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Doncaster Heritage Festival 2018, and Philippa Langley….

Heritage Festival 2018

Philippa Langley will be giving a talk at this year’s Doncaster Heritage Festival.

“…Writer and producer Philippa Langley MBE will be delivering this year’s David Hey Memorial Lecture – The Looking for Richard Project. In 2012, Philippa led the successful search to locate the grave of King Richard III through the Looking For Richard Project. Philippa conceived, facilitated and commissioned this unique historical investigation.

“You can hear her incredible story at Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery on Sunday 29th April. Tickets £8…”

 

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Cutting Crime: The Role of Forensic Engineering Science – including the undoubted crimes perpetrated upon Richard III….

University of Lincoln

This talk on April 17, at the University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool Campus, Isaac Newton Building, Lincoln, might be interesting. Among other things, the study of Richard’s remains will be discussed. I quote:

“…the talk will discuss how this adds to our insights into stabbing attacks. Finally, the audience will see how the modern forensic techniques contributed to the investigation of the remains of Richard III…”

 

Interview with Alex Marchant, Ricardian Children’s Author

Cover of 'The Order of the White Boar'

There is a new Ricardian children’s author on the block: Alex Marchant. Alex kindly agreed to an interview:

Q: You’ve recently published your first novel about King Richard III for children, The Order of the White Boar. What made you write about King Richard?

Alex: I first became interested in King Richard in my teens when my eye was caught by an intriguing title among the books in the school library: ‘The Daughter of Time’ by Josephine Tey. By the time I finished reading the book I was a confirmed Ricardian (even if I didn’t know the term then). I think what piqued my interest was a sense of the enormous injustice this man had suffered after his death – along with the tragedy of that death and of the preceding two or three years of his life. I joined the Richard III Society (I think as one of its youngest members), read as much as I could about the man and visited major sites associated with his life – and death.

I’d always been interested in history and always written stories, including attempts at book-length works throughout my teens. But then life got in the way as it often does – university, career, marriage, kids, house renovation – and it was only a few years ago I returned to writing. And soon after that came the announcement of the dig to find his grave in Leicester, then the momentous press conference that revealed that King Richard had, ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, been found.

Q: It was quite a day, wasn’t it? What was your reaction to the announcement?

A: My first thought – after surprise and delight – was ‘This is a unique opportunity to restore Richard’s reputation. What can I do to help?’ I knew I wasn’t a campaigner – the sort of person who writes letters to important people or stands up to speak in support of a cause. But perhaps I could write a children’s book that could communicate Richard’s story to a new generation. At that point I was editing my previous book, ‘Time out of Time’, in hopes of publication and was also partway through a second book for children, so I was uncertain whether I should move on to something completely new. But when a little research showed that there really weren’t any books aimed at my target age group (10–13) showing Richard in a positive light, I realized this was a gap in the market that needed to be filled.

Q: Were you surprised about that?

A: To be honest, yes. I found that there were several such books for adults (a number that has increased over the past five years), but even an approach to the Richard III Society librarian only turned up a couple for children – neither of which was a straightforward story of his life. One was a timeslip book, ‘A Knight on Horseback’ by American author Ann Rabinowitz, which follows the adventures of a twentieth-century boy who gradually learns the true story of Richard III after his initial exposure to the Tudor myths and Shakespeare’s version. The other, ‘A Sprig of Broom’ by Barbara Willard, is a beautifully written evocation of early Tudor England – but Richard appears only in the prologue, which takes place on the eve of Bosworth. The rest tells the story of Richard of Eastwell – at least the interpretation that has him as Richard’s illegitimate son. And by the end, the main character decides he doesn’t want to be known to be related to King Richard….

With the nationwide excitement at the finding of Richard’s grave, I thought there were bound to be other books for children on the way – as has proved to be the case – but by that time my lead character Matthew was hammering on my door, demanding that I write his story, and it was very hard to say no. So I put my half-finished Scottish book on the back burner for the time being, and set to work researching Richard and his times while I finished editing ‘Time out of Time’.

Q: You say none of the previous books for children was a straightforward telling of Richard’s life. In ‘The Order of the White Boar’, you didn’t choose to take that course either, preferring to concentrate on his final years and viewing them through the eyes of a fictitious character. Why was that?

