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A Biased Review of a Biased Book

Picture of an angry woman by Vera Kratochvil

I have just seen a review of Chris Skidmore’s biography of Richard III which has got me rather incensed. Now, I have to admit first of all that I haven’t read the book in question, because I have heard from several reliable sources that it is biased against Richard, despite claiming to be neutral, so I don’t want to a) waste my money or b) give custom to an anti-Ricardian. I did hear him speak at the 2017 AGM of the Richard III Society and wasn’t impressed at all. I’m surprised he was asked to speak, frankly.

Anyway, I am commenting on the review rather than the book itself. You may be able to see it here: Wall Street Journal link although you may be asked to subscribe. If you can’t see it, here is my comment where I have replied to someone who said it was a ‘great review’. I wrote all this, and then found there was a word limit so I had to edit it, but this is what I wanted to say, quoting the points I am replying to:

Not so great actually: –
1. ‘…Princes in the Tower, who had a better claim to the throne than he did’ – this is wrong – they were legally declared illegitimate by the Three Estates and confirmed as such by Parliament.
2. ‘since the king consistently went wildly beyond the norms of even what was considered politically acceptable at the time’ – he did everything legally at the time – it might not seem ethical to us but he did everything by the book of the age. His ‘coup’ was almost bloodless.
3. ‘Richard was charged with protecting the young Edward V’ – no he wasn’t – Protector of the Realm was his title, not Protector of the princes. It was the equivalent to Head of Homeland Security – it was not the same as regent either – the country would have been ruled by the Council with him as a member. He was there to put down rebellions from within and without the realm (which he did wrt the Woodvilles).
4. ‘he tried to argue that Edward V (who was never officially crowned) was illegitimate through his father’s supposed bigamy’ – he succeeded! The ‘princes’ were legally declared illegitimate and he was the next in line.
5. ‘Within a couple of months, he had sent Edward and his brother Richard (age 10) to the Tower’ – the Tower was the traditional place for the next king to reside before his coronation. It was also a place of safety.
6. ‘Does it matter that we don’t know the method of the princes’ murder, considering that their corpses were never found?’ – yes it matters because there is no evidence they were killed at all, by anyone.
7.  ‘Richard worried that if he did faithfully undertake the role of Protector, he would be punished for the persecution of Queen Elizabeth’s Woodville relatives’ – well, unless Mr Skidmore is a time-travelling mind-reader, nobody knows what Richard thought or worried about.
8. ‘The coup itself was flawlessly executed, with soldiers brought down from York, Edward V’s coronation suddenly “postponed,” potential Woodville supporters eliminated, the young king moved to the Tower “for his own safety” and the nobility squared with threats and promises’ – if you read Annette Carson you will see that Richard acted completely properly wrt having Edward V crowned until the bigamy was revealed. He even had coins minted in Edward’s name – would he really have done this if he had planned to take the throne the minute his brother had died? He only had 300 soldiers with him when he met the royal party to escort the new king into London – it was only after a plot had occurred that he sent for more soldiers. He reacted to events rather than instigating them.
9. ‘Richard saw that he needed to undertake one more outrage to secure his throne, since no one seemed to accept the argument that the princes were illegitimate’ – nonsense – he was accepted as the anointed king and everyone believed the princes were illegitimate – even Elizabeth Woodville never claimed her marriage was legal – not even after Richard’s death.
10. ‘When it became clear that Richard had indeed killed the princes’ – Really? They disappeared and there were rumours here and there that they had been killed (not always saying it was at Richard’s hands), but there were also rumours they were still alive. The death rumours were suspiciously in areas where Bishop Morton/Margaret Beaufort had supporters or had themselves been.
11. ‘Elizabeth…entered into a secret alliance with the Tudor family’ – no evidence for this. She seemed to have kept her options open.
12. ‘this highly readable chronicle comprises vaulting ambition, familial betrayal, moral corruption, high politics, foul murder and a beautiful queen lusting for revenge. Shakespeare can hardly be blamed for a little exaggeration’ – sounds very dramatic – the truth would be much less saleable and salacious, wouldn’t it? I note the comment about the graphic detail of Richard’s death, which only serves to make me suspect that other events are equally exaggerated by Skidmore – horror and evil sells unfortunately.

