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Richard the Third

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,796 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
Paul Murray Kendall's masterful account of the life of England's King Richard III has remained the standard biography of this controversial figure.
Paperback, 608 pages
Published April 17th 2002 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1955)
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Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Richard III is my historical boyfriend; I would run headlong into the TARDIS and never look back, just for the chance to go back and look once upon his face.
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I took a long time to read this, more so as I got through it, because I was delaying reaching the end, even though I know what happens. I didn't want Richard to die. I'm a die-hard Ricardian, always have been, always will be. I don't believe Richard was evil, I don't believe he murdered the Princes in the Tower, and I'll hate Henry VII until the day I die. I believe Richard was a good man who perhaps should never have been king, a man who believed in justice, loyalty and honesty, and who was mor ...more
Nov 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ricardians, history buffs
This is the biography which Sharon Kay Penman used as the principal source for her superb novel "The Sunne in Splendour". Kendall is considered to be one of the most useful and excellent biographers of this much maligned king. His scholarship is impeccable and his notes are fascinating. He quite fairly presents the evidence for the guilt of the three main suspects in the deaths of Edward V and his brother, the Duke of York. So far as I can tell, he has rounded up all the available contemporary i ...more
Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Possibly one of the best, if not the standard work, of biography of Richard III. Far from the twisted caricature of Shakespeare or even the propaganda of the Tudors, desperate to legitimise their Regicide, Richard of Gloucester is a man driven by loyalty and obligation. He's not the perfect and kind King some have tried to re-invent him as, but he's far more human than the monster of the Bard.
Apr 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"If he had committed a grievous wrong, he had sought earnestly to do great good."

Never before have I been so enthralled with any aspect of history. Paul Murray Kendall paints a factually accurate but immensely fascinating portrait of a complicated man living in a completely foreign time. Richard's lot in history is usually at one end of the good/evil spetrum -- either a cold-blooded murderer or a misunderstood scapegoat. Kendall doesn't buy into this unnecessary categorization, but instead explo
Jun 29, 2008 is currently reading it
I'm rereading this book to refresh my memory of the real Richard III after reading "The Sunne in Splendour." Kendall's assessment of Richard is balanced and fair, based on careful analysis of the existing sources, with the basis for any speculation always carefully explained in the notes. If your idea of Richard comes from Shakespeare or Sir Thomas More, or if you simply like to read about real people in troubled times faced with moral dilemmas and betrayals, you'll enjoy this book, which is not ...more
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, 2013-reads
Paul Murray Kendall's Richard the Third is a readable biographical introduction of the last Plantagenet King of England that for many only comes to mind as the sinister hunchback of Shakespeare. Even though over 50 years worth of research has outdated some of Kendall's evidence, his overall body of work gives the reader a truer glimpse of Richard the man than from Richard the arch villain. From the outset, Kendall informs his reader of personal interpretations he has made from evidence through t ...more
Rachel Friend
Sep 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Admittedly I'm on a bit of a medieval English history kick at the moment, but this is excellent (especially if you're a fan of The Sunne in Splendour or The White Queen, as it's clearly important source material for both).

It's obvious why this is the definitive biography of Richard III. Kendall was painstaking in his research and he manages to relate it to the readers in an interesting, not-remotely-dry way. I really feel like I have an understanding of not just the facts, but also for the chara
I thought this was a quite decent biography of Richard III. The author took some pains to avoid being biased in either direction. As such both Ricardians and Tudor sympathizers will feel some disappointment. Richard is depicted as a loyal brother to Edward IV, providing good government and stability to the north (score one, Ricardians). However, he is ultimately undone with some lapses in judgement and misplaced trust is those around him, most notably Buckingham. His critical errors in judgement ...more
Paul Pensom
In a word, magnificent. I think this is one of the best works of historical biography — of history even — that I've ever read. The quality of Kendall's prose is really quite exceptional. Every page is enlivened by sentences so memorable you want to speak them aloud, just for the pleasure of hearing them roll off your tongue. His pen portraits are pithy and compelling: in just a few short paragraphs characters rise from the page, living again. And then of course there's the story he has to tell — ...more
Oct 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Over the past few years, I've become addicted to Plantagenet history and particularly Richard III. Blame it on Sharon Kay Penman, if you will. Having read several Wars of the Roses history books, other Plantagenet biographies, and numerous historical fiction books on this "better than Hollywood screenwriters" family histories, I was anxious to read this book as it had come highly recommended. Typically I find most biographies and history books quite dry - too much quoting of sources and jumping ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Sep 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
I've been reading this book on and off over some months as part of some broader research.

