An American novelist in King Richard III’s court

I opened my Facebook author page to discover my new friend Sarahleigh of Leicester had posted about the gift I sent her, a paperback of my novel, Rings of Passage. On the title page, I had written the inscription, “The Sunne in Splendour shined on us the day we met.” It was so true.

Sarahleigh stands with me as Leicester glows around us.

Sarahleigh stands with me as Leicester glows around us.

Meeting Sarahleigh among the crowd gathering the streets of Richard III’s “funeral” procession, marked the beginning of an extraordinary week for me in which I celebrated the life of a long dead English king. It’s as if this 500-year-old English monarch had suddenly become a rock star.

History geeks, scientists, writers, literary experts, members of the Richard III Society, and everyday working citizens of Leicester, came together for an international event that was as unlikely as it was miraculous.

Against the Odds
Excavated three years ago from beneath a “car park” in the city’s center, the bones of medieval King Richard III matched the DNA of a living descendant of Richard’s sister.

That’s the miraculous part. As Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist for the University of Leicester’s Greyfriar’s project said, “The chances of finding Richard was, I don’t know, a million to one.”

From ignominy to celebrity
On March 22, these royal bones were being transported via motorized hearse and then horse-drawn carriage in a dignified procession along the same route Richard III’s corpse traveled, ignominiously thrown over the back of a horse, the day he died.

Richard III's bones in procession

Richard III’s bones in procession through Leicester on March 22, 2015

He was on his way to Leicester cathedral, where within a few days’ time on March 26, he would be re-buried with the honor he never received the first time, when he was thrown into a shallow grave, 530 years ago. Henry Tudor, the victor of that battle and usurper of the throne, wanted to erase the memory of the last Plantagenet king from the minds of the citizens of his newly claimed realm as quickly as possible.

A medieval city’s transformation
When Richard came through this medieval city in 1485, it had a population of only 3,000. Leicester today has nearly 400,000 residents. Britain’s most ethnically diverse city, it was now undergoing what the news media called the “Richard Effect.”

Many of the people lining High Street waiting for the procession were from countries other than the United Kingdom – America, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France. But the majority were Midlanders, born and bred in and around Leicester, who had heard about Richard III all their lives because they grew up among the landmarks of his final days. They had been taught in school the textbook facts about how he had been slain 14 miles from their city on the battlefield of Bosworth – the last English King to die in battle.

Rings of Passage: A Time Travel Novel with Richard III

Rings of Passage: A Time Travel Novel with Richard III

My novel unearthed
The entwining of my life with Richard III’s legend began over two decades ago. Reading Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time turned me into an instant Ricardian, chaffing against Tudor propagandists and Shakespeare’s smear campaign. I eagerly joined the Richard III Society and wrote my first novel, Rings of Passage. In it, Richard is a romantic hero worthy of happiness – not the Bard’s crouch-backed monster.

Many years my novel had languished on a computer hard drive.

Then, suddenly, Richard became newsworthy. Not long after the excavation of his bones and DNA identification, I unearthed Rings of Passage. The advent of e-publishing now made it possible for readers specifically interested in Richard III to discover my novel.

Not long after it came out, my novel passed the acid test when the Richard III Society publication Ricardian Bulletin reviewed it. I had my facts “pretty much bang to rights,” wrote the reviewer.
Whew! I passed the history test.

That kind of obsession
My visit to Leicester in March 2015 was not my first. In 1990, I took a self-guided tour of as many Ricardian landmarks I could get to during a month spent in England. I had been to the Bow Bridge, where Richard had been carried after the battle, his naked body slung over a horse. I had made a pilgrimage to Bosworth Field, which required me to catch a city bus to Market Bosworth, and then hike the remaining few miles to the battlefield, walk around it, and back again – a total of 10 miles on foot.

That kind of obsession is what compelled Philippa Langley to become the squeaky-wheel for the Ricardians, urging public and university officials to finally excavate the site where Richard had most likely been buried, the social services car park on the former location of Greyfriars Priory, destroyed during the Reformation.

I went to that car park on my long-ago trip to Leicester. Because of a locked gate, I could not get as far as Philippa Langley’s parking space marked with the letter ‘R’ under which Richard had lain for five centuries.

Yet, as I stood soggy in the cold rain, like Philippa, I swear I could feel him there.

"Leicester Glows" The Richard Effect
Come full circle to Leicester, March 22, 2015.

Arriving in Leicester by train just in time to make it to City Centre before the streets closed to car traffic, I stood not far from that car park once more.

