Friday, December 8, 2023

Join #bestselling author Alex Marchant as she shares her inspiration for The Order of the White Boar Series #HistoricalFiction #MissingPrinces #BookSpotlight #TheCoffeePotBookClub @AlexMarchant84 @cathiedunn

King in Waiting

The Order of the White Boar, Books 3 & 4

by Alex Marchant

What happened to the ‘Princes in the Tower’? And does Matthew Wansford know the truth?

Two bestselling books in one – King in Waiting and Sons of York

These are dangerous days for the Order of the White Boar
King Richard III has been betrayed and killed
Victorious Henry Tudor sits uneasily on the throne of England
Richard’s loyal friend, Francis Lovell, plots revenge
Alys Langdown, ward of the Queen, awaits an unknown fate

And ever-loyal Matthew Wansford serves his new master, Edward Plantagenet, true King of England – who now must seek his own road …

From exile in Flanders to a homecoming in the dales of Yorkshire, Matthew, Alys and Roger must brave old enemies and rise to their greatest challenge

Can the Order and the King in Waiting claim victory against usurper Henry Tudor?

Read Books 3 and 4 of ‘The Order of the White Boar’ sequence together for the first time, ‘bringing the uncertain and dangerous times after the Battle of Bosworth to life’ (Wendy Johnson, member of the Looking for Richard Project)

The Order of the White Boar

A little over ten years ago I set out to write a novel for children about the real King Richard III. It was something I’d planned to do for years, but never got around to – having been a Ricardian (one who believes this king has long been maligned by history) since a teenager. What prompted me to write the book was the rediscovery of his grave in Leicester after 500 years.

The story of that discovery was remarkable. You may recall it, as it became a worldwide news story. Independent historian and screenwriter Philippa Langley took on centuries of myth and disinformation – and the establishment, who believed the untruths about King Richard’s grave being destroyed during the Dissolution of the monasteries and his bones being thrown into a nearby river. And against the odds – but supported by years of dedicated research by her and her team – Philippa pinpointed exactly where the grave would be found, and on the first day of the resulting archaeological dig, it was uncovered.

Philippa Langley, laying roses for the fallen at Bosworth Battlefield, August 2015

The discovery of the grave contributed hugely to the ongoing debate about the man himself. For centuries many people – if not most – had accepted as historical fact the portrayal of him in Shakespeare’s play Richard III – as an evil, murderous, usurping hunchback. His newly discovered skeleton showed he was not a hunchback, nor did he have any leg deformity that would have led him to limp, as also depicted in the play.

If Shakespeare and his sources were wrong on those counts, what else had they got wrong?

Laurence Olivier, perhaps the most famous incarnation of Shakespeare’s villain

This was a question that some people, including professional historians, had been asking for years, often being derided by traditionalists who insisted that Shakespeare’s depiction must be accurate – despite being written more than 100 years after Richard’s death and by a playwright whose work had to be approved by officials serving the then queen – Elizabeth I, granddaughter of Henry Tudor, the man who ultimately defeated and killed King Richard at the battle of Bosworth and stole his crown (a true usurper!) As Ricardians had long argued, contemporary records didn’t depict such a man: the image had evolved over the decades after his death, under the rule of the Tudor monarchs – as had the list of his ‘crimes’.

I went back to those contemporary records for my portrayal of the man in what became The Order of the White Boar and found him to be shown there as a good, just governor, a skilled administrator, loyal servant of his brother King Edward IV, ruling the north of England on his behalf, and someone of whom a Scottish ambassador remarked, ‘Never has so much spirit or greater virtue reigned in such a small body’ and an Italian agent said, ‘The good reputation of his private life and public activities powerfully attracted the esteem of strangers.’

The Order of the White Boar

That’s the man I sought to portray in my book. I created several child characters through whose eyes and adventures I could show a real man, not a monster, in both domestic and official settings – as good master to the central character, Matthew Wansford, his page; as brother to the king; as father, husband, son, lord of the north. Also as uncle – as before too long I realized that central to my story would have to be the centuries-long mystery of what happened to his nephews – the so-called ‘Princes in the Tower’.

When Richard became king in 1483, it was through a series of events that I depict in my second book, The King’s Man, through the eyes of Matt and his friends who are witnesses to them. Richard’s brother the king died suddenly in April, leaving his 12-year-old son, also Edward, as his heir, and naming Richard as protector of the realm. Over the next two to three months, the boy-king Edward V was proclaimed illegitimate by Parliament and the crown offered instead to Richard.

The King’s Man, book 2 in the sequence

What exactly happened is still debated by historians. The bare facts are that Edward IV’s marriage to his queen, Elizabeth Woodville, was declared bigamous and therefore his children were unable to inherit the throne. The debate is over the veracity of the claim and whether it was a story concocted by Richard to steal the throne.

