Some Touch of Pity

   Posted by: Leslie McCawley   in

Rhoda Edwards, Some Touch of Pity.  Hutchinson & Co Ltd, London, 1976.  ISBN 0 09 914200 7 (paperback)

(In the US published as The Broken Sword)

Rhoda Edwards was winner of the 1976 Yorkshire Post’s Best First Work Award for Some Touch of Pity, her first work of historical fiction about King Richard III, presented as a series of first person accounts.  We hear from Anne before and after her coronation; Dr William Hobbes, the King’s physician; Francis, Lord Lovell;  King Richard; Robert Bolman a clerk in the Privy Seal Office; Lady Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward IV; George Stanley, Lord Strange; and lastly a Squire of Sir William Stanley.

From each of these vantage points around Richard we hear, see, feel and share the emotions they each felt in his last years.  The author’s research appears to be exacting, using political positions, facts and phrases that are known to have been uttered by the protagonists. They feel like real memoirs as one reads them, and the intimacy offered with our well-known cast of characters is to be cherished.

At the beginning of each chapter, an authentic specimen of a signature of either the person giving the account or another personage of the era, is presented. Readers see the intricate autographs of Richard, Edward IV, Bolman, the king’s daughter, and Henry VII; they are fascinating to gaze upon and one’s imagination can just leap the nearly 600 years to observe the hand making the image.

The book opens in March 1483 with a chapter from Anne, and ends with the return home of one of Sir William Stanley’s squires who had been present and observed with shame his master’s betrayal of the King on Bosworth Field in August 1485.

The writing is excellent and sensitive, the stories captivating and believable, the known end still as distressing even when we know what is coming. It is a slim volume, and long out of print though available used on Amazon. It may also be available at libraries or in second hand bookshops, and if you are a Ricardian lucky enough to find a copy I believe you will enjoy reading it. My husband and I read it aloud to each other, weeping at the tragic ending, and felt we had experienced something important and true about the man we so admire and whose loss we still lament.