From Medieval to Mellotron: Legendary Ten Seconds band transcends time, inspires writing

As someone who writes novels just so I can time travel to the 15th century, I truly appreciate the inspiration behind the musical group, the Legendary Ten Seconds.

Most authors can name that “special place” that provides the best ambiance for easing them “into the zone” to create. One thing that sets the writing mood for me is a musical backdrop matching my novel’s setting in time.

Legendary Ten Seconds

The Legendary Ten Seconds band, pictured from left are Lord Zarquon, Camilla Joyce, Rob Bright and Ian Churchward

The Legendary Ten Seconds’ three collections of songs about Richard III builds the inspiration I need as I work on Heir of York – a time travel tale of a medieval king living in modern times, the sequel to Rings of Passage.

Through the band’s historically based songs, I am transported to a place where Richard’s life seems to converge with our own 21st century existence. The music is an exotic stew of of medieval, Elizabethan, and folk rock swirling with ‘60s psychedelia and ‘70s progressive influences.

Capturing the spirit
An example of this haunting blend is “Ambion Hill,” a song based on a present-day sighting of Richard III near Bosworth Field, where the king was killed in battle in 1485.

I saw a knight upon Ambion Hill,
His armour did shine in the sun.
He wore a surcoat of murray and blue.
It felt like a dream had begun.

Richard III CD

Richard III CD

Ever since Richard III’s bones were found beneath a Leicester parking lot in 2012, a similar sensation followed Richard III enthusiasts as they traveled to the city’s reburial events in March 2015 – a feeling that Richard was among us. “Ambion Hill,” inspired by a real life experience of Ricardian Susan Lamb, captures it perfectly. (Read about my own experiences in this Perceptive Travel article.)

The Legendary Ten Seconds band was founded in 2003 by Ian Churchward, a multi-instrumentalist and resident of Torquay, Devon (the same English town where mystery writer Agatha Christie was born).

Primary members of the band are Ian Churchward vocals, mandola, mandolin, bass and guitar; Lord Zarquon, Mellotron, electric keyboards, moog, drums and percussion; and Rob Bright, banjo and electric guitar. The band is also occasionally joined by Tom Churchward on melodeon; and vocalists Elaine Churchward, Phil Helmore, Camilla Joyce, and Violet Sheer.

The group’s songs on three albums (Loyaulte Me Lie, Tant le Desiree, and Richard III) are steeped in the events and personalities of the Wars of the Roses, but songwriter Ian Churchward’s earliest historical songs weren’t based on medieval events.

Fascination with history
During the late ‘90s, he was inspired by the album, Bones of All Men, which fused renaissance tunes with contemporary music. “I started to make up my own instrumentals in a similar style,” he said, writing songs “with a historical background – about the battle of Hastings and one about the First World War.”

Loyaulte Me Lie CD

Loyaulte Me Lie CD

At the time, he was a member of an English dance band playing Gaelic-based “ceilidh” music. From this period also emerged two instrumentals, “Tudor Danse” and “Fanfare For the King,” which now appear on the Loyaulte Me Lie album.

His interest in Richard III originated with stories based on English history read in his youth. But it was re-ignited by Channel 4’s documentary, King in the Car Park, about the excavation of the king’s bones.

The dovetailing of myth, reality and coincidence leading to the discovery of Richard’s grave, as well as the important role played by the Richard III Society to raise funds for the project, made a huge impression on him. “It was one of the most amazing things I have ever watched on TV.”

Afterward, Ian read the gamut of Richard III books, starting with Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, Sharon Kay Penmen’s The Sunne in Splendour and Annette Carson’s The Maligned King.

“I have lost count of the number of books I have read about Richard III,” said Ian. “I had to read as many as possible to give me the knowledge and ideas to write historical lyrics. The books are all absolutely fascinating.”