What happened next to the two disinherited sons has also been hotly debated for centuries. But more than a debate, it became a mystery as seemingly they disappeared later in the summer of 1483. Supposedly they were last seen in the royal apartments in the Tower of London where they had been lodged while preparations were made for Edward’s coronation – a coronation that of course didn’t happen, with the boys’ uncle Richard being crowned instead.

Rumours arose that they had been murdered – on the orders of Richard, of his associate the Duke of Buckingham, or of someone else. Other rumours said they’d been taken to various places around England, sent abroad (and perhaps had died in a shipwreck in the Channel), or died of natural causes. Official records that have survived to our times were unclear, and it may appear that few people in the country knew what happened to them – and maybe didn’t even care. The boys largely disappear from view.

The palace of Margaret of Burgundy in Mechelen.
Is this one of the places where the ‘princes’ may have gone?

Only decades later did the story of their deaths evolve beyond rumours and become the traditional ‘history’. Henry Tudor never proclaimed their deaths, let alone murder, or that Richard was responsible. He searched for them in vain after winning the battle and he didn’t accuse Richard of the crime in the attainder drawn up for his first Parliament. It seems that perhaps he simply didn’t know their fate.

This then was the scenario I faced when I set out to write the boys’ story alongside Richard’s. And I decided I would take the view that the boys were never officially seen in public again after the summer of 1483 – which is all that could be said with certainty.

As I prepared for and started writing my first book, The Order of the White Boar, which begins in 1482, my research into Richard’s life and times led me to explore the different possibilities for the fate of the boys. This included looking ahead to records after Richard’s death, even though my book was planned to finish at that time. All the reading I undertook, and the timely publication of a psychological profile of him by academics at Leicester University, led me to the conclusion that the boys may well have survived Richard’s reign. And also that either or both might well have resurfaced after his death, as the major pretenders to Henry Tudor’s throne – known in the ‘official’ histories as ‘Lambert Simnel’ and ‘Perkin Warbeck’.

Images of so-called ‘Lambert Simnel’ and ‘Perkin Warbeck’

So this is the path I chose as I wrote the first two books – those telling of Richard’s life, particularly the last three years when he became king and leading to his death at Bosworth. Having met him once before at court, Matt befriends the elder boy, new King Edward V, on his way to London to be crowned. This knowledge of Edward as a 12-year-old will serve him well in years to come when Edward’s identity is in question.

Like the rest of the population of England, Matt doesn’t see Edward officially again after the summer of 1483. Most likely also like the rest, Matt is so busy finding his way in the world that he barely thinks of him again, except when he hears rumours of his death. These, of course, he discounts, knowing King Richard as he does. The country has moved on from the accession crisis and is enjoying the peaceful reign of its new king, who is busy promulgating laws to improve their lives economically and legally.

Is this the face of the real Richard III?
A collage at the Leicester Richard III Visitor Centre based on the image of the king’s head
reconstructed from his skull.

Richard’s death on the battlefield follows an invasion by the remaining Lancastrian pretender, Henry Tudor, who himself has a very tenuous claim to the throne. This throws the country into turmoil again, after fifteen years of peace in the wake of the civil war known as the Wars of the Roses and the Yorkist victories that secured Edward IV’s throne. That is where my second book, The King’s Man, ends. By then Matt has once again met Edward – and the way that meeting turned out determined how I would approach the third book in the sequence. In fact, it led to my decision actually to write it, because what happened made me curious as to how their relationship – that between two 15-year-old boys of very different status and natures – would play out.

King in Waiting, the story of the Dublin King, Was he really Edward V?

So I wrote King in Waiting and its sequel, Sons of York, exploring the possibility that both sons of Edward IV had survived – hidden away by their uncle from forces that might seek to use them to raise rebellion against him – and that Edward returned as the pretender later known as ‘Lambert Simnel’.

This was then a very unfashionable theory. Although many people think ‘Perkin Warbeck’ was the younger of the two boys (and it’s acknowledged by the official history that is who he claimed to be), very few seemed ready to entertain the idea that ‘Lambert Simnel’ may have been the elder. I felt I was swimming against the current of opinion, although my research suggested to me that it was the most likely possibility. Especially if one were open to the idea (also rather unfashionable!) that there was no evidence of the boys being murdered.

Launch of Sons of York, book 4 of the sequence, at Middleham Castle,
King Richard’s primary home in the north

I’d never seen myself as a swimmer against the tide before, so I was grateful to discover the work of Matthew Lewis – lawyer turned historian (and now chair of the Richard III Society). He also explored the notion and, while covering all possibilities in his book Survival of the Princes in the Tower, admitted he too had come down on the side of this being a likely possibility, perhaps the most likely one.

In my author notes I point out that all history is interpretation and, in the absence of proof either way regarding the fate of the ‘Princes in the Tower’, all writing on them can only be speculation by an author. Mine certainly was, even if grounded firmly in the evidence we did have. I write fiction after all.

