.
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Initial post: 14 Sep 2014 21:50:06 BDT
You are perfectly right about Richard's illegitimate children, most historians (Baldwin, Ashdown-Hill, Kendall, even Hicks if I remember correctly) agree they were fathered before his marriage in 1472, and for very logical reasons. Katherine was wedded in 1484, age of consent was 12, so even if she had been born in 1472, she would have been conceived before Richard's marriage (papal dispensation dates 22 April 1472), but I agree with other historians that she was probably 13-14. As for John, you have already reported the logical assumptions è.g. Ashdown-Hill made: he assumes John was conceived during Richard's first solo expedition when he was around 15, thus making him 17 in 1485.
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