Let me count the ways--
Cinderella, Romeo-and-Juliet, King Arthur and the tales of the Round Table, Harry Potter and Democracy-- what do they all have in common? The Wars of the Roses!
I'm a romantic, addicted to fairy tales. I grew up devouring them as a child, and when I'd read them all, I wrote my own. One day, when I was eleven, someone passed me a novel set in medieval England. I put my nose into it, and eight hundred pages later when I took it out, I flipped to the beginning of the book and put my nose right back in. I kept doing that until I lost the book! My fascination lay in the fact that the story was about girls in long dresses and men in shining armor, and love, just like my fairy tales. Except it was all true. I had discovered a real world of fairy tales for grown-ups!
Unfortunately, I learned that the lives of real princes and princesses didn't end as happily in these adult fairy tales as they had in my childhood ones, but the tales were so fascinating, I couldn't give up this amazing new world. That first book had touched my heart so deeply, I needed medieval history for the rest of my life! When I came to write my own novels, I found the Wars of the Roses absolutely riveting. It is an extraordinary period, alive with ordinary people making their sacrifices for love, honor and country, and struggling to live up to their ideals in an uncertain world. In the process, they become extraordinary and larger than life. As I wrote at the very beginning of my first book, In a tumultuous period of peril and intrigue, reversals of fortune and violent death, when the passions of a few determine the fate of a nation, and change the course of history...
The Wars of the Roses are all about passion, and girls in long dresses, and men in white armor. Here, the good, the bad, and the ugly of humankind are writ large. One of the good (believe it or not!) was Shakespeare’s villain, King Richard III, who was said to have murdered his little nephews, the princes in the Tower-- along with a long laundry list of other close relatives. But don't believe everything you read. That's just a Tudor myth.
Richard was born in 1452, as this era of violence began, and he died in 1485, as the violence ended. This young, idealistic king was raised on tales of King Arthur's court, and passed laws to protect the innocent. He brought justice to the common man, and three hundred years later, his ideals flowered into American democracy. In his personal life, Richard III was an exemplary knight. He rescued the girl he loved from the kitchen where she toiled as a scullery maid--perhaps inspiring Charles Perrault to write his Cinderella three hundred years later. It seems to have been a sort of family tradition because Richard's uncle of Montagu married a girl from the enemy side of the two warring factions of York and Lancaster-- perhaps inspiring Shakespeare's to write Romeo and Juliet a hundred years later.
Meanwhile, Sir Thomas Malory, a Yorkist knight fighting on Richard's side, wrote the tales of King Arthur in Richard's lifetime, and entitled his book Morte D'Arthur. It was published by William Caxton with his Guttenberg press.
Now, we come to Harry Potter. The similarities between the stories of Harry Potter and Richard III have been fodder for Ricardians since J.K. Rowling first published her books. But what of the hero himself? Like Harry Potter, RIII was an orphan. He was alone in a dangerous world, facing difficult choices from an early age. Thanks to his situation, he had to make his decisions without any adult guidance, and his answers had to come from within himself. Llike Harry Potter, the choices he made would affect his own life, and those of many others, changing the course of human history. The difference is that in Richard’s case it’s all true.
The Wars of the Roses is a fascinating time, rich with characters good and bad -- and it's addictive. Step in, and like me, I'll wager you'll find it very hard to leave! It's all just too much fun.
Sandra Worth is the author of the Rose of York series, set during the tumultuous War of the Roses. Her latest book is The King's Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen and it is being released on December 2. It is about Elizabeth of York - daughter of King Edward IV, niece of Richard III, wife of Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII, and yet not really a lot has been written about her before now! Check out Sandra's website for more information about her books.
Thanks for taking the time to post for us Sandra!