I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to read a biography about Richard III. Some excellent historical fiction has been written about Richard but he is often either reviled (as the dastardly murderer of the princes in the Tower of London) or revered as the noble king slain at the battle of Bosworth.

While sympathetic towards Richard, Mr Kendall provides a well written biography which is accessible to non acade
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Having just read his book upon the French king known as the "Universal Spider" and also 3 other books of this time frame and the century before the 15th Century, I can now say that I finally understand much more about the combination of European changes that birthed the Renaissance.

Richard III's life, within that sphere- has immense input to those changes. Despite the shortness of his two year reign as King- it was what went before and the economics of serfdom and chivalry that vastly altered du
H.A. Mims
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Out of all the revisionist biographies of Richard III, this is considered to be the best… so much that I was almost afraid to read it. How could it possibly live up to such a glorious reputation? Well, it does. In fact, it exceeds even the most lofty expectations. I don't think I've ever read a biography that made someone so relatable, so human… to the point where I literally felt like I was reading about someone I knew.

That's why, as another reviewer said, I was dreading the end. Paul Murray Ke
Jan 04, 2011 rated it liked it
The best thing this book has going for it is that it is one of the only ones I've read to paint Richard III in a completely neutral -- and sometimes positive -- light. Kendall strives to repair Richard's shattered reputation, and theorizes that the youngest brother of King Edward IV was motivated purely by a drive to govern England as he felt his brother should have. This book is DRY. It was difficult to slog through most of the time. But the POV is refreshing. It's nice to read something positi ...more
Jan 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plantagent-fact

How awesome would it be if Weir and Kendall could have had a reality show, arguing with each other over whether or not Richard III killed the princes in the tower?

This book is obviously the main source of inspiration for Sunne in Splendor, and probably the bible of the Richard III society. Well researched, well presented, and when he makes guesses on the unknowns, he presents it with sound reasoning as to why he suggests what may have happened, and makes it clear what is known and unknown.

The f
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
Whether or not Richard really did kill his nephews, this is an outstanding book to read on the subject. Enlightening and unprejudiced--so long as you remember Kendall is consciously trying to see Richard's good side and cannot prove Richard was not guilty of murder. I may not have a high opinion of Richard, necessarily, but I have a soaring opinion of Mr Kendall as a biographer.
And who knows...?
Maybe Richard was innocent...;)
Therese May
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
I read this book for my history class.

It had a lot of detailed information on Richard's life that was interesting and helpful. Part of the reason we read this book was to prepare for a debate on whether or not Richard killed his nephews or not. Some of the arguments (many of them) make sense, but others didn't seem quite as clear or reasonable.

