2014 Book #36: (a biography of) Richard III

2014 Book #36: (a biography of) Richard III

richardiiiIf you’ve ever seen my blog before, you’ve probably noticed that my reading statistics are overwhelmingly stacked in fiction’s favor. I have a habit of falling asleep when I try to read nonfiction, but sometimes these books seep in.

My favorite English kings are Richards II and III. One was a tyrant, and the other was so greedy for the crown that he ruined everything for himself and his family. Richard II and Richard III are also two of my favorites of Shakespeare’s plays, so I know a little about them from his skewed view. I haven’t looked into the truth of #II’s history at all, but, thanks to a class on FutureLearn, I jumped at the chance for a little Richard III study.

If you haven’t seen FutureLearn (or edX or Coursera), you should hop over. They offer mostly sciency/techy/mathy classes presented by major universities, but some English and other humanities classes are thrown in for good measure. Each class is listed several months ahead of time and lasts several weeks. Participants are encouraged to participate through forums, quizzes, and peer-reviewed short papers. And they’re completely free with no tuition and course materials provided on the website. Have a look!

Anyway, back to Richard III. The FutureLearn class I’m taking is much shorter and less involved than Coursera classes are (I’m taking one on the French Revolution over there!), and I’m still in the reading rut I mentioned earlier, so I looked at the list of Richard III biographies in my local library’s catalog and chose the one Goodreads liked the best. Which was this one, by Charles Ross.

A very brief, cursory overview of Richard: He was king for a short period of time during the Wars of the Roses. Lancaster vs. York, etc, etc. Fight, fight, fight. Henry VI, a Lancaster, was a weak king and was usurped by Edward IV, a York. Richard, his younger brother, wanted the crown for himself, so he locked his brother’s heir in the Tower of London. Edward IV died, and Richard declared himself protector of Edward V, still in the tower, and with some great intimidation skills, got Parliament to sign off on it. Edward V conveniently “disappeared,” and Richard took the crown for himself. It seems like he was trying to be a decent king once he got there, but he’d made too many enemies and he was really bad at foreign policy. Meanwhile, the Lancaster who was to become Henry VII was hanging out in France and talked the French into helping him get back to England and take over, which he did. More fighting. Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field, and Henry took the throne.

The only version of the Richard story I knew was Shakespeare’s, and, from what Ross says, that’s (predictably) not entirely accurate. Shakespeare’s version of events was based mostly on Thomas More‘s, and More painted an especially ugly picture of Richard. And there are the obvious uses of poetic license: Henry, himself, did not kill Richard, and the “My kingdom for a horse” probably didn’t happen because it sounds like Richard was offered a horse for escape, but he refused because he wanted to die a king. Which is almost more interesting than what Shakespeare wrote.

I want to look more into Richard II’s history now. This stuff is so interesting!

As for this specific biography, it’s dry but more readable than it could have been. I mean, how interesting can an academic make a story when there’s so little actual evidence of what happened. All told, Ross did a good job, and I really enjoyed it. He explained the various sources from which Richard’s story comes and why the truth is probably a mixture of them. “History is written by the victors,” and all that.

As for Puppy News, Zelda is still growing, and the cats still hate her.


And here she is jumping at my face as I was trying to get a picture:


I finally regained access to my home library with the use of a well-placed puppy gate. I totally should have thought of that earlier.


And, finally, Palmer moved her kennel from the bedroom to the living room. I think it’ll be a much better arrangement. If my Dexcom hadn’t continually spazzed, I think I might have slept well last night.


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Indices, etc, coming soon!