Saturday, July 28, 2007

For Openers

I'm fascinated by Richard III and by the Wars of the Roses and have done a fair amount of reading on the subject, though I can't name all of the battles that occurred before Barnet in their proper order. As a novelist heading toward the end of her current project (yay! land!), I've been thinking of the next book, and it's likely that I'll set it during the Wars of the Roses. More than that I haven't decided; one of the reasons for this blog, in fact, is to sort out my own ideas.

But the main reason for this blog is that I'm an avid reader of historical fiction who chooses books mainly based on whether they're about people and places I'm particularly interested in (though lately I've been branching out a bit). Naturally, a lot of the novels I gravitate to concern the Wars of the Roses.

Lately, though, I've been noticing a distressing sameness to most of these novels: they all feature a Richard III who's little short of sainthood. He marries his wife solely for love, not paying the least bit of attention of all that family land. ("What? You mean you're an heiress too? Gollee!") He takes the throne only after days of agonized soul-searching. He's universally beloved by his subjects, except by a few churls who are motivated only by self-interest. All who oppose him, especially Those Nasty Woodvilles, are portrayed as having few if any redeeming qualities.

I have come across one recent exception, Reay Tannahill's The Seventh Son. Her Richard III is a sympathetic character, but not a saintly one. He's very much a man of his time, who's prepared to act ruthlessly when it suits his purpose.

The Internet isn't all that much better. The Richard III Society (incidentally, I'm a member; one of the many commendable things about the Society is that it doesn't impose a litmus test for membership) does have excellent websites with much objective information. Venture off those websites, however, and one either gets the saintly Richard or the monster of Shakespeare's play, with very little in between.

Fortunately, recent nonfiction, such as A. J. Pollard's Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, offers a much more balanced view of Richard. Unfortunately, this view isn't much reflected in recent fiction or the Internet. (Perhaps scholars need to blog a bit more.)

Hence this blog. It's a modest attempt to disseminate my own unromantic perspective on Richard III: that he was neither saintly nor satanic, but somewhere in between.

One more thing: in setting up this blog, I've probably been influenced a great deal by Alianore's excellent blog on Edward II, a troubled king who until her blog came along was getting almost universally bad (and often entirely inaccurate) press on the Internet.

So here's to objectivity!

Oh, and one more thing. We have some occasional fun on my main blog, so don't think for a minute we won't have some fun on this one too.

34 comments:

Alianore said...

Yay, a new blog! I've added a link on mine. Thanks for the mention, and glad I inspired you. ;) It's a great idea - really looking forward to reading your posts.

And yay again, I get the first comment! Got the first one on your Plaidy blog, too. :-) [At least, I hope I've got the first one. Just noticed you have comment moderation. ;)]

Marg said...

I love reading about Richard III, so I am definitely adding this one to my feeds!

Carla said...

"I can't name all of the battles that occurred before Barnet in their proper order"

You might like the English schoolboys' mnemonic:

All (St Albans)
Boys (Bloreheath)
Naughty (Northampton)
Won't (Wakefield)
Memorise (Mortimer's Cross)
All (St Albans again)
Those (Towton)
Horrid (Hedgley)
Hateful (Hexham)
Battles (Barnet)
To (Tewkesbury)
Bosworth

acr2angel said...

Good, a blog on Richard III.

Daphne said...

Great idea!!

Lynne said...

I just finished reading a trilogy by Sandra Worth about Richard III. ROSE OF YORK: LOVE & WAR, CROWN OF DESTINY, and FALL FROM GRACE.

In these books, the author wrote that Richard (son of Edward IV) did not die in the Tower, but was sent to safety by Richard and Anne. He later took the name of Perkin Warbeck.

Susan Higginbotham said...

Thanks, all! Carla, I'm working on memorizing that mnemonic now! Lynne, I read the first Worth book a few years ago, never have read the other two. I'll have to pick up the other two one of these days, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

I wonder, has anyone ever taken the trouble to explore notorious George of Clarence's life and mind, and his somewhat eccentric behavior? Not that I'm particularly fond of him, but everybody seems to agree that he is just naughty and rolls his /her eyes about him. I would imagine this could make a good story, and show the somewhat dysfunctional Plantagenet family from a new angle.

Dorothy said...

I have written a book on George duke of Clarence, as already stated on this site somewhere. The book is with several agents and publishers at the moment. He is an unbelievably fascinating character to me, much maligned and overlooked, under rated and ignored. Will that do for starters? I do tend to look for the different ignored ones, my current book is Edward Woodville and my main research project and ongoing book, a biography of Antony Woodville, Earl Rivers. Then I want to look at - well, a whole load of people from that time, as well as those from other time periods, Charles I, Henry VIII, Anne of Bohemia, all I need is someone to take me seriously and say yes to the first book on Clarence. Then I can go ahead and write. The research, the books and the intention (not to mention devotion and commitment) is already there.

Susan Higginbotham said...

Dorothy, I can't wait to see what you have to say on Anthony Woodville! Keep us posted.

Dorothy said...