Like thousands of others stacked six deep along the High Street, I waited for the solemn, horse-drawn procession carrying Richard’s coffin. Many only wanted the chance to toss a white rose in the Yorkist’s honor as he passed.

I first met Sarahleigh in this throng of Richard “fans” at a tree planter along the street, upon which the most “vertically challenged” of us could crawl and stand at a height lofty enough to stare down the street, blinking into the glare of the setting sun, and hoping to catch the first glimpse of the procession.

After that, Sarahleigh kept in touch with me online throughout the week, as we shared the experience of the “Richard Effect” on the city of Leiceister. It’s as if we were old friends long parted who had found one another again.

On Friday, the day after the re-interment in the Cathedral, we joined up for the remarkable and surreal experience of “Leicester Glows,” a “fire garden” of 8,000 flaming candles built into sculptures and trails throughout the cathedral gardens and lining the streets.

Sarahleigh ties a prayer ribbon at Leicester CathedralWe spent the evening chatting, sharing a pint, and eating fish and chips in the Last Plantagenet pub, and then wandered the fiery streets celebrating the reburial of Richard III.

The week nearly over, Sarahleigh and I took our turns tying prayer ribbons at Leicester Cathedral, and giving thanks to the universe for allowing us to share this remarkable historical event.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch described it perfectly: “It’s just an extraordinary thing to witness history through death brought back to life in order to be placed back to death again.”

______________________________________________________________

Rings of Passage: A Time Travel novel with Richard III

Rings of Passage: A Time Travel novel with Richard III

Rings of Passage is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

______________________________________________________________

Dangerous Reflections: A Historical Fantasy through Time

Dangerous Reflections: A Historical Fantasy through Time

Dangerous Reflections is a time travel historical fantasy set in Edwardian London. After Martie is bequeathed a magic wand from her grandmother, she steps through a mirror into the arms of a powerful wizard and a truly magical romance.

Light the darkness through belief and persistence

Cynicism rules the modern landscape. But even in these troubled times, belief against impossible odds and the persistence to see a thing through to the end can shed light into the oldest and darkest of places.

My novel “Rings of Passage: A Time Travel Novel with Richard III” emerged into the light in late 2013, long after its burial on the virtual shelf.

Against all odds, the universe shifted, allowing a miracle to occur.

The word “miracle” is flung about loosely these days, but I believe this event qualifies.

Richard III PortraitThe bones of my novel’s romantic hero, King Richard III, had been excavated from beneath a parking lot in Leicester in 2012. DNA comparison to living descendants of his sister proved his identity.

The discovery of the medieval king, who died in 1485, was made by a team of archaeologists of the University of Leicester. The excavation had finally been undertaken because of the fervent belief by Richard III Society members Philippa Langley and Dr. John Ashdown Hill that Richard’s remains lay in a makeshift grave beneath a city parking lot on the former site of the Greyfriars Priory.

They simply would not give up.

For those who can’t quite place which English king this is – he’s the one whose reputation is painted the blackest of all in British history.

In the centuries since he was slain by Henry Tudor’s army, Richard has been unfairly maligned by, oh, just about everyone. That’s what happens when the winning side writes history books.

To add insult to injury, Shakespeare wrote one of his greatest plays based around Richard’s alleged crimes: the murder of his innocent nephews, the Princes in the Tower.

The Bard leaves us with the taste of ridicule in our minds when he wrote Richard’s final death cry as, “My kingdom for a horse!” – what the king really cried was “Treason!”

By the time the Leicester City Council had finally agreed to the excavation, I had not thought about my Richard book for years.

Admittedly, I was a bit in love with Richard at the time I wrote it.

I got on the bandwagon after reading Josephine Tey’s “The Daughter of Time.” After studying the facts of Richard’ life and learning about the propaganda disseminated by Henry Tudor’s supporters, it troubled me that Richard had been given a raw deal by historians. Despite the fact that Tudor had gained the throne by winning a battle, and not through bloodlines, everybody seemed to be on his side.

I fervently wanted to show Richard III, the last Plantagenet king and the last English king to die in battle, as a good and honorable man who was worthy of happiness and love.

Bosworth battlefield, where Richard III fell in battle in 1485

Bosworth battlefield, where Richard III fell in battle in 1485

In my story, my heroine Anise time travels via a magic ring to the 15th century just prior to the Battle of Bosworth Field where Richard is destined to die. In a plot setting the historical events of the final days of Wars of the Roses against a backdrop of magic devised by wizards to put Henry Tudor on the throne, Anise and Richard fall in love.

