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With the victory of Henry Tudor the usurping dynasty made an effort to besmirch the last Plantagenet’s reputation and some historians claim that Richard’s black legend is nothing than political propaganda Yet such an interpretation as Desmond Seward shows in this powerfully argued book suggests a refusal to face the facts of history Evenin the king’s lifetime there were rumors about his involvement in the murders of Henry VI and of his nephews the Princes in the Tower while his reign was considered by many to be a nightmare not least for the king himself The real Richard III was both a chilling and compelling monarch a peculiarly grim young English precursor of Machiavelli’s Prince  Sweeping aside sentimental fantasy this is a colorful authoritative biography that offers a definitive picture of both the age and the man

10 thoughts on “Richard III: England's Black Legend

  1. says:

    Thought it was a wee bit biased Most of Seward's theories were based on Sir Thomas More's history of Richard III More was so incredibly biased himself I don't see how you could possible use him as an objective source Seward seems to think that More was beyond reproach because he had been made a Saint But someone who was a fanatic at rooting out and burning heretics cannot be classed as a saint and therefore a tad hypocritical when denouncing Richard III as a murderer Was Richard III as black as they made him out to be or was he the opposite as the revisionists believe I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle

  2. says:

    Seward would do anything just to demonstrate Richard was indeed the Shakesperian monster of the traditionThe point here is not whether or not he murdered the princes in the tower The point is even if he did it I'm personally sure he didn't tough is it enough to mark him as evil to make him the symbol of depravation and cruelty? The answer to me is no Henry IV killed Richard II Edward IV killed Henry VI and it was HIS will the king's will not Richard's to send Henry to his death whatever Mr Seward has to say ueen Isabella killed Edward II Henry VII and Henry VII killed the WHOLE Plantagenet dinasty even woman and illegitimates sons and Henry VIII also killed two of his wife But they are not considered evil as Richard was and still is according to Seward The author could have judged Richard guilty of the nephews' murder and yet write a genuine account relying on reliable sources But he chooses to base his slanders on Thomas More's book a posthumous work incomplete biased full of historical errors written by a man who might be a saint but was not omnipotent He was 8 years old when Richard died and based his account on Bishop Morton's tales the latter being one of Richard's worst enemies What can I say? I guess the readers are capable to judge for theirselves These are Seward's sources are they reliable? A good biography must rely on verified sources possibly contemporary sources with a good validation If you want read something like this and get to know the REAL Richard I suggest you the masterpiece by Paul Murray Kendall Richard III

  3. says:

    I sped read through this book His bias on Richard III is evident from the beginning and his evidence is bare He outright says he does not like Richard III and yet chose to write this book anyway so he does not portray him in a good light I was disappointed with the book overall Not really recommending this one to be read IF there was a current Tudor propagandist Seward would than fill those shoes uite a disappointing read

  4. says:

    I read this book after reading The King's Grave by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones which was both a history of Richard III and the discovery of his bones It was an interesting contrast between the two as Langley is a member of the Richard III Society which does not see Richard as the Black Legend whereas Seward self admittedly is firmly in the camp that sees him as just thatFor a general look at the life and times of Richard III this is a great book Seward provides plenty of detail without being overwhelming It is a smooth read as well and Seward cites many sources to explain why he has developed his particular picture of Richard IIIThat said I do not feel that Seward makes nearly as compelling an argument as Langley in terms of painting an accurate picture of the former King It is not always clear why he dismisses the testimony of some sources over others leaving the reader to assume it is simply because it does not support his particular narrative Further in describing the atmosphere and people around Richard the author arguably unintentionally has illustrated that Richard was no than a product of his time perhaps vilified because of the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower which most agree that Richard is the most likely cause of their disappearance but it has not been proven and Tudor propaganda And lastly there are the outright inaccuracies To be fair Seward's book was published well before the discovery of Richard's bones and that discovery has since proven that some of the physical descriptions of Richard and the notion that his bones had been thrown into the River Soar were in fact either grossly exaggerated or outright false Because Seward proclaims some of these falsities as fact as they were stated from the sources he used to compile his arguments however the reader has to be left wondering how much else might have been exaggerated or simply made up to blacken the reputation of this infamous monarchThis book will certainly provide some food for thought but it is unlikely to sway the reader one way or the other when it comes to determining just what kind of man Richard III was Even so it is a great read for anyone interested in the man or this period of English history