Where do you want me to start with the great Earl Rivers? Can I say this, Sandra Worth posted a really superb article about him on her website and I agree with her. (I have been in touch and told her so. Credit where it is due, every time.) Romantic, chivalrous, educated, intellectual, brave, loyal, devoted, pious, not known to have gone outside his two marriages, not known to have been anything but committed to any task Edward IV gave him. Author of the first ever book printed in England, patron of Caxton (that would be William, then, not Thomas as I saw in a self published book recently ...) guardian of the young Edward V or Prince of Wales as he was then. The one point where I would take issue with Richard III had I the chance (give me time travel, please!) is the execution of Earl Rivers, Richard Grey and Thomas Vaughan under Robert Ratcliffe, without trial, without mercy and without hope. He (Richard, that is) was asked to carry out the terms of Earl Rivers' will and didn't. I wonder, deep inside, if that particular execution caused him a lot of pain and he could not bring himself to do that last task or it got overlooked in the hustle and bustle of being made King and picking up the pieces Edward left behind. I just hope the men were shriven before it happened. I assume they were, it was something they did automatically at that time, but it isn't documented.
The book WILL be written, I am determined and committed to this neglected intellectual genius of his time. Ignore much of what you read in books with regard to what is supposed to have been said and done, like the nonsense when the Woodvilles were captured and taken to Calais, no one thought that one through. They (historians) get it wrong time after time, even the spelling of his name is wrong for the time, let alone when he became Sir Antony and then Earl Rivers ...
I'm a bit passionate about the men I write about, in case you hadn't noticed! And I want the facts right, so I have spent a lot of time going back over references, sorting the wheat from the chaff, checking where I can (how long did it take me to check the spelling of his name? Thirty seconds? How come no one else did it???)
Stand by for lots of comments from Dorothy - if you can stand it, that is - on her favourite subject!

Historybird said...

Posted a comment earlier but think it got lost as I'm new to Blogging. I was a member of the Richard III Society over 20 years ago and have radically changed my mind about him recently. Everything I've read about him supports the fact that far from being the romantic hero of fiction and sympathetic biographers, he was an utterly ruthless individual who didn't care who or what he had to destroy to get his way. Blame it on his upbringing and the savagery he must have been exposed to at an early age. It's the only possible excuse for him, because overall he treated most of those around him as if they were all dispensable. His quite staggering disloyalty to a generous brother who loved and trusted him; the betrayal and murder without trial of his brother's greatest friend, Lord Hastings, who was genuinely loyal and who he'd known all his life. His highly suspect behaviour regarding his own nephews - the little Princes (who's deaths he most likely did order) and favouring of the deceitful and shallow Buckingham merely to get his support; the rumoured end of Henry VI - the greed with which he dealt with both Anne Neville's mother and the Countess of Oxford; very likely considering marrying his own niece after his wife died (having been prevented by his supporters). The list just racks up and up - as does that of the people who drained away from supporting him at the end. Turning him into a romantic hero requires a head-splitting stretch of imagination. For that role the raffish, interesting, brave and loyal Hastings makes a far better subject. His long knowledge of both Richard and Edward - whom he almost certainly knew as small children - his youth and bravery in the field - his love of pleasure and reputed frustrated longing for Jane Shore - and his eventual love affair with her after King Edward's death - all make him an intriguing figure. Nor has anyone attempted to write of how abrupt his death sentence was - dying in those days, virtually unprepared. And it's staggering that no biographer or novelist has made him a primary character, given that he was involved at the highest level; with York and Warwick and King Edward from the start of the Yorkist claim for the throne. I'd love to attempt it, but it's too big a call for me.

Antonia Woodville said...

it's too wild an accusation, Historybird, I have not found that Richard anywhere in my reading and my book on Clarence shows him in a good light. Incidentally, to follow up my earlier comment, the book on Clarence, Death Be Pardoner To Me, is due out any time soon. Cover work is under way even as I write this ... and then the ARCS go out for review. Any time now, world ...

Historybird said...

Sorry Antonia Woodville I cannot see your argument - assuming you're in favour of Richard, which wasn't too clear. To gain the crown he was prepared to tear apart what his brother King Edward had created and slaughter all those who stood in his way as well as slandering the dead Edward and Hastings - and even his own living mother. Why, if he thought he was the rightful heir - didn't he declare openly against Edward when he was alive? Richard knew his best interests were served by loyalty at that time, but the historical papertrail is all there to support his ruthlessness - even if some biographers somehow manage to excuse it on the grounds of self-defence. Richard is admirable for just 3 things - not being notably unfaithful to his wife; being unquestionably brave in battle and possibly having the capacity to be a good administrator - had he but come by the crown honourably.

Antonia Woodville said...

