Summarising…

Posted: February 21, 2015 in Uncategorised

…every facebook conversation on the Princes in the Tower… Ever![1]

As soon as I see the words ‘princes’ and ‘Tower’ in the same status, I draw in a deep breath, close my eyes and count to ten. This is the only preparation I can make for the upcoming twists of logic, the constant shifts in argument, the barrage of I believe and I read it somewhere but I can’t remember where and statements of opinion as if they were hard fact. Opinion is fine, we all have them. I can say ‘In my opinion, Edward V was a nice lad’ and, unless anyone has documentary evidence that proves otherwise, my opinion is as good as anyone else’s. What doesn’t work is if I say ‘In my opinion, the battle of St Albans was fought in Cumberland’. If you want to state something as fact, state it is fact. If you’ve made a mistake, someone will likely point you to another fact that contradicts, or reinterprets, your fact. But stating something as fact, having someone point you to another fact that contradicts, or reinterprets, it and wailing, ‘It’s my OPINION!’ isn’t going to win you any prizes. So, immediately, we have two sets of people in the conversation, those who rely on opinion and mistake it for fact; and those who are willing to state things as fact (and accept when they have it wrong). Which is a pretty big culture clash, right there, before we go any further.

The twists in logic – “If Richard had the boys murdered, why didn’t he display their bodies?” somehow morphs into “The boys died of natural causes and he didn’t display their bodies because he was afraid people would accuse him of murdering them”; and – “If Richard had the boys murdered, all the hundreds of people in the Tower would know and tell someone. He had them smuggled to Burgundy” morphs into “Well, the reason the hundreds of people in the Tower didn’t know Richard had them smuggled to Burgundy was because he did it in the middle of the night when no-one was around and swore them to secrecy anyway”. Does. My. Head. In.

What I really think is going on is this: Now, as in the 15th century, we have an inbuilt revulsion of the killing of children. Had the princes been, say, 18 and 22, we might not have that same feeling. Maybe we’d still think it was wrong to murder them – as it was wrong to murder the adult, deposed, Richard II and the adult, deposed, Edward II – but we might be able to process it a little more rationally. This natural revulsion leads to a couple of things. Firstly, for a lot of people it puts Richard in the ‘no redemption’ basket. For others, his innocence just has to be proved. (The small group of callous souls who say ‘If he murdered them, good on him! They were snivelling little brats and would have grown up to be fat man-whores like their father” are outside the scope of this discussion. They – really – should be outside the scope of any discussion.) The sensible discussion takes place in the middle ground, people who share that natural revulsion for child-murder yet somehow manage to discuss history in a calm and rational way. There’s a lot of that around the facebook history community, which is why it’s such a great place to be. Conversely, it’s why it’s such an uncomfortable place to be if you’re an extremist. There’s nothing an extremist likes less than being locked in a room with a bunch of rationalists.

QUICK DISCLAIMER: If history worked on what people would like to have happened, as opposed to what did happen, I’d rather like Richard not to have murdered the princes. I’d rather like that legendary lost document to turn up, the one that Explains Everything, so we can all go, “Oh, so that’s what happened to them? How sad/stupid/bizarre/horrible/wonderful!” But a pretty much lifelong soft spot for the York brothers[2] isn’t going to influence anything they did or didn’t do. They did it (or didn’t) and that’s that. So, if the legendary document that Explains Everything does turn up and proves, unequivocally, that Richard did order the murder of the princes, I’d have to be equally prepared to accept that. Coz this is how history works.

What this post isn’t is an attempt to prove Richard III did away with his nephews. What it is is an expression of my utter bewilderment that so many people who claim to love and admire and support Richard are so very prepared to implicate him in worse and worse acts, to dig him a deeper and deeper hole, all in the name of proclaiming his innocence[3].

I’ve never much liked it when people suck others into an Unreality Bubble, convince them of the truth of something, discourage them from finding out for themselves and lull them into a false sense that they can go out and Promulgate the Word. Facebook is littered with the bodies. “The Princes were sent to Burgundy for their own safety!” is stated with such confidence it’s almost a pity to challenge it. But… the follow up questions – what happened to them after that? why the complete silence? and why did they never return to try and reclaim their father’s throne? – are never answered. Often there’s no attempt (beyond the occasional cry of ‘Perkin!’) to answer them. I suspect this is because one of the strongest supporters and promulgators of the ‘Burgundy’ option doesn’t even attempt to answer it herself. She waves an airy hand and says “That need not concern us”. But it does concern us and has to concern us. To simply shift the location of the disappearance in order to put Richard in the clear explains nothing. What it leads to are some pretty dark speculations: the princes were murdered in Burgundy, they were hidden away so deeply they never again saw the light of day, and – my particular favourite, from someone who seemed to truly believe this would vindicate Richard III – they were brainwashed and reprogrammed into believing they were someone else… two someone elses. (I’m not even going to touch the current ‘They lived on as several different people, in secret, well into the reign of Henry VIII”. I’m really, really not!) This is just one example of how people are hung out to dry, with no facts to back them up, by unscrupulous revisionists who fail, entirely, to give their readers something to actually be going on with. Faith can move mountains, but it doesn’t arm you well for a facebook history discussion.

Here’s another favourite: The princes died of natural causes. This isn’t outside the bounds of possibility. When asked: Why were the bodies not displayed? Why was there no funeral? Why wasn’t their mother told they were dead? We get answers like: “If Richard had displayed their bodies he’d have been accused of their murder!” Which ratchets up the cowardly and callous-ranking of ‘Good King Richard’ to a point where I’m surprised there aren’t thousands of brains leaving thousands of heads in protest. But here’s the thing: Had the princes died of natural causes, and had their bodies been displayed – with no signs of violence – Dr Argentine would have been on hand to tell people the story of their final illness and death. Dr Argentine wasn’t, so far as I’m aware, a particular partisan of Richard’s. While I’m sure there’d have been some grumbling, Dr Argentine’s words would have carried a lot of weight. Only he wasn’t around when they disappeared/died (which in itself is a tad worrying). And, oddly, when someone says “Richard murdered the princes” the question often shot straight back is “Why didn’t he display their bodies to prove they were dead?” That one’s straight out of the ‘we will use Argument A to strengthen our claims and we will use Argument A to weaken yours’. Clearly, there are many in the world who didn’t grow up in the kind of argumentative (but loving), disputative (but supportive), debating (but laughing) household I did. I wouldn’t have got away with that kind of Logic Twisting when I was five!