 

 

 

Photo: Free public domain download by Vera Kratochvil at PublicDomainPictures.net

 

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Strange Times by Joan Szechtman

strange timesToday, we interview Joan Szechtman, an American writer who has just published her third time-travel novel about King Richard the Third.  Fans of Joan have read her books, THIS TIME, which was published in 2009 and LOYALTY BINDS ME which was published in 2011.  Her third Richard the Third novel, STRANGE TIMES, has just been published and is available on Amazon.

Joan, to begin with, what made you interested in Richard the Third?

In 2004 I read Sharon Kay Penman’s THE SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR. It turned my perception of Richard III from Shakespeare’s arch-villain I loved to hate to a sympathetic character I had to learn about. From Penman’s book I found RICHARD THE THIRD by Paul Murray Kendall.

Those are two great sources to use when researching Richard the Third.  Please tell us how you became involved with the Richard the Third Society? I believe you hold several key posts in the American branch.

As I continued my research, I realized I needed to find resources beyond my local library and found the UK and American Branch websites of the Richard III Society. In addition to joining the American Branch, I signed on to both branches email lists so that I could ask questions of other members who were far more knowledgeable than me.

At the time I joined the American Branch, the New England Chapter had just formed and they contacted me to see if I would be interested in participating. So, I joined them as well. A couple of years after joining the New England Chapter the first moderator resigned her position and I became the new moderator for the next two years.

In 2011, the American Branch needed a new editor and I was pressed into service. I’m still the branch’s editor. We have two semi-annual publications: The Ricardian Register and The Ricardian Chronicle. The Register is more academic oriented and features scholarly papers and book reviews and is published both in print and digital editions every March and September. The Chronicle is basically a newsletter, focusing on member events, Ricardian travels, and member interviews. It’s published digitally every June and December.

Amazing resources for the American students of Richard!  Your new book “Strange Times” is now available on Amazon. Can you tell us something about it?

This is the third book of the trilogy about Richard III in the 21st century. While each book follows Richard today chronologically, the books are written so there are no cliff hangers and can be read in any order, though it’s best to read them sequentially. The book does contain a brief “previously on” for those who haven’t read the first two books or need a refresher.

What fascinates me about Strange Times is that it attempts to cover the fate of my favorite person in all of Richard the Third’s life:  Viscount Francis Lovell, Richard’s closest friend.

STRANGE TIMES takes place in both the 15th and 21st century and investigates what might have happened to Francis Lovell, Richard’s loyal supporter. Currently, there is no definitive historical record of Lovell after the Battle of Stoke where Lovell fought on the losing side against Henry VII. Richard is haunted by one possible outcome that has Lovell starving to death locked in an underground chamber in Minster Lovell. The book follows Richard using the time travel device to “see” what happened to Lovell after Stoke. Then everything goes pear-shaped.

The trilogy is available on most online book sellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble for both print and digital editions, and digitally on iTunes, Kobo, Sony, etc.

I know you have a science background which has influenced your books, so can you give us some background information? And why combine that interest with Richard the Third and the time travel books?

While I do have an engineering background, having spent most of that career working on computer science and data communication, I believe my main reason stems from my love of science fiction and time travel stories. When I began my research on the real Richard III, I dreamt of having dinner with him. Since that was impossible, I decided to write him into the 21st century. I based his character on my research.

One of the things that nagged at me was Richard III was quite young when he died—32. I felt there was more to his story than his short life revealed. I wanted to examine his character in a modern setting, without imposing our modern sensibilities on his 15th century actions. By bringing him into the future, I could challenge him in ways that I couldn’t in his own time.

A primary goal in all my books about Richard III is to get the known history right. For that which is not known, I felt free to speculate as long as it was plausible. For example, there is no extant documentation as to what happened to Edward IV’s eldest sons—Edward, putative heir to the throne until parliament declared him illegitimate due to Edward IV’s bigamous marriage, and Richard of York, next in line until declared illegitimate. I developed a plausible theory that Richard hid them in other countries, such as Spain, and they survived Richard.