OK, start by saying I was a member of the Society, now a patron of the Foundation, very pro-Richard, for a variety of reasons. His loyalty to Edward is unwavering. His grief was real. His assumption of the role of Lord Protector was done because it was Edward's will. The 'slander' against his mother remains unproven. The pre-contract is iffy enough that the Parliament asked him to take on the crown. The Princes were visited by a doctor. No one knows their fate, outside of the Tudors who took over and so far I have not been able to speak with any of them, although I have spoken with Clarence and others. (I am a medium, Clarence's book was dictated by Clarence himself and he does not, anywhere, denigrate his brother). The Tudors, prior to Henry VIII, have not come into my sphere to speak, I wonder what they have to hide. I speak with Woodvilles often, hence my user name. There was and is no evidence for Richard 'tearing apart' anyone's reputation or life to gain the crown. Having it meant a daily battle to keep it and who would really want that? Have you read the two part Caroline Halsted biography of Richard of Gloucester and Richard III? They put the case perfectly, as does VB Lamb in The Betrayal of Richard III and of course Josephine Tey in Daughter Of Time. There are a lot of us pro-Richard people out there.

Historybird said...

Antonia, while I don't question your sources on the other side of the ether – and will certainly (if I get the title) buy your book about Clarence, you evidently disregard the history as written by Sir Thomas More. The reason I believe him concerning the slanders made about Hastings, Edward and Richard's own mother, Cecily Neville is that More was honest and a man concerned with facts – a City man moreover, and would certainly have had sources close to home for his history of Richard III. You have to take it in this context – that Richard had most definitely murdered – and without trial – Hastings, Rivers and Grey. Even in those days that was highly irregular and left people anxious and fearful and once the little Princes had vanished without trace – everyone was thinking the worst anyway – long before Henry VII came along. Surely it's significant that the Tower of London was a busy palace with hundreds of gossiping soldiers, servants and officials. Inevitably news about the princes would have been whispered amongst them – and the Woodvilles would have got wind of it from spies of the Marquis of Dorset who had previously been in charge of the Tower. Queen Elizabeth must have believed her sons dead in order to join forces with Henry VII. Apparently there is also the record of a servant of Thomas Howard (later Norfolk) purchasing ropes and lime and various stuffs that were for use at the Tower for what could have been little other than a secret burial. The Howards were more dangerous than the strutting Buckingham and more the power behind Richard than possibly anyone else.
For all the killings in the Lancaster/York wars, and barring post-battle executions or the killing of turncoats, Edward IV had been largely benign in his rule and preferred conciliation – hence the many Lancastrians who had come into the Yorkist camp. When, after having been well-treated, they betrayed him – as did the Duke of Somerset – having received enormous privileges, Edward could act ruthlessly, but never so ruthlessly as Richard. Rivers and Grey had the right to take charge of Edward V as Rivers had been appointed his personal carer. Gloucester was allocated a different role – that of governing the country. Over the dinner Rivers had with Buckingham and Richard the night before he and Thomas Grey were taken off to prison, Rivers had spent a very affable evening with the other two men and presumably was hoping they could work together. It would not have been the first time either, as Rivers and Gloucester had been in exile with Edward and assisted in his return to the throne.
It may be that Buckingham, from his own resentment, pushed Richard to take the crown and that Hastings's letter urging him to come with armed men in all haste had panicked Richard into over-reacting. Whatever the reason, from then on it was a downward spiral of tragedy which eventually absorbed Richard himself. Had Richard been more of a diplomat and more honourable he could have protected the throne for the young King whilst still keeping the Woodville faction under control (Henry VII didn't allow them to create problems). With the support of Hastings the Woodvilles could easily – and without malice – have been defused. Once the young King was of age, Richard could have happily retired back to Middleham with a new wife and gone back to his old role as guardian of the North. The rumoured Butler pre-contract had nothing solid to support it – had there been any proof it would have been flaunted from the rooftops. Legitimacy in those days was anyway, a grey area. Clarence and Gloucester never even got the necessary dispensations for their cousin-marriages so Richard's own son could have qualified as Bastard too. Yet Elizabeth Woodville, even if Edward hadn't married her, was still the anointed Queen – and her son appointed Prince of Wales as heir to the throne. Since William the Conqueror was illegitimate; also the Beauforts - and Edward IV had won the crown by right of conquest – who was to argue with his son's right to it? I'd like to think well of Richard as I'm sure he had a very difficult life, but I'm afraid he comes across as thoroughly untrustworthy and paranoid. Sorry!!!

Antonia Woodville said...

whilst I have every respect for Thomas More, and your comments, Historybird, you have overlooked one major point. Thomas Morton detested Richard of Gloucester and was conspiring against him from Day One. Thomas More grew up in Thomas Morton's household. He was 5 years old when Richard III was killed. Everything More knew was second hand, from those who detested and despised the person about whom he wrote.
The final comment is this: in times of dire necessity people do things they later regret. Hence my task, to write out the life stories of those who wish to rectify their wrongs in that lifetime. Sir Thomas More is one of them. What he will say is between him and me at the present time but suffice to say he wishes to put things right. What he has learned since, whilst being in the Realms, is anyone's guess at this time, as true to his nature, he is close mouthed until the right time. I am not sure when that time will be, currently there are some 25+ books to be written, at the rate of 2 a year.
I have made use of the Medici's original spymaster to ask the question posed by the Hastings execution, 'why?' and got back a most interesting report on conspiracy within conspiracy within conspiracy. I doubt any of us can appreciate the depth and extent of the paranoia of that time. I am endeavouring to capture some of it in Earl Rivers' biography, an ongoing project around the spiritual books. Suffice to say, as Henry VIII has reiterated many times in his book, you cannot and should not judge from our distance of time, for we are looking at the overall picture whereas they lived it moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, and so on and made judgements and decisions as things seemed at that time. We, looking back 500 years, can so easily see what should have been and was not. Hindsight truly is 20/20 especially when studying history books but ALL history is biased. History is always written by the winners. Even the books I will write are biased because the person wishes to be seen in a Good Light, not the one cast upon them by history. As with Henry, who is tired of being known as a despotic wife killer, for example.
So, all books by Dorothy Davies with startling cover work (I have the first one, which is outstanding, according to all feedback I have received) are biased in that the person wishes to be seen in a Good Light but also give a different view of that time period. I hope they prove to be interesting to readers and provoke some discussion. It's a 'wait and see' job as far as that is concerned.

