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Richard III and Robert Cecil (Part II)

In a previous post, we explored the theory that Shakespeare’s Richard III was actually based on the Elizabethan politician, Robert Cecil.

Picture of Robert Cecil

Here is another discussion of the subject, Richard III and Robert Cecil, with references to the hypothesis that Shakespeare was actually the 17th Earl of Oxford, a descendant of the previous Earls of Oxford who were such thorns in the side of the Yorkist kings and one of whom was a major factor in Richard’s defeat at Bosworth. If this is true, it is no wonder that ‘Shakespeare’ was happy to blacken Richard’s name.

There are a few misconceptions in the linked article, notably the assertion that Richard executed the 12th Earl and his oldest son; since Richard was only nine years of age on the date Oxford was executed (26th February 1462) this is obviously erroneous and it was, in fact, John Tiptoft who would have presided over Oxford’s execution, being Constable of England at that time (a position he occupied until 1469).

Such distortions of age and timing also occur in Shakespeare, of course, placing Richard at the first battle of St Alban’s, when he would only have been two and a half years old! In fact, he took part in neither of the St Alban’ s battles.

Also, the article states that the most recent attempt to refute the Shakespearean portrayal of Richard’s character was Josephine Tey’s ‘Daughter of Time’. Although this is probably the most famous such work there have, in fact, been countless more recent ones attempting the same thing, such as ‘The Sunne in Splendour’ by Sharon K Penman, ‘We Speak No Treason’ by Rosemary Hawley Jarman, ‘I, Richard Plantagenet’ by J P Reedman and my own ‘Richard Liveth Yet’.

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Ricardian Story in ‘Scary’ Anthology!

I wrote a short story a couple of years ago, one of the first ‘Ricardian’ works I had ever written. So, when a best-selling Amazon author, Dan Alatorre (whose blog I follow), announced he wanted to make an anthology of stories from a variety of authors, all on a ‘scary’ theme, I remembered this story and thought it might fit the bill.  It was pretty rough, so I updated and edited it a bit, improving it a lot, having learned so much in the time since I first wrote it.  And, to my delight, Dan accepted it.

The anthology, called ‘The Box Under the Bed’, is a compilation of over twenty short stories from at least twenty authors from various countries and the stories are from various genres – a great pick ‘n’ mix with something for everyone!  It is to be released on October 1st (just in time for Richard’s birthday – and strangely Dan confirmed it would be included on the 22nd August, the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth, where part of the story is set).

However, you can pre-order the Kindle version now and it’s only 99p (or $1.28 in the US). AND if you pre-order it, you will get a bonus story from Dan Alatorre himself! Only for those who pre-order! So, don’t delay, click on the link below and enjoy!

Cover of 'The Box Under the Bed' anthology

Click here to pre-order in the UK and here for the US.

Radio Interview Regarding the Leicester Cathedral Controversy

Having heard that Leicester Cathedral were staging a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III inside the Cathedral itself, feet from where Richard is buried, I felt I had to do something to protest. It is not that I object to Leicester putting plays on in the Cathedral, although some do. Nor do I hate Shakespeare’s Richard III per se – it is true that he would not be anywhere near as famous without Shakespeare, although perhaps many would feel it preferable if he were less well known and less vilified. And Shakespeare was, of course, a genius, a fact which serves Richard ill because the plays, including the Bard’s Richard III, will never stop being performed. We must try to ensure that any future production of it will incorporate a disclaimer stating that it is fiction and giving a summary of the true Richard.

