From historian Chris Skidmore, this new biography of Richard III offers a nuanced portrait of one of England's most reviled monarchs and weighs the documentary evidence surrounding his rumored murder of his nephews so that he could usurp the crown.
The author clearly admires much about Richard but also give the reader plenty of reasons to conclude that Shakespeare was essentially right, since the king consistently went wildly beyond the norms of even what was considered politically acceptable at the time ... Mr. Skidmore is adept at placing in proper perspective the dilemmas that faced Richard when his brother unexpectedly died at age 40 ... Mr. Skidmore does an excellent job of showing how Richard’s options progressively closed down the further he got into the machinations necessary to keep himself in power ... this highly readable chronicle comprises vaulting ambition, familial betrayal, moral corruption, high politics, foul murder and a beautiful queen lusting for revenge.
Chris Skidmore wants us to judge Richard as the man of the time, rather than merely of the crime. Yet the result is a narrative that is all the more terrifying, and a portrait that chills you to the bone ... Skidmore describes Richard’s death in horrifying detail ... It marks a bloody climax to a biography in which the unfolding horror comes from the slow burn of detail drawn from manuscript sources and recent scholarship judiciously presented, and in a story well told. Skidmore’s scholarly understanding of the period ensures he succeeds in his objective to depict Richard as a man whose actions reflect the nature of power during this period—and its nature was often pitiless.
Over the years, we’ve come to know Richard as unremittingly evil ... Chris Skidmore examines all these hostile indictments in the bright light of available data. He does so with sharp writing and a marvelously exhaustive command of contemporary documentary sources ... Skidmore approaches Richard’s biography with an eye for what’s known and also what’s unknowable. The thoroughness of his research tends to slow the pace a bit, especially during the first half of the book. On the other hand, there are many compelling stretches where the author weaves the swarm of facts he presents into rich portrayals of the politics of the age ... In the author’s hands, there’s no lack of thrilling details in Richard’s saga ... His biography bids fair to become the definitive account for the 21st century, and one that should nudge Richard’s reputation away from rumor, propaganda, and shared misconception back into the realm of concrete historical data.