My guest today is Christopher Rae. I've asked him to answer some questions about his interest in Richard III Plantagenet and about the book he wrote about him: G - Loyalty Binds Me: A Novel of King Richard III.
Join our discussion and welcome Christopher on Fly High!
Christopher Rae was born in Glasgow, but having arrived in Yorkshire at the age of 5, after a detour via London, feels justified in claiming to be a native. A first degree in History from the University of Sussex was forgotten for a number of years while he pursued a career at the bleeding edge of information technology, working for companies such as American Express and Visa, but now provides the experience and knowledge behind the exhaustive research which underpins his writing.
Whether it is the 15th century, or the 17th, Christopher's writing seeks to evoke a sense of period which is both fascinating and compelling for the reader.
'To some people the attempt to "fill in the gaps in the sparsely chronicled past", as Schama described it, is folly. But for others it is an essential component of the civilised mind's struggle to understand the world, for if we cannot understand the past we can never hope to understand the present. These people understand very well the difference between a work of history and a work of historical fiction, but also understand the light that can be shed on the dry bones of the historical account by the judicious use of an imaginative hypothesis.' (From Christopher Rae's profile on Amazon)
Welcome on FLY HIGH, Christopher. In your book, “G – Loyalty Binds Me” , which is your take on Richard III’s story?
My take is that Richard was a real person, a man of his time, and not the monster portrayed in subsequent Tudor propaganda.
How long did it take to research and write this book?
I am still working on the second part of the book. When complete the project will have taken two years.
When and how did you become a Ricardian?
I wrote a novel set in the 15th century which culminates at the Battle of Towton in 1461. I was originally more interested in Edward IV, but gradually became seduced by the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, and by a desire to create a more realistic portrait of Richard.
What is the most interesting book you’ve read about Richard III?
“A Study of Service” by Rosemary Horrox. Cambridge Studies in Mediaeval Life and Thought
And what is the first book one should read to approach Richard’s figure and story in the right way?
"Richard III" by Charles Ross
Shakespeare. Can we forgive him?
I think so. He was merely reproducing the anti-Ricardian propaganda which was current in his time.
What is the most fascinating feature in Richard III’s personality?
I think what is fascinating is to imagine him as a real person, with a complex personality.
His most important political achievements?
Legal reforms including the introduction of bail provisions for suspected offenders, and the abolition of benevolences – arbitrary taxes levied by the sovereign.
What would Richard’s England be like, if he had won at Bosworth?
The signs were good – Richard had demonstrated his commitment to legal reforms and to the welfare of his subjects.
How different would England’s History have been?
The Yorkist regime pursued an anti-French policy, so European affairs would have been rather different. Peace might have been achieved, if for example Edward of Middleham had survived, and his marriage had been used to create a final settlement of the York/Lancaster quarrel, in the same way that Henry VII’s was.
How do you see Richard’s marriage to Anne Neville: strategic political achievement, marriage of love , marriage of convenience? Or what?
He married Anne Neville quite young, primarily to cement his affinity with the north. Aristocratic marriages were not really about love in the 15th century, though one has the impression that they were happy.
What do you think most probably happened to the two Princes in the Tower? Who killed them?
Ah, that would be telling! – read “G” to find out what might have happened. Suffice to say the notion that they were murdered originates in Tudor propaganda. Richard had no particular reason to have them killed since they had been disinherited and neutralised as potential heirs to the throne. Aristocratic prisoners were often kept alive in the Tower for many years if they didn’t cause any trouble.
That’s all for now, Christopher. Just tell us, before our final greetings, are you working on a new book? A new project?
Well, as I mentioned, I’m still working on the final part of “G”.
Thanks for finding the time to answer my questions. Good luck to you and great success to your book, Christopher!
Thank you, Maria Grazia!