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Unction and Slaughter

Simon Walker: Edward IV, 10 July 2003

Arthurian Myths and Alchemy: The Kingship of Edward IV 
by Jonathan Hughes.
Sutton, 354 pp., £30, October 2002, 0 7509 1994 9
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... When Richard, Duke of York, laid claim to the English throne in 1460, he presented himself as a physician, sent to heal the ills of the kingdom. In partnership with his apothecaries, the faithful Commons, he would probe ‘the root and bottom of this long-festered canker’ and separate ‘the clean and pure stuff from the old, corrupt and putrefied dregs ...

Promises, Promises

David Carpenter: The Peasants’ Revolt, 2 June 2016

England, Arise: The People, the King and the Great Revolt of 1381 
by Juliet Barker.
Abacus, 506 pp., £10.99, September 2015, 978 0 349 12382 0
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... Joined by many from the city, they sacked John of Gaunt’s palace of the Savoy and forced the king, the 14-year-old Richard II, to meet them at Mile End. There, on 14 June, Richard made major concessions, the most important being the abolition of villeinage. While negotiations were ...

In Good Estate

Eamon Duffy, 2 January 1997

Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets: Kingship and the Representation of Power 1200-1400 
by Paul Binski.
Yale, 241 pp., £45, May 1995, 0 300 05980 9
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... of Westminster attracted a string of Saxon royal grants, but it was the last undisputed Saxon king of England, Edward the Confessor, who firmly established the Abbey’s national status. Edward had spent most of his first forty years in political exile in Normandy. On becoming king he chose Westminster as the site of an ...

Lobbying

Richard J. Evans: Hitler’s Aristocratic Go-Betweens, 17 March 2016

Go-Betweens for Hitler 
by Karina Urbach.
Oxford, 389 pp., £20, July 2015, 978 0 19 870366 2
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... only daughter, Charlotte, then some time after Charlotte’s death, the daughter of the French king Louis-Philippe. He was also a field marshal in the British army, with the title His Royal Highness. This made him acceptable to the Concert of Europe, and his occupancy of the Belgian throne was a success. King Otto of ...

A Leg-Up for Oliver North

Richard Rorty, 20 October 1994

Dictatorship of Virtue: Multiculturalism and the Battle for America’s Future 
by Richard Bernstein.
Knopf, 367 pp., $25, September 1994, 0 679 41156 9
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... In his new book, Richard Bernstein – one of the best reporters at the New York Times – offers some detailed descriptions, and some solid criticisms, of a serious nuisance. Unfortunately, he then tries to inflate this nuisance into a dangerous monster. He offers a lot of useful information about what one segment of the American Left has been doing recently, and his analyses are very acute ...

Nayled to the wow

Tom Shippey, 7 January 1993

The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer 
by Derek Pearsall.
Blackwell, 365 pp., £19.95, September 1992, 1 55786 205 2
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A Wyf ther was: Essays in Honour of Paule Mertens-Fonck 
edited by Juliette Dor.
University of Liège, 300 pp., June 1992, 2 87233 004 6
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Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of 14th-Century Texts 
by Paul Strohm.
Princeton, 205 pp., £27.50, November 1992, 0 691 06880 1
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... Taverner’, thus seems to have kept a pub in Ipswich, while his great-great-grandson, Richard Duke of Suffolk, nicknamed ‘Blanche Rose’, was accepted as King of England – but, alas, only by the French, and only till he was killed in battle at Pavia. There is an irony, on which Derek Pearsall ends his ...

Simply Putting on Weight

Richard Hamblyn: Salmon, 25 February 2010

To Sea and Back: The Heroic Life of the Atlantic Salmon 
by Richard Shelton.
Atlantic, 213 pp., £18.99, October 2009, 978 1 84354 784 6
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... following year when the fish returned as a splendid silver grilse. ‘Smolt’, ‘grilse’: as Richard Shelton observes, salmon are spoken of in a ‘stained-glass language’ of their own, their life stages marked by an ichthyological lexicon unchanged since Chaucer’s time. Born in a ‘redd’, a shallow, gravel-covered depression dug by the female in ...

Lancastrian Spin

Simon Walker: Usurpation, 10 June 1999

England’s Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation, 1399-1422 
by Paul Strohm.
Yale, 274 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 300 07544 8
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... Six hundred years ago this summer, Richard II lost his throne. Preoccupied by the attempt to shore up his failing Irish peace settlement, Richard unwisely delayed his return to the mainland in order to confront a rumoured uprising, and landed to find his kingdom already slipping from his grasp ...

