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The Last Days of Richard III..a review by Hugh Loxdale
on 12 April 2013
A great read and extremely well-researched by an expert historian and genealogist. The author's finding and contact of a living relative of Richard III's sister, Anne of York (1439-76) - 17 generations in the female line, is a splendid achievement. So is the discovery of Richard's body below the famous car park in Leicester and the University of Leicester's excellent work, thanks largely to Dr. John Ashdown-Hill's tracing of living descendants who could provide mitochondrial DNA samples, which is also quite astonishing. Surely one of the great archaeological/genealogical triumphs of the 21st century, certainly in the UK.
As for the personality of Richard, it is still hard to gauge the man. Dr Ashdown Hill takes a sympathetic view and says the facts are still uncertain and we still do not know who ordered the killing of the Princes in the Tower. Even so, there can be little doubt that Richard was a driven and ambitious man who took his main chance and usurped the throne and by so doing, even if not directly responsible for the murders, brought about the Princes' early and tragic demise. Sure Richard was brave....but also slightly crazy to charge off as he did at Bosworth field, thereby ensuring his own early demise at 32 years of age and his replacement as King by Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, later Henry VII. Whatever the truth about Richard's act of usurpation, the fact that Richard was legitimate and the Princes illegitimate, according to the logic of the times, is all a load of (white) hog wash....if I can be allowed to use the expression. In the end, did it really matter who was sitting on the throne, so long as they ruled wisely and fairly and abided by the laws of the land. After all, Prince Edward, Edward V as he briefly became, was the King's son and alas, became a victim of inter-family feuding, rivalry and power-lust. He may well have done a very fine job as king...had he been given the chance and not been robbed of it by his wicked uncle. You only have to look at the Royal Pedigree in J.H. Plumb's 'The Plantaganets' to see how weak family affections were, many of the players being murdered in cold blood by their own kith and kin. So much for ideas of Hamiltonian kin selection....that is, selection in favour of one's nearest and dearest because they share very many genes in common with you! On the contrary, having such close genetic affinity was often a one-way ticket leading to early extirpation, however innocent you were of any rivalry or pretensions with regard to replacing the ruling person and dynasty.