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Within the Hollow Crown    by Margaret Campbell Barnes order for
Within the Hollow Crown
by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Order:  USA  Can
Sourcebooks, 2010 (1948)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

This is a reissue of a novel written in 1948, possibly the third work by a very prolific writer of historical fiction. It is easy to understand why Margaret Campbell Barnes is so popular. She has researched the period very well. We are truly inside the story, not taken by the hand through vast descriptive material.

Richard II's reign was not popular, and here we learn why. Ascending to the throne as a young boy of eleven, he rules through a council of his uncles, and they are not very interested in him except as they can influence him for their purpose. Barnes takes a sympathetic view of Richard, showing his sensitivity and greater inclination to the arts than to the military. This, of course, thwarts the pride of his uncles, as well as his cousin and rival Henry Bolingbroke.

When Richard at last takes the authority of his office at the age of twenty-two, he is able to make England a place of peace, his goal achieved at last. His marriage to Anne of Bohemia turns out to be a real love match, rather than just a marriage between two countries, and her untimely death devastates him. Early historical accounts declared him insane, but modern scholarship prefers to talk of the personality disorders he showed at the end of his reign. Barnes emphasizes that he never forgot a wrong and readily took advantage of his position to revenge himself on those whom he felt acted against him. His end is tragic, and this is perhaps the most difficult part of the novel because we have only Richard's point of view to understand what is called 'Richard's tyranny.'

This is a very sympathetic portrayal of a young man who wanted nothing more than peace and love for England, but who had to fight war-mongering relatives. In the end his actions lost the love of the people he had early on claimed through his intelligence and spirit. Margaret Campbell Barnes truly deserves the accolades given her. Read this work, and you will see why.

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