But it is quite a different matter to stage the play beside Richard’s tomb. So, I started a petition and was lucky enough to be interviewed about it on my local radio station, BBC Essex. Here is the transcript of the interview (there is a link at the bottom to BBC iPlayer, but it will be there only until the end of May 2017):

Dave Monk: Now you may be familiar with the incredible story about Richard III. Now the king was killed following his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth, fought in 1485. His remains were found recently, unearthed beneath a Leicester car park. Well, they now reside in Leicester Cathedral, but a bit of a row has broken out because a production company wants to stage a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III right there. And funnily enough (he said, name-dropping) I was with the Duke of Gloucester this afternoon, who’s all part of that, of course, because he was Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Critics say it is disrespectful and insensitive as the play portrays Richard in a bad light. Oh, yes it does. Well, Essex author, Joanne Larner, from Rayleigh, is behind the petition calling for the performance to be stopped. And I’d like to know why that is. Joanne, great to have you on. Why have you set this up?

Joanne: Well, it’s just, I thought it was such, a…I was so disappointed. I’ve visited the Cathedral several times and I even was there for the reinterment and I thought they did it really well and they promised to treat Richard’s remains with dignity and honour and I’m so disappointed and saddened and completely disgusted now that they’re doing this because it is almost as if they are dancing on his grave, in a way and I don’t think they are keeping their side of the bargain of treating his remains with dignity and honour.

Dave: Because, let’s face it, Rich – sorry, Shakespeare’s Richard III, Richard was the bad guy. He was a scheming, nasty hunchback, a nasty king, and that’s how he was portrayed and we have no idea whether that’s the truth or not, have we?

Joanne: Oh yes we do!

Dave: Oh go on, then.

Joanne: Well. we think that that portrayal was partly Tudor propaganda – Shakespeare was writing in Tudor times and Tudor had to defame Richard’s character to justify his own taking of the throne. And also, I think as well that Shakespeare may have been doing a satire on a politician of his day, Robert Cecil, who was a hunchback and who was very unpopular. And so, it might not even necessarily be solely about Richard. But, in any case it’s fiction, it isn’t history and the real Richard actually did a lot of good things. I could give you some examples if you’d like to know some of the good things he did.

Dave: Yeah, I’d really like to know, yes.

Joanne: Well, he tried to stamp out corruption of the juries. He was only king for two years, as you know, and he only had one Parliament, but he did all this. He brought in a primitive form of legal aid for the poor, he encouraged reading and learning, he exempted books from taxes – that’s not the action of a tyrant, they usually discourage learning and reading. He had his laws made in English for the first time, so that more people could understand them, he was known before his brother died to be just, loyal and courageous. He was the last English king to die in battle, defending his country and his crown.

Dave: Well, let’s face it we’ve got to always remember, that it’s the victors who write the history books.

Joanne: Exactly, yes.

Dave: You’ve always got to keep that in mind, haven’t you? Why your fascination?

Joanne: Well, I only got interested, actually, after they found him and I saw the documentary and it absolutely fascinated me. And especially the lady, Philippa Langley, who was so passionate about him and I thought, well, how can someone be so passionate about someone who’s been dead five hundred years? And it made me research him and find out about him and I was so inspired that I’ve actually written three novels about him now.

Dave: Pretty good going, isn’t it, really?

Joanne: Mmm, and I’m just as passionate as she is. So – there’s a lot of us   and we all feel really strongly about him.

Dave: So, if it is, I mean you say it’s fiction, if Shakespeare’s Richard III is just fiction, why the big deal? Why the big problem?

Joanne: Well, simply because it portrays him in such a bad light. He’s portrayed as an evil hunchbacked tyrant who murdered his way to the throne and to perform that play literally feet from his grave, I think is just terrible.

Dave: How’s the petition going so far? Have you got much support?

Joanne: Well, it’s only been on for a few days, we’ve already over seven hundred, but obviously the more, the merrier, so anybody else who’d like to sign, I’d really welcome it. You know, it you feel as outraged as I do. I mean, I know Leicester Cathedral do have to make money and they’ve put on other plays there which some people don’t like but I understand that, you know, that they can’t, they don’t charge an entrance fee to the Cathedral, and they’ve put on Richard III before, so they say, but that was before Richard was there. And it’s this juxtaposition of that play and that place that’s the problem.

