Monday, February 18, 2013

Guest Post: 'Valiant or Villain?' by Anne Easter Smith

I am so excited to welcome Anne Easter Smith, author of Royal Mistress, to the blog today!  She is here as part of the Royal Mistress/Richard III blog tour.

Thanks for hosting me today!

So now we know! It was Richard III under the car park in Leicester, and the exciting announcement on February 4th made me cry. Now all of us who are Richard fans will have somewhere to go and pay our respects. It appears Leicester has won out in the re-interment battle between there and York Minster. A ceremony is being planned for early 2014, I understand.

Those of you who have read my first four books will know about my obsession with Richard III and can perhaps understand my excitement when an archeological dig last September uncovered what might be his skeleton, buried under the nave of Leicester’s Greyfriars Church, itself long buried under a municipal car park! Newspapers had a field day, even headlining: “Should dead king pay 500-year parking fine”!!

If the DNA taken from the descendant of Richard’s sister confirms the skeleton is the remains of King Richard III, killed at the battle of Bosworth on August 25, 1485, it will clear up the mystery of his missing grave these 500 years, but it will not give us any more clues about who this man actually was.

Richard of Gloucester was born at Fotheringhay Castle to the duke and duchess of York on October 2nd, 1452, and was the last surviving child of the couple’s 13 offspring. After his father was killed at the battle of Wakefield in 1460, Richard’s brother the earl of March was crowned King Edward IV following victories against the then-king Henry VI. York’s claim to the throne had led to the civil war known now as the Wars of the Roses, and after Edward was crowned, Richard became a royal prince.

My book Queen by Right tells the story of how a Yorkist came to the throne and of the love young Richard had of his larger-than-life, handsome, charismatic oldest brother. Edward recognized loyalty when he saw it, and he entrusted the governance of the sometimes rebellious north of England to Richard for the years leading up to his unexpected demise at age 40.

Loyaulte me lie (Loyalty Binds Me) was Richard’s motto, and the way in which he held the north strong for Edward was testament to those words. As far as we know, Richard was also faithful to his marriage vows, unlike his profligate brother. From all we can gather, Richard did not possess the charisma of his brother nor his magnificent stature, but until the unsettling few weeks that lead up to his own coronation gave rise to conjecture about his motives, there is nothing untoward in his character that can be found any chronicles or manuscripts of the time. Did he suddenly become a “monster?” I think not.

No historian or chronicler has ever disputed that Richard and his wife, Anne Neville, had anything but a happy marriage, and their grief at hearing of the death of their only child was chronicled as intense. Within a year of that tragedy, Richard lost his beloved Anne to tuberculosis (not poison as some would have); the royal cousin he gave untold power to rebelled against him and had to be executed for treason; the rumor that he had done away with his nephews; and the threat to his two-year reign from Henry of Richmond always ready to invade from France must have been too much for one man to bear.

When he became king, through a series of events following Edward’s death that I go into thoroughly in my new book Royal Mistress, Richard enacted several statutes that show his compassion for his people. In the judicial system, for example, his third statute protected an accused criminals goods before conviction. And I love that he was the first king to enact legislation to protect the art of printing and the importing or selling of books. For more information on his statutes in that Parliament of 1484, you can go to:
Of the six murders laid at Richard’s door by Shakespeare and others, only the execution of William Hastings is actually one Richard orchestrated. (It is the one act of his that I still have trouble understanding, but I think I came up with a reasonable explanation in my newest book, Royal Mistress, in which Richard is a major character.)

I was asked in a Q&A whether I had changed my mind about Richard during the writing of Royal Mistress, because of the harsh way he treated Jane Shore and certainly Will Hastings. Luckily, I have always thought of Richard as a very complicated character--which is partly why he has fascinated historians all these years--and by using omniscient narration this time, I was able to be in Richard’s head as well as Jane’s, Will’s, and Edward’s. It allowed me to show why he acted the way he did, based on his strict moral code and sense of duty. I hope I have been able to deepen interest in his character through my books.

Be sure to pick up a copy of Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith when it comes out on May 7!
SYNOPSIS: From the author of A Rose for the Crown and Daughter of York comes another engrossing historical novel of the York family in the Wars of the Roses, telling the fascinating story of the rise and fall of the final and favorite mistress of Edward IV.

Jane Lambert, the quick-witted and alluring daughter of a silk merchant, is twenty-two and still unmarried. When Jane’s father finally finds her a match, she’s married off to the dull, older silk merchant William Shore—but her heart belongs to another. Marriage doesn’t stop Jane Shore from flirtation, however, and when the king’s chamberlain and friend, Will Hastings, comes to her husband’s shop, Will knows his King will find her irresistible.

Edward IV has everything: power, majestic bearing, superior military leadership, a sensual nature, and charisma. And with Jane as his mistress, he also finds true happiness. But when his hedonistic tendencies get in the way of being the strong leader England needs, his life, as well as that of Jane Shore and Will Hastings, hang in the balance.

This dramatic tale has been an inspiration to poets and playwrights for 500 years, and told through the unique perspective of a woman plucked from obscurity and thrust into a life of notoriety, Royal Mistress is sure to enthrall today’s historical fiction lovers as well.

 For more great posts and interviews from Anne Easter Smith, visit other stops on the tour here!
Follow the tour on twitter!:  #RoyalMistressBlogTour

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