Book review: The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III

Countdown: 26 days to go to King Richard III’s reinterment. 

The King's Grave

The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III
by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones

As part of my upcoming trip to Leicester, I thought it would be a good idea to brush up on my King Richard III knowledge, so earlier in the month I read Finding Richard III: The Official Account of Research by the Retrieval and Reburial Project and have now finished my copy of The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones.

The King’s Grave was another engaging read. The chapters alternate between the two authors as they tell their parallel stories, Langley of her search and the subsequent discovery of King Richard III and Jones of Richard’s life and death.

I must admit I got goosebumps at one point when reading Langley’s account of her search. Her account is more detailed and personal than the one given in Finding Richard III. Her reaction to the various discoveries including Richard’s scoliosis is explained and we get her side of the story which was not always shown in The King in the Car Park television special. Some of the frustration on how Richard’s remains were handled by the University of Leicester and the subsequent media storm after the February 2013 announcement is evident in Langley’s account.

Jones, who wrote Bosworth 1485: Psychology of a Battle and contributed to The Women of the Cousins’ War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King’s Mother, is a noted military historian. His chapters are sober and provide a balance to Langley’s sometimes intuitive methodology, which, to her credit, got us a king. Jones writes about Richard’s background, usurpation of the throne, reign, and death on the battlefield with a historian’s touch of detachment and need to avoid overtly stating one’s opinion and rather letting the facts speak to the reader.

There are two appendices, one devoted to the ages-old debate on the fate(s) of the Princes in the Tower as the authors disagree. Not surprisingly, Langley is for anyone but Richard, and Jones believes that Richard was responsible. The second appendix is a psychological profile, which, to me, was a low note to leave the book on (I personally believe that there are no good people, only good actions).

At £8.99 it’s well worth buying. Here are links to the book on Amazon.ca and
Amazon.com. The cover and subtitle shown on these websites are different to the version I read.

John Murray, 2014
ISBN 978-1-84854-893-0
308 pages including several black and white illustrations, two appendices, and index. Sixteen pages of colour plates.

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