In STRANGE TIMES, I have Richard learn what happened to his nephews after he had “died” and solve the mystery surrounding Lovell after the Battle of Stoke.

Good for you!  It is so frustrating to try to make people understand that there is no evidence that Richard the Third murdered his nephews.  People have this need to cling to myths.

STRANGE TIMES came to my attention because you received a “Discovering Diamonds” review. Please tell me something about “Discovering Diamonds” and the review.

Rather than paraphrase what Helen Hollick’s blog is about, I will let “Discovering Diamonds” speak for itself:

“Our aim is to showcase well-written historical fiction for readers to enjoy. We welcome indie-published writers because indie writers do not have the marketing backup of the big publishing houses, but if traditionally published novels come our way we’ll be happy to read and review them! Our intention is to have a good mix of good historical fiction to share with you, a reader.

“However, we are fussy: we only publish reviews of the best books, so we also take note of correct presentation and formatting as well as the quality of writing – and when space and time are limited we may only select a few books a month to review. …”

Getting reviews is important for any author, and can be a struggle for indie authors, of which I am one. I am therefore pleased to share the link to my “Discovering Diamonds” review:

Fantastic review.

Thanks for talking to the Murrey & Blue blog.

discovering diamonds review

 

The Legendary Ten Seconds again

They will be performing at Coleridge Church on 5th March and for the Devon and Cornwall Branch of the Richard III Society on 26th May. Read more here

The Madness of King Richard III

alan bennett

Playwright Alan Bennett

A while back, Sunday, December 3rd, 2017, to be exact,  I was looking through The New York Times Book Review section when I came across playwright Alan Bennett’s new book called “Keeping On Keeping On.”  It was a mildly interesting review of his diary (ODD SPOILER ALERT:  he once shared the same doctor as Sylvia Plath) until I got to this:  “He’s so upset at what the Richard III Society has done to an old church that he rips down their banner and ‘would have burned it, had I had a match.'”   Brow knitted, I wondered:  what have those wild-eyed, tweedy academic types been up to this time??

Well, a brief Google search provided a hint in yet another book review, this time from the London Review of Books.  In published excerpts from 2014, Bennett dismisses the significance of finding Richard the Third’s remains although admitting that the reconstructed head looks astonishingly like his famed portrait.  Comparing Ricardians to those who believe Edward DeVere was a genius while William Shakespeare nothing more than the dim-bulb son of a rural glove-maker, he goes on to say this:

“Just east of Leeds and not far from Towton and its bloody battlefield is Lead Church, a medieval cell of a chapel which possibly served as a refuge or a dressing station after the battle in 1461.  I have known the chapel since I was a boy when I used to go out there on my bike.  It stands in the middle of a field, the grass grazed by sheep right up to the south door and has latterly been in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.  It was untouched as late as 2000 when it figured in an article I wrote for The World of Interiors.  However, calling there a few years ago we found that the grass outside the south door had been replaced or supplemented by a patio not even in York stone but in some fake composition.  Inside, draped in front of the altar was a gaudy banner advertising the Richard III Society.  This I rolled up and had I had the means would have destroyed.  I wrote to the CCT, who generally do a decent job but was told the patio had been there for many years.  It hadn’t and I suspect the culprits were the Richard III Society, who see the church as a Yorkist site…”

loyalty binds

Gaudy?

According to Mr. Bennett, not only have Ricardians managed to rehabilitate the name of the last Yorkist king but apparently have gone into the concrete, paving and masonry business! Of course, he offers no proof that the Society had anything to do with building a bad-taste deck on the back of a medieval church but when it comes to the world of denialists, I suppose any insult will do.*  Luckily for them, while we Ricardian hard hats may be expert at mixing concrete along with our metaphors, we no longer prepare “Chicago overcoats” or cement shoes for those who have differing opinions…

construction

A Ricardian on lunch break?  I think not!

 

 

*The website of St. Mary Lead reports only that it received a grant from The Richard the Third Society for renovations.  It says nothing about the Society directing or instructing or approving the work.

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.

