Tag Archives: history

Audiobook Love: The Mystery of Richard III

It’s been a busy week here (although I did manage to blog every day – yay!). I unexpectedly went from having no deadlines to several, all due today and the next two days, so I’ve spent most of my time working, and the rest of the time getting Dylan to dance class or Nutcracker rehearsals.

I only have one deadline left to work on, and I can already smell the freedom!

I haven’t had a chance to do much reading at all. Mainly I’ve been doing rereads in audio. When I’m doing mark-up on my indexing projects I can usually have an audiobook going, as long as it’s not too involving. Rereads work the best because I can miss bits here and there, and still know what’s going on. Most of the time, it’s like the story’s going on in the background and a part of me is able to keep up with it, even while I’m working.

Last month, I went through a relisten of the entire Harry Potter series this way. It was great! Made my deadlines feel much less tedious. Sometimes when I have too many deadlines going on, non-stop, I can get really close to burnout. Having an audiobook going on in the background really helps with that.

These are the audiobook relistens that got me through this past week:

Murders of Richard III

I’ve read almost all of Elizabeth Peter’s non-Amelia Peabody mysteries. (I’m rather behind on the Amelia Peabody mysteries, though.) I love her books – her main characters are wonderful, quirky, strong and independent women, and her books are just pure fun. Jacqueline Kirby is one of my favourite Peters characters, so this week I decided to do a relisten of The Murders of Richard III.

In a remote English manor house, modern admirers of the much-maligned King Richard III—one of Shakespeare’s most extraordinary villains—are gathered for a grand weekend of dress-up and make-believe murder. But the fun ends when the make-believe turns more sinister . . . and deadly. Jacqueline Kirby, an American librarian on hand for the festivities, suddenly finds herself in the center of strange, dark doings . . . and racing to untangle a murderous puzzle before history repeats itself in exceptionally bloody ways.

I always find the book blurbs for Peters’ books never seem able to capture the spirit of her books. The blurbs always try to make the books out to be sinister and thriller-ish, which does nothing to capture the pure fun and quirkiness of the actual story. Yes, there’s a mystery, but there’s always more, too. Jacqueline Kirby is an extremely confident and independent librarian (who, to give you an idea, in other books tries out romance writing for fun and profit) and she’s an amateur detective the reader can get herself solidly behind. The Jacqueline Kirby novels never fail to make me smile.

There’s a reference in The Murders of Richard III (who stands accused in the halls of time of the treacherous murders of his nephews, the famous Princes in the Tower, who stood between him and the throne) to Josephine Tey’s  Alan Grant novel about Richard III, so of course that was the next audiobook I turned to.

The Daughter of Time

Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time is another old favourite of mine.

Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world’s most heinous villains—a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother’s children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England’s throne? Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower.

One of the things on my fun-to-do list is to someday take the time to plunge into some of the research into the mystery of Richard III. Was he as villainous as the history books (and Shakespeare) painted him? Or is he a stellar example of how winners can rewrite history to reflect a perspective that’s more favourable to them?

Interestingly enough, earlier this month scientists revealed that DNA tests of old bones found under a parking lot in Leicester, England, are the bones of Richard III.

Richard_III_earliest_surviving_portraitPhoto credit: Wikipedia

And guess what? He wasn’t a hunchback. Nor was he brown-eyed and dark haired, as he is normally depicted in portraits. Scientists say he was likely blue-eyed and blond haired. Interesting, as often in history the “good guys” have been depicted as “fair” and the “bad guys” depicted as “dark”:

Royal portraiture was more symbolic rather than realistic: the surviving images of Richard, which come from the Tudor period, are well known for the narrowing of his eyes and lips and the raising of his shoulder, to paint him as the villain. With external defects considered to correlate with inner vices, Richard’s hair might have also been darkened from the 1520s onwards to depict what were perceived to be his “dark” deeds. When queens were portrayed as blonde and beautiful regardless of their actual looks, the opposite effect may have been employed as a metaphorical criticism of Henry VII’s adversary. (New Statesman)

Ahhh, history. A bit on the malleable side, perhaps?

And there were apparently some sexual hijinks going on that disrupted the royal family line somewhere along the way, too. The current British royals shouldn’t worry too much about their lineage, though. According to Dr. Anne Whitelock, in an interview with the BBC, “The Queen’s right to reign in based on the 1701 Act of Settlement that restricted succession to Protestant descendants of Sophia of Hanover. A medieval false paternity does not challenge the current Queen’s right to reign.”