Book Release Update: Our Anthology Has Been Released!

The Road Not Travelled: Alternative Tales of the Wars of the Roses

for Richard Tearle

Silver groat of King Richard III (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Back in April, I dropped an update about an anthology I had written a short story for and preparing for a July release. There was a lot of back and forth re: corrections and I too received some returns from our editor, Joanne Larner, whose attention to detail truly saved me from making some very silly mistakes.

At the time I also didn’t know who would be writing our foreword. While this may be “old news” for some now, as my update comes a bit late, I’m still pleased as punched to report that we have had an early release with a foreword by Matthew Lewis, Chairman of the Richard III Society. He penned a really fantabulous bit, including some background for those unfamiliar with the whole Wars of the Roses shebang.

And now guess what!? I can’t believe I was able to contain it for this long, but a few days ago I received my box of author copies! The box was super heavy, though I didn’t notice it until I tried to shift it up the stairs. “How in the world did you carry this thing?” I queried my son, who just shrugged. Ah well, boys, you know, it’s just a box to them! He rolled his eyes when he looked into the box, supremely uninterested in the Wars of the Roses as he is. My eyebrow went up just a tad, though, because for someone who says he doesn’t really care all that much, he sure does know a lot about Richard III! And I still have a wonderful little drawing of Richard he made when he was younger.

So, I haven’t finished reading the entire book yet – it’s a little over 350 pages! Not just some flash-in-the-pan, thin volume you read in one day and forget about by the next. It’s got some heft to it, and that’s not only attributable to its physical weight. What I have read so far is very thoughtful and considered, and this just renews what I’d already felt about being in the company of this group of authors: extremely privileged and humbled. What great company to be in – thankfully they would have me! And that would include the late Richard Tearle, to whom the volume is dedicated. I did not know Richard very well myself, only becoming acquainted with him a few years back when he very kindly gave me permission to use some of his photos here at the blog. He was always very friendly with me and made transfer of info and photos back and forth practically effortless. Sadly, Richard was no longer with us to see publication, but I have hope that he can see us from his place now, as pleased as we are. I believe he can hear me when I say, “Well done, Richard! Your story shines.”

My own yarn, “Episodes in the Life of King Richard III,” is the penultimate tale, the final one being a wrap-up of a three-part story that serves as a foundation to the book. I think I may just skip mine when I get to it – I’m a little scared to look at it! That final one, though, I’ve ready it about thirty times already, and I adore it. This is really very thrilling and I hope you all will have a look at our volume, which I also am happy to add again benefits the Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK). King Richard himself, noted even by his enemies to be a skilled and courageous warrior, suffered from scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine that can reduce lung function owing to the extra space the curve takes up in the chest. According to the Mayo Clinic, while some cases of scoliosis might be caused by cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, the cause of most cases is unknown.

The Road Not Travelled: Alternative Tales of the Wars of the Roses is available in Kindle and paperback, at Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon Australia and Amazon India. (There may be others I am unaware of.) Please consider leaving a review, which are akin to gold for indie authors! It need not be long, fancy, intellectual, academic or any of those other things lots of people think book reviews must be. It can be if you like, but really even just a few words saying what you liked about the book, what might make it better, etc. Even something as short as “It’s a fabulous book!” works! My fellow authors and I will be most grateful.

Speaking of authors, here is a list of those whose stories appear in The Road Not Travelled*, in chronological order of story:

Maria Grazia Leotta

Jennifer Bradley

Alex Marchant

C.J. Lock

Toni Mount

Brian Wainwright

J.P. Reedman

Roslyn Ramona Brown

Joanne R. Larner

Sandra Heath Wilson

Bernadette Lyons

Susan Lamb

Terri Beckett

Kit Mareska

Kathy Kingsbury

Joanna Kingswood Iddison

Michéle Schindler

Clare Anderson

Richard Tearle

Jennifer C. Wilson

Lisl Madeleine

*several authors have contributed more than one story

…with amazing cover art by the talented Riika Nikko

About the Blogger

Lisl Madeleine’s first career goal in life (at age six) was to become a spy. She fell in love with Merlin, however, and espionage took a back seat. For better or worse, she is intrigued by ghosts and loves rain. She is currently at work on an expanded version of her short story, “Episodes in the Life of King Richard III,” as well as historical fiction set in the final months of King Harold II’s reign and another a couple of generations following Hastings. She writes poetry and enjoys reading Rumi, Keats, Tagore and Rosetti, amongst others, and insists that poetry is meant to be read aloud.

Added Note: This post has been updated to include an

escapee paragraph with links and note about reviews. Thank you!

Five Things I Love About the U.K.

Not too long ago I was sort of roaming around on the interweb and came across this video ~

~ from YouTube personalities Joel & Lia, discussing what they like about America. It was pretty friendly and funny, so I decided to look around a bit. Perusing their site, I saw that they seem travel to America a lot, therefore put out, amongst other topics, a fair amount of comparisons between the U.S. and U.K. (I confess I loved their language ones, which reminded me a bit of my fondness for using literally translated phrases from other languages into English to kid around with people.)

It also got me thinking in the opposite direction to what they discussed, and the things I like about the U.K., and it was pretty easy to come up with a few. While I admit my list is not exactly of the same flavor as Joel & Lia’s, which tends toward elements one might happen upon as they are actually traveling through American streets and society, I also point out that this is a deliberate move on my part, as there are many American readers who have not in the past or don’t have the chance very soon (or may never) to make a journey to Britain. I wanted to talk about things that everyone interested would have a better opportunity to look into or learn about, even if they have to do it from a distance. Of course, that could lead to something more up-close, which naturally would be fantastic. So let’s have at it! In no particular order ~

Page from the will of Alfred the Great (Image courtesy Wikimedia)

5. Loads of historical sites ~ Of course, we do too, and many (most) other countries’ sites go back further in time, as do Britain’s. Perhaps that my own family’s heritage comes from this little island is what draws me, but also there’s an angle I don’t hear many people discuss, and that is that we have a shared history. The events that brought America into being are also, of course, part of British history, and before these, our history traces back to Britain. So when Americans sift through history before, say, the Tudors, they’re also exploring their own country’s journey through time. And what a journey it was! I confess to being jealous of the ability to look at items, “in the flesh,” so to speak, that date back to Alfred the Great or Harold Godwinson or Richard III and those who lived in these times. The links between so many of these people, and even commoners, replete with twists and turns, is so fascinating to study and fills me with awe to know that someone who lived, monarch or ordinary person, 500 or 1,000 years ago wrote this document or purchased that item. I continually think about their ordinary days and what it might be like to have experienced life at this time. I’ve often heard it said that we are the descendants of survivors—our ancestors survived plague and rebellions, wars and massacres (and much more), and I often wish I could talk to the people who contributed to what and who I am today.  

4. They have great music ~ Again, we do too, but I don’t think anyone can deny that the British Invasion of the 1960s, influenced by our own homegrown blues, was simply fantastic. The Beatles aren’t going away (my eighteen-year-old son thinks I’m crazy to rate them after Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd) and Traffic’s music reaches deep into your soul, as music should. As a teenager I was addicted to David Bowie, and there were a number of others who followed these larger acts that I later learned about and who fed my hunger for ideas (on various levels), music and identity.

3. Bubble and Squeak ~ If love of music is as universal as I believe it to be, then so is conversation around and about food, and one thing I’ve found I have in common with many people is that we all agree leftovers are simply fantabulous. Sure, it’s often the case that the spices and all-around flavors that group together overnight are more intense, and thus supremely delicious, the next day. However, I also believe it to be something in our psyche that gets touched, which is why even breakfast for dinner, or midnight eggs and toast at a diner, can be a memorable feast. It’s not fancy, but the company kept around the table, especially if any of the participants joined together to prepare the food, seals the deal. So is it with Bubble and Squeak, by definition left over, and by company something to remember for always. It doesn’t hurt that I simply adore repurposing food, which so often reminds me of my Scottish granny (who had her own version of Bubble and Squeak) in her tiny kitchen.

2. East Anglia and Dartmoor ~ I’ve never been to either of these places, but for some reason unexplained, I’ve developed an obsession with the first and own a growing interest in the second. I joke about having lived in East Anglia in a past life and that perhaps this explains my attachment to it. As for Dartmoor, well that surely traces back to having seen it discussed in a documentary about Edwardian times and leading me to contemplate how places now of growing interest to us were wild and frightening to our ancestors, places to be avoided. In truth, I’d probably be afraid if I lost my way in the middle of a moor, though also crossing my mind would be how we often regard my own land: a dangerous beauty that can reward one greatly with its bounties or bring devastation if its wildness is not respected.

A typical Dartmoor tor, this one located near Haytor (Image courtesy Wikimedia)

Honorable Mention: Rain ~ We get rain, but it’s “spit,” as I’ve heard people from Outside call it. We rarely get thunder and lightning, and so whenever I watch a movie set in, say, London, with its famous rain pouring down, I long to cuddle with a book by a window and periodically look up to watch it streaking against the glass as it pours down, with the occasional thunder and lightning, the sort that people hide from under their beds.  

1. Richard III ~ I enjoy history, but King Richard III is perhaps the most meaningful to have crossed paths with. Having embarked upon a study of him following “a quick read” (that has lasted now since just over ten years), I was intrigued to discover that we have him to thank, at least in part, for our perspective on justice, specifically pertaining to his legal reforms, including strengthening of the bail system and prohibiting the confiscation of property before conviction. This is linked to our belief in “innocent until proven guilty” held in great esteem in America today. He also strengthened use of the English language, especially and including in the printing of statutes. His removal of trade restrictions on books, paired with the aforementioned support of English, promoted the spread of knowledge, an enlightened and progressive attitude that I daresay even some today seem to work against.

Given that there is lots more to love about this island

nation – and in many more far-flung areas – I’ve already decided that

we will be re-visiting this topic, so stay tuned!

