Although Richard reigned for only just over two years, he is one of England's best known kings. There is even a 'Richard III Society'. A passionate debate rages perenially as to whether he really was the arch-villain of Sir Thomas More and Shakespeare or in fact the victim of Tudor slander - a revisionist view eloquently expressed by Horace Walpole and by Josephine Tey in her charming novel, The Daughter of Time.
Desmond Seward argues powerfully that More and Shakespeare were right. Stressing Richard's singularity - the sole Northcountryman (by adoption) to reign over England, the only king since 1066 to be killed in battle -he uses the latest research to paint a compelling portrait of a ruthless opportunist, who during a double coup d'etat stopped at nothing to seize the throne, murdering others besides the Princes in the Tower. As a monarch, his reign was a nightmare, not least for himself.
Seward emphasises that not More was not just the best legal brain of his day and a byeword for integrity, but that his damning life of Richard is confined by witnesses during the king's reign - notably Dominic Mkncini and Philippe de Commynes, and only two years after his death by the equally veil informed continuator of the Croyland Chronicle. Seward's considered opinion is that Richard III was an English version of the classic Renaissance tyrant - 'England's black legend'.
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