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: 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: York – Keys to the city

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: In one day, I saw as many of the Ricardian sites in the City of York as I could. Richard spent much time there. He felt these citizens were truly his countrymen. I realized the City of York loved Richard at least as much as I did. This was proven by its preservation of the places in which he had lived and breathed. In a time before there were quite so many willing to defend the King’s honor, the City of York provided a sturdy wall around his reputation.

City of York
September 23, 1990

I “did” the city, today:

Jorvik Viking Centre
Merchant Adventurers Hall
St. Williams College
The Shambles
York Minster
Frigate Wax Museum
Monkbar
Mickelgate Bar
City Walls

Keys to the Merchant Adventurers Hall

Keys to the Merchant Adventurers Hall

Quite a list for eight hours. Of course, I did some places better than others. Jorvik was like a Disneyland ride without Animatronics.

The Merchant Adventurers Hall was exquisite as a 15th century structure. I especially liked the undercroft.

York Minster’s windows are fantastic, as is its tower and foundations. In the Chapter House, Richard had been involved in several ceremonies.

The  Bars were great, too. Sort of miniature castles. Very Ricardian. The Castle Museum was wonderful. I’d love to take my mother there. She’d love it.

At Friarsgate, they had a wonderful lifesize 3D model of Richard. I kept looking at his legs in black hose. Very attractive. I shot lots of photos, which I hope come out.

At last, I got to eat. I had a wonderful vegetarian lasagna and garlic bread, and a much needed pint of lager.

Then I came back and watched “Last of the Summer Wine” on BBC1. And a show called “Trouble Shooter” about a guy who figures out what’s wrong with failing companies. Tonight: Apricot computers.

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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: City of York – Ghostly encounters

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 was Richard III’s biggest fangirl when I walked into York through Mickelgate Bar. If the King had been a rock star, then being in York was like going to his greatest concert ever. It was magical and moving and intense. I had close brushes with ghosts, real and imagined. And if you ask me where I think Richard should rest for eternity, it would be in this city, which has been unwaveringly loyal to the King for 500 years, long before he became an archaeological celebrity.

City of York
September 21, 1990

So far, York is my city – and Richard’s.

Richard III wax statue, Friarsgate Museum, York

Richard III wax statue

He’s still their favorite king. Everything has the Yorkist white rose and there’s even a pub, the King’s Arms, with his portrait on the sign.

I felt Richard the minute I walked through Micklegate Bar, where his father’s head was piked after the Battle of Wakefield.

Went on the Ghost Walk. Spooky. The guide was a great storyteller. We went into some dark places. A snicklewalk  – and the Judge’s Court. Little nooks right out of literature.

My guest house is outside the walls. After hearing about all those ghosts, I was nervous coming back through the dark. Also, Friday nights are kind of rowdy.

York is a wonderfully medieval place. I’m listening to my Gram Parsons tape, just for a contrast. “Sin City.”

September 22, 1990

Woke up in a sweat.

After that ghost walk, I was quite shaky about that stuff.  I slept well at first, but then I woke up after 2 a.m. to a noise I couldn’t identify.

So I listened and heard something else. And then the adrenalin started pumping. I lay perfectly still, eyes shut tight, pretending I was still asleep. Terrified.

Then I heard the noise again. And I identified it as my stomach. The curry I had for dinner was gurgling around down there.

I was relieved, but the adrenalin was already there. Had to take a Valium. I had bad scary ghost dreams the rest of the night.

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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.