 

 

Sunnes And Roses – A New Release by The Legendary Ten Seconds

Review by Elke Paxson

Sunnes And Roses – it’s finally here, the new album by The Legendary Ten Seconds. This new one focuses on the history and some of the events and people during the War of The Roses. Like the music of the 3 CDs about Richard  III, this is a unique and quite excellent mix of English Folk with a touch of Medieval music and a hint of Rock.

Album cover of Sunnes and Roses

The new album starts off with a song commemorating the battle of Towton, the biggest battle ever fought on English soil and the battle that brought Edward IV to the throne. Quite fitting – the song has a powerful intro with the sound of cannons. It moves on with a forceful rhythm and it has a really rich sound to it.

List of the Dead – this one has a foot tapping rhythm and it’s needed as the lyrics tell of the many battles, the long list of the dead through the many years of the “Cousins’ War”. Quite superbly done.

The Jewel – is a really pretty song. It tells the story of the stunning “Jewel of Middleham” found in 1985 by Ted Seaton. There is a beautiful trumpet intro before a number of other instruments are added – acoustic guitar, percussion, strings and tambourine.

Good King Richard – this is a very nice and rousing duet with Camilla Joyce and Violet Sheer. It’s going back and forth between accusations and King Richard’s side – very well done with great musical sound and sound effects! Love the song.

Sunnes And Roses – an excellent instrumental. The guitar picking is just outstanding!! It has a very memorable sound!

Battle In The Mist – is a haunting an engaging song about the Battle of Barnet. It’s a good story and its instrumentation and the rhythm come together quite nicely.

Richard of York – this song is about the pretender Perkin Warbeck or was he…. Love the beautiful guitar intro of this song. The harmonies, strings and the guitar sound make it so very beautiful.

King’s Daughter – the second instrumental on this album. This is a really pretty combination of a love song with a fine medieval touch to it.

Middleham Castle on Christmas Eve – one of my all-time favourite songs. It brings everything together – beautiful lyrics that combine the past with the present, the instruments, the sound of the percussions, the harmonies. Fantastic.

A Warwick – the title tells the colourful story of the Kingmaker, the powerful Earl of Warwick. The song moves along nicely and has a swift beat to it.

Souvente Me Souvene – Remember me often, is another instrumental and also the motto of Harry Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham.

Autumn Rain – and speaking of Buckingham….this one is also about him or rather about the “washed out” October rebellion of 1483 that he was subsequently beheaded for. The song is pretty neat and the sound effects are quite fitting.

A Herald’s Lament – a sad song for sure, but it’s not a slow song as you might expect. It tells the story of a herald’s return to an unknown place – perhaps the city elders of York or King Richard’s mother Cecily.

Tewkesbury Medieval Fair – Time to go back in time yet again. This is a really nice song about the annual medieval fair in Tewkesbury. The way it presented it’s easy to imagine yourself being there.

Ian Churchward and The Legendary Ten Seconds have produced another tremendous album full of expertly written songs, fabulous music with a rich sound that brings history to life in a very profound way. ENJOY!

For anyone who might be interested in this fabulous new album, it is available on Amazon.com, at CDbaby.com for download and it should be available in CD format from the Richard III Society by the 31st of January 2017.

 

A Richard III concert in Denver Colorado – at the GM meeting of the American Branch – the evening of the 24th of Sep. 2016

By Elke Paxson

With Ian Churchward (photo)

Having been interested in Richard III for a number of years it took me a long time to decide to become a member of the R III Society and it was my very first attendance of a “General Membership Meeting”. Living in the States is wonderful and exciting, but it also means everything is a bit farther away and there is nothing historically connected to Richard the 3rd, the Wars of the Roses or places with a medieval feel. However, if you put together an enthusiastic group of true Ricardians you will end up learning and experiencing about a long ago time that can be as fascinating and different from ours as you can imagine. There were talks about armour as demonstrated and explained by Dominic Smee, who is affected by scoliosis as Richard was, but proved through his training that it doesn’t diminish much what could be accomplished on the battlefield of medieval England. He brought along some of his armour pieces and padded garment. We were also treated to an interesting account of what a re-enactment group like the “Les Routier De Rouen” is all about and how much interest, pride and fun they have during those re-enactment weekends. The insight was given by Christina Smee – Dominic’s mother, who has been a member for many years.