A: I suppose partly because Richard’s life has been brilliantly told already through adult fiction, in books that have been very influential in terms of changing people’s minds about him: Penman’s ‘Sunne in Splendour’ and Hawley Jarman’s ‘We Speak no Treason’ for example are often mentioned as having shown people the way beyond Shakespeare’s monstrous depiction towards the real history of the man. And maybe because I thought those books that were likely to be in the publishing pipeline after the rediscovery of his grave would offer the straightforward story – as has been the case with a couple that have appeared. Perhaps most importantly, I felt that a young narrator who was an outsider – as Matthew is, being just a merchant’s son, rather than a noble – would be able to offer a different perspective – a view of Richard that hasn’t been seen before.

Q: In one of the early reviews of the book, the writer says that, rather than portraying Richard as a warrior or romantic hero, as in most adult novels, ‘The Order’ shows him ‘as a master, as a father, as a family man and as a decent, kind-hearted adult . . . He feels much more human than he usually does in historical fiction.’ Is that what you were aiming for?

A: Very much so – and I’m delighted if readers think I have managed it! My intention was always to show ‘the real Richard’ – the man who served his brother in administering the north of England, did the job well, treated the people fairly, was a cultured family man as well as a soldier. And who, in the spring of 1483, when faced with the tragedy of his brother’s early death, had to deal with a difficult and dangerous situation. My aim was to use the contemporary sources as much as possible to lay the foundations for exploring his motivations and reactions when navigating the potentially explosive events of that time. The traditional histories seem to me to struggle with explaining how this loyal, steadfast brother changed into the murdering, usurping tyrant so beloved of the Tudor-created legend. I hope that seeing Richard’s character and behaviour through a child’s eyes in both domestic and more public situations allows the reader to work out for themselves who he was and what his actions mean.

Q: You mention the death of King Edward IV in the spring of 1483. While hoping not to give too much away about ‘The Order of the White Boar’, it does in fact end at that time. Do you think readers will be disappointed at that?

A: I hope not, although I can understand it if they are. But I hope they’ll take on board the note at the end, saying that a second book of Matthew and his friends’ adventures is coming soon. ‘The Order’ doesn’t end on a cliffhanger as such, rather at the start of a journey – one which represents the closing of one chapter in Matthew’s life and the opening of another. And the same can also be said for Richard – in some ways, the death of his brother was the start of a very different part of his life. The next book, ‘The King’s Man’, tells the story of the next two years or so – from a few days after the end of ‘The Order’ through to the fateful days of August 1485.

A: You say the second book is ‘coming soon’. How soon, and how does it build on the foundations laid in ‘The Order’?

Q: If all goes to plan, ‘The King’s Man’ will be published in spring 2018 – so not too long to wait (although it may well seem ages to my younger readers!) It’s finished, but needs some final editing before production starts. As I say, it takes up the story again as Richard and Matthew travel south to meet with the new boy king, Edward V, and catapults them into the political intrigues and manoeuvrings on the road, in court and in the cities of London and Westminster. We meet again some of the characters (historical and fictional) encountered perhaps only briefly in the first book and see the effects and influences they have on the lives of both Richard and Matthew.

Of course readers, both adults and children, who have a knowledge of the history of the time will know where the story ultimately leads, and the challenges and heartbreaks along the way. ‘The King’s Man’ is overall a much darker book than ‘The Order’. But I hope it offers not only a flavour of the times, but also a worthwhile exploration of how and why events played out as they did.

Q: Where will you go next? Back to your half-finished Scottish book? Or, as many of us who write about him find, will you be drawn back to Richard?

A: I’m not sure Drew – the main character of the other book – will be pleased to hear this, but no, I’m not finished with Richard yet! (Poor Drew – I’d already abandoned him once before, to write ‘Time out of Time’…) I’ve already started preparing a third book in the ‘White Boar’ sequence that takes the characters (at least those who remain) beyond the events of August 1485. There are events that stretch years beyond that date which, to me, are still part of Richard’s story. In some ways, of course, that story continues to today – to the many people around the world who are still fighting for a reassessment of his life and reputation in light of what we now know about him and the lies that were told in the decades and centuries after his death. But the story I’ll tell will be that of people who knew him personally and sought to defend him in living memory.

