Sunday, May 27, 2012


New York Times and USA Today best selling author Brenda Novak is holding her annual online auction for the Cure of Diabetes here. Sign up and join the auction. Participating is a win because every bid supports diabetes research/win because you'll feel good about your support/and because you can win the bid and get something you want to have.

Please visit the auction and bid on the many offered items including many autographed books. My signed books about Richard III in the 21st-century can be found here or by clicking on "for readers" in the navigation bar on the left. Please support this worthy cause.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Money, Money, Money

These days—if you look at the Queen of England, for example—you know her purse doesn’t contain any money. Nor, does she need to ever handle any money. English monarchs in particular, almost never have to have cash on hand.

This was not so for Richard III before he became England’s king. In 1469 he requested a loan of £100 of the king’s Undertreasurer. The introduction and letter were copied from the American Branch website of the Richard III Society (
Richard's earliest surviving letter dates from 1469. When travelling with Edward IV to put down a disturbance in Yorkshire, he writes from Castle Rising, Norfolk, this urgent request for a loan of £100, to Sir John Say, the King's Undertreasurer, whose memorial brass survives at Broxbourne, Herts. [illustrated*]. The Duke's title at the head and the anxious postscript are in Richard's own hand:
The Duke of Gloucester
Right trusty and well beloved, we greet you well. And forasmuch as the King's good Grace hath appointed me to attend upon his highness into the North parts of his land, which will be to me great cost and charge, whereunto I am so suddenly called, that I am not so well purveyed of money therefore as it behoves me to be, and therefore pray you as my special trust is in you, to lend me an hundredth pound of money unto Easter next coming, at which time I promise you you shall be truly thereof content and paid again. The bearer hereof shall inform you, to whom I pray you to give credence therein, and show me such frendliness in the same as I may do for you hereafter, wherein you shall find me ready. Written at Rising the 24th day of June.
R. Gloucestr

Sir J Say, I pray you that you fail me not now at this time in my great need, as you will that I show you my good lordship in that matter that you labour to me for.
 Source: British Library Cotton Vespasian Ms. F iii f 19
*Illustration not available.

For Want of a Nail
Most accounts indicate that Richard III was eager to fight Henry Tudor in the spring and summer of 1485. In “The Broken Sword,” Rhoda Edwards’ novel about Richard III’s reign, Edwards posits that Richard’s eagerness was at least in part caused by the condition of his treasury. Richard couldn’t sit back and wait for Tudor to arrive in England before he gathered his troops. He had to place people at the most likely harbors and have them ready to send messengers to Nottingham as soon as they saw Tudor’s ships arriving from France, while using the fleet to stop the invasion before they could reach British soil. Richard was spending money he didn’t have to be ready to defend his crown. Soon after Henry landed at Milford Haven in early August, Richard called his troops to assemble at Leicester. According to Edwards, by the time Henry arrived at the battlefield, Richard probably felt he could not afford delaying the fight to draw Henry into a less advantageous position. Sadly, Richard was killed in Battle, and not for want of a nail, but perhaps for lack of money. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Richard Rescues Anne

When 16 year-old Richard first asked Edward permission to marry Anne Neville, Edward IV refused, saying that he’d reconsider if after a year, Richard still wanted to marry her. Once the year passed, Richard again asked Edward, who then agreed. Before Richard could act, the Lancastrians overthrew Edward and the crown returned to Henry VI. Edward and Richard went into exile in Burgundy. During this time, Warwick married off his daughter to Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou’s son, Edward. About a year and a half later, Edward retook the crown and captured Henry VI. Henry’s son and Anne’s husband had been killed on the battlefield.

Thus, in 1471, Richard, now 19, renewed his request to marry the recently widowed Anne Neville. Although Edward agreed to the marriage, George—who by then, had custody of Anne—argued against it. Edward, found in favor of Richard. George, refused to turn Anne over to Richard and hid her from them. In effect, this strife made headline news, for it is documented in the Third Continuation of the History of Croyland Abby (
...After, as already stated, the son of king Henry, to whom the lady Anne, the youngest daughter of the earl of Warwick, had been married, was slain at the battle of Tewkesbury, Richard, duke of Gloucester, sought the said Anne in marriage. This proposal, however, did not suit the views of his brother, the duke of Clarence, who had previously married the eldest daughter of the same earl. Such being the case, he caused the damsel to be concealed, in order that it might not be known by his brother where she was; as he was afraid of a division of the earl's property, which he wished to come to himself alone in right of his wife, and not to be obliged to share it with any other person. Still however, the craftiness of the duke of Gloucester, so far prevailed, that he discovered the young lady in the city of London disguised in the habit of a cookmaid; upon which he had her removed to the sanctuary of St. Martin's....

