Saturday 16 March 2013

FanstRA4 - The Stolen Crown

Now that production for The Hobbit is almost completely at the end, over the next two years or so, Richard Armitage will have some time between movie premiers and appearances to figure out what he wants to do next. He has mentioned that these films and especially this character is one of the best things he will ever do in his career and, while I don’t disagree with that, I personally hope that he will also go back to his project of bringing the life of King Richard III of England to the big screen.

With the recent discovery of Richard III’s remains under a car park in Leicester and the involvement of screen writer Philippa Langley, this seems to be very much a case of “now or never”.  Ms. Langley has even been reported as saying that she can simply not look past Richard Armitage for the portrayal of ‘her’ Richard III, meaning the character of Richard III that she has created in a screenplay. For the moment, Richard is keeping his mouth securely shut when it comes to this screenplay. Yes, he has acknowledged that he has read it and that he’s very much interested in Richard III and in telling the ‘true’ story of the King. He has even said that he would love to play Richard III, but at the same time, he’s always very quick to add: “but I’m probably a bit too tall and a bit too old to play him.”
Facial reconstruction of Richard III, based on the remains found in Leicester
Ever since Richard announced his interest in this project and he revealed his personal dedication and affiliation to the medieval king, the fans have been rallying support, hoping that he would one day be able to make this dream a reality. Have you signed the petition yet?

Of course, in order to be able to support a project, you need to learn more about it and about its subject. I have taken a specific interest in Richard III, and especially in his wife and queen, Anne Neville. I even turned to her when it came to naming this blog, and I try to learn more about Richard and Anne by reading both fiction and non-fiction about them.

I recently read The Stolen Crown, a historicalfiction novel by Susan Higginbotham. The novel tells the story of Richard III from a completely different angle. It takes the point of view of Henry (Harry) Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham and his Duchess, Katherine Woodville. That last name should definitely ring a bell to anyone who has investigated this period. Katherine was the youngest sister of Elizabeth Woodville, queen consort to Edward IV, Richard’s older brother, and mother of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, the ‘princes in the Tower’ and of queen Elizabeth, wife of Henry Tudor, or Henry VII who took the crown of England by defeating Richard III in the battle of Bosworth.
As was often the case in those days, Kate and Harry were matched by their families and married at a very young age. Kate was only 7 years old when she became a married woman and the novel describes very well how she and Harry don’t particularly like each other at first, but they grow to care for one another over the years. So much so that when the time comes for them to consummate their marriage when Kate is sixteen, she is very eager to please her husband and he, in return, would love only her from that day on, which is quite remarkable for a time when husbands of noble birth were almost expected to have mistresses and illegitimate children.

Susan Higginbotham shows us the very strong and slightly obsessive friendship between Harry and Richard of York, Duke of Gloucester who will later become King Richard III. Harry’s relationship with King Edward IV is rather difficult and he is not given the honours at court that even much lesser nobles are receiving because of his family’s previous Lancastrian affiliations. Harry focuses on his friendship and love for Richard and ultimately allows him to manipulate him into doing his bidding when it comes to taking the crown of England instead of pledging allegiance to Edward V. Looking back on the story, it seems as if Richard has been manipulating Harry all along, comforting him in difficult times, getting him into king Edward IV’s favour, taking him out drinking and becoming his ‘blood brother’ in a drunken show of appreciation and undying love. And Harry falls for it. He loves Richard unconditionally and would die for him if necessary. He never questions any of the stories Richard feeds him about a previous promise of marriage between Edward IV and Eleanor Butler which would make his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville (Harry’s sister-in-law) invalid and their children bastards, making Edward V’s claims to the throne illegitimate. When Jacquetta, Katherine and Elizabeth’s mother, is accused of witchcraft, when Richard’s brother George is executed for treason and when Kate’s family is persecuted, Harry remains loyal to the monster that is Richard.
The Two Princes Edward and Richard in the Tower, 1483 by Sir John Everett Millais, 1878,
part of the Royal Holloway picture collection
So did Richard really go as far as to kill his nephews, the princes in the Tower? From this story, you would not be surprised if he did because it’s exactly the kind of thing this manipulative, egotistical, power hungry Richard would do.

This is a fictional story. Yes, it is based on certain historical facts, but so many of the details are uncertain or completely unknown that many fiction writers have been able to interpret them in many different ways. All of these stories definitely provide food for thought. I would gladly believe that Richard III was a good man after all, but the many different theories provide for great stories and probably the necessary perspective and background to make the characters more than one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs of themselves. In that respect, this was a great story and I enjoyed it very much!

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  1. Thanks for the book rec. I really hope RA plays RIII Since when has being too old stopped people from playing historic roles they were "historically" too old for. He would make a fine RIII

  2. Fiction, of course - but well-researched historical fiction can be very good. (after all, historians interpret.) I'd be interested in this story, particularly for the slant on Buckingham,who emerges in historians' views as complex as RIII himself. And so little is documented about Katherine.

    Book on my list :D


  3. Hi Inge,
    Thanks for sharing about this book! I will definitely have to look for it.

    My personal view is that KR3 did not kill his nephews. The Sunne in Splendour fiction book by Sharon Kay Penman put forth the view that Buckingham did the deed to move himself up in the line of succession.

    Besides, how could Uncle Dickon (KR3) kill his flesh and blood--and his namesake, little Dickon with his brother Edward? And KR3 named his son Edward--and called him Ned like his brother King Edward.

    From reading TSIS, I had the impression that this was a close and loving family of brothers and uncles and nephews. So it will be interesting to read how The Stolen Crown portrays this family from Buckingham's "outsider" perspective as a distant cousin.

  4. Thank you very much for this book review, IngeD3.
    It is the first time I hear about a version where Buckingham and and his wife Katherine are depicted as having been entirely happy together.

    Thank you very much for the alert to KRA and the petition and also for honouring Anne Neville on the anniversary of her death.

  5. Thank you for the review, very interesting. Another one I will add to my "to read" list. I too hope that we'll see RA's dream of Richard III come true soon.

  6. I think Richard III was the one with means, motive and opportunity to kill the Princes in the Tower.
    Richard III was very quick to execute Hastings for supporting the coronation of Edward V. Richard also had Rivers, Grey and Vaughn executed, not for treachery towards King Edward V, but because he did not like the Woodville faction.
    Richard was the Protector of the Princes, so he didn't do a very good job in protecting their interests. First he declared them bastards, then he stole Edward V's throne. For him the boys were an embarrassment.
    Richard would have feared that once Edward V came of age many of the nobles who refused to fight for him at Bosworth would have joined his nephew. Motive to kill Edward, and having probably been a part of Edward IV’s murder of Henry VI he had previous form.
    I admit it could have been Buckingham but on whose orders? Richard’s probably, Buckingham was not really a contender.
    Margaret Beaufort was under house arrest at Latham in Lancashire by Stanley.
    Henry Tudor was still on the continent with no access to the Tower or the Princes.
    So who had the greatest opportunity. Richard III.
    On the balance of probabilities, Richard is the person I blame for the Princes disappearing.
    We will never know who killed the princes, but I do believe they were killed. I think that Elizabeth Woodville knew her sons were dead and that is why she arranged to Elizabeth of York to marry Henry VII son her daughter would be queen.
    I don’t think Henry VII knew what had happened to the boys but I think he was certain they were dead because he repealed Titulus Regius which made Edward V the legitimate king.
    And who was it who enacted Titulus Regius, Richard III at his parliament surrounded by his men from the North.
    Richard III stayed silent about his crime for the whole of his reign and the men who knew what actually happened probably died at Bosworth.
    Would you like to have Richard III as the guardian of your children.
    If he could betray the brother, to whom Richardians claim he was so loyal, how much quicker would he betray you.