Archive for the ‘Bookworm’ Category


The King’s Dogge

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: , , , , ,

The King's Dogge

Book Review:  The King’s Dogge

The following review is by Rob Smith of the New Zealand Branch and was first published in the August 2014 Ricardian Recorder. We thank Rob for his permission to post it here.

Nigel Green, The King’s Dogge: The Story of Francis Lovell, Troubador Publishing Ltd (2014) ISBN 9781783068425

This novel, written in the first person, portrays the life of the King’s Dogge, Francis Lovell up to Bosworth. A sequel is promised. A mixture of known historical facts and events coupled with the author’s vivid imagination results in, to my mind, a rather laborious narrative.

Lovell’s progression from his early days, to his service with Montague and Warwick and thence to their demise at Barnet is informative enough as is his consequent meeting with the Yorkist hierarchy and his entry into Richard’s service. Lovell’s service to Richard in Carlisle and the Border encounters with outlaws and the Scots are laid out but possibly over-emphasised. What I was to find throughout is the author’s tendency to concentrate on the minutia of lesser happenings while allowing other more significant events to be passed over lightly or ignored completely, perhaps relying on the reader’s knowledge to fill in the gaps. However, to be fair, this is a story about Lovell and if he was not involved in these events the author may consider it inappropriate to dwell on them.

What is interesting is Green’s portrayal of the various characters, not least Richard. The author’s Richard is a loyal brother but a vacillating, indecisive king and a pawn in the hands of a scheming Anne Neville who is determined to bring down the Woodville faction for what they did to her father, Warwick. She is shown as the power behind the throne. As Lovell rises to the top in Richard’s service he starts to question and has doubts about his King but remains steadfastly loyal to the end.

Buckingham, Hastings, the Stanleys, etc. are as we know them; Ratcliffe comes out OK but Catesby is shown as a fat, scheming, lawyer, self- serving from the outset as he climbs the ladder of influence, culminating in his engineering of the murder of the Princes (with Richard’s acceptance ), and his ultimate betrayal at Bosworth, being in league with the Stanleys and Northumberland conspiring beforehand in their treachery.

Incidentally, Tudor takes no part in the battle having been hidden away for his safety with decoys taking his place. Did Shakespeare get it right? …. “ I think there must be six Richmonds in the field/Five have I slain today instead of him” (Richard III Act V, Scene iv).

The King’s Dogge is an interesting portrayal of an important figure in Richard’s life but it lacks bite and requires patience and determination to reach the conclusion.

frame_IsoldeMartyn_TheGoldenWidowsOn Thursday evening, 21 August 2014, Abbey’s Books in Sydney’s CBD hosted a launch for our member Isolde Martyn’s newest book, The Golden Widows. The publishers, Harlequin Mira, provided a lovely selection of wine and hors d’oeuvres for the after-work crowd, which included a good turnout of fellow Ricardians and Plantagenet Society members, many of whom queued to buy the book and have it signed by the author.

The official program began when the book’s editor spoke to those assembled and then introduced Isolde who gave a gracious talk thanking everyone involved with the publishing of this book. She explained that the story is that of Lancastrian widow, Elizabeth Woodville, who later married King Edward IV, and the Yorkist sister of Warwick the Kingmaker, Kate Neville, also newly widowed. Life in the 15th century was hard for all widowed women, even the young and beautiful – wherever their loyalties lay in the War of the Roses.

With her love and extensive knowledge of the late medieval era and armed with finely honed historical research skills, Isolde has produced a new book that promises to be as satisfying to her fans as have her previous works.

You can find out more about previous Isolde’s books by visiting her website.

The Golden Widows is available in Australia and New Zealand in print format or as an e-book through Amazon etc.


Finding Richard III

   Posted by: Barbara Gaskell Denvil Tags: , ,

Book Review:  Finding Richard III – The Official Account

We thank Barbara for making her review of this book available to us.

