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The Razor King’s Plan to Save the World

1995 is a great year for anniversaries:

One hundred years since H.G.Wells published The Time Machine, undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary books ever written, and had the honour to inspire one of the funniest episodes of The Big Bang Theory more than a century later when Sheldon is set upon by the Morlocks;

It is also one hundred years since Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-rays, Marconi invented radio telegraphy, Auguste and Louis Lumière engineered a motion-picture camera, and King Camp Gillette (yes, that really was his name!) invented the safety razor, thereby singlehandedly removing from everyday life the murderous cut-throat razor. Not so well known is the fact that King Camp was a Utopian Socialist who set up a ‘World Corporation’ in Arizona to further his plans for a planned and sustainable world economy…oh King Camp, where are you now that we need you? 1895 was also the year that Oscar Wilde (middle names being Fingall O’Flahertie Wills – who knew?) lost his libel case against the Marquis of Queensberry on the charge of being a sodomite, and ended up being prosecuted and imprisoned for homosexuality. Bad times for Oscar, good time for lovers of great literature as it resulted in The Ballad of Reading Gaol (‘every man kills the thing he loves’) and De Profundis.

And not one but three hundred years since the founding of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the same year that Thomas Carlyle and James Boswell died, and Mungo Park had so many adventures exploring the course of the Niger River.

And five hundred years since way back in 1495, when King James IV of Scotland welcomed into his court at Stirling a man named Perkin Warbeck, marking one of those odd footnotes of history that are so fascinating. Warbeck was being touted as the Young Pretender, despite those doing so knowing full well it was untrue, and that he was just a lad from modest roots in Flanders who had worked as a serving boy in Portugal and Ireland. Seeing how well Perkin looked in the cast-off silks of his master, many took him as a person of distinction, and the joke went the rounds that he was the bastard son of Richard III.

Bizarre as it seems, he then went on to be presented at various courts around Europe as Richard, Duke of York, younger of the two sons of Edward IV who had perished years before in the Tower, and was treated in some places as the rightful King of England.

James IV went so far as to marry him off to one of the daughters of the Earl of Huntley and sent him on an armed foray into Northumberland. After this, Purbeck went on in his new guise to some incursions into Ireland, and then to Cornwall where he was bolstered by a rebellious mob angry at the latest excise taxations. They attempted to take Exeter, and failed dismally, after which Purbeck promptly abandoned his forces and gave himself up.

He was imprisoned, and later hung in the very Tower from which his invented persona had supposedly miraculously survived. Alas, poor Purbeck. Sometimes truth really is far stranger than fiction.

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