Historybird said...

Well - you know my opinion - anyone else got any suggestions? I prefer to deal with plain facts and the fact is that Sir Thomas More wasn't the only one commenting around that period. There's enough of the jigsaw from all contemporary sources to get a pretty clear idea of what was going on.

Historybird said...

Well - you know my opinion - anyone else got any suggestions? I prefer to deal with plain facts and the fact is that Sir Thomas More wasn't the only one commenting around that period. There's enough of the jigsaw from all contemporary sources to get a pretty clear idea of what was going on.

Anonymous said...

Historybird you have to know all the correct facts about Richard and that means for all of his 32 years. I don't pretend to know all the facts though I have been reading and learning about him for 20 years. One thing that I do know is that the only reason the Marquis of Dorset was in charge of rhe Tower was because Anthony Woodville was made Deputy Constable of the Tower by Edward and the Constable was Lord Dudley. Apparently if anyone had wanted to rebel against Edward they would have to have been in charge of the Tower to be able to put a plan into action. Edward knew what he was doing putting Lord Dudley in charge because he was too old and not capable of starting a rebellion however obviously Anthony Woodville as deputy would have been capable. However he was in Ludlow. A letter exists written by Anthony Woodville early in 1483 giving his authority as Deputy to guess who his nephew the Marquis of Dorset, who obviously would be capable of holding the Tower for the Woodvilles. Also ask yourself why didn't Anthony bring Edward v to London for his father's funeral? Could it be that he didn't want anyone else to have control over the boy? Richard wouldn't have known about Edward's death if Hastings had not sent a message to him.

There is also some circumstantial evidence that Edward iv may have been poisoned by arsenic. He was ill before he died but recovered. When given the scenario of Edward's symptoms (not knowing the identity of the patient) a few years ago a doctor was emphatic that what was being described to him was arsenic poisoning. This could tie in with the fact that Archbishop Rotheram sent a letter to York, well before Edward died, announcing Edward's death. It happened to coincide with Edward's first illness. I believe that there is so much that we do not know about this period of history, due to the fact that the ghastly Tudors destroyed many of the records, that we should be very careful about being certain about anything. As for Sir Thomas More I would urge you to read Peter Hammond' review of Alison Weir's book on the Princes which he wrote for the Ricardian. This was after Alison Weir had written to the newspapers saying she had found a new source which proved that Richard had murdered the Princes. The new source was Sir Thomas More.
As for me I don't know if he murdered the Princes there is no evidence. I just have a gut feeling that he didn't.

Anonymous said...

From Historybird to Anonymous, you may well be right about the arsenic and the abrupt end of Edward IV. He was relatively young and must have still been mostly healthy to be indulging in entertainments and fishing trips, etc. The argument against that of course, is his doppelganger grandson Henry, who likewise went downhill physically when relatively young – also on account of over-indulgence. But Henry, of course, did not die at 40, but raddled with disease in his fifties.

I think that somewhere, in the collective history and sequences of 1483-1485 – the timings, documents and what is known of the characters involved – there must be the truth awaiting a forensic mind who can pull all the different strands together to present a logical sequence that properly explains what must have happened. So much of what occurred is puzzling or contradictory; and much of it is complicated too, by bias. I'm not anti Richard III but it's hard to be pro-him given the available evidence. The bald fact is that three men were murdered without trial (Hastings, Rivers and Grey) Hastings so abruptly that he scarcely had time to make a confession – let alone get word to his loved ones of what was happening to him. Two vulnerable little boys then slowly disappeared that summer of 1483 and were never seen again, alive or dead – and a lot of people who stood to gain from all those deaths were handsomely rewarded. It's not impossible, perhaps that one or both boys might have died of natural causes and that Richard was horrified and tried to hush the gossip. It's equally possible that unknown to Richard, Howard – who then gained the Dukedom of Norfolk seemingly as a reward (which had been the title of little Prince Richard due to his child-marriage to Anne Mowbray who was the Norfolk heiress) arranged the deaths of the two boys without the King's knowledge, as a gift of loyalty to him. However, that seems very unlikely as by then everyone must have known how ruthless Richard was – having killed so many already without trial. He also had form in terms of his treatment of the Countesses of Warwick and Oxford – for the sake of his own personal gain. The kindest view of him was that he was a basically decent man who became twisted as a result of the unsettled childhood and youth he'd suffered through vicious fighting – and that he looked for security through rapacious gaining of lands and his personal safety through the killing of those who might harm him.