Finding Richard III : The Official Account
of Research by the Retrieval & Reburial Project

Finding Richard IIIThe Looking for Richard Project team, specifically Philippa Langley (the inaugurator) , John Ashdown-Hill BA, MA, PhD, FSA, FRHistS, Annette Carson, David Johnson BA Hons, MA, PhD, and Wendy Johnson, set out to discover the burial place and human remains of Richard III himself, although these were long considered lost forever. This, the official account, is a clear, precise and riveting summary of facts, not of opinions. However, step by inspired step, we are led past the opinions of many as we follow the unique development of one of the most impressive and amazing archaeological discoveries ever achieved in England.

In early 2009, Philippa Langley launched the search for Richard III’s resting place. She and the team then worked together to meticulously discredit the long held rumour of the desecration of his grave and the tossing of his remains into the River Soar, even though this unsubstantiated rumour was frequently upheld by others, even historians. There have also been years of mistaken belief as to the site of the Greyfriars Priory, considered the probable place of original burial in 1485. Many historical errors and later misjudgements were now researched and carefully corrected by the team, all briefly summarised here. With lucid and detailed explanation, this books covers every aspect, matching medieval probabilities to modern specifics until gradually we feel we have travelled the same journey, walked those 15th century streets, peered into those shadowed mysteries and so can share the team’s inspirational optimism.

With enormous expertise and determination, the team persisted until 2012 when at last, with council permission obtained, funds raised (principally from the Richard III Society) and legal agreements made with the relevant authorities, ULAS (University of Leicester Archaeological Services), were contracted and paid in advance accordingly as demanded, to undertake the digging in the area specified by the Project. Indeed, ULAS had so little belief in the probability of discovering Richard III’s actual remains, that they accepted the commission only when the wording of the contract was amended to specify and limit the dig to the excavation of the Franciscan Priory Church. Philippa Langley then insisted that contractual obligations include provision for the possible exhumation of human remains. The Looking For Richard team’s accuracy was so impressive to seem virtually unbelievable, so even after the leg bones of an adult male were discovered in the designated area on the very first day of the dig, ULAS could not believe they had begun to uncover Richard III himself.

Included in the narrative are the surprising disappointments and the failures of some, in particular the areas where original contractual agreements have not been met by other parties. For instance, the shocking failure of the university to invite John Ashdown-Hill to the official announcement of Richard III’s DNA match, which identified his remains beyond reasonable doubt, even though it was Mr. Ashdown-Hill alone who traced the living descendent used to conclude that DNA match, and Ms. Langley was only invited to speak after the TV coverage had ended. It is also evidently of some concern and against the wording of the original contract, for the remains of this anointed monarch and ancestor of the queen to still be retained by the university instead of having been laid to rest in some prayerful and respectful place until the re-interment process can be conducted. Difficulties with the Cathedral administration are also recorded.

But there is no winter of discontent here, no list of complaints or failures. Indeed, the book is a celebration of a rare and glorious success, leading to a greater knowledge and understanding of this long misunderstood and maligned king, and eventually to a fitting reburial.

Written with impressive clarity and extensive footnotes, without unacademic or emotional emphasis, this short book explains exactly what happened from initiation to conclusion. It is the summary of the search itself, and includes a full list of those who donated to the costs and copies of all the contracts involved. The considerable respect and care shown by Ms. Langley for the legal drafting of the original contractual agreements is precise and impressive. Whether her wishes have been fully complied with since, is another matter.

Although such facts can, as would be expected, seem dry at times, there is not one moment when this book becomes heavy, or can be even momentarily discarded. It is both a fascinating and rewarding read from beginning to end. And FINDING RICHARD III: THE OFFICIAL ACCOUNT covers one more necessary task, that of explaining exactly how the search not only originated with the Finding Richard Project, but was successful owing to their incredible expertise and persistence. In the face of repeated claims and assumptions that Leicester University or ULAS discovered Richard III’s burial place and his remains, it was instead the studious research and ultimate success of The Finding Richard Project, who have now produced this official account to set the record straight.



