Review: The King’s Grave

Posted 27 October, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The King’s Grave
By: Philippa Langley, Michael Jones
Format/Source: galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley

The first full-length book about the discover of Richard III’s remains by the person who led the team and the historian whose book spurred her on

The mystery of who Richard III really was has fascinated historians, readers and audiences familiar with Shakespeare’s dastardly portrait of a hunchback monster for centuries. Earlier this year, the remains of a man with a curving spine, who possible was killed in battle, were discovered underneath the paving of a parking lot in Leicester, England. Phillipa Langley, head of The Richard III Society, spurred on by the work of the historian Michael Jones, led the team of who uncovered the remains, certain that she had found the bones of the monarch. When DNA verification later confirmed that the skeleton was, indeed, that of King Richard III, the discovery ranks among the great stories of passionate intuition and perseverance against the odds. The news of the discovery of Richard’s remains has been widely reported worldwide and was front page news for both the New York Times and The Washington Post. Many believe that now, with King Richard III’s skeleton in hand, historians will finally begin to understand what happened to him following the Battle of Bosworth Field (twenty miles or so from Leicester) and, ultimately, to know whether he was the hateful, unscrupulous monarch of Shakespeare’s drama or a much more benevolent king interested in the common man. Written in alternating chapters, with Richard’s 15th century life told by historian Michael Jones (author of the critically acclaimed Bosworth – 1485) contrasting with the 21st century eyewitness account of the search and discovery of the body by Philippa Langley.

The King’s Grave will be both an extraordinary portrait of the last Plantagenet monarch and the inspiring story of the archaeological dig that finally brings the real King Richard III into the light of day.

Given the news in the past two years or so about Richard III and the discovery of his remains, I thought the premise of this book was rather interesting. I was approved of a galley copy of this novel from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This book will be available on October 29.

Reading the modern day chapters on the dig, it was really interesting how the team eventually came to uncover Richard III’s final resting place. A lot of work obviously went into verifying and protecting the bones and the reader learns a lot about what it’s like to go through the process of digging and discovery and the meticulous process of recovering.

As someone who studied history though and worked on literary works as part of her thesis, it was the historical chapters that interested me more. Michael Jones’ chapters is an interesting exercise in balancing out public preconceptions about Richard III, to see if the ideas we associate with him was the result of a radical campaign on the Tudors’ part to slander his image (culminating in the play written by William Shakespeare). It’s tricky work to sort through this material and while I’m not very familiar with this part of British history, the questions he raises throughout the book are interesting ones to consider.

I’m not entirely sure who the target audience is for this book given the overlap of academic fields involved in the endeavour. Nonetheless students and lovers of British history, particularly the period of the War of the Roses, would likely be interested to check out The King’s Grave.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Read more about the author from the Richard III society website || Order this book from the Book Depository

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2 Responses to “Review: The King’s Grave”

  1. This looks really interesting! I think it’s great the book is interdisciplinary; we’ll probably see more of that type of work in the future. Just added it to my to-read list!

    • Hope you enjoy it! 🙂 Haha, yeah, definitely it’s great that the research featured here was interdisciplinary; it’s always been interesting how history is quite interdisciplinary by nature with all of the resources it draws from. In retrospect, I guess I was really surprised (too surprised?) at how much it delved into English lit in this volume–hence my confusion about who the audience could be for this book–but it reflects how Richard III became so vilified.

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