Friday, April 19, 2024

10 Things You May Not Know About the Young Richard III

Dear readers, I hope you understand my difficulty in deciding whether to study 19th century history or be drawn back into medieval times. Perhaps you feel the same way and enjoy historical wanderings? I hope so, because today I have a brilliant guest. If you loved Plantagenet Princess Tudor Queen, you won't want to miss this article from author Wendy Johnson! Also, can we talk about the gorgeous cover art for her new novel, The Traitor's Son?! Read on to learn a few new things about the man people are still arguing about 500 years after his death, King Richard III.

Welcome, Wendy!

~ Samantha


10 Things You May Not Know About the Young Richard III

Guest Post by Wendy Johnson

  1. Born in 1452, Richard was the eighth son and eleventh child(!) born to his parents, Richard Duke of York and Cecily Neville, but only the fourth son to survive infancy. His eldest sibling, Anne, later Duchess of Exeter, was born in 1439 and the youngest, Ursula, born three years after Richard, sadly died aged three in 1458.

  2. Richard was born in the same year as Leonardo da Vinci. Other famous people born around the same time include explorers, John Cabot and Christopher Columbus, and the artists, Hieronymous Bosch and Filippino Lippi.

  3. The name Richard occurs many times within the family of York. The young Richard of Gloucester could boast four Richards amongst his close relatives – his father, Richard, duke of York; his grandfather, Richard, earl of Cambridge; his uncle, Richard, earl of Salisbury, and his illustrious cousin, Richard, earl of Warwick. He later went on to become the uncle of two further Richards: his nephew, Richard, duke of York (son of his brother Edward IV) and Richard of Clarence (the infant son of his brother, George).

  4. In the Middle Ages, the youngest sons of the nobility were often inducted into the Church. As Richard is known to have been fluent in Latin, some have speculated that his parents initially intended an ecclesiastical career for him. Following his father’s death at the Battle of Wakefield (1460) and his brother’s accession to the crown as Edward IV (1461), it may have been felt that, family dynamics having changed, Richard’s life should remain a secular one and for the boy to undergo military training with a view to supporting his king in the years ahead.

    Representation of Richard's Garter Plaque from
    'The College of King Richard III at Middleham' by Joyce Melhuish.
    Drawing by Isolde Wigram.

  5. Richard was awarded the Order of the Bath in 1461, shortly before his brother’s coronation, and invested as a Knight of the Garter in 1466. His Garter plaque can still be seen above his allotted stall on the south side of St. George’s Chapel Windsor.

  6. Richard spent much of his early childhood in the company of his elder brother, George, and their sister, Margaret. Once Edward IV assumed the throne, he awarded his young siblings the Palace of Placentia (later known as Greenwich) as their principal residence. In which case it is reasonable to assume that Richard developed a closer bond with George and Margaret than he did with Edward, who was over ten years his senior.

  7. Richard appears to have been in the habit of signing his books. His signature can be found within an anthology of Romances and Old Testament stories, which exists in a collection at Longleat House. This anthology contains an assortment of writings: Lydgate’s Siege of Thebes; two stories from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; the popular medieval romance Ipomedon; and stories from the Old Testament. Experts have speculated, from the dialects and spelling used in its creation, that the Chaucerian and Lydgate sections were written in the north of England, Ipomedon in the Midlands, and the Old Testament section in the south. It has been further concluded that, although the components of the anthology may have been created separately and then stitched together, it is possible they were commissioned as a whole, and collated in northern England, or the Midlands. (A. F. Sutton and L. Viser-Fuchs, ‘Richard III’s Books II’ The Ricardian Vol. Vll, Nos. 95 and 97 (1986/87) pp. 327-332, 371-378) As the estates of Richard’s tutor, Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, lay in both these areas, it is entirely possible that the item was fashioned specifically for the young Richard as a gift from the earl. Richard’s florid signature ‘R. Gloucestre’ and the motto ‘tant le desieree’ (‘I have longed for it so much’) in the chivalric romance Ipomedon is certainly suggestive of an idealistic teenager, keen to enjoy tales of the perfect knight and to proudly inscribe his ownership upon its pages.

