I love solving puzzles, who-done-its and mysteries. When my children were small I loved reading Cadfael novels and decided to write my own historical novel – little did I know that thirty years later the whole premise would be scuppered by that “King in the Carpark”, King Richard III!
It was around the time of the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth and the televised Channel 4 Trial of Richard III where David Starkey came to fame. I wanted to be certain of as many facts as I could so, to cut a long story short, I joined the Richard III Society to learn more and to try to help solve the puzzle of what had happened to those two little Princes in the Tower?
The mystery of King Richard III
It’s a fascinating mystery; so much had been written, even more so now - not to mention Shakespeare and Starkey - but I wanted to make up my own mind. If the Princes weren’t legitimate then Henry VII couldn’t marry their sister; if they were legitimate then they should be King, not Henry. If Richard had them murdered then why did countries such as Germany and Ireland believe Perkin Warbeck was the rightful heir?
I’ve read and re-read what other people think, I’ve attended conferences and research weekends, and sat through meetings and discussions, but it still can’t be proved one way or the other – the fascinating complications of the family trees, the battles between the cousins, the influence of Warwick and the scheming of the women, make every aspect of the story a puzzle to solve. And at the end of the battle of Bosworth, a mutilated body was carried on horseback to Leicester, was the body thrown in the river? Was it buried with honour, the chivalrous thing to do for a King, was the body even that of Richard? – Now there’s an idea; I started to wonder - and write.
What-if the King was badly-injured, the battle was lost so his friend Francis Lovell rescued him and smuggled him away, only to re-appear in various subsequent adventures, the Battle of Stoke, Francis’s visit to Scotland, the pretenders return to England? How wrong could I be?
But as the children got bigger I needed to work, so I started to teach; my fascination with the details of history, particularly the lives of ordinary folks was an obvious topic to share – and I enjoyed learning too. I’d joined a creative group, and a history group, and progressed from certificates to Diplomas, then my first degree and then my Masters.
Thirty years later with much water under the bridge, and having researched and taught medieval history for much of that time, we started hearing that Philippa Langley, an enthusiastic member of the Richard III Society was trying to have a carpark in Leicester excavated as she believed that was were King Richard was buried. If that wasn’t farfetched enough she had teamed up with another well-known Society member John Ashdown Hill who believed he had traced the family line to a Canadian carpenter living in England. The rest of the story would seem preposterous if it were fiction, but dreams became reality and now we are a year on from the re-internment of the proven remains of Richard III.
I have lectured about King Richard III, delivered several courses on the period, written books about him, and his times and now have an online course Richard III and The Wars of the Roses at www.medievalcourses.com available to anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world.
I hope you enjoy it.