But without doubt there was a ruthlessly bloodthirsty streak in the Plantagenet family and mental paranoia – displayed again by Richard's great-nephew, Henry VIII. Incidentally, the Tudors were hardly "Tudor" at all but just another strain of Plantagenet/Beaufort/Neville offspring, and if paperwork was destroyed by Henry VII, the reason for it was so that Elizabeth of York would never be questioned as having a birthright of her own to the crown.

Antonia Woodville said...

Having just written the life of Henry VIII, the definitive version, not the historian's version, I find no evidence of him being 'raddled with disease' but overweight and probably with a heart condition. I can see his grandfather being the same way, which made the tertian fever all the more likely to attack and not be fought off. No proper immune system.
Don't forget to add Thomas Vaughan to the Pontefract executions. They cannot be justified by anyone, says me as a Ricardian, too, but then I am a Woodville supporter before being a Ricardian. Hence my user name.

Anonymous said...

From Historybird - as I recall Henry VIII had an ulcerated leg as the result of a fall whilst hunting. Without antibiotics he had no hope of a complete recovery from that. His blood was probably being slowly poisoned.

Antonia Woodville said...

Ulcerated legs are a symptom and side effect of varicose veins which in turn are caused by obesity. But ... a near neighbour, in his late 20s, had a bad ulcer (slim trim and toned) and still limps even now. The ulcer lasted for 9 months or more. He did not have a fall. Too many people want to blame the jousting fall for all his ills.

Anonymous said...

From Historybird - I'm sure that what happened to Henry was eating/exercise ratio-related. He began by exercising a lot and probably eating moderately - but then love of food overcame love of exercise until he was too well-padded to comfortably take any. Like his grandfather's end indicated - a beautiful youth over-indulging into gross middle age.

But what stands out about Edward IV in my mind is that he was either ill-served or betrayed after death by so many around him. He himself was generous and easy-going by nature and had a natural instinct for goodwill - I think of him as a precursor of Charles II in many of his characteristics. Richard III was so different - and it would surely have horrified him to see himself, rather than his brother, now cast as the hero of so many bodice-rippers.

Anonymous said...

From Historybird - Antonia, returning to Richard, I can't see how you can be a Ricardian and also a Woodville supporter. The two factions loathed each other. Furthermore, I think one fact is always brushed aside by Richard's supporters. So many people turned against him between 83-85. It can't just be More and the Tudor propagandists because the facts occurred before people wrote of them. The people who rose against Richard, rushing to Henry Tudor's side - why would they have done that unless they had a real reason to mistrust and fear him? If he'd been popular and trusted as his brother was, do you imagine Henry Tudor - whom no one had a clue about - would have even been able to set foot on an English beach? Richard was abandoned at Bosworth because he'd alienated so many of the remaining nobility (most of whom had been decimated by the previous wars and beheadings). Sometimes folklore tells us something - it isn't just about obscure chroniclers writing in dusty libraries centuries ago - but real people passing the tale down the generations. I think Richard's story is such a legend.

Antonia Woodville said...

where's the conflict? The only people who hated one another were Richard and the Woodvilles, and they in turn were linked through the most potent monarch at the time, Edward IV, ruler of all, including his brother and his brother in law. As I said, I hold Richard responsible for the execution of Antony Woodville on flimsy evidence but outside of that ... I think history has done him a grave injustice.
The best thing I can say is, wait for my books. You will then learn of the Wars of the Roses from many different aspects, starting with Clarence and probably ending with Sir John Tiptoft, who is on my author list. In between will be others, including Jacquetta Woodville. (I spoke with Richard Woodville recently, he is sitting for his portrait today, very much in my life at the moment, as his son is.)
Once all the books are done, between now and the time I go home for good (thank God! no reincarnation after this life!) there will be a very different view of many different people in history. I already have questions about some of my subjects, are they the way history has painted them, well, no, they are real people still.
So, reverting for a moment, I promote the Woodville cause because I work with people who are misunderstood and maligned (the biography of Rivers is about a quarter done)and promote the Ricardian cause, in that I consider Richard to be hard done by in terms of history. We cannot, as in 'ordinary' people, know what went on then. I get glimpses but as yet the whole picture has not been revealed to me. I am told it will be. I do indeed live in 'interesting times.'

Anonymous said...

From Historybird to Antonia - I will indeed be fascinated to read your biographies of these personages. Of course from this century we have a very different mindset and perspective of what they were doing and who can get their head around the medieval mind? For example, I doubt if any man living truly understands the meaning and almost spiritual signifance of the chivalric code, into which all young knights were supposed to be initiated. In our protocol, discipline and almost manners-free world, it's almost impossible to get your head around something so complex. I also fear the next generations (especially in the UK) are not being exposed to history in the way our own generation was. They don't understand it's value to intrigue and absorb - not to mention entertain. Nor are they acquainted with it's colour and romance, for everything must be about speed today. I support the Richard III Society whatever I think about him because I thank God that people are interested enough in this extraordinarily colourful and dramatic period of history to gather so much attention - and information. Long may it continue!