Richard and Anne married * and moved to Middleham Castle where they resided until Richard was named protector and then became England’s king.

* The exact date of the marriage is in some dispute, although now it is generally thought to have occurred in April of 1472.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Parent’s Worst Nightmare

Anne Neville was the younger daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (aka The Kingmaker). Warwick was instrumental in aiding Edward IV accede the throne the first time in 1461 by defeating Henry VI. Warwick attempted to arrange political marriages for Edward IV, but Edward defied him and secretly married Elizabeth Woodville. After, Warwick arranged a marriage for Anne with Edward of Lancaster, Henry VI’s and Margaret of Anjou’s son, the former Prince of Wales. They were married December 1470. The years 1470-1471 were turbulent times as England’s crown went from Edward IV to Henry VI and then back to Edward IV through the battlefield. It was in those battles that Anne lost both her father and her husband. Margaret of Anjou, herself a feisty queen and capable politician through her husband’s aegis, lost her only son and then her husband (Henry VI died in the Tower while being held by Edward IV). In 1482, she died in France.

Since Warwick had no sons, his properties were left to his daughters, Anne and her older sister Isabel. Isabel was married to Richard’s older brother, George, Duke of Clarence (who it appeared, would sometimes align himself with his father-in-law or his brother, Edward IV depending on which one was winning). Richard petitioned his brother and re-crowned king, Edward IV to marry Anne. It seemed Clarence tried to block the marriage so that he could inherit all of Warwick’s property through his wife, Isabel. After some difficulty, Richard married Anne in 1472 (I will relate this story tomorrow). Anne and Richard had their only child, Edward—actual date unknown and could have been anytime between 1473 and 1476.

Image below is from the Rous Roll in the Herald’s College.
Left to right: Queen Anne Neville, King Richard III, Edward, Prince of Wales
Early in April, 1484, Richard and Anne received the devastating news that their only child, Edward had died. The chronicler at Croyland Abbey* recorded the following:
However, in a short time after, it was fully seen how vain are the thoughts of a man who desires to establish his interests without the aid of God. For, in the following month of April, on a day not very far distant from the anniversary of king Edward, this only son of his, in whom all the hopes of the royal succession, fortified with so many oaths, were centred, was seized with an illness of but short duration, and died at Middleham Castle, in the year of our Lord, 1484, being the first of the reign of the said king Richard. On hearing the news of this, at Nottingham, where they were then residing, you might have seen his father and mother in a state almost bordering on madness, by reason of their sudden grief.
* From the Third Contination of the Croyland Chronicle reproduced on the American Branch Richard III Society website (

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Amazing Cecily Neville, Richard III’s Mother

In a time when women had few rights and were ruled by their husbands, Cecily Neville stood out as an exception to the rule. Being of noble birth, hers was an arranged marriage to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. In 1424, she was betrothed to Richard of York when she was nine and he, thirteen. Since Richard was Cecily’s father’s ward, she did have the advantage of getting to know him before the marriage was consummated. And it seemed their marriage was a happy, loving one, despite that it was arranged to bring two powerful houses together. In 1438 at age 23, Cecily gave birth to her first child, Joan, who died in infancy. She was to have twelve more children after that. Of the 13 children, only seven reached majority, and only two (Elizabeth and Margaret) survived Cecily’s death in 1495 at 80 years of age.

She lived to see her husband and second oldest son killed in the Battle of Wakefield, two sons become England’s king (Edward IV and Richard III), and one son (George) found guilty of treason and executed in the Tower of London.

From all accounts, it appears that Richard III was close to his mother. When he first arrived in London, he resided at Baynard Castle, Cecily’s residence before his wife joined him. Throughout his reign, he continued to maintain contact with her. Reproduced below is the only extant letter* that Richard wrote to his mother in June of 1484, about two months after his son had died.

“Madam, I recommend me to you as heartily as is to me possible, beseeching you in my most humble and effectuous wise of your daily blessing to my singular comfort and defence in my need. And madam, I heartily beseech you that I may often hear from you to my comfort. And such news as be here, my servant Thomas Brian, this bearer, shall show to you, to whom please it you to give credence unto. And madam, I beseech you to be good and gracious lady to my lord, my Chamberlain, to be your officer in Wiltshire in such as Colyngbourne had. And that it please you that by this bearer I may understand your pleasure in this behalf. Written at Pontefract the 3rd day of June, with the hand of your most humble son.