Tolerant Repression

Blair Worden, 10 May 1990

Thomas Starkey and the Commonweal 
by Tom Mayer.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £32.50, April 1989, 0 521 36104 4
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Politics and Literature in the Reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII 
by Alistair Fox.
Blackwell, 317 pp., £35, September 1989, 0 631 13566 9
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The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Portraits at the Court of Henry VIII 
by Retha Warnicke.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 521 37000 0
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English Travellers Abroad 1604-1667 
by John Stoye.
Yale, 448 pp., £12.95, January 1990, 0 300 04180 2
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... were lost in the world, they might all again be painted to the life out of the story of this king.’ To the 17th-century republicans Edmund Ludlow and Algernon Sidney, Henry would be ‘that monster of mankind’, ‘one of the most violent princes we ever had’. To Bolingbroke in the 18th century, Henry’s would appear the most ‘severe’ of ...

False Brought up of Nought

Thomas Penn: Henry VII’s Men on the Make, 27 July 2017

Henry VII’s New Men and the Making of Tudor England 
by Steven Gunn.
Oxford, 393 pp., £60, August 2016, 978 0 19 965983 8
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... In a dawn raid​ on 24 April 1509, troops reporting to England’s new king, the 17-year-old Henry VIII, arrested two of his late father’s closest councillors and took them to the Tower of London. Three days earlier, Henry VII, the first Tudor king, had died aged 52, in his privy chamber at Richmond Palace ...

Short Cuts

Glen Newey: Murdoch, 28 July 2011

... is stuffed. It was barely noticed earlier this year when Northern & Shell, owned by the porn king Richard Desmond, pulled its funding from the PCC. As a result, the commission can’t deal with complaints against N&S titles, including the Express, Star and OK! magazine. Not that external regulation has worked either. Recent disclosures, including ...

Improving the Plays

Frank Kermode, 7 March 1996

Shakespeare at Work 
by John Jones.
Oxford, 293 pp., £35, December 1995, 0 19 811966 6
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... in argument, that anybody with a genuine interest in Shakespeare, and particularly in Hamlet, King Lear and Othello, should read it for pleasure and then reread it to pick quarrels about details. Jones’s material is drawn principally from readings in earlier Shakespearean texts that differ from those of the collected edition, the Folio of 1623. His ...

All Together Now

Richard Jenkyns, 11 December 1997

Abide with Me: The World of Victorian Hymns 
by Ian Bradley.
SCM, 299 pp., £30, June 1997, 9780334026921
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The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study 
by J.R. Watson.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, July 1997, 0 19 826762 2
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... largest number of people today know by heart? The best known Victorian poem is probably ‘Good King Wenceslas’ (by J.M. Neale), followed by ‘Once in royal David’s city’ (Mrs Alexander); ‘All things bright and beautiful’ (also Mrs Alexander) is less familiar than it used to be, but was once possibly the best ...

He fights with flashing weapons

Katherine Rundell: Thomas Wyatt, 6 December 2012

Thomas Wyatt: The Heart’s Forest 
by Susan Brigden.
Faber, 714 pp., £30, September 2012, 978 0 571 23584 1
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Graven with Diamonds: The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt: Courtier, Poet, Assassin, Spy 
by Nicola Shulman.
Short Books, 378 pp., £20, April 2011, 978 1 906021 11 5
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... For sure circa Regna tonat. This comes as close as it was possible to get to criticism of a king who interpreted criticism as treason and who medicated treason with murder. ‘Wyt,’ the poem mourns, ‘helpythe not’ in demonstrating innocence. It is a punning lament, for neither wit nor Wyatt himself can change the mind of Henry VIII. ‘My head ...

Royal Anxiety

Gabriele Annan, 9 June 1994

The Queen 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 341 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 297 81211 4
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Divine Right: The Inglorious Survival of British Royalty 
by Richard Tomlinson.
Little, Brown, 357 pp., £17.50, June 1994, 0 316 91119 4
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... other people who shared these views – as many did and do. Take the Duke and Duchess of Windsor: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth knew, Harris writes, that the Duke ‘was irresponsible, insensitive, feckless. He never paused to consider the implications of what he said and did. They put nothing past the mesmeric influence on him of “that ...

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