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on 10 November 2013
I found this an interesting and exciting read. The alternating of chapters relating to the finding of Richard III's bones and the history leading up to Bosworth adds to the enjoyment.

I found Philippa Langley's chapters relating to her journey interesting and exciting. Whilst some of her personal comments might sound strange, I put these aside - at the end of the day, her obsession and determination achieved what she set out to do, and she should be praised for that.

Michael Jones chapters were particularly good reading - particularly the chapter on Bosworth, and the moments leading up to the demise of Richard - this really was un-putdownable and almost compares to a blockbuster film - it left me wanting to read more by Mr Jones.

I would have liked more detail behind the science of the dig and the finding of the bones - that is what is missing from this book. I also found myself constantly going back to the selection of pictorial maps in the book, to better understand the positioning of the trenches and their finds - so, perhaps an overlaying map at the front of the book would have been useful - ie all together, overlaying all of the different periods and finds, together with compass points.

I have read several books on Richard III. I see myself as an objective reader of Richard - accepting that we don't know all of the facts, that these were turbulent times and very different to our own.

I recommend this book to anyone considering reading it
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 November 2013
This book represents the culmination of the work of dedicated Ricardian, Phillipa Langley, and her relentless search for the remains of King Richard the Third, which were disposed of hastily and without ceremony after his defeat at Bosworth. Her refusal to give up, her lobbying for resources, and her emotional connection to the project are well documented in her paragraphs of the work, which alternate with a very clear and dispassionate examination of the life and very short reign of this monarch, whose reputation suffered at the hands of Tudor propagandists.

The "R" in the carpark is possibly one of the strangest trigger points for an archaeological dig ever, but Phillipa's instincts were so strong, and so absolutely right, that it is almost as if Richard himself was guiding the work.

Michael Jones on the other hand is not an emotional writer, and bases his historical interpretations of Richard's life and career on solid research: his work definitely redresses some of the Tudorbethan bad press that sought to bolster in every way, the slender right of Henry the Seventh to take the throne. So, not an evil Shakespearean Crookback, but a highly intelligent and physically brave man who fought to his last breath to hang on to his kingdom. The fate of his nephews, the Princes in the Tower, remains an enigma and an unresolved crime although it is clear that Richard was not the only person with an interest in their removal from the scene.

His recovered skeleton, showing significant scoliosis in his spine, indicates that he was much burdened by pain from the curvature during his life, and the sensitive reconstruction of the facial features gives us a wonderful glimpse into a long vanished past which casts a spell to this day.

This is not the best history book you will ever read, but it is very good and on Langley's part at least, written with love.
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on 14 October 2013
This is almost a "can't put down book". The process/progress of the search is skilfully interleaved with a lucid and up to date reviews of the life of Richard III. The book has just the right amount of detail for a general reader. The notes and a bibliography allow anybody wanting to delve deeper, whether they are are a general reader or a serious student of Richard III.
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on 8 October 2013
I was surprised at how exciting this was considering I have watched the Channel 4 " King in the Car Park" ... on more than one occasion I must confess. I just could not wait to get on to the next day of Philippa's search. A masterstroke to have the chapters alternating with Michael Jones' take on Richard and his actions. It really emphasises how much we should beware of looking at persons in history from a modern mind set, living through the Wars if the Roses was like trying to survive in a war zone . A HIGHLY recommended read.
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on 22 October 2013
My comments mirror those of others reviewers of this book. The chapters alternate one from Philippa Langley giving the present day events of the discovery of King Richard then one from Michael Jones giving the historical background of the kings life. I honestly could not put this book down even though I knew the history of Richard and I knew the outcome that he would be found after over 500 years. I loved the format of the book being transported from the 21st century one chapter back to the 15th in the next. There were times when I thought I was reading a novel that would make a very good film the way that the remains were found but as we know it is true. There will no doubt be many other books written on this subject...especially after they a decide where King Richard will eventually be laid to rest. I thoughly recommend this book whether you know little of the historical period or you are an expert.....just be warned clear your diary for a couple of days as nothing else will get done !
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on 11 October 2013
Not just for "Ricardians", this book should fascinate anyone with any sense of curiosity, Its about history, archaeology and a woman's determination to achieve her goal depite the odds (literally, a million to one) against her.
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on 19 October 2013
I did not expect to like this book but I did. I did not expect to like it because I had seen the Channel 4 documentary 'The King in the Car Park' in which one of the authors of this book, Philippa Langley, seemed on the verge of tears almost all the way through, and her co-star was a fatuous comedian. She was dismayed to find that Richard did suffer from a severe deformity of the spine; she was upset by the term 'hunchback,' she was strangely and emotionally attached to a king who had died almost half a millennium ago. I cannot imagine Carter bursting into to tears over his discovery of Tutankhamen. For Langley and many Ricardians the study of Richard III is not ancient history but intimate family history, and every effort is designed to rehabilitate their own. Hard core Ricardians do not merely wish to point out that Richard III had his good points (which of course he had) but to portray him as physically perfect, young, handsome, manly, just, and above all, good: in fact almost a saint (which of course he was not). I had thought we would get yet another ego-centric pseudo-history.

