Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Coming Attractions: Richard III Week.

The Colours of the Chameleon.

I can add colours to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murd’rous Machiavel to school.

Henry VI, Pt 3. Act III, Scene 2.

Richard the Third, King of England, is a man standing in the shadows.

Five hundred and twenty-three years ago, he went down fighting on Bosworth Field and almost immediately controversy began to swirl around him.

Did he order the murder of the child king, Edward V and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury? Were they, in fact, murdered at all? Does it even matter?

Was he a monster, a saint, or a just a man – as ruthless as a Mediaeval king needed to be?

Shakespeare famously (and indeed gleefully) climbed aboard the ‘monster’ bandwagon, to superb dramatic effect … but even though his Richard was the mentally and physically deformed degenerate the Tudors wanted the world to see, he gave us a phrase that fits The Last Plantagenet king perfectly. From this distance, he’s a chameleon and a shape-shifter … apparently changing according to the background, the light and the position of the observer.

We won’t be providing any definitive answers this week, but we will – we hope – be offering a reasonably balanced overview of the most controversial and enigmatic monarch England has ever known.

On Monday, I start the ball rolling with a few (very) random thoughts on Shakespeare’s incomparable Richard III … an unsurpassed study in pure, unapologetic villainy.

On Tuesday, Richard III Week continues with Jackie reviewing, in her own words: “One of the most popular retellings of the story of the tragic king, Sharon Kay Penman’s somber The Sunne in Splendor.”

Emma Darwin has centre stage on Wednesday, talking about how and why she centred her new novel, A Secret Alchemy, on Richard III’s enemies, and why she’s ordered a bullet-proof vest for publication day . . .

Historian Dr Gillian Polack joins us on Thursday and explains why the real villain of the piece is – in fact – Sir John Everett Millais. (She thinks she might like to borrow Emma’s bullet-proof vest if she has no immediate need for it.)

On Friday, Rosy uses Richard III Week as another excuse to waffle on about Shakespeare in film with Olivier’s and McKellen’s versions figuring in there somewhere.

It’s me again on Saturday (sorry …) with a review of Richard III: The Maligned King by Annette Carson – the first major positive reassessment of the reign of Richard for over 25 years. (There’ll be a giveaway too …. one freebie copy is up for grabs.)

Finally, on Sunday, Annette herself will be joining us to close the week, in a chat covering aerobatics, rock music and (eventually, when we got around to it) whether or not the truth about Richard III actually matters.

Comments throughout the week are open to everyone: please feel free to join in. If at least ONE knock-down drag-out doesn’t develop we’ll be deeply disappointed …

(The wonderfully moody photograph of the statue of Richard III in Castle Gardens, Leicester is reproduced with the kind permission of the photographer, Kevin Tebbutt – kev747 on Flickr.)

17 comments on “Coming Attractions: Richard III Week.

  1. Anne Brooke
    August 17, 2008

    Marvellous – I love Richard III – just my kind of guy. I’ve never liked children myself much too … so it will be a shame if he didn’t do it, dammit!!



  2. Col
    August 17, 2008

    I’ll be checking in; 26 yrs in the Society. Interested in the Annette Carson esp.

  3. Genie Tyburski
    August 17, 2008

    Sounds exciting. I’ll definitely be checking in.

    LOL, Anne Brooke!

  4. Pingback: Do You Love/Hate Richard III? « Fuzzy History: Learning History through Fiction

  5. Jackie
    August 17, 2008

    A perfect intro, Moira. And what a cool photo, really captures the mood.

  6. Margaret Donsbach
    August 18, 2008

    Richard III Week looks like wonderful fun! I will be coming over to follow the controversies. I’ve also taken the liberty of posting a link on my blog at, because I think many of my regular visitors will also be interested. The Medieval page is always among the most-visited pages.

  7. Leena
    August 19, 2008

    Wait, no Daughter of Time after all? I went and read it last week… grumble, grumble… (Mind you, I didn’t like it overmuch, so no great loss. Though I’m not sure I should be admitting that.)

    I think this will be – and already is – an excellent, informative theme week… also for people (like me) who know very little about the man to begin with!

  8. Moira
    August 19, 2008

    Sorry Leena … The week was one day too short to include “Daughter”. …

    Margaret — Thank you for joining us — and for the link!

  9. Ann Darnton (Table Talk)
    August 19, 2008

    I am one of those people who were born knowing that Richard III was, in the immortal words of Sellars and Yateman, ‘a good thing’. Coming of solid Yorkshire stock may well have something to do with this as there are records of how much he was loved there. I’ll be following along all week. There are one or two interesting YA books about Richard, most notably Barbara Willard’s ‘A Sprig of Bloom’.

  10. Jonathan Hayes
    August 20, 2008

    I have no doubt that Annette Carson will do a magnificent job – does she ever do any other? – but I wonder why it is necessary. The facts are the little snots dropped out of public view in summer/fall of 1483 and no verifiable hide nor hair of them has popped up since. Everything else is conjecture and rumors (and no, I don’t care if you’ve got PhDs or 98.6 degrees from Fahrenheit, you don’t KNOW any more than that).

    Until some new evidence surfaces, that’s where we are. It’s safe to assume they are both dead by now, but that’s as far as any conscientious scholar would go.

  11. helen cox
    August 21, 2008

    i’ve just been privileged to review annette carson’s book for towton battlefield society. it’ll have tudor traditionalists foaming at the mouth – wish i could be a fly on michael hicks’ wall when he reads it!

    r.i.p. our last true warrior king… personally couldn’t give two hoots whether richard did for his nephews or not – but either way, i’d still like to KNOW!

  12. Emma
    August 21, 2008

    Ooh, yes, I’d forgotten the Barbara Willards, though I’ve got them all on my shelves. Classics of truly great children’s hist fic.

  13. paul griffin
    August 22, 2008

    Bore da, The Princes in the Tower by Delarouche and Lurence Olivier in Shakespeare’s play / film Have set the tone for a view of history accepted by the vast majority of people. Oh! But how different it may well be. Do I care! Yes and No.

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  16. Colyngbourne
    March 4, 2014

    There’s such a wealth of good Richard III material to read, let alone the impact of the films, but you’ve picked some grand subjects, and an interview with Annette Carson is the highlight of the week. Her book should be required reading for anyone wanting a properly balanced assessment of Richard and his life.

  17. Colyngbourne
    March 4, 2014

    And now I see this entry is six years old!

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This entry was posted on August 17, 2008 by in Entries by Moira, Special Features and tagged , , , , .



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