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Brand: John Ashdown-Hill

The Secret Queen: Eleanor Talbot

by John Ashdown-Hill

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The Secret Queen : Eleanor Talbot, The Woman Who Put Richard III on the Throne

When Edward IV died in 1483, the Yorkist succession was called into question by doubts about the legitimacy of his sons (the ‘Princes in the Tower’). The crown therefore passed to Edward IV's undoubtedly legitimate younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. But Richard, too, found himself entangled in the web of uncertainly, since those who believed in the legitimacy of Edward IV’s children viewed Richard III’s own accession with suspicion.

From the day that Edward IV married Eleanor, or pretended to do so, the House of York, previously so secure in its bloodline, confronted a contentious and uncertain future. John Ashdown-Hill argues that Eleanor Talbot was married to Edward IV, and that therefore Edward’s subsequent union with Elizabeth Widville was bigamous, making her children illegitimate.

In his quest to reveal the truth about Eleanor, he also uncovers fascinating new evidence that sheds fresh light on one of the greatest historical mysteries of all time – the identity of the ‘bones in the urn’ in Westminster Abbey, believed for centuries to be the remains of the ‘Princes in the Tower’.

Staff Reviews

This book by medieval historian John Ashdown Hill is his quest to reveal the truth about Eleanor Talbot, the wife or supposed wife of Edward IV. A marriage between Edward and Eleanor if true would question the doubts about the legitimacy of his sons, the Princes in the Tower, because Edward's subsequent union with Elizabeth Woodville would have been bigamous. As is usual with any book written by John it is meticuously researched in great detail, and is an updated version of his first attempt to tell the full story of England's fifteenth-century secret queen. Much of the information in this edition was previously undiscovered or unacknowledged. The book contains twenty chapters, some of them detailing principal players in the subsequent events such as John Talbot, Margaret Beauchamp, Lord Shrewsbury and Eleanor herself. The chapters on Eleanor catalogue her childhood, brothers and sisters, married life and widowhood. Whilst the remaining chapters concentrate on attempting to explain the rationale behind the theory and possible evidence of her marriage to Edward. There is a chapter devoted to the story and uncovering new evidence shedding fresh light on a great mystery, that of the 'bones in the urn' in Westminster Abbey, believed for centuries to be the remains of the 'Princes in the Tower'. The book is well written although I found sometimes that so much information was confusing and needed more concentration. It is a book that I think is really suited for specialists in this field, rather than a general book for the amateur historian. It is not an easy read and requires much previous knowledge of the period and events. Bronwyn Fraley Friends of The National Archives http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/get-involved/friends.htm Friends of The National Archives