The book is not really like that. It is actually interesting and tells an extraordinary story of an enigmatic king and of the unlikely discovery of his skeleton under a car park. It is usefully divided between the writers, Langley describing her quest for the body and Michael Jones providing a pretty balanced account of the man and king.

Langley is a complete obsessive, and perhaps only such a person with such an emotional approach could have worked the little miracle that she did. She researched, she pestered, she cried, and finally she financed a maverick dig, unwilling to mention her eerie intuition that the burial place of the last Plantagenet would be found under the parking place marked R (presumably for 'reserved' but aptly also for 'Rex' or 'Richard.') Her hunch proved correct, the quite remarkable remains were discovered, and they were undoubtedly those of Richard: sex, date, age, battle injuries and even, yes, dare it be said deformity, and finally DNA confirmed it.I am not sure I should want to have a drink with Ms Langley but I raise my glass to her.

Michael Jones is more my sort of person: reasonable and objective. He makes a good case for the proposition that while Richard very likely killed the princes in the Tower, he was more a mediaeval king than a psycopathic killer, or maybe they were much the same thing where succession to the throne was concerned. Well yes. Of course Thomas More and Shakespeare portrayed a caricature of a villain incarnate. Of course there was more to Richard than that. I doubt he had designs on the throne at the death let alone before the death of Edward IV, undoubtedly he felt threatened by the power play of the Woodvilles and it is likely he descended the slippery slope to usurpation and murder one step at a time. Perhaps Shakespeare's true depiction of someone like Richard is to be found not in the play bearing his name but in another, the great tragedy of Macbeth: 'I am in blood steeped in so far returning were as tedious as go o'er.' He did murder Hastings in a particularly dissembling and despicable way. He did order the extra-judicial execution of Rivers. He did summon an army from the North to intimidate London. There was no going back, and little time before he would see his power evaporate and his position and even person threatened by the coronation of Edward V. He had to go on and perhaps, as so often happens, convinced himself of the rightness of his allegations and the necessity for all the deaths he caused. To proclaim his brother's marriage void, and his own nephews bastards was treacherous and smacks of desperation. It is the sort of rot that Soviet Russia or present day China or North Korea would put out. But they, and possibly he demanded that the world believe it. Having gained the throne of course he recognised the threat that the two boys posed especially after attempts were made to rescue them. No one but Richard could have ordered their murder: no one would have dared. Contemporaries thought them dead and Richard responsible. This is not Tudor propaganda. Had they been alive he could easily have proved it by displaying them. Had they died of disease why not produce the bodies or at least the doctors?