Inspired by many influences
On top of his love of medieval, renaissance and traditional English music, Ian appreciates the psychedelic and progressive rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s. “All of these styles of music are featured in the songs on the albums about Richard III,” said Ian.

“One of my favorite albums is Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd,” he said. Other influences are guitarists John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service and Hank Marvin of the Shadows. “I am endeavoring to play my guitar in a similar style.”

He met up with fellow musician Mike Peakman, who professionally goes by the name Lord Zarquon, at a time when their respective groups were disbanding. Together they wrote “House of York,” included on the Richard III album. This also coincided with recording “a batch of songs which had a 1960’s psychedelic folk rock feel to them.”

Lord Zarquon plays  keyboards using the sounds of the Mellotron, an “electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape replay keyboard” (so describes Wikipedia), which is at the heart of classic rock recordings by Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Yes, the Rolling Stones and the Moody Blues, and in the ‘90s, Oasis and Radiohead.

“Lord Zarquon is a huge Moody Blues fan and his Mellotron on the Richard III albums play a very important part in creating a sound that takes the listener to another time and place.”

Tant le Desiree CD

Tant le Desiree CD

To those people who have only passing familiarity with Richard III’s life, Shakespeare’s play seals the deal on the king’s villainous reputation, originally painted black by the Tudors: It is, after all, the victors who write the history books.

The Legendary Ten Seconds band takes a different stance. “To me Richard III is a flawed hero,” said Ian. “He had many good qualities but he also had faults just like any normal person would have.”

“I am not particularly motivated by the thought of changing the mind of someone who believes in his villainous reputation,” he added.

Charitable contribution
Ian Churchward is motivated by the Scoliosis Association (UK), which provides advice, support and information to people with scoliosis and other spinal conditions.

Ian learned about Richard III’s scoliosis from the documentary about the discovery of the king’s bones. It was the same affliction suffered by his wife’s cousin, who “had been a long term sufferer of scoliosis and died the same year that the grave of Richard III was discovered.”

A percentage of proceeds from the Legendary Ten Seconds music sales are donated to SAUK.

For those authors writing novels based in medieval or renaissance history, give a listen to the Legendary Ten Seconds. It might inspire you, too.

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RELATED LINKS

LISTEN or BUY MUSIC
Free taste of the Legendary Ten Seconds music here, and on Soundcloud.
Purchase MP3s and CDs.

WATCH VIDEO
How Do You Rebury a King?
based on events in Leicester, England, March 2015

About the Band
Legendary Ten Seconds website
Lord Zarquon’s website

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BUY MY BOOKS!

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.

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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.

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.”

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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.

At a loss for words? Find out when Karla Tipton speaks at Mysterious Galaxy’s “Author Meet and Greet” July 12

On Saturday, July 12, I will be signing copies of “Rings of Passage” at the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego. The event is from noon to 3 p.m.

Karla at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore

Back on May 3, Karla joined other authors to celebrate California Bookstore Day at Mysterious Galaxy, Redondo Beach.

The “Local Author Meet and Greet” will also include 12 other Southern California authors, representing fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, thriller, and young adult  and other genres.

I have five minutes to speak about my novel.

While I have been in front of an audience with my guitar—and have even done some singing on occasion—I don’t have much experience speaking in public.

So I’ve been practicing what I’m going to say.

Have a listen here. Think it’s good to go?

 

 

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Mysterious GalaxyLocal Author Meet and Greet
July 12, 2014
noon to 3
Mysterious Galaxy Books
7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite #302
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 268-4747

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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: Taking the tube to 15th century London

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: After spending weeks in the country and small cities, London overwhelmed me with its size. It was more than a little intimidating, even though I had previously visited many large cities on the East Coast, as well as the largest cities in California. But nothing prepared me for the feeling of bigness exuded by London. Maybe it wasn’t its size in terms of square miles or population, but the sheer weight of its history. Structures of every era, from medieval times through the days of Swinging London, impressed me at every turn as I walked its streets toward the house called Crosby Hall, a fifteenth century mansion where Richard III often stayed when visiting the city as the Duke of Gloucester. Ironically, 40 years after Richard’s death, the house served as the residence of Sir Thomas More, whose biography of the fallen King painted his reputation black. With some additional help from Shakespeare, this villainous version of Richard has transcended centuries.