   Posted by: Barbara Gaskell Denvil Tags: , , , ,

A new novel by Barbara Gaskell Denvil, much appreciated member of the NSW Branch, has recently been published.  Barbara shares with us a blurb for her new book.  Having read and thoroughly enjoyed her previous novels Summerford’s Autumn and Satin Cinnabar, I can’t wait to spend some pleasant time in The King’s Shadow

(Page Admin)

King's ShadowBarbara Gaskell Denvil, The King’s Shadow.  Simon & Schuster Australia, 2014.  ISBN 9781925030068 (Trade Paperback and ebook)

Andrew Cobham is a man of unconventional behaviour, his home is unusually grand, and he answers no questions. But as he keeps his own secrets safe, so he works to uncover those of others.

It is 1483 and King Edward IV sits England’s throne, but no king rules unchallenged. Often it is those closest to him who prove the unexpected danger. When the king dies suddenly without clear cause, then rumour replaces fact – and Andrew Cobham is already working behind the scenes.

Tyballis, when orphaned young, was forced into marriage with her neighbour, a bully and simpleton. When she escapes his abuse, she meets Andrew Cobham, and gradually an uneasy alliance forms. This is a friendship which will take them in unusual directions as Tyballis becomes embroiled in Andrew’s work and the danger which surrounds him. Eventually it is a motley gathering of thieves, informers, prostitutes and children that joins the game, determined to help Andrew uncover treason. Abduction, murder, intrigue and political subterfuge come to a climax as the country is thrown onto the brink of war.

Richard of Gloucester is designated Protector of the Realm, and it is his responsibility to bring peace to England’s troubled land, and discover those who are determined to disturb the peace for their own ends. This book brings light to some of the more troublesome mysteries and the doubts surrounding his decisions, based firmly on what truths are at present known, and especially on those frequently overlooked.

This novel combines history and imagination, but in no place is wilful inaccuracy permitted. These are the facts both as they actually occurred, and as they probably occurred.

But it is also a book about the whole adventure of an uncommon life.

Mistress to the CrownThis is how Isolde Martyn, author, past chairperson of the New South Wales Branch and welcome speaker at our meetings, spent Thursday, March 27th. A guest of the Port Stephens Libraries at Tomaree and Raymond Terrace, she spoke on her novel Mistress to the Crown, her absorbing and well researched story about Elizabeth Lambard (aka Jane Shore). Many NSW Branch members attended the launch of this book last year.

Isolde’s talk gave wonderful insight to Elizabeth the person, the problems and people she had to cope with, as well as a fascinating view of the London in which she lived, loved and – not so well known– ran a successful business. And, no, William Shore was not a goldsmith, and examples of early novels whose covers implied that Elizabeth was a goldsmith’s wife were amusing viewing if bodice-ripper style appealed.

It was, as is often the case, a shame that those attending were quality not quantity, but enthusiastic questions and opinions gave hope that a few more people now realise that history was alive and well long before the Tudors butted in! This will be helped by the sales of the book, as well as those of Isolde’s novel about Harry Buckingham The Devil in Ermine. Richard was mentioned of course, especially his “what fools these mortals be” style letter about Tom Lynom. Another attendee was thrilled to know she shared Richard’s birthday!

We can look forward to another of Isolde’s books titled The Golden Widows that will be published by Mira in August this year. And the identity of the widows? The book opens with this introduction:

It is estimated that between 1450 and 1500, during the struggle for the crown between the Houses of York and Lancaster, 62 of England’s lords and their heirs were slain. Of the 44 noble ladies who were left as widows, 21 remarried.

This is the story of two of those women, Kate and Elysabeth, whose husbands fought on opposing sides. Kate was the sister of the earl known in history as “Warwick the Kingmaker” and Elysabeth became very famous in her own right.

