The King’s Grave: by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones

The King's Grave: The Discovery of Richard III's Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds

How many of you guys saw the telly special for this when it came out? I like many others, held my breath waiting to see if the uncovered remains would really turn out to be Richard the Third or not. This book tells that tale, and tells it well.

 

The King’s Grave: The Discovery of Richard III’s Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds by Philippa Langley

 

The first full-length book about the discover of Richard III’s remains by the person who led the team and the historian whose book spurred her on

The mystery of who Richard III really was has fascinated historians, readers and audiences familiar with Shakespeare’s dastardly portrait of a hunchback monster for centuries.  Earlier this year, the remains of a man with a curving spine, who possible was killed in battle, were discovered underneath the paving of a parking lot in Leicester, England.  Phillipa Langley, head of The Richard III Society, spurred on by the work of the historian Michael Jones, led the team of who uncovered the remains, certain that she had found the bones of the monarch. When DNA verification later confirmed that the skeleton was, indeed, that of King Richard III, the discovery ranks among the great stories of passionate intuition and perseverance against the odds.  The news of the discovery of Richard’s remains has been widely reported worldwide and was front page news for both the New York Times and The Washington Post.  Many believe that now, with King Richard III’s skeleton in hand, historians will finally begin to understand what happened to him following the Battle of Bosworth Field (twenty miles or so from Leicester) and, ultimately, to know whether he was the hateful, unscrupulous monarch of Shakespeare’s drama or a much more benevolent king interested in the common man. Written in alternating chapters, with Richard’s 15th century life told by historian Michael Jones (author of the critically acclaimed Bosworth – 1485) contrasting with the 21st century eyewitness account of the search and discovery of the body by Philippa Langley, The King’s Grave will be both an extraordinary portrait of the last Plantagenet monarch and the inspiring story of the archaeological dig that finally brings the real King Richard III into the light of day.

 

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My thoughts:

I, like millions of others, watched the telly special about Richard III and the discovery and subsequent actions taken with his remains with rapt attention. I was very excited when I saw this book.

After reading this, the excitement has not diminished. Philippa Langley and her co-author do an excellent job of painting a different portrait of Richard than the skulking, hunched, maniacal figure that Shakespeare and Tudor history have made popular in the eyes of the general public.

Before I get into the finer points of this book, may I take a moment to congratulate the author on her determination to do the impossible. Through sensitive situations and hurdle after hurdle she persevered, bringing history to life in this century in a very real, very physical way. Incredible.

Now on to the book. The King’s Grave is more than just a simple story about an archeological dig or a great figure in history. This book is very personal to the author and that much is clear through her writing. The book alternates between retelling the story of Richard’s fight against the House of Tudor and the more current efforts to restore his body to a rightful place of honour.

I was impressed by the amount of information in this book and by the way the authors delivered it. I was never bored or threatening to skim through chapters as is often the case with historical books of any length. I particularly enjoyed the sections of the book that focused on identification of the remains and the scientific techniques used to do so.

Personally, I like the idea that Richard III may have been the chivalrous and noble warrior that we want to think of when we picture a former king of England. He was, after all, the final king to stand before the world representing the House of York, so no matter what, I think he deserved a proper burial and recognition as such.

The way the authors represented the civil disputes and eventual war between Richard and the Tudors was better than I would have expected. I thought there would be a considerable amount of prejudice in the retelling, as the author was very close to the situation of Richard’s identification. Instead, it was a rather impartial and a pretty complete recounting of the long ago events.

I honestly think this book made history more exciting. I would certainly recommend this to anyone interested in the life of this former king, or history in general. You do not have to be an expert on the subject to enjoy it.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher and provided by Netgalley.

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5 thoughts on “The King’s Grave: by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones

  1. This does seem super interesting. Monarch histories for some reason just interests me. I think I remember a teacher telling me once that Shakespeare would pander to the monarch on the throne, so if it was a Tudor on the throne at the time then his play would demonize anyone who was against that throne. Divine right of kings and such.

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  2. We were particularly interested in this story. We currently live (in one rented tower) of Brancepeth Castle, an ancestral home to Nevilles including Richard III’s mother, Cicely, the Rose of Raby, and ancestor of every English king from Henry VIII on. Richard III spent time in Brancepeth, and we were joking that it would be a perfectly logical place for him to be (re)buried. Certainly it beats a carpark!

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  3. This looks really interesting. I remember when the news appeared on the BBC. It was most exciting. I like that this was an impartial account and not swayed by personal prejudices as can so easily happen in such situations.

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