Our Common Enemy (Wars of the Roses)

 ~~~~~~~~~~

image

Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

I sighed and stared at the small folded up letter upon my desk. It had taken me sometime to finish, but I had to be certain that all recent events were written down. Since, my interesting encounter with the Duke of Somerset, I had little time to write anything down between the Queens’s churching and the young Prince’s christening. Once again the King had not been seen. In fact, Somerset recently seemed to be taking on the role of the King with his constant presence around the Queen.

”The child of a bastard has no right by the side of a Queen.” My husband had ranted one evening. I smiled. Henry tended to forget that my grandmother Joan Beaufort had been the sister of Somerset’s father and was a bastard herself. Henry also tended to neglect the fact that the Beauforts had been legitimized by King Richard II. Either way, there was an odd comfort and amusment in knowing that for once the Duke of Exeter and the daughter of the Duke of York had found common ground in our hatred for the Duke of Somerset.

I was awakended from my thoughts by unexpected footsteps outside the chamber doors. I jumped to my feet.

Meryl stood up from her sewing, “Milady?”

“He is back early!” I scrambled to find a hiding place for the letter. “Probably coming to gloat some more about our new Prince.” I mumbled under my breath as the doors to the chamber swung open and Henry strolled into our chambers. It was too late. I stood very still by the desk clutching the letter, keeping it behind me. “You’re back early, husband.” I put on my best fake smile.

image

Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter

I run up the stone stairs and walk through the luminated corridors hanging with tapestries. The Tapestries do nothing to stop the cold air from seeping through the walls. I quickly enter my wife’s chambers and I immediately sense she is up to something devious. Her maid servant cowers in the corner. Then I turn and see Anne trying to hide something behind her back. I grasp her arm tightly and pull out letters from her hands.
As the blood rises to my face, I feel flush from the anger seeping through every pore. I tighten my hold on this traitorous wife of mine. and my words come out in a snarl.

” ANNE, what is the meaning of this? You have secretly been sending missives to your father and and Warwick?” Without thinking I slap this insolent woman across the face. ” How dare you Anne, how dare you? I shake her and knock her down. I drag her by her hair, ” what is the meaning of this espionage of yours? I cannot leave you alone for a minute without you working against me. I will strangle your servant and lock you up with her rotting corpse. That is what happens to treasonous wives like you.” I take my hunting knife out ready to slash her meddling servant in the throat when Anne cries out for me to hear her words and then judge her. ” I give you two minutes to try to explain this violation of my orders to you. Spit out your words wife for they might be the last you utter.”

image

Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

I choked back the tears and lifted my aching body from the floor. “Henry!” I screamed. “Please, don’t kill her! I did not disobey you!” The tears streamed down my face. “If you read the letters, there is nothing more in any of them other than what a daughter would write to her father. Look at them please!” I pleaded with Henry. I picked up the wrinkled letters from the floor. “All you have to do is read them!”

I was lying. The real letters had already reached my father and Warwick. The letters Henry had grabbed from me were the ones reviewed by the Queen’s Witch, except for one.

“This one I was going to tell you about. It’s about Somerset.” I clutched the wrinkled letter in my hands. “I did not write this letter to betray you or the Queen. When I was sent by Lady Rivers to announce the birth of Prince Edward to Somerset, he was acting strange as if this was the birth of his son and not the King’s. I overheard the Queen and Lady Rivers talking this morning. There are plans to make Somerset Lord Protector? Why would that happen? The King is still able to rule is he not? ” I took a deep breath, looking at Henry. “It’s true! Please believe me!” I choked back more tears.

image

Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter

I listen to my wife’s words and am not sure what I can or cannot believe, I let go of her maid servant and plunge my blade into the wood table sending wood shards on the floor. I refill my goblet and take a long draft and ponder her words. The rumors of Somerset being the father of The Queen’s child were spread by my charming wife’s father and uncle. Could there be any validity to the rumors? I find it hard to believe but anything is possible and Somerset wants power with a false sense of entitlement. He comes from bastard stock and has already turned Warwick against the King with his greed. Tongues are wagging throughout the court and the realm. Would the Queen hand all the power to Somerset? It is a possibility but again Anne can be lying and plotting for her father. It seems unnatural to be on the same side as Anne, her family bears me no love. But why should I not be Lord Protector? The blood of Henry IV courses through me, Lancastrians through and through. I will use caution with what I tell the daughter of the Duke of York.

” Dry you tears Anne, I abhor your constant weeping. The King has not been seen, he is in constant prayers and fasting. I know not if he can rule. What would your father and Warwick do to stop Somerset if those are his intensions? Your father would want to be Lord Protector himself and what of the Tudor brothers? Would they support the Queen and Somerset?”

I throw a log into the fire and poke it as I warm myself and try to decide on the best path to take. The best path for me, I will not see all my hard work be for nothing.

” Tell me your thoughts Anne, I am interested in your opinions for the first time. It seems your spying might have paid off for once. But if you utter one falsehood from your pretty lips, I shall lock you up for good. Do you understand me Anne? ”

I gaze into her eyes and I can read nothing, she does not give her thoughts away easily.

image

Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

I wipe the tears from my eyes and smile a little. “You forget, Henry. I am locked away.”

I look back at Meryl. “Meryl, leave us.” I command her. The older woman hesitates at first. She looks a bit stunned but unharmed. I can sense that she does not want to leave my side. “It’s alright.” The older woman nods and leaves. I sigh and look at Henry. How could the King be unable to rule when he is only fasting and praying? It did not make sense but I was going to be careful and not press the issue.

“Whatever is truly going on with the King, it is only a matter of time before my father and the rest of the court find out, Henry. The council will call my father back to London. You know that.” I watch him carefully. “If the Queen truly has ideas in her head about making Somerset Lord Protector, then she must believe that the Tudor brothers will support her.” I shrugged. “Warwick and my father are planning something against Somerset. I just do not know what, but I do not believe that my father has any intension of trying to make himself Lord Protector. Why would he? If indeed all that is wrong with the King is fasting and prayer.” I watched Henry’s face change suddenly, I had struck a nerve and I needed to save myself quick. “If my father and Warwick manage to enact their plan against Somerset then perhaps they could convince the council that it should be you who would make a better Lord Protector. It appears that you and I have a common enemy, husband.” I hold up the wrinkled letter still in my hand. “Meryl has spoken to one of Warwick’s spies in the Palace. Warwick is here in London. His spy said that he made some accusations against the King and Queen at Paul’s Cross.” I notice Henry’s mouth twitch. “Meryl was going to give this to Warwick’s spy but instead perhaps we should give this information to Warwick ourselves and anything else that might assist him and my father.”

I could see Henry’s mind thinking. I was taking a gamble. Henry had built himself a reputation as wild and unpredictable. I knew that the council would never agree to give him such position even with my father’s support, which he would never get but there was no turning back now, and Henry seemed interested in my words for once.

 

Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter

I listen intently to every word that Anne utters. Do I risk alienating the Queen to make my bed with Warick? Can I trust Warwick? I do not even know if I can trust my own wife? But I should be The Lord Protector, Somerset’s bastard line should not userp my pure lineage. I glare into Anne’s eyes to see if I can read her expression. Maybe for once she can be useful and an asset to me.

” Anne, if this goes array, I will hold you solely responsible. If you think you are a prisoner now wait and see what will become of you then. ” I pace the floor back and forth trying to think of the best method of action to take. ” If you can trust your spys, send a missive to your cousin asking to meet with both of us at Paul’s Cross. We will have much to discuss and plans to make. ” I grab Anne’s wrist tightly and whisper in her ear. ” Do not let me down, I would hate for an unfortunate accident to befