A book I had to take slowly, and keep referencing my mobility family charts.
Alison Weir investigates the events surrounding the disappearance in 1483 of England's 12-year-old King Edward V and his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York. Upon the death of their father, King Edward IV, in 1483, the brothers' uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was named Edward V's guardian. In a breathtaking chain of sinister events, Richard had Edward V and his brother confined to the Tower of London, declared his nephew's accession to the throne invalid and proclaimed himself king in June of 1483. Weir relies heavily on Sir Thomas More's History of King Richard III (written 1514-1518 and upon which William Shakespeare based his play) to conclude that Richard had his nephews murdered in the tower sometime after his coronation. Weir carefully considers alternative theories about the brothers' deaths, but argues convincingly that More had the best access to evidence and the least reason to lie.
Normally, I stick to fiction, but this nonfiction account by Alison Weir was actually much closer to a narrative style than I expected. She did a great job of laying out the facts, analylzing the evidence and explaining her conclusions, yet somehow also managed to put together a timeline sequence that read almost as smoothly as a fictional plot. It wasn't quite as much fun for me as a good old medieval fantasy novel, but I'll bet that true geneology enthusists and historians will enjoy the painstaking detail of this one. Remarkably, I don't think that she took liberties either...as far as I can tell, all her conclusions are well supported.
I was sucked right into the story. Weir's books are always readable and this one about Richard III of England and the murder of his nephews was no exception.
One of the most boring books I have read in a long time! Hard to get through. Hard to follow.
In the introduction, Weir claims to be an objective historian who is merely following the trail of evidence to determine who is guilty of the killing of the Princes in the Tower. This promise should be treated much like the promise of a politician hoping to win office.
To determine the bias which pervades the book, you need look no farther than the sources she relies on. Thomas More, she claims, is an eyewitness with no reason to lie, so she accepts all the negative things he says about Richard III. Except - More was 5-7 years old when the important events in the book occurred, which is a little young to be the eyewitness of anything in particular. More was also raised by John Morton, an early and strong opponent of Richard III. Even presuming More was trying to write a genuine history of Richard III (which many historians doubt, thinking he was instead writing a morality drama), he was certainly raised in an atmosphere that was strongly negative to Richard and had plenty of opportunity and reason to think ill of him. None of this is apparently important enough to Weir to make her question his reliability as a source. Even worse, she accepts some things as facts things that More himself states are merely rumor.
There are similar problems with her other sources, but that should be enough to give you the idea of how questionable her research is.
If you are genuinely interested in the subject of the Princes in the Tower or of Richard III, you should definitely take this book with a large grain of salt.
For a more balanced perspective try A.J. Pollard's Richard III and the Princes in the Tower or Paul Murray Kendall's excellent and highly entertaining biography of Richard III. Or follow up this book with Royal Blood by Bertram Fields.