Book Review – ‘Richard III: Fact and Fiction’ by Matthew Lewis

Matthew Lewis 'Richard III Fact and Fiction'

Matthew Lewis, Richard III: Fact and Fiction (Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books, 2019) ISBN 9781526727978

Thank you to Pen and Sword Books for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way that it was set out in sections so you could easily dip in and out of it, perfect for those who want to know more but don’t have the background. If you’ve watched ‘The White Queen’ and want to know more about Richard, I’d recommend this book as it clearly separates fact from fiction without assuming the reader is a complete ninny. Some books, in trying to set things out clearly, simplify the facts too much, but Lewis doesn’t make this error.

Each chapter is split into sections and each section asks a different question that is contentious over Richard III – did he kill the Princes in the Tower? Did he and the Woodvilles have a running feud? Was he betrayed at Bosworth? These and many others are explored in this book. It is written chronologically, starting with Richard’s birth and child, his time as Duke of Gloucester, his reign as King of England, and then his tragic end at the Battle of Bosworth. It also looks at how accurate or otherwise Shakespeare’s portrayal was, and what we’ve learned from the discovery of Richard III’s bones in Leicester.

Some of the things that Lewis brings up are really interesting and I hadn’t really thought about them before, but most of the conclusions he draws make sense. Lewis examines the evidence that exists, and puts forward his own opinions. I like that he doesn’t force his conclusions on you either, but gives you the evidence and allows you to make up your own mind.

The sections dealing with Richard III as portrayed by Shakespeare I found especially interesting as I have read Shakespeare, but haven’t really done a study on his Richard III portrayal so it was fascinating to read about the caricature of Richard and how much of it isn’t true but was written to satisfy people at the time – changing history for drama is still happening today, but Shakespeare was a master at it.

It’s a well-written and well-researched book. The only thing I would really have changed is to either add an index, or put the questions that each chapter deals with under the chapter headings at the beginning of the book. It would just make it easier if you were looking for a particular section, which I like to do to delve in and out of my favourite passages and questions.

Chapter Titles

  1. A Son of York
  2. Regaining the Kingdom
  3. In the North
  4. The Crisis of 1483
  5. Taking the Throne
  6. The Business of Ruling
  7. Personal Disasters
  8. The Battle of Bosworth Field
  9. Richard’s Legacy

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