So, we have ‘Richard wasn’t stupid – if he murdered the boys, he’d have displayed their bodies to prove they were dead’ in the very same discussion as ‘Richard was in a difficult position, if the boys died of natural causes and he displayed their bodies, he’d have been accused of murdering them’. To which the only sensible response is huh?

Then there’s the ‘I read it somewhere’ argument, which is, I think, supposed to silence all questions. And ‘This isn’t a course in history, it’s facebook, you nasty know-it-all bullies!’ when someone asks ‘Where did you read it?” The question is asked so that other people can read it, too. Because that’s what a lot of us do – we read. We don’t just listen to someone’s stunted arguments and repeat them. We don’t venture out into the facebook jungle, armed only with second (or third, or fourth, or fifth…) hand revisionist arguments, having never read anything else (certainly not the ‘mainstream’ or ‘traditionalist’ view) only to get our arses kicked. I don’t blame them. They think they have all they need, after all, they’re repeating the arguments that convinced them. I blame the revisionists themselves, who write badly researched books then send their minions out to Proclaim the Word. And those minions get minced. So come out from behind your human shields, engage in the conversation, don’t flounce from forums when someone challenges you, don’t make a case for something unless you’re prepared to back it up in person. Please, stop sending out the cannon fodder. It might make people think you’re not a very nice person. Or a very brave one. Or even one who’s sure of their facts.

There are groups on facebook that could be good, vibrant, exciting places to discuss history, the Wars of the Roses and Richard III. Sadly, some of them never quite reach that potential and, even more sadly perhaps, there are others that started out that way but have now become closely guarded silos of pure revisionist thought. Where no actual history is ever discussed. And where anyone – anyone! – who dares to say ‘I’m not sure we can say that with any confidence. We kind of have to explore that possibility as much as any other’ is called a troll and a bully and hounded out. And, because a self-created belief exists that arguments, nasty comments, personal remarks and attacks are only ever made when trolls and bullies wander in to ‘stir up trouble’ it means a select few in those groups get to say whatever they like to whoever they like with absolute impunity. Because… and this is important… they wouldn’t be saying mean and nasty things to someone who wasn’t a troll. And ‘I’m only ever hostile to trolls. I’m hostile to you, ergo you are a troll’ sets up this vicious little feedback loop to the point where there are no checks (self or other) on what these people say or how they say it. And, in groups with a thick little climate of fear, that can lead to people who have been personally attacked, abused and insulted actually apologising for taking these words ‘the wrong way’.

I guess, to sum up my Summarising… Read stuff; read stuff that doesn’t support your own views as well as stuff that does; don’t listen to anyone spouting their pet ‘theories’[4] then march off confidently to repeat them elsewhere; remember (as I do all the time) there’s always someone out there who knows more than you, who’s read more than you; if a ‘fact’ or a fact is important enough for you to remember it, try and remember where you read it coz, someday, someone might ask you about it; listen to what others are saying, you don’t have to agree with them but listening can help you test your own ideas as well as argue sensibly against theirs; and don’t blame those who’ve squashed you like a bug because you’ve repeated unsubstantiated wishful thinking speculation as if it was fact – blame the people who fed you that ‘fact’.

[1] Except those in groups that simply will not tolerate any kind of dissent on the matter. In those groups the conversation goes something like this: >Richard was entirely innocent!< > I’m not sure we can say that with any confidence. We kind of have to explore that possibility as much as any other.< >No, we don’t! He’s innocent!< >Yeah, he smuggled them to Burgundy!< >Margaret Beaufort dunnit!< >Toss the troll out!< >THREAD CLOSED!<

[2] Though nothing like as soft as the spot I have for the Nevills.

[3] Here’s a beauty I came across last night. First, ‘I don’t believe Richard murdered the princes’. Then, a little way down the thread, ‘Maybe they were ill and that’s why he sent the doctor away’. Gob. Smacked. Deliberately withholding medical care from sick children isn’t, apparently, in any way similar to ‘murder’ – ergo! it proves Richard’s ‘innocence’. No, I can’t get my head around that, either.

[4] They’re not. They’re not even hypotheses. They might be speculation or wild guesses or reasoned interpretation or wishful thinking but the one thing they’re not is a theory.

Breakfast and a Well Fitting Pair of Levis

A godawful noise woke Dakota. It sounded like a peacock being devoured by a threshing machine and it was far closer to her ear than was good for her brain. On a small table next to the bed was a black box and from it manifested the ghostly form of a series of numbers: 644. Not quite the Neighbour of the Beast, but in the same street. She knew what it was and this brought a sinking feeling to her belly that came close to overwhelming the peacock-shrieking in her ears. She struck the clock with her fist, which did nothing to quell its torment. With a click of her tongue, she swung her legs around, took hold of the clock and gave a sharp tug, hurling it across the room. This had the effect of disconnecting it from its tether and – bliss! – silencing it.

Dakota hated alarm clocks. Even more than that, she hated the implication of alarm clocks. They put her squarely in the twentieth, possibly the twenty-first, century. She hated them both. Her trips here had been brief, the last one a mercy mission to buy some blue gatorade in a desperate attempt to cheer up a depressed archbishop. She stood up and padded over to the window, leaving the gently snoring Bastard of Fauconberg to gently snore.

She pulled back the curtain and looked down at the glare of the city, the stream of vehicles on the dirty road, busy even at… She frowned. 644 the clock had said. Calling to mind the calm and sensible round face of a proper clock, she translated the numbers into actual time. Nearly quarter to seven. She’d have to think about breakfast soon, waking Thomas, seeing if the Countess had thought to leave them suitable clothes, venturing out and down the stairs.

