Truth is the daughter of time…

Richard III
I couldn’t let today pass without mentioning the exciting news that was announced this morning: A skeleton discovered by archaeologists in Leicester has been identified as Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

As followers of my blog will probably know, Richard III is one of my favourite historical figures and the Wars of the Roses is one of the periods of history I’m most interested in, so I’ve been anxiously awaiting this announcement for months! For those of you in the UK there’s a documentary on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm, The King in the Car Park, which will reveal the details of the archaeological dig and the scientific tests that were carried out on the skeleton. And in honour of today’s news, I have put together a list of the books (both fiction and non-fiction) that I’ve read over the last few years on the subject of Richard III or the Wars of the Roses in general.

The Sunne in Splendour

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman

This is one of my favourite historical fiction novels and the best book I’ve read on Richard III. Don’t let the length put you off! Penman does a great job of making a complicated period of history easy to understand as she tells the story of Richard’s life from childhood to his tragic death.

The Daughter of Time

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Published in the 1950s, this is the story of Inspector Alan Grant who in hospital with a broken leg and decides to investigate Richard III and his alleged crimes from his hospital bed. Reading everything he can find about Richard and the disappearances of the Princes in the Tower, Grant begins to discover that historical sources can’t always be trusted and that history is written by the victors.


Treason by Meredith Whitford

Like The Sunne in Splendour, this novel also covers Richard III’s life but from the perspective of his cousin Martin Robsart, a fictitious character. I loved this book – it was well-researched, the characters were believable and I could even follow the battle scenes!

The Adventures of Alianore Audley

The Adventures of Alianore Audley by Brian Wainwright

A parody of the historical novel, this book takes a humorous look at the Wars of the Roses through the eyes of 15th century ‘damosel’, spy and knight’s lady Alianore Audley. Some familiarity with the period is needed to fully understand all the jokes and get the most out of this book.

Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Cousins’ War series by Philippa Gregory

I wasn’t a fan of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor court novels but have been following her Cousins’ War series from the beginning because I find this period of history so much more interesting. There are four books in the series so far and each one focuses on a different female historical figure: The White Queen (Elizabeth Woodville), The Red Queen (Margaret Beaufort), The Lady of the Rivers (Jacquetta of Luxembourg) and The Kingmaker’s Daughter (Anne Neville).

The Women of the Cousins War

The Women of the Cousins’ War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King’s Mother

A non-fiction companion book to the Cousins’ War series mentioned above. The book contains three essays – one by Philippa Gregory on Jacquetta of Luxembourg, another by David Baldwin on Elizabeth Woodville and the final one by Michael Jones on Margaret Beaufort.

Blood Sisters

Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood

I read this book in January and will be posting my review soon. Like The Women of the Cousins’ War this is another non-fiction book that looks at the period from a female perspective.

A Secret Alchemy

A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin

A present day historian, Una Pryor, researches the lives of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV, and her brother Anthony, and begins to investigate the mystery of the Princes in the Tower. No review link for this one as I found it difficult to get into and didn’t finish reading it.

This is far from being a comprehensive list as this is a relatively new interest of mine and I have only featured here the titles I’ve read or have attempted to read – there are a lot of other books on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III that I’m looking forward to reading.

Please feel free to recommend your favourites!

25 thoughts on “Truth is the daughter of time…

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I was so excited about this news too! This is a great list. I’ve only read The Daughter of Time — which I really liked — but I will have to celebrate the discovery by checking out some of the other titles in your list.

  2. Miss Darcy's Library says:

    What an incredible discovery!
    May I add Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “The Black Arrow” to your list? Richard III – or rather, Rickard Crookback, as he is not yet king – is not the main character, but he certainly plays a significant part, and I loved this novel!

    • Helen says:

      Thanks for reminding me about The Black Arrow! It’s a book I’ve been interested in reading for a while but haven’t got round to yet. I’m glad to hear it’s good.

  3. Fran Klos says:

    Love this! Penman is my favorite and Rich III is one of my favorite historical personage. I have visited all of the relevant sights – wish I could do more but being in the USA– well…need I say more. I just can’t get over the pond often enough. Thanks for all your posts…I love this sight.

    Fran Klos

    Madison, Wisconsin

  4. Lisa says:

    I’m hoping that we’ll get the documentary or something along the same lines at some point over here – there are certainly enough Riccardians in North America! Thanks for the great list – I too have only read The Daughter of Time, but I’ll be checking for others to add to the list. One of Elizabeth Peters’ mysteries takes place at a meeting of a Richard III Society – appropriately titled The Murders of Richard III.

  5. Charlie says:

    Brilliant idea to have a list, Helen. I was so happy to hear the news, I actually happened to see the link to the news conference just before it started so it was quite a morning. Just incredible, especially when you’ve loved the history so long.

    • Helen says:

      I hadn’t read anything from this period myself until just a few years ago but now it’s one of my favourites. I hope you can find something from my list that you enjoy.

  6. therelentlessreader says:

    That is such exciting news! I love this kind of stuff 🙂 I’ll be waiting for that documentary to hit America!

  7. Leander says:

    What a brilliant idea! Yes, this was all immensely exciting and I too was watching the live feed on the Guardian yesterday morning. 🙂 There’s just such a weight of mythology around the man that it’s fascinating to have a few facts to fill the void – I was most intrigued by the evidence of the curvature of his spine, which shows that even if Shakespeare and the Tudors exaggerated the facts somewhat, there was still a grain of truth to the popular image of Richard. It’s been interesting to see all the different suggestions in the comments sections of the newspapers, arguing for where he really ought to be buried. As far as I’ve seen, no one’s actually suggested Gloucester yet…

    This is a great list, Helen. Thank you!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I also thought it was interesting to see that he really did have quite severe scoliosis so it wasn’t a complete fabrication by Shakespeare or the Tudors – although having curvature of the spine is not the same as being a hunchback, of course.

  8. Isi says:

    I listened about it on the BBC radio 4 (I also listen to the radio in order to improve my listening, hehehe). A great selection of books for people who haven’t read anything about this period of the history, thanks. I’m very interested in Philppa Gregory since I have seen a lot of good reviews of her books.

    • Helen says:

      Philippa Gregory is not one of my favourite historical fiction authors, but I’ve enjoyed all four books in her Cousins’ War series. I hope you like them if you decide to give them a try.

  9. Alex says:

    How great was this news?! Especially when surrounded by financial crisis, crisis and more crisis. What a breath of fresh air. It bumped The Sunne in Splendour to the top of my TBR.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, it’s great to see a story like this getting so much news coverage. I really loved The Sunne in Splendour and would be tempted to read it again if it wasn’t so long!

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