Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Anna Reviews: Tears and Trombones by Nanci Lee Woody

See details of giveaway after the review. 
Winner drawn on the 4th September

Had someone asked Joe Woodman’s father what Joe would be when he grew up, Vern Woodman would probably have answered ”A construction worker”. After all, that’s what Vern did, moving from building site to building site with his family. Had someone asked Joe Woodman’s mother what Joe would be when he grew up, chances are Ellie would have shrugged and said that she just wanted her boy to be happy – at least once in a while.

Joe, however, is destined for other things – mostly due to a brawl in a schoolyard that ends with a dare, which is why nine-year-old Joey Woodman goes to San Francisco to listen to a concert with ”Chai-coff-skee”. It is the beginning of a life-long love story.

For a boy living in a 1940s trailer park, aspiring to be a classical musician is an impossible dream. Yet Joey takes every opportunity to listen to classical music on the radio – when his father isn’t home – and the thing he wants most of all is to learn to play the violin. So when his mother tells him one of the teachers has offered Joey a place in the school band –and the loan of an instrument – Joey dreams of violins. He gets a dented trombone.

Anyone who has ever attempted to tease a note out of a trombone knows this is not precisely an easy instrument. But Joey perseveres, and just as he’s getting the hang of things, his family moves to yet another trailer park. This time, Vern has landed a great job – he makes enough money to feed his family and fund his drinking.

Joey’s relationship with his father is fraught. Vern is loud and demanding, scoffs at Joey’s music, and insists his boy grow up to be a man – like his big brother John who excels at driving a Cat – not some sort of sissy who listens to weird music on the radio or drives Vern crazy practising his dratted trombone. But where Vern is unsupportive and derogatory, Ellie supports Joey as well as she can, no matter that sometimes it costs her – a lot.

Ellie’s and Joey’s relationship is beautifully depicted. A pretty woman who does her best to maintain appearances, no matter how dirt-poor they may be, Ellie retains an element of dignity and pride, despite the fact that her husband drags her from trailer park to trailer park, mostly to leave her on her own with Joey while he goes drinking with his mates. It is Ellie who creates structure in Joey’s life, Ellie who ensures he gets the time to practise his instrument, Ellie who encourages when things are tough. And Joey adores his mother – in between hating her for letting Vern humiliate her by his drinking and his whoring.

What Joey doesn’t fully comprehend, is that Ellie has no choice but stay with Vern – he is her husband, her sole source of income. Likewise, Vernon really had no choice when it came to Ellie. They were too young, too poor, when Ellie became pregnant, and whatever life Vernon had hoped for was crushed brutally underfoot by the realities of life. Maybe this is why he resents Joey’s determined pursuit of his own dream.

It is to Ms Woody’s credit that she depicts Vernon as something more than a drunken bully. There are a number of incidents which depict him as a concerned, if uncomprehending father, such as the rather touching scene when he provides his son with condoms, hoping his son will have the opportunity to follow his youthful urges without any consequences. Unfortunately, such interaction between father and son is rare.

Throughout a childhood and adolescence defined by one abusive parent, Joe sticks with his trombone. The boy has talent, receives recognition and support from his various teachers. In the face of his father’s disapproval, Joey decides to go for his dream. While Ellie does her best to support him, she does so from a distance, and Joe’s journey towards his musical future is a lonely slog – not once do any of his parents come to the concerts at which he plays.

Driven by an explosive combination of love for music and a need to prove himself to his father, Joe is determined to succeed within his chosen career. It helps when Donna enters his life, bringing structure and a steady income to a relationship that becomes far too serious far too quickly – especially as Joey is hopelessly in love with pretty Catherine, and has been so for years. Ms Woody presents us with an intelligent and thoughtful description of a young man torn between dutiful affection and the hope of passionate love, and inevitably things turn ugly and difficult. Joey must choose.

Structurally, I believe the book would have benefited from being broken up into chapters. As it is, it consists of five parts covering close to thirty years. It also has a prologue that, in my opinion, jars substantially with the character we get to know as the book progresses. Vindictiveness against an ailing parent is never pretty, and I have problems believing the Joe I’ve watched develop over the pages of the book would act the way he does. On the other hand, maybe Ms Woody is merely trying to make the point that some wounds go so deep they never heal.

Other than her well-developed characters and a moving coming-of-age story, Ms Woody delivers a prose that blends beautifully with the musical theme in the book. It weaves a light spell around the reader, now and then torn apart by crisp dialogue, at others by the heart wrenching events depicted. As a reader, I find parts of this book close to unbearable. As a reader, I am too entranced to stop reading.

Joe Woodman had a dream. Joe Woodman went for it. Ruthlessly, he kept his eye on the ball, determined to make it to the top. Along the way, that barefoot nine-year-old who so proudly memorised the name “Chai-coff-skee” became a man. And as all of us do, Joe Woodman learnt that sometimes the dream we pursue is not necessarily the dream we need the most. But pursue them we must – without them, we die.

