Today on my Facebook feed, a memory from 2021 came up – a post from the Richard III Society last year, commemorating the reburial of King Richard in 2015, including in full the poem ‘Richard’ that was written by the then Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy for the occasion.
It can be found at ‘Richard‘.
My comment on the re-post in March 2021 was “A beautiful and moving poem. I’ve twice now used imagery from it in scenes in my books, and of course it furnished the title for our 2018 anthology ‘Grant Me the Carving of My Name‘”
Which prompted me to seek out one of the occasions on which I took a little inspiration from the poem…
As this particular occasion is in a book that has not yet been published (Sons of York, coming June 2022), I realized it might be a suitable time to offer a little snippet of the book in advance of publication.
To offer a little context (without hopefully giving too much away), the remaining members of the Order of the White Boar, Matthew, Alys and Roger, together with their new young king, are visiting Jervaulx Abbey in Wensleydale, not far from their old home at Middleham Castle, and the place where King Richard’s son, little Ed, is buried. (Of course, Ed’s real burial place is currently unknown, with Jervaulx being only one of several possible sites.) The four of them remain behind in the abbey church after evening service to pay their respects at the tomb of this sadly deceased Prince of Wales…
“Misery was etched on Edward’s face as he gazed down at the stone slab in front of him. It was not the tomb I would have imagined for a prince of the realm. Smaller than any I had ever seen in a great church – of course, Ed had been only a boy – it was also plain, with no effigy or symbols carved upon it. Only his name was scribed there, in square-cut letters, each a handspan across. E – D – W – A – R – D.
The click of a door catch, the tap, tap of feet on stone. Across the aisle from us, a figure came into view behind the veil of pungent incense hanging still between the columns. It hesitated, then, parting the mist-like tendrils, moved forward into the flickering light shed by the candles in their tall iron holders.
It was a boy, no more than ten or eleven, clad in the livery of an abbey servant. He caught sight of me, standing towards one end of the plinth, and bowed his head.
‘Forgive me, master,’ he said softly, in the broad local accent I had missed so much. ‘I come here after my work of an evening to pray for the little lord. I saw him lowered into his grave with gentlemen and ladies weeping all around. But now no one comes or prays for him, save the holy brothers in the choir. I don’t like the thought that he’s all alone.’
He knelt at his side of the simple slab, lowering his head. I caught sight of gentle blue eyes and a strong chin, before his curtain of fair hair flopped down to shield them.
The others didn’t notice the interruption. Alys was still talking to Edward in muted tones, with Roger putting in word or two of his own. Before long, Edward gave way to their cajoling. He slipped to his knees beside the tomb, hands clasped at his chest, head up but eyes tight shut. Alys knelt likewise, a pace or so behind him, as did Roger, after removing his cap.
In the fluttering candlelight, among the threads of incense drifting up into the dark vaulted space above, I watched the two boys – servant and king – kneeling, facing each other across the cold grey stone. Pale faces both. One shadowed, one hollow-eyed. Dark shadowed eyes. And a snatch of a long-forgotten dream edged into my mind. I tried to grasp it, but it vanished again, like incense into the void….”
Watch this space for more news of the upcoming publication of Sons of York…
Meanwhile, I will be back in Wensleydale myself at Easter this year, when I will be joined by fellow Ricardian authors Alice Mitchell (author of The Mortimer Affair) and Bridget M. Beauchamp (author of the new Ricardian novel Maiden of Middleham) to read from and sign our books at the Castle from 15th to 17th (or possibly 18th) April. As previously, we’ll be outside the gatehouse, so entry to the Castle isn’t required to come along and see us (though why wouldn’t you also want to visit King Richard’s primary home in the north at the same time?!)
This visit to Middleham will be the first of what I hope will be a full programme of author events this year. I hope to meet you at one or maybe more of them!
Alex Marchant is author of two books telling the story of the real King Richard III for children aged 10+, The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man, and a third in the sequence, King in Waiting, which continues the adventures of the young members of the Order in the following years. A fourth book, Sons of York, is due out in 2022.
Alex is also editor of Grant Me the Carving of My Name and Right Trusty and Well Beloved…, two anthologies of short fiction inspired by King Richard, sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK).
Alex has also published a standalone timeslip novel for readers aged 10+, Time out of Time, relating the adventures of Allie Turner through a doorway into history found under layers of old wallpaper at ancient Priory Farm.
Alex’s books can be found on Amazon at:
My Twitter handle and Matthew Wansford’s