Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Colorful and full of interesting personalities

"The reign which now opened to be the unhappiest in English history. The black legend had begun before the King even ascended the throne. For the rest of his short life he was to be a byword, inspiring more dread and terror than any other monarch before or since." Very readable history of Richard Gloucester's rise and fall. Desmond Seward captures the violence of England during this time period. He details the personalities as well as brutality of the times. His descriptive prose gives key players depth with a realistic sense of how and why things unfolded. The entire aristocracy was a bubbling mass of personalities, each who felt more important than the next and looked for any way to push their advantage forwards. This network of strong minded people lived their lives in a cocoon of entitlement, assured that their superiority justified every evil deed. While Seward lays blame for the murder of the princes in the tower on Richard's shoulders, I think he draws a vivid picture of a corrupt population. The Woodville's greed, Buckingham's anger, Clarence's desperate bid to usurp power, Tudor ambition, create a climate of distrust and hatred where people who were allies in the morning, can find themselves enemies by nightfall. It was where loyalty took a back seat to advancement and the excuse that every beheading, each battle was done for the sake of peace, was in reality a symptom of the megalomaniac quest for power. There is not one murderer, but an entire class of murderers. Machiavelli's ideology thrived in this climate, and while many have said that "God and his saint slept" during Stephen's reign, I think he must have been napping a whole lot here too.
I like the way Seward writes. He's interesting, and throws in colorful and detailed descriptions of real people. He explains why Richard was endowed with so much land and power by his brother. He delves into the crushing insult that divided Warwick from Edward. His Richard is diverse, with humor and bonhomie, as well as a ruthlessness that feels only too real. With the same confidence that Seward writes about Richard's withered hand and his bones being thrown into the river, he is very sure of his guilt with his nephews murder. However, his vivid descriptions of the other personalities, creates multiple plausible murderers without pointing a finger. Despite his perception that Richard was the killer, I believe it is a scholarly and interesting book. I received a copy of this book for an honest review.

Happy Reading!
Carole P. Roman

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