Richard III (2019)
Richard III: the self-made king
By Michael Hicks (1948- )
Emeritus Professor of Medieval History, University of Winchester
Book Editor: Not identified.
*Provisionally not considered part of the series - see below.
2019 Hardback and Kindle (UK & USA)
Companion Book Number: 7
The forty-year-old Charles Ross biography of Richard III is not the last word on this king by Yale. The publisher has issued a new study of Richard III, written by another prominent historian of the period: ‘Richard III: The self-made king’ by Michael Hicks. The author is Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Winchester and an eminent writer of the period.
Professor Hicks is a biographer of Edward IV (Bloomsbury Academic, 2004) - for the ‘Reputations’ series (2000-2008). He has also written a biography of Richard's queen Anne Neville (History Press, 2006); Warwick the Kingmaker (Wiley-Blackwell, 1998); and Edward V (The History Press, 2003) - which can be viewed in the link to the previous king at the head of this page - and many other books on Fifteenth Century history. Richard III is not his first book for Yale. Previously published was '' (2010), which generated positive reviews from A.J. Pollard, Helen Castor, Anthony Goodman, Desmond Seward, and English Monarchs author Mark Ormrod, all names known to serious history readers. Additionally, Professor Hicks is already a biographer of Richard III. This earlier biography of Richard was published by Collins & Brown in 1991 (and reissued by Tempus/The History Press) where his focus, as in the 2019 Yale book, was on "Richard's reputation during his lifetime" and the trajectory of his reputation since then. Hicks employs his training by to consider the subject of the book in terms of his own time not, as many lesser historians do, consider a person living in the distant past on modern-day expectations.
The author describes this new book in his preface: "This is not a study of Richard's life and times, still less the comprehensive and rounded analysis of the reign that Charles Ross achieved, nor indeed a pre-history of the Tudors. It is an account of the formation and activities of Richard the man. It is a more direct biography that deploys all the evidence." He adds also that "The foundation for modern study remains Charles Ross' Richard III, now almost 40 years old but still fundamental and not superseded here." Not noted anywhere in the book is the editor, which is unusual for a Yale book.
Yale’s publicity describes this new book on Richard III as “The definitive biography” and reiterates the accolade bestowed by BBC History Magazine that Professor Hicks is "the greatest living expert on Richard". This statement is devalued a little by the lack of clarity about the book's status in the series. The evidence is ambiguous about the book being in the series or outside it. There is no series attribution on the cover, although this is the usual place for such a credit only for paperbacks. There is no mention of the series in the Preface. There is no mention on the dust jacket flaps or the rear cover. What is present is a list on the page opposite the title page stating "Also in the Yale English Monarchs Series". This is very perplexing because the book is not listed in the series on the two Yale websites (UK and USA) or mentioned as being in the series in the book's page at these websites. Neither has Yale retired the 1981 Charles Ross biography of Richard - it is still on sale and credited as a series book on Yale's website and, indeed, in the Michael Hicks book! Perhaps Yale is preparing to retire the Ross book. Surely they can't have two books on one monarch?
The book's shelf-appeal is diminished a little by its abbreviated portrait cover. In recent years not a few publishers have adopted this wholly regrettable style of chopping off the heads of the subjects, as it were - see most of Ian Mortimer's history books for example. Wouldn't it have been delightful if they had chosen to use the '' by William Bass (1839) or even '' by J. Fulleylove, (1880)? The former has similarities to the mosaic found in Pompeii of Alexander and Darius in the Battle of Issus. Both of these works depicting Richard III have never been used on a book cover and are excellent images of action to catch the eye on a shelf. These might have been too effervescent an image for an academic book.
We will have to see what the series list looks like in the next book, Henry III in 2020, before we can be definitive. Until its series status becomes clearer we should observe the new title by Professor Hicks as a ‘Companion’ to the series. For the time being it will have to be viewed as a continuation of the work of Charles Ross and a companion to the series and in this case a Yale English history book more honoured in the breach than the observance. This website is using the term 'Companion books' for biographies not in the series of individuals who were consorts, regents, in line of succession, contestants or shared the throne - or in this case a king.
Cover: The cover is a portion of one of the two oil painted portraits of Richard held by the , London.
For unfathomable reasons the head is missing. It is reproduced in full (although in black & white) inside the book.
Hardback - 9780300214291 | CD - 9781618035202
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Readers now have a choice of two fine Yale biographies on this king. In favour of Hicks is his depth of knowledge on the subject and familiarity with the latest research about Richard. In favour of Ross is that the author's aim was to synthesise all views of Richard, to comment on the veracity of each aspect of commentary on Richard and to tell the story of his rise and fall. With the publication of this book Michael Hicks joins Charles Ross as a contributor to Yale's Ricardian scholarship and we are fortunate to have both. Indeed, the connection is closer than that suggests: Hicks studied under Charles Ross for his final undergraduate year, marking out this new book as building on the work done by Ross.
Professor Hicks is the most recent of Yale English history authors to have a Yale book published after several earlier biographies; as the culmination of a lifetime's research on a topic, using the growth of understanding and scholarship to craft the work to the pinacle of the profession. It is common, too, for academic biographers to have built their work through research published in professional journals, although this work is hidden from the public and not easily accessed. Recent additions to the series by Timothy Bolton (Cnut the Great), David Bates (William the Conqueror), and W. Mark Ormrod (Edward III) - to name a few - have shown that the English Monarchs series is seen by these eminent scholars as the place to have their most important works repose.
We might wonder as to the future direction of new academic-level Yale biographies of English kings. The new David Bates study of William the Conqueror has replaced the 1964 David Douglas book; a forthcoming James VI/I book by Glenn Burgess is to replace the 1967 English Monarchs book by David Mathew. If this new book by Professor Hicks is not to be acknowledged as the successor to Charles Ross what this says about Yale’s intentions for the series in general can only be speculation. It may be a pause in a developing trend that Yale was looking at refreshing the books in the series as the opportunity arose. The final status of this book in the series remains unclear.
Finally, the spine of the book has an addition which shows an attention to detail. Under the vertical book title is a decoration which is copied from the badge or brooch on the cap Richard is wearing in the National Portrait Gallery image used (partially) on the cover. The portrait is reproduced in full opposite page 244 inside the book.
This title was the third book in our study of the English Monarchs series to have been released in an unabridged audio format. In December 2019 will publish both a CD (mp3 format) and a digital download and it is available initially only the USA. The cover art on the audio versions is the same as the Yale paper releases, although amended for the square CD case. The downloadable version was made available by digital media companies . The book is read, or "narrated" by Matthew Waterson. The duration of the audio is eight hours.
This YouTube "video" is a 2013 audio interview of Professor HIcks conducted by some of his students, in which he discusses his career, writing, archeology and Richard III.
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