Friday, 8 July 2016

Edward IV, Richard III, Lord Dynham: The Wars of the Roses

(Part Two to be published August 2016)

In this series of novels, David Bret chronicles the Wars of the Roses, as perceived through the eyes of a Devonshire lord, his family and friends.
   John Dynham (1433-1501) rose from obscurity to become one of the key figures in the violent struggle for supremacy between the houses of York and Lancaster. He left his mark on British history in 1459, in the aftermath of the battle of Blore Heath when he escorted the rebel Yorkist lords, including the future Edward IV, to the safety of Nutwell, his ancestral home, and then on to the Calais garrison. Recovering from a horrific injury which almost cost him his life, he went on to enjoy a lengthy and glittering political career, not to mention a complex and unconventional personal life.
   Twice-married, but openly gay in his private circle, Dynham survived the harsh reigns and dictates of three very different kings: Edward IV, of whom he was one of his closest friends—Richard III, whose regime he held responsible for the deaths of several loved ones, including his first wife—and Henry VII, the first Tudor king whom he secretly despised. His story is one of compelling interest—sex, shady politics, tragedy and intrigue—and is vividly recounted in this, the first part of the Dynham saga which covers the years 1459-63.

Edward IV has always been overshadowed by his controversial younger brother Richard III, and is most remembered for his pursuit of pleasure~the archetypal medieval playboy. There was considerably more to him than this. During the first half of his reign he was an astute military tactician who never lost a battle, a courageous, approachable monarch loved by his subjects. The second half of his reign finds him different. With his Treasury solvent having being stretched quelling a decade of civil unrest, and with England's peace marred only by the murky intrigues of his brother Clarence, Edward was free to indulge in his fancies. He lived extravagantly, and though devoted to his queen, Elizabeth Woodville, played the field~there were hundreds of women and at least one male lover. Sadly, he ate himself into an early grave, leaving England to face the most chaotic period in its history thus far. Celebrity biographer David Bret has nurtured a lifelong passion for the Plantagenet kings, and is a fervent Ricardian.

There has been renewed interest in Richard III since the discovery of his remains beneath a Leicester car park in the autumn of 2012. Part of the mystery was solved on 4 February 2013, when it was revealed that he was not the diminutive, hunchbacked monster of Tudor myth, but a tall (for his time), good-looking man who suffered from scoliosis of the spine, a condition which would not have been noticed as he went about everyday life. If the Tudor propagandists perpetrated this myth—their theory being that to sanitize Henry VII, it was necessary to blacken the name of his predecessor—what else was made up? Richard remains the most controversial monarch to have occupied the British throne. During his brief reign he was loved and respected by his subjects. His fighting skills were second to none: his loyalty towards his brother, Edward IV, cannot be disputed. From an early age he was compelled to find his own way in life in a violence-orientated world: the brooding archetypal loner who, even when he acquired power, still preferred the quiet Yorkshire countryside to the artificialities of the royal court, where no man was trusting of his fellow. Edward IV’s sudden death plunged England into chaos.  Richard, named by him as Protector of his young sons, Edward V and Richard of York, was faced with the dilemma that England would again succumb to the anarchy brought about by the last royal minority—that of Henry VI. He was also faced with the rapaciousness of the boys’ family, the much-hated Woodvilles. The boys were placed within the Tower, but were never seen again, setting in motion a mystery which has never been solved. Did Richard kill his nephews, or were they dispatched by the Duke of Buckingham, or by Henry Tudor and his scheming mother, Margaret Beaufort? What was the true nature of the relationship between Richard and Buckingham? Was Buckingham hoping to use “bromance” as a means of ensnaring Richard to be used as a scapegoat for the heinous crime he was about to perpetrate? Or was Richard simply too trusting, caught out when he was at his weakest—mourning a brother he had adored? The fact that he still has many thousands of devoted supporters, more than 500 years after his death, only points to the fact that Richard III was more than just a king. He was a legend.

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