Beautifully written, based on thorough research, the late Paul Kendall’s biography of this much maligned king remains influential fifty years after it was written. This is one of the most scholarly defences of Richard, but also one of the most passionate. The main focus is on understanding Richard as a personality, and to make sense of his interactions with the other great personalities of the period. This gives the book great narrative drive, which partly explains its enduring appeal. Kendall’s Richard is very much a northerner, and his upbringing at Middleham, in the Yorkshire Dales, gives him a stereotypical ‘northern’ personality. He is taciturn and conservative, hard but ‘straight’. From a young age Richard conceives of his duty to serve his brother, King Edward IV, whom he worships. Richard comes of age during the crisis of 1470-1471, resisting the blandishments offered by his mentor, Warwick, and loyally follows Edward into exile. When Edward returns to England, to regain his throne, Richard proves his ability and courage during the fighting. Thereafter, Richard becomes the greatest man in England after the king. His marriage to Warwick’s daughter Anne, which Kendall believes to have been a love-match, allows Richard to become the successor to the Nevilles as ‘Lord of the North’. As Edward’s court becomes progressively dissolute and decadent, however, Richard finds himself increasingly isolated from his brother. Kendall sees Queen Elizabeth’s family, the Woodvilles, as a thoroughly malign force. The Woodvilles bring about the destruction and death of Richard and Edward’s brother, George duke of Clarence, motivated by fear for their future position. Although his loyalty never wavers, Richard looks on in despair from the North as Edward, under the Woodvilles’ influence, becomes a wreck of a man. Richard is nevertheless happy in the North, where the people understand and respect him, but Edward's sudden death in April 1483 means that Richard's life must change... Kendall provides a lucid examination of Richard III's decision to take the throne. As is well known, Richard was not the heir. Edward IV left several children, including two young sons. (The boys are better known today, of course, as the ‘Princes in the Tower’.
) The eldest son was briefly acknowledged as King Edward V, but he was quickly set aside in Richard’s favour on the grounds that he was illegitimate. According to the shocking testimony of Bishop Stillington of Bath and Wells, Edward had pre-contracted a marriage with Lady Eleanor Butler several years prior to his marriage to Elizabeth. This meant, if Stillington could be believed, that none of Edward IV’s children could be allowed to take the throne. Kendall does not deny that Richard’s decision to take the throne was partly motivated by personal ambition, nor that he may have been influenced by his silver-tongued ally Buckingham, but he is convinced that Richard believed Stillington’s testimony to have been genuine. The ‘Princes in the Tower’ seem to have disappered early in Richard's reign, but did Richard have them murdered, as is so often assumed? Although Kendall is so often willing to give Richard the benefit of the doubt, he is curiously ambivalent about the ultimate fate of Edward IV’s sons. The whole issue is relegated to an appendix. Some readers may applaud this decision, but others may detect a failure of nerve. Kendall clearly sees Henry duke of Buckingham, not Richard, as the prime suspect for the Princes’ murder; was Buckingham pursuing his own agenda? Buckingham was later to betray Richard, although his rebellion failed miserably and the duke was quickly captured and executed. Kendall believes that Buckingham wanted the crown for himself. Despite his lofty ambitions Buckingham is generally depicted as a weak and shallow character, haunted by delusions of grandeur. Although this is undeniably a matter of interpretation, this reader believes Kendall to have robbed Richard of some of his intell