    Domtoren, Utrecht.
    The Bishop's Palace was a refuge for Richard in 1461

  8. Richard spent two periods of his early life as a refugee. At the age of eight, following his father’s defeat at the Battle of Wakefield, he was sent for safety to the Low Countries (modern-day Netherlands), in the company of his elder brother, George. Both boys remained in exile for two months until their brother, Edward, won the crown at the Battle of Towton in March 1461. Less than ten years later, Richard and the king were forced to flee English shores when their cousin, the Earl of Warwick rebelled. Once again, Richard found himself in the Low Countries, this time housed at The Hague and later in Bruges, before returning to England prior to the Battle of Barnet.

  9. The Battle of Barnet, fought on 14th April 1471, was Richard’s first full scale military encounter. Surprisingly, for a novice in the arts of war, he was commissioned by King Edward to lead the vanguard – the foremost division of any medieval armed force, entrusted with the task of leading the army into battle.

  10. Richard lost at least two of his close attendants and friends at the Battle of Barnet, on Easter Day 1471. In July 1477, he drew up an indenture at Queen’s College, Cambridge where, in exchange for an endowment for four fellowships, the recipients would pray for, amongst others, the souls of ‘Thomas Par (sic) and John Milewater…which were slain in his service’. The fact that Parr and Milewater were interred together in the Chapel of St. Francis, at the Church of the Greyfriars, London, may possibly suggest they were buried - and their obsequies overseen - by their master Richard of Gloucester. The wording on their ledger stone, describing them as ‘valiant squires of the lord Richard, duke of Gloucester’ and the fact that they ‘died on sacred Easter Day at Barnet’ further suggests a kind intervention by their benevolent master.

Read more about the young Richard III in The Traitor's Son, which Philippa Langley described as "Exquisitely written. An evocative and thoughtful retelling of the early life of Richard III."

Caught between a king and a kingmaker, young Richard Plantagenet knows he’ll have to choose...

1461: Richard Duke of York, King by Right, has been branded a traitor and slain by his Lancastrian foes. For his eight-year-old son—Richard Plantagenet—England has become a dangerous place.

As the boy grapples with grief and uncertainty, his elder brother, Edward, defeats the enemy and claims the throne. Dazzled by his glorious sibling, young Richard soon discovers that imperfections lurk beneath his brother's majestic fa├žade. Enter Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick—cousin, tutor, luminary—whose life has given him everything but that which he truly craves: a son. A filial bond forms between man and boy as they fill the void in each other’s lives. Yet, when treachery tears their world asunder, Richard faces an agonizing dilemma: pledge allegiance to Edward—his blood brother and king—or to Warwick, the father figure who has shaped his life and affections.

Painfully trapped between duty and devotion, Richard faces a grim reality: whatever he decides will mean a fight to the death.

In The Traitor’s Son, Wendy Johnson masterfully weaves a tapestry of loyalty, love, and sacrifice against the backdrop of England's turbulent history. Through the eyes of a young Richard III, readers are transported into a world where every choice is fraught with peril, and the bonds of kinship are tested to their limits. As Richard Plantagenet navigates the explosive tensions within his own family, readers are swept along on a journey of intrigue and passion that will leave them spellbound until the final page.

Wendy has a lifelong passion for medieval history, its people, and for bringing their incredible stories to life. Her specific areas of interest are the fifteenth century, the Wars of the Roses, and Richard III in particular. She enjoys narratives which immerse the reader in the past, and tries faithfully to recreate the later Middle Ages within in her own writing. She has contributed to a number of historical anthologies and was a runner up in the Woman and Home Short Story Competition 2008.