London
Sept 28, 1990

Sir Thomas More statue

Sir Thomas More statue

London was a bit overwhelming my first day there. I felt kind of lost, wishing I had company.

First, I took a train into Waterloo, then wandered around until I found the underground (tube). Then I had to figure out which underground train would take me to Victoria, so I could get my tube pass validated. At last I get to Trafalgar Square, where, at last, I decided to get on a tour bus, though I’ve avoided them up to this point.

It was very useful, because I did see all the places I’ve heard about for years – Nelson’s Column, Piccadilly, Hyde Park, the Thames with all its bridges.

We had a Cockney guide from the East End driving the second half of the trip (the first bus broke down). He showed us the church where the Bow Bells are.

“To be a Cockney, you have to be born beneath the sound of these bow bells,” he said.

He showed us the London School of Economics where Mick Jagger went, and the “Bag o Nails” pub where Paul McCartney met Linda Eastman.

When I got off that, I was starving and went to Pizza Hut. Then I got on the tube again to go to South Kensington (Sunny South Kensington, as Donovan says) and make for Richard III’s townhouse, Crosby Hall.

I wandered around there, going through Chelsea (expensive district) to where the house was on Cheyne (Chain-ey) Walk (also the street where Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull used to live). It was interesting.

Then I came back to West Byfleet to have dinner. Rosamond had made pizza!

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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: From Windsor Castle to Marks and Sparks

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

A side trip to Windsor Castle

A side trip to Windsor Castle

Looking back from 2014: The visit to Windsor was my cousin Rosamond’s idea. I hadn’t scheduled a visit to the castle on my Richard Tour itinerary — a tremendous oversight. Richard’s brother, King Edward IV, had made plenty of history at Windsor, his favorite residence. He died there 531 years ago on April 9, 1483, and on April 20, was buried in St. George’s Chapel, on which he had started construction eight years before his death.  After we visited Windsor, Rosamond took me shopping at Marks and Spencer, a British mercantile institution. She fondly referred to it as “Marks and Sparks” (and I suddenly understood the reference in an old Mott the Hoople song lyric). She also convinced me to buy a duvet. I was enamored with the bed coverings, which were not yet popular in the States, but would be in a few years. I loved sleeping under their fluffy warmth and appreciated how they were used without a top sheet (which I tend to get tangled in). I have slept under one ever since. It still reminds me of England.

Byfleet (near London) Sept. 27, 1990

I have had a very nice day, it turns out. Once out of Oxford, which I found rather crowded and cold, I rode the train three hours just to get to where my cousin Rosamond could pick me up. Funny that she has the same name as the town I live in.

Anyway, after Rosamond picked me up, we had a nice lunch (really just a sandwich) and a talk. It’s good to be in a house again.

Then we went to Windsor Castle – a place I hadn’t thought of going, but very glad she suggested it. In St. George’s Chapel there are so many Kings and Queens buried. Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Henry VI – and so many others.

Then I went through the state rooms, so garish and exotic and baroque with great pieces of furniture and armor and weapons and paintings by Van Dyke and Rubens.

Then we went shopping and a sales clerk at Marks and Spencer told me that I’m the first “Karla” she’s met in all her 21 years who spells her name with a “K,” like she does. I can’t believe I bought a duvet, those blanket things you put on beds. It’s in a huge box. The biggest problem is getting it to the airport. Then I’ll just send it along with the luggage. I’m daft.

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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: 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Why did Shakespeare throw Richard III under the bus?

