Richard III tour: History inspires fantasy fiction at an ancient church near Bosworth Field

My visit to an ancient church where Richard III prayed on the eve of his death became the backdrop for this transformative scene in my novel, Rings of Passage.” 

(see photos below)

St. James Church, Sutton Cheney

Window at St. James Church

The   door   of   the   church  was   scored  by centuries  of  use  by  the  simple  people  of  his parish. Richard ran his fingers along the scars just as  Francis  caught  up  with  him.

“Dickon.  The hour  grows  late.  This,  of  all  nights,  you  must rest.”

“I’ve  learned  to  do  without  rest.  What  I haven’t  learned  is  why  God  has  forsaken  me. This I must know before I die.”

He  looked  up  at  the  exterior  of  the  old church. Small and squarely built, it had been put up  by  the  Normans long  before a  Plantagenet ever wore the crown of England. A corner of his mouth quirked – and doubtless it would remain so long after.

“Perhaps  here  I  will  find  it.  I  cannot  be swayed from this, friend.”

Francis sighed,  recognizing Richard’s stubbornness in full force. Grasping the large iron ring at the center of the door, Francis pulled. It opened with a groan.

Within, the walls glowed, bathed in the light of a multitude of candles. Stretching to the ceiling were the colored glass windows that in daytime colored the interior of the church, but at night receded into shadow. The vicar hovered near the altar, his face anxious. He had faced a steady stream of knights who had come this evening to make peace with God.

Other than the priest, the church was empty.

Richard nodded to Francis, who stayed by the door to keep others out. The king did not want to be disturbed.

Under the vicar’s watchful eye, Richard knelt before the altar. The priest consecrated the bread and wine, ministering to his king who, in the eyes of Deus, was but a mere mortal.

But Richard could not open his heart to God. Even now, forgiveness would be denied.

Why have you deserted me, Lord?

Richard spoke the prayer that brought him the most peace: “De beato Juliano. Cum volueris pere res afflictos relevare captivos redimere in carcare positos…”

But he could not concentrate. The memorized words flew from his mind like startled birds. And though he knelt before God, Richard could only think of Anise.

Forgive me, my love – I judged you by my own besmirched soul. I accused you when you were without guilt. My ignorance brought you only suffering – ’tis this I abhor most of all. Dear Anise, wherever you are, know that even hours before my death, I would give up my kingdom to be with you.

A sense of peace flooded his soul, causing him to gasp. He sensed Anise nearby. Was he imagining it? Or had she heard his thoughts? He choked back a sob. “Anise?”

Richard remembered he was not alone. He looked at the vicar and saw the priest staring fearfully at something to Richard’s left.

He followed the man’s gaze and knew why he was frightened. In the aisle, a mist had gathered. Glowing with an otherworldly light, it spread out before him.

Richard’s senses expanded as the power of the magic ring on his finger thrummed through his arm. Opening to its insights, a presence filled him up.

Her presence. Anise. Richard got off his knees and rose to his feet.

His pulse raced as he watched the mist take human form, and now recognized her face at its center.

In his mind, he heard her speak – but could not make out the words.

He sensed her struggle. She wanted to tell him something. He could feel she was weary.

And she began to fade. Don’t leave me, Anise!

He thrust his arm into the glimmering mist, reaching for her – and caught hold of a hand that wavered between two worlds, one moment solid and the next, spirit. The shock of her presence filled him. She could not come to him, but was confined in some place that would not let go.

Where in God’s name is she?

Richard’s mind numbed to everything but Anise – and at last he heard her.

So… tired… cannot go on… must tell you…

She was giving up. Her exhaustion coursed through him. Richard was losing her. I must not… lose… her.

Clinging to the tendril of mist, using what power he could glean from the ring, he fought for her. He pushed back the weakness that sapped her strength, lending her his will and his strength – and his love.

As her spirit rallied, the otherworldly light grew brighter. He could discern her features more clearly now, her eyes hollow with weariness, her full lips, her dark, flowing hair.

She said his name, not in his mind only, but spoken aloud, “Richard.”

From the corner of his eye, Richard saw the vicar backing away in terror.

Anise tried to speak, but no words could be heard. Richard concentrated, opening his heart, drawing her into himself. Her thoughts, her emotions, her soul, joined his.