Q: It sounds like we’ll have to wait a little more than six months for the third book in the series.

A: I’m afraid so. My track record isn’t great on finishing books quickly! My first took three and a half years, my second two and a half – although I suppose you could say it was just over a year as I wrote both ‘White Boar’ books one after the other in that time, treating them as a single story at first. But I plan to self-publish ‘Time out of Time’ while working on the third ‘White Boar’ book. I hope that readers who enjoy ‘The Order of the White Boar’ will similarly enjoy it, although it’s rather a different beast. It’s a mixture of timeslip and ghost story, drawing on my former career as an archaeologist. The Scottish book is also a sort of ghost story based around an archaeological dig – that was one of the main reasons I decided to write straightforward historical fiction when it came to Richard’s story. Although at first I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to immerse myself properly in the fifteenth century in order to write from the point of view of a fifteenth-century boy!

Q: But you did manage it?

A: Perhaps too well. For months after I finished the book I missed my characters enormously, they’d accompanied me for so long on my dog walks over the local moors! I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with them – well, some of them anyway – over the next few months as I make a start on the new project.

Q: I very much look forward to reading it when it’s finished – and of course ‘The King’s Man’ in the new year. Thank you, Alex, for speaking to us today.

A: Thank you.

 

 

More news from Reading

When I watched this video, talking about the precise location of the high altar of the Abbey with respect to Henry I, the parallels with the search for Richard III in Leicester’s Greyfriars are almost exact:

Neither should we forget Henry I’s Queen, Edith (Matilda) of Scotland, who reintroduced Anglo-Saxon royal (Wessex) blood to the English monarchy.

Richard visits Ireland….

Galway - Richard

Richard’s gone to Galway! Lucky man. No wonder he’s smiling. Well, it’s The ‘Richard III Discovered’ Exhibition that’s gone, but he’s there in spirit, I’m sure.

http://www.advertiser.ie/galway/article/96655/hail-the-king-science-and-technology-festival-brings-richard-iii-saga-to-galway

http://www.advertiser.ie/galway/article/96630/long-dead-english-king-to-finally-make-royal-visit-to-galway

 

A possible film about the “ordinary woman” who found Richard III under a car park…?

alan_partridge_2

Well, I’m not at all sure about this—one seldom dares to be sure about anything where Alan Partridge is concerned. It may be a joke. If you look at the penultimate paragraph of this article, then you see why I’m hesitant. Not sure if it’s actually about Philippa Langley, but one thing you cannot say about her is that she’s ordinary!

Addendum: This film seems definite. You will learn more here.

The Bard’s Richard or the real man….?

 

 

Richard-Tower-Facebook

Here is a very interesting piece of comparison between Shakespeare’s Richard and the real man.

http://www.palgrave-journals.com/articles/palcomms201646

 

Revealing Richard III

http://revealingrichardiii.com/index.html

Now we know what those behind the Looking for Richard project are up to next*, from Lady Eleanor and the “Princes” to the year 1483 itself. There is certain to be some DNA involved.

* apart from Henry I and Reading Abbey, of course

“Looking for a Straight Spine”

http://www.annettecarson.co.uk/357052370

Ghosts of the Roses….

Ghosts of Bosworth against a Modern Sky

There is an article by Kelly Fitzgerald at http://sunnesandroses.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/the-sunne-in-splendour-part-2.html, concerning the three suns that were seen in the sky before the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1460. It was a natural phenomenon—a parhelion—but was clearly not recognised as such by those who saw it. They believed it was an omen.

So, what about supernatural phenomena connected to the Wars of the Roses, as distinct from natural? Things that would not have been seen and experienced at the time, but which are “seen” now? The thought intrigued me, so I have had a little (very little, so do not imagine me poring over it all for hours on end) poke around with Google, to see what paranormal things I could find. The Ghosts of the Roses, I thought.