There’d be more black boxes to contend with. The twentieth, or possibly twenty first, century was awash with them. They shrieked and clacked and pinged with alarming regularity. And the people – they moved so fast and were so loud it hurt Dakota’s frontal lobes just to think about them. Acres of exposed skin, painted faces, slicked back hair… They were always trying to sell each other things. She shuddered to think of Thomas let loose in this world. He was going to love it!

Still, it would give her the opportunity to introduce him to a good anti-perspirant.

Over breakfast – eggs, bacon, tomato, sausage – she tried to explain. Thomas looked at her through sleepy eyes, shovelling food into his mouth, trying not to crush the dainty teacup in his meaty hand. He was dressed in a pair of sturdy trousers that did quite amazing things to his already amazing arse, and a plain white shirt. Dakota had found the wicker basket in the bathroom, packed with all manner of clothes, a substantial wad of money buried among them. No note, she thought bitterly. A note might have been useful. Being summonsed into the Countess’s presence, having the mission explained and being actually asked if she’d like to undertake it, that would have been most useful of all.

She looked at Thomas, now leaning back in his chair, the stubby end of a sausage in his fingers. This he popped into his mouth. Dakota picked up her napkin and handed it to him across the table, watching as he wiped his greasy hands and face.

“We’re somewhere in the twentieth century,” she said, “possibly the twenty first. You have to listen to me, Tom! This is important. People are going to try and feed you potatoes. They brought them from the Americkys and came up with all kinds of ways to cook them, but mostly you’ll be offered them boil and mashed, or fried. Choose the fried. And then there’s chocolate. It’s brown, it tastes really good but it’s horribly dangerous! One bite and you fall in love with the very next person you see. That’s why people close their eyes when they eat it. And they’ve change the rules of chess…”

“You want to give me some clue what you’re talking about, Dakota?” Thomas said.

She sighed. “Try and take everything in your stride. And, well… just try not to panic.”

Thomas gave her a most reproving look. He was right, of course. He’d never panicked in his life and there was nothing in the space/time continuum that couldn’t be enclosed within his confident stride.

“What was that about chess?” he said.

“I don’t know! It’s just one of the things people say to visitors from the 15th century. I think I must have read it somewhere.”

At the next table, a young woman was holding forth on what seemed to be her favourite subject.

“He was such a good king!” she said. “He cared about the common people. He invented bail and trial by jury.”

“No he didn’t, Becky.” The speaker was a young man sitting opposite the earnest woman, a look of amused patience on his face. “You’ve known about him for – what? – three weeks. And you got all this from some dubious facebook group…”

“It’s all true!” Beck leaned forward over the table, her hands clasped on its sticky surface. “Everything else is Tudor Propaganda!”

Dakota knew who she was talking about. There was a conversation like this in every hostelry in every time stream in history. Well, at least since the early 1500s. Any second now, Becky was going to say, “And he didn’t murder the…”

“And he didn’t murder the Princes!” Becky said. “That’s just lies! They were smuggled to Burgundy for their own safety. On his orders!”

“Well,” the young man said. “That idea opens a whole new kettle of worms, doesn’t it?”

Dakota could have told them exactly what happened to the Princes. Smuggled, yes. For their own safety, certainly. On his orders, most definitely not. It was their father, in the weeks before his sudden and unfortunate death, who sent for Dakota. To this day, she still didn’t know how he knew but his suspicions weighed heavily on him.

“I don’t want to think it’s true,” he said. “But I know you have… ways and means. If you could just find out, you know, see how things are once I’m gone. And, well, just do what you can, really. I can’t ask more than that.” He gave her a wan, tired smile. “I just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to brothers. Oh, I have no proof, of course. Or no proof that would stand up in a court of law, even one gently directed by a gracious monarch. And if it’s not true, if it isn’t going to have happened… you might find a way to let me know, you know…”

Then he dismissed her, calling for his secretary to bring his will so he could scratch out the name Richard duke of Gloucester in the codicil and write Anthony Wydeville in its place. Now, of course, knowing all she knew and suspecting more, Dakota could have eased at least some of his concerns. King Richard had viewed the Princes’ empty quarters with a mixture of bafflement and relief. Ask no questions, Sire, Dakota whispered to him. And don’t send to Italy for entertainers.

Dakota hoped she’d have to wait years before carrying out the King’s orders. His sudden and unfortunate death, just weeks later, sent her into a deep depression and sparked into life a profound sense of foreboding in the pit of her belly.

The day the likelihoodometer represented the chances of the Princes surviving till their next birthdays as a series of zeroes, with the ghost of a .1 somewhere beyond the capacity of the gauge to measure, she let herself into the coach house where the Countess of Richmond kept her time machine. A series of short journeys forward helped her triangulate the time between the end of speculation about young Ned’s coronation and the start of the rumours of his death. At what she judged to be more or less the optimum moment, she slipped into the Tower of London and, after a series of events that would take their own Christmas Special to be properly told, brought out two shivering young boys, bundled them into the time machine and set off for 16th century Venice. (“We want to be there at the very beginning!” young Ned said, eager eyes shining. “If I can’t be King, then this is the thing I most want to be!”)

“Dakota?”

She blinked her eyes, resisted the urge to shake her head, and turned her attention back to Thomas and the remains of her breakfast.

“King Richard has a society dedicated to researching his life,” she said.

“You’re kidding me! The little shit who lopped my head off?”

“You’re head’s not off, Tom. You’re a living, breathing… large as life and twice as ugly. And a little bit of gratitude wouldn’t go astray!”

“I’m only alive in one sense. In other sense, I’m already dead. In a third sense, my head’s still on that block, the axe…” He shuddered. “And it’ll be that way till you decide I haven’t shown you enough gratitude. Then it’ll all be over in the blink of an eye. Just out of interest, how close was that blade to the back of my neck before you worked out how to rescue me?”

“It doesn’t matter, Tom. You’re safe now. Which you would have been all along if you hadn’t taken it into your head to invade London with a bunch of louts from Kent. Why is it always Kent? Every would be rebel’s first thought… I’d best get myself to Kent and pick up a few hundred louts. And when has it ever worked?”

