I first encountered Richard Plantagenet, youngest son of the House of York, Duke of Gloucester, Richard III of England, via Rosemary Hawley Jarman’s 1970s historical novel We Speak No Treason. After that, I sought and read every novel and biography of Richard I could lay hands on—not so easy in pre-internet times. I joined the Richard III Society (American Branch), booked a place on their Quincentenary Tour of England in 1985, and later became volunteer staff artist for their newsletter, The Ricardian Register.
So, when I needed a complex political situation to drop my peddler hero into—by preference, one having little to do with happenings on the other side of the Great Sea—I turned to a simplified version of British history and the War of the Roses. Oh, the bonuses to mining history for an unreal world—I could throw out anything that didn’t suit me, and I got to rewrite the Battle of Bosworth Field and let Richard win! (Every Ricardian’s secret dream, surely.) Does it get any better than that?
Sure it does. Because the Richard III Society, worldwide, has continually supported research that gave me great details for my fiction, inspired my artwork, and eventually led to the discovery of Richard’s burial place, and his bones. Thus, the last English king to personally lead his troops into battle was not dumped into a river, after all the other sundry indignities visited upon his corpse. And the car park that replaced the priory offered excellent protection for his bones!
There’s a Battlefield Center at Bosworth, a memorial statue of Richard in nearby Leicester, and a memorial slab bordered by white silk roses in Leicester Cathedral. His Queen, Anne Neville, is buried in Westminster Abbey. The bones of their son, the Prince Edward, may have been transported as far as Sherriff Hutton on the way to an intended burial in York Minster. We don’t really know what Richard intended for his own final resting place—while the “Mausoleum of the House of York” is at Fotheringhay, his brother George is in Tewkesbury Abbey’s crypt—in a glass box!—and his brother Edward is in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. His niece Elizabeth married Henry Tudor, uniting the White Rose of York with the Red Rose of Lancaster. Her brothers, Edward and Richard, vanished from history, and we’ve finally gotten the Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London to stop automatically accusing Richard III of their murder. (I’m pretty sure that whoever those bones so solemnly interred in the urn in Westminster Abbey belonged to, they weren’t Richard’s nephews. No, those boys may just have lived to die in obscurity somewhere in Richard’s beloved North—and maybe at a ripe old age.)
And now, Richard himself has been honorably interred, in a coffin handmade by his many times great-grandnephew, in Leicester Cathedral. To commemorate this I'm halfway though getting The Wizard's Shadow ready to release as an e-book. Next post, I'll tell you about how I came to write that book.