Richard’s childhood frequently gets some coverage in novels of his life, but THE ROAD FROM FOTHERINGHAY is the only novel, to my knowledge, that is ONLY about Richard’s youngest years, set against the wider backdrop of The Wars of the Roses. It is also one of only two in which the story is told from young Richard’s first person perspective. THE ROAD FROM FOTHERINGHAY is a prequel to the well-received I, RICHARD PLANTAGENET series but can be read purely independently.
The novel begins with Richard’s earliest days at Fotheringhay and the death of his youngest sister, Ursula, the first of many losses in his life. Then there is the move west to Ludlow and the Marches, which here is described as happening earlier than in the normal sequence of events we are used to reading. The author explains why in the notes; looking at the isotopic analysis of Richard’s teeth it shows, after a more ‘eastern Midlands’ signature very early in life, that this is followed by a more western signature. For such chemical banding to be determined, he must have been in a westerly region for longer than a few weeks; if not actually at Ludlow with his oldest brothers Edward and Edmund, then perhaps at another of the Mortimer castles. (Usk, for instance, has an unusual legend that he was born there…)
The sack of Ludlow follows and Richard’s first vision of the horrors brought by war–and imprisonment in the stronghold of the Duke of Buckingham, Humphrey Stafford, and his wife Anne–who is the sister of Richard’s mother, Cecily Neville. It is a fairly soft imprisonment for the youngest York children, Richard, George and Margaret, which comes to an end when the Battle of Northampton is fought and Buckingham killed. Richard goes with his family to London where they are eventually reunited with first Edward, flush with the victory at Northampton, then the Duke of York himself, returned from brief exile in Ireland. Things look brighter for the future, with Richard’s father installed as King Henry’s heir…but then the Duke heads into the troubled North and is slain outside Sandal Castle, along with Richard brother Edmund, age just seventeen.
Duchess Cecily hastily sends Richard and George to Burgundy for their own protection. It is a gamble; the Duke of Burgundy does not want to seem to be favouring the Yorkists in any way. He grudgingly accepts the boys but not at his court; they are shoved into a backwater instead, possibly Castle Duurstede, near Utrecht, which was undergoing renovation at the time.
But not for long. Word comes of the battles of Mortimer’s Cross and Towton. Edward IV is now King, Duke Phillip of Burgundy holds a huge feast with the two youngsters attending as esteemed princes, and Richard and George finally return home, no longer penniless exiles but brothers of a King who are soon to be made Royal Dukes.
And when the Earl of Warwick takes Richard into his household at Middleham, the young boy at last begin to find a sense of his place in the world.
But the Wheel of Dame Fortune is forever spinning…
I RICHARD PLANTAGENET THE PREQUEL PART 1:
Kindle and print editions: THE ROAD FROM FOTHERINGHAY
(PART 2, AVOUS ME LIE, due out later in the year)
I, RICHARD PLANTAGENET SERIES: I, RICHARD BOOK SERIES