“Tradition.” Thomas smiled. “You can’t just fly in the face of tradition.”

“It must have something to do with why we’re here.”

“Why are we here?”

“You didn’t pick up that I have no idea? And even less idea why she made sure you were with me.”

She swept her gaze around the room and saw nothing particularly remarkable. Families – small ones, tiny ones, no more than two or three children – gathered around tables eating breakfast. Here and there, a well dressed couple. Several tables for one, men in suits, women in suits, newspapers and books propped up against salt and pepper pots, plastic devices buzzing and chiming.

“I’m always with you,” Thomas said. “Well, as much as possible. When you aren’t pining for the bloody Prince of Wales.”

“I don’t pine, Thomas. I make rather a point of it.” She finished the last mouthful of tea and stood up. “And now I suppose we’d better find out why we’re here.”

There was a letter waiting for her at reception, handed to her by a smiling woman. Dakota moved away from the desk and broke the seal. Inside, written in a fine secretarial hand was an address and a very brief message. Bye magicke marques. Underneath was an address. Dakota folded the note and shoved it into a pocket. The Countess was being more than usually cryptic. Ahead of her, just about to step through the door and out into the blare and stink of the twentieth, or possibly twenty-first, century, the Bastard of Fauconberg was looking exceptionally fine in his Levis.

 

I am delighted to announce that History Press will be publishing a book on the Nevills, scheduled for release October 2016.

The Nevills of Middleham (by KL Clark) will follow the family’s journey through the Wars of the Roses but is more than simply a retelling of the story from their point of view. Drawing on primary sources, The Nevills will explore relationships within the family and the the family’s relationships with others, their involvement in the unfolding history of their time and the impact they had – collectively and individually – on 15th century England.

I know all this, because I shall be writing it! I shall keep you all updated with news and more information as things develop. I am both excited by this and (healthily) terrified.

(That doesn’t mean I shall be laying aside the work I’ve already done on the first of my Nevill novels, but it does mean my aim of finishing it by the end of 2014 may have to be revisited.)

A eureka moment lost?

Posted: October 2, 2014 in Uncategorised

There’s been an interesting development in the history community (or what could loosely be called ‘the history community’, only it isn’t always much of a community and some of it isn’t much about history) I’ve been watching with interest. It all started with this blog post. I’m sure many of you have seen it. It has to do with the Lincoln Roll and a pretty speculative interpretation as to its meaning. There’s some shaky Latin translation and a fairly wild leap to a conclusion, but it wouldn’t be the first time – by far – that such a leap has been made. As a starting point for discussion, it’s certainly done its job! And that’s the interesting bit, the discussion – the response to that discussion and the response to that response.

Just to clarify – the ‘eureka moment’ doesn’t refer to anything in the blog post, or the Lincoln Roll, for that matter. It refers to the series of little lights that should be going on – right now – in several heads; it refers to a blinding realisation that this is how it should be done. But, so far, there’s little sign the lights have been seen and, if there’s been any kind of realisation, ‘blinding’ is something of an overstatement. Here’s what happened: Someone blogged about the Lincoln Roll, did some shaky Latin translation and leapt to a fairly wild conclusion. This has been discussed in the history community, and on its fringes. Various people have posted comments on the blog and (and here’s the important bit) a lot of those comments have been approved. So, rather than shutting down the debate, ignoring the challenges or badmouthing the challengers, the blogger has not only conceded he may have got something wrong (in at least one discussion), but given space on his blog to several voices of dissent and disagreement.

Just to give a quick counter-example. In a recent book. John Ashdown-Hill misinterpreted the arms of Edmund and Jasper Tudor as being the ‘Beaufort arms’ rather than, as they surely were, differenced royal arms. Their half-brother was the King of England and, right there in the relevant Parliamentary Rolls, there’s a bit that refers to their entitlement to bear the royal arms. It isn’t spelled out in those exact words, but it’s pretty clear from the context – and from the very fact that, from that time on, they did bear the royal arms – this is what’s being referred to. Now, various people have pointed out this error and backed it up from the sources. The similarity between the Beaufort arms and those of the Tudor brothers has been (patiently) explained on the basis that all three are based on the royal arms – that no direct hereditary connection between the Beauforts and the Tudors is needed to explain anything. Rather than welcoming the debate, rather than conceding that Ashdown-Hill might have got this wrong, those who stand by this passed-on misunderstanding, have retreated behind the barricades, responded on rather personal terms and (for reasons that are still shrouded in mystery) decided that anyone who holds to a view contrary to theirs must be Egyptian.

Maybe I expect too much of people, maybe I assume there’s more insight out there in the world than there actually is. Maybe my hope the little lights would go on, or the blinding flash of realisation would manifest itself, is evidence of an over-optimistic nature. But that’s exactly what I hoped. That a whole bunch of people would now be saying “Hey! We disagree with this guy, we’ve set out our reasons for disagreeing… and he’s not shutting us down, or calling us names, or responding with personal insults! Maybe that’s the way we should be doing this, too!”

But my hopes have been utterly dashed after seeing this blog post. I suppose it’s just another example of a double-standard that refuses to disappear – that the people who demand fair treatment, are themselves given fair treatment, are just not the ones to offer it to others.

One of the things I keep coming across is a claim that Richard III made English the ‘official language’ of England. Or that he was the first king to have official records – Acts of Parliament and the like – written in English. He wasn’t. The Rolls of Parliament, the Close Rolls and the Proceedings of Privy Council were written in English throughout the Wars of the Roses. There’s still the odd bit of French and, of course, Latin in the Parliamentary Rolls, but English is, by far, the predominant language.

I’m not sure where this story comes from. I believe (and I could be wrong – please correct me if I am) that Richard III was the first king to give his coronation oath in English, but this is a far cry from officially affording English status as a ‘national’ or ‘official’ language.