Photo of Ian Churchward

We were also treated to a copy of the “Jewel of Middleham” by its owner Susan Troxell – a most beautiful and artful piece of jewellery.  Sally Keil gave an interesting look into “Heraldry, Blazonry and (not Coat of) Arms”. It is a pretty complex, yet intriguing subject.

 Photo of Ian and Robert

Saturday evening was very special all around as many of the attending members dressed up for Cocktail hour in a variety of beautiful medieval garb some of which were pretty elaborate. After dinner we were treated to the evening’s highlight – the performance of the Legendary Ten Seconds. The group is headed by Ian Churchward who also composed most of the songs. He was accompanied by his lovely wife Elaine who sang harmony and some solos. His excellent lead guitar player Robert Bright supported Ian’s rhythm guitar with a flawless performance and a special “sound effect”. Jackie Hudson also sang harmony and accompanied some songs with a harp.

The Legendary Ten Seconds

When they took the stage they started off with a short intro and then a song called “Written at Rising”, a song based on an actual letter written by Richard III. This song was followed by a most beautiful and melodious “Ambion Hill” – about an unexpected appearance of a knight. One of the intriguing things about the music of “The Legendary Ten Seconds” is that it is so diverse – in speed, rhythm, in what the songs portray and reflect as well as the sound and instrumentation. Not having the full back up and support available so far from their home base it was truly excellent what they were able to convey. The next songs were “Fellowship of the White Boar” – a song about the R III Society’s history and goals, “The King In The Car Park” –  I always thought the title a bit strange, but it’s a fantastic song that moves rapidly and tells the story put into excellent lyrics by Elaine Churchward: King Richard of England, he of the White Boar.  This one was followed by “How Do you Rebury A King” – not only a good question, but an outstanding song that talks about the thousands attending and watching and it also highlights the significance of the soil from 3 places connected to Richard that was put into his tomb. Ian filled the time between songs with introducing his fellow performers as well as telling us a bit about the songs he has created. The tale of a “Yorkist Archer” was followed by an instrumental about the “Ragged Staff” of Lord Warwick. Then we were treated to a song about Edward’s French campaign in 1475 and the disappointment Richard must have gone through. After that came the lively “The Year Of Three Kings” – a perfect song to sway to and sing along – something we all seemed to enjoy doing.  The next song was about the beauty of King Richard’s court and it’s indeed a beautiful song. Sooner or later one is confronted with Shakespeare’s treatment of Richard III. Ian does so in 2 songs – one about the way he turns Tudor’s rewritten history into a play that so many people over the centuries unfortunately have taken as history and not as entertainment. ”Act III, Scene IV” is actually a song straight from the bard’s mouth put into a very smart song of that play. The harmonies are really beautiful and so is the instrumentation. There was a rather sad song about Richard’s role as Lord Protector and all the intrigues that arose. The evening ended with one of Ian’s best songs called “White Surrey”. While he acknowledges that this is legend and we really have no way of knowing what kind of horse took him into his last battle, it is a fabulous song about Richard’s last charge. It is exciting as the listener is taken along the unfolding courageous charge.

It was a wonderful and enjoyable evening. The audience showed their appreciation for a great performance with a well-deserved standing ovation. Personally, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this evening, it was such a treat to hear them. Thank you to all who made this possible and Thank you for coming to Denver, Colorado.

Richard III stained glass window in Exeter (by Ian Churchward)

exetercathedralI thought I was very well acquainted with the local history of Exeter where I was born and where I have been working on and off for the last seventeen or so years. I also thought I had found out everything I could about the places of interest relating to Richard III in Exeter. I was therefore amazed and exceedingly pleased to discover earlier this year that there is a beautiful stained glass window of Richard III in a hotel in Exeter that is only a few minutes walk from my office where I work. I recently mentioned this window to one of the founding members of the Devon & Cornwall branch of the Richard III society who also had not known about this Ricardian item of interest.

