Lady Eleanor Talbot (or Butler as she became known after marriage) is the woman who Richard III claimed to be his elder brother King Edwards first wife, married in secret in the same manner as his later marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. In this fascinating book John Ashdown-Hill here seeks to recreate the life of Eleanor, how she came to know the King and her life afterwards.
Ashdown-Hill is a noted historian whose painstaking research into Richard III allowed for the discovery of his remains in 2012. Richard’s Titulus Regius argued that as Edward had married Eleanor in secret and at no point had there ever been a public announcement (as he did with Woodville) that there could never have been, under Medieval law a dissolution of the marriage and therefore Elizabeth Woodville could have legitimately become the wife of Edward which in turn made her son’s illegitimate and not by birthright in line for the throne. Such information would have been essential to secure the Tudor line & legitimising that royal lineage.
As the author states ten years ago the majority of the information in the book was unknown. It’s only through archaeological digs, the discovery of possible remains in Norwich and thorough research that it has been made possible. Ashdown-Hill starts the book with a genealogical tour of Eleanor’s family stretching back several centuries so the reader can get an idea of her social standing, one that was equal to Elizabeth Woodville’s if not even stronger. You are given insight into life in that 15th Century with detailed descriptions of the way the family would live, the way they may eat and dress. He follows with information on her marriage and widowhood and increasing dependence on her spiritual faith that led her to link with the Carmelite church as well as links to Corpus Christi. He ends with information on the remains found in Norwich which may or may not belong to Eleanor. He ends with a discussion of Eleanor in various fictional stories and supplies a list of all the documentary evidence available that confirms her existence, possibly proves her secret marriage and also includes transcripts of the original documents of the time of Richard III including the titulus regius denouncing his brother along with documents regarding middle brother George and his treasonous actions.
As a medieval fan I found this to be very in-depth, engaging book detailing the life of one of the more unknown but much speculated on ladies of medieval times and one that who for the whim of a King could have been Queen of England and changed English history as we know it.
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