Tuesday, April 30, 2013

'Richard III' by David Baldwin

David Baldwin, a medieval historian and expert on Richard III has been in the news recently. It was back in 1986 that he wrote an article claiming that the remains of Richard III would be found in an area of a car park that was over part of the site of a medieval priory. Roll forward twenty-six years, when a team of University of Leicester archaeologists began an excavation of the area, where a body was found that appeared to exhibit features that tied it to those known about Richard. At a press conference in February 2013 the University confirmed that tests revealed this was indeed his body.

Since this announcement there has been more news on the subject. Last week it was announced that the dig was to be extended to reveal the church and also that a reconstruction using a computer of Richard's head is to go on tour.
Reconstructed face of Richard III

With all this current interest, there is no better time to read David Baldwin's book, Richard III, where he puts forward his knowledge of the King to reveal whether he was saint or sinner. The things we know about Richard seem to certainly put him in a bad light. Physically affected with a hunchback, and reputed to have been born after two years in the womb with teeth and hair, these are some of the claims that Baldwin highlights for consideration. A King who put the young Princes in the tower as he barged his way to the throne, and a King killed on Bosworth Field. But these easily remembered aspects of Richard are not the whole man, and Baldwin, with his thorough research and wide extent of knowledge brings together all the contemporary references to support what he can put forward as fact and highlights also those claims from historians that were writing on secondary knowledge.

The book is extensive, and is very much a history book-not a lighter read such as many popular historians write, but a solid and well referenced source book that will interest students of history as well as the pleasure reader. Written chronologically we read of his father and mother, his early years and his life experiences, his rise to power to reign for just twenty-six months and his subsequent death. Whether he was the cruel man he has gone down in history to be is considered carefully with reference to the credibility of the records of the day and those written after.  The first edition of Baldwin's book was written before the excavation of Richard's remains As a result this second edition now has an extra final chapter 'Epilogue' which covers the dates and details of the finding.

With generous colour plates to assist the reader with people and place, there are also black and white prints of medieval plates, tomb effigies and locations mentioned in the text. A University lecturer, there is no doubt about Baldwin's enthusiasm and knowledge of this fascinating character from English history, made all the more interesting and current from his recent findings and very much bringing Richard alive for the reader to discover for themselves.

Richard III by David Baldwin is published by Amberley www.amberley-books.com

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