English (or Middle English as we now call it) was, for a time, drowned out by Norman French and might well have succumbed to it altogether. But English is unusual in this regard – mostly, a newly introduced dominant language will wipe out existing languages, especially if it spreads to all areas of life, and extra especially when the newly dominant group keeps itself separate and has a firm hand on power. This has certainly happened in the Americas, Australia and parts of Africa in the fairly recent past. The Roman Empire was particularly good at this. What was different in England is the swiftly organised marriages between Normans and Saxon nobility. Within a couple of generations, English was the language of choice for the children of mixed heritage, even as they maintained French for all the ‘important’ things in life.

This is, briefly, how it happens. Essentially, children (particularly adolescents) are at the forefront of societal language choices. Parents and grandparents will change their own language use to suit their children and grandchildren. If the kids are speaking Language A (and their linguistic background is Language B), then the grown ups will use Language A when speaking with them. This is a seriously widespread phenomenon. In the case of most threatened, or dominated, languages, this can cause language death very quickly – within a single generation. In the case of English, it was its salvation. It was hugely altered, lexically and grammatically, but English nonetheless. I’ve seen it suggested, quite seriously, that Saxon mothers and nurses were ‘secretly’ teaching their children English, and that’s why it survived. That doesn’t explain the massive changes in the language nor, in fact, its survival. An intellectual knowledge of a language, learning it in school or secretly from a caregiver, doesn’t turn it into a fully used and fully useful language. Under these circumstances, the learners only have one place to use the language – in class or with the caregiver. You could have a thousand people doing this and it won’t make a scrap of difference to the fate of the language – what matters is interaction with other speakers. Lots of interaction. It’s like the difference between learning Spanish in school and going to live in Santiago for a year.

Children want to speak with other children. They also want to speak with adults, but the important thing is being able to talk to other kids. It’s why the children of migrants often, very quickly, pick up the language of their new home, and why knowledge of their first language is lost. They have a whole bunch of new kids to talk to, and Mum and Dad (whatever their feelings about their kids maintaining their first language) will make the switch with them, in order to be able to talk to them. So, these Anglo-Norman children needed, more than anything, to find a way to interact with Saxon children. And that way was English. The greater the distance, historically and culturally, between England and Normandy, the more people in positions of power, wealth and authority identified as ‘English’ and not ‘Norman’ – the more English became entrenched.

French held on, in official circles, for some considerable time but, by the time Henry VI was on the throne, it was very much a second language for those who spoke it at all. Add to that the wars between France and England, and French was pretty much doomed. Richard III might have learned French as a child, but his language of choice was English. As it was for his brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents.

So, no, Richard III did not make English the official language of England.

In response to a post very helpfully entitled ‘The delusions of the Cairo-dwellers”

What I’m not going to do is stoop to the blogger’s level with cheap insults. What I am going to do is apply logic to some quite baffling ‘arguments’. Because, here in the real world, logic is not only at home but gets up and answers the doorbell. We have to be careful, though – shine any kind of light in the swamps of Illogicity and there’s scurrying and hurrying and snapping at ankles.

1. If Margaret of Burgundy lied about the identity of Perkin Warbeck, then the King of France must have been lying about Richard III murdering the Princes.

Firstly, to suggest that Person A might have lied about something doesn’t mean that everyone else is a liar. This is something about individual human beings the inhabitants of Illogicity might not have grasped – we’re not all exactly the same. Margaret of Burgundy may have deliberately lied about the identity of Perkin Warbeck, or she may have allowed herself to be convinced she actually believed he was her nephew – in her letters, she certainly sounds convinced. We just don’t know. But let’s say she did lie about it… that doesn’t prevent anyone else who was alive at the time telling the truth. One in all in just doesn’t apply here.

While we’re on the subject of possible lies told by the duchess of Burgundy… Here’s a puzzle that requires huge twists of logic, great strands macramed into some kind of demonic Pot Hanger of Illogic… If Perkin really was the duke of York, he puts his uncle Richard (by name) right in the frame for the murder of his brother. In a letter, Perkin clearly states that, on Richard’s orders, a ‘lord’ came to the Tower, murdered Edward and was going to murder young Richard, only he took pity on him and smuggled him away to Flanders. This is an eye witness to these events. And he names the killer. I’ve seen this written off as a ‘forgery’ or (somehow) yet more ‘Tudor Propaganda’ (presumably sent back through time in the countess of Richmond’s time machine). It’s either a true recollection of the event, or it’s a lie. If it’s a lie, then Margaret of Burgundy was involved in concocting it, or allowed it to be concocted without a whisper of protest. If it’s the truth, then it’s the truth, and Margaret of Burgundy knew it to be the truth.

And then there’s the King of France thing. I don’t know many people who’ve (seriously) said, “The King of France said Richard murdered the Princes, and that’s all the proof I need!”. What’s usually said is something like, “The King of France mentions it, which is evidence the rumours Richard did away with the princes was extant in his lifetime”. Two quite different things, really. But it’s always easier to argue against what’s not being said than against what is…

2. Elizabeth Wydeville ‘retired’ to Bermondsey Abbey because Henry VII was punishing her for something.

We don’t exactly know why Elizabeth Wydeville retired to Bermondsey. She didn’t make a note in her diary. Here’s a blog post from Susan Higginbotham discussing it. There’s no real need to leap to any conclusions about her being ‘put away’ by Henry Tudor. Unless, of course, that feeds right into a particular view of Henry Tudor. Which, quite rightly, the inhabitants of the swamps of Illogicity argue quite strenuously against in the case of Richard III. Saying this kind of thing gets your name added to the list of ‘Tydderite Trolls’ but it’s worth saying anyway: If you want your historical hero to be treated fairly and not ‘maligned’, then you might want to lay off ‘maligning’ other people from history. Go read The Water Babies, particularly the bits involving Mrs Bedonebyasyouwould.