Antonia Woodville said...

I 100% agree with you. I find people have the strangest ideas about our historical past and ancestors, forgetting they are real people. The chivalric code ...I have just got through The Tournament in Rivers' biography. Heavens, the emprise from start to finish was bound around with the most elaborate and detailed ritual imaginable! All before a single word was exchanged between the two in person, it was all high flown phrases in letters and invitations and touching the 'emprise' and goodness knows what else. There is a certain historian who dismissed the actual tournament as exchanging one or two blows before the king stopped it. Someone didn't do their research, it was a flat out fight that Londoners talked about for years ...
and that is where we cannot understand the whys and wherefores, why should two men undertake, with such ritual, to clout each other with battle axes until one was close to being knocked down and still call it an honourable event ... the vigils, the ritual of being made a knight, the glorious spectacle of the creating of the knights, the ceremony of the coronations, riders charging into the hall to thrown down a gauntlet, imagine that happening in Windsor Castle ... even translating their words into modern English, as I am, I find it hard to follow the thinking behind all that happened then. I asked Clarence several times, why did men march off to what was likely to be a horrible death? How did Towton become such a dreadful battle, how did those men, Englishmen one and all, manage to confront each other with such savagery that they tramped, suffocated, smothered, smashed each other into the ground, chased them across countryside when they ran, cutting them down where they could? I am told battle fever is impossible to describe.
And how did someone like Rivers, 44 years old, learned, wealthy, full of zest and life, second wife, good living, go quietly to his execution without a word being spoken? In fact, he asked Richard of Gloucester to prove his will, such was his feeling for him at that time. So, enmity, perhaps not. Fact of life, probably. He shrugs and tells me it is no big thing.
Waterstones have accepted the series and its premise, channelled from spirit, they just didn't like the covers so I am back to waiting on a new design before anything can go ahead. Henry VIII is impatient, but it is still a Tudor year, as I told him, patience is everything, my liege, and it will happen, you of all people know that...

Antonia Woodville said...

I have been giving a lot of thought to your comments, Historybird. You make sense, especially when talking about the way history is taught. I also have to refer openly to the way some historians view Henry. They have not, it would seem, checked the meaning of the word 'tyrant' in their dictionaries ... he was not a tyrant.
Here is a piece from Henry's book:
"I would ask you not to make judgements by what you read of me, which is twisted through the minds of those who wrote – then and now – but by what I did in light of the time in which I lived. Remember that there was much that was never revealed, never recorded, not even known by many. And, above all, no one – no one – knew what was in my mind.
You have the sweet facility of hindsight. You have the ultimate ‘gift’ of being able to review the whole of my reign in one fell swoop. My entire life is contained in one book. But for me … I lived it day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. I lived with the paranoia, the double dealing, with treachery and stark ambition writ large in the eyes, the words and the movements of those who were around me, those professing to be my loyal and devoted friends.
Katherine asks, did you not trust anyone completely?"
The answer was longer than I wanted to post here, but basically, no. Even though I am entrusted with things he told no one at the time, there are still things he holds secret, after all these years.
Re: Edward IV and Richard III. Two problems here. Edward IV was open, honest, up front sexually mad monarch, loved food, women, wine, hunting, battles, entertainment, in equal proportions. No mystery.
Richard III moves in, dark, almost moody, serious, is this man full of secrets, we ask, what really went on, what really happened back then, did he do this, did he do that ... and so with mystery comes a man who is not quite out of the shadows and as such, is perfect for bodice-ripper stories. Some are dire, though, aren't they? can you imagine this hard faced (at times) determined man calling his wife petal-eyes or some such thing and swooning over her like some bird when the news comes of his son's death? When Anne died he shut himself away for 3 days. That was the secrecy of the man. None knew whether he harboured resentment against anyone, whether he yearned to be king, whether he planned to usurp his nephew, because we don't know him. PM Kendall thinks he does. I don't think so. I don't think anyone does, truthfully, and I don't think anyone will for a goodly long time.
Clarence goes some way in his book, but Clarence is writing of Clarence and his need is - as with the others who have come - to put THEIR side of the story, not the incidental people. But of course with Clarence, Richard is very much a central figure. The person who emerges from those pages is a studious, self-contained, quiet, almost - damn, knew what I wanted to say there, someone interrupted me and the word took off into the recesses of my mind (not a pleasant place to be, LOL!)
I want to say here that I am most grateful to be able to say these things on this blog. And for the understanding, friendship and acceptance shown by you all. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

From Historybird - I have to confess I am intrigued by your writings Antonia. I suppose what we're all waiting for in this period is the sort of definitive historical explanation of the inexplicable that Robert Graves set down for his history of the murderous Caesarian clan in "I Claudius". What we need is an "I Richard" or something such to resolve this puzzle of the centuries.

