By now, we’re all well versed in the announcement this week that the skeletal remains found under a parking lot in Leicester, England, were those of Richard III, who died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
This is pretty amazing news. A monarch, whose remains were lost for over 500 years, turns up buried under a parking lot! So there’s been a lot written about it this week here and here and even on Lainey Gossip, my very favourite gossip site.
But when I read this article on The Daily Beast, I started thinking about the books I’d read that featured Richard III. Richard III’s fanclub (I know!), the ‘Ricardians’, seem to think that Richard III’s reputation has been maligned for no good reason. I think for most people, the whole ‘Princes in the Tower’ thing really sets Richard III up for a loss. If you’ve ever been to the Tower of London you will know that visitors there can actually vote on whether or not they think Richard III was responsible for the disappearance of the two boys. I don’t know where the tallies stand now, but when I visited in 2008, most people thought Richard III did it.
But I’ve read a bunch of historical fiction (which is basically the same thing as doing proper academic research) and Richard III isn’t always the villain.
I’m thinking in particular of Anne Easter Smith’s York books. While that other scion of English historical fiction, Philippa Gregory seems to favour the Tudors, Easter Smith focuses much of her attention on the Yorks.
I love Anne Easter Smith’s books. A lot. Although each is a stand alone book, if you haven’t already read them, I encourage you to read them in “order”: A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, The King’s Grace and Queen by Right.
In an effort not to bog this post down in a whole bunch of historical details, I want to focus our attention on A Rose for the Crown. This is the one that Richard III features in most sympathetically and I don’t mind telling you that in the end, when he dies (that’s not a spoiler, we already covered that) I was crying my eyes out. Easter Smith portrays her Richard III as a really good person that is faced with having to make really difficult choices. Even when he was a little kid, Easter Smith’s Richard III was always the smaller, more serious of the brothers, a very religious young man who always wanted to do the right thing. As he grows and eventually becomes King, those characteristics remain unchanged. But then there’s his love interest and…
…oh my god I might have to read this again!
READ IT SO WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT!
Happily for us, Anne Easter Smith has a new book coming out in May! The Royal Mistress. And guess what? Richard III is in it!