3. Everyone says Richard III was a usurper but no-one says Henry VII was.

There are a lot of people who believe Richard III was a usurper who also believe Henry Tudor was. However, there is one slight difference between the way Richard III came to the throne and the way Henry VII did, and that’s all about conquest. It might not have been cricket, he might not have had the most spectacularly sound claim in history, but he deposed the reigning king in open battle. Richard III didn’t. That’s why we have to look at these things differently, and not try and compare apples and oranges. Which is pretty classic argument deflection

3. All the proof needed of Edward IV’s secret marriage to Eleanor Butler is his secret marriage to Elizabeth Wydeville.

It’s rather tedious to hear, time after time, how ‘romantic’ it was that Edward IV made a secret marriage with Elizabeth Wydeville. It wasn’t ‘romantic’. It was monumentally dumb. Kings just don’t get to go around marrying whoever they like, not even great strapping lads like Edward. It was good for him – there’s every indication it was an extremely happy marriage, but stirred up a spot of bother. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is ‘Edward IV made one secret marriage, so clearly this was just the last in a long line of secret marriages’. Or, in any case, two. But we know about the marriage to Elizabeth Wydeville. We know it from events of their lives, not from something that was brought up after Edward IV’s death. And certainly not from something that was brought up after they were both dead. This is why there is doubt – serious doubt – about whether the pre contract story, the ‘Edward secretly married Eleanor Butler before he secretly married Elizabeth Wydeville’ story, can be taken at face value. Because there’s nothing – nothing – concrete to say it took place at all. And the two people most directly involved were dead, they could neither refute nor confirm the story. In this case, the act of parliament on its own just isn’t enough. Henry VII says in an act of parliament Richard III ‘shed infants’ blood’ – is that enough to declare him guilty without other evidence to corroborate it? If you said  no, then you’d be right!

4. Thomas More, the Princes, ten foot holes, bones in urns &c &c &c.

No-one takes Thomas More at face value. He was quite possibly writing some kind of satire. To waste time disputing and refuting his every word is a pointless exercise. The bones in the Tower exist. They were examined quite thoroughly using the technology available at the time. The conclusion reached was that they were more likely to be the bones of the Princes in the Tower than anyone else. That may, or may not, be proved correct should they ever be subjected to further testing. As to ‘why weren’t they thrown into the Thames?’… Because bodies thrown into the Thames have a habit of floating to the surface. And that would have been seriously embarrassing. I’d say the very last means of disposal anyone who might have murdered the princes would have considered was ‘hey, let’s chuck them in the Thames!’

5. Owen Tudor and Katherine de Valois weren’t secretly married because there’s those who say maybe Edward IV and Eleanor Butler weren’t.

Owen Tudor was secretly married to Katherine de Valois. There’s an act of parliament that mentions it. And her sons were alive at the time. So was her secret husband. So, lots of people to scratch their heads and say ‘huh? wha?’ if it wasn’t true. When the act of parliament that talked about Edward IV’s supposed secret marriage to Eleanor Butler was written, both of the principals were dead. And a third party benefited hugely from the revelation. So it’s difficult for many people to take that act of parliament as the final word. Especially as there’s no other evidence whatsoever to back it up. None of the people named (or in Ms Butler’s case, not named) were around to refute it. And the one person who maybe could (and that’s a big maybe) was hauled out of a council meeting and summarily beheaded.

6. If Eleanor Butler didn’t get her lands from Edward IV, how did she get them?

We don’t know how Elizabeth Butler acquired the lands in question. That’s all we can say. ‘We don’t know how Eleanor Butler acquired the lands in question… so they must have been given to her by Edward IV!… to keep her quiet about their secret marriage!’ is a leap of….? Yes, that’s right! It’s an enormous leap of logic.

7. People always say Richard III ‘murdered’ some people who were executed. No-on says that about other kings!

If Edward IV, Henry VII or Richard III hauled anyone out of a council meeting, without trial, for summary execution over a handy log, that would definitely qualify as murder. Only one of the three did this. Had Edward IV, Henry VII or Richard III arrested the incoming king’s chief advisors and supporters, sent them far away, then (possibly with some kind of show trial) had them executed, that would probably qualify as murder. Several other people were executed during the reign of Richard III. I’d reckon they all had trials, so that doesn’t qualify as ‘murder’. Four men were executed prior to his taking the throne, and none of those deaths was entirely aboveboard. The earl of Warwick was responsible for the unlawful executions (‘murder’) of at least four men during his rebellions. This isn’t a positive reflection on him. Henry II orchestrated the death (‘murder’) of Thomas a Becket. This isn’t a positive reflection on him. Neither are the deaths of Hastings, Rivers, Vaughn and Grey a positive reflection on Richard III. And there’s not much can be done about that without visiting even further injustice on these four men. Lawful execution is lawful execution, whoever’s on the throne. Murder is murder, whoever’s (almost) on the throne.

8. Once the Princes were declared illegitimate, their threat to Richard III vanished. And, anyway, why didn’t Richard do away with young Warwick?

Declaring the princes illegitimate didn’t (and couldn’t) remove them as a threat to Richard III, or any subsequent king. That’s just a fact of life. Does that mean he did away when them? Well, we don’t know what happened to them, but it’s fairly clear to many rational and openminded beings they were dead before August 1485. The young earl of Warwick was affected by his father’s attainder. No-one was likely to seriously back him against Richard because (and I’m seriously surprised so many people have missed this) the very people who might have supported him (the remnants of his grandfather’s affinity) were busy supporting Richard III. Yes, the attainder could have been reversed, just as the ‘illegitimacy’ of Edward IV’s children was. But that would have required whoever wanted it reversed to be in a position to reverse it… and Richard was the only one in that position and, presumably, he didn’t want to reverse it. But the whole argument itself… “You say Person A killed Persons B & C. But he didn’t kill person D, did he? Ergo he didn’t kill B or C, either! Coz, if he’d killed B & C, he’d have gone on to kill D, as well!” I’ll just give you a minute to extricate yourself from the swamp…….

Had the princes survived to adulthood, they would have continued to be a threat to Richard. Now let’s just cycle back to the first para of the post, for a moment. “Perkin Warbeck was the real Duke of York!” (subtext, yes, but arguably it’s there). And what did Perkin Warbeck do? So why might he not have done exactly the same to Uncle Richard, had he survived? And been smuggled to Burgundy &c &c &c? So, yes, by the evidence of that argument alone (whether Perkin was Perkin or Perkin was not), the princes would have continued to be a threat, illegitimate or not.

