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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The hand that rocks the cradle, 16 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors (Hardcover)
Bosworth, The Birth of the Tudors is a re-telling of the lethal soap opera which modern readers know as the Wars of the Roses, culminating in the end of the ruling Plantagenet line at Bosworth field 1485.

It begins with the unsuitable mating of Owen Tudor with Katherine de Valois, widow of the late king Henry V, producing two sons: Edmund and Jasper. From this inauspicious beginning the next ruling dynasty would come - after Richard III's act of usurpation brought his house to a finish.

All the events are covered: Henry VI's ineptness; his Queen's militancy; the physical intimacy which brought about the birth of a prince but catapulted the sire into a catatonic state; the rage of men who physically fought to keep the English Kingdom of France 'betrayed' by the politicians at home and a 'French' queen; the apportioning of blame and the power plays which brought a nation to its knees both by the culling of the ruling aristocracy and the ruination of the land; the 'Yorkist' supremacy brought to an end by its King's carnal appetites and a mother's love which burned quietly and fearlessly, it's ambition increasing opportunistically with every error of Richard's, to deliver to the exhausted and indignant nation a 'Lancastrian' king.

One of Richard's misfortunes was to have no power base in the south. When he sought the assistance of his northern supporters to shore up his regime, the north/south divide was all too obvious. He also gave too much to Buckingham and although almost everyone hated the Woodvilles, nobody hated them as much as Richard did to forgive the murder of his brother's children. I suspect also that Richard's appearance worked powerfully on the medieval mind, which equated deformity with the dark side. Especially in contrast to the tall, handsome blond brother he sought to replace. (Edward could trade kisses for tax money - one widow doubling her contribution for a second embrace!). No, with hindsight, it could never be carried off.

Then there was his opposition. Margaret Beaufort had tried all through Edward's reign to have her son (her only child) reinstated to his just rights and inheritances and returned from exile. With each mistake Richard made, Margaret's ambition for her son increased. Although most women will never experience the depth of Margaret's love for her son, it struck me as understandable. Impregnated at 12, (far too young, far too undeveloped and contrary to church teaching), so that Edmund Tudor could legally receive the income of £800 a year her estates rendered. There must have been significant damage caused to her internally for she never conceived again. Her ambitions for that child, and her religion, must have been true consolation.

On the battlefield itself, John, Earl of Oxford's tactics carried the day. The Stanleys intervened at the opportune time and Richard met a brutal end. I was heartened to see that a Talbot turned out to whole-heartedly support Henry's claim. His ancestor 'The English Achilles' died in Lancastrian service in France and most definitely would have defended Henry VI against usurpation of his crown. Skidmore writes that he was where the fighting was fiercest - driving a wedge through Richard's line as Oxford drove through the other. I wonder if the cry 'A Talbot' 'A Talbot' rang out as he and his men were hardest pressed - 'the Talbot cometh, let all men dread'.

I throughly enjoyed this book and believe it would appeal to all levels of readership. Why then four stars? Poor editing, and at least one place where a full stop and capital would have given the true meaning of the sentence.

I would add, in view of the disappointed reviews from Ricardian(?) readers, that there is a major clue in the book's title 'Birth of the Tudors' that this book is following the fortunes of Henry Tudor rather than Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Therefore it is not an analysis of Richard's actions nor does it provide justification. I would add, however, that the clues are there: Hastings vowing he is off to Calais if Anthony Woodville enters London with a huge retinue of armed men; Richard's rebuff by his nephew Edward to come under his protection. Personally, I always look to the subsequent actions of Richard's sister Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy. Would you really undermine your brother's daughter and the continuation of your house if you did not view the Woodville inheritance with repugnance and as being tainted? Interestingly, Henry VII himself did not exalt what remained of the Woodvilles - as good a judge of character as Richard?

