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Richard III: The Great Debate Hardcover – 1 Dec 1955
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"The best biography of Richard III that has been written." A. L. Rowse, Chicago Tribune "Here, as nearly as patience, scholarship, and intelligent surmise can achieve it, is a definitive biography of Richard III. It is a noteworthy performance." Geoffrey Bruun, Saturday Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
I have tried to indicate clearly, either in the text or in the notes, what is fact and what is my own conjecture; and for conjectures of any importance I have given the reasons or evidence on which they are based. If the events of Richard's life and the general shape of his character had been previously established, I would probably have given freer rein to speculation. As it is, I have sought to hew him out of the facts, or as close an approach to the facts as I could make. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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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.
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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