9. No-one’s allowed to say Richard III was planning to marry his niece but us!

I’m not sure there are many actual, serious historians who believe Richard III was planning to marry his niece. There are several novelists who’ve riffed on this. The latest would appear to be a devoted Ricardian (though the niece in question isn’t Elizabeth but Cecily). So, I guess the question is: why is it not ok for anyone to suggest Richard was planning to marry his niece, but it’s perfectly fine for a Ricardian to write a novel with very premise? Not that I’m expecting any kind of serious answer to that – novelists can write what they like, and I don’t believe this particular novelist is attempting to say any of this actually happened. But you know the weirdest thing about the whole Richard/Elizabeth of York thing? It was started by a proto-Ricardian! Yes, George Buck, who claimed to have seen a genuine letter, written by the genuine princess, which he may well have misinterpreted, was a forerunner of today’s murreyandblue bloggers! So, there you have it. An early Ricardian says “Richard was planning to marry his niece”; a current Ricardian writes a novel in which Richard has a torrid affair with his niece… But woe betide anyone who dares to say Richard was planning to marry his niece!

It’s at this point the swamps of Illogicity tie themselves in knots and disappear up their own S-bends.

(And if you have to explain your insult with an asterisk, maybe it’s time to rethink the insult.)

 

… and steal silently away into the night?

Now they’ve got themselves mixed up with a Big Name Author and she seems to have liberally imbibed the koolaid!

I don’t know this BNA’s work, I know of it, but I’ve never read her books. She was big in the 90s, I believe. Anyway, some 10 years ago, this BNA decided she’d had enough (Enough!) of nasty reviewers trashing her work. They didn’t like one of her books. Some of them were longstanding fans who were disappointed with her latest offering and left reviews that said that. And BNA was incensed!

Now, please note, I’m not talking about a Piddly Little Untalented Indie Writer with Their Knickers in a Twist. PLUIWTKTs are bad enough and abound on STGRB, where they pointblank refuse to learn anything about their craft from the feedback of anyone. Except the gloriously gushing and glowing feedback of their friends, family and socks. That they learn a great deal from, mainly that they’re not PLUIWTKTs at all, but The Best Writers Evah! Everyone needs to learn from their previous work. Every writer needs to remember they’re only as good as their latest book. But not the PLUIWTKTs. And not BNA.

So, when BNA posted a paean of praise to STGRB on their Facebook page, some people took the opportunity to point out the downside of STGRB. (And there is one. A BIIIG one.) These comments were deleted, as the post wasn’t about STGRB! Despite the fact the OP referred to a lavishly wonderful post on the STGRB website about how BNA is Kicking Bully Arse!

I have to backtrack a little here. Sorry about that.

Some time ago, a friend of mine posted a review of a book on Amazon. I’ve talked about all that a little here. In that post, I mentioned that STGRB added my name to their list of Amazon ‘trolls’. On the strength of a comment I made on a review that accused my friend (and others) of being part of a ‘conspiracy’ to destroy the career of a particular author. Now, someone from STGRB posted on this conversation on BNA’s Facebook page, so I decided that would be a great opportunity to request my name be removed from the list. BNA didn’t like this! I was asked to delete the comment and told I had made some ‘extreme remarks’. Now, I was very careful to make sure the language I used was reflected in previous comments. Words like ‘merciless’, ‘relentless’, ‘cruel’, ‘championing writers’, ‘stalking’, ‘bully’ and ‘even lacking in basic human virtues like sympathy and kindness’. All of which had been used to describe what these horrible trolls were doing to PLUIWTKTs and BNA. None of it was considered ‘extreme’ until I used it. I found that a bit strange.

I had no time to take screenshots before my words were deleted. (My work. © Me. Deleted by someone without my permission. Anyway, moving on…) This means I can’t replicate it here. Oh, it still exists. I copied and pasted it for my own records before it disappeared, but c/p doesn’t have quite the same ring of authenticity as a screenshot. Never mind.

A very helpful suggestion, that I contact STGRB through their website, was made. Strangely, I’m not about to deliver myself into their hands. They’ve already shown their colours by their ongoing behaviour, by adding my name to a list of trolls, by bullying reviewers in the worst possible way, by damaging the reputation of all indie writers who believe their Just Another Indie Writer, Please Read My Book and Review it Honestly! (of which ranks, I am a member) and continuing to parade their ‘championing of writers’ all across the interwebs, when their behaviour is damaging to the very writers they claim to be supporting.

And BNA is doing neither her reputation nor her ego any good by this. That the egos of the STGRB oddities is swelled by this kind of attention, their tactics endorsed and their behaviour unchecked, is a sad side effect. “I can’t tell if what you say is true!” BNA said. Nor could she tell whether any of the claims of the STGRB oddities were true, but that didn’t seem to matter.

“We change all your names to ‘anon’ when you post a comment on our website,” one STGRB oddity said, “because if your real name is there, the trolls will gather and go after you!”

If, however, your name appears in their list of trolls, whether you deserve to be there or not (and there’s a question about whether anyone deserves that), then the STGRB oddities should feel utterly free to gather and go after you. Sounds fair.

(I might add that one particular STGRB oddity posted comments in that conversation under at least two of her fake accounts. I posted under my real, actual, I was born with it, name.)

Remove my name from your list, STGRB. Take down your damaging and insulting website. Stop going after reviewers and writers. Stop handing cups of lukewarm koolaid to BNAs. Pack up your tents and steal away into the night. The vast majority of JAIWPRMB&RIH’s will thank you for it!