Overall though, this book was interesting and helpful.
Mar 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, middle-ages
Excellent biography! Meticulous detail and notes explaining all assertions. Kendall gets a little romantic (in the literary sense) once in a while, but it's not overbearing and mostly lets the reader form their own conclusions. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Richard III and the world he lived in.
Rachael Booth
Apr 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
I had to finally put this book down. There were just too many tiny, unnecessary details that bogged the story down. I don't care that someone was given an annual stipend of 30 pounds, 25 shillings and 13 pence. I just couldn't keep interested in the story because of this incredibly obtuse attention to useless detail.
Oct 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Excellent biography about one of the most interesting and misunderstood figures in history- dealing with his whole career rather then those last infamous 2 years.
Susan Abernethy
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Link to my review of this book:
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the classic biographical account of Richard III that many scholars/historical fiction writers still refer to. While there are many issues with this book, it was overall an engaging narrative. Chief among my complaints, however, was that Kendall was willing to analyze the sources when it came to Richard III, but threw Elizabeth Woodville under the proverbial bus by sticking to the classic view of her "pride" and "haughtiness," at one point even calling her stupid (pg. 254). I don't think ...more
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: medieval-history
This was an excellent introduction to Richard III that read like a novel. Kendall's prose is clear and carries the reader right along. Also, Kendall's use and interpretation of an exhaustive list of primary sources is nothing short of awesome. While some points in this book may be a bit dated, his sympathetic view of the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III has been borne out by more recent research. At times, the book seems to be an apologetic, and I'm not sure that Kendall made his case regardi ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
The only reason I couldn't give this five stars is because the author so obviously adores Richard. He tends to colorize events a little bit, and the subject is nonfiction so I can't totally condone that. However, it doesn't hurt the reading experience at all. He paints a beautiful picture of the time period, better than many authors, has done exhaustive research and presents wonderful and unusual treatment of his source material by examining its merits very closely within the actual body of the ...more
Jackie ϟ
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
As an academic work of Richard III's eventful and legendary life, this is the most complete rendition I've ever read. The way in which Kendall portrays Richard from his youth through his short rule as King of England honestly made him so likable and complex. I also appreciated the fact that the mystery of the "Princes" was not a primary focus of the book. Usually, the question of "did he or didn't he" kill the two sons of Richard's own brother, Henry IV, takes over the entire 30-something year l ...more
Mike Luoma
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A great biography thoroughly researched and based as much as possible on contemporary and near-contemporary sources. Picked it up as it was advertised as the preeminent bio on Richard III. Been curious and fascinated by his figure since February when they declared that the remains they'd found in Leicester were indeed the late king's - "The King In The Car Park". As a student of modern poltics, it's been fascinating to try to unravel the Tudor "spin" perpetrated upon Richard III by Shakespeare, ...more
Rachel Beaver
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Incredibly thorough, well referenced, & mostly unbiased. Highly detailed investigation into the life of Richard III. However, a lot of the notes to text contain the personal opinion & embellishments of Kendall, rather than sticking to the sources & facts as they lie. A slight lean to the side of Richard, but made clear that this belief comes from sources.
Dec 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
He makes a good pro-Richard case, although it is a bit older and his writing is somewhat biased. Worth a read if you are interested in the RIII controversy
Jul 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Good biography of an interesting and much maligned man.
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Paul Murray Kendall was an American academic and historian. A 1928 graduate from Frankford High School, Kendall studied at the University of Virginia, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1932, and master's in 1933. In 1937, while studying for a Ph.D, he became an instructor in English at the Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in 1939, and continued as ...more
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“What a tribute this is to art; what a misfortune this is for history.
(In reference to Shakespeare's 'Richard III')”
“Richard appeared shortly, an officer bearing his helmet with the golden crown. In the graying darkness his face was startlingly livid, attenuated... He noticed their looks of concern. If he appeared pale, he told them quickly, it was only because he had slept little, troubled by dreams. He stood listening to the sounds of his stirring camp - clash of harness, twarnging of bowstrings, horses neighing and stamping. It was gray in the east. In the west gave promise of being warm and clear. Gloomily Richard looked at his faithful followers. There was something, he said at last, that he must tell them. The battle this day - no matter who won it - would prove to be destruction to the England they knew. If Henry Tudor was the victor, he would crush all the supporters of the House of York and rule by fear. If he, Richard, conquered, he would be equally ruthless and would use force to govern the kingdom. A moment after he had ceased speaking, one of his squires reported, falteringly, that there were no chaplains in the camp to say divine service. Richard replied that it was as he intended. If their quarrel were God's, they needed no last supplication; if it were not, such prayers were idle blasphemy.” 0 likes
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