Dave: Oh alright, Joanne, thank you very much. Joanne Larner, Essex author, from Rayleigh and she is behind that petition to get that performance of Richard III stopped.

 

Since the interview, we have reached well over a thousand signatures – please add yours by clicking the picture of his tomb below.

Photo of Richard III's tomb

Clcik here for link to hear interview – starts near the end of the programme, about 2:45-46

Combining Fiction and Song

We all love The Legendary Ten Seconds’ Ricardian songs, which are quite unique and very catchy. And many of you have read my own fictional adventures of Richard through time in the Richard Liveth Yet books. Well, Ian of The Legendary Ten Seconds has kindly made a video for the third part of my trilogy: Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change, which combine pictures of some of the locations used in the book and one of his new songs, Good King Richard, from his new album, ‘Sunnes and Roses’

Click here to see the video!

 

Cover of Hearts Never Change

 

Should Richard come to ours, or we go to his…?

Time-Travel - Richard 

No, I’m not about to discuss whose house to go to for a friendly drink, but about whose period in history to choose for a time-travel novel. Richard’s? Or ours? So there he is in the above picture, with Old London Bridge behind him, and the modern London Bridge in front. Is he leaving his own time to come to ours? Or taking one look at our time before staying in the 15th century?

The advent of time-travel stories about Richard has been discussed recently on Facebook, and the subject has stirred me into wanting to write about it. I am engrossed by how different people regard the enigma of Ricardian time travel. Whether to bring Richard to modern times, go back to his times, take a step sideways into a more magical world, or for no one to ever go anywhere at all. Those are the questions.

My favourite time-travel book is ‘The House on the Strand’ by Daphne du Maurier, in which her modern twentieth-century hero goes back to medieval Cornwall by means of an LSD-type new super-drug, but he is an invisible witness to everything. That, I think, is my ideal of time travel (not the LSD element!) but I’d like a convenient extra ability—to become tangible, visible and audible if I feel like it! Well, I always want to have my cake and eat it. So, if I were writing a time travel novel about Richard, I’d be going back to him, to ‘join in’ if I felt the need. Otherwise I’d remain conveniently (and safely) out of sight. But I could go anywhere I wanted. Anywhere. I’d love to do that.

But if others were going to write a time travel, have written one, or would simply like to read one, what form would it take? Forwards? Backwards? Something else? My preference you already know, so I’ll continue at this point with those who are inspired by the thought of Richard coming from his time to ours.

Here is what the author Joanne Larner has to say on the matter of her own time-travel book:-

‘When I wrote my first (and so far only) novel, ‘Richard Liveth Yet’, I decided to make it a time travel one because I was tired of reading about Richard III dying at Bosworth.  I started to think “What if he’d won, he so nearly did…?” and then I read Joan Szechtman’s novels about Richard in the 21st century and loved the idea.  She made it that there was no disruption of history by substituting a dead ‘body double’ for Richard, but I had a different plan.  Everyone who asserts that “you can’t change history” misses the point – in a work of fiction you can do whatever you like – that’s the beauty of it, surely!  I hadn’t decided whether I would have history being changed to a great extent, to a small extent or even whether changing things would ultimately end up with an identical modern day (if, for example everything was fated to some extent and history just took an alternative route to the same main conclusions).  I finally decided that I WOULD change history, but I didn’t feel the need to make it drastically different – so for example we still have Queen Elizabeth II, but she is of the House of Plantagenet. I wanted to play with some ideas in a lighthearted way, and so had Richard finding out about different modern ideas and events and using them when he went back (examples being taxing alcohol, inventing forks, composing Greensleeves and financing Christopher Columbus).  Don’t forget, time travel is impossible at this moment so writing about it has no actual limits except those of our imaginations!’

Very true. The whole point about fiction is just that. It’s fiction! So why do we impose rules upon it? There’s no need. Time is our oyster, and we can consume it however we darned well please.

Joanne’s intention is to write a sequel, which will be the reverse of the first, with the heroine going back to Richard’s time. So she is an author who is prepared to take on both aspects. A talented lady.