This will be another welcome addition to Isolde’s portraits of medieval England. Each is eminently readable as fiction, excellent for accurate research – andlet’s give a huge plus for the lists of the historically correct characters (a minimum of invented names for lesser ones) and a glossary of medieval terms.

Mistress to the Crown, published by Mira, rrp $25, ISBN 978 1743560211, soon available in a smaller paperback edition.

The Devil in Ermine, an e-book available for Kindle or from Amazon Print on Demand. ISBN: 0-9873 8469-0; ISBN-13: 978-098738460-0-7.


Richard III by David Baldwin

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: , , ,

Book Review:  RRichard III by David Baldwinichard III by David Baldwin

David Baldwin, Richard III.  Amberley Publishing, 2012.  ISBN 9781445601823

This review was presented at NSW Convention in Mittagong in May 2012.  We apologise for the delay in posting it.

Richard III by David Baldwin was published on 28 February 2012, so well before the remains of Richard III were found where they had been buried in the church of the Leicester Greyfriars.  However, it should not be forgotten that Baldwin had as early as 1986 published the hypothesis that his remains were still where they had originally been buried, [1] I had ordered the book as soon as it came out, expecting some new insights. Once I had received it and saw the endorsement by Philippa Gregory on the back, I started wondering though, whether I had not made a huge mistake.

The subtitle is “Ruthless hunchback or paragon of virtue, the true story of the last Plantagenet king”, which does reflect what Baldwin sets out to do.  As he explains in his Introduction “It seems improbable that any human being could be as evil – or alternatively as misunderstood – as Richard, and … somewhere behind all the conflicting argument stands a real man who had both qualities and failings.  Neither black or white, but – like all of us – somewhere in between”. [pp.10-11]  An admirable aim, but we’ll have to see whether he can achieve it.

Baldwin follows a chronological approach.  Starting with Richard’s birth and finishing after Bosworth with a chapter on “Legacy & Legend”.  On the whole he is reasonably fair, the chapter on Richard as Warwick’s heir in the North is a case in point.  Richard has often been blamed for being excessively aggressive in extending his interests during this period, but Baldwin puts this into its historical context and shows that Richard’s behaviour was just normal.  He was no worse than others, but as the king’s brother he had obviously more scope for extending his interests, though they were not necessarily to the detriment of others.  Baldwin also stresses that this was not only the normal behaviour for a medieval nobleman, but would also have been expected of him.

While I have some reservations about Baldwin’s analysis of how Richard III came to the throne, it has to be said that this is unquestionably a period on which views are at their most partisan.  I found his heavy reliance on Thomas More – strawberries and all – and Mancini somewhat limiting, especially – as we shall see later – considering Balwin’s view on the legends surrounding Richard.  He does, however, reject the notion that the crown was what Richard had always wanted, but rather that “he was seizing an opportunity rather than fulfilling an expectation”. [p.104]

On the question of the fate of the princes, Baldwin thinks that the elder, Edward, died of natural causes, while the younger, Richard, survived.  This comes as no surprise, considering that he wrote The Lost Prince five years previously, where he set out to show that the mysterious Richard of Eastwell was in reality the younger son of Edward IV.

Baldwin shows that Richard’s reign was always rather insecure, which was why a nobody like Henry Tudor could actually manage to overthrow him and stay in power.  He explains that Richard’s legacy are the progressive laws of his only parliament, which “affected the lives of Englishmen far into the future”. [p.216]  He concludes that “Richard’s achievements are arguably greater than those of some kings who reigned for longer, and there are indications that they would have been greater still if he had been allowed more time” [p.219]

As for the legends surrounding Richard I agree when he says that “It was perhaps inevitable that a king who both gained and lost his throne in such dramatic circumstances would be become the stuff of legend” [p.228], but that these do not tell us anything about him personally.

On the whole I think Baldwin does quite a good job at showing Richard as a “man who is … both principled and unprincipled, a flawed diamond” [p.228]  I don’t think that he offers much new for someone who knows the period reasonably well, but would be a good introduction.