Just one final thought. Do you know what I want to do with my time? I want to write. I want to write and edit and proofread and format and edit and proofread and proofread and proofread and write and edit and format… I want to read reviews of my work that are honest, whether they be glowing or critical. I want other people to read those reviews and know them to be honest. If I come across one that’s batshit crazy, I want to have the strength to move past it. Because I want to write &c. What I don’t want to do is spend my time trying to get idiots to see that what they’re doing, in an attempt to keep their writing record squeaky clean, with few honest reviews and no critical ones, has a flow on effect that damages every single indie writer out there. Judging from the behaviour of BNA and other LKAs (Lesser Known Authors), they’re damaging mainstream, trad published writers as well. Pretty soon, no-one on the face of the planet will be able to trust a review and, if STGRB and BNA get their way, no-one on the planet will be able to say “I didn’t like this book because…” And that will be so helpful and useful for writers! Won’t it?

UPDATE: My name has been removed from the STGRB ‘trolls’ list. Now to get them all removed!

Britain’s ‘lost’ monarchs

Posted: January 31, 2014 in Uncategorised

A conversation on facebook about Edward VI got us thinking about other ‘lost’ monarchs. These are kings or queens who died young, or heirs to the throne that never made it. I’m going to try and come up with a list. All contributions appreciated!

Edgar Ætheling, briefly Harold Godwinsson’s heir after the battle of Hastings, before the English decided it was pointless (thank so chris y for this!)
William Adelin, son of Henry I – drowned in the wreck of the White Ship
Henry the Young King, son of Henry II (thanks Jayne Smith for the reminder!)
Arthur of Brittany, grandson of Henry II (thanks to Esther!)
Three sons of Edward I who died in childhood, John, Henry and Alfonso (thanks to Celia Parker)
Edward, the Black Prince
Edward of Lancaster
Edward V
Edward of Middleham, son of Richard III (suggested by Celia Parker. I’m still on the edge with this Edward, as he had two barriers in his path. The first (an early death) rendered the second (his father’s defeat at Bosworth) moot.)
Prince Arthur
Lady Jane Grey
Edward VI
Prince Henry, son of James VI
James Stuart, the Old Pretender, son of James VII
Prince William, son of Queen Anne (I have not included Anne’s many children who survived birth but not childhood, nor have I included any of her sister, Mary II’s, children)
Crown Prince Frederick, son of George II
Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV

I shall have to delve into the history of Scotland to complete this list. And I’m not sure whether to include Richard III, or if a two year reign is too long for him to be considered ‘lost’.

À Warwick! À Warwick!

Posted: January 27, 2014 in Uncategorised

Found among my list of google searches:

“What does the battle cry ‘ À Warwick!’ mean?

It’s from French – à is ‘to’. So this is a cry rallying men around their leader.

It’s a good thing, really, they weren’t much into the double barrelled surname in mediaeval times. ‘À Fortescue-Patterson!’ might have lost them the battle before it began.

 

Another google search that came up: ‘Was Edward IV murdered?’

It’s highly unlikely, given the universal question ‘who benefits?’. Certainly no-one close enough to him to slip some arsenic into his food.

 

And, lastly: “Did George of Clarence murder his wife?”

There’s nothing to indicate Clarence murdered his wife. She died shortly after the birth of her last child (who didn’t long outlive her) and this would seem to be an odd time to poison someone. Quite apart from that, there’s every indication the Clarences’ marriage was a success. George accused one of Isobel’s women of poisoning her, dragged her to Warwick to be tried and had her hanged when she was found guilty. There’s no evidence Isobel was poisoned by anyone and the death of Ankarette Twynho was an appalling misuse of the law. That was the charge Clarence was originally arrested on. It soon changed to a charge of treason. Isobel’s death set in motion a set of events that led to her husband’s execution. Clarence wasn’t the most loyal brother in the universe, but I do rather feel for him, and for Isobel.

The Princes in the Tower, Josephine Wilkinson, Amberley.

Before I go on with this review, there are two quotes I think worthy of highlighting.

“When texts refuse to conform to the theory, it is time to change the theory, not the text.” (p112)

and

“The question, therefore, should not be ‘Who killed the Princes in the Tower?’, but ‘What happened to the Princes after they disappeared?” (p156)

The first is spot on and a good many writers and commentators on the life and times of Richard III could benefit from applying this principle. The second, I think, could do with a little tweaking. “The question, therefore, should not be ‘Who killed the Princes in the Tower?, but ‘What happened to the Princes… [to cause them to]… disappear?” With that one tiny adjustment, I’d be wholeheartedly agreeing with this as well.

The Princes in the Tower is a slim book, a collection of essays based on a reading, collating and analysis of available sources. Wilkinson gives a brief life of Edward V, up to the likely point of his disappearance, then deals with the usual suspects, one at a time. All, including Richard III himself, are declared innocent. On the available evidence, that’s a fairly sensible conclusion to reach. Or at least, the conclusion that it’s difficult to declare, beyond reasonable doubt, any of them actually guilty, is sensible. Oh, and she dismisses the current favourite suspect, Margaret Beaufort, in a few deft sentences.

The ultimate conclusion Wilkinson reaches is that no-one murdered the Princes, that they (or one of them, at least) was, by person or persons unknown, removed to Flanders where he lived in silence and obscurity until (possibly) he re-emerged as Perkin Warbeck. I’m not entirely convinced by this, as the living in silence and obscurity bit leaves way too many unanswered questions. While ‘he became Perkin Warbeck’ might answer the question ‘What happened to Richard duke of York?” it says nothing about his brother, Edward V. A thorough investigation, so far as possible, into Warbeck’s background and, as Wilkinson suggests, records in Flanders, would be welcome. It might go some way to confirming Warbeck’s royal pretensions, or it might put the story to bed, once and for all. Either way, it would add to the little we know.

As The Princes in the Tower is most decidedly not a book of speculation searching for an answer to the question quoted above, but an examination and interpretation of available sources, Wilkinson’s conclusions are, of necessity, going to reflect those interpretations. It raised more questions than it answered for me, but as some of those questions hadn’t occurred to me before, I see this as a very good thing.

All in all, this is a good book, clearly organised and written. While there may be alternative interpretations to some of the passages quoted, Wilkinson backs up her views and doesn’t, so far as I could see, resort to cherrypicking or convenient source-blindness. I’d recommend this book to anyone trying to make sense of some of the events of 1483 and 1484.