Dedicated to a fellow writer from my newspaper days, who inspired deliberation on this topic through his blog, “A Year of Shakespeare: 38 Plays, 365 Days.”
Richard III and Shakespeare
Why did Shakespeare throw Richard under the bus?

Some of the assumptions I make here may be false, however it is based on a fair amount of research, some of which I did while researching for my novel, Rings of Passage. I don’t claim to be a Shakespeare scholar. Experts out there take issue, please, if you will. Let’s get this thing cleared up.

Why did Shakespeare throw Richard III under the bus?

  • Political fear

Shakespeare wrote Richard III during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and so his portrayal of Richard is sometimes shrugged off as “toeing the party line.”

Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII dispatched Yorkists whenever he could get away with it. On flimsy charges, he beheaded Richard’s niece Margaret (countess of Salisbury,  George, duke of Clarence’s daughter) when she was 68 years old. She was hardly a threat.

He learned his hatred of Yorkists from his father, Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, whose hate was grounded in the reasonable fear that his kingship was both undeserved and usurped.

If you had Yorkist leanings during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII, you had good reason to be afraid.

Yet Elizabeth the First did not share the hatred of her father and grandfather. She was a moderate in government and tolerant in religion. She enjoyed the theater, earning the disapproval of the Puritans on her own counsel.

According to Lisa Thyer, author of “Shakespeare Life and Times/Intro to Shakespeare’s life and Historical Context”:  “Theater was often used as a covert forum for political criticism: …some may have remembered the swinish face of Henry VIII, and all in the audience knew that it was only under special circumstances that they could publicly share the thought that monarch was a swine.”

Criticism of the Tudor dynasty embedded in a dramatic performance would not be cause enough for Elizabeth to eliminate a playwright, whose work she most likely enjoyed.

To toe the line of the current political climate is not a convincing enough argument for  Shakespeare’s trashing of Richard III.

  • Chasing the fame

How many tabloids have jumped on the bandwagon to destroy some celebrity’s career for the sheer purpose of selling more copies? Could the Bard’s motivation have been opportunistic?

Although Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays “preceded only by the three parts of Henry VI and perhaps a handful of comedies,” according to Wikipedia Richard had been dead a century by then, give or take a few years. Richard’s “dark” reputation had already been convincingly painted against the backdrop of the “Tudor Myth*.”

The rehashing of that old chestnut wouldn’t have gained a playwright much traction unless he happened to be Shakespeare. Like all great writing, he took an old idea and told the story in such a compelling way that it became new again.

It’s the universality of this theme, molded by the deft hand of a genius, that propelled Richard III to the top of the Elizabethan drama charts.

If there was any bandwagon jumping, it was because Shakespeare knew he could use the legend of Richard’s evil to drive home the idea that, in the karmic scheme of things, crime doesn’t pay. Shakespeare was not adverse to cozying up to his audience’s preferences, however (more on that later).

  • Poetic license

By the time Shakespeare penned Richard III, he had already written three historical plays Henry VI, parts I, II and III.

While researching the intrigues of British royalty, Shakespeare wasn’t looking for truth. He was looking for drama. And something deeper.

Shakespeare grew up on the morality plays popular at the time of his youth. These plays, and the classical dramatic tradition of unity and decorum learned as part of a grammar school education, provided the foundation for his work. Along with his contemporaries, Shakespeare blended old morality drama with classical theory to develop a new secular form for the English Renaissance.

In a nutshell, this new form of drama resonated on an emotional level, but also incorporated themes dealing with the human condition and destiny. And despite its ambiguous themes and complexity, this new brand of drama should be universally understood, not only to the educated elite, but also to ordinary people.

Because of the speed that authors had to produce plays at the time, and the Renaissance theory that  tragic plots should be grounded in history, Shakespeare turned to source material typically used by playwrights of the time: Raphael Holinshed’s 1587 Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande.

Among the sources Holinshed used for Richard III was Thomas More’s unfinished, The History of Richard III.