It seems reasonable to approach Richard's story from one particular angle: Despite the murder of Richard II, and the ursupation by Bolingbroke, there was still a sense of fair play (as we understand it) in that period of the medieval monarchy. My belief is that once the disastrous situation resulting from the death of Henry V occurred, everything started to disintegrate into chaos and the constraints no longer applied. The nobility, always greedy and clan-like anyway, were riven with jealousies and feuds but without a strong monarch acting as their lightening conductor, they degenerated into factions. With the Crown on the head of weak but saintly Henry VI, Richard III's father, York, made his bid. He had served loyally for a long time but since he had a claim anyway, he decided he'd do a better job so went for it – and was right to do so. Edward, his heir, was already mature by the standards of the day, and at the start probably regarded what they were doing as an adventure. At any rate he wasn't able to function as a grown-up monarch until he'd ousted Warwick, but Richard's own childhood had been severely disrupted while all this was going on. He grew in an atmosphere not of courtly chivalry and noble ideals (as in fact Anthony Woodville did) but of fear and tragedy and the horror of losing not only his father but brother Edmund of Rutland with their heads stuck onto Micklegate Bar. Imagine finding such horror had occurred to those you loved – and then being sent from everything familiar to stay in another country – all in haste and panic. Richard's childhood had been fractured by this and he must certainly have been gravely damaged by it. Surrounded by tales of betrayal etc… he would have concluded that life is a tale of every man for himself, and when Edward sank into debauchery and marriage to a woman he detested, I think Richard secretly turned against him and was disillusioned. He wanted to go to war in France but Edward preferred to take the pension offered by Louis – and go home. He watched while Clarence was killed – although he took some of his estates, he must have been simmering with hatred.
I think Richard acted fast and ruthlessly and then when everything began to unravel – having killed the loyal Hastings (which must have hurt his conscience as he knew him so well and had been in exile with him), Buckingham's rebellion, the loss of his son, the loss of his wife and the drainage of all support – not to mention the fact that even if he didn't kill them he was certainly held responsible by everyone for the disappearance of the two little Princes – he began to crumble. He did one thing that suggests contrition – he brought the body of Henry VI to Windsor to be re-buried in a royal grave. It was a strange thing to have done, to have brought his former enemy into the chapel that was created by his brother. Yet he did it. One has the feeling that he was trying to make amends in some way.

As for Henry VIII – being King must have been terrible, especially in middle-age – with everyone wanting to get the crown off your head. But I'd love to hear your version of why he rid himself of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Were they really cheating on him – or was he just told that they were and chose to believe it? I don't believe either did, but in Katherine's case she was far too frightened to take such a stupid risk - if what I've read is any indicator. She'd have been insane to cheat when she could simply wait and when he died, marry who she liked.

Antonia Woodville said...

