The Order of the White Boar follows the adventures of Matthew Wansford, 12-year-old page to Duke Richard of Gloucester, at Middleham Castle and in Westminster, from the summer of 1482. The King’s Man picks up the story in the spring of 1483, as the Year of the Three Kings unfolds . . .
And don’t forget, if you and/or your young people enjoy the book, please leave a review on Amazon, GoodReads or elsewhere – thank you!
Don’t forget in December there will be some very special offers on my books! There will be discounts on the paperbacks of both The Order of the White Boarand The King’s Manthroughout the month from today (Amazon willing!) – ideal for filling the stockings of any fellow Ricardians or soon-to-be-Ricardians, and special deals coming later this week on the ebooks to tie in with the Jolabokaflod Blog Hop on the Historical Writers Forum website…
There will be chats and books on offer from authors across a range of genres, each with their own hour slot. Come along and join me at 4 pm on Sunday 6th December – just join the group to join in: https://www.facebook.com/groups/736120990315886
As a special treat, two other Ricardian authors will also be at the Fayre – JP Reedman at 9am on Saturday 5th December, and Maryann Benbow (Patricia Rice-Jones) at 12 noon on Sunday 6th.
At the moment a certain battle in my work in progress is taking up a great deal of my time and energy.
It’s not my favourite type of scene to write, partly because I know that some of my characters won’t make it out the other end in one piece… When you’re trying to be faithful to the history, there isn’t much choice.
Five years ago, I remember facing the gargantuan task of writing my version of the battle of Bosworth – the battle that led to the death of King Richard III – the focus of both my books, The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man (as well, of course, as the two charity anthologiesGrant Me the Carving of My Name and Right Trusty and Well Beloved... ) For weeks beforehand I was dreading it – partly being uncertain how to handle the battle itself, partly simply dreading the deaths of, not only Richard himself, but several loyal gentlemen who fought by his side. When it came, it turned out to be surprisingly easy to do – in terms of putting the words on paper, as they seemed to flow once I started – if not so much dealing with the emotions involved. Although the latter was greatly helped by the way I ultimately chose to present the battle – largely observed from afar, rather than from within the chaos of the fighting itself.
This time I have to take a different approach. The deaths will remain, of course – it’s a battle after all – and circumstances mean that the fighting cannot be observed from a distance. I have to be right in the middle of everything.
It will be quite a challenge, and yes, I’m dreading it. I’ve become very fond of all these characters over the past two years and more that I’ve been writing them. There will be a certain amount of emotional turmoil as I write – and I suspect that will also make it on to the page. It has to, of course, for the feelings of the characters themselves to be believable. But the fighting itself? How believable can I make that? I guess I’ll have to wait and see…
It’s a novella from Michèle Schindler, who has helped me a great deal with info about her leading man – or in this case, boy – who also of course crops up in my books when he’s rather older.
Enter Francis, Baron (later Viscount) Lovell… ⚔️📚
Great friend and loyal supporter of King Richard, he also of course kept Richard’s memory alive after 1485 – and proved to be a veritable thorn in the side of the usurper, Henry Tudor. I know I’m not the only person to wish to cheer him on…
Memories coming up on my social media news feed tell me that five years ago today I wrote the fateful words ‘The End’ at the very end of the first draft of The King’s Man.*
In my head, though, it actually happened on Friday 13th November 2015 not Saturday the 14th. That’s because I wrote those words at 2.25 a.m., so very early on Saturday morning, having been writing all day and into the evening, bar a solitary walk around 9.30 p.m. That was when I suddenly hit a brick wall (or, to be honest, an empty alleyway, or score, that I, or rather Matthew, had to step in to…) So technically it was Saturday… although as I was in Turkey at the time, it was still Friday back home in the UK…
Perhaps this explains why, to some readers, the book appears to end abruptly. One reviewer has even said it ends on a cliffhanger. It certainly isn’t meant to be that. It was simply because I was shattered at the end of a long day – after three other long days at the start of what was supposed to be a holiday: the Battle of Bosworth was written at the airport and on the plane (which, I’ll admit, accounts for the sea imagery towards the end – I was writing that just as we were coming in to land over the Mediterranean!), its final act the following morning (I couldn’t face finishing it so late the night before), and the last few chapters while enjoying the late autumn sun on the terrace of our apartment.
At 2.25 a.m. I took a brief break at the end of the climactic scene, and the final sentence came to me. I wrote it down and then thought, ‘Perhaps that should be the end.’ I had planned a last chapter, tying up a few ends, even involving a sad burial at sea and a discarded rosary (the rosary ultimately didn’t make the final cut), but it suddenly seemed unnecessary.
Looking back it seemed almost like that great anecdote from the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first Indiana Jones film, about what became one of the most memorable moments in movie history – when Indy watches the giant sword-wielding adversary in Alexandria complete his swirling, twirling preparations for his devastating attack. You know it’s the prelude to a spectacular whip-versus-scimitar set-piece fight – and so it was meant to be. Except that Harrison Ford was suffering from dysentery and was exhausted, and apparently just said to director Steven Spielberg, ‘Can’t I just shoot him instead?’ And the rest, as they say, is history.
