Thursday, September 11, 2014

Richard III

Richard III has been on my mind a lot lately. Obviously because I just read a book about him. 

I wasn't going to buy any more books for my birthday this year, since I already have far too many! But temptation could not be resisted, and with about an hour to spare before dinner in Fukuoka I thought I would just peep in to see what was there, maybe pick up a magazine...

Well I ended up with a lavishly illustrated book by Umberto Eco on the history of beauty, another illustrated book about fairy art in the 19th century, two magazines, and this. 

I first saw the reports on the news of course about the discovery of his body. I only scanned them, knowing I'd want more information, waiting for something to appear in National Geographic or something like that. Then there it was, on the shelf staring at me. 

The format is alternate chapters from the Ricardian (member of the Richard III society) who initiated the search, and the historian whose theories about the location of the church he was buried in led to the search being taken seriously. 

Well, you can argue about the fact that they were dead right. They actually found him, on the first day, exactly where they guessed. You get the feeling from the book that there was a bit of conflict between the archaeologists who they teamed with to do the actual work. Mention was made of disagreement about the manner in which the Langley, clearly a major fan, went about removing the bones from the grave (solemnly, in a flag-draped box) and the osteologist's more practical views. At the end of the book she mentions how, sadly, the whole thing ended with a dispute about the location and type of grave. 

Altogether though, it was wonderful reading the reassessment of his character. They were perhaps a little too keen on clearing his name, though I think they have a good argument when they point out that he wasn't all that much worse than anyone else at the time. 

And it was equally as interesting reading about the work that went into the actual physical discovery, the preparation and the results. It felt like there was more information there, and I surmised that I would have to look up the achaeologists' reports to find out more. 

And of course it sent me on a medieval buzz and a drive to read anything else that threw me back into that world. I pulled out The Wars of the Roses, by Desmond Sewel, an ambitious read covering the wars from the point of view of five people living at the time, including two women - a squire, a nobleman, a priest, a lady and a 'harlot'. I last read it when Erica was a wee baby, while feeding her, often in the middle of the night. I don't think I took much in because of that, so it's due for another read. It's mum's book! She loves her history too. 

I also pulled out Philippa Gregory's 'White Queen' for a re-read, after I've ploughed through the five lives above. I've read that too (with all the books in the world - all the books in my house! - yes, I still re-read!), but learned that not only does it have several sequels, but they are being turned into a series. Can't wait!