“Ricardus Rex”

* Secretary's copy: British Library Harleian MSS 433 f2b

Though formal, this letter was written in the customary style of the 15th-century. Aside: the Colyngbourne mentioned was later executed for high treason. He also was the author of the infamous rhyme—“The Cat, the Rat, and Lovell our Dog / Doe rule all England under a Hog.”

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My mom introduced me to Richard III

 Like most people who know anything about Richard III, I got my first impression about him from Shakespeare. For me, he was the arch villain I loved to hate. And who could not love Laurence Olivier’s brilliant portrayal, or Ian McKellen’s controversial one. They both brought Shakespeare’s villain to life creating a man with whom the audience could even sympathize.

Richard III
One day, about nine years ago, my mother asked me if I had ever read Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman. I hadn’t, but since my mom has great taste in books (I agree with her choices), I went to the library the next day and borrowed this nearly thousand page historical fiction. I was spellbound from the start. Penman introduces us to a seven year-old boy, who eventually becomes the king of England—not through treachery and murder that Shakespeare would have you believe—but through unwavering loyalty to his brother, Edward IV and through a strange twist of fate. On his deathbed, Edward IV names his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, protector to his oldest son, Edward who was still a minor. Richard was not there when Edward IV died, but only learned of the events about a week after the fact. While serving as protector, Richard learns from the Bishop of Bath that Edward IV had been previously married before he had married the mother of his children, and that his first wife was still alive at the time of the bigamous marriage. All Edward’s children were legally declared bastards, thus unable to inherit title. Richard of Gloucester was next in line.

I was so blown over by these and other revelations in Sunne in Splendour, that I had to do my own research. I found Richard’s life so compelling that I found I wanted to have a chat with him. The only way I could think of doing that was to write him into the 21st-century. It started small, but grew to three novels, the first two of which are published and the third a work in progress.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Shouldn’t every day be Mother’s day?

Yes, but for commercial reasons, these holidays that appear on our calendar, whether we like it or not, tend to sucker us in. For better or worse, we all have moms, so who am I to go against the trend? Besides, my mom, who just celebrated her 94th birthday, deserves to be celebrated every day. The photo was taken at her 92nd birthday party.

When I was about ten, I had wanted to do something (I can’t remember what, but that isn’t important) that my mother vetoed. I asked her why she didn’t want me to do it to which she replied that if I had a good reason why she should let me, she would then agree to that activity. Her decision taught me to think things through to their possible consequences, to take responsibility for my decisions, and to lay out reason arguments. I also got to do a lot more things than if I had to rely on my mother’s judgment instead of my own.

Thanks mom.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: Thomas Jefferson, Rachel & Me by Peter Boody

Thomas Jefferson, Rachel & Me
Peter Boody
330 pages

Jack Arrowsmith, the me in the book’s title, and Rachel Carter, Jack’s dead son’s girlfriend, meet the ghost of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. When Jack and Rachel engage Jefferson, he becomes a solid, breathing man who convinces them to take him away from Monticello. Thus ensues a sometimes-delightful tale of past and present that intertwines Jack’s grief over the loss of his wife from illness and his son from an automobile accident with Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence and his relationship to the Hemings family and slaves in general.

“Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”—Mark Twain

By implication, the novel’s title suggested the most important character would be Jefferson, then Rachel, and lastly, Jack. However, I read more about Jack and his coping with loss than about Jefferson. Rachel, who should have been an important character, was little more than a cipher—her presence for me was more like a _deus ex machina_ enabling the Hemings discussion rather than a fully fleshed character. I don’t know if the reason for this was because the story was told from Jack’s point of view in first person, but for long stretches of the book, we are told about Jefferson’s activity after the fact. As a result, I thought the book was about the narrator instead of Jefferson. I never got close to Jefferson and didn’t witness him adapting to his new situation or grow as a person. Towards the end, it was hard to suspend the disbelief that I had willing done at the start. In addition, the book seemed to be a venue for Boody to express his political views. I found some scenes to be particularly ham-handed.

Despite the drawbacks this book has as a novel for me, I found it worth reading for the historical aspects regarding slavery and Jefferson’s relationship with the Hemings family.

Notes: I did come across some typos and the occasional clunky sentence. They were few and not sufficient to harm the reading experience. I read the Nook edition.