Thursday, 9 June 2016

Digging stuff out

I have just found some computer files of writing that I had completely forgotten having written. It's annoying, but I have so many fragments, and nothing (yet) that makes a complete book. But I have not given up. Eventually there will be a breakthrough.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Black Dog and Me

Go away, Black Dog,
Go and chase the Black Rabbit,
Lift your tail under the Devil's nose,
Treat him to the scent,
Of half-digested Pedigree Chum.

If you were a real dog, you would bring me joy,
Instead you drain the joy from me,
You traitor to your race,
Go away, Black Dog,
And this time, stay away.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

An Interview with Alianore Audley

Given that there are to be online interviews with King John and King Richard III I thought it only fair that we should have something similar here. Unfortunately, being a bit hard up, it wasn't possible to meet the fee demanded by dead monarchs, so I hope you will settle for a little chat with Alianore Audley:

BW: First of all, what do I call you? Dame Beauchamp? Mistress Audley?

AA: Alianore will do. We don't really do titles in This Place. Apart from The Management, that is.

BW: Right. Well, Alianore, is is fair to say you were the first female intelligence agent?

AA: No. We've league tables for that sort of thing and I'm not even in the top thousand. Maybe the first Englishwoman of breeding who left notes behind.

BW: Talking of notes, you left a very favourable record of Richard III - in the light of what you know now, do you stand by it?

AA: Look darling, Richard wasn't a saint, but you have to look at what followed. I mean, Henry Tudor! Nasty, mean, snivelling little man. His grandfather was a wardrobe attendant! Fancy having someone like that as king. The idea! At least Richard had a respectable pedigree. He killed one or two people, I'll admit, but either they deserved it for plotting against him (Buckingham for example - what a jerk) or they were frightfully common fellows who'd just got a bit above themselves. Yes, I do mean the Woodvilles.

BW: But Alianore, the Woodvilles had lots of noble quarterings on their mother's side. And Anthony, at least, was a highly civilised man, and a noted chivalrous knight.

AA: Yes, but they were Richard's enemies. They'd have killed him given half a chance. Be serious! It wasn't a game of cricket, you know. And really! Dame Jacquetta was a foreigner. You don't think that English gentlefolk took her quarterings seriously, do you? A woman who claimed descent from a (expletive deleted) water snake! Forsooth and forsooth, as Mad King Henry used to say. (Or so I am told).

BW: Have you any regrets?

AA: Not telling more of my story and not buying more land while it was cheap.

For the avoidance of doubt....

I haven't given up writing, I really haven't. It's just that due to circumstances, things are moving really, really slowly. I can only counsel patience.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Rosemary Hawley Jarman

It is with great sadness that I record the passing of Rosemary Hawley Jarman, author of, among other works, We Speak No Treason.

Few writers, if any, have captured the 'feel' of the fifteenth century so perfectly. Her novel introduced many to the 'cause' of Richard III, and is an example of how influential fiction can be.

May she rest in peace.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The True History of King Richard III - Part 4

The sack of Ludlow 1459

Richard's first teacher was Lady Mortimer, who taught him handwriting and country dancing. As Lady Mortimer's late husband had been on the very fringe (almost dropping off the end) of Richard's family tree, she also taught him something of genealogy, and he discovered that he was descended from Lionel, Duke of Clarence, which made him senior in the succession to Henry VI himself! It turned out that when the Lancastrians (who were descended from John of Gaunt, Lionel's younger brother) had stolen the throne in the early fifteenth century they had forced the York family to pretend that they were only descended from Edmund of Langley (Gaunt's younger brother.)

This injustice set Richard seething, but he was also delighted to find that he was much nearer to the (rightful) possession of the crown than he had previously imagined.

Richard's studies continued under the Reverend Doctor Stiffkey (of Stiffkey in Norfolk) who taught him Latin and Canon Law. George shared these lessons, but although he was Richard's elder he was a dull pupil who was often reduced to copying from his brother's book.

George and Margaret played together, as they were close in age, but Richard only had his pet pig, Henry. (Naturally he was already planning to turn Henry into sausages when Henry got big and fat enough.) It was having this pig that persuaded Richard to choose the White Boar as his personal badge. He also learned from Doctor Stiffkey that Ebor was York in Latin, so it was a pun as well, which Richard found amusing.

Margaret of Anjou called a Parliament to which neither York nor his friends were invited. This made York very suspicious so he sent for all his friends to join him at Ludlow with their soldiers. This led to at least one battle (Blore Heath) as Salisbury forced his way through from the north. Warwick came all the way from Calais and brought much of the garrison with him.

Margaret had an even bigger army, which she marched all the way to Ludford Bridge, just outside Ludlow. The even had Henry VI with them, and the sight of Henry's banner was enough to make many of York's followers desert, as the Lancastrian army was so much bigger they thought they might lose and then be executed as traitors.

This led to an urgent family conference. York, and his elder sons, Edward and Edmund, Salisbury and Warwick all slipped away in the night, taking only their hand luggage. Duchess Cecily, with only George and Richard and a pimply lad called William Hastings to protect her, walked down to Ludlow market cross, in the hope of picking up a lift to Fotheringhay,

The Lancastrian army arrived soon after dawn. The Duchess, drawing herself up to her full five foot eight plus hennin, told her children to be brave, and William Hastings waved a white flag as vigorously as he could.

The leaders of the Lancastrian army were in a foul mood, and they were just about to do terrible things to the Duchess and Margaret when they caught sight of the expression on Richard's face. As one man, they stepped back in fear, and several of them, including Lord Clifford, actually soiled themselves, which was very inconvenient given that they were all wearing armour. The Duchess, who had closed her eyes to think of England, believed ever afterwards that the Holy Trinity had saved her, but it was actually her youngest son, already by far the scariest person in the land.

Henry VI himself showed up - he was far too holy to be scared, but he pardoned the Duchess and those with her on the spot and put them under the guard of trusted men, which, in the circumstances, was quite unnecessary.

There then took place what is known as the 'sack of Ludlow'. This incident has been grossly exaggerated by Yorkist propaganda, much of it undoubtedly put about by Richard himself. In truth, no women were raped, no houses plundered to the bare walls. The Lancastrian soldiers merely knocked politely on doors and asked for contributions to 'Lancastrians In Need' which was a charity lately set up by Henry VI. The odd penny, or perhaps a loaf of bread, was all they wanted. The only real casualty was Henry the pig, who was slaughtered so that everyone could have a bacon sandwich.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The True History of King Richard III - Part 3


It is now time for a little housekeeping and explanation. The political situation between 1455 and 1459 is too boring and complicated to go into here. Suffice it to say that sometimes the Duke of York was in power, and sometimes the Duke of Somerset and Queen Margaret were. Of course, this Somerset was not the one Richard had killed, but his son, who most confusingly had the same title. Similarly King Henry VI was sometimes insane, and sometimes what passed for 'normal' in the case of Henry VI. In other words, he wasn't actually catatonic, and gave the impression that he was merely unworldly, and in fact quite holy. Had he been a friar, he'd quite possibly been made a saint while he still lived, but as a king he was more in the way of an inconvenience, often signing things he was not supposed to sign, and quite frequently granting the same thing to two different people.

Richard had a number of brothers and sisters alive at this time. The eldest was Anne, who was no longer at home being married to the Duke of Exeter. The idea of these arranged marriages was to build alliances with other noble houses, but unfortunately Exeter hated both Anne and her father, the Duke of York. (This is no reflection on Anne or York. as Exeter hated everyone except Lord Egremont, and was always going around annoying people and getting thrown into the Tower.)

The next eldest were Edward and Edmund. Everyone knows Edward, who was later to become King Edward IV. He was very tall and good looking, and all the ladies liked him, so he always got extra chips on his plate when he lined up for dinner. Eventually, as a direct result, he became rather fat. No one knows much about Edmund, though he was probably similar to Edward, but nicer. These two lived in their own establishment, which may have been at Ludlow, where they were mercilessly bullied by a boy named Croft. Or, as they called him, Bonzo. Later this same Croft became a faithful servant, which probably proves something about bullies.

Next was Elizabeth, who was married to the Duke of Suffolk. If you'd met Suffolk in the street, you'd have thought him a moderately prosperous turnip farmer with no more wits than he needed for the job. But he was in fact a duke, and Elizabeth must have loved him as they had lots of babies together.

Then there was Margaret, of whom little needs to be said except that she was exceptionally tall. Had the House of York put out a ladies' football team, Margaret would have played centre half. Then there was George, who shouted a lot and tried to be a bully. Then Richard himself. These three were in the nominal care of their mother. However the Duchess Cecily was very devout. She spent most of her time kneeling in the chapel, praying for the souls of her deceased children and also praying that she would have no more, just in case it turned out to be a three year pregnancy.

They were not always at Fotheringhay. Sometimes they would move to Ludlow, or to Berkhampstead, or to Baynard's Castle in London, which must not be confused with Barnard Castle, a place they did not own. Occasionally they even went to Sandal, which is in Yorkshire, although not very deep into the county. Although the Duke of York had 'York' in his title, he actually owned very little of Yorkshire. Indeed, much of the county belonged to Henry VI (in his role as Duke of Lancaster) or to various other nasty Lancastrian persons, like Lord Clifford for example. This had been set up just to confuse foreigners.