But imagine my excitement when, having written two books telling the story of the rebellion in favour of so-called ‘Lambert Simnel’ as the story of Edward V, crowned king in Dublin in 1487 prior to an invasion of Tudor’s England, research is published and a TV documentary aired which claims proof has been found to support that story. Because that’s what’s just happened. 

The Princes in the Tower by Philippa Langley

Philippa Langley – who discovered King Richard’s grave beneath a car park in 2012 – has published the findings to date of the Missing Princes Project that she began in 2015. And it seems that the basis of my story may have been correct all along.

It’s likely that proponents of the traditional story will dispute the findings and argue that the remarkable documents found don’t constitute proof of survival and the identity of the pretenders as claimed. However, if nothing else, the new evidence will prompt many people to critically question the traditional ‘history’ and seriously consider the alternatives. As one Tudor specialist has already said to me, the balance has shifted in Richard’s favour.

About time, I say. But then I would, wouldn’t I? I’ve been immersed in the story of King Richard’s life and legacy for so many years, and it’s fascinating enough on its own without the need for a pantomime villain – the way Richard has long been painted.

 Such depictions may have suited the Tudor regime’s need for contrast with its predecessors, or its dismissing of the pretenders’ identity which allowed it to reassure the Spanish monarchs that their daughter would be secure on her new English throne (there’s another story!), but surely in the twenty-first century, in an era of ‘fake news’, it’s important to delve deep into the history of the past, so that we recognize what’s true and what isn’t, and learn from past mistakes.

Castle on Piel Island, Cumbria, where the Dublin King began his invasion of England.

With fresh interest no doubt stirred up by the new revelations, it’s the ideal time to reissue my books telling the story of the ‘Dublin King’, aka Edward V.

King in Waiting and Sons of York were written as one story arc, which proved too long to publish as a single book for the target age group of 10+. I was advised to split it into two shorter books, which turned out to work well. Awkwardly, exactly the same had happened with the story of King Richard’s life – hence it being published as The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man. So many adults told me that they’ve enjoyed the stories that it’s seemed sensible to repackage them in two-book volumes, in an ‘adult’ cover. Books 1 and 2 were published together in 2021, and now books 3 and 4 have been published as one, under the title King in Waiting. I’m hoping that they will bring the story of the real King Richard and his nephews to many more people, and with the ongoing research being undertaken by the Missing Princes Project and the Richard III Society, help ensure that Shakespeare’s version is viewed in future as what it is – great drama, but terrible history.

The ‘adult versions’ of The Order of the White Boar and King in Waiting – each 2 books in 1!

All the books can be bought direct from me (UK) or from any good bookstore. And as a little heads-up – on 9th-10th December, the ebook of Book 1, The Order of the White Boar, will be available to download FREE as part of the History Writers Forum’s Jolabokaflod (the Icelandic tradition of giving books at Christmastime).

For details, visit my blog at or go direct to Amazon.

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Alex Marchant

Born and raised in the rolling Surrey downs, and following stints in archaeology and publishing in London, Stirling and Gloucester, Alex now lives and writes surrounded by moors in King Richard III’s northern heartland, not far from his beloved York and Middleham. Her first novel, Time out of Time (published June 2021), a timeslip adventures set during the long, hot summer of 1976, won the 2012 Chapter One Children’s Book Award and her second was put to one side in 2013 when the rediscovery of King Richard’s grave in a car park in Leicester was announced. A Ricardian since her teens, it prompted her at last to write a novel about the real Richard III for older children. So The Order of the White Boar and its sequel, The King’s Man, were born, soon followed by the third and fourth novels in the sequence, King in Waiting and Sons of York

Together the four books explore the life and legacy of the real King Richard III, not the fictionalized villain of Shakespeare's play and 'traditional' history. They have been called 'A wonderful work of historical fiction for both children and adults' by the Bulletin of the Richard III Society. 

Alex has also edited two anthologies of short fiction by authors inspired by King Richard: Grant Me the Carving of My Name and Right Trusty and Well Beloved... Both are sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK), helping people today who have the same spinal condition as King Richard. She is currently working on another novel based around an archaeological dig in Scotland, and has not yet ruled out continuing the story of the ‘sons of York’ beyond 1487…

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for such a fascinating post, Alex. I must add your books to my reading list.

    Having written an essay for a university course on Tudor Studies on the subject of propaganda 20 years ago, I've since been fully aware of their agenda. They had to justify their claim to the throne (which also – in my view – goes some way to explain Henry VIII's misguided attempts at begetting a legitimate male heir, regardless of consequences to his wives), or other contenders may appear on the horizon. I do find it credible that one or both of those two ’impostors’ could have been the missing princes. And, as you say, not too much is made of their disappearance for years, beyond rumours. Will we ever know the full truth? I hope so!