Book Review: Richard III in the North by M J Trow

Genre: History, nonfiction

Publisher: Pen and Sword

Pub date: 30 October 2020

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Richard III is England’s most controversial king. Forever associated with the murder of his nephews, the Princes in the Tower, he divides the nation. As spectacular as his death at Bosworth in August 1485 – the last king of England to die in battle – the astonishing discovery of his bones under a Leicester car park five centuries later renewed interest in him and re-opened old debates. Is he the world’s most wicked uncle; or is he (in the words of the man who most smeared him) ‘a prince more sinned against than sinning’?

Richard was not born in the North; neither did he die there, but this detailed look at his life, tracing his steps over the thirty-three years that he lived, focuses on the area that he loved and made his own. As Lord of the North, he had castles at Middleham and Sheriff Hutton, Penrith and Sandal. He fought the Scots along the northern border and on their own territory. His son was born at Middleham and was invested as Prince of Wales at York Minster, where Richard planned to set up a college of 100 priests.

His white boar device can be found in obscure corners of churches and castles; his laws, framed in the single parliament of his short reign, gave rights to the people who served him and loved him north of the Trent. And when he felt threatened or outnumbered by his enemies during the turbulent years of the Wars of the Roses, it was to the men of the North that he turned for support and advice. They became his knights of the body; members of the Council of the North which outlived Richard by a 150 years. They died with him at Bosworth.

Although we cannot divorce Richard from the violent politics of the day or from events that happened far to the South, it was in the North that Richard’s heart lay.

The North was his home. It was the place he loved.

Begins with an introduction to Richards family in particular his parents, Richard, Duke of York and Cecily Neville.

I hadn’t read much about Richards childhood, where he was brought up and how he spent his childhood so I was very interested in this. Trow discusses Richard’s early life, the events leading to his fathers death, his relationship with his siblings and the events following the death of his brother, King Edward IV.

There’s a lot of rumours about Richard which Trow discusses, in particular the individual portrayed by Shakespeare many years later. Many of these rumours were quashed upon the discovery of Richard’s body but Trow discusses where the rumours may have originated from and gives an opinion on the largely discussed Princes in the Tower mystery. I’m not a Ricardian but I do have a great interest in the Plantagenets. Trow appears sympathetic to Richard throughout the book referring to contemporary evidence where possible and providing explanations for where this evidence has been incorrectly interpreted previously.

As a northerner I found the North/South divide something I could relate to as it remains evident even now and applaud Richard for the Council in the North.

Trow provides plans of the castles which were an interesting addition to help imagine where Richard spent his life especially those that are now ruins.

Now I am biased and can say I am not surprised Richard fell in love with the North, it’s a beautiful place but it’s also the place that provided a home and loyalty to Richard throughout his life.

For those interested in reading more about Richard I really recommend this book. Trow has a very easy to read writing style that comes across almost conversational.

Thank you to NetGalley and Pen and Sword for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.

Richard III in the North publishes today!

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