Book Review: Distant Echoes: Richard III Speaks! by Joanne R. Larner

In the time following the discovery, beneath a Leicester parking lot, of the remains of Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, the medieval monarch has indeed gained a wider audience as we learn more details about the find. For example, it was announced that he was not, after all, the scary neighborhood hunchback; rather, he suffered from scoliosis, which actually makes him more of a boss, given his accomplishments, as reported even by his enemies.

Much material continues to be released, and many people, even those not previously inclined toward history, have started seeking out all things Richard. Publishers give it to them too, though the nature of these offerings is sober; they tend to be serious reads of medical and martial material with, really, no happy ending—at least not for the Richard of 1485. Alas, Bosworth still is soaked in blood, and Richard still falls. In fairness, it’s not really a walk in the park to spin that into something cheerful.

Author Joanne Larner has long lamented the same, so she set out to shake up the playing field a bit with her debut novel, Richard Liveth Yet. A more lighthearted look into the latter Wars of the Roses era by way of time travel, she also brings Richard Plantaganet to modern England and we get a glimpse into his perceptions of us, rather than only the standard fare of vice versa. With her latest, Distant Echoes: Richard III Speaks!, Larner takes time travel to a different level—dimension—by way of innovative software and science that teams up a subject’s DNA with technology to track voice vibrations, even those that occurred over 500 years ago.

Stepping back for a moment, it is worth giving attention to the book’s epigraph, song lines from “Sheriff Hutton” by the Legendary Ten Seconds: “Where distant echoes still resound/That which is lost may still be found.” Capturing the attention of readers of a genre whose very nature evokes images, events, perhaps even portions of collective memory, echoes from the past, it further stimulates the need to positively identify all this and wonder if we really could experience history and, amongst other events, hear the speaking voice of a medieval king.

Larner opens the novel with protagonist Eve experiencing the end of a romantic relationship and moves forward with her signature chapter titles named after songs. A medium that transcends time, music of some sort appeals to just about every human; it seems to be coded into our DNA to like it, nay, need it. For this I can’t help thinking Richard would have appreciated Larner’s creative idea; even if he didn’t always love some lyrics, he would recognize that most messages are those that touch someone, somewhere, and the relatable forms they take can promote unity.

It was with a similar unity that, even amongst differences and a mixture of complex personalities, Eve’s professional team moves forward with their project and echoes of the past filter into the modern lives of these Future Tech employees. Larner also puts a bit of a twist into the sessions in that not everyone experiences them the same way, which, in reality, makes great sense as individual perspective and changing variables play into it all.

Eve’s colleagues possess different levels of understanding when it comes to history, and Larner cleverly utilizes this to determine what and how much information is communicated between characters and, as a result, readers, many of whom might also maintain differing degrees of awareness. Of course, everyone, reader and fictional researcher alike, wants to know about the ultimate medieval mystery: What happened to the princes in the tower? It is with great dexterity that Larner manages the range of perspectives, historical knowledge and “eavesdropping” abilities of her cast as each individual keenly looks forward to the moment of truth. Amongst the chaos, intrigue and dangerous, unknown loyalties of 1485, and those that develop in Eve’s own time, will they find it?

One of the best elements of Larner’s novel relates to the manner in which the narrative moves forward. Alternately giving us glimpses into Eve’s private life, already wracked by the grief of losing an important relationship, we also witness her discovery into other areas, how she copes with learning and what she does with her new understanding. This parallel plot does make for a more meaty tale, but it doesn’t just simmer near the first. Instead, they both marinate, the two forming a deliciously satisfying whole impossible to forget.

Really quite innovative, Larner’s novel demonstrates her richly developed sense of Richard Plantagenet, and two thoughts come to mind: one, that hopefully this author’s amazing imagination continues to give us wonderful stories of the king and; two, that the science doesn’t actually exist shouldn’t preclude Distant Echoes! from gaining a wide (and wider) audience, as it doesn’t seem these days to surprise very many, though it does intrigue, when once wild ideas are developed. Larner not only has her finger on this pulse, but also presents it in an accessible, smoothly flowing work, reminiscent of Daughter of Time, that allows historical players to tell their own tale.

*********

Before a few tweaks, this review first appeared at Murray and Blue.

About the Author

Joanne Larner was born in London and moved to Rayleigh in Essex (UK) in 2001. She had wanted to write a novel since the age of thirteen and finally managed it in 2015. She was helped by two things: National Novel Writing Month and Richard III. Richard was her inspiration and she became fascinated by him when she saw the Channel 4 documentary The King in the Car Park in February 2013. She researched his life and times and read countless novels, but became fed up because they all ended the same way – with his death at the Battle of Bosworth.

So she decided to write a different type of Richard story and added a time travel element. The rest is (literally) history. She found his character seemed to write itself and with NaNoWriMo giving her the impetus to actually DO it, she succeeded. After she began writing the story that was in her head, she found that there was far too much material for one book and, in fact, it finally turned into a trilogy consisting of Richard Liveth Yet: A Historical Novel Set in the Present DayRichard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country and Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change. Book II takes place mainly in Richard’s time and Joanne found that many actual historical elements seemed to match serendipitously with her requirements. For example, the characters who were contemporary to Richard, the date of Joana’s death, the fact that Lorenzo’s wife, Clarice, had twins that didn’t survive the birth, etc.

The idea for Distant Echoes began when Joanne listened to Sheriff Hutton by The Legendary Ten Seconds and it reminded her of a sci-fi novel she had read as a teenager, where friendly aliens could see the ‘echoes’ of events after they had occurred. She wanted to write about the real Richard III, telling of acts of his that, though documented fact, are not known by the average reader, his good laws and fair judgments being eclipsed by the presumed and unproven murder of his nephews. The idea lent itself to ‘eavesdropping’ on Richard, using his own words where possible, and Distant Echoes was born.

For more about the author and her books, sign up or follow her at FacebookTwitter and her blogDistant Echoes: Richard III Speaks!, the books mentioned above and more are available at Amazon and Amazon UK.

Updates: Growth Spurts, Graduation and Gloucester

The Lascaux Cave paintings came up for discussion & we talked deep into the night.

Not too long ago, my son asked as he surveyed his Blu Ray collection of over 500: “Remember when I opened my desk drawer and said, ‘This is where I’ll keep my DVDs’?” Indeed, at the time he had just a few DVDs, and I suppose we both didn’t think beyond the point when what he owned would no longer fit in that drawer. Since then, the collection grew, and one day he decided the DVD was a reviled thing of the past. “Dirty Vile Disks,” he called them. He set out to replace every single DVD he owned with the Blu Ray version, while simultaneously growing that collection. He now has difficulty fitting them in his room, though in my opinion this is because his shelving is inefficient.

But who am I to talk? I’ve shifted furniture every so often for his entire life and between my ideas and his, we’ve found some pretty clever ways to create more storage, especially for books. And yet I’m still running out of space. We both have a lot of books. His most recent purchase was John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed.* Mine was How to Be a Tudor by Ruth Goodman, and Digging for Richard and…well, never mind, we don’t have to get all into that. At least not now. The point is, I, uh, well, I’m in the market for an additional bookshelf, as of last Sunday at about noon when I left the library book sale a few dollars poorer and a lot of books heavier. I’ll just leave it at three boxes – some of them might have been super fat books, hey?

I’m not quite ready to divulge how much I spent, or exactly how many books I came home with. Let’s just say I had a bit of a growth spurt. Keep an eye out for more details.

*********

A couple of weeks ago my son graduated from high school. I’m not exactly sure how this happened, because twenty minutes ago I was standing in the kitchen holding his little face as it peered up at me, telling him I won’t be able to do that much longer. He refused to believe me, but here we are, him towering over me and laughing because I can’t get my Swiffer to reach the top of the wall. Hey, it’s a cathedral ceiling! No matter, he still demands hugs, and that works.

Here is what I wrote the night he walked:

I am severely overdue for this: gratitude of the day.

I am so grateful for my son: a fine young man at eighteen, he always tries to do the right thing. He is smart, sensitive, hard-working and likes to move in sport. He has always enjoyed reading, is very into film history and can solve a Rubik’s cube without blinking, the latter portion of it with his hands literally behind his back. He has chosen at various times to immerse himself in lots of different learning: languages (Spanish & German), music (baritone & tuba), oceanography, studies of Ancient Rome and history of the Americas, theater, trigonometry, African literature, was “Swedish for a day,” loves animals and children (and is compassionate, playful and wonderful with both), attempts to understand politics thoughtfully and honestly, loves to bicycle and play basketball. We often reminisce about a research project he did in first grade about otters – he is still quite proud of that experience. He earned over $5,000.00 one summer for a trip to Europe and continued to hold down that job – in which he got a promotion within the first month – through the rest of high school, which he just graduated from with honors and as part of two honor societies, one of which he volunteered for on numerous occasions. He has written two books (one for very small children, the other young adult) and self studies techniques and other about film making. His friends are terrific and I am so happy for him that they’ve all met and shared as much as they did.

I know I’ve left a lot out, but even just that small bit above is more than I accomplished at his age, and I am so blessed, truly blessed that he is in my life. I am so excited to see where he goes! ~

I know I used which a lot at one point in there, but bear with me. I’ve got something in my eye.

You know what else is about to graduate? One of my wips is soon to be published in an anthology. It’s a short story about Richard III and you probably remember me mentioning it here. I’ve contributed to another anthology in the past, so I guess I could already call myself an author, but it wasn’t original work in the sense this is. Of course this draws on established history, but what historical fiction doesn’t? Here I create a character – or she brought herself to my attention would likely be more accurate, informing me in a rather dignified manner that she would be telling the story from here on out, thank you very much. She discovers something she wants to talk about, and ohhh is she talking. I suppose I should be grateful because when I was first recruited for this project, I recall thinking, “Sh**! I don’t think I can do a battle scene justice!” I don’t know why my first anxiety went to the need to write a battle scene, but Persephone sort of rescued me because now she does the heavy lifting. I just have to type it all!

