Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Anne Easter Smith on Richard III

Today I am pleased to welcome Anne Easter Smith to Historical Tapestry as part of her Royal Mistress/Richard III blog tour that has been organised by Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours! 

I have had a soft spot for Richard III since I read Sharon Kay Penman's spectacular Sunne in Splendour, which then lead me on a journey to books I loved like Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey and Anne Easter Smith's A Rose for the Crown. It has been a while since I read a book about Richard III, but I do have a couple coming up soon!

With the news that Richard's body has been found and identified, I was happy to get the opportunity to ask Anne Easter Smith a few questions.


M: It has been big news over the last week that the body of Richard III has been found. I had heard that Richard III was the last English king killed in battle and the only one since William the Conqueror who didn't have an official tomb. What difference do you think the fact that there is a body and that it will be buried at Leicester will make?

AES: Thanks for hosting me today! As far as this question is concerned, I think most Ricardians are just happy to be able to have a place to go and pay our respects. A plaque has been in place near the carpark in Leicester for quite some time (paid for by the Richard III Society), but it was a guess that his remains were still somewhere around there! The best part of all this excitement over the discovery is that it will revive interest in this much-maligned king, and perhaps new scholarship will help unblacken his name.

M: Do you think that Leicester is the right place for his tomb to be located?

AES: To be honest, I was not fanatical about one location over another. York certainly has every right to lobby for the burial there as Richard spent so much of his life in the north, but as it was the University of Leicester that worked so hard to uncover the bones, and somehow in all the redevelopment over the centuries the grave was still intact, I am quite happy for Leicester Cathedral to house Richard’s remains now. However, re-interment in another place is not unheard of in Richard’s family. His father, Richard duke of York and brother, Edmund, were removed from their original burial ground in Pontefract, near where they were killed in the battle of Wakefield in 1460, and moved with great pomp down to the York family seat of Fotheringhay and re-buried in July of 1476. I set a scene in “Queen By Right” during those elaborate ceremonies. I thought that if York and Leicester couldn’t come to terms, that perhaps Richard should be taken back to his birthplace and laid with his mum and dad and brother!

M: Richard III is a very divisive figure in history. There are lots of very passionate people who believe that he had bad PR at the hands of the Tudors and can not have been as bad as he has been portrayed and yet there are others who are equally as passionate that he was a murderer and all round bad guy. Why is he still so divisive all these years later?

AES: If you are a Tudor fan, you can’t love Richard! That’s a very simplistic answer to a very complex question. But from the media of the winner of the battle of Bosworth (and his descendants), i.e. Tudor chroniclers, historians and Mr. Shakespeare, a very black picture of Richard III was painted and people believed it. Shakespeare’s play, in particular, is all wrong chronologically and factually. We now know that Richard had scoliosis, but so does Usain Bolt. It looks as though Richard’s right shoulder was higher than his left because of it, but that does not make him a hideous hunchback with a withered arm (in fact the skeleton showed no abnormality to the arm). I would guess he had to compensate for the pain he must have had from his back by building up his sword arm, because we know he was a formidable soldier, and even the Tudors do not dispute, his prowess on the battlefield. The murders laid at his door by Shakespeare should mostly be laid at his brother Edward’s. And the playwright had Richard killing the duke of Somerset at the Battle of St. Alban’s when Richard was only two! I think that if the princes in the Tower had not disappeared so mysteriously, Richard would not have garnered such controversy over the centuries. People love a mystery--just look at the theories about Jack the Ripper!

M: How did you come to be fascinated by Richard III?

In my early 20s, my Ricardian godmother gave me a copy of Josephine Tey’s “The Daughter of Time,” and I have been obsessed by him since then! (My mother was relieved as the last obsession I’d had was in the my teens when I adored Ricky Nelson! “Much quieter, dear,” was her response to Richard. She had quite a sense of humor, my mum!)

Tour Details

Anne Easter Smith's Website
Anne Easter Smith on Facebook

Articles on Richard III

BBC news: DNA confirms Richard III is found
New York Times: Bones under parking lot belonged to Richard III
Facial reconstruction: How Richard may have appeared, as reported by BBC

About the book

Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Touchstone
Hardcover; 512p

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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