Another excellent writer who has whisked Richard forwards to the present day is Joan Szechtman. This is what she has to say:

  “Ever since I read, and reread A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain when I was but a girl of ten, I’ve loved time travel fiction, for many reasons, not the least of which is because one can examine culture and technology with alien eyes……One point of fascination for me is the mechanism the author uses to get the time traveler from his or her now to the past or the future……Authors use a variety of literary devices to get their character from one time to another. Many use natural objects or phenomena such as the “standing stones” in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Other authors such as H.G. Wells and Michael Crichton have “invented” devices that would enable time travel. Although I fall into the latter category in that I created a device that I call a Quantum Displacement Engine, I don’t go into any great detail as to how it might work. I am aware that there are some current theories that involve quantum mechanics that might point to how time travel might be accomplished, but this aspect is at its most nascent phase. I used time travel to enable the story that I wanted to tell……

Another consideration of time travel is that the Earth, our Solar System, the galaxy, and our universe are themselves all traveling through space at incredibly high speeds. So for anyone to go into the past to a specific point on this planet, would require knowing where the Earth was in space at that time. I haven’t read any time travel novels that even hint this might need to be solved. In addition, I haven’t read any that compensate for the laws of conservation of mass and energy. I have tried to do this in my novel, and have used the laws of conservation as a plot point……Even though my inner-geek not only made me consider the scientific considerations and the improbabilities of time travel, I do agree that novels that don’t try to cover the science, or even give it a nod, are worth reading. It is up to the skill of the author to convince the reader to suspend disbelief, regardless of what mechanism the writer chooses to use……

In This Time, my first novel about Richard III in the twenty-first century, I was interested in the attitudinal and cultural differences between fifteenth-century England and twenty-first century……Time travel gave me an opportunity to not only look at these differences between now and the past, but by my bringing Richard into this time, I was able to see the world today through my main character’s eyes. I hope the people who have read or are going to read my book will experience the same.” Joan’s blog post is Time Travel in Fiction.

So, fiction and time travel must be more precise and scientifically correct to be feasible for Joan, with, among other things, hints of the theory of quantum physics and matters of mass and energy. So the way the time travel takes place is as fascinating to her as what follows, when Richard is actually here in the future.

Someone else wondered if it might be intriguing to bring Richard halfway between his time and ours, and then meet him on neutral territory, so that you/your character are both in a new century, both faced with having to learn and keep your wits about you. Together, you face the same steep learning curve. Imagine it, you and King Richard III trying to evade Roundheads one day, and Cavaliers the next. Or some such scenario.

Janet Reedman, another author of time travel—and a writer of fantasy—introduces an Otherworldly aspect to Richard’s story. She has this to say: 

‘It [time travel] seems to be a little bit controversial. I have certainly seen a number of comments in reviews saying ‘stick to the history.’ However, as a fantasy writer, I don’t have problem with fantastic elements in Ricardian fiction, as long as it can truly ‘suspend disbelief’ and does not belittle the King. In Richard’s own time Mallory had written Morte D’Arthur which was essentially mythologising a possible dark age British war-lord and making him a ‘modern’ medieval English king, and this process had been going on since the earlier Middle Ages  when the Arthurian myths were first popularised by Geoffrey of Monmouth and others. In my own novella, Sacred King, Richard is initially in the ‘Otherworld’ after death rather than in modern times, but does come, for a time, to the 21st c, after he is found at Greyfriars and ‘given back his face’ and his identity.

A fascinating alternative, I think. What is it about Richard that inspires us all with so many different and exciting fictional possibilities? He is unique. A perfect tragic hero. And we love him for it.

Rachel Walker had yet another thought.

I think having him in the future would be more enjoyable in some ways, because he would be forced to believe you, and at the same time you would not need to worry about history. Saying that, if you did travel back then if history is set I would be worried about being the actual cause of something in regards to my actions.”

