The mystery of who Richard III really was has fascinated historians, readers and audiences familiar with Shakespeare’s dastardly portrait of a hunchback monster of royalty for centuries. Earlier this year, the remains of a man with a curving spine, who possible was killed in battle, were discovered underneath the paving of a parking lot in Leicester, England. Phillipa Langley, head of The Richard III Society, spurred on by the work of the historian Michael Jones, led the team of who uncovered the remains, certain that she had found the bones of the monarch. When DNA verification later confirmed that the skeleton was, indeed, that of King Richard III, the discovery ranks among the great stories of passionate intuition and perseverance against the odds. The news of the discovery of Richard’s remains has been widely reported by the British as well as worldwide and was front page news for both theNew York Times and The Washington Post. Many believe that now, with King Richard III’s skeleton in hand, historians will finally begin to understand what happened to him following the Battle of Bosworth Field (twenty miles or so from Leicester) and, ultimately, to know whether he was the hateful, unscrupulous monarch of Shakespeare’s drama or a much more benevolent king interested in the common man. Written in alternating chapters, with Richard’s 15th century life told by historian Michael Jones (author of the critically acclaimed Bosworth – 1485) contrasting with the 21st century eyewitness account of the search and discovery of the body by Philippa Langley, The King’s Grave will be both an extraordinary portrait of the last Plantagenet monarch and the inspiring story of the archaeological dig that finally brings the real King Richard III into the light of day.
This is definitely not a dry history book, and for those who know next to nothing about Richard III they will receive an almost personal history lesson about this Monarch as they progress through the book. This is an extraordinarily user friendly book.
The chapters in the book alternate between the story of searching for, and eventually finding the grave of Richard III and his factual history, and it is not the one everyone is familiar with and painted by Shakespeare and the victor of Bosworth Field. However, in reading this book it soon becomes apparent that this is more than a simple recounting of an archaeological dig; it is very personal to the Author and that comes through in their writing. The book is loaded with an impressive amount of information, both about the search itself and, as I’ve already noted, the history of this King, but it s the delivery of this information that really impressed me. There is not a point in this book where the delivery becomes stale and dusty, the Authors managed to make every part of it enjoyable to the reader.
The sections of the book that cover the identification of the remains, and the scientific techniques used are equally as interesting as the descriptive scenes of the battle that took the Kings life. They covered disputes and grievances between the House of York and the House of Tudor with great tact and never once came out in favour of one House or the other. This book will also serve to dispel some of the images people have that Richard III was just an all-round evil man; it informs the reader of all the good he did for the country and shows him in the context of the world he lived in. Through the Authors writing skills the reader is introduced to a man of deep convictions and courage whilst at the same time showing he was definitely not a saint.
The great strength of this book is that it captivates like a well-written historical novel while at the same time informing and educating the reader. This strength kept me up late into the night to finish this book and once again stoke the flames of my love of history. Richard III, the last King of England to come from the House of York and the last Plantagenet King found his champions in these hard working people, and will finally have the burial a Monarch deserves, particularly one of such fame.
I highly recommend this book to lovers of all forms of history, plus those who want to learn a little more about this period of time in England.