There have been a lot of great things about this project, and the tip top is the group of people I assembled with. Scholars and researchers of many levels, they share information as opposed to hoard it, and are encouraging; they celebrate each other’s successes. Our team leader, author Joanne Larner, also lucky for me, is inclined to appreciate even the very teensy details of things like punctuation and grammar, and she both accepts and dispenses constructive criticism with grace. The project definitely lives up to the stereotype (or should I call it the reality?) that every time you look at your manuscript, you’ll find something else wrong with it, so it’s good that in my experience with this fabulous group, everyone’s attitude seems to be “it is what it is” as we plod on. Now we’ve plodded a lot together and the book awaits the completed foreword by Matthew Lewis, Chairman of the Richard III Society. Our book too has experienced its own share of growth spurts, as it went from idea to reality to contents bulging and soon – July 6, to be precise, it will be released.

The updated cover for our anthology, as presented by Joanne Larner, with Riikka Nikko’s illustration. I love everything about this cover!!! Mwah!!!!!

It’s good that my first published work of historical fiction is a short story. I mean it makes the process a little less painful because it’s a smaller sum total to have to weave together, and I suppose it’s good practice for a longer tale, which I actually had been working on before I put it down for this. I don’t regret it, though, because it was sort of overwhelming before, and now I have a better idea of where to go with all the details and ideas swimming in my head. Swimming is said to exercise every muscle in the body, so hopefully that will help me pull it all together more effectively as my storytelling grows, in spots and spurts, and see where it takes me from there.

*You may recall Green from his video included in my blog post about

The Catcher in the Rye.

The Road Not Travelled may be pre-ordered from Amazon and Amazon UK. Paperback option to be added.

Browsing Books: Ricardian Reading Edition

It’s happened! Our local library has re-opened for limited browsing, though I haven’t yet been in. I’ve had the good fortune, however, of receiving lots of reading recommendations, most online, and today I share a few, including a couple of the lesser-known titles. Here’s to bulging bookshelves!

Death and the Chapman by Kate Sedley – In truth, I’m not quite sure who recommended this one, though I can guess. I ordered it from the library, received it, forgot about it and then just yesterday started to read it. I haven’t gotten terrifically far in yet, but it’s enough to see this isn’t precisely Ricardian reading as we tend to define it. Still, I include it here because the narrator, Roger Chapman, an old man who looks back into his youth when Richard III was king, mentions Richard and a few pages later gives a lengthy enough explanation of how the seeds of the dynastic wars of his era were sown – with Bolingbroke usurping Richard II’s throne – and how Richard III became king. Lengthy enough, that is, to make me wonder if more of this will come into play within Roger’s own story. So this I have yet to see, but even if it doesn’t, it appeals to me because I’m terribly interested in the ordinary people of the day, how they made their living, what their struggles were, their thoughts about the monarchs and those in their courts. 

The Rose in Spring: The Fascinating Story of Cecily Neville (Book I in the Cecily Neville quartet) by Eleanor Fairburn – Based on one review, this looks to be the story one wishes to read about Proud Cis: not a bodice ripper, it is said to present a reasonable story of the early years of the Rose of Raby, through her engagement to Richard Plantagenet (father of Richard III), and concluding at the time of her husband’s exile to Ireland. Every Ricardian has heard much about Cecily Neville: her strength, her will and determination, that she outlived every one of her sons. Some, however, myself included, know very little about her up close, and this historical fiction series seems to present a great opportunity to begin changing that.

Garland of the Realm by Janet Kilbourne – Presents Richard III in the last years of his life and, interestingly enough, written when the author was just fourteen. This knowledge may bias any conversation regarding the book’s worth, having read a quite glowing but fair review, as well as commentary about it being filled with clichés and “one of the worst” of Ricardian fiction. The reviewer maintains her position, citing examples such as individuality bestowed on characters and a “childlike animosity” from Prince Edward and conversations “done nicely” between this heir and Richard, at the time Lord Protector. The ending described also seems quite fascinating and I am intrigued to read how Richard’s realizations, as the reviewer mentions, play out in his mind. 

I, Richard Plantagenet: The Road from Fotheringhay by J. P. Reedman – It’s a bit tricky here because not only has Reedman written a boatload of books, I also want just about all of them (and you may as well, so fair warning). A reconstruction of Richard Plantagenet’s early childhood, it opens with Richard in later life musing about those days as he makes a notation into his Book of Hours. This story draws me to it because for years I’ve read that we know very little of Richard’s earlier years, but here the author draws upon recent research and DNA – and of course other, already-established documentation – to piece together a tale said to be worthy of a king. For instance, the death of Richard’s father and older brother Edmund, and Richard’s own subsequent exile as his mother is captured by Margaret of Anjou’s army. The childhood story continues in Tante le Desiree, and I don’t plan on missing either of them.

The White Rose and the Red: A Narrative Poem about the Battle of Wakefield by Bard of Burgh Conan – This entry perhaps jumped out at me the most because of its presentation. I’ve never before come across a full Ricardian story in verse, a genre ideally suited not just to any Ricardian tale, but specifically the one it does concern itself with: the Battle of Wakefield. This is where Richard, Duke of York and his son Edmund, mentioned just above, were brutally killed, the former’s head displayed on a pike at Micklegate Bar and further mocked with the placement of a paper crown. Less than forty pages, it is chancy to say this is an evening’s read, as I’m unsure how dense the writing is or is not, or how much reflection might be involved. Nevertheless, it strikes me as a must-read piece, and I look forward to adding it to my collection. Note: Upon searching for the poem online, I saw that it appears only to be available as an e-book. However, I did stumble upon a notation that it was to be included in a collection: Conisbrough Tales: A Canterbury Tales for Conisbrough by Christopher Webster, Bard of Burgh Conan. 

Previous Browsing Books Entry:

35 + Books Everyone Lies about Having Read

Book Release Announcement – The Road Not Travelled: Alternative Tales of the Wars of the Roses

It is a simply beautiful day outside and I’m even happier than that because I have a fabulous announcement to make.

I am so proud and humbled to be part of a fantastic group of writers recruited by author Joanne Larner to contribute to an alternative historical fiction short story anthology set in the Wars of the Roses era. Each author looks at a specific moment in this period of time and explores circumstances had they been altered a bit, or had some historical figure made a choice different to what they actually did in history. 

Joanne provides a great example: “[W]hat if Richard’s father, Richard Duke of York, had not been killed at Wakefield but had defeated Margaret of Anjou’s army and claimed the throne (HE would have then become Richard III).” 

She named the book The Road Not Travelled, a nod to the times in life when a fork in the road appears and remains unchosen. In our stories, that side of the various branches are traveled, and we see what might have happened had time marched forward on those bifurcations. One single decision, one momentary happenstance can transform someone’s entire life and that life, history. How might history had played out if we spoke of Richard III, formerly the Duke of York, and his Queen Cecily? We might never have heard much of the younger Richard Plantagenet, or he might have risen to great heights indeed. Would he have been influential in laws to benefit English society that later informed our own? Would the United States even have been founded? Would there be a Shakespeare? 

I feel so lucky to be part of such a fabulous writing group of individuals from so many walks of life and various parts of the world, all with this one passion in common, to put together such an anthology. I’m also absolutely chuffed—as the English like to say—to have had my story copyread by two skilled editors with fantastic observations and wonderful constructive criticism to help make it the best it can be. I’m really grateful to them both, as well as to Jo, under whose eagle eye it will pass for a final exam. 

To think I never would have begun this journey had I not chosen one particular pathway—out of sheer curiosity, mind you—by reading a book about Richard III, one I had no intention of following up on. I did, in fact, do just that, owing to my great surprise at the outright bias plaguing the entire piece of work, frequently finding myself re-surprised at why it even mattered to me – and yet it did. Once I knew more about Richard, I understood he cared about the people whom he served as king, and I believe, despite his tragic end all too soon, echoes of this consideration passed down through time, perhaps even touching our own age.

I recall feeling awe and admiration at his fighting abilities and the courage he displayed, even when he might have experienced intense pain from the scoliosis he’d suffered from since, probably, adolescence. While such a condition never affected me personally, I did know someone in elementary school who’d had to wear a back brace to correct her own curvature. Of course, this means nothing to my own situations in life, but it left some sort of imprint on me, I suppose, given that I remember my classmate’s struggle. Other contributing factors were the back issues I had following injuries sustained in a car accident, an experience of my own that later enabled me to thoughtfully consider Richard’s experience. On some days I struggled to stand up in the morning; Richard took it to a battlefield and fought for his country. 

So it is with great pleasure to also say here that the book will be sold in aid of the Scoliosis Association UK

The publishing aim is July 6, the 538th anniversary of Richard III’s coronation. Also hoped for is the ability to pre-order very soon – watch this space because I will most definitely be announcing news as I receive it!

Oh! My story is called “Episodes in the Life of King Richard III,” and I hope you will enjoy it – and the others – come July.

Click here for a sneak peak at the cover for

The Road Not Travelled,

drawn by talented artist Riikka Nikko.

Godspeed, Sharon Kay Penman

Good day to all and welcome back after a few days’ busy-ness break. I’ve been catching up on what’s going on in the world and one thing I learned last week was that the wonderful author Sharon Kay Penman has passed away. This news wasn’t entirely shocking, as I knew she had been unwell for some time, but it signaled a finality of something wonderful in our world.

The Sunne in Splendour, 30-year anniversary edition (UK) – re-edited and featuring a new author’s note

I didn’t have quite the history with Sharon (as her fans refer to her) as I did with another author who passed away a few years ago; I didn’t grow up reading her books or know a long list of facts about her life. Still, when I did “discover” her in roughly around 2012, she welcomed me into the fold all the same. I found her to be accessible; she interacted with her readers and carried on conversations, told stories about ongoing issues with her computer that seemed to have a mind of its own. She wasn’t a faraway figure aloft from the ordinary, and the way she related to others and they her illustrated what could be magical about social media.

