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Eleanor the Secret Queen: The Woman who put Richard III on the Throne Hardcover – Illustrated, 1 Jan 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (1 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752448668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752448664
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 295,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Fascinating and thorough study. --Publishers Weekly on Royal Marriage Secrets

With its new details and perspectives about Richard s last days and its use of original sources, this book will be an essential read for Ricardians and all interested in studying the Wars of the Roses, here accessible to them without being marred by hundreds of years of interpretations, rumors, and biases. --Library Journal on The Last Days of Richard III and the Fate of His DNA --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

John Ashdown-Hill is a historian who has been heavily involved in the DNA testing of Richard III s remains. He is the author of "The Last Days of Richard III." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Ashdown-Hill does an excellent job of bringing together the scattered information which survives on Eleanor Talbot and shows fairly convincingly that she must have been married to Edward IV and that therefore his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was bigamous. This latter fact brings much need light to the otherwise confusing period following Edward IV's death when his legitimate brother Richard of Gloucester, previously always his strongest supporter, acted to remove his son from the throne and take power for himself. Edward's bigamous marriage (which was probably acknowledged by Elizabeth Woodville) meant that after the death of George, Duke of Clarence, Richard was the genuine and legitimate heir to his elder brother. This is also therefore the reason that Henry Tudor, once established as Henry VII acted ruthlessly to obliterate any information which showed Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville to be bigamous, as he needed to be able to say that he had acted to remove a usurper to the throne, rather than admit that he had taken up arms against the legitimate king of England. The most important information which therefore had to be suppressed was the evidence for Edward's marriage to Eleanor Talbot, who did not die until several years after the Woodville marriage. The author has done an excellent job of reassembling the evidence which has survived.

Of course, with so much information about her having been deliberately destroyed or obscured, there is not enough which can be said about Eleanor Talbot to fill a book on its own. Therefore, the book is replete with biographies of her ancestors and her in-laws, which builds up a context and serves also to fill the space left by the lack of information available on the lady herself.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this an eminently readable book, well researched and even handed.
I think by now everyone interested knows that Edward IV was married before his "marriage" to Elizabeth Woodville, but few of us knew enough about the lady he had married secretly, nor did we realise what an important woman his first bride was - in fact, she would have been a better"catch" than Elizabeth, although both women were well connected.Now I am wondering about Edward himself and whether he was legitimate.So different from all his forebears, and possibly not the son of the Duke of York, he would have been insecure enough about his position, without the news of his previous contract with Lady Talbot leaking out.This does clear up the previously mysterious reasons for his killing of his brother of Clarence.I do hope that Mr Ashdown-Hill will soon offer us more of his clear, beautiful English, and his deeply researched work.Of course,as a Ricardian, I am a little biased!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If I had taken notice of the negative reviews I would not have bought this book, so I am grateful to the authors of the positive reviews that persuaded me to buy it. It was certainly time that an author investigated the life of this neglected lady who was almost written out of history by Tudor authors. The book is well-researched and very thorough in examining Eleanor's descent and family connections. Instead of her being some shadowy hanger-on on the edge of society she is shown to be a woman of some importance, the eldest daughter of an earl, descended from Edward I and Edward III and related to the Beauchamp, Mowbray and Neville families. Her marriage to Edward IV, then, was no mesalliance but a very suitable match had Edward not been king and expected to make a dynastic marriage. In the end, of course, he didn't do this either. The fact that Edward made another SECRET marriage was why his children by Elizabeth Woodville were illegitimate - if he had married Elizabeth in public then the marriage would have been in good faith on Elizabeth's part and her children would have been legitimate. Of course if they had published banns Eleanor would have had chance to object. Fascinating stuff.

What Eleanor did after Edward abandoned her is interesting too. She made endowments to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and also became associated with the Carmelite order at Norwich, in whose church she was buried. She had moved to Norfolk probably to be near her sister, Elizabeth, the Duchess of Norfolk (whose small daughter, Anne, was married to Richard, younger son of Edward IV).

All-in-all a very interesting read and an important book. Maybe we will never know for sure what really happened, but the author's interpretation of the evidence he has uncovered is fair-handed and faultless.
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Format: Hardcover
This book completely demolishes the contention that Richard III was a usurper, because (as Ashdown amply shows) the 'Princes in the Tower' were both illegitimate. Under medieval law, they could have no claim to the English Crown; and Richard was next in line.

The book is well produced and the many illustrations are gorgeously reproduced. Unfortunately, virtually none is adequately labelled. The reader is left wondering where they come from. In a few instances, the other question is rather, 'why is this relevant?'

The book's first 2/3 or so describe Eleanor's early life in stultifying detail. We simply do not know sufficient about Eleanor to warrant such excess. And this book would be slim indeed if an editor were to delete each and every paragraph that contains the doubt-inducing words 'possibly,' 'probably,' maybe,' 'likely,' and the many, many, many other permutations of uncertainty.

Of course Eleanor lived in the shadows of her men folk, because all medieval women did. That sociological fact is indisputable and unavoidable. But a skilful writer can always find ways of expressing himself without recourse to teeth-jarring repetition and (to be frank) clotted prose. At the end, the reader has overdosed on `possibly/probably' to the extent that, ultimately, it undermines any confidence in the author's conclusions.

In summary, a book with good content but badly let down in terms of its scholarship and writing style. While Ashdown rightly castigates Charles Rees' biography of Richard III for its occasional lapses in content, he could have learnt a great many lessons in terms of scholarship, style and the art of writing.
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