My friend and award-winning historical novelist Anne Easter Smith is a native of England, who spent part of her childhood in Egypt. Educated at an English boarding school, she arrived “for a two-year lark” in Manhattan as an executive secretary from Swinging ‘60s London—and never went back there to live. Somehow she wound up as the Features/Arts Editor at a daily newspaper in northern NYS, and went on to publish articles in several national magazines, which gave her the confidence to embark on her first best-selling novel, A Rose for the Crown. Anne’s muse is the recently re-interred King Richard III, whose life and times she has studied for fifty years, which led to a five-book contract about the York family during the Wars of the Roses with Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone Books. The King’s Grace won the Romantic Times Best Historical Biography award in 2009, and Queen By Right was nominated in the same category in 2011. Her latest book of the series is This Son of York, which finally sees Richard as protagonist. Known for her period detail, she has been a regular panelist at the Historical Novel Society Conferences and has taught workshops on researching for historical fiction at the San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference. Anne and her second husband, Scott, live in Newburyport, MA, where Anne is very involved in her other passion—theater.
A Note From Anne
I am delighted Diana has invited me to tell her loyal readers about my new book This Son of York. Diana doesn’t really need to read it as she is as loyal a Richard III fan as I am! But I am grateful to tell you all about my passion! After five books about Richard’s family, This Son of York is the last in the series about the Yorks in the Wars of the Roses, and Richard is finally my protagonist.
“Write what you know” was often advised when I plunged into the murky waters of literary endeavor and found myself floundering about in that terrifying first foray. So I did.
What I “knew” centered on a king who died 528 years ago on a boggy battlefield outside of Leicester, smack in the middle of England. A history nut from adolescence, I came upon a book in my early twenties by English mystery writer Josephine Tey called Daughter of Time that repudiated everything I had learned at school about one of our “Bad” kings, Richard III. When I had turned the last page, I became a Ricardian fanatic. This Son of York is my homage to Richard and the book I should have written first but was too chicken to get into a man’s head!
What they didn’t tell me about writing was that, along with your knowledge of a subject, a strong dose of passion would lift your book above the ordinary. I learned this when an editor recognized it in my first novel, A Rose for the Crown. She told me my passion for righting the wrong done to Richard shone through every page. But that was my protagonist Kate Haute’s perspective on him as his mistress, not Richard’s. This Son of York finally puts Richard front and center.
As well as gaining the writing chops to tackle a man’s perspective, I became inspired to give Richard his due when they discovered his grave under a car park in Leicester in 2012. I was so moved when I stood on that grave (now enshrined in strong plexiglass, I hasten to add!) and a hologram faded in and out showing the position of the skeleton. After all the information gathered from studying those bones, I realized we now need a new look at Richard for the 21st century. And I was the one to tell the story.
About THIS SON OF YORK
Concluding her best-selling Wars of the Roses series, Anne has made Richard III her protagonist in her latest book This Son of York. The much maligned Richard is brought into new focus following the discovery of his bones under a car park in Leicester in 2013.
As the fourth son of the duke of York, Richard of Gloucester could not have hoped for much more than the life of a wealthy, but insignificant nobleman. Instead fate took him down a drama-filled, unexpected path to the throne. As York challenged Lancaster for the crown, early tragedies and betrayals, including by his faithless brother George, led the young Richard to count on none but himself. Imbued with the traits of loyalty and duty to family and country, he proved them time and again especially when he reluctantly came to wear the crown. Buoyed by the love of two women, he stayed true to one while cherishing the other, both helping him bear the burden of his scoliosis.
A warrior of renown, a loyal brother, loving husband and father, a king mindful of injustice yet beset by betrayal, and a man convinced his God has forsaken him by burdening him with crippling scoliosis, This Son of York has a compelling tale to tell. With her meticulous attention to detail—and the truth—Easter Smith’s compelling storytelling paints a very different picture of the king Shakespeare reviled as “…thou elvish-marked, abortive, rooting hog.”