Richard was a medieval monarch, brought up during the internecine Wars of the Roses. Richard II had been deposed and murdered, so too had Henry VI. The difference with Edward V and his brother is that they were children, and kin. Richard may well have made a good king once all his enemies or threats were destroyed. His reign was too short to judge his effectiveness. Henry Tudor was no better nor different. His own claim to the throne was tenuous. He too executed threats to his dynasty. He too trumped up charges against rivals. Many kings took the throne or kept the throne by acts of great brutality, but thereafter in many ways were effective -if not 'good' - kings.

Richard had to be traduced by the Tudors, who, as he had done, were seeking legitimacy for their taking the throne, but it was not hard. Thomas More and others may have embellished, but there was substance to many of their criticisms. The most effective propaganda is a distortion of the truth not a fabrication.

So the finding of his body, the renewed interest in his life and times is all to be welcomed, and the whole debate is great boisterous fun at least for those of us who are not heartbroken. Philippa Langley is to be thanked for her determination and tenacity with which she pursued her dream. But let us keep a sense of proportion. Richard was just as brutal as any monarch of his time. Richard may well have convinced himself that all he did was right and dictated by cruel necessity (as later would Henry VIII) but he undoubtedly murdered his nephews, and equally undoubtedly lost a battle he should have won and caused the demise of the Plantagenets. He was a disaster. The fact that the Tudors were no better as people (they were effective as monarchs) merely puts him into context. It does not exonerate him. He remains a truly tragic figure: a man of parts brought down by vices.
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on 26 November 2013
I have always had a desire to know more about the life and times of Richard lll for I found it hard to believe that circumstances could change his personality so drastically. I therefore watched the TV program, not sure of what to expect but hoping for more information. It was most interesting but posed as many questions as it answered. So I bought the book.
I liked the format a great deal - personal and emotional chapters interspersed with detailed factual ones. This made the book very easy to read. It was also evident that for Philippa Langley the search for Richard's grave was the culmination of several years of hard work and personal belief and she managed to express her feelings throughout the excavation and subsequent laboratory tests in such a way as to involve her readers in the highs and lows of each discovery.
Michael Jones supplied the calming approach. He set out the provable facts about Richard simply and concisely and though the co-authors couldn't agree on the main question of whether the sons of Edward IV were indeed killed by, or on the order of Richard, he explained that the way people lived and behaved at the time could go some way to mitigating their actions.
The fantastic success of the excavation in finding Richard's body and thereby revealing the truth about his stature and death at the battle of Bosworth can only help to increase our knowledge of these times.
This is a book to set you thinking.
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on 11 October 2013
Really enjoyed this book not a stuffy history book a good read for anyone who is interested in richard I would recommend and I don't usually write a review
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This is the third book I've read about the discovery of Richard III's remains in a Leicester car park and it is the most personal of the three. It was Philippa Langley who originally put forward the idea of an archaeological dig in that particular spot. She was the person who had an intuition when standing where Richard's bones were later discovered that the letter R on the tarmac was exactly where his grave lay. The letter R in this case actually denoted that the car park space was reserved but coincidentally that was where the bones were discovered.

The chapters detailing the discovery and how the author felt about it are interspersed with chapters of historical information about Richard's short reign and the events which led up to the Battle of Bosworth. There are plenty of notes on the text and two appendices - one is a psychological analysis of Richard and the other is a brief summary of the arguments about the fate of the Princes in the Tower.

I found this an interesting book and it made me feel quite emotional reading it. I could understand where the author was coming from when she was disappointed and upset that at first the skeleton appeared to have a hunchback though this was later discovered to be scoliosis - curvature of the spine - something which is rather different. She really wanted all the Tudor propaganda to be incorrect. Of course, as with most propaganda some of it did contain a grain of truth even if that truth has been distorted.

I found it interesting to read this book shortly after reading Mike Pitts' account of the same events. Two books with a completely different 'flavour'. Both are very much worth reading if you are interested in an archaeological discovery which has helped to provide more detail for a period which is sometimes short of verifiable historical facts.
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