Completed in the ’90s, my novel identifies Greyfriars Priory as Richard’s confirmed burial place. As if channeling future events through my writing, I employ the plot device of excavating the King’s remains and using DNA evidence – even though, 20 years ago, the use of DNA in forensics had just come into common usage a few years before.

During my research trip to England so long ago, I visited that Leicester parking lot where Richard had been found. I stood there on a rainy day in September, on the street outside the city building, and tried to sense Richard’s presence. (blog post.) When I heard years later he had been found on that very spot, it left me breathless.

And now, as a member of the Richard III Society, I will be returning to Leicester. In another gift from the universe, my name was chosen in a lottery to attend one of Richard III’s reburial services in Leicester Cathedral at the end of the month.

Remarkably, through the persistence of Ms. Langley, Mr. Ashdown Hill, and other supporters of the excavation, Richard’s bones and the true facts of his life have been brought into the light.

Inspired by their unflagging belief and persistence, I unearthed “Rings of Passage” and rescued it from obscurity.

And to come full circle, I will be in attendance – a witness to history – when Richard III is finally laid to rest in a manner of respect and dignity befitting a medieval king.

______________________________________________________________

Rings of Passage: A Time Travel novel with Richard III

Rings of Passage: A Time Travel novel with Richard III

Rings of Passage is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

______________________________________________________________

Dangerous Reflections: A Historical Fantasy through Time

Dangerous Reflections: A Historical Fantasy through Time

Dangerous Reflections is a time travel historical fantasy set in Edwardian London. After Martie is bequeathed a magic wand from her grandmother, she steps through a mirror into the arms of a powerful wizard and a truly magical romance.

Universe, throw me a (royal) bone!

Richard III PortraitThere are times in your life when something in the Universe shifts and you get what you want.

Up until that point, it seemed impossible. It was the tallest Everest to climb without ropes, or the widest Pacific to cross in only a bamboo raft. The odds were always against you.

Finally, you get to an age where the magical thinking stops and reality sinks in. You accept the fact that what you want so badly, what you have wanted all your life, you will never have. You make peace with it. And inside you – really deep inside you – it does become okay not to have it.

Perhaps it’s that acceptance that causes the shift. Maybe, when the Universe is between hoisting weird coincidences upon hapless humans and laughing at them, it stands back, takes a look at your noble acceptance and hears your brave utterings of “It wasn’t really that important.” Then, and only then, the Universe says, “Ah, ha! Now let’s throw her a bone!”

It’s exactly what happened to me. The Universe threw me a bone. Actually, it threw me an entire skeleton.

In February, it was announced that the skeleton of King Richard III had been unearthed from beneath a parking lot where, back in the fifteenth century, the Greyfriars Priory had stood in Leicester, England.

I took the hint, and unearthed my own remains – of a novel I had finished years ago and had tried, but failed, to get published.

The time had come to try again.

In “Rings of Passage,” my unlikely romantic hero is King Richard III. In the centuries since he was slain by Henry Tudor’s army (528 years ago today), Richard has been unfairly maligned by, oh, just about everyone. That’s what happens when the winning side writes history books.

To add insult to injury, Shakespeare wrote one of his greatest plays based around Richard’s infamous crimes, such as how he’d had his innocent nephews, the Princes in the Tower, murdered. (In my novel, you’ll find out who really did it.)

The Bard leaves us with the taste of ridicule in our minds when he writes Richard’s final cry as he falls in the throes of battle: “My kingdom for a horse!”

I mean, who is ever going to forget that? (Especially, if you’ve heard it spoken by Laurence Olivier.)

At the Battle of Bosworth Field, this was the real final cry Richard shouted at his usurping and unworthy cousin Henry Tudor: “Treason!”

Today, on the anniversary of Richard III’s death, my novel “Rings of Passage” has been brought to life. In it, Richard is loved by a modern heroine, Anise, who travels back in time to attempt the impossible: to change history and save the king from his tragic fate.

The excavation of an anointed King of England’s remains, followed by the DNA evidence confirming his identity, was the unlikeliest of outcomes – and yet proved successful.

The unearthing and resurrection of my novel? Well, let’s just say both occurrences are a bit of a miracle.

(To give credit where credit is due, I recommend you visit the Richard III Society’s article by Dr. John Ashdown Hill describing how this amazing archaeological discovery unfolded.)

And because today is August 22:

“PLANTAGENET, Richard. Remember before God, Richard III, King of England, and those who fell at Bosworth Field, 22nd August 1485, having kept faith. Loyaulte me Lie.”
Afterthought: My novel can be found here: