An observation by a reader of Renaissance – The Rise and Fall of a King, that, as well as being historical and paranormal fiction, it was also a time-travel story, (King Richard’s soul is taken into the 21st century) got me thinking:
Who amongst us has not at some time or other, fantasised about being able to travel through time – to influence past events or to see the future? It is a concept that has fascinated writers and scientists for decades. In 1889 and 1895, ten years or so before Albert Einstein developed his Theory of Relativity, distinguished writers such as H.G. Wells and Mark Twain gave us classics such as The Time Machine and A Conneticut Yankee in the Court of King Arthur and in 1969 Daphne Du Maurier’s The House on the Strand, was published.
Also in the mid-1960s, the scriptwriters of Dr. Who, exploded their sensational shape-shifting Time Lord upon British television screens. His continuous battle with his arch enemies, the Daleks, through time and across space, and the prospect of his imminent extermination, held generations of youngsters (including me) in thrall. A few years later, my own small son and daughter, were to follow Dr Who’s adventures from behind the sofa in anticipation and terror every Saturday tea time. 21st century children and adults alike are still avidly enjoying his (now her) exploits.
Time travel fiction is regularly on worldwide bestsellers lists. Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ saga, ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger, and Michael Crichton’s ‘Timeline,’ to name but a few. And so, we continue to be in love with the idea of time travel…it is however, a totally impossible concept…isn’t it? Well, according to recent scientific thinking, we might well have to reassess our ideas.
Professor Stephen Hawking’s theory of worm holes in space and CERN’s Hadron Collider project in Geneva, with its ability to tunnel deeper and deeper into the heart of matter and further back in time, than has ever been scientifically possible, have made the hypothesis of time travel feasible – at least in theory. Scientific thinking; in universities around the world, in Oxford, Moscow, Haifa, Copenhagen, and California is that there is nothing in the law of physics which prevents it.
Therefore, having the prospect of such a tremendous adventure before me, where would this History enthusiast and lover of Literature, choose to go? And most importantly, what would I do? The possibilities are endless! Should I visit 1066 and stop Harold from marching South after his battle with Harald Hadrada at Stamford Bridge; make him rest his exhausted troops and force William Duke of Normandy to come to him? I could ensure the success of Claus von Stauffenberg’s assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler; stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing John Kennedy. I could also pop into to the Globe Theatre, have a chat with Will Shakespeare and ask him the question that has flummoxed literary critics down the ages, tell me Will, who is your Dark Lady?
Giving it a little more thought though, there is one particular time in history that would draw me back like a magnet – the period between 9th April 1483, when King Edward IV died in his bed and 22nd August 1485, when his younger brother, King Richard III was killed at the battle of Bosworth. I would like to see for myself, the Bishop of Bath and Wells’ evidence, proving that Elizabeth Woodville was not his brother’s lawful wife. I could advise Richard not to place John Morton, Bishop of Ely into the Duke of Buckingham’s custody, but incarcerate him without access to outside world; I would tell him to imprison Margaret Beaufort away from her husband, Sir Thomas Stanely; isolate Elizabeth Woodville in a Nunnery and not permit Dr Lewsi Caerlon, their shared physician, to visit either of them. I’d insist that the Princes be kept well guarded but in the public eye and should Henry Tudor’s invasion take place and the battle be fought, to deploy a substantial part of the royal army between himself and the man who would betray him – Sir William Stanley.
Having ensured victory for Richard, there would be no Tudor dynasty…no Henry VIII… no Reformation…no Elizabeth I and war with Spain. The flawed Stuarts wouldn’t inherit the English throne. The country would not be be torn apart by Civil War; there would be no Hanoverians…England and Scotland would not be united…no American War of Independence the list is never ending.
On reflection, the reality of the many paradoxes that are created, if one travels back in time and interferes with historical events, hits home – especially that of the ‘Grandfather paradox’ – of what would happen if a time traveller went back and killed his/her grandparent? Then, how could he/she exist?
So sadly, I must accept that time travel remains only a lovely fantasy and the maxim of the Persian poet who wrote:
‘The Moving Finger writes, and having Writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.’
Is very much the reality.
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
Translated by Edward Fitzgerald.