1483 AD Richard III

By Paul Murray Kendall

If you pick up this book, get ready to step into another world.  Paul Murray Kendall does an amazing job recreating the world that Richard knew, his family and friends, the politics of the time, the decisions to be made.  He treated Richard’s boyhood and young adult years as more than just background information.  In fact, Kendall started with Richard’s birth, and we get details on his parents and the politics going on when Richard was just a baby and not yet a part of it all.  Once in a while, Kendal does entertain some romantic notions (in the literary sense), but they are not overbearing, and most of the time the reader is left to draw his own conclusions.

But my own conclusions are far from clear.  I really tried to get an idea of who Richard III was; what his personality was like.  It’s very hard to tell.  Kendall believes him to be a good man; quiet, intelligent, moral.  And there is certainly evidence that gives substance to his opinion.  Kendall painstakingly explains the politics and situations that Richard was placed in, and many times the reader is left thinking that the action Richard took was the most sound choice.  Even in cases where other authors have used those same circumstances against Richard, Kendall seems to satisfactorily explain most of these cases.

Kendall’s notes, by the way, are excellent.  He has obviously spent hours upon hours studying any scrap of paper from the time period, as well as the more common histories of the time, and he documents all of his work, telling the reader what source was used for what assertion, as well as explaining how he put together different sources to fill in some of the more obscure parts of the story.

So is Richard III a misunderstood monarch who acted as a servant of his country and people, or was he horribly ambitious and power-hungry to the extent to turn murderer?  I guess it all comes down to the intents of Richard’s heart.  Did Richard abduct Edward (the oldest nephew) at Stony Stratford because he was named the boy’s protector by the late king and Richard sought to protect the boy from the power-hungry Woodvilles who would surely turn the poor boy into nothing but a puppet?  Or did Richard want the boy in his custody as soon as may be to preserve his own power that so precariously hung in the balance?  Did Richard take the throne because he was honestly the only person who might have some sense of responsibility to the country as well as the political experience to handle the wide array of complex problems that plagued the government?  Or was he just as ambitious and power-hungry as the Woodvilles, albeit with a different temperament?  We could ask the same types of questions for many of Richard’s decisions, and it’s really not easy to come up with a certain answer.  Perhaps it was a mixture of all.  I wish that I could go back in time and just watch a couple of the proceedings; to see the look on Richard’s face in unguarded moments and look for some clue to his intentions.  I suppose we’ll never know for sure, but it is fun and interesting to read about this mystery and take into account different author’s perspectives.