The night before a battle affected men in various ways. Some spent it drinking and carousing with the camp followers; some spent it hiding in the woods and nervously emptying their bowels; others passed the time playing dice; others in prayer; and still more, like Richard, in contemplating the insignificance of their earthly lives. “No matter what the priests tell you about each of us being important to God,” Richard had once said to his wife, “How can one life mean any more than another among so many throughout the history of mankind? As an anointed king, I must be more important than the beggar in the street, but in truth, I know I am not. When we die and molder in our graves, who will remember us then, one any more than another?”
“God will,” Anne had said simply, “you must believe He will. And because you are a king, your grave will be marked by a fine tomb announcing to the world who you were.” She had laughed then. “If I am lucky, I will lie with you and be remembered, too.” Dearest Anne, he thought guiltily as he lay on his elaborate camp bed, I must see to it that you are remembered.
The night was warm, and his tent was open to any welcome breeze that might waft by. In the past on the eve of battle, Richard had recited his prayers, had a cup of wine with fellow commanders, and slept well. Tonight, he knew, was different. Tomorrow he must fight for his crown as well as his life. He could not quite believe it had come down to this moment. He had acted honorably all his days, he thought, done his duty to his family, England and, lately reluctantly, to God.
A remark of the earl of Warwick’s occurred to him: “Scheming is a virtue if kings are to survive.” Is that what I have done—schemed? Nay, it is not, he reassured himself, it is not. The other part of his mentor’s homily had warned: “To be a great leader, you must learn the skills to be flexible in wooing allies to your side.” It was a skill that had come easily to Edward, but Richard’s reticence to trust had not charmed those he should have sought as allies. Was that where he had gone wrong? Instead of winning with words, friendship, and diplomacy, he had tried to buy men’s trust with land and offices. How many of his men understood him, he wondered.
Richard gave up examining his flaws, failures, and missteps, knowing he must concentrate on the morrow. He tried to close his eyes to the pricks of light from the hundreds of campfires and his ears to the drunken shouts, laughter and singing of the soldiers, the stamping and snickering of a thousand horses, and the clinking of the armorers and smiths making last-minute adjustments or repairs to harnesses. Everyone faced death in his own way, and Richard had no illusions that this might not be his time. He had a fifty-fifty chance, he decided, because in the end it would come down to him or Henry. Only one of them would wear the crown after battle, because the other would be dead—either in the field or later by the axe. I would rather die a king on the battlefield than as a traitor on the scaffold. Traitor is what Henry Tudor would deem him, Richard thought. Neither fate appealed, he mused grimly.
Part of him wished the two of them could fight it out alone and let all others return to their homes. He had no doubt he would run the Tudor through. Richard had trained hard since boyhood and fought in many battles to become the experienced soldier he was now; Henry of Richmond, wrongly claiming the crown, would be seeing battle for the first time, and, as Richard had heard, had not enjoyed the rigors of knightly training while languishing at Brittany’s court. Another part of him relished the thought of a glorious military victory and of extinguishing Lancastrian hopes forever.
He was suddenly jolted back to the other time he and Edward believed Lancaster had been vanquished, and, as was their wont, his thoughts returned to King Henry and his untimely demise. Lancastrian Henry VI, son of the great victor of Agincourt and Edward’s predecessor, had played a part in Richard’s life since he’d been in swaddling bands, Richard recalled. He sat up, pushing black thoughts back into hell, and reached for his book of hours—the very one given him as a gift by Henry when Richard was but a lad. How I wish I had listened to your advice, your grace, and never agreed to wear a crown. He groaned. Sweet Jesu, how has it come to this, he asked himself yet again.
Paging idly through the prayer book, the gold and silver of the illuminations glinting in the candlelight, he indulged in pondering his life and began to wish he could return to the days when the worst of his troubles was being called the runt of York’s litter. It all seemed so long ago…
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