Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir (1992)

I love me some English royal history, and Alison Weir's The Princes in the Tower (1992) definitely scratches that itch.

Weir sets out to review all the available evidence on the fate of the two Yorkist prices (Edward V and his brother, Richard) who went into the Tower of London during the rule of their uncle, Richard III, and were never seen again. Weir is staunchly in the "Richard did it" camp and deftly brings together centuries of documentation, interpretation, and research to bolster her claim. She also brings in some pretty sharp (and sometimes smirky) counter-arguments to those in the "Richard is innocent" camp (a centuries-long tradition).

I liked that she didn't go 100% Shakespeare and claim that Richard was evil or necessarily more scheming than anyone else -- she puts his decisions and actions in a context that makes a lot of sense for the man and his times. The book ends with a fascinating look at the archaeological evidence gathered when the bones of two young boys were found in a trunk buried under a staircase in the Tower during the reign of Charles II (about 200 years after their deaths), as well as a scientific study of those bones done in the 1930s. There is something very CSI: Medieval England about some of this (in a good way!) and Weir makes the history and connections understandable for a non-expert without seeming to dumb anything down.

I'd be curious to see how Weir would integrate the 2012 discovery of Richard's skeleton and subsequent testing and reburial, but a cursory google search didn't turn up any reaction from her to the project. It did, however, turn up this article with a truly excellent headline.

This is a readable and straightforward book about a key moment in British royal history that led to the end of the Yorks and the the rise of the Tudors. Definitely recommended.

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