It is a pity, however, that Baldwin occasionally adopts a fictional approach.  This begins in Richard’s childhood when we meet a boy at Fastolf Place, who “eagerly anticipated trips into the bustling city [ie. London] beyond the wall”.  [p.17]  Later, during the dramatic events of May/June 1483, we learn that “Richard … worried constantly about the future, searched his conscience many times over”. [p.99].  Obviously we have no idea how Richard felt and assumptions like these, which do nothing to explain the events, have no place in a work of non-fiction.

With some reservations I can recommend this new book on Richard, though I would not class it as “must read”.

[1] David Baldwin, ‘King Richard’s Grave in Leicester‘, Transactions of Leicester Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol. 60 (1986), pp.21-24

Richard III -  The King under the Car Park

Book Review:  Richard III – The King under the Car Park

Mathew Morris & Richard Buckley, Richard III – The King under the Car Park. University of Leicester Archaeological Services, 2013.  ISBN 978-0-9574792-2-7

Richard III –  The King under the Car Park tells the story of the Greyfriars Dig from the point of view of the scientists involved in the dig:  Mathew Morris supervised the field work and Richard Buckley was the lead archaeologist.  It is a slim book, only 64 pages, but it is amazing how much well-founded information it contains.  The many well-chosen illustrations, both historical ones as well as modern photographs, are a treat.

Before describing the dig and its outcome, the book covers the historical background that led to Richard III being buried in the church of the Greyfriars (ie. Franciscans) in the first place.  They acknowledge that “Shakespeare weaves a compelling portrait of the king, yet in real life he was a loyal brother and a fearless leader who inspired great loyalty amongst his followers, and a lawmaker whose legal reforms still affect us today.” [p.8]  They follow Richard to the Battle of Bosworth, also summarising the research that established the actual site of the action.

The section explaining Leicester’s history was particularly interesting and helps to visualise the historic sites in the modern city.  Part of their research was overlaying and comparing historical maps with modern maps of Leicester.

They explain their objectives in undertaking this dig.  They wanted to find the remains of the Franciscan Friary, identify clues and orientation of the buildings, locate the church within the friary, if they managed to locate the church, they wanted to find the choir, and the fifth objective, which seemed highly unlikely to achieve, was locating Richard’s remains.  It is well known by now that they managed to realise all five objectives.  The dig itself is chronologically explained and illustrated with diagrams.

The last pages cover the post-dig research which established that the remains which were found are indeed those of Richard III.  The issue of the DNA match, which can be rather confusing to the lay person, is well explained.

The book acknowledges the roles played by Philippa Langley, John Ashdown-Hill and the Richard III Society in general.

Richard III –  The King under the Car Park is highly recommended for anyone interested in the finding of Richard’s remains.

Note: I would like to thank my friend in Leicester, who attended the launch of this book and bought an extra copy and posted it to me.   This is particularly appreciated, as this book does not seem to be available yet to Australians through the usual channels.However, you can order it directly from the University of Leicester shop at


The King’s Grave

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: , , ,

The King's Grave

The King’s Grave

Book Review:  The King’s Grave

Philippa Langley, Michael Jones, The King’s Grave.  St. Martin’s Press, 2013

All of us in the Richard III Society and many others followed the discovery of what was later confirmed to be Richard III’s remains under the car park in Leicester with fascination and awe.  In several homes the champagne corks popped, when it was announced on 4 February 2013 that these remains were indeed those of Richard III.

