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Murder, Lies and Red Roses!
on 6 October 2004
Alison Weir is perhaps best known for her Tudor history titles and I will not hesitate to recommend these to you, but unfortunately her pro-Tudor/Lancastrian bias is all too evident in this look at Richard III and the 'Princes in the Tower'. She informs the reader that she will be taking an objective look at the facts, but it's pretty clear that from the outset she has already pronounced her verdict!
To give Weir credit, it's a well written book and if you are interested in this subject you might like to read it, but if you do, PLEASE make sure you read some other theories too - and then make up your own mind from the available evidence.
She presents her 'theory' with such conviction of it's being the truth, that's it's easy for the uninitiated reader to take her word as gospel. Her theory is, however, precariously balanced - a house of cards built on a foundation of assumptions. She takes Sir Thomas More pretty much as gospel, because he has 'the ring of authenticity', despite the fact that he was a child when Richard was piteously slain, and few historians take him without a large pinch of salt and where he can be substantiated from other sources. Of course, when More's writings do not fit Weir's theory, he must be mistaken, of course....
The analysis of the skeletons found in the Tower is interesting, but her reliance on the textile 'evidence' for these being the Princes is weak. There is one report on the discovery of bones which mentions pieces of 'rag and velvet'. This was from an eye witness, not a textile expert, and the fabric has not been seen since, so it's hardly concrete proof that they are even of the period we are looking at!
If you're looking for some further reading and want a bit more balance, Paul Murray Kendall is perhaps still the best overall biography of Richard, but weak on the case of the princes and not a light tome for the beginner! Bertram Field's 'Royal Blood' is an excellent analysis of the case - you may be interested to see Weir's arguments picked apart! Also Geofrey Richardson's The Hollow Crowns and The Deceivers are well worth reading and give some new ideas. Tey's The Daughter of Time is excellent fiction as is Reay Tannerhill's The Seventh Son, but these are not meant as serious history.
Perhaps we'll never know the truth, but there's plenty here to mull over. I enjoy reading this if only for the fun of being able to pick my own holes in Weir's theories....