As I recall, stumbling upon Sharon’s work came by way of a recommendation. I’d recently been reading and studying about Richard III, a medieval king I’d not been terribly interested in up until then. The long and the short: I’d known of him and his basic history, but a casual conversation piqued my curiosity, and I grabbed a book to read. The author’s bias and conclusion didn’t sit well with me, so I studied more and in time came to understand that I was a Ricardian.

At around the same time I started to play around with social media and a new acquaintance turned me on to The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon’s wonderfully massive novel about this most maligned king. One thing I recall most vividly about her presentation is how it so easily formed pictures in my mind: I could see even the most subtle measures, such as Richard looking at his brother without moving his head, or hems bustling in the breeze. Sharon brings Richard and his world to life in a manner that provides details and history, but resists the antiseptic. You feel as if you are there. This meant so much to me because even though I’d been fascinated with the Middle Ages since early childhood, I’d not been reading up on it so much at that time, so Sharon did a sort of double duty with bringing me into the fold. She brought me back.

Justin de Quincy Mysteries, Book 1

I read a quote once, who knows when, in which Sharon acknowledges that she got a bit burned out in writing about medieval times; this is how she began to pen mysteries. This truly resonated with me, but also provided a bit of solace, silly as that may sound, because there had been times when I felt almost guilty for wanting to escape the Middle Ages, if only for a short while, read or think about something else. I suppose I had been stuck in the mindset that dictates a passion can only be so if you rarely, or never, venture away from it. Actually, that’s the silly part!—and I can thank Sharon Penman for helping me to concede this reality. Very nice as well, that I love a good mystery, so her choice of writing direction opens up another pathway for me. Indeed, I say opens, as I have not yet read any of these, though I do have copies of The Queen’s Man and Cruel as the Grave. As is the case with so many other readers, I hope to make this the year I finally am able to devour them.

If you are new to Sharon or haven’t read anything by her before, I can’t urge you strongly enough to check out her works. I’ve found she has a marvelous website, complete with links to favorite blogs, research, writer and website recommendations and a lot more, including her wonderful mea culpa re: a time-traveling gray squirrel et al. There are, of course, many others who are more acquainted than I with Sharon and her work, readers as well as family, friends and other loved ones, and to you I express my sorrow for your loss. Sharon truly did make the world a better place, uniting millions of complex individuals into one segment of life where they could share, have a voice and make further discoveries about lovely life—within our own time and others’. Perhaps by now she has met up with some from the cast of characters in her writing world, and maybe she too has learned so much more about that realm that we have yet to do.

Cover on my copy of this wonderful novel

Following is a short passage from a chat between artist Karen King and myself. I felt it would be appropriate to include because it provides a glimpse into how Sharon’s enchanting imagination and soaring talent could unite people who might not otherwise ever be.

Rather by accident the work of California artist Karen King came to my attention via her magnificent painting, Richard and Anne. Inspired by a passage from The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon Kay Penman’s epic novel of Richard III, it depicts the then Duke of Gloucester and his future queen, Anne, in a private moment as they attempt to forge their future. This is complicated by Anne’s previous tortured relationship with Edouard, her late husband and son of Richard’s enemy, Margaret of Anjou. They make their way outside, where Richard had

 found for them a secluded retreat within a wall of willow and whitethorn; the sky was darkening into a delicately tinted violet and a crescent moon silvered the circling clouds over their heads. It was very quiet. She heard only the soft trilling of the night birds, was becoming aware of the heavy honeysuckle scents of spring. She should have been able to draw comfort from such surroundings; somehow, it didn’t help at all.

This painting is inspired by a scene from Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour in which Richard and Anne find a private space, away from the pressures bearing down on both of them, and work through some troubling history. What were some of the thoughts or feelings you had when reading the passage that eventually led to the painting?

What could be more peaceful and private than a priory garden for two soul mates to comfort one another? I was anticipating beautiful moments of shared love and intimacy, but it soon became apparent that as much as Anne wanted to give herself to Richard, she was incapable of doing so because of her horrific relationship with Edouard. My heart bled for Richard as he came to the realization that he and Anne had a long road ahead them. Unable to vent his anger against Anne’s tormenter, all he could do was be patient, and hope that his steadfast love would eventually heal her emotional wounds. Anne felt awful as well because although she loved Richard with all her heart she felt emotionally handicapped. The bittersweet scene touched me deeply. I truly felt their frustration and anguish.

Godspeed, Sharon Kay Penman. You shall be sorely missed ~ until we meet again.

Solace, by Karen King. (Image courtesy and ©2013 Karen King, all rights reserved)

Coming Upon the King: How I Came to Be a Ricardian

Not long ago I had opportunity to reflect on events that led to my re-introduction to Richard III, the last English king to be killed in battle and who, in the over 500 years since, has been regarded by many as a murderer of children – worse, a murderer whose motive was to steal the crown. To be honest, I was never really interested one way or the other, partly, I suppose, because when I first learned about Richard—in elementary and high school—I felt overwhelmed with details and loads of other eras and figures to keep track of. At a certain point more recently I thought maybe I’d read a bit about him just to catch up. I never imagined I’d be drawn into a medieval drama and determine to follow-up with it. Nor could I predict it would be one of his detractors that not only influenced me to further investigation, but also lead to my eventual determination.

In this season of reflection and consideration of others—those we relate to and don’t—it seemed fitting to re-blog my look back, which first appeared at Murray and Blue in the opening days of this month.

16th-century painting of Richard III

I’ll be perfectly honest with you: I was never really that interested in Richard Plantagenet, later Richard III. In school I had avoided the Anglo-Saxons like the plague, and Richard, well, perhaps like a round of the flu. He wasn’t quite as intimidating, despite the double-murder allegation lodged, and I got away with not having to write about him once my father, who was big on essays, unearthed a book about the famous American swamp fox. Not that it was easy to outsmart my dad; there was just so much history to know and he loved imparting it. In fact, he adored learning of most kinds, and almost every time I saw him he had a book in one hand, cup of tea in the other. Every weekday morning before work he would sit at the dining room table for about two hours, enjoying his study in the quiet atmosphere between night and day. He read almost anything he could get his hands on, with the notable exception of Shakespeare, of whom he was not a huge fan, though he never said why.

By the time I reached university I’d managed to evade Richard a few more times (and those fearsome Anglo-Saxons!), despite his seeming determination to capture my attention. I had to capitulate a bit when Shakespeare (him again) showed up in his own required course. I quite liked his poetry and how he played with language, but frankly didn’t care about star-crossed lovers (everyone read that in high school), a brooding Danish prince (that one too) or evil kings who seemed to be a dime a dozen. And the evil king who repeatedly crossed my path was none other than – you guessed it, Richard III.

I had to read Richard III three times because the professor, who in my opinion was quite brilliant but mystifyingly static in his forward movement, could present it in his sleep. So we read it in two regular lit classes and then in Shakepeare, in which our fearless leader liked to occasionally take on the parts of people he was teaching about. He had a larger audience here, and the more sizable lecture area gave him the space to move around as he caricatured his way through Richard’s role and the frequent trivia he was fond of. At the end of the semester I was appalled to discover that not only did 75% of our grade rest on a ten-question quiz, but also the questions had little to do with, say, history, critical theory or literary devices. A representative sample’s answer was, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” I wasn’t a snobbish student, but did possess the expectation I be delivered the education I was paying for, not a bunch of trivia and phrases repeated so often, here and elsewhere, that they became cliché.

I didn’t realize it then, but I was in equal parts driven away from all talk of Richard III and hauled back to him by the frustration of knowing that even I considered the standard presentation tiresome. Students way more brilliant than myself repeated the stock phrases, though, and I felt like shaking them as I cried out, “Wake up, man! I want to read King Lear and Huntingdon won’t teach it!” My actual response consisted of acquiring a fish (the only pet I could get away with) and calling it Richard, as if that somehow revenged a king, allowing him to be something besides the pitiful stock bad man. I was irked, perhaps even irritated, but not yet inspired.

At the time I knew nothing of the Richard III Society and wouldn’t for some years, for after I graduated, my poor fish had been given last rites and I was just so relieved to have passed statistics and survived senior year burnout. But, as the universe seemed to want to have it, Richard came up in casual conversation, at this point two years before the discovery of his remains in a parking lot. I admitted I really knew very little of the man I’d previously complained kept coming, uninvited, into my life, and determined I’d remedy that. The universe, being as accommodating as it so often is, arranged for a car crash that left me immobile for an extended period, which in turn provided for quite a lot of reading time to fill.

Sir John Everett Millais’ The Two Princes Edward and Richard in the Tower, 1473 (1878). Privileged placement of the work on the cover of Alison Weir’s 1992 edition of The Princes in the Tower is utilized toward this author’s assertion regarding Richard: the “two pale, innocent, bewildered boys” of her blurb paired with existing stereotypes of medieval society, seek to convince viewers of Richard’s culpability. 

I started with Alison Weir’s The Princes in the Tower. It had a fairly beckoning cover and I really had no idea of any given book on this topic to another. Mainly I was looking for details. My intention was, quite simply: read one and be done with it. And so it began. Here was an account that claimed to have studied the case of the missing princes, one heir to the throne, both rumored to have been murdered by their “usurper” uncle, King Richard III, the bodies of the two “pale, innocent, bewildered boys” never found.

