Saturday, November 16, 2013
Of Dynasties and Kings
WE SPEAK NO TREASON By: Rosemary Hawley Jarman ISBN: 0515085677, Boston, Little, Brown, 1977, c1971. , Many years ago, I happened to read a very sympathetic biography of Richard III, and it changed my view of him, permanently. Unfortunately, I can no longer remember either the title of the book, nor the author. However, it was comprehensive and beautifully written, and, in the introduction, the author presented a case for King Richard’s innocence so well, that it made far more sense to me than the usual perspective most people have of that king, based primarily on the writings of the Tudors (who conquered and destroyed him) and Shakespeare’s play. When I found a recorded copy of We Speak No Treason, I thought this was the book I remembered, and decided to revisit it. I was wrong, however, though it deals with the same subject, the presentation, if not the slant, is entirely different. However, I was certainly not disappointed. This is also a wonderful book, which tells the story of Richard’s life, not directly, but as he, and the events of his life, affected 3 people with whom he interacted closely. It also tells the stories of these people, and so, in the end, we have a vivid, fascinating, and complex picture of a critical time in the history of England, and we see the ending of one dynasty and the founding of the next. Each character (and there are many) is carefully and lovingly drawn, and since sometimes we see pieces of the same event from the perspectives of more than 1 person, we are given a fairly panoramic view of the reign of Edward IV and later the reign and death of Richard. By the end of the book, we have come to care for these people, to understand them, and often to sympathize with them, well, I did, at least. The writing is close to exquisite, presenting Medieval England in such 3 dimensional terms that I could easily lose track of exactly where I was in time and space. For those who find this period of history interesting, I would have to classify this as a “you won’t regret reading” book, but I do suggest that if you haven’t, that you read a good history of the period from the beginning of Edward IV’s reign to the end of Richard’s reign at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. If you don’t have at least a basic straightforward idea of what happened, this book could become extremely confusing, because, like life, this tale is not always tidy in its presentation; and therein, I think, lies much of its charm. We don’t “see” events, but we live them, as though we were experiencing them in company with the person currently telling his or her story.