A member of the Richard III Society since 1986, Wendy is also a founder member of Philippa Langley’s Looking for Richard Project, which located the king’s lost grave in 2012. She co-authored Finding Richard III: the Official Account of Research by the Retrieval and Reburial Project in 2014, and in 2019 received the Richard III Society’s Robert Hamblin Award.

THE TRAITOR’S SON, volume one in a Richard III trilogy, is Wendy’s debut novel and she is currently working on the sequel.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Yellow Bird's Song

Hello, dear readers. Many of you will know of my recent obsession with finding historical fiction novels set in the early 19th century, and I am excited to share one with you today. Yellow Bird's Song explores the history of the Ridge family and the fate of the Cherokee tribe. Author Heather Miller shares an excerpt with us.

Welcome, Heather!

~ Samantha


Yellow Bird's Song: An Excerpt

Guest Post by Heather Miller

Sarah Northrup Ridge, Near New Echota, Cherokee Nation East, 1827

Orchards greeted us in neatly planted rows, dense with peaches and apples, creating a fragrance in the air like home. Servants’ quarters bordered the tree line of flat valley land surrounding Diamond Hill. Joe Vann’s large manor, a two-story brick home with expensive glass windows and large white columns, held verandas on the front and the rear of the house. There were corncribs, smokehouses, and outbuildings for weaving and cooking. Given the abundant number of horses and carriages, many attended. A surge rushed through me, nerves on fire, reminding me of the importance of the event, framed by the fear I’d make a mistake.

Our carriage rolled through Vann land between a row of walnut trees bordering endless green pastures. Black and white cows, silent sentinels, gnawed grass and watched as we passed, undisturbed. As the horses pulled us the last distance, I saw an open door at the side of the house. From it, trails of servants carried trays and crockery from the exterior kitchen to the main house near white linen tablecloths and white-washed ladderback chairs in neat rows. Their movement reminded me of fire ants seeking sweets, and, in a line, returning to their self-constructed dirt abodes. Other servants turned a pig on an open fire, slaughtered for the occasion. The smell of salt and fat from the roasted meat mingled with the aromatic sweet apples hanging on the trees. The bees hummed louder amidst such plenty. 

Most whites were surprised to know slavery existed among the Cherokee. John and I argued over the institution. The Ridges treated their servants like family. However, their will to choose their lives was the identical desire of John’s people, fighting for God-given liberty to govern themselves. While we still lived with his family, I could do little but speak to my husband and pursue change. But I knew a time would come when America and the Cherokee Nation must make the moral choice, no matter the economic difficulty such a choice might bring. 

Once I stepped from the carriage, John held my gloved hand and said, “I’m instituting the wink law.” John’s top hat shaded half of his face, so I couldn’t see his eyes in the bright sunlight. I predicted his expression from his carefree tone. “Are you familiar, Mistress Ridge?” he asked.

“I am not, Mister Ridge. However, I would hate to violate without intention.”

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse. It is in the Constitution.”

“I’m aware.” I grinned.

“One wink means I have ten minutes to end my conversation and take you home.”

“What does a whole blink mean?” I asked. 

I surprised him with my question. “I don’t know. You have something in your eye?”

“A whole blink means I’m proud of you and content to remain by your side, but thank you for saying so. You know I am worried about leaving Rollin and Clarinda with Honey. She can manage one, but if Rollin wails…”

“Amendment duly noted, Mistress Ridge.” He rechecked his watch. “I’ll have you back to our children in hours.” His promise was sincere, just under the surface of his sarcasm.

I pulled him close so I could whisper. “Promise me you won’t leave me alone too often.” For a man so aware of time, he lost hours debating politics.

“Agreed. I hope we get to mingle with the many guests in the time we have. Some have traveled great distances and are new here.”