Now there’s a situation to ponder. To go back and find that we actually prompt some (perhaps awful) momentous event. Not changing the course of history, but setting in motion what is known to have happened. Perhaps we tried desperately to save Richard at Bosworth, but only succeeded in triggering Sir William Stanley’s last minute intervention, and thus Richard’s death? Not a weight with which to be burdened, I think. It would be devastating to return to the present knowing you’d been the final catalyst! 

But not everyone likes even the thought of fictional time travel, as someone who wants to be known only as Iris has written to me:- 

However fanciful to think of a second chance for everybody, including our hero, I personally shrink from time-stories in general and particularly in the case of Richard because: (1) It’s the kind of wishful thinking Charles Ross accused Ricardians of when discussing real history, indulging in this sort of fantasies does not help our category. (2) As a Roman Catholic I believe our time on earth is just a passage in a longer journey and I prefer to think Richard now rests in peace and is in heaven with his wife and children.”

So, for Iris, no time travel at all involving Richard. Not even going back to his time without changing a thing, but simply observing his story unfold. Iris wants nothing at all of this nature. Perhaps she chooses not to read general Ricardian fiction either. After all, to take it to a logical conclusion, putting any thoughts or words into Richard’s mouth is wishful thinking. Fantasising. Because what he actually thought and said in any given situation is simply not known. So, even writing that he shouted “Charge!” at Bosworth would be conjecture. To me, all this is no different from time travel. It’s all invention. Guesswork. Fiction.

To use the words of Brian Wainwright (a master of words): Here’s an arcane thought for you. Is not all historical fiction a sort of time travel? Albeit, in the reader’s mind only?”  Yes, yes, Brian. That’s exactly it. Reading a novel fixed in some past time, whether the late fifteenth century or not, is an escape for us, as is science fiction about the future, or even a story set in a distant but exotic part of our present world. It’s simply escapism. Time travel of the mind.

The actual ability to transport ourselves back and forth always eludes us. Well, it does as things are at present, but perhaps a version of H.G. Wells’ time machine will one day be invented. Or something like it. “Beam me back, Scottie!” If so, how many of us will rush to book a ‘journey’. And whichever way we wish to go, full steam ahead or astern, being Ricardians, we will all want to see Richard. See him, meet him, hear him, maybe kneel before him and kiss his hand? Just imagine that. ‘Imagine’ being the key word.

King Richard III is our abiding interest, and I see nothing wrong with wishing. All we lack is that Pumpkin Coach and a convenient Fairy Godmother to make the wishes come true. So we read books that at least take our imagination to him, in whichever direction the author chooses —forward, backward, halfway or sideways. Or, of course, we don’t buy a ticket, or a book, and thus stay exactly where we are—which I don’t fancy at all.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s back to Richard I go . . .

(The above are mere samples of people’s views on time travel, and I have no doubt there are a lot more that have not been touched upon.)

Details of time travel books by the authors mentioned above, in order of ‘appearance’:-

Joanne Larner - 1

Richard Liveth Yet: A Historical Novel Set in the Present Day

by Joanne Larner

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00XBBDMDW?*Version*=1

Author’s Facebook page for the book:

https://www.facebook.com/RichardLivethYet

Janet Reedman - 2

Sacred King: Richard III, Sinner, Sufferer, Scapegoat, Sacrifice

by J.P. Reedman.

Available on Amazon Kindle and in print.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sacred-King-Sufferer-Scapegoat-Sacrifice-ebook/dp/B00MFVN0UO/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

Joan Szechtman - 2

This Time by Joan Szechtman

2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist for General Fiction/Novel

ISBN-13: 978-0982449301

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/3935

Joan Szechtman - 1

Loyalty Binds Me by Joan Szechtman

Recommended by Midwest Book Reviews, ForeWord 2011 Book of the Year Finalist

ISBN-13: 978-1935188254

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/61786

Both of Joan’s e-books are available on iTunes, Kobo, Sony, etc.

 

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