  5. says:

    The copy I read was published in 1983 The copy here was 2014 so I'm assuming updated The 1983 version says that Richard's bones were throne into the river Soar during the Dissolution of the Monasteries I was reading this week that the researcher at Leicester University was so desperate for the bones under the car park to be Richard's he ignored certain facts Hm I wonder By the way it wasn't a car park but the playground of the school I attended in Leicester I played on the bones of Richard III There's much I like about this book It is well written and well researched for its age Seward explains very well how Henry VII had a claim to the throne Its weakness is its age We know much about Richard now than we did in 1983 I don't like the title either 'England's Black Legend' Before we open the first page we know that the author is not going to give a balanced view Rather like the UK Daily Mail writing a book about Jeremy CorbynNot one for those studying Richard particularly at GCSE

  6. says:

    What a pathetic attempt to create new controversy on this subject The weakest of verbs may could might The feeble references to his bibliography rarely uoting but happily extrapolating No doubt he thought it would be a good sell to his publishers to float an idea of capitalizing on the finding of Richard's skeleton and make a nice profit One click on the internet will reveal that the exhumed bones revealed a spinal abnormality that was scoliosis not a hunchback But instead the great Seward mounts his metaphorical horse and not only denigrates past history but women writers as a subset of their profession A waste of my money and my time I particularly took offense at his presumption that memories from 30 years past were reliable Really? I couldn't tell you the name of the kid sitting next to me in school that long ago or highlights of national events An arrogant man trying to ride the tide of the newsworthy events of a king found and given a respectful rest

  7. says:

    This book was extremely biased towards the evil Richard III in my opinion although it is well researched and generally factual The part that killed it for me was the epilogue where the author states the White Legend continues to appeal to every Anglo Saxon lover of a lost cause and in particular to lady novelists Sexist much?

  8. says:

    I got no further than the introduction and sent the book back to the library It was nothing but a Richard III bashing

  9. says:

