This is another book Ive had on my tbr pile for about a year and finally felt in the mood to read, having recently read Crown in Candlelight which deaThis is another book Ive had on my tbr pile for about a year and finally felt in the mood to read, having recently read Crown in Candlelight which deals with the immediate aftermath of Richard II's usurpation and death. Written in 1948 I must say I quite enjoyed the style of the dialogue spoken which reflects the time in which the book was written. It very much made me think of old films made in the 1940's and 50's and I couldnt help reading the book imagining it as an old film starring Joan Fontaine and possibly Leslie Howard as the leading players! All very British and stiff upper lip! All the other leading characters/villains could easily have been the usual faces that regularly pop up in those old historical films. I'm aware I'm in danger of giving my age away here but I swear I'm not that old!
The story starts with Richard as an 11 year old boy-king, the son of the Black Prince and grandson of Edward III, completely under the thumb of and overshadowed by his 3 ambitious, powerful and overbearing uncles acting as his Regency Council, especially the war loving and bullying Thomas, Duke of Gloucester whom Richard hates. Richard is a sensitive, delicate and intelligent boy and not warlike at all. He appreciates fine clothes, art and culture and above all wants peace for England. A few years on at the age of 14 he singlehandedly rides out and quells the Peasants Revolt led by Wat Tyler. After that he has a few more difficult and frustrating years with his uncles but then he then marries Anne of Bohemia and, after a shaky start, the marriage proves to be very happy and with her love and support this proves to be his salvation and with people like Simon Burley, Geoffrey Chaucer and Richard's devoted friend, Robert de Vere in his Court, he finds the strength to shake off the dominance of his uncles and reigns with Anne for 8 eight peaceful and prosperous years.
Then tragically Anne dies of the Black Death and Richard is devastated. A darker side of his character emerges and his bitterness at his tragic fortune turns him a tyrant. He does not realise that he is turning his people against him. Amongst other things, he banishes his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, who by now is gaining popularity with the people, and he keeps Henry's land and estates. He is also suspected of having the Duke of Gloucester murdered.
In an effort to keep the peace with France on an even keel and eventually to beget an heir, he marries the 9 year old Isobel of Valois, daughter of the King of France and has a gentle and protective, albeit platonic, relationship with her. But he is on a downward spiral and his enemies take full advantage of his unpopularity. Bolingbroke, now returned from exile, captures Richard first keeping him in the Tower and then imprisoning him in Pontefract Castle for 5 months. He is slowly starved and finally brutally murdered.
Although written over 60 years ago and very much of its time, the book still stands up as a classic historical novel, well researched and based on fact. It contains flowery, flights of fancy passages which was the style of writing then and which I'm not a fan of. I found that aspect of the book a bit tedious and tended to skim over them. It didnt grab me and hold my interest as much as Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick's novels do but I'm glad I read it and I would recommend it anyone who is interested in medieval history....more
Sort of enjoyed it but got bogged down with too many names. Tried hard to remember who everyone was but got sick of referring to the copious list of cSort of enjoyed it but got bogged down with too many names. Tried hard to remember who everyone was but got sick of referring to the copious list of characters at the front of the book and halfway through gave up - I got the gist of the story anyway. It was fascinating to read of Edward II, Piers Gaveston and the Despensers, their influence on him and their eventual downfall and gruesome deaths. I enjoyed the second half of the book better than the first and found myself turning the pages much faster as the pace of writing seemed to get easier to read and digest. The main character, Eleanor Despenser was a bit too good to be true but all in all quite an enjoyable read and I have got the follow on book "Hugh and Bess"....more