Ten Rules for Writing Ricardian Historical Fiction

As it’s been quiet in my part of the blogsphere, I’m double posting this one on my Richard III blog.

Some time ago (I never was accused of being au courant), rules for writing various sorts of historical fiction were circulated in blogdom. Astonishingly, as far as I know, no one provided any for the aspiring Ricardian novelist. So here’s my attempt to fill this gaping void:

1. Anne Beauchamp, Richard’s mother-in-law, must be tearfully grateful when Richard III takes her to live with him and Anne, and must not under any circumstances allude to the fact that Richard and Clarence together have stripped her of all of her lands. The means by which Richard acquired the lands of George Neville and the Countess of Oxford should also be disregarded; if the matter of land must be mentioned at all, the reader should be allowed to assume that it came to Richard via the Land Fairy.

2. Anne Neville must be frail, in order to make Richard’s love for her all the more noble and to get maximum pathos from her stay at the cookshop. The emotional power of a Ricardian novel can be measured roughly by the number of times Anne faints.

3. Anything bad that happens in England during the Wars of the Roses is the fault of either (a) Margaret of Anjou, (b) anyone named Woodville, (c) Margaret Beaufort, (d) the Stanleys, (e) Buckingham (except when he’s allied with Richard III), or (f) Henry Tudor. Special points go to any Ricardian novelist who can make the Woodvilles responsible for global warming.

4. Anything good that happens in England during the Wars of the Roses is due to Richard, Duke of York, Edward IV (except when it’s something Richard doesn’t like), or Richard III.

5. Anne and Richard must have been childhood sweethearts whose lifelong wish to marry is thwarted by Warwick. The phrase “sold into marriage” should be used at least once when Anne marries Edward of Lancaster. Under no circumstances should Anne and Edward have even slightly positive feelings for each other.

6. Richard III’s extramarital liaisons are the product of either his merry bachelor high jinks, a passionate premarital love affair with a woman of lower rank, or (preferably) his desperate need to find comfort in the absence of his childhood sweetheart Anne. Anyone else’s extramarital liaisons are the product of lechery and depravity. Yes, that means you, William Hastings.

7. In the afterword, the conscientious Ricardian novelist will take a swipe at all accounts unfavorable to Richard, dismissing them as Tudor propaganda. The very same accounts, however, must be followed slavishly when they are unfavorable to Richard’s enemies.

8. William Collingbourne’s hanging, drawing, and quartering on Richard III’s orders must not be depicted, as it would be a violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which Richard would have followed to the letter if only it’d been written at the time.

9. Richard must not kill the Princes. Nor can he make a loaded remark such as, “Will no one rid me of those pesky Princes?” or “Sure would be a lot more to go around if we didn’t have those two extra mouths in the Tower to feed.” (But c’mon—you knew that rule.)

10. When in doubt, blame Elizabeth Woodville.

6 thoughts on “Ten Rules for Writing Ricardian Historical Fiction”

  1. Darn, why do I stick to those pesky Romans if it’s so easy to write a compelling novel about the poor, misunderstood Richard III?

  2. These are great, and all so true! A couple more I thought of: the story of the precontract between Edward IV and Eleanor Butler must be presented as absolute truth and fact. And Richard must accept the throne only reluctantly in 1483, For The Good Of England, and definitely not out of ambition.

  3. Great list – and Alianore’s additions make it a round dozen. Hats off to both of you! I like #6, and Alianore’s second rule.

  4. I’ve only recently discovered your blog (and love the LOL cats version of Richard’s usurpation), but perhaps as a longstanding devourer of Ricardian fiction could I just add to No 9 that the two lads should ideally be sent into the country to lead a normal healthy life.

    Richard also has to have a rather wet and adoring male best friend. Francis Lovell usually does duty, but feel free to make up your own.

    Anne Neville has mutated over the years with the rise of feminism. She doesn’t faint much at all now and tends to be rather feisty.

    1. Good points, Celia! The wet and adoring male best friend is a particularly important ingredient.

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