It didn’t initially strike me as odd that Weir would contradict herself—on the same page of her preface, no  less—with two opposing statements of direction: “The historian’s job is to weigh the evidence available, however slender and circumstantial” and “We are dealing here with facts, not just speculation or theories.” In all honesty, I was unaccustomed to reading like an historian; instead I read for elements such as repetition, privileged position, arcs and development. Still, my literary training had served me well—even including the aforementioned professor, who really did have good reason to be on staff; the pince-nez and dressing gown during office hours was an added bonus—and I began to wonder that perhaps historical writing really does have much in common with literary.

For example, Weir’s placement of Image 15 of the insert photos: One of, if not the most biased image in the insert collection, is a picture of two child-sized skeletons, discovered nearly two centuries after the princes’ disappearance. It is cleverly shadowed with near-opposing black and white shading that easily grabs the eye. Set in the page’s upper left corner, its positioning exploits our societal left-to-right reading direction as well as the “above-the-fold” tendency book browsers often engage when skimming though potential purchases. Its caption reads: “The remains found in 1674: ‘They were small bones of lads in their teens, fully recognised to be the bones of those two Princes’ (Eye-witness report, 1674; Archaeologia).”

Should the casual observer take the time to scan the rest of the page, the two remaining images—one of the urn in which the skeletal bones now rest, another of the exhumed skull of the princes’ eight-year-old relative Anne Mowbray—each play their role in telling the story the author wants readers to believe. Anne’s stark and startling skull, shown in a fairly large photo at bottom, plays on reader emotion with the mouth in its characteristic gaping position, not unlike a scream. It is included, positioned and designed to evoke pity, for both the untimely death of this little girl as well as the boys she was once close to. Of this Weir writes: “The skull of Anne Mowbray: York’s [the younger prince, Richard, Duke of York] child-bride and the Princes’ cousin, exhumed in 1964. Dental evidence indicates a familial relationship between her bones and those in the urn.”

The urn image is somewhat sympathetic, but rather generic and positioned to the right, closer to the book’s binding. Still, it has its role in this page-long tale, with its insinuation of finality. These bones are those of the boys, Anne’s remains prove it, end of story. Three statements, three images, we’re done here. A would-be consumer who saw even only the most privileged photo (the skeletons) before placing the book back on the shelf stands a high chance of walking away believing these were indeed the missing princes—a question not even entertained on the page discussed—and with Weir’s use of the word “murder” and the accusation against Richard in the jacket blurb, we’re a handshake away. Actually reading the story within all three captions and the deal is sealed. I am inclined to believe that readers have been lazy in every age, but also know that Weir and her publishers are very aware of how the demand for instant gratification and disintegration of critical reading skills in our era has further influenced the formation of opinions.

A quick disclaimer here: I personally don’t begrudge Weir her manipulation of privileged position or other literary techniques; these are what make books appealing, literature fascinating and history come alive. Human forms in photos engage our minds in a way an inanimate object doesn’t. We don’t relate to an urn, especially if we don’t know this is what that image is, but we do relate to images of people who were once alive, especially if they are children. However, I do take issue with the dishonest verbiage she carefully chooses to create the impression discussed above. For instance, the caption below Image 15 doesn’t say what year the princes died, presumed to have died, or disappeared (c. 1483). Yet an “Eye-witness report” from 1674 “recognised” the bones to be those of the missing princes? Did this eyewitness dabble in alchemy in his 200 + year lifespan? And where did he obtain his forensic expertise, with which he surely would be able to differentiate this set of remains from the twelve-year-old sons of Henry VIII’s cousins, whose families ended up in the Tower of London, where the Plantagenet brothers were last seen? Are there any signs of cause of death? The name dropping of Archaeologia lends some needed credibility, as does the dental evidence that “indicates” a familial relationship amongst all three deceased. These are only some of the questions Weir understands all too many consumers won’t ask; they’ll just take her word for it because they are in a hurry, don’t care enough or it doesn’t occur to them. There probably are other reasons as well, but the end result is that many will accept the information at face value.

Still, this was an awareness I came to later in my reading of The Princes in the Tower, or actually, even after I had finished and contemplated what I’d read. I had a niggling feeling about the perceptions I’d experienced. As I moved deeper into the book, Weir seemed to become more aggressive in her voice, and in previous remembrances I thought I even recalled a bit of name calling, which might have been the initial turnoff. (I could be wrong; stay tuned for another entry addressing this.)

The White Tower, Tower of London. Romanticized with its modern artificial lighting, we must imagine it in the days when the complete darkness of night, the likes of which many of us have never experienced, shrouded much in and around it.

As I sat with my casted leg propped up one evening, I realized with a grunt of dissatisfaction that I could not let it go until I read some more. My back was healing, but at this point pained easily after short periods, and my best friend was dispatched to collect a book or two from the university library. She returned with about fifteen, one of which was, by chance, Josephine Wilkinson’s Richard: The Young King to Be. She ignored my pointed stare.

It wasn’t long before I recognized a quote in Wilkinson’s book that Weir had utilized—in part. I suppose it was my naiveté with regard to historical reading that surprised me a little as I realized Weir had cherry picked what supported her agenda and left the rest. (Here also, stay tuned for more specifics.) At this point it really began to annoy me, and I was flummoxed as to how so many people could have gushed about what a fabulous book this was when I so easily picked out inconsistencies. Actually, I’ll have to revise that a bit: I read several reviews in which the authors did criticize Weir, but dismissed her liberties because “there’s no real way to tell” or “he probably did it anyway.” I’m pretty sure none of these people or any of us would want that standard upheld at our own trials.

Unknown to me, at roughly this time, the now-late historian John Ashdown-Hill published Eleanor: The Secret Queen: The Woman Who Put Richard III on the Throne. An analysis of the life of Eleanor Talbot, the woman said to have been married to Edward IV, Richard’s elder brother, before making Elizabeth Wydville his queen, the work follows a number of pathways, including those secreted in forensic dentistry. Ashdown-Hill discusses Anne Mowbray’s line of descent, an important angle given Weir’s assertion regarding the similarities between the teeth of the young bride and those of the bodies discovered in 1674, and a condition of congenitally absent teeth. The author notes that Anne Mowbray was related to the princes via a number of lines of descent, some more distant than others.

If those who have claimed that Anne Mowbray’s congenitally missing teeth prove that she was related to TL1 and 2 (and that therefore these were Edward V and Richard, Duke of York [the princes]) are correct, Anne’s dental anomaly must almost certainly have descended to her via her Neville ancestry (184-5).

Ashdown-Hill goes on to relate information about the battlefield identification of Anne’s grandfather, John Talbot, in connection to an absent left molar. This provides some evidence of the congenital condition being a Talbot trait, further leading to the speculation that if Anne did indeed inherit her dentition from her grandfather, “then those same missing teeth cannot very well be cited as evidence that TL1 and TL2 are Edward V and his brother, since the relationship of these latter to [Anne’s grandfather] was extremely remote.” Of course, it is possible John Talbot lost the tooth in some other manner and Ashdown-Hill further advises that Talbot’s remains had been disturbed several times, thus making elucidation on this point difficult (184-5).

Weir, in contrast, utilizes very little more than coincidence and contradictory information when aiming to prove that the bodies discovered in 1674 are Richard’s nephews, including the discovery to begin with. This position continues with her insistence that, apparently, only Plantagenet royalty could possibly have worn velvet, a type of material present with the bones and, given its availability timeframe, unlikely to indicate the remains were Roman, as had been suggested. She even goes on quite at length about all the experts and authors who examined the 1933 reports of Wright and Tanner, who themselves examined only an urn full of bones picked apart from those of animals (!) centuries after their initial discovery and under questionable chain of custody. Nevertheless, on all of this Weir categorically pushes the conclusion that “the evidence that the bones in the urn are those of the Princes is as conclusive as could be desired” (by whom?)(255-6).

Historian John Ashdown-Hill’s analysis of Eleanor Talbot’s life includes a far deeper discussion of the dental angle as glossed over by Weir, despite the absolute nature of her accusation against the king. (Click image for more information.)

It is easy to deduce there is much more to what I have summarized here, let alone the captions under three pictures in the middle of a book on the Bestsellers! table. As mentioned earlier, this dental information I didn’t know about when I first read Weir’s book – and she counts on that as well as the likelihood that few readers will check up on her words. The truth is, she’s right: few do follow up. For how long had my professor posited the claim that Richard III died shouting the line about the horse? How many from my class still believe this today? And this is counting just the influence of one person. Multiplied by how many readers Weir (and others) has persuaded, most of whom have very little time and/or inclination to look into what she says—some of whom, frankly, are as willing to manipulate the truth—it’s no wonder there is such widespread belief that Richard did the deed.

Of course, many people simply don’t care. At one point I was one of them. I liked history but wanted it on my own lazy terms, not having to deal with dates or the same few recycled names. Others view eras such as the Middle Ages with an attitude of “life is cheap,” which perhaps explains their willingness to allow an anointed king to be so maligned, and when looking back I found it curious that it stirred something within my being. I am, after all, an American with not a single drop of royalist blood running through my veins.

This, however, may be the because rather than the despite, thanks to our Magna Carta-inspired Constitution, the law of the land guaranteeing our rights, including those of the accused, a topic on which Richard III also had something to say. The widespread reliance upon and acceptance of misinformation to convict someone from the past bothers me for the same reason similar attitudes light a fire in me today. It doesn’t matter if someone dislikes or even hates Richard or any other political figure: Anyone who claims to value justice should be alarmed when someone is prosecuted and convicted under such inconclusive evidence, especially for the sake of bragging rights to having solved a centuries-old puzzle. This king may have lived and died over 500 years ago, but thirst for power and willingness to tyrannize others to achieve it is alive and well. Why would any tyrant stop with politicians? As we have seen throughout history, they don’t.

I had the great benefit of a father who taught me how to look a bit deeper, and though I don’t have quite the historian’s mind he did, I believed fiercely in justice. I also loved a good yarn, so followed with rapture as my father related to me tales from a variety of eras.