Born in 1478, More was 7 years old when the Battle at Bosworth took place. As a boy, he lived for a time in the household of Dr. John Morton, who was Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VII, and one of Richard’s bitterest enemies. Morton’s conspiratorial machinations against Richard eventually helped put Tudor on the throne.

More’s account of Richard’s life was interpreted through the prism of Morton’s anti-Richard propaganda, which was then reiterated in Holinshed’s Chronicles, which provided the plot for Shakespeare’s play.

Morton’s hatred filtered through Shakespeare’s pen dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s turning Richard into an evil and unredeemable monster who murdered children.

In his quest for drama and theme, Shakespeare had no use for primary sources that proved otherwise.

Even if Shakespeare knew that Richard III could not have perpetrated the crimes he was a accused of, he didn’t care. In Henry VI, Part II, Shakespeare has Richard killing the Duke of Somerset, when in actuality Richard was only three years old.  In part three of Henry VI, Richard is seen participating in the Battles of Mortimer’s Cross and Towton.  In fact, Richard was 8 years old and living in Burgundy.

Shakespeare’s motivation was not to exonerate, but to exploit plot twists to amplify his theme.

As with the character of “Vice” of whom Elizabethan audiences would been familiar from the morality plays the fates turned on Richard in the end**.

“Fate versus free will” was popular with audiences influenced by the growing Calvinism of the Elizabethan era. Inherent was the belief in historical fatalism, in which individual historical events are determined by God, who often punishes evil with (apparent) evil.

Shakespeare used Richard’s “reputation” as the perfect vehicle for conveying this idea.

Does that make him a toady to the Calvinists? I don’t think so. Still, he wasn’t beyond playing to the preferences of his audience.

Yet it is done so brilliantly. Can’t we forgive him?

I never really doubted that Shakespeare’s real motivation behind Richard III was artistic. I need not have taken the journey, just to come to the conclusion I had at the beginning.

However, I have learned much, and do not regret the trip.

And finally…

  • Conspiracy theory

In a nutshell, there are serious scholars who believe “William Shakespeare” was an identity assumed by a member of the nobility, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, to enable him to write plays and sonnets anonymously.

If Oxford was Shakespeare, he would have had strong motivation for painting Richard III’s reputation black.

Prior to Richard’s reign, the de Vere family had been stripped of nearly all its land holdings, after John de Vere participated in the Battle of Barnet in 1471, against the Yorkists. Richard’s elder brother, King Edward IV, confiscated, and then turned around and granted to Richard, all of John de Vere’ s property.

Was Shakespeare’s most famous play written by de Vere out of some kind of revenge?

Food for thought.

My Sources
Footnotes:
* Tudor Myth: Political propaganda promoting the Tudor period of the 16th century as a golden age of peace, law, order, and prosperity; and the Yorkist period of the15th century, including the Wars of the Roses, as a dark age of anarchy and bloodshed.
** Richard was God’s curse on England in punishment for the deposition of Richard II in 1399, which formed the basis for the conflict between the Yorkists and Lancastrians and sparked the Wars of the Roses.

Author Christine Elaine Black discusses her creative process

When I heard about Christine Elaine Black’s novel “A Rose for Lancaster” from our mutual acquaintance, author Cara Bristol, I had to read it. Set in the 15th century, the romance between Blanche and Giles takes place after the defeat of King Richard III, who is the hero of my novel “Rings of Passage.” Based on our novels, Christine and I are on opposite sides of the Wars of the Roses! When I read “A Rose for Lancaster,” I was immediately charmed by the story. Blanche is a Yorkist and Giles a Lancastrian. They rise above their political loyalties to be together. In this interview, Christine discusses her writing life and her love of history.

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Christine Elaine Black’s links:

A Rose for Lancaster

“A Rose for Lancaster”

Author Biography
Blog
On Twitter

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Christine Elaine Black interview

Karla: At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? Was there an event, or a comment someone made to you, or an experience that made you think, “Hey, I’d like to write.”