The King’s Grave is written by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones.  It would be safe to say that without Philippa’s drive and determination the Greyfriars Dig would never have taken place.  Michael Jones is a well-known historian of the period.  Here the authors are telling two different but related tales in alternating chapters in one book about “a search for Richard’s remains – and also, accompanying it, the search for his real historical reputation.” [Preface]

Philippa recounts the story of the lead-up to the dig, the time of the dig itself and its fantastic result. While it gives a good day to day account of the dig, it is also a very personal story and the reader experiences with her all the frustrations, hiccups and anxieties she felt along the way, thus making it personal for the reader as well.  However, it has to be said that this very emotional style, the constant use of the word “I” and the frequent reminders of the strange sensation she first experienced in the car park in May 2004, might come across as if it was all about Philippa, though she does acknowledge John Ashdown-Hill and Annette Carson and others.

Michael on the other hand provides the historical background to Richard’s life – and death – in a sympathetic, but unsentimental way.  His aim is “Not to condemn him, nor to sanitize his actions, but to place him firmly back in the context of his times” [Preface] and he succeeded in doing so.  He emphasizes Richard’s keen sense of justice and religiousness.

The conclusion is that

“Richard III wasn’t a saint. He was a man, who played the hand he was dealt loyally and, as far as he could within the limitations of his time, humanely. Above all, whether on and off the battlefield, he never failed to display courage.” [Chapter 11:  The Man Behind the Myth]

The mystery of what happened to Edward IV’s sons, though not related to the archaeological search for Richard, but very much part of “the search for his real historical reputation”, is dealt with in an Appendix.  Here the two authors agree to disagree.  Philippa explaining convincingly why Richard should be innocent and Michael explaining equally convincingly why he probably had to do it.

A second appendix to The King’s Grave is about the psychological analysis of Richard III by Prof Mark Lansdale and Julian Booth, a more extensive version of this was included in the March 2013 Ricardian Bulletin.

The King’s Grave is illuminated by many examples, some of them well-known to a Ricardian, some maybe less so.  Thomas Barowe, and his generous gift to Cambridge University as a memorial of Richard III is mentioned.  The book also introduces the reader to Jane Sacheverell and the way she changed the law.

I found it interesting to find out that, while Henry had Richard’s body displayed in Leicester, he himself moved on to Coventry to celebrate his victory, before returning to Leicester and then continuing on to London.

The King’s Grave is a book that will resonate with any Ricardian who lived through this exciting period, but will also be of interest to readers, who might not have followed the events with so much enthusiasm while they unfolded.

You can watch a short interview with the author’s of The King’s Grave on YouTube.

This is a review of an advance ebook copy supplied by the publishers through  Quotes are therefore referenced by chapters rather than page numbers.



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: ,

Book Review:  The Devil in Ermine

IThe Devil in Erminesolde Martyn, The Devil in Ermine.  

The Devil in Ermine tells the events of 1483 through the eyes Richard III’s cousin, the Duke of Buckingham.  Following is the description from Isolde’s website:

1483: England has a new king – a mere boy – but who is to rule the kingdom until he comes of age? His ambitious mother, Queen Elizabeth Woodville, or his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester?


Into this impasse steps the eloquent and charming Harry, Duke of Buckingham, Richard’s cousin, but what are his true intentions? Here for the first time is his account of that fateful summer when Gloucester became King Richard III. But of the two, who is the statesman and who the villain?


In this novel, rich in intrigue, Isolde Martyn, author of Mistress to the Crown, draws Richard III and Buckingham, two of history’s most enigmatic men, out from the shadows.

If you have an ebook reader, you can download The Devil in Ermine via Amazon and Smashwords.  Via Amazon you can also order a paperback version.  Isolde mentioned to me that she had ordered several print copies which would be for sale to members of the NSW branch.  Unfortunately, they won’t arrive until approx. 5 December.

Isolde is a past president of the NSW branch and as branch member continues to be a welcome and regular contributor to our meetings.



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: ,

More congratulations are due to our branch member, Barbara Gaskell Denvil.  She has just been awarded the BRAG medallion of honour for her medieval thriller/paranormal novel Fair Weather.

BRAG medallions are awarded by indieBRAG.  The word “indie” refers to self or independently published books, while BRAG is an acronym for Book Readers Appreciation Group.

A big round of applause for Barbara!