Rhoda Edwards, Author of Ricardian Books, Dies
The Ricardian author of “Some Touch of Pity” died on November 27th, 2018 at the age of 78. When researching this interesting woman, one finds only a solitary photograph of her which accompanied the book when it was published in 1976. The photo here was taken by Stephen Lark of the Murrey and Blue blog from a Richard III Society Bulletin. I could find no other photo on a search engine. She was an elusive figure.
Details of her life are few although The London Times cobbled together bits and pieces which tell us she led an extraordinary life of research and archaeology as well as writing one of the best novels about Richard the Third. Miss Edwards read History and English at Leicester University before she was employed in the Archives Department at the London Borough of Lambeth where she became an expert on Doulton Pottery (Royal Doulton China). In 1973, she published a 44-page monograph on it called “Lambeth Stoneware: The Woolley Collection, including Doultonware and Products” which can still be found on Amazon.com. She also worked on various archaeological digs including the famed discovery of Anne Mowbray in 1965. Another non-fiction work of hers is “The Itinerary of King Richard III, 1483-1485” which follows the hectic schedule of a constantly touring monarch. This important work is limited in edition and sells for a very high price online. An article on Richard’s original tomb appeared as early as 1975.
But to most Ricardians around the world, her first novel on Richard the Third (called “The Broken Wheel” when published in America in 1976) secured her fame. Told through the various people of his court, including his wife, we follow his brief years as king and experience all the hardship and trouble that accompanied his reign.
I read it when it was first published in America and have a distinct memory of enjoying it on my daily train commute into New York City. Yes, it does have aspects of a romance novel but it is at such a high level of the genre that it seems somewhat mean-spirited to label it as such. I still treasure the chapter called “Most Untrue Creature” which is told by Robert Bolman, Richard’s actual clerk in the Privy Seal Office. This is where Miss Edwards shows off her her humor and, more importantly, her knowledge of the inner-workings of the medieval government of England. In this chapter, we learn why the workaholic king was sometimes labeled by his exhausted and cranky staff as “Old Dick.” As with the other chapters, it is filled with the kind of piquant details that are so necessary to historical fiction if it is to be believable and engrossing. A kind of prequel followed in 1978 called “Fortune’s Wheel” which takes place before Richard Plantagenet became king. While I don’t think it is quite as gripping as “Some Touch of Pity,” it certainly is well worth a read and is readily available on Amazon.
According to The Times, she was buried at Randalls Park, Leatherhead in Surrey. It would be a real boon for Miss Edward’s legacy if we were to see a reissue of her books that features excellent cover art work as well as a knowledgeable introduction by a Ricardian scholar and historian.