I only vaguely recall him telling me of Richard’s ability to fight, even something favorable about Henry VII (I used to refer to him as “the Henry after Richard the last”). His narratives often changed direction and he occasionally refused to answer questions, and at some point I understood he was teaching me to think. This surely colored my perception of Weir’s ridiculous portrayal of modern writers of Richard III as those who (a) believe the monarch guilty but too timid to admit it or (b) believe he is basically a saint (1). I also question the word “revisionist” as applied to Ricardians. It seems to me the revisionism began full force August 22, 1485, with the backdating of Henry Tudor’s reign to the 21.

I also grew up with a Scottish mother who never let me forget the Stuarts; at some points my eyes simply glazed over, and it all probably contributed to my lazy childhood approach toward history, despite my love of its people. This laissez-faire attitude extended to Richard, and for most of my life I didn’t care enough about him to have an opinion on his culpability. Interestingly, it was his detractors who chipped away at this armor as they repeated ad nauseum their claims, much of which was rank hypocrisy or projection. This entry has focused on one who chose as her work’s epigraph a Shakespeare quote that illustrates both, which reads in part: “Insulting tyranny begins to jet” (Richard III, Act II, Scene IV). Here Elizabeth Wydville wigs out over fears for her family, Shakespeare conveniently ignoring her role in all of this, as does Weir. (Talk about revisionism!)

There have since been others, but Alison Weir ended up accomplishing, in my case, the opposite of her intention in that I found her scholarship to be suspect, so I looked into it; what I came to believe through further reading and discussion was that Richard III, while certainly no saint, cannot justly be convicted of a double murder on the evidence she presents. That she has to go into stealth mode and employ manipulation, insults and overreach says much more about her than it ever could about King Richard III.

Despite Weir’s preface statement that “it is unlikely the truth of the matter will ever be confirmed by better evidence than we already have,” since the 2012 discovery of the king’s remains in a parking lot, more of consequence has been learned. For example, the Shakespearean depiction of Richard as a hunchback is in fact the propaganda it has long been characterized as. Rather, the king suffered from scoliosis, resulting in a sideways, spiraling twist to his spine, as discussed in a 2014 press release from the University of Leicester, a deformity not immediately visible to those encountering him. The hunchback myth traces back to Thomas More, on information from John Morton, Bishop of Ely, instrumental in Henry Tudor’s seizure of the throne. (This alone makes their party line suspect.) Owing to this accomplishment, Tudor historians, and not Plantagenet, were the ones relating the history. As my father drilled into my mind many times, and we have all heard in history class, the winner writes the story.

Shakespeare strove to be part of that winning group, though doing it for Elizabeth I, Henry Tudor’s granddaughter, over one hundred years after the fact, illustrating the reality that low-information readers (playgoers) existed long before the rampant misinformation pushers of our own time. Granted, we are often over-saturated with details, but this also gives us advantage in having the ability to track down more than ever before, even from places far removed from a small corner of England, within which one king and his men fought within the loyalty to which they were bound, and so became we.

—Lisl P.

Sources

Ashdown-Hill, John. Eleanor, the Secret Queen: The Woman Who Put Richard III on the Throne. Stroud: History Press, 2010.

Weir, Alison. The Princes in the Tower. United States: Ballantine, 1992.

Images

All images courtesy Wikimedia unless otherwise noted. Click any image for more details and, if any, annotations.

Richard and Anne: Painting and Passion by Karen King

Rather by accident the work of California artist Karen King came to my attention via her magnificent painting, Richard and Anne. Inspired by a passage from The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon Kay Penman’s epic novel of Richard III, it depicts the then Duke of Gloucester and his future queen, Anne, in a private moment as they attempt to forge their future. This is complicated by Anne’s previous tortured relationship with Edouard, her late husband and son of Richard’s enemy, Margaret of Anjou. They make their way outside, where Richard had

found for them a secluded retreat within a wall of willow and whitethorn; the sky was darkening into a delicately tinted violet and a crescent moon silvered the circling clouds over their heads. It was very quiet. She heard only the soft trilling of the night birds, was becoming aware of the heavy honeysuckle scents of spring. She should have been able to draw comfort from such surroundings; somehow, it didn’t help at all.

Anne begins to speak of Eduoard and just as quickly attempts to banish him and any reminders from their lives. “[S]he felt [Richard’s] fingers on her throat, caressing, tilting her face up to his. She let him kiss her, and rather timidly, put her arms around him as he drew her into a closer embrace.” It is this moment King captures on canvas, interpreting through her imagination the image she sees and all its vibrancy, including that felt by all the senses. Her Richard and Anne stand on a precipice, between the thick tension and surging relief of the moments that follow; not only can this be seen in the figures’ postures, but also felt. The lock of Anne’s hair falling over her cheek mirrors the ease and cascading looseness of her gown, yet the viewer can sense her stiffness and anguish as she leans into Richard. He, only somewhat relaxed, holds her in a comforting embrace, yet his eyes above her head, viewers can imagine, roam their surroundings, as if seeking elusive relief for the suffering she has endured.

I had the opportunity to chat with Karen, who so graciously shared with us some of her techniques, inspirations, personal favorites and passages as an artist.

*********

I would like to thank Lisl for giving me the opportunity to have a chat about the painting of Richard and Anne. While I was preparing for this interview I found just by chance a notebook where I had jotted down some notes regarding research for the painting. Chance? I think not. The first page was titled: “Understanding Richard III for a Portrait/Painting.” I had just finished reading Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour and was so heartsick at the travesty that Shakespeare foisted upon the world regarding Richard Plantagenet that I wanted to read more. The first book referenced under the heading was Paul Murray Kendall’s Richard III. I wrote down one of his quotes, in which Kendall references Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Richard III:

What a tribute this is to art; what a misfortune it is to history.

I’d hope that my painting would be seen not so much as a tribute to art, but surely a tribute to the true Richard III.

Could you give us the basic technical information of the painting and tell us how you chose the materials for this particular piece?

The painting is done in acrylics. My pallet colors are Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red, Raw Sienna and White. I don’t use pre-mixed colors such as green, orange, purple etc. because I like to create my own. I also never use black. If you’re wondering about Richard’s hair, well I made my own black. I prefer acrylics to oil because I’m not fond of using toxic products such as turpentine, which is needed to thin down the oils. The only down side to using acrylics is that they dry quickly. I keep a spray bottle of water handy to keep my pallet from drying out. I have a mixture of nice brushes (red sable) and cheap ones, which tend to lose bristles. I use the good ones for detail work and the cheap ones when I need to cover a lot of the canvas. When you have a 48 x 35 canvas, as is the case with Richard and Anne, there’s a lot of canvas to cover! I use masking tape to help me keep a straight edge. Really don’t know what I would have done without it on this painting.

I had wondered about the edges and other difficult parts away from them. I’d just assumed it was a dilemma only a non-artist such as myself would think to have.

I’m being constantly challenged by difficulties presented when painting something new. There are instructors that teach technique, but my main teacher thought it best to learn by trial and error. That way I’d know what to do the next time I was presented with the same problem. She also encouraged me to develop my own style rather than create paintings that are carbon copies of the instructor’s style, e.g. Bob Ross. I understand the principal of that philosophy but sometimes I think that I would have benefited by being an apprentice to a master painter and learned to paint the way one was taught during the Renaissance. I really don’t even know if they teach that way any longer. I probably would have been very impatient though. I remember when I first started painting I was given the assignment to pick a very simple object, divide the canvas into six equal parts, then paint the object in different ways in the six “panes.” Well I picked a light bulb. It was very challenging to make a cohesive painting using a light bulb for inspiration. Well after I completed that painting, the next assignment was to paint three more paintings using the six-paneled grid painting as their theme. So I had to paint three more light bulb paintings before I could paint something that I actually wanted to paint! Let me tell you I have not painted anything resembling a light bulb since!

This painting is inspired by a scene from Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour in which Richard and Anne find a private space, away from the pressures bearing down on both of them, and work through some troubling history. What were some of the thoughts or feelings you had when reading the passage that eventually led to the painting?

What could be more peaceful and private than a priory garden for two soul mates to comfort one another? I was anticipating beautiful moments of shared love and intimacy, but it soon became apparent that as much as Anne wanted to give herself to Richard, she was incapable of doing so because of her horrific relationship with Edouard. My heart bled for Richard as he came to the realization that he and Anne had a long road ahead them. Unable to vent his anger against Anne’s tormenter, all he could do was be patient, and hope that his steadfast love would eventually heal her emotional wounds. Anne felt awful as well because although she loved Richard with all her heart she felt emotionally handicapped. The bittersweet scene touched me deeply. I truly felt their frustration and anguish.

How long did it take to complete?

To tell you the truth I don’t remember. At the time I was taking a painting class once a week for three hours. At that rate I believe it probably took me at least three months.

Is this the first scene to have moved you in such a way? Were there any others (in Sunne or elsewhere) you have brought or would like to bring to canvas?

That is an excellent question! There are quite a few scenes from other books that I wanted to paint, however whenever I really thought about actually doing them, I’d get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the endeavor. I really wanted to paint Ranulf’s marriage proposal scene from Sharon’s When Christ and His Saints Slept. It takes place in a lantern lit barn. Ranulf and Rhiannan are sitting on a bale of hay. She with a kitten curled up in her lap and he with his hand gently tilting up her chin to kiss her. It was such a moving scene but there was no way I could pull it off. Where would I find anything remotely resembling a medieval barn, and even if I could there’s no way that I’d be able to find two willing subjects to pose for me! I thought about finding pictures to use as references, but with such specific requirements they’re very difficult to find even with the Internet at your fingertips.