Not that I can claim anything great about my ending. But it did seem just right when I read it back the next day. And meant I could actually have a holiday for the next few days, rather than do any more writing. It was lovely!
Months before, I had taken a tip from Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, who had said she knew the final line of the very last Harry Potter book before she even wrote the first one. She said it gave her something to aim for. At that time I had decided what my last line would be, and it was true – knowing how I would end the book had provided a nice arc towards the ending, like an arrow shot at a target in the distance. Yet ultimately, I didn’t use that line … not in The Order of the White Boar or The King’s Man anyway.
Funnily enough it appears in an early chapter of the third book, King in Waiting, in a slightly modified form. This time the lights – real or imagined – that Matthew sees in the distance across the water are not on the shores of Friesland, but looking back home – to England. And his emotions on seeing them are very different.
Hopefully I’ll soon be writing ‘The End’ for King in Waiting too…
*The two books The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man were originally written as a single book, but ultimately proved to be too long for the targeted readership of 10+ and were therefore separated into two. So the ‘first draft’ mentioned here was in fact the 130,000+ word original.
I was recently invited by the wonderful Sandra Danby to contribute to her blog posts on comfort reading: Porridge and Cream
While many of my readers are well aware of what my children’s favourite book of all time is (clues can be found in an earlier blog post or two… ), in this strange year of 2020, I discovered that my ‘comfort read’ was something slightly different…
This is very reassuring news – that Philippa Langley is ‘closely involved’ with this film.
Given the filmmakers involved (and potentially involved) this could be, not only an interesting film, but also perhaps a really worthwhile project – for Richard himself and for contemporary Ricardians.
There has been an explosion of interest in the announcement made by Steve Coogan last week that he is due to start filming a movie about Philippa Langley’s search for Richard III. I’ve seen a lot of slightly nervous noise on social media about the film. The main concerns seem to be that it will be a comedy, and that it will make fun of the dig, of those involved, and of Richard III.
We need Corporal Jones. Because there is absolutely no need to panic, Mr Mainwaring, or anyone else.
Philippa has confirmed that she’s closely involved with the film.
The second thing to note is that it will not be a comedy. Steve Coogan is co-writing the script with Jeff Pope, a pairing that first delivered the BAFTA award-winning and four-time Oscar nominated Philomena in…
I’m delighted to once more be hosting a guest post from fellow historical fiction author Stuart Rudge, as part of the blog tour for his latest release Blood Feud, the second novel in his ‘Legend of the Cid’ sequence, which began with Rise of a Champion.
Here he gives us a little of the background to the fascinating history portrayed inBlood Feud. Over to you, Stuart!
When Fernando of Leon-Castile died at Christmas 1065, and divided his kingdom between his three sons, Sancho, Alfonso and Garcia, he must have envisioned a conflict would eventually flare between them. He himself had experienced the same throughout his reign; his father was Sancho el Mayor of Navarre, who ruled over Navarre, Aragon, Castile, and held a protectorate over the kingdom of Leon and the Catalan counties. Fernando had received Castile as his allotted prize, and after he had married Sancha of Leon, he deposed her brother Bermudo and became king of Leon-Castile. In the waning days of his reign he decided to follow a similar route in his succession; it was Sancho who was given his father’s legacy of Castile as his inheritance, whilst Alfonso received Leon, and Garcia was given Galicia.
To his two daughters, Urraca and Elvira, Fernando bequeathed the cities of Zamora and Toro respectively, along with the peerage of all the monasteries in the kingdom; as their small domains were located within the borders of Alfonso’s realm, it is not uncommon to see them as signatories on the charters issued by the Leonese monarch, though they do appear in the charters of their other brothers on occasion. But as a close confident to the new king, it was the kingdom of Castile that Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar would serve so devotedly in this period.
Northern Spain, c. AD 1067. Copyright Stuart Rudge
The War of the Sanchos
Sancho II of Castile’s first conflict as king was the War of the Sanchos in 1066–7, against his cousins and namesakes in Navarre and Aragon. Sancho of Navarre had put pressure on amir al-Muqtadir of Zaragoza to pay parias tribute to him instead of Castile, and when the notion was rejected, he began to raid the taifa; al-Muqtadir subsequently petitioned Castile to come to his aid. Yet Sancho of Navarre was quick to ally himself with Sancho Ramirez of Aragon, and the latter had ample reason to fight as it was Sancho of Castile who had defeated his father, Ramiro, at Graus only a few years previously. The chance to avenge his father’s death was all too tempting.
The sources are quite hazy on the war, but what followed was a hard fought conflict which lasted for more than a year, and only the intervention of Zaragoza drew Aragon away from the fight to balance the odds, and set up a decisive clash. The war culminated in a Castilian victory at Viana in 1067. According to the Chrónica Najerense, a duel between Rodrigo Diaz and a knight of Navarre named Jimeno Garces allegedly happened, and that was when Rodrigo first gained his title of campi doctor, or “master of battle”, which would later become el Campeador. But the documents are hazy on the details of when and where this duel took place.
