Most moving novel about Richard III | Rosemary Sutcliff on Some Touch of Pity

Jane Stemp commented on a previous post that she was reminded that she “once read a book by Rhoda Edwards which is about Richard III – and dedicated to Rosemary Sutcliff. The title is ‘Some Touch of Pity’. Courtesy of the internet I found a picture of a cover, and it includes a quote from Rosemary, calling the novel “the most moving novel about Richard III I have ever read”.

Some Touch of Pity

UK original publication details are: Rhoda Edwards, Some Touch of Pity.  Hutchinson , London, 1976.  In the US it was published as The Broken Sword.  A brief internet trawl produces this review from the Richard III Society of New South Wales, in Australia.  

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.

One thought on “Most moving novel about Richard III | Rosemary Sutcliff on Some Touch of Pity

  1. Dear Anthony,
    Firstly, I hope you don’t mind my contacting you via this website.
    My name is Georgina and I work for Endeavour Press, who currently publishes Kindle editions of several of Rosemary’s books.
    I am trying to track down any surviving family members for Rhoda Edwards, as we are keen to republish some of her work in digital format, and after reading your blog post above, it is clear that Rhoda and Rosemary were close friends.
    I am therefore wondering whether you have any contact details for members of Rhoda’s family that you could pass on to me so that I can contact them to discuss the matter further.
    I would be most grateful if you could repsonse via my email address listed below, as it will be a more direct means of communication.
    Thank you in advance for any help that you can provide me with.
    Kind regards,
    Editorial Assistant
    Endeavour Press – the UK’s Leading Independent Digital Publisher
    Twitter: @EndeavourPress
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