All that being said, I did paint a scene from an Edith Pargeter novel, Afterglow and Nightfall. Here’s the scene (I apologize for its length, but it’s one of the most moving passages that I’ve ever read. Just retyping it almost made me cry):

Lying as it does in a cleft of the northern hills, with the great mountain mass of Penmaenmawr to the east, Moel Wninon to the west and Foel-Fras to the south, the morning sun never enters Aber. But to look out at dawn to the north over the narrow salt marshes to Lavan sands and the sea, that is wonderful. The deepening light first tinted like feathers of doves, then flushing into rose, then glowing like amber, comes sweeping westward from Conway over the sea, to strike in a glitter of foam and sand on the distant coast of Anglesey across the strait from us, as if a golden tide had surged across the sea green tide, and flooded the visible world with light. That was such a morning. The only time that Eleanor’s eyes left Llwelyn’s face was to gaze at the morsel of sky seen through the open doorway, and he divined the last thirst that troubled her, she who loved the sun. If he could not take her where it would shine upon her, at least she might still look upon its beauty from the shadows.

He sat down beside her on the edge of the brychan, and lifted her against his shoulder, and carefully gathering the blankets of the bed about her, took her up in his arms. She made no sign of pain, but only a soft sigh and with his cheek pressed steadyingly against her hair he carried her out on to the guard-walk, and the few yards round the stony bulk of the tower to the northern parapet, and stood cradling her as the sun rose, their faces turned towards the sea.

There in the open the air was sweet and cool, and below us, beyond the shore road, the reeds and grasses of the marsh stood erect like small, bright lances, every one separate, going down in lush, tufted waves to where the sands began, with a great exultation of sea birds filling the air above. The level sunrays made all the surface of the strait a dance of darker blue in the centre, and the shallows where the sand showed through were the colour of ripening wheat. Along the horizon ran the purple line of the coast of Anglesey, and in the centre of that distant shore was the Franciscan friary of Llanfaes, the burying place of the princesses of Gwynedd. In the morning light it appeared as the distant harbour of desire, absolute in beauty and peace.

She lay content in his arms and on his heart, her cheek against his cheek, and her eyes drew light from the picture on which she gazed, and grew so wide and wise in their hazel gold that there was a moment when I believed he had won the battle. He knew better. Very still he stood, not to jar or hurt her and softly still he spoke, of Wales, that she had taken to her heart and that loved her in return and of a future when there would be no need of war, when this land would be free and united and honourable among the countries of Christendom, and kings and princes would pledge peace and keep it, and her child’s children, the descendants of Earl Simon, would walk at large as heroes among their own people, and equals among the monarchs of the world.

Her lips moved, soundlessly, saying: “Yes!” It was right that she should take her leave of the world, as she had greeted it in passing, with a cry of affirmation. The sun was just clear of the horizon, and the sky to eastward the colour of primroses, and to westward of cornflowers, when the faintest of tremors passed through her body, and her head turned slightly upon his shoulder, her lips straining to his cheek. One word she said, and this time not silently shaping it, yet on so feeble a breath that neither he nor I could have caught it but for the great silence in which we stood. But hear it I did, and so did he. We never spoke of it but I know.

“Cariad!” she said, and her breath caught and halted long gently began again, and again sank into stillness. He held her for a great while after that, but there was no more sound, and no more movement, and that was all her message to him. She did not leave him without saying farewell. Yes! Cariad!

This passage moved me deeply and I really wanted to capture the sense of tragedy. What I couldn’t capture was the beauty of the sunrise depicted by Mrs. Pargeter, for I’ve never been to that part of Wales to see it for myself. But I did try to get a feel as to what the area looked like by using Google maps. I also found pictures of the area on the Internet, but I could never get a true picture in my head. It also occurred to me as I was trying to compose the picture that Mrs. Pargeter was describing what they were seeing and so doing, does not involve the figures at all! So I had to combine the two; the figures and what they were seeing. In the end I think the figures are the true focal point of the painting and the sunrise had to suffer for it, All in all I’m pleased with the colors I used and never tire of looking at it. A magical thing happened though after I hung the painting up in my living room. One afternoon I was sitting across the room from the painting and happened to glance up at it and caught my breath. A beam of light from the setting sun was shining on the figures and it seemed as if they were lit from within. Yes! Cariad! So, Lisl, is there a favorite passage from a book that you’d like to see painted?

Well, with some exceptions I generally tend to see moving pictures in my mind when passages evoke images. For example in Sunne the night before Richard’s first battle, Sharon describes his facial movements in one particular instance, and I remember being struck by how easily I could see the exact movement of expression in his eyes and face based on her words. It’s an expression I’ve seen many times before in real life, but it’s the sort you never really stop to comment about. I was amazed at how such a small moment, an “insignificant” movement could leap out at me. I think it was made significant because, strange as this may sound, helped me to see more into this Richard.

I find it interesting that when you read you see moving pictures in your head. Don’t you love the way Sharon can describe facial expressions? There is so much subtlety in describing human emotions that it takes a very special author to bring the character to life; make them so real that as you said, “helped me see more into this Richard.” Writing, painting and music are very similar, in that when done well, evoke emotions that touch the heart.

Oh, I totally agree. Even small details can move hearts. Tell us about your Anne’s hair. If I recall correctly, it was described in the book as chestnut, yet you painted a rich red. How did you come to envision Anne in this way?

As a writer, have you ever had a chapter you were writing take on a life of its own? Your careful outline, suddenly gone astray? Well that happens with painting as well. I believe that I began to paint Anne’s hair a rich chestnut, but when painting the highlights I got carried away turning it red. I let it be because I liked the way it looked, knowing that I could easily change it later, but as the painting progressed I found that the color worked with the painting as a whole.

Close Up Richard and Anne
Solace, by Karen King. (Image courtesy and ©2013 Karen King, all rights reserved)

Also, I’m very aware that Anne should have been wearing a headdress. In fact I wanted to paint a headdress lying on the cloister wall, seemingly carelessly cast aside in the heat of the moment, but my art instructor at the time advised against it for she felt that it fought with the overall composition, so I left it out.

The painting and the way it came to be is a bit reminiscent of the Pre-Raphaelites, whose work was influenced in part by Romantic poetry. There is a great deal of detail in your painting, yet it is much more subtle than in most of the PRB’s works. Is there any particular influence in your artistic background that informs this piece?

As a teen I discovered Botticelli. I loved his linear style of painting. Fell in love with his portraits of young men. If you look at Botticelli’s Madonna and Angels, they are just exquisite, very ethereal and captivating. Later on I discovered the Pre-Raphaelite movement and became a fan of Sir Edward Burne-Jones. I wasn’t surprised to find out that he was influenced by Botticelli! If you are familiar with Burne-Jones’ work, it’s very linear as well. Lately though I’ve been drawn to the Pre-Raphaelite artist J. W. Waterhouse.

I have this fantasy of someday having the means to buy an old Tudor Style home in the English countryside where each room’s focal point and inspiration is a Waterhouse painting. We can dream can’t we? I believe that my style is a combination of Burne-Jones and Waterhouse. On a side note, the only painting that I’ve ever sold was a study I painted of the head of Venus in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. I always found that pretty ironic. Lisl, do you have a favorite artists, or movement?

Well, I must confess I am not very artistic, and growing up tended to run into information on movements that really did very little to inspire me. (Sounds terrible, I know.) However, in high school I read a lot of Arthurian literature and simultaneously discovered the greeting card companies’ attraction to paintings by Burne-Jones and others. They were simply magnificent and the styles completely captured me. I loved Keats and tried to imagine “La Belle Dame sans Merci” brought to canvas in a similar fashion—which was a departure for me because my entire life until then had been spent focused on words. I happened to mention this to my English teacher, who possessed a treasure trove of books, and she showed the Waterhouse to me, which delighted me to no end.

I love the Arthurian Legend myself and I never cease to marvel over the magnificent art and superb literature that it has inspired. When I was in high school I read the book The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart and just fell in love with her version of Merlin.

I am still in love with those books.

Of course I read the next two books that followed and found myself smitten with one of the minor characters she developed for the series. I would literally daydream about going back in time and meeting this character. Well eventually I put my daydream into words and wrote a complete story about me and this character. One day in my art class I mentioned my story and one of the students suggested that I try to get it published. I told her that it wasn’t possible because I used Mary Stewart’s story as a base for my story. Her character was one of my main characters. She then suggested that I write to Mary Stewart to see if she could give me permission to use her character. Well I did just that, not expecting to her hear from her. About two months later I get an “air mail” letter from Scotland in the post and could not believe that Mary Stewart sent me a hand written reply! She was extremely nice about it but, unfortunately her publisher advised her against my request. I wasn’t too disappointed because I really don’t think that I’m that great of a writer and even if she had given her permission, I doubt that it could have been of interest to any publishing house.

I have a small story somewhat related you may find amusing. The Crystal Cave was actually on a list of books we were required to read the summer before school started. I was in my “don’t-tell-me-what-to-read” phase and resisted. I thought I knew all I wanted to know about Arthur, and my mother despaired, but she bought the books anyway. One day when cleaning my room I picked one up and gazed at the cover illustration of a strapping and rosy-cheeked Merlin—he even had reddish hair. Or it may have been a teenaged Arthur. In any case the image intrigued me so much I began to skim through the book. I remember placing the cloth on the floor and sitting there as I actually began reading. That moment re-directed my life.

Speaking of direction, Richard and Anne are located away from the central spot in the painting, and there is not much view to the sky, which is described magnificently in the passage it depicts – is there a statement within that choice, or intent to use these visual cues to signify mood or other energies within the scene?

