‘King Richard III remains one of the most controversial figures in British history. Matthew Lewis’s new biography aims to become a definitive account of his life by exploring what is known of his childhood and the impacts it had on his personality and view of the world around him. From a childhood of privilege, he would be cast into insecurity and exile only to become a royal prince, all before his tenth birthday.
As Richard spends his teenage years under the watchful gaze of his older brother, King Edward IV, he is eventually placed in the household of their cousin, the Earl of Warwick, remembered as the Kingmaker, but as the relationship between a king and his most influential magnate breaks down, Richard is compelled to make a choice that defines more than a decade of his life when the House of York fractures. After another period in exile, Richard returns to become most powerful nobleman in England, controlling the North on his brother’s behalf. The work he involves himself in during the years that follow demonstrates a drive and commitment, but also a dangerous naiveté. Richard becomes immersed in and a focal point of northern life, culminating in a campaign into Scotland that leads all the way to Edinburgh.
When crisis hits England in 1483, it is to Richard that his older brother turns on his death bed. The events of 1483 remain contentious and hotly debated, but by understanding the Richard who began that year, it will become clearer what may have driven some of his actions and decisions. As king, the obsessions that drove his work in the north move to the national stage. Having developed a close and deeply loyal group of followers as Duke of Gloucester, Richard must try to emulate that across a nation pushed to caution. This book will seek out the man behind the myths, not look to create the monster of Shakespeare that has clung to the popular imagination for centuries, nor to become lost in admiration. Returning to primary sources and considering the issues of evidence available, this new life aims to present a real man living in difficult times.’
‘Many people know about Wessex, the ‘Last Kingdom’ of the Anglo-Saxons to fall to the Northmen, but another kingdom, Mercia, once enjoyed supremacy over not only Wessex, but all of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. At its zenith Mercia controlled what is now Birmingham and London ‒ and the political, commercial paramountcy of the two today finds echoes in the past.
Those interested in the period will surely have heard of Penda, Offa, and Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians ‒ but remarkably there is no single book that tells their story in its entirety, the story of the great kingdom of the midlands.
Historically, the records are in two halves, pre- and post-Viking, in the way they have been preserved. Pre-Viking, virtually all the source material was written by the victims, or perceived victims, of Mercian aggression and expansion. Post-Viking, the surviving documents tend to hail from places which were not sacked or burned by the Northmen, particularly from Wessex, the traditional enemy of Mercia. The inclusion of those records here allows for the exploration of Mercia post-924.
Mercia ceased to be a kingdom when Alfred the Great came to power, but its history did not end there. Examining the roles of the great ealdormen in the anti-monastic reaction of the tenth century, through the treachery of Eadric Streona in the eleventh, and the last, brave young earls who made a stand against William the Conqueror, this book shows the important role the Mercians played in the forging of the English nation.’
‘He became king before his first birthday, inheriting a vast empire from his military hero father; she was the daughter of a king without power, who made an unexpected marriage at the age of fifteen. Almost completely opposite in character, together they formed an unlikely but complimentary partnership. Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou have become famous as the Lancastrian king and queen who were deposed during the Wars of the Roses but there is so much more to their story. The political narrative of their years together is a tale of twists and turns, encompassing incredible highs, when they came close to fulfilling their desires, and terrible, heart-breaking lows. Personally, their story is an intriguing one that raises may questions. Henry was a complex, misunderstood man, enlightened and unsuited to his times and the pressures of kingship. In the end, overcome by fortune and the sheer determination of their enemies, their alliance collapsed. England simply wasn’t ready for a gentle king like Henry, or woman like Margaret who defied contemporary stereotypes of gender and queenship. History has been a harsh judge to this royal couple. In this discerning dual biography, Amy Licence leads the way in a long-overdue re-evaluation of their characters and contributions during a tumultuous and defining period of British history.