 

I happened to find out about this window by accident when I stumbled across a reference to it on an obscure web page which had been posted by the USA branch of the Richard III society. The window is located in the Mercure Exeter Southgate Hotel and depicts Richard III visiting Rougemont Castle in Exeter in November 1483. The hotel was originally the Rougemont Hotel and the window was designed by Frederick Drake. There is an inscription under the window which recalls a scene from Shakespeare’s Act 4, Scene 2 which reads as follows “When last I was at Exeter the mayor in courtesy show’d me the castle and call’d it Rougemont at which name I started because a bard of Ireland told me once I should not live long after I saw Richmond”

 

During the Second World War the window was removed and placed in a cellar for safety. This was a wise precaution because the centre of Exeter suffered considerable damage due to German air raids in the 1940’s. It can be found on the first floor level at the top of a central staircase. The hotel is in Queen Street just off the main shopping high street and opposite Exeter Central railway station.

A COMMEMORATION IN WELLS

Recently, for this year’s anniversary of Bosworth Field, I had the pleasure of joining the Somerset branch of the Richard III society in a commemoration service held in the Bishop’s private chapel. King Richard’s personal prayer was recited, and the beautiful ‘In Memoriam: Ricardus Rex’ by Graham Keitch was sung to great effect by the talented choir. White roses were then laid before a candlelit portrait of Richard on a banner bearing the Arms of England.

Before the service, a tour of the ruins of the medieval Bishop’s s palace was also included. The palace was begun in about 1210 by Bishop Joscelin, with further  structures added down to the 15th c. Thomas Beckington, who became Bishop in 1443, ordered these last features. These later buildings include the imposing Bishop’s Eye, a tall tower that still stands today within the beautiful gardens.

From the exterior of the palace, some of the structure has a slightly martial feel, with its deep moat, crenellations, and portcullis. The unpopular Bishop, Ralph of Shrewsbury, added this particular design in the 1300’s. Ralph imposed heavy taxation on the locals of the town, hence he feared potential retaliation from the mob.

For Ricardians, Bishop Stillington, who revealed Edward IV’s pre-contract with Eleanor Talbot, is the best known Bishop of Bath and Wells. However, like many churchmen of the day, Stillington  spent relatively little time in his diocese; in his case, it is thought he lived in Wells only a few months if as long as that!

However,  John Gunthorpe, Dean of Wells from 1472, did, in fact, live for some time in Wells from 1485 onwards.  Gunthorpe, who had a long and eminent career, served three Kings, Edward, Richard and then Henry Tudor,and was, for a time, Edward IV’s chaplain, and a Cambridge scholar (he obtained a Batchelor’s degree in theology). During Edward’s reign, Gunthorpe was also almoner, clerk, councilor and ambassador, and served as secretary to Elizabeth Woodville.

Despite Dean Gunthorpe’s  close connection with the Woodvilles, Richard seemed to trust him, and during the King’s short reign,  Gunthorpe became keeper of the Privy Seal. He assisted with the completion of various treaties, including that with Scotland, and in 1484, Richard wrote a letter to Gunthorpe in which the King spoke out against bribery: “…discharge Richard Bele from his place in the office of the said Privy Seal, to which he had been admitted contrary to the old rule and due order, by means of giving great gifts and other sinister and ungodly ways in great discouraging of the under-clerks, which have long continued therein, to have the experience of the same – to see a stranger, never brought up in the said office, to put them by of their promotion“.

Gunthorpe’s loyalty to the new King must have been in no question, for apparently in 1485 he gave the Dean a gift of the ‘swans of Somerset.’ Some have imagined this might relate to the famous  bell-ringing swans that have tenanted the Bishop’s Palace moat for many centuries, but I think it more likely that it is a general appointment to look after the King’s birds (swans had been ‘royal’ birds for centuries but obtained protected ‘royal status’ legally in  the ‘Act of Swans’ in 1482) or even a gift of a swan or two for the table, which only Richard would have had permission to grant.

Gunthorpe seems to have definitely taken up residence at Wells by 1485, and was later visited there by Henry Tudor, who came to the town on several occasions. His house still stands in the cathedral close and it marked by a plaque.

Wells is also well worth visiting for its attractive cathedral and other medieval buildings, including ‘Vicar’s Close,’ thought to be Britain’s only complete surviving medieval street.

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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

 

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