Regarding the composition, I’m very fortunate to have had some very good art instructors who’ve taught me a lot about composition. There’s a mathematical formula called “The Golden Mean” which will tell you precisely where to place the focal point of your composition. Strangely enough, it’s not the center of the painting. There are also ways you can move the eye around the painting in a way that leads the viewer to the focal point. If you look at the cloister wall at the right hand side of the painting, it leads the eye to the figures. Also notice how the arch above the figures leads the eye to them. Remember earlier when I talked about the difficulties involved in painting a scene from a book? Well, this scene is not an exact replication of the scene from the book. The scene takes place in a priory garden with an arbor. When I sketched out the figures in an arbor, I just couldn’t get the feeling I wanted. But I knew that priories had cloisters so I used my artistic license and went the with cloister setting. Perhaps this scene is a last embrace, their last moment alone before they have to return to the hall after they left the garden and walked through the cloisters? When I made the choice of the cloisters, I chose a setting that gave me very little opportunity to paint a beautiful sunset. Perhaps I’m not meant to paint sunsets or sunrises for that matter. I was hoping to get the feel of the beautiful sky in that little bit you get to see through the arch. I remember that there was mention of a sliver of a moon, so I enjoyed putting that in there along with the pink tinged clouds. I also liked the way the dark cloister roof and walls contrasted with the brilliant blue sky and clouds and the subdued colors of the cloister garden, giving the viewer a feeling of dusk. Do you find it easy for your eye to move around the painting?

I do, and your reference to “The Golden Mean” brings back some memories of art history class. I recall being astounded at these techniques, because I thought artists were these talented people who simply painted something and there it was. Beautiful at the first. Looking at the painting again, it is as if the arches not only lead the eye, but perform a double duty in actually framing the top of the painting. There also seems to be what I might call a “balance” to it. A framing seems to work at the bottom as well, but without a lot of detail to distract from the figures of Richard and Anne. Emotionally there seems to be much around them not necessarily seen by the eye.

It is very gratifying to hear your comments, Lisl. Such a lot of love and hard work went into this painting that it’s very satisfying to know that someone else can see and feel its meaning. Being an amateur, I always fear that my efforts will be seen as corny and simplistic. Your appreciation of this painting inspires me to keep painting.

How would you describe this painting to someone unfamiliar with Sunne in Splendour or Richard III?

Oh my. This is the best question of all for this would give me the opportunity to enlighten the viewer whose only exposure to Richard III has been from Shakespeare. First of all I would highly recommend that they read The Sunne in Splendour. But if they balked at reading the book, I would tell them of the real Richard, his unfailing loyalty to his brother Edward, his courage and valor in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, and his brilliant administration of his duties as Lord of the North. His motto says it all “Loyaulte Me Lie,” Loyalty Binds Me.

Click to like and follow the blog, and be sure to follow and check out more content at our developing Instagram and new Twitter!

Note: Entry updated to include new book cover image and links to social media.

I, Richard: Seeking the Haunts of the Living

This is a short story I wrote for the first booksigning of my debut novel, The Rose of York: Love & War, born of my belief at the time that Richard’s bones had been thrown into the River Soar and also my deep sense that Richard III cared what we here on earth thought of him. I’ve kept it close to me for many years, but perhaps the time has come to let it go. Thanks to Philippa Langley and the successful archeological team that unearthed King Richard’s body, he will soon have a proper resting place and lay his head on silk.

Requiescat in Pace, Richard III.

So reads novelist Sandra Worth’s introduction to her wonderfully expressive and heart-rending short story, “I, Richard.” Told from the perspective of King Richard III, brutally slain in battle on August 22, 1485, it conveys the deep wounds suffered not only in life, but also those Richard carries after his death. He seeks truth where there seems to be none, and contemplates what a finality may bring.

My examination of the story’s deeper layers began as a review, and slowly united with exploration of its reflection of events and their implications in the lives of the countless people Richard has touched, before and after his death. Many know of his alleged misdeeds; what seems lacking is awareness of how his reign influenced the freedoms we know today.

Recent events have unearthed a new beginning for Richard Plantagenet, known to some only as Richard III, the king who for 500 years has been accused, amongst other crimes, of murdering his two nephews in order to claim the throne of England. His case has been most actively and openly researched since the end of the Tudor dynasty, when it was once more safe to speak other than ill of this dreadfully maligned monarch.

His detractors have upheld the charges against him, many determined also to maintain for him a grotesqueness equal, as the medieval mind would perceive, to the monstrous blackness of his inner being. While these modern-day accusers stand before us claiming to discount this antiquated notion of the physical body as reflection of the soul inside, they have yet to throw off the shackles of this belief themselves. For they repeat the hunchback and other memes as if they were important elements of the indictment to murder.

But what of Richard himself? What would he make of these and the numerous other charges against him that today remain the subject of heated debate not only between scientists and scholars but also writers, professors, students, readers, even bloggers and those participating in social media? Being late, does he simply not care any more? Or does he somehow maintain a presence here amongst the living? And does he simply observe, unable or unwilling to interact? What if he did care?

Sandra Worth, award-winning author of six novels of the Wars of the Roses, explores this territory in “I, Richard.” Opening with a nod toward the inevitable, the hour of death, Richard’s voice speaks of the crumbling of worlds with the passage of time, and disintegration of beings, both the self and those others who might remember him. Devoid of kindred comfort, why, then, is he here?

It is said, of course, that spirits who roam the realm of the living do because they are bound to something in their previous lives that keeps them from advancing to the next. Well known are Richard’s reasons for his unsettlement; perhaps the surprise is he has been at it this long. When one seeks release, however, from an unspeakable mystery and “from which I will not be free until it is revealed[,]” 500 years is a grim reminder that what comes after the end may be much worse than anything one might experience here on earth.

Richard’s end was indeed horrific; following it he must have been shattered to see his body—never mind that of an anointed king, but even simply as a human being—handled in so degrading a manner. We knew already of the awful head trauma and unseemly transport, then lately of the humiliation injuries, perhaps being bound at the wrists and no evidence of a coffin to at least have a last rest in. In our pain and grief over this new and terrible information, we must remind ourselves that Richard knew and had to endure this sight of himself since the day it happened, so achingly long ago.

Who wouldn’t go in search of something different?

And so

[s]ince my death I have traveled many haunts of the living in search of those who sense my grief, and have been heartened not to find myself friendless. When night deepens, I sometimes see a face that regards me with kindness. Hope is born in my breast. I follow them into their dreams. . . .

Richard has not been friendless indeed, and the accounts for how many came to advocate for him might be fascinating reading, not least because some, this writer included, fell into the Ricardian camp somewhat accidentally—that is to say they weren’t looking to take sides, but the sheer injustice, or simply the weight of the absurd made them sit up straight and take greater notice. Truth has a way of alerting people in this manner, and finding those who regard him other than how he last saw people treating him when on earth, must be encouraging, to say the least.

The king is portrayed in a number of studies as having been a kind and considerate individual. This is not to say he was not a product of his time, rather that kindness as we define it in our own era is quite different from what it was acknowledged to be in his. Now we take it for granted that someone accused of a crime, for example, maintains the right to make his defense and ought not to rot inside or have his worldly goods seized without a conviction in place. Surely some citizens of 15th century England approved of this consideration; largely, however, it was a foreign ideal.

This regal man having in life been so concerned with the lot of others, including those far beneath his own station, it then comes as little surprise that he may choose to follow some into their dreams, being aware of the myriad perspectives and limitations of others. Not all respond well to outright apparition. Perhaps still others could withstand watching Richard’s memories because he takes them through the experience, riding whispers on the wind.

Richard tells us, though, of two he has followed that few in his or our own era would find so savory. Remarkably this passage, given its fright factor, seems almost more poetic than any other in the story. Worth brings us to it succinctly utilizing a method that mirrors the deception of fiends, what with her elegant language depicting a revolting seizure, and we leap straight away into a pair of Richard’s after-life memories. We learn of two people who know the answers the king seeks, but their refusal to divulge what they know, even upon seeing him at their bedsides as death waits to escort them home, contributes to the hideousness of their respective ends. As the woman breathes her last, Richard sees the physical manifestation of power that had overtaken her, something that

resembled the incantation of a fiend. An eddy of darkness swirled from her, and in my mind arose the confusing impressions of a vast mental power, of avarice, coldness and malice, and of joy, of triumphant moments—and supreme despair.

A power so terrifyingly vast that it persuades the woman to believe its evil is her joy, and though she is penitent at her end, she steadfastly seals her heart from the truth that would free her from the grips of this darkness. She knows this, makes her choice, and despairs.

Heartbroken, Richard finds this reality discouraging and wonders at the apparent fruitlessness of his sojourns amongst the living. If a woman faced with the blackest of afterlife terrors chooses them rather than confess her knowledge, what hope is there? Some things are best left unsaid, and our king contemplates the imprisonment of eternal wandering, to forcibly witness the ongoing disparagement of his unsettled soul.

It has been aptly noted, however, that there are two sides to every coin, and recent events bring this notion into the fore. We tend to think of spirits as those who do the haunting, yet Richard speaks of “the haunts of the living.” Potentially embracing a number of connotations, the phrase seems to bring special significance to bear also on the results of our own contemplations. This explains the perceived wisdom of letting some issues lie, while they never truly do.

Rescuing Richard’s reputation is not a post-modern invention; people have been questioning the party line—even if in extreme secrecy—since his battered body first fell. These persons, our ancestors, had to endure life with knowledge passed to us that remains in shadows, frightening us with its power and secrecy, much of our fear residing in the realm of the unknown. At least in part it has been a willful haunting, because even after it became safe to speak of the dead king favorably, information is still withheld, defamation continually spread, academics infected with the partisan teaching of successive generations instructed to repeat rather than question.

In the end it may be King Richard himself who restores his own reputation, or at least becomes the significant stimulus that shifts enormous barriers. It was, after all, his own remains that yielded substantial clues, not least the absence of any withered arm. Other indications, noted above, also speak to the self-haunting of Henry Tudor, who required a degradation so extreme it had to commence with a bound corpse tossed into an unremarkable grave. We may never know all the answers, but there seems great hope that Richard’s truth shall set him free.

Update: The author has since removed the short story from her website and until further notice it is no longer available.

Photos of Bosworth Field plaque and Richard III to be replaced.