Drawing upon original manuscript evidence, the Conservative MP for Kingswood, Bristol, will investigate the ambitions and experiences of Richard, and seek to understand how his downfall at Bosworth came about.
Skidmore is the author of three books, Edward VI: The Lost King of England; Death and the Virgin; and Bosworth: the Birth of the Tudors.
Here, he reveals how he finds time outside of politics to pursue his love of history, and gives a taster of his Malmesbury lecture, ‘Richard III: Inside the Mind of England’s Most Controversial King’.
Q: When did you first realise you had a passion for history?
A: I loved history from an early age – 11 or 12 – and always had a head for facts. I was a member of the archeological society at school, and as part of that visited places like Maiden Castle in Dorset, which really opened my eyes to how rich our history is.
I soon knew I wanted to study history at university.
Q: How do you find time for history, considering you’re an MP?
A: History was previously my job, and now it’s a hobby. History helps me to wind down in the evening – so while other people watch a soap or play football, I read documents and work on my books.
I spend about two hours on it each evening, often working until 2am or 3am, and dedicate time at weekends.
Q: What is it about the Tudor period that excites you?
A: The further back in time you go, the more abstract history becomes, as you have less evidence about that period.
But I love documents, and the Tudor period saw an explosion of letters and portraits, so for me it’s when the past starts to come alive.
Q: Are you reading any exciting history books at the moment?
A: I have to dedicate any free time I have to researching for my own book, but I am reviewing Chris Bryant’s parliamentary biography [Parliament: The Biography (Volume I)].
It’s very impressive in terms of scope – he has managed to cover 1,000 years of the early parliament in one volume.
Q: What can we expect from your talk, ‘Richard III: Inside the Mind of England’s Most Controversial King’?
A: Richard III has, for far too long, been seen as a black and white character – you’re either for him, or against him. For example, the debate about whether he killed the princes in the Tower has clouded our understanding of him as an individual.
I want to try to present a more complex picture of him than current historiography allows.