Kathy's Reviews > Richard, Duke of York: King by Right

Richard, Duke of York by Matthew  Lewis
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it was amazing
bookshelves: biography, british-history, medieval, ricardian, wars-of-the-roses

Richard, Duke of York: King by Right
By Matthew Lewis
Reviewed February 9, 2020

Richard, Duke of York is often described (usually in Lancastrian and Tudor histories) as an arrogant man whose overweening pride started the Wars of the Roses, but as is often the case, it turns out there is so much more to his story.

In Matthew Lewis’s reassessment of the man in his biography, Richard, Duke of York: King by Right, we find a completely different version of things. By gleaning primary documents, Lewis was able to find the man behind the myth, a man who time and again was driven to extreme actions not by his own ambitions, but by the ambitions of others.

Among the antagonists in this well-written biography are:

Henry VI – a weak and ineffectual king whose lack of judgment and interpersonal skills led him to repeatedly promote those whose only real skills were in telling the king what he wanted to hear; that he suffered from some form of mental illness only compounded the problems;

Margaret of Anjou – Henry VI’s queen, a spiteful, vindictive woman who saw conspiracies everywhere and who by her actions made her own worst fears come true;

Many of the Beaufort clan – descended from John of Gaunt (same as the Lancastrian kings) but through a bastard line that was later legitimized but barred from throne, for whom the descriptions of “overweening” and “arrogant” are much more appropriate.

Instead of an overly ambitious man who wanted to throne for himself, Matthew Lewis goes back to original records to show us a man who demonstrated many times an even handed and well managed approach to governing. He repeatedly showed a concern for justice and for the common folk (something his youngest son also demonstrated – one of the numerous parallels shared with Richards father and son).

Lewis shows that throughout his life, Richard of York was repeatedly marginalized and shut out from his proper place among the kingdom’s ruling elite due entirely to his father’s execution for treason before York had reached his fourth birthday. Often being viewed with suspicion and as a pariah, it is little wonder that after so many years of such treatment that York finally had enough. He repeatedly saw his options dwindle until in the end, the only one he felt left to him was making his claim to the throne – which if Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) hadn’t usurped the throne, would have been his by right.

Richard, Duke of York: King by Right is an excellent biography that left me with much food for thought.

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Reading Progress

January 22, 2020 – Shelved
January 22, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
January 22, 2020 – Shelved as: british-history
January 22, 2020 – Shelved as: biography
January 22, 2020 – Shelved as: ricardian
January 22, 2020 – Shelved as: medieval
February 3, 2020 – Started Reading
February 3, 2020 –
page 219
65.18%
February 4, 2020 – Finished Reading
February 18, 2020 – Shelved as: wars-of-the-roses

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