re: Henry ... he says categorically that he had Good Reason to rid himself of Anne Boleyn. He had sufficient grounds. After all, he reiterates, she was a crowned queen and one did not rid oneself of a crowned queen easily, without just cause. Katherine Howard, oh yes, definitely having fun behind his back. Definitely. It nearly broke him. For a long time I thought we were going to write the story of Henry VIII and his five queens, as he refused to talk about it. Then he saw he could not ignore it but being cuckolded in that way was unbelievably hard for him. He would have stayed married to her, he fell head over substantial feet when he met her. I know, I had the privilege of looking into his past and seeing that precise moment. I thought he fell hard in lust with Anne Boleyn but this was something else. So yes, it was real and she was stupid but she thought he was stupid and would not find out.
Clarence's book shows the fractured childhood of both of them. I associate strongly with him, having been aware that all my life I was the 'second best' to my parents. He was second best. Richard was the love child. Being shoved from pillar to post, having his father so brutally killed and displayed did untold damage to Clarence and probably Richard as well. They were troubled children who grew up in an uncertain world. His description of the sacking of Ludlow Castle when they were in it is amazing.
What is important is the central point that these are human beings, who were once puling brats and who grew up, learned to walk and talk and eat properly at table (the medieval manners were incredible, I have a book on that and it is amazing what they had to learn from a very young age) so in effect, no childhood. Straight into adulthood. Henry says this too. At 10 years of age he gave Katherine in marriage to his brother, walked her down the aisle at St Pauls. I mean, what chance did any of them have to play games and be children??? Very little, it would seem.
You've summed up the Richard scenario well. Mistakes on all sides but with the best of intentions and reasons. The duke of York had a rock solid claim to the throne which Edward later took by force.
And so the work goes on. I am writing with Guy Fawkes at the moment, tough going, he is not the most fluent of writers, even with help. The mysticism and fanaticism of the man is showing already and we are not yet at his conversion to Catholicism either. Again, a child growing up in a difficult time of divided loyalties and much misery.
I can say here that 10 years ago I was asked to channel a book from a concentration camp victim, whose life BEFORE the camp was worse than his life in it, would you believe. It took me 2 1/2 years to write Daniel's story, because he found it so hard to do. He would go away for months at a time, then return with renewed determination to finish the bloody book, as he put it. We did. I then wrote the gospel according to the Archangel Gabriel, which is amazing, funny, loving, moving, sad and quite quite extraordinary. (both books are with my publisher, awaiting the right time to put them out.) I thought that was it, no more books. Then Clarence arrived and we began work on his. In the middle of that, the Monarchy series was on TV and I followed it. (I no longer have a TV, BTW). In the Wars of the Roses bit, D S said, coldly, "York Was Killed." You know how he speaks, all capital letters. I thought, damn it to hell and back, you just wrote off, in 3 words, the most powerful man in England at that time, Lord Protector, land magnate, Lieutenant of Ireland, you name it he was it and you wrote him off in 3 words! Then I knew that there was a lot of work to do because others had been written off the same way, fanatics, stupid people, whatever. The floodgates opened and the people arrived, please will you write my story. I said yes to them all. They have a strict time limit, six months per book, so I can get through2 a year at the very least, otherwise I will go home (die) before I finish the list! It's easy, I don't need to research. I use a book as a timeline and let them talk. I write what I am given. Sometimes I question, sometimes I change a word here and there, with Guy I went and found him a ghost writer (literally) and it got better from then on out. We are some 14,000 words into the story now and going well. The publishers are delighted, Waterstones are interested, at last the stories, the truth, will be out there for the world to read, and make up its own mind. I work full time, so there are many pressures on me. I live with migraines, bad and not so bad, live on painkillers to control them and work on. I am fortunate,I have a daughter who is not able to work so cooking, etc. is taken care of by someone else, all I need do is fire up the home computer and write. And be open to the author when they come. It's a good life, one I would not trade with anyone. I feel I am living a lot in the past, for example, I told Rivers the other night where a beautiful bowl could be found to fit on the mantelpiece in the library at Sandringham (our home. the original house, not the current one) and that there were silver items in the attic I would like to see out ... then laughed and said 'listen to me ... anyone would think I still lived there!' and in some regards I do. He takes me there every night. Sandringham like you would not believe it to be, the most beautiful home imaginable. My favourite of all our homes. I was Elizabeth Scales, I remember vividly being torn up by the cancer which would take me from him sooner than I wanted. Ours was a love match. It still is.
Help, how I have gone on! Someone stop Antonia taking over this blog!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Historybird to Antonia - I was surprised by your last blog – you appear to have your communicants talking through you - writing the blog themselves.
One point you have made previously is that the people of the period in question all lived it day by day, but as we try to puzzle out what was really going on, no one even then would have had the big picture as they probably knew less than we know now about what was happening. I think Richard III's is a story of a man damaged when young, brought up to conceal his true thoughts. Ambitious and ruthless, yes – no matter what his supporters say no one can dispute he was both of those things. But one gets the feeling that by the time he came to Bosworth he had lost heart and knew he'd made a terrible mistake, allowing his ambition and paranoia to blind him – which caused his bad dreams (of which one has read). As a superstitious man he would have assumed the double blow of the deaths of both wife and son to have been some kind of punishment. The rewards of being King would have been poor for him, I think. He'd trouced his enemies but at such enormous cost he must have wondered if it was worth it. For one thing he would have missed Hastings for his sound advice and policy capabilities. He may have later realised that Catesby's disloyalty to Hastings was due to his own desire to gain Hastings's valuable roles in his own home turf. To some extent I blame Richard less than Buckingham (for encouraging him to behave as he did); Catesby – for betraying the man to whom he owed his success; and Howard of Norfolk – who appears likely to have been implicated in the deaths of the two little princes. He may even have acted without Richard knowing – but what could Richard do afterwards?
What I cannot imagine is Richard giving the order for those little boys to be killed. He may have wanted them out of the way but I doubt if even in his blackest moments, he would have actually approved the order to kill them. I suspect he allowed it to happen rather than ordered it, though either way it's still a damning indictment. If they were bastards, after all, why the need to kill them?

But…we also don't know what exchanges took place privately between Edward V and his uncle Richard. It's quite possible that the angry young boy exploded about the arrest and death sentences of his half-brother and uncle Rivers – and told Richard that he would make him pay once he came of age. One can only guess.

What I wish sometimes is that we could see a film of London as it was in those days – take a trip up-river and see it all through the eyes of someone of that century – avoiding the awful sight of the heads on Tower Bridge of course! The smells, and scents and the impressions of the world at that time. The clothes (an awkward nightmare for the ladies and not having clean things would have been terrible!). No sanitary provisions, no loo roll, no running water in the house – or central heating. Every time you changed home to get your other one "sweetened" you'd have to pack up everything – lock, stock and barrel, even the windows – and take them along with you, in carts and crates, for journeys lasting days in the freezing winters, though rain-sodden potholed roads... The weird meals with dozens of courses – heavily overloaded with meat – drinking ale for breakfast because the water was too dirty… no baths for months on end…Urrr! No doctors or dentists worthy of the name! No antibiotics or skilled surgeons... One would like to know how they regarded their lives of daily discomfort and imminent prospect of death – by either the headsman or the plague.

ferrymansdaughter said...

I am still ploughing my way through the comments but this really caught my eye

"This was after Alison Weir had written to the newspapers saying she had found a new source which proved that Richard had murdered the Princes. The new source was Sir Thomas More."

So does this mean that a so called eminent writer of books about the Wars of the Roses didn't even know of More's book about Richard?