About the author:  
Nanci Lee Woody is retired and writes all the time - poetry, song lyrics, short stories, and a novel. She can't help it because stories and poems happen to her all the time - in Home Depot, her own back yard, on a visit with friends. She has won writing contests and published short stories and poetry on line and in print anthologies.
Nanci loves music which is why Tears and Trombones has music in nearly every chapter - jazz, popular, big band, country and classical. She loves opera and concerts and museums. And she loves her friends and family and spends as much time with them as possible. Find out more about Nanci on her website . Tears and Trombones is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK
Ms Woody is also giving away a copy of Tears and Trombones and all you have to do is leave a comment on the blog or on our Facebook page


Anna Belfrage is the author of eight published books, all part of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. Set in the 17th century, the books tell the story of Matthew Graham and his time-travelling wife, Alex Lind. Anna can be found on amazon, twitter, facebook and on her website.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Commemorating Bosworth: Judith Arnopp

Avoiding the question of Richard on the anniversary of Bosworth Field.

I am often asked if I have ever thought of writing a book about Richard III. I have, of course, but I don’t think I ever will. I am fascinated by the period, the transitional events of 1485 but it is something I’ve avoided although I am a Ricardian at heart and have  been a member of the Richard III Society for … erm, well forever.
I first came across Richard when I was about sixteen and he was still widely largely regarded as a ‘crook-backed monster.’ He was brought to my attention by a television programme, a spin-off from the show, Softly Softly, starring Stratford Johns and Frank Windsor; I think it was called Second Verdict: Who Killed the Princes in the Tower? But my memory is vague now.
It was a police investigation, one of the first instances of a new perspective of Richard being aired to the general public. After watching it I wanted to know more. My imagination piqued, I read Josephine Tey’s,  A Daughter of Time, and became completely hooked on Richard. His portrait has hung on my wall for forty years now – gosh, I am getting old. I read everything I could lay hands on, fiction and non-fiction, and took my history teacher completely by surprise when I centred my GCSE project on Richard III and the mystery of the princes. I found that project a few months ago chewed by mice and the ink faded away to nothing –it was sad to find all that teenage passion turned to dust.
The ‘Richard’ of my teens was a romantic, maligned, tragic hero-figure, and necessarily very handsome but, these days my objective, adult mind acknowledges I was way off the truth. So much more research has been done and new light thrown upon the matter but I am afraid that, if I made him the protagonist of one of my novels, the childhood ideal might reassert itself. There are, in my humble opinion, a few too many novels that take a romanticised view. I am not sure he’d be flattered.
Since the discovery and reinternment of his body at Leicester interest in Richard has become a bit of a three ring circus – it seems that anyone who can hold a pen has been inspired to write about him. I wouldn’t want to join those ranks.
Richard was certainly not the monstrous figure that Shakespeare depicted but he was no saint either, and it is more than likely that he was guilty of at least some of the crimes assigned to him. He lived in harsh times, from the earliest age he was embroiled in violence. At the Battle of Wakefield, he suffered the death and posthumous humiliation of his father and elder brother. The struggle for the throne saw him exiled and, on his brother’s behalf, he entered the perils of battle when he was (to modern eyes) little more than a child. He was very religious; family orientated and, up until a certain point in time, seems to have been completely honourable. Even before he took the throne he was an immensely powerful, influential lord, the king’s right hand, a soldier, and an ambitious man. But because he was battle-hardened and politically ruthless doesn’t mean he would resort to murdering small children. Perhaps Henry VI was fair game, and the swift unauthorised execution of Hastings has, to me, an act carried out in haste, regretted at leisure.
This month marks the 530th anniversary of The Battle of Bosworth. There will be celebrations, re-enactments, and, hundreds of articles and blogs written on the subject. Richard will be dug up again, his character put through the paces once more, endless speculation and immense fun. The fascination of the struggle between York and Lancaster, the mystery of the fate of the princes and the enigmatic figure of their uncle never palls. Thanks to the furore surrounding his reinternment, (barring perhaps Henry VIII) love him or hate him, Richard III is now probably the most famous of our English kings.
These things should make him irresistible to any writer but not me. Many novelists portray him as a cruel, calculating usurper, murdering small children and kings, and making martyrs of his brother’s friends and poisoning his wife. Equally, from the other point of view, he is often a saintly, romantic, sweeter than sweet victim of capricious fate. Rarely does an author find middle ground and, until I am convinced I can write the definitive Richard, a convincing, multi-faceted human character, I will concentrate on other men.

Having said that, Richard III is not absent from my novels. I cannot resist the pull of the transition between York and Tudor and all the conflicting personalities of the period. A Song of Sixpence is narrated by Richard’s niece, Elizabeth of York, and (for the sake of the story) his nephew, Richard of York (Perkin Warbeck). The novel opens just after Bosworth. Both characters remember King Richard kindly, and (since Richard of York has not been murdered) neither regard him as a cruel man, but he clearly isn’t a saint either. After Richard III is slain in battle Elizabeth is faced with marriage to a man she has been raised to mistrust, and York/Perkin is exiled, battling to raise an army to regain his rightful throne. When the two finally meet again … well, you will have to read the book to find out.

Judith’s novels include:
A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York and Perkin Warbeck
Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr
The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII
The Song of Heledd
The Forest Dwellers

Coming soon: The Beaufort Chronicle, a trilogy tracing the life of Margaret Beaufort.

Commemorating Bosworth: Bosworth Field - The Battle

There are few battles as significant as the Battle of Bosworth, which took place on August 22nd in 1485. It is viewed as ending the long running Wars of the Roses between the Lancastrian (Red) and Yorkist (White) houses; finishing the Plantagenet dynasty under Richard III, while installing a new branch of Lancastrians under Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond.