    “In seizing a state the usurper should carefully examine what injuries he must do and then do them all at one blow so that he does not have to repeat them day after day; and by taking care not to unsettle men he can reassure them and win them over with gifts Anyone who fails to do this either from cowardice or bad advice has to keep a knife in his hand all the time” – MachiavelliIn Richard III England’s Black Legend Desmond Seward examines the life of the notorious king Unlike many historians in the last hundred years Seward isn’t attempting to repair Richard’s image; instead he takes much of the Tudor criticism of Richard at face value describing him as a brutal dictator in the Machiavellian moldRichard’s journey like most of us starts with his father and mother Richard the Duke of York descended from two of Edward III’s sons Edmund and Lionel Richard III’s mother’s father had been John of Gaunt Edward III’s brother This is a family with strong ties to royalty and Richard III’s father the duke eventually tries to take the throne from the weak Henry VI He succeeds in becoming protector of the realm with the help of Richard Neville the Earl of Warwick known as the Kingmaker defeating Henry’s forces; however he is eventually defeated and killed His eldest son Edward takes the mantle after this eventually crowned Edward IVAt this point it’s 1461 Richard is still a small boy; however his brother the king makes him Duke of Gloucester Within an instant Richard’s life has changed – he is now one of the most powerful people in the countryThroughout his childhood Richard spends much of his time with Warwick possibly spending time with his future wife Anne one of Warwick’s daughters As Richard grows older he is loyal to his brother Edward IV The king rewards him increasing Richard’s power and influence throughout the countryEdward and Warwick are close allies through the first years of his reign; however they have a falling out after Edward begins making decisions – paramount his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville – which goes against Warwick’s vision for the country As a result Warwick allies with France Margaret of Anjou Henry VI’s ueen and Henry VI Margaret is really the power here as Henry VI is weak and suffers from spells which impair his cognitive abilityDuring this time Warwick allies with Edward IV’s other brother George Duke of Clarence seeing him as a potential kingIn the end all of Warwick’s scheming comes to nothing as Edward IV defeats Henry VI again and Warwick is finally killed Edward IV makes peace with George and he is allowed back into the fold Henry is also killed sometime later with Desmond accusing Richard of the deed There is evidence he was at least involved in overseeing the murder Even though Henry VI was a weak king he was loved by the people – he was considered a saint after his death – and his demise was looked upon with disgust Overall Desmond views Richard as an instrument for Edward IV’s policy of revengeGeorge doesn’t stop his scheming and Edward IV eventually has him killed; Desmond doesn’t think Richard cared about this as the two brothers had beef for years This goes against a lot of other books about Richard you will read as most think he was distraught over the death of his brother blaming the Woodville family for influencing the King’s decision to have him killedThroughout Edward IV’s reign Richard rules the north efficiently dealing with Scottish rebellions and generally doing a good job of governing Richard gains allies during his time in the north; however Desmond thinks Richard mistakenly trusts the northerners a decision which leads to his demise during his time as kingEventually Edward IV dies leaving his two sons Edward and Richard behind On his deathbed he names Richard Protector until his son Edward comes of age He begs his closest advisor William Hastings and Elizabeth Woodville to make peace Hastings sends a letter to Richard informing him he’s been named protector and to make haste for London as the Woodvilles ever the schemers are trying to uickly crown Edward and deny Richard his title as ProtectorDesmond sees evidence that many people thought Richard would take the throne no matter what This is interesting – because if true it would lend credence to the Tudor description of Richard Desmond believes Richard had always planned to take the throne even while Edward IV was still alive Perhaps he saw his brother’s health declining saw the writing on the wall and began planning to seize power If Edward was crowned the Woodvilles would control him and Richard’s influence would be greatly diminished – his life may even be in dangerDesmond describes Richard as ruthless and cunning willing to do whatever it took to seize power; but if this was the case why would his brother make him Protector? Desmond doesn’t address this which is a flaw in his argument If Richard was that bad wouldn’t his brother have noticed it and known what he was capable of?Richard ends up taking the throne having the princes killed becoming Richard III Most pro Richard books describe this as a time of solid governance a sign of what could have been an effective reign had Richard III survived Bosworth Desmond doesn’t see it this way; instead in this book Richard is described as an ineffective Machiavellian tyrant a man who employs thugs to do his dirty workThe entire book is critical of Richard III and Desmond mentions this in the preface so it comes as no surprise; however he seems to ignore a lot of the positive attributes about Richard III to strengthen his argument He does make some good points and a book like this is necessary to refute the romanticized image of Richard III emerging over the last several yearsDesmond often reverts to absurd schoolboy insults about Richard III’s height to demean him – even going as far as to assume Richard III admired fellow Englishman because he was also short Some of Desmond’s critiues of Richard III are as flimsy as the Richard III fanboys and fangirls he is attempting to refuteOverall this is an interesting well researched critiue of Richard III which is worth reading if you want a modern version of a Tudor hit piece35 stars

  10. says:

    Seward manages to make Richard pathetic as much as evil Paranoid lonely guilt ridden desperate for approval I havent read enough about Richard III to judge his arguments about his guilt I hadn't even realized there was a controversy so I guess the negative one is the one that has taken root in popular opinion of course the black prince nickname has sort of guaranteed this I think it would be interesting to now read a biography by someone who doesn't believe he was responsible for the deaths of his nephews