There are lots of books being published in the next 90 days about Richard. Maybe wait upon them ...
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Jun 2013 20:50:27 BDT
Leonard says:
Richard III wasn't deformed, save that his right shoulder was higher than the left one. His skeleton has been recovered, as we all know: no withered arm, no hump, no shorter leg. Nor is there any proof that he murdered his nephews, or indeed that anyone murdered them.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jun 2013 19:09:20 BDT
JANEITE says:
Chris Skidmore quotes Dr Jo Appleby, Professor of Human Bioarchaeology at Leicester University: 'Without the spinal abnormality, it is estimated that the individual was roughly 5' 8'' (1.72m) high. This would have been above average height for a medieval male; however, the curve in the spine would have taken a significant amount off his apparent height when standing. The spinal disability would have meant that the individual stood up to one foot (0.3m) shorter, with his right shoulder higher than his left'.

Obviously, Richard proved by his participation in battle that there was no withered arm or that the scoliosis of the spine rendered him ineffective physically.

Of course there is no PROOF that he participated in the murder of his nephews. However, he only had to produce one or the other of them to stop Henry Tudor's bid for the throne in its tracks - along with some judicious slandering of his antecedents. Then as now, the vast majority are influenced by personality cult. The majority of Richard's affinity either stayed at home, or loitered to battle, or stood and watched. That is why I mentioned Gilbert Talbot. Whether it meant life or death, he was true to his affinity. Skidmore mentions that when Sir William Stanley fell from grace, a gold collar was found among his possessions bearing the insignia of the house of York. In my opinion, if that was his true affinity, he ought to have supported Richard and his house when it really counted.

I actually agree that Richard had to do what he did. The Woodvilles sooner or later would have found a way to destroy him. He was reacting to the realpolitik of his day. I also think that if he had any part in murdering those boys, whether active or passive, it would have been because he saw them as her children, not his brother's. And he hated her.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jun 2013 23:13:18 BDT
DearGod, Here we go again...

"No proof that Richard killed the princes... No proof they were even killed...."

No. We do not have the documents of a coroners court or a homicide investigation.

We do have, however, the circumstantial evidence and the patterns of the entire Plantagenet Dynasty to leave us the highly probable outcome to this mystery.

You Ricardians are so immature and set against accepting the most obvious explanation.
Go and read your historic fiction. Carry on believing that Richard III looked like Brad Pitt and had the integrity of Nelson Mandela but people took advantage of his trusting nature....

GROW UP!

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jun 2013 23:19:50 BDT
Last edited by the author on 17 Jun 2013 23:21:53 BDT
"I actually agree that Richard had to do what he did. The Woodvilles sooner or later would have found a way to destroy him. He was reacting to the realpolitik of his day. I also think that if he had any part in murdering those boys, whether active or passive, it would have been because he saw them as her children, not his brother's. And he hated her".

I believe he tested his nephews impartiality, when he approached Edward with information about Rivers, and ws told, in no uncertain terms, that the young King gave the Woodvilles his absolute support.

From that instant Richard knew he was in a mortal struggle for survival. Either he would make himself King or he would be utterly destroyed by the Woodville's - who had total control over the child king.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Aug 2013 17:07:05 BDT
JANEITE says:
Further to J. Spittle's point, I quote from Thomas Penn's book 'Winter King':
"... Henry VII had made one crucial adaptation. The post of the prince's 'governor', the overall supervisor of his education and mentor, had formerly been occupied by a high-level aristocrat, and it was a role that could quickly become politicized, with disastrous consequences. The young Edward V was reportedly traumatized following the summary execution of his governor, his charismatic, highly cultivated uncle Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, in one of the defining acts of Richard III's usurpation".

Clearly, had he survived, once grown to manhood, the boy would have avenged himself upon Richard - as did Edward III on Mortimer and his mother. Had Richard not acted as he did, the boy would have imbibed Woodville/Grey ideology and Richard would have had to submit to policy which was not of his devising.
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