Aljaferia Palace in Zaragoza. Copyright Inspirock
Castile and Zaragoza
Castile’s relations with Zaragoza are somewhat unclear in this period. Sancho’s father, Fernando, had reduced the taifa to a vassal state, and the amir paid parias tribute for the promise of peace. The Chrónica Najerense has claims of a Castilian siege against the city, and if we are to believe the Chrónica, it may well be that al-Muqtadir had been emboldened to abandon the Christian shackles after the death of Fernando, and perhaps the recent aggressive nature of the crusaders against Barbastro in 1064. However, it seems the payments resumed once more, though whether this is owing to a show of force by Sancho, or the fact the payments did not cease, is unclear. What is clear is that Sancho must have had some sort of favourable diplomatic relations with Zaragoza; it was Sancho who rode to Zaragoza’s aid at Graus in 1063, and the action was reciprocated in 1067, for it was al-Muqtadir’s decision to send the governor of Huesca with a raiding party into Aragon which turned the tide of the War of the Sanchos in Castile’s favour.
El Cid. Copyright Wikipedia
Castile and Leon
The battle of Llantadilla (or Lantada) was the first recorded conflict between Leon and Castile in the period, said to have taken place on 19 July 1068. The sources are scant with regards to detail; the chronicle of Bishop Pelayo of Oviedo mentions the clash as no more than a skirmish. Another source goes on to claim it was a sort of judicial duel in which the loser forfeited their kingdom to the winner, yet this seems an absurd claim, as no monarch in his right mind would stake an entire kingdom on the outcome of a clash of champions. Indeed, given the documentary evidence regarding Alfonso at the time, it is highly probable that he was not present, for he was issuing charters in Sahagún a week or two before the date of the battle, and his alferez did the day after the battle. Before that, Alfonso had been intervening in the politics of the Moorish taifa of Badajoz, where he was successful in wresting control of the parias payments from his brother, Garcia.
It is the thirteenth-century Primera Crónica General that places Rodrigo Diaz at the site of the battle, though this may well be a complete fabrication given the widespread knowledge of El Cid’s fame and antics throughout Europe at the time, and it may have been an attempt to further his name. Nevertheless, with no definite account of the battle, we cannot completely discredit the possibility that Rodrigo, and even the kings of Leon and Castile, were present at the conflict.
Castile, AD 1067
The clouds of war gather over Hispania, and Antonio Perez continues on his path to knighthood, under the watchful eye of his lord, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. A peculiar invitation sees Antonio and Arias in the den of their nemesis, Azarola, where they discover the truth of his marriage to Beatriz, Arias’s sister, and the years of suffering he has inflicted upon her. Arias vows to deliver Beatriz from the clutches of Azarola and restore his family’s honour – even if it means betraying Rodrigo, defying his king and threatening the future of his country.
Fresh from his victory over Navarre and Aragon, King Sancho of Castile sends his revered champion Rodrigo to Saraqusta, to treat with amir al-Muqtadir. His mission is to secure an increase to the parias tribute from the Moors and hasten preparations for a war with Leon. But an unknown evil stirs in the shadows of the city which, if allowed to fester, not only threatens Saraqusta itself, but the entire political harmony of Northern Hispania. It is up to Rodrigo and Antonio to root out the conspiracy before it is too late.
Blood Feud is the stunning second instalment of ‘Legend of the Cid’.
Stuart Rudge was born and raised in Middlesbrough, where he still lives. His love of history came from his father and uncle, both avid readers of history. By day, he works down the local dock, playing with shipping containers and trains. Rise of a Champion was the first piece of work he has dared to share with the world. He hopes to establish himself as a household name in the mould of Bernard Cornwell, Giles Kristian, Ben Kane and Matthew Harffy, amongst a host of his favourite writers.
After a long spring and summer of cancelled events and festivals, you can perhaps imagine how happy I am to announce that on August Bank Holiday weekend (Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th August) I will be at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale on an author visit.
From 10 am on both days, I’ll be reading from my own and other authors’ stories around the castle, which of course was the primary home of King Richard III and where my The Order of the White Boar‘ is largely set.
Everything will be appropriately socially distanced and Covid-secure, of course.
So if you’re anywhere near Middleham that weekend, or fancy a visit to the area, do come along and say hello. It will be lovely to see you after all this time!
NB. Entry to the castle must be booked in advance (even if you’re an English Heritage member), but I’ll be setting up outside the main entrance, and maybe doing a reading or two from the gateway or even the moat!
So I’m (almost) all equipped for my first public event since lockdown…
Details still to be confirmed, but if you’re anywhere near to Middleham Castle over the August Bank Holiday weekend one or more days 29th-31st August), be sure to call in.
I’ll be reading from my and others’ stories around the castle and (in a socially distanced way) signing and selling books too – others’ as well as my own.
Hope to see you there! 🐗📖👑⚔️ https://highspeedhistory.com/richard-iii-of-england/
The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man are available from Amazon worldwide: myBook.to/WhiteBoar and mybook.to/TheKingsMan, from Blurb: www.blurb.co.uk/b/8167813-the-order-of-the-white-boar and www.blurb.co.uk/b/8770224-the-king-s-man, or direct from the author: AlexMarchant84@gmail.com