My discoveries are not in chronological order, just jotted as I found them, which is why the very last battle of the Roses happens to come first.  Stoke Field was fought in 1487, and ended with the rout of the Yorkist army of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, and Francis Lovell. Among his soldiers were many Irishmen, who were ferocious fighters but ill clad and ill equipped against a well-trained, fully armed foe. The battle took place by the River Trent in Nottinghamshire, and it seems the fleeing, naked ghosts of these unfortunate men are still seen on the banks of the river near the scene of the conflict.

The ghost of Margaret of Anjou is pretty busy. I have found her at Owlpen Manor and Bloody Meadow in Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, and Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. No doubt she makes appearances elsewhere too.

Also in Tewkesbury is the spectral funeral procession of the Lancastrian Prince of Wales, Edward of Westminster, who died at or just after the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. His cortege is seen leaving the abbey every year. So it is said. I have written of this in an earlier blog. https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/?s=just+where+might+Edward

Middleham Castle in Yorkshire is renowned as Richard III’s favourite home, and late in the 20th century three children heard the sounds of battle outside the castle, and saw a knight on horseback, who charged them. And terrified them too. 16th century music has also been heard in the castle, but distantly, and there are persistent rumours of buried treasure there. Richard’s treasure? Who knows?

In Prestbury, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, a messenger killed by a Lancastrian arrow is said to be seen, shining as he tries to fulfil his duty. One version of his story is that he was decapitated by a thin wire fixed at that height across his path. A nasty little trick.

St Albans in Hertfordshire was the scene of two battles in the Wars of the Roses, and, once a year, it is said the sounds of battle can still be heard. Towton has its ghosts too, although I am not sure who/what they are, just that they are.

The site of the Battle of Edgecote in 1469 is said to be haunted by the many Welshmen who lost their lives there. It is suggested they will rise again in fury if the government persists with the plan to have the new HS2 railway pass through the battlefield! A rather expensive way to find out if ghosts exist.

There is a suggestion that Philippa Langley’s strange feeling of being above Richard III’s grave in that car park in Leicester, was in fact caused by Richard’s ghost, communicating with her. Please note, I do not for a moment suggest Philippa herself claims this!

You would think that Bosworth itself would have many, many ghostly stories attached to it, but my cursory search has not turned them up. A friend of mine, Susan Kokomo Lamb, once visited the battlefield and saw ghostly men in armour at the edge of the woods on Ambion Hill. Quite a chilling experience, I imagine. She went on to write the experience into a fictional story that was really excellent.

Another story of Bosworth, not Susan’s, is of a headless man in armour who wanders a nearby town in search of his missing head. I am certain there are many more apparitions and sounds at the battle site, but those I’ve come across have mostly been fictional. If anyone out there knows of another “real” Bosworth wraith, please leave a comment below.

So, these are only initial findings, and to be honest, when it comes to ghosts, the Wars of the Roses are dwarfed by the proliferation of spooks from the period of the English Civil War. It’s astonishing how many there are for that period, indeed, it’s almost possible to think that they are in every town and square acre of the English countryside.  But clearly there is a very long list of ghostly Roses waiting to be found, and I know at least one book has been written about them in particular, although I only learned of it today, when searching for snippets to include in this blog.

Now I must return to the mystery of phenomena that can sometimes be seen in the sky, as happened at Mortimer’s Cross. A long time ago (but not 1815, I’m not that old!) I read that a ghostly re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo was seen in the skies above a Belgian town. What, I wondered, would it be like to see Bosworth in the skies over today’s Leicestershire? To watch Richard’s heroic last charge, and the despicable treachery that struck him down and handed his crown to the Tudor usurper? Observing such a thing would be a truly profound experience. And probably not one I could bear to see. I find it hard to read about Bosworth, let alone actually see it happening all over again.

The above illustration is how I imagine such a ghost re-enactment might look. Yes, the contrails have been intentionally left there, because the scene is imagined as happening today. The photograph is taken from one by Sarah-Jane Stanley Images, and the battling figures are from ‘The Battle of Bosworth’ by Philip James de Loutherbourg. Richard’s banner is one of many such photographs to be found all over the internet.

Postscript: Since writing this post I have remembered the Belgian city that was the site of the phantom Battle of Waterloo. It’s Verviers, where the news at the moment is all about anti-terrorism action. http://survincity.com/2010/02/ghostly-battle/

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