He knew the eternal blackness she experienced, and sensed her weariness. Without words she told him – she could not hang on. She had tarried too long in that place.

If he let go now, if he lost her, it would be forever. She could not return.

Then all became clear. Richard knew how to save her – to save them.

Clinging to her insubstantial hand for all his life, he shouted to the vicar, “Marry us!”

The priest held up his hands, shaking his head. “N-no, Your Grace – ’tis evil!”

“You fool! ’Tis a miracle! If you don’t marry us, she will die!”

Still the priest refused.

Richard was furious. There was no time for this! With his right hand, Richard felt for his scabbard, and made ready to draw his sword.

“Do you deny your king? As I am your sovereign Lord, I demand you marry us, or be cut down upon this altar.”

The vicar’s eyes widened.

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Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Richard III Tour: Middleham Castle – Pilgrimage to the past

In 1990, I set off for England for a month to research my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” This is my travel journal.

Looking back from 2014: Richard’s childhood home was one of the places I most wanted to visit. Getting to Middleham Castle proved to be a challenge, testing my endurance. Once there, I had very little time. The universe granted favors in the form of earthly delights – a picnic lunch of delicious market cheese and bitters, with a gorgeous view of the Yorkshire Dales. I had longed for transcendence, but felt let down at the time. The photos tell a different story. Middleham had been a jewel in the crown of my Richard tour. The lesson: Let the expectations go, and experience what is offered.

Middleham Castle, Yorkshire
September 22, 1990

Middleham Castle

Doors through Middleham Castle

This day was a lot of work.

This morning, I got the train to Darlington, then a bus to Richmond.

Richmond was having its market day. Cobbled streets, buildings all of stone. I wished I could stay longer. Went to an antique fair. Then I got some cheese and a beer and packed them away to wait for the bus to Leyburn.

Oh, what a beautiful ride through the Dales. I’ve never seen a landscape like Yorkshire. Sort of Pennsylvania pushed up against Indiana farmland. Loads of sheep. Long-haired ones with long tails. We went over hills, through woods, past fields divided with dry stone walls. Leyburn was quite quaint, as well. But then I had towalk 2½ miles to get to Middleham Castle. And I didn’t have a whole lot of time because I had to catch the bus back.

No pleasant walk across the Dales, this.

I had to walk along a fairly busy two-lane highway with no shoulder, up and down steep hills in a cold wind. Not fun at all. I got there and was almost locked out – but the British Heritage lady let me in after all.

There I climbed up on the ruins overlooking the great hall, and ate my Leicester Whirl cheese with herbs and garlic, and my Huntsman’s cheese, and drank my Stones Bitter.

I talked to Richard, but it’s not like he was there like he was at Warwick and Kenilworth. Maybe I was just too tired to commune.

It actually did seem rather peaceful. If I felt anything, it was in what had been the chapel.

I explored it faster than I would have liked, but my time was short. The material about the castle was all about Richard, and I got some books. But then there was that walk back looming before me.

At last I set off – the wrong direction! Going probably ¼ to ½ mile the wrong way toward Coverdale. Turned around, back through the town of Middleham. The walk back was exhausting, colder, but without as many cars. Crossed the Ure River. Couldn’t enjoy the countryside. Too much against me.

Back in Leyburn, I caught the bus, changed in Richmond. The bus driver kindly dropped me at the rail station, saving me that walk. I blessed him over and over.

Once on the train, I was freezing. A woman brought a refreshment cart through, and I got a hot chocolate. A lifesaver! I felt like a guardian angel was looking after me – maybe Richard? – for making that long pilgrimage to his castle.

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Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

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.

 

 

Richard III Tour: Kenilworth Castle – The King’s ghost roams

Aside

In 1990, I set off for England for a month to research my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” This is my travel journal.

Looking back from 2014: I remember being very affected by Kenilworth, as if I had entered a holy realm. It was back in the days before there were digital cameras, and I had used all my color film at the storybook castle, Warwick. All that remained in my backpack was 35mm black-and-white 400 ASA film – which meant the pictures would be contrasty with some visible film grain. Turns out, Kenilworth looks amazing in black and white. That day, the universe had my back.

Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire
Sept 20, 1990

I can’t describe how I felt at Kenilworth. These huge chunks of ruins gave me the eeriest feeling. Like how I always imagined Wuthering Heights. It was the first place I’d visited that will actually be in my book.

I had to take two buses to get there. I got there late – about 4:30. There was hardly anyone there – two or three other people and myself. And it was cold, about 50. The wind was blowing gustily. The sky was steel grey. Surrounded by gentle, green slopes, sheep, a quaint town.

Door into the past

Door into the past

There at Kenilworth, it was so isolated. So far from anywhere. It echoed with the past.

I walked all of its nooks and crannies. I climbed up into a tower, up these narrow spiral stairs in the dark – and it was ghostly. And to think that Richard stayed there.

I got a tight stomach, a tingly feeling, as if I might see Richard’s ghost any minute. As if the past were going on at the same time in a different dimension. As if we were sharing the same physical space. I was nervous, as if I were about to meet someone famous. I got rushes, as if I had taken an amphetamine. Like Anise must feel in Richard’s presence.

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Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

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.

 

 

Richard III Tour: Warwick Castle – The King slept here

In 1990, I set off for England for a month to research my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” This is my travel journal.

Looking back from 2014: Walking into Warwick was like entering a storybook castle. I remember being fascinated by centuries-old structures that the locals took for granted. What struck me was the difference in perspective between what Americans think as “old” compared to the British. “Thousand-year-old castle? Eh. Nothing special.”

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Sept. 20, 1990
Warwick Castle

Queen Anne's bedroom at Warwick

Queen Anne’s bedroom at Warwick

Warwick, still intact, was magnificent. So much of it has been tampered with by the Victorians. But there was an old bed there, carved intricately of wood. With the 4 big bulbous posts and roof – to be surrounded by curtains. I imagined Richard and Anise there and I could picture the scene perfectly. Delicious.

I saw the dungeons and tried to absorb that. And where Edward IV was imprisoned by the Earl of Warwick. Just a tiny room, with a bed and a teeny tiny writing table with a candle on it.

My floor plan of Anise's bedroom

My floor plan of Anise’s bedroom

I went up and down 200 stairs (narrow staircases) and got quite a thrill, knowing Richard had been there. I saw a room I quite liked for my book, as Anise’s room. 

It was somewhat difficult today, dealing with the buses. But so well worth it.

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Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

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.

 

Richard III Tour: Bosworth Field – Praying with the King

In 1990, I set off for England for a month to research my Richard III novel, “Rings of Passage.” This is my travel journal.

Looking back from 2014: My visit to Bosworth Field is burned into my memory. It is the ultimate destination for a Ricardian – the place where he did not plead, “My kingdom for a horse,” but instead cried, “Treason!” as an unworthy pretender invaded his realm and wrested it from him. Richard was the last English king to lead an army to the battlefield. To stand where he died moved me deeply. But to kneel where he prayed transcended it all.

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Leicester
Sept 25, 1990

Map to Bosworth Field

10 mile round trip on foot

Today was exhausting and exhilarating. I went from low to high several times.

I walked 10 miles.

One mile to the bus station.Then scrambling around trying to get the right bus. (Leicester has not treated me well.) Then from Market Bosworth, 2½ miles to the visitors center at Bosworth field. Then 1½ around the battlefield. Then 1½ round trip to Sutton Cheney church where Richard prayed the night before the battle. Then 2½ miles back to Market Bosworth.

Then another mile back from the bus station in Leicester to my B&B. And I really had to run to Market Bosworth to catch the bus and only with about a minute to spare – or else I’d have to wait another hour.

Nerve wracking.

The battlefield was really nice and the walk there wasn’t too bad, if long. I didn’t get to stay long at the place he was actually killed though. I wonder how they know.

Church of St. James, Sutton Cheney

Church of St. James, Sutton Cheney

At Sutton Cheney, there is this really old, old church with a damp smell. But so peaceful. I knelt where I thought Richard might have at the altar and looked at the crumbly walls as he might have. And I got that tingly feeling, like you get when you’re in the basement and you just want to get upstairs now. And at that point, a sadness came over me and I cried for Richard.

I sat for a few minutes alone in the church and cried. Then I prayed that I would have the talent and perseverance to tell Richard’s story.

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Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

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.