Major and Mother followed us into the sunlight. A row of white women adorned in a rainbow of pastels held fast to their matching parasols with white-gloved hands and whispered about the heat while their white-breeched, black-booted husbands stood in small circles gesturing about important matters. White pipe smoke hazed around their heads. 

Shirtless Cherokee separated themselves by sitting on their heels on the ground. Cherokee women walked through the guests with red and purple baskets in their arms and yellowed gourds slung from leather straps around their necks. Like John’s family, wealthy Cherokee slipped easily between these two groups. As for me, I did not know where I’d fit in this mix of classes and attitudes.

Rollin Ridge, a mercurial figure in this tribal tale, makes a fateful decision in 1850, leaving his family behind to escape the gallows after avenging his father and grandfather’s brutal assassinations. With sin and grief packed in his saddlebags, he and his brothers head west in pursuit of California gold, embarking on a journey marked by hardship and revelation. Through letters sent home, Rollin uncovers the unrelenting legacy of his father’s sins, an emotional odyssey that delves deep into his Cherokee history.

The narrative’s frame transports readers to the years 1827-1835, where Rollin’s parents, Cherokee John Ridge and his white wife, Sarah, stumble upon a web of illicit slave running, horse theft, and whiskey dealings across Cherokee territory. Driven by a desire to end these inhumane crimes and defy the powerful pressures of Georgia and President Andrew Jackson, John Ridge takes a bold step by running for the position of Principal Chief, challenging the incumbent, Chief John Ross. The Ridges face a heart-wrenching decision: to stand against discrimination, resist the forces of land greed, and remain on their people’s ancestral land, or to sign a treaty that would uproot an entire nation, along with their family.

Connect with Heather

As a veteran English teacher and college professor, Heather has spent nearly thirty years teaching her students the author’s craft. Now, with empty nest time on her hands, she’s writing herself, transcribing lost voices in American’s history.

Connect with Heather on her website, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, Amazon Author Page, and Goodreads

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Viola Factor

Good morning, dear readers! I've invited Sheridan Brown to the blog today to introduce her new book, The Viola Factor. This biographical fiction novel takes place in the turbulent period after America's Civil War. This is also a great addition to our celebration of women's history, shining a spotlight on Viola Knapp Ruffner.

Welcome, Sheridan!

~ Samantha

The Viola Factor

Guest Post by Sheridan Brown

The Viola Factor takes place at a time when the country faced division and growth after the American Civil War. Viola Knapp Ruffner (1812-1903) struggled with what was just and fair, becoming a little-known confidant for a young black scholar from Virginia. But Viola was much more than a teacher; she was a mother, wife, game-changer, and friend. With her mother's dying wish, a young woman alone, she left her New England roots. This is a story of trauma and love in the South while battling for justice and the rightful education of the enslaved and once enslaved. African American leader Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) called her his friend and model for life.

The Viola Factor is in many ways a journey of life done in baby steps, tentatively stumbling, until a galloping stride is achieved. Viola Knapp wears different shoes on different days. Heavy, mud-trekking boots to allow for aggressive steps, and daintier shoes for more rhythmic and assertive ones. She was a diligent daughter, an outspoken protector, and a progressive teacher.

Like many women in her situation, alone at seventeen, Viola must realize her own principles to fulfill her future goals. With every stride, Viola Knapp Ruffner marches around surprises, over potholes, and dodges folly after folly on her journey to be fulfilled. After ambling in one direction, plodding along in another, and wandering to find herself, a sudden halt pushes her forward until a factor of fate places her in the path of a newly freed slave with a desire to read and penchant to lead. After years of post-traumatic stress and mental uncoupling, she finds herself a woman who followed her mother's dying wish to fight for what is fair and just.

Connect with Sheridan

Sheridan Brown holds advanced degrees in school leadership and is a certified teacher, principal, and educational leader. The arts have always been a central force in her life, since performing in piano recitals, school band, plays, and singing in choirs her whole life. 

