Countdown: 14 days to go to King Richard III’s reinterment.
The Last Days of Richard III
by John Ashdown-Hill
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 last month I read Finding Richard III: The Official Account of Research by the Retrieval and Reburial Project and The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III, so I thought I should read the book that inspired the dig, The Last Days of Richard III.
Written by Richard III Society member, author, historian, and member of the Looking for Richard team, John Ashdown-Hill, the book covers the last six months of King Richard III’s life, starting with the death of his queen, Anne, up to his own death at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Ashdown-Hill also addresses what happened to King Richard III’s body afterwards and his long-lost grave. Philippa Langley read this book shortly after it came out and from there began the Looking For Richard Project with Ashdown-Hill and others leading to the discovery of King Richard III underneath the Leicestershire County Council’s parking lot and now his upcoming reinterment later this month.
Ashdown-Hill makes a good point at the beginning of his book, that “this book deliberately seeks to see things as they might have appeared to contemporaries, most of whom must simply have assumed, at the beginning of 1485, that Richard III still had many year of life and reign ahead of him.” It is clear that as Richard travelled around England in the spring and summer of 1485 that Henry Tudor’s invasion was a worry, but that finding a wife and ruling his country were more important.
I enjoyed Ashdown-Hill’s discussion about genetics and the genealogical detective work that lead to Joy Ibsen, King Richard III’s collateral-line descendant. Since the discovery of King Richard III, Ashdown-Hill has added a chapter to the book’s subsequent editions, now called The Last Days of Richard III and the Fate of his DNA, about the dig, discovery of the remains, and the identification of said remains. Unfortunately, I don’t have that edition, but even without the new chapter, this book was certainly an excellent read.
The History Press, 2013 (new edition)
190 pages including several appendices, such as King Richard’s itinerary for March to August 1485; the approximate timetable for Monday, 22 August 1485; and John Speede’s account of the burial of Richard III; and index. Sixteen pages of black-and-white plates.