word craft


Story Behind the Story #67,
The Player King, Part Two

The Player KingIf you read history—as I do for the stories—it is more often than not pop­u­lat­ed by big peo­ple, kings, queens, gen­er­als, sen­a­tors and pres­i­dents. Such peo­ple do alter his­to­ry, some­times for the bet­ter, or worse. But embed­ded in such tales are countless—if only passing—references to oth­ers, small folk.

Such is the sto­ry of Lam­bert Sim­nel, as told in The Play­er King, my most recent book.

I am not cer­tain how I became inter­est­ed in King Richard III, (1452–1485) of Eng­land. Shakespeare’s play, per­haps. Maybe Lau­rence Olivier’s fine film ver­sion of the play. Or was it my librar­i­an col­league, who always wore a white boar lapel but­ton, the white boar being King Richard’s insignia? This librar­i­an was a pas­sion­ate defend­er of King Richard III, five hun­dred years after his death. Why?

I went on to read Josephine Tey’s smart detec­tive nov­el (1951) Daugh­ter of Time, in which a mod­ern detec­tive tries to solve the many mys­ter­ies of Richard III’s life and death.

Mov­ing on, I read oth­er books about the time, includ­ing some about Richard III’s con­queror, Hen­ry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty.

Hen­ry VII—known as “The Win­ter King”—was a usurp­er, his crown con­stant­ly chal­lenged. One of those who chal­lenged him ear­ly on was a boy named Lam­bert Simnel—if that tru­ly was his name.

Read the his­to­ries of the time, and he is bare­ly men­tioned. Indeed, just last week I saw a doc­u­men­tary about Hen­ry VII and Lam­bert was not even cit­ed. But Lambert—a boy—was crowned King of Eng­land (in Dublin, Ire­land) and led a large inva­sion army into Eng­land, only to be defeat­ed at the Bat­tle Of Trent, the last bat­tle of the War of the Ros­es. I noticed Lam­bert in a footnote.

Very lit­tle is known about Lam­bert Sim­nel. Where did he come from? How did he come to be crowned king? What hap­pened to him after the bat­tle? Cer­tain facts are known—he did exist—but the boy…. Just who was he? What did he think of all that hap­pened to him?

That’s what I have tried to write in The Play­er King. Strict­ly speak­ing, the title should have been The Play­er Kings. There is more than one false king in the book.

The chal­lenge was to write about some­thing which is well known—except the cen­tral play­er, the play­er king—the boy known as Lam­bert Simnel.

The truth is, foot notes are the foot sol­diers of history.

1 thought on “Story Behind the Story #67, <br>The Player King, Part Two”

  1. I loved read­ing Crispin and won­dered if anoth­er book about him was forth­com­ing. I’m intrigued by Avi’s oth­er books but I’m still look­ing for a con­tin­u­a­tion of Crispin’s story.


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