Ms. Brown was born in Tennessee and raised in small towns of southwest Virginia. She practiced her profession in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Florida. Upon retirement, she began volunteering, painting, writing, researching, and traveling with her husband, attorney John Crawford. She has one son, Tony Hume. She is GiGi to Aiden and Lucy. She has returned to the Blue Ridge to live and explore.

Connect with her on Facebook, YouTube,

Saturday, April 6, 2024

What I'm Reading: The Great Abolitionist

The Great Abolitionist is one of the most captivating nonfiction books I have read. While researching James Alexander Hamilton, I came across Charles Sumner, even a few letters exchanged between the two men, so I had already included a few bits about him in my own book. Now, I feel like I need to go back and add more. Charles Sumner's courage and absolute certainty in his stance for equality is astounding for his time and in the face of the persecution he endured. I'm not sure how many times I said, "Wow," as I was reading this. It's not just a great biography of Charles Sumner but a thought provoking study of an era when seismic shifts in mindset had to occur for black Americans to begin to experience equality.

I knew about Sumner's Bleeding Kansas speech and the horrific attack that put the South's admiration for violence on public display, but I found that there is much more about Charles Sumner that I didn't know. Puleo's powerful prologue shows us Sumner at Lincoln's deathbed. By this time, Sumner had long experienced and expected violence directed toward himself, but he was still shocked by that against the president. "The Confederate states and 'belligerent slavery' . . . had been 'defeated in battle' and thus had resorted to the most dishonorable, degrading, and cowardly act - assassination."

Then the author takes us back to the beginning of Sumner's fight, decades before anyone knew Abraham Lincoln's name. I found it interesting that "In Sumner's view, the fact that the Constitution did not even contain the word 'slavery' proved that the Founders refused to let it 'pollute its text.'" Hamilton brothers, James and John, wrote along similar lines, and I had not realized that they were inspired by Sumner.  Modern readers may not understand the significance of this. For those who were strong believers in the Constitution, like James A Hamilton, they had long accepted that the federal government had no power to impede slavery within states. Reconsidering the Constitution's stance (or lack thereof) on slavery was radical and necessary.

My favorite part of this book was learning about Charles Sumner fighting against school segregation a century before integration was finally accomplished. How exciting to learn that he was demanding equality before the law so very far ahead of its time! Sumner was not afraid to shame his peers, arguing that "school segregation was Boston's own 'peculiar institution,' in the same way that slavery was the South's." If only the judge in this case had shared Sumner's courage, this decision upholding segregation might not have been used as a legal precedent for 100 years.

Puleo traces Sumner's journey from the Whig party to the Free Soilers and finally as a member of the new Republican party. It seems astonishing in our time to see such political transitions. Perhaps we should take a lesson from our ancestors and follow our values more staunchly than our red or blue team. These shifts were necessary to bring together people with the power to finally stand up against slavery and the Southern politicians who had been controlling the country since its founding.

Sumner's own suffering encouraged people to rethink their political loyalties. When he was violently attacked and almost killed - at his desk in front of other congressmen - people of the north were horrified. They were further disgusted by the celebrations in the south and the many who stated Sumner deserved the beating for his strong words against slavery and those who practiced it. Those who had been on the fence started picking sides. "We went to bed one night, old fashioned, conservative, compromise Union Whigs, and waked up stark mad Abolitionists!"

I could go on and on about this book. We haven't even talked about the Civil War and Sumner's striving to include suffrage, equality, and integration with emancipation. He continued to fight for laws that wouldn't become reality until the 20th century. His perseverance and unshakable belief in what he was fighting for is an inspiration. That being said, the author doesn't shy away from sharing Sumner's weaknesses - his social awkwardness, uncompromising attitude, and failed marriage. The result is a realistic and inspiring portrait of a man we could all learn a lot from. I encourage everyone to read this book.

See more of what I'm reading on Goodreads or what I have reviewed here. I love to talk about books! Let me know what you're reading too.