Christine Elaine: I started writing to encourage my daughter’s foray into the storytelling world. I intended to write for her (which I did) but then I enjoyed it so much I kept writing and delved into the romantic historical genre.

Karla: Do you have a very early work that you would like to reinvent or get into shape to share with the world? What is it?

Christine Elaine: I have quite a few projects that are finished but ‘rough,’ and that means finding time to re-read, edit, re-shape and publish. If I had unlimited time I’d likely have it done by now but life in the real world calls to me. It’s a constant give and take to be an author.

Karla: When you write novels, do you use an outline, or are you a pantser (flying by the seat of your pants)?

Christine Elaine: I start with an idea. I love ancient Rome and found it difficult to source a romance book in that time period. The idea for Maximus sprang into my head and I started writing the story without much plotting. The characters took over and the story fell into place. Although I write ‘romance’ which is typically as story dealing with the relationship of a couple central to the plot, I like to add many other characters to embellish the plot. Since trying out the self-publishing market I write slightly outside the romance box to include a few of my favourtie secondary characters. It’s fun!

Karla: What is the MOST important to you? Plot? Character? Setting?

Christine Elaine: A really great story is the most important to me. The characters add to that of course and I love them all, even the mean ones in a strange way, but story is important. The characters need angst and conflict to make us care.

Karla: How scheduled are you when writing?

Christine Elaine: For a number of years I wrote late at night. Parents will understand the reason for that! It was my time to relax and spend in a constructive, creative way. Lately, I’m learning a whole new world of blogging, tweeting and Facebooking and that’s eating away at my writing time.

Karla: Where do you write? Is there certain music you have playing in the background? A favorite room, desk or chair? Are you like J.K. Rowling, and write in a coffee shop?

Christine Elaine: I use the Mac (family room) or the PC (home office) and prefer silence if I can get it. I’ve never written when I’m out and about in the real world. Too many distractions for me.

Karla: Are the stories that you write different from those that you read? For instance, romance versus humor.

Christine Elaine: I’ve read a lot of historical fiction. If I could write like the authors I idolize that would be a dream come true. Let me give you a few examples:

Colleen McCullough’s Roman series (a tour de force)
Jack Whyte’s Camelot series (incredible)
Bernard Cornwell’s Viking series (amazing)
Pauline Gedge’s Egyptian works (mesmerising)
Jo Graham’s Numinous World series (fantastic)

As you can see, I read a list of heavy hitters in the literary world! I couldn’t begin to compare myself to career authors.

Karla: Is your creative process something you sweat over? Or is it something you trust to “kick in” as soon as you get started.

Christine Elaine: I don’t have any issues with the creative process. If I need to take a break from a particular scene, character or book, then I switch to something different or go for a walk. Often I write prolific amounts and edit or switch things around as new and improved ideas come to me. It’s hard to hit the delete key on work but in the end it can be for the best.

Karla: If you have a troublesome plot issue, how do you solve it? Is there a method or a meditation you turn to solve the problem?

Christine Elaine: I sleep on it. Often I go to bed thinking about my characters and imagine them in situations, working through problems or having conversations. I don’t dream about them as some of my fellow writers have said they do, but I run scenarios in my head.

Karla: What advice would you give to new authors who are trying to find their voice and their stride?

Christine Elaine: The best advice I can give is network with other writers and look for feedback from trusted or well-meaning friends (including virtual friends). I posted some work on a few writer sites before publishing and it helped to chat with others in the same boat and exchange views on each other’s work. Ultimately, though it’s a growth process and some find it easier than others.

Karla: I couldn’t agree more! And I want to thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your insights with us. _____________________________________________________

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage is now in paperback!

In other news… “Rings of Passage” is now available in paperback through Amazon! It would make a great Christmas gift for the bookworm in your life.