By the C15th  perhaps due to the ongoing dynastic strife, the age-old feudal system had been corrupted. Loyalty to the king was no longer a given; instead nobles mustered able bodied men to their own militias, under their own command. Actual personal relationships between King and lord probably held more sway than any perceived sense of loyalty to the estate of the crown. The more powerful a lord, the greater the incentive the crown would have to yield to win over a house’s support. When all else failed, of course, there was always the practice of holding hostages as insurance. 

Due to resentment over the manner that Richard had seized the throne and the disappearance of the princes in the tower; Henry Tudor, an exiled Lancastrian, left Brittany and landed in South Wales with a force of some 2000 French mercenaries.

Henry took his time travelling through Wales and the Marches gathering support. In all he called to his banners around 2000 Welsh recruits and around 1000 Englishmen. Accompanying his venture were many Lancastrian exiles, including the experienced John de Vere, Earl of Oxford; whose strategic nous would prove invaluable to the inexperienced Henry. 

Meanwhile Richard, with 3000 men, moved to intercept Henry demanding his lords to join him; his most loyal supporter was John Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, commanding around 3000 men at arms. Also answering his summons was the Duke of Northumberland with 4000 and, dragging their feet,were the Stanleys from Cheshire with 6000. During the Wars of the Roses the Stanleys had a reputation of hanging back from many of the bloodbaths until a critical point. To make matters worse relations between Richard and the Stanleys were not the best, so to ensure his reluctant allies' support Richard held Lord Stanley’s son as a hostage. Henry himself had made overtures to the Stanleys but true to form they had held back from openly declaring their allegiance to either claimant. In theory then Richard had three times as many troops as Henry.

In the C15th battlefield tactics had seen a reemergence of heavy infantry. The Longbow, Pike and Billhook - and to some extent cannon - had robbed cavalry of their battlefield supremacy. Cavalry were now mainly used to chase down a retreating enemy and ensure a rout and also to swing around the flanks and prevent the foe escaping.

Nobles and professional men-at–arms would be encased in steel plate, wielding sword and mace, while levies would have quilted armour, if fortunate a helm, and would be armed with poleaxe weapons.

Heading west, Richard’s forces moved through Sutton Cheney in Leicestershire and took position on Ambion Hill with Norfolk. Ambion Hill overlooked a plain with an area of marsh on his left flank. Behind this marshy area Northumberland’s forces formed his rear-guard.

To the west at White Moors were Henry’s forces, while south of the marsh, visible from Richard's position, the Stanleys and their 6000 men camped at Dadlington. The Stanleys had, in effect, acted as a screen to Henry’s forces, while Richard’s army assembled.

Forced to attack Henry’s army swung east, and then north, to be able to cross the river that drained into the marsh. While advancing Richard’s cannon harassed them. Although becoming more common, cannon were notorious at this time; they were inaccurate and easily overheated, with the unfortunate tendency of sometimes exploding and killing their crews. If the Stanleys had attacked at this juncture the battle would have been over. Indeed Richard demanded that they take action, threatening the death of his hostage; but Lord Stanley would not move coldly replying that he had other sons.

Staying at the rear with his guard, Henry gave command of his army to Oxford. Oxford ordered that his men stay in a single formation and formed a wedge and advanced with his cavalry guarding the flanks. After the usual exchange of arrows Richard ordered Norfolk to attack.

In the desperate hand to hand melee Oxford’s wedge formation began to gain the upperhand. Richard’s superior numbers were negated as they couldn’t break the formation and destroy them piecemeal. Oxford had ordered that his men shouldn’t stray more than ten feet from their banners.  Richard ordered Northumberland to attack but this force didn’t move. Whether he was mirroring the Stanleys or disloyal to Richard is unknown. If he had advanced he would either had to swing east in a wide flanking move to avoid the marsh or would have had to advance through Richard’s forces currently engaged with the enemy. To add to Richard’s woes Norfolk was struck in the face with an arrow and killed. The battles' outcome was on a knife edge and both commanders knew that the Stanleys could sway the result either way.

King Richard may have been lacking luck at Bosworth but he certainly wasn’t lacking courage. He saw that Henry had moved with his bodyguard to negotiate with the Stanleys. In a desperate bid to land a decisive blow, Richard, with a small mounted force, swung around the melee to attack Henry’s force. Richard himself felled Henry’s standard bearer and came very close to Henry himself. Henry’s bodyguard were sorely pressed to defend their lord from the battle crazed Yorkist king. It was at this point the Stanleys made their move, seeing Richard isolated they fell upon him, forcing his small force into the marsh. With his horse stuck in the boggy ground or killed beneath him as in the Shakespearian verse, and after coming within a sword length of Henry himself, Richard found himself surrounded.

Men with halberds fell upon him, striking him so fiercely that he lost his helmet with its golden circlet. It was said that it was a Welshman, Rhys ap Thomas who delivered the death blow.

With Norfolk and the king dead all hope was lost for the Yorkist cause. Northumberland and his forces fled north. The circlet was retrieved and Henry was crowned king on a hill at nearby Stoke Golding.

In 2013 the positive identification of King Richard’s remains in a car park in Leicester revealed a skeleton with ten wounds, eight of them to the head.  So died Richard III. An usurper? Maybe. A child killer? Perhaps. A brave warrior? Absolutely.

Rob Bayliss is a reviewer at The Review and is currently writing his own fantasy series.     Information on his writing projects can be found at Flint & Steel, Fire & Shadow.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Commemorating Bosworth: What Manner of King was Henry VII? by Louise Rule

The Coat of Arms for Henry VII

Whether you stand on the side of Richard III or Henry VII, The Battle of Bosworth Field, on Saturday 22nd August, 1485, was the culmination of The Wars of the Roses, and brought an end to the bloody civil war between The Houses of York, and Lancaster. 

Elizabeth of York
Henry VII

Henry VII was the last king to win his crown on the battlefield, a crown that was worn by Richard III. That same crown was placed on the head of Henry VII, on Bosworth's battlefield. Although we know that Henry VII founded the Tudor dynasty, and reigned for almost twenty-four years, what manner of king was he?

As with all monarchs before him, who had been schooled in the art of being a king, he, in contrast, had not been trained in either the arts of statesmanship, diplomacy or warfare, but came to the throne new to the prospect of ruling a country. This then, by the evidence of history, makes his achievements all the more remarkable.

The pennant of Henry VII

Henry had declared himself king By Right of Conquest, retrospectively, from 21st August, 1485, this would mean that anyone fighting for Richard III, would be committing treason. This would also mean that Henry could confiscate the lands and all the property of Richard.

While he was still in Leicester, Henry VII was already taking precautions to prevent a rebellion against his reign. He sent Robert Willoughby to Sheriff Hutton, which is about 10 miles north of York, to have Edward, Earl of Warwick, a ten-year-old boy, arrested and taken to the Tower of London. The ten-year-old represented a threat as a potential rival to the new king, as he was the son of George, Duke of Clarence. In 1486, Henry VII married Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV, and niece to Richard III, thus strengthening his right to the throne.

This stained glass window is in
St. James Church, Sutton Cheney
It commemorates the Battle of Bosworth
Richard III on the left
Henry VII on the right

Henry was very astute; he secured his crown by dividing and undermining the power that the nobility enjoyed, by the enterprising use of bonds and recognisances. It is known, that although he came to the throne with little or no fiscal experience, he did, overtime, however, restore the fortunes of an almost bankrupt exchequer. He also introduced stability in his financial administration, by keeping the same financial advisers throughout his reign; they being, Lord Dynham, and Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey. They were the only two official holders of the position of Lord High Treasurer of England, throughout Henry VII's reign.

The red rose of The House of Lancaster, and the white rose of The House of York

Henry VII was threatened by several active rebellions over the next coming years.

Rebellion of the Stafford brothers and Viscount Lovall. This was the first uprising against
Henry VII.

Yorkists led by Lincoln, rebelled in support of Lambert Simnel, a boy who claimed to be the Earl of Warwick, son of Edward IV's brother, Clarence, (who had last been seen as a prisoner in The Tower).

Perkin Warbeck, from Tournaisis (now Belgium), claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, and gained support outside England.

Henry had the Earl of Warwick executed, but spared Warwick's elder sister, Margaret, however, Margaret, was executed by Henry VIII, in 1541.

The first son and heir-apparent, Arthur, Prince of Wales, died unexpectedly. He was staying at Ludlow Castle at the time, and although the cause is not certain, it is believed to have been what         was known at the time as, English sweating sickness. Henry, Duke of York, later to be Henry             VIII, became the new heir-apparent to the throne.

On 21st April, 1509, Henry VII died at Richmond Palace, it is said, from tuberculosis. He was buried at Westminster Abbey, next to his beloved wife, Elizabeth, in the chapel which he had commissioned. On 29th June, 1509, just two short months later, his mother, Margaret Beaufort, died. Henry VII was succeeded by his second son, Henry VIII, a king who will live in infamy, because of The Reformation, and, of course, because of his eight wives.

There is much written about both Richard III, and Henry VII, and no matter whether it is fact, exaggeration, or mere myth, history has demonstrated that Henry VII made many good changes for England.

Richard III captured the nations interest more recently, when his remains were found in the car park in Leicester. A remarkable event that was, too. I do think, however, that because of the worldwide publicity, Richard III achieved a resurgence of interest. Henry VII, on the other hand, was not a charismatic king, but his reforms are well documented. Henry VII unfortunately fades into the background, as he was overshadowed by both Richard III, and his son, Henry VIII.

The memorial plaque for Richard III

Was Henry VII a better king than Richard III? It really does depend on where your loyalties lie, for, even after the intervening 530 years, there is still a rich debate about who was indeed the better king.

For me, I would have to say that Henry VII was, because of the overall benefits that he brought to England throughout is reign, although there will never be a definitive answer to that, of course. 

St. James the Greater, Dadlington.
The dead of The Battle of Bosworth
were buried here

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Commemorating Bosworth: The Man Who Would be King by Paula Lofting

Speak the name of Richard III and you will inspire a multitude of varying comments, against or in support, about this man who, for most of his life, spent his years 'in waiting' for the moment he would sit on the throne and place the crown of England upon his head. Not that I believe that Richard always had in mind he would one day be king, of course he didn't; I was speaking metaphorically. I do believe, however, that this was a man who saw an opportunity and he grabbed it. Whether or not he did so to save his own skin because he believed that he was the object of a plot to kill or oust him or whether or not he craved power or was doing it for the good of the realm, we will never know. And we will never know what was going on in the mind of this complex man at this time. Rightly or wrongly, by seizing the crown, his actions seem to have been the catalyst that brought Richard to his untimely, brutal end.

  Richard, Duke of Gloucester, had been, by all accounts, a loyal and effective administrator to his brother, Edward IV, throughout his reign and his fight for the throne. He took command of the vanguard for both the battles of Tewkesbury and Barnet in which the Yorkist cause was victorious. He was also appointed Admiral and Constable of England at an early age. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as the Kingmaker, was killed at Barnet and Edward endowed Richard of Gloucester with many of the great earl's estates. Richard wed Warwick's daughter, Anne Neville, to secure these lands and later would acquire her mother's estates whilst her mother was still alive, having her declared 'deceased'. Some say the pair had always been childhood sweethearts, but there is no solid evidence for this other than they may have spent some childhood years growing up in Middleham, where Richard was schooled under the care of Warwick. Whatever the truth about their earlier relationship, he and Anne seem to have had a contented marriage. They moved residence to Middleham and Edward entrusted him as Warden of the North and the West Marches of Scotland. They had a son, Edward of Middleham, who died just before his 11th birthday. Anne was to die shortly afterwards, leaving the duke alone without a legitimate heir.

  So we have built up a picture of a loyal, level-headed man, pious and honourable. Just what was his rationale for betraying his brother, by taking his sons into custody, decrying them of their legitimacy and deposing the young king, also called Edward, in favour of himself? Let us examine the events that led to that meeting at Stony Stratford when Duke Richard seized the boy who should have been crowned Edward V by the law of primogeniture. 

Anne and Richard

  Edward IV's death came after a life of battle, debauchery and gluttony in April 1483. Baldwin (2013), in his book Richard III, claims that Edward's last will and later codicils showed that it was his wish that his son Edward succeed him, with Richard as his guardian. These later additions to the will have not emerged, so we don't exactly know what was in  them. We do know that in the last years of his life, Edward's trust in his younger brother was evident by the offices endowed upon him in the north. It would make sense that he would have wanted Richard to have guardianship of his son and protectorship over him until he had taken up his kingship. Young Edward, on the other hand, had grown up with the Woodvilles, having been schooled from a toddler under the care of Anthony Woodville in Ludlow. Richard would most likely have been alien to him, not having been in his presence often and it would have been natural for the young king to have preferred to keep counsel with those advisors he had known all his life.

  Richard's first move upon hearing of his brother's death was to ride to York and had himself and the notables there swear an oath of fealty to his brother's son.  He wrote  letters to the queen declaring his good intentions to her son and to the councillors of London he wrote requiring that they allow him the position wished upon him by his brother, the dead king. However the council seemed to be divided into those who would have the duke govern, as Mancini & Armstrong (1969) states and those that would have the council take control of the government with the duke as its head. It may seem that the queen and her faction were involved in discussions that would put the Woodville clan in positions of authority, greatly diminishing the weight carried by the other notables, one namely, Lord Hastings, the man who had been closest to the old King Edward (Ross, 1881).

Edward IV

  After his great friend's death, Lord Hastings may have been concerned that a Woodville takeover meant his life, or at least his welfare, was in jeopardy.  Hastings acted upon those fears and sent word to Richard, warning him that the Woodvilles were attempting to sway the council's decision regarding hid protectorate. Hastings also proclaimed that if the young king's escort on his journey to London from Ludlow was not limited, he would withdraw to Calais which shows how fearful Hastings was of the Woodvilles and as he had been involved in long running disputes with Anthony and Elizabeth Woodville before, it was not surprising (Baldwin, 2013).

  It was at Northampton, whilst the young king rested elsewhere, that Richard had arranged to meet with some of the boy's escort. These men were: Anthony Woodville, also known as Lord Rivers, who was the young king's uncle; Richard Grey, the king's half brother; and Woodville supporters, Sir Richard Haute and Thomas Vaughn. Richard had also arranged for the Duke of Buckingham, Henry Stafford, to meet with them there. It would seem that despite being his brother-in-law, Edward IV did not much care for Stafford but Richard was won over by his apparent loyalty and dislike of the Woodvilles. Stafford was a leading member of the old nobility, many of whom resented the 'commoner' Woodvilles' rise to power. Richard had never had any arguments, himself, with the Woodvilles, and appeared to be on good terms with Lord Rivers. Were Buckingham and Gloucester conspiring against them? It would certainly seem so. Whatever had gotten into Richard's mind at that time, he appeared to be paranoid that a Woodville plot was afoot to exclude him from the government. Was Buckingham whispering poisonous words into the king's ears? Or did Richard see an opportunity in Buckingham's warmth toward him and manipulated the duke into supporting him in the arrest of Rivers and the seizure of the young king?

Anthony Woodville presenting his book to Edward

  Richard's behaviour that night is quite revealing. The men spent the night dining and drinking convivially; accepting Richard's intentions to join the escort of the young king to London. The following morning, Rivers and the others were arrested, protesting, no doubt, as to why they were being detained. There had been no apparent hint in the two dukes demeanour that would suggest such a thing was about to happen and everyone seemed to be in agreement at dinner; why did they suddenly turn on them in the morning? Rivers must have wracked his brains to think of what he had done or said. Was this the behaviour of a level headed, intelligent, decent, pious man of royal blood? Was this 'out of character' or had Richard been harbouring or developing a deceitful nature over the years? One has to wonder what was going on here and whether or not Richard was sound of mind, or showing signs of stress and anxiety. Richard had experienced much loss, danger and trauma in his youth; witnessed the spilling of blood and the ruthlessness of men who held power. Could these past traumatic events have had an effect on his mind at such a stressful time? The loss of his brother and the vulnerability he might have felt at being excluded from the new government, may have altered a perhaps already fragile mind? The predisposing factors were definitely already there.

Elizabeth IV

  Of course this is just speculation but there maybe some scientific evidence that Richard bruxism, a stress-related grinding of teeth which shows that he may have suffered from anxiety (Gray, 2013). Being a royal person in these times was a dangerous affair. Just being alive could be stressful. It is easy to say that these men were brought up in bloodthirsty times and were used to war and battle and in Richard's case this is true, but as with today, individuals are affected in different ways after trauma and this often relies on factors such as environment, genetics and life experiences which can whittle away at one's resillience. Richard had seen plenty of violence and death and had encountered severe dangerous situations in his life, especially in his formative years. Could this have affected his judgement in such a way as to act ruthlessly and in fear of his life?

The jaw of Richard III

  What was to happen next must have seemed even more extraordinary to those contemporaries who would have witnessed the events. Richard and Buckingham moved on to Stony Stratford after this to take custody of the boy, Edward. Richard explained to his nephew, who was by all accounts a very precocious and eloquent youth, that there were men amongst his retinue who had, as Mancini & Armstrong, (1969) claims, brought about the death of his father by encouraging him in a life of debauchery. They also evidently added that these same advisors were plotting against his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. Edward was astounded at these accusations and defended his friends with great earnestness. But his protests were to no avail. Edward was taken into their custody and his advisors, the men who had been arrested, including Rivers, were sent to Pontefract to be imprisoned.

  On hearing that Richard was on his way to London with the person of the young king in his custody, and that he had arrested Rivers, Hautem, Vaughan and Grey, the Woodvilles in London dispersed and the dowager queen, Elizabeth, went into sanctuary in Westminster with her younger son Richard and her daughters. Was Richard hoping that he could secure the young king's friendship in the interim before the protectorate was to come to an end and sway him to his side? Or had was he coming to believe then, that he should make a bid for the crown? Edward V was not going to be an easy nut to crack; his defence of his advisors at Stony Stratford proved that he was more in tune with his Woodville family than his Yorkist family. In the weeks that followed, could Richard sense a hostility toward him developing in his young nephew, now deprived of his beloved uncle Anthony and his other friends? If Richard was unable to gain the boy's friendship, then what would happen to him after Edward became king?

  The Woodvilles at this point seem unable to have garnered the support of the notables in London and failed to get them to side with them against Richard. This seems likely to have been due to the fact that there were many amongst the ruling classes who still harboured ill-feeling toward the family for their arrogant rise to power (Baldwin, 2013).  On the 4th May, Richard rode into London with Rivers' army of 2000 men and 4 cartloads of weapons and war devices that they had been carrying with them (Kendall, 1956). Richard was said to have been keen to show them to the Mayor and aldermen of London and stress the point that Rivers et al had been planning to use violence towards him. To ease the tension, Richard called on all the men of note to swear fealty to their new king. Baldwin, (2013), suggests that the weapons were most likely quickly gathered and brought to Northampton after Richard had arrested Rivers and the others at Stony Stratford rather than before, and this seems quite credible.

   With the young king settled in the Royal Apartments, Richard held discussions with the council. It seemed that he had their backing for now, most likely due to the fact that many of them disliked the Woodville's and would rather he lead them; however they refused to consider the charges against those arrested because Richard had not been invested with vice-regal authority. During the weeks that followed, Richard made little changes in office, trying to keep the continuity of government and to keep the council on side, perhaps; to show that his intentions were honourable and in favour of the young king. He did, however, replace the chancellor, the Archbishop of York, with John Russell, Bishop of Lincoln, and Buckingham, as a reward for his assistance, was given great jurisdiction in Wales.
An artist interpretation of the princes

   Richard believed that the Woodvilles were plotting against him; at least he accused them of doing so and on the 10th of June, he wrote to Lord Neville of York to ask for the city's support against the queen dowager and those with whom she kept counsel. He claimed that they were trying to stop him from taking on his role as protector. During the weeks that had led up to the summary execution of Will Hastings, one must wonder what was going through Gloucester's mind, but whatever it was, things were about to take a more ominous turn and on the 13th June, Hastings was dragged from a council meeting and his head removed, without trial at Tower Hill.  Richard, enraged, had accused him of being involved in a plot against him with the Woodvilles and Elizabeth (later known as Jane) Shore. The Archbishop of York, Lord Stanley was also arrested.

   Immediately the capital was plunged into fear and alarm, for Hastings had been popular with the people. He had welcomed the establishment of Richard's protectorate and appears to have been supportive of the duke. Why did Richard believe it expedient to execute one of the men who had promised him his full support? A man who was not on good terms with the Woodvilles and had warned Richard of the Woodvilles' plans to infiltrate the governing council and limit his power. It really doesn't make sense.  

Hastings is accused (c/o Richard III society)

   According to Ross (1981), Richard appears to be wading through the sea of loyalists who would be opposed to to any deposition of the young king. After Hastings death on what seem to be a trumped up charge, Rivers and the other loyalists who were arrested at Northampton were executed on the 25th of June. If Richard had at this point decided that he was going to make a bid for the crown, he knew that he would have to get rid of those who would stand in his way and hook in those that might support him. He would also have to secure both his brother's sons and so on the 16th of June, Elizabeth Woodville was willing to relinquish her youngest son Richard of York so that he could be present at the young king's coronation. This must have been a difficult decision for Elizabeth to make, to have to give up her other son to a man who had, so far, shown himself to be untrustworthy and had imprisoned her brother and older son in Pontefract. One must wonder if she had known what their fate was to be, would she have relinquished Richard of York to him so readily? Some have said that she had used the time to consider this offer from Gloucester, to whisk away the young duke to safety and replace him with a 'lookalike' who was later to return as 'Perkin Warbeck' some years later. A nice thought, however, the theory had its flaws despite the idea being a considerable one.

   On the 22nd of June, which was the date scheduled for the coronation of the young king, a man named Ralph Shaw, a doctor of theology, was charged with announcing the intention of the Duke of Gloucester to make a claim for the throne. By this time, once the boys were reunited, their servants that had been in attendance on them in the royal apartments were removed from them and they were withdrawn deeper within the Tower until eventually they were not seen again. The Duke of Buckingham made a speech to the mayor and aldermen and an assembly of lords and gentry on the 24th and 25th of June, the same day that Rivers and the others lost their lives (Mancini & Armstrong, 1969).

   Richard had first justified his claim to the throne by stating that his brother, Edward IV, had not been legitimate and that his mother, Cecily Neville, who was still alive at the time of his claim, had slept with a lowly French archer whilst her husband was away on duty. Evidence shows that Cecily may not have fully forgiven Richard for this disparagement of her. Cecily's insulted sensibilities aside, the implications were that Edward, being not the son of Richard, Duke of York, had not been fit to rule and so therefore his sons were also illegitimate. Richard of Gloucester put his claim forth on these grounds.

   However, it would seem that perhaps Cecily's complaints may have touched a nerve and Richard may have needed another reason that would not question his mother's infidelity so the Bishop Stillington story was promulgated and Edward's boys were declared illegitimate because their father had been involved in a precontract to someone else before he married their mother, Elizabeth Woodville. But the young king's illegitimacy would not have barred him from the throne, necessarily, but, as according to Baldwin (2013), Richard would have to act fast to stop the coronation as the very act of a sacred anointing would make it difficult to challenge once the boy had been crowned before God.

   With some difficulty, Buckingham managed to persuade the notables to petition Richard to take the crown and the Duke of Gloucester became King Richard III on the 26th of June. Many of us know what followed just over two years later. The princes in the Tower disappeared. Henry Tudor begins his campaign for the kingship. First Richard's son dies, followed shortly by Anne, his wife. Richard finally meets his bloody end when he and Henry face each other across Bosworth field.

   So what was the role that Richard played in the death of the boys? There is no solid evidence that he harmed a hair on their little blonde heads, however, if anyone had the means, the reason, the need for them to disappear, Richard did, for they would always have been a figurehead for any further rebellions to come. Henry Tudor, who has been accused of murdering the boys to make his way clear, are often accused by those who insist that there is no evidence for Richard being guilty of their murder, without acknowledging that the same could be said for Henry. Henry was miles and miles away in France, would he have seriously been able to organise a death squad? As for Margaret Beaufort, I doubt if she would have been able to do so on her son's behalf either.

   Much has been said to justify why Richard took the throne, and much has been said conversely, that Richard had no right to usurp it form his brother's son, stating that the stories of illegitimacy have no substance and that were possibly just rumours. The evidence shows that an opportunity arose and Richard took it and once the ball was rolling, he could not turn it back. That he may not have wanted the throne until he felt it was his only option to keep himself safe, may been so, but the difficulty is in not knowing what his thoughts and feelings were. If I'm honest, I do believe that he was an opportunist. I believe he felt his life was in danger and I believe that he may have been suffering from paranoia and anxiety, perhaps PTSD, but that does not excuse him from the actions he took which were ruthless, even for the day.

An artists version of Richard's crown being presented to Henry

   Richard has been painted the villain and also the hero. It seems that he was somewhere in between and that perhaps if given a chance he may have been able to redeem himself for the errors of judgement that cost so many people their lives and his own.

God Rest King Richard III
May he for ever live in peace.

I would like to thank the knowledgeable people of The Real Richard? for their kindness and being free with their knowledge, 
Karen Clarke
Erika Millen
Susan Troxell
Caroline Atkinson
Any mistakes are my own.

Baldwin, D (2013). Richard III. Gloucestershire: Amberley.
Gray, R. 2013. The Telegraph. [Online]. [19 August 2015]. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
Kendall, P.M (1956). Richard the Third. New York: W.W. Norton.
Mancini , D & Armstrong (1969). The Usurpation of Richard III. (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford.
Ross, C (1981). Richard III. London: Eyre Methuen Ltd.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Sharon Bennett Connolly Reflects on Visiting Bosworth Battlefield Today

Visiting Bosworth Battlefield Today

“Two Kings – One Battle”

The standards of Richard III and Henry VII

Last year I took my 9-year-old son and 40-something husband to visit their first battlefield. We were holidaying in Derbyshire and decided to drive down to Leicestershire and visit Bosworth. With all the hype around the discovery and re-burial of Richard III, it seemed a great way to show a 9-year-old the story of a battle.

He, of course, knows a little of the Richard III story. He can identify the king’s portrait and knows he was involved in the Wars of the Roses, but we don’t linger on the Princes in the Tower too much. I don’t think he is as familiar with Henry VII, but he can tell you all of Henry VIII’s queens, in order, and tell you their fate. So taking my son to the battlefield was a way of giving him a place and time where he could visualise the events and the people.

It worked.

However, what I found surprising was the effect it had on my husband. Hubby is a bit of a computer geek and into all the mod cons. He never had an interest in history before he met me, and even now I can see his eyes glossing over if I talk too much about the past – 15 minutes a day is usually all he can take!

The Sundial on Ambion Hill

I have visited battlefields before; Waterloo, Stamford Bridge, Hastings and a few others. The calm serenity always amazes me. I expect to hear the echoes of battle, the cries of the wounded, clashes of arms and the shouted orders of the battle’s commanders – and the thunder of the horses hooves during the cavalry charge. At Bosworth, if you close your eyes tight, and listen intently, you can almost hear it…..

The Battle of Bosworth Trail
The Battlefield trail is a wonderful leisurely walk. It’s not the actual battlefield; they found that a short distance away a few years ago, but it is Ambion Hill. And standing at the memorial you have a panoramic view of the area; you can  imagine the 2 sides facing each other, troops in the thick of it and those waiting to engage. My son listened in awe as I described the death of Norfolk and the final, desperate charge of Richard III; and Percy’s men standing, watching and waiting – possibly very close to where we were stood at that moment.

View from Ambion Hill

As you walk round the hill and through the woods, there are markers, pointing the way; and viewpoints and information posts telling the story of the battle and explaining the technology and tactics used. One marker explains the use of the longbow, how it dealt death from afar. The marker explained where the archers were positioned during the fighting; you almost expected to look to your right and see them raising their bows to the air. 

My son was fascinated by the idea that children as young as he was had already started their knightly training, that there were only about 1,000 knights in the whole of England. And I was amazed to discover that many who could be knights chose not to, in order to avoid the duty and responsibility that came with knighthood; these men were simply called esquires or gentlemen.

Information post explaining the use of cannons in the battle

It amazed my husband to discover that cannon and handguns were in use in the battle. 1485 seems to be too long ago for men to have used gunpowder. The handguns were large and cumbersome weapons, too large for one hand to use; guns were still very much in their infancy. However, it was a scattering of cannon balls and other small metal objects (such heraldic badges, spur rowels and coins), found by metal detectors, which finally meant the location of the battlefield could be confidently identified.

Battle standards in Ambion Wood

Although the general battlefield has now been identified, we still don’t know where individual parts of the action took place. We can’t say for certain where the action between Norfolk and Oxford took place, nor where Norfolk fell. We can’t tell where Stanley and his men were standing, watching for that turn in the battle that made him decide to join Henry Tudor’s forces. 

But the specifics don’t matter as much as I expected they would. The battlefield provides its own story. And the fact you can’t say exactly where each part of the action happened serves to highlight the confusion of a battle. When you’re on the ground, in the thick of it, fighting for your life and your king, you wouldn’t be looking round to see where on the field you were. You would be looking to your own survival, fighting the man in front of you while watching your back. 

King Richard’s Well, cairn built close to where it is thought the king fell

So the locations of events are vague, but that they are remembered and commemorated is what matters. Whether the marker is where Richard fell matters less than that there is a marker to the fallen king.

Henry VII

And once you have walked the Battlefield Trail, there is the Heritage Centre to visit. The Centre offers wonderful background to the battle, told through the voices of those involved: a serving girl at a local inn, a mercenary’s wife, an archer. The 2 armoured kings stand watch over you as you view artefacts found on the field of battle and study maps and videos explaining the battle and the troop movements. The Heritage Centre is very hands-on; children can try on the armour and test out the helmets. You can test your ability to draw a longbow; it’s not as easy as you think. By far the most dramatic display is the little corner dedicated to the Barber-Surgeons. The tools of his trade are displayed and a skeleton depicting the wounds of one soldier from the battlefield. Given the recent discovery of Richard III, and the detailed descriptions of his wounds, this seemed a particularly poignant display.

Richard III

Walking the battlefield is a humbling experience. So little is known about the men who fought and died in these fields on 22nd August 1485. And, yet, the date marks so much change in English history: the end of one the Plantagenet dynasty and the start of Tudor rule; the end of the Middle Ages and the beginnings of the Renaissance. Just around the corner were the marital problems of Henry VIII and the English Reformation and the subsequent, glorious reign of Elizabeth I. But the men who fought that day would know nothing of the significance of the battle beyond that moment.

 Sharon Bennett Connolly has a lifelong fascination with history, and has recently discovered a love of writing. She has combined these two in her blog, History…the interesting bits!