Monday, February 25, 2013

Guest Post: Looking for Richard By Anne Easter Smith

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Author Anne Easter Smith
Many thanks for hosting me today!

So now we know! It was Richard III under the car park in Leicester, and the exciting announcement on February 4th made me cry. Now all of us who are Richard fans will have somewhere to go and pay our respects. It appears Leicester has won out in the re-interment battle between there and York Minster. A ceremony is being planned for early 2014, I understand.

The discovery of a skeleton beneath a municipal parking lot in Leicester last September sent a shiver of excitement through the history world and especially several thousand fans of England’s much maligned king, Richard III.

When I heard that an archeological dig was being considered to find the last remains of my favorite king, I quickly opened my wallet and donated to the attempt. How could I refuse? After all, Richard is the only crowned king of England whose grave has remained shrouded in as much mystery as his life has. And he is featured in all of my books!

Portrait of Richard III

The venture was to be undertaken by the archeology department at Leicester University, but the force behind the dig was a fellow Ricardian and president of the Scottish branch of the Richard III Society, Philippa Langley. She was convinced her exhaustive research would uncover the remains of the Greyfriars Church, where Richard’s battered body was lain out for “all men to wonder upon” before being given burial, with little ceremony, somewhere inside the church. We only have a couple of references to where it might have been, but I’ll get to that later.

I happened to be in England when they first began to dig on August 25th, so I was privy to more media coverage than perhaps was first given in the US. The Society had approached the BBC about including the dig in its popular “Time Team” program that documents archeological digs all over Britain. They refused at first, but a barrage of emails from Ricardians and enthusiasts all over the world got their attention, and when artifacts from a well-endowed building were uncovered in two trenches, they changed their minds. You can be sure they were doubly glad when, on September 12th, a skeleton was unearthed in a third trench that had uncovered the nave and its shallow burial crypt beneath.

Statue of Richard III in Leicester
Lo and behold! A solitary skeleton of a male was discovered, its skull caved in by some sharp instrument, an arrowhead still lodged in its spine, and, most curious of all, a curvature of the spine that would have made the man’s right shoulder higher than the left. The news raced around the world that finally, King Richard III’s grave may have been uncovered.

But why only now? It seems history forgot Richard after the Tudors sowed their damning seeds about the last Plantagenet king to shore up their own feeble claim to the throne. Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, who became Henry VII, chose to date his reign from the day BEFORE the battle of Bosworth, thus making it possible to proclaim Richard’s supporters traitors, and Richard’s body to be treated with despicable irreverence.

After the battle, with a halter around its neck, Richard’s naked, battered body was thrown ignominiously over the back of a horse and taken back into the city of Leicester and given over to the monks of Greyfriars to lay out for public viewing. After two days, the monks were given permission by the king to bury him somewhere within the monastery walls.

Stained glass window installed in St James Church,
Sutton Cheney by 
John Taylor (CC-BY-2.0),
via Wikimedia Commons


At some point in the next ten years, however, the notoriously stingy Henry must have felt guilty for his ill treatment of an anointed king’s remains, and he managed to untie his purse strings to pay one James Keyley to fashion a small alabaster monument to be placed over Richard’s grave. Unfortunately, the Greyfriars monastery and church went the same way the rest of England’s Catholic bastions of religion went during Henry’s son’s reign forty years later. Monks and priests were strung up, churches stripped of all their treasures, monasteries ransacked and burned and tombs overturned and desecrated. In fact, some history books will state that Richard’s bones were found and thrown into the nearby River Soar and his stone sarcophagus (of which there is no mention in the contemporary chronicles) used as a water trough for horses.

In 1611, John Speed (of map fame) wrote a history of Great Britain based on his travels around the country. He writes that a mayor of Leicester owned the now secular Greyfriars monastery as a pleasant residence, and the alabaster monument was still in what was now the garden, albeit covered in nettles and weeds. A traveler in the 18th century also wrote in his journal that he had seen the same monument, but since then the old house has disappeared and the land was subsumed by the city of Leicester. At the time of the dig last year, it had been a parking lot for many years; the city allowed the excavation to take place before the lot is built on yet again.

Is the skeleton Richard’s? Scientists are using DNA from a descendant of Richard’s sister, Anne, to try and ascertain that. Other tests like carbon dating should also help, and a reconstruction of Richard’s face can be done with the latest technology, which will be exciting. By the time you read this, we should know, and I for one wish I could be on hand to witness a more fitting re-burial for this unfortunate, misunderstood king.

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About the Author: Anne Easter Smith is an award-winning historical novelist whose research and writing concentrates on England in the 15th century. Meticulous historical research, rich period detail, and compelling female protagonists combine to provide the reader with a sweeping portrait of England in the time of the Wars of the Roses. Her critically acclaimed first book, A Rose for the Crown, debuted in 2006, and her third, The King’s Grace, was the recipient of a Romantic Times Review Best Biography award in 2009. A Queen by Right has been nominated by Romantic Times Review for the Best Historical Fiction award, 2011. 

About the Book: From the author of A Rose for the Crown and Daughter of York comes another engrossing historical novel of the York family in the Wars of the Roses, telling the fascinating story of the rise and fall of the final and favorite mistress of Edward IV. Jane Lambert, the quick-witted and alluring daughter of a silk merchant, is twenty-two and still unmarried. When Jane’s father finally finds her a match, she’s married off to the dull, older silk merchant William Shore—but her heart belongs to another. Marriage doesn’t stop Jane Shore from flirtation, however, and when the king’s chamberlain and friend, Will Hastings, comes to her husband’s shop, Will knows his King will find her irresistible. Edward IV has everything: power, majestic bearing, superior military leadership, a sensual nature, and charisma. And with Jane as his mistress, he also finds true happiness. But when his hedonistic tendencies get in the way of being the strong leader England needs, his life, as well as that of Jane Shore and Will Hastings, hang in the balance. This dramatic tale has been an inspiration to poets and playwrights for 500 years, and told through the unique perspective of a woman plucked from obscurity and thrust into a life of notoriety, Royal Mistress is sure to enthrall today’s historical fiction lovers as well.

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Check out all the stops on Anne easter smith's Royal Mistress Virtual Book Tour


Thursday, February 7
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Friday, February 8
Interview at The Maiden’s Court
Guest Post at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Monday, February 11
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, February 12
Interview at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, February 13
Guest Post at Ageless Pages Reviews
Thursday, February 14
Guest Post at Books, Belles and Beaux
Friday, February 15
Interview at Unabridged Chick
Monday, February 18
Guest Post at So Many Books, So Little Time
Tuesday, February 19
Guest Post at The True Book Addict
Wednesday, February 20
Guest Post at A Bookish Libraria
Thursday, February 21
Interview at Enchanted by Josephine
Friday, February 22
Guest Post at Tanzanite’s Castle Full of Books
Monday, February 25
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, February 26
Guest Post at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, February 27
Interview at Muse in the Fog Book Reviews

2 comments:

Anne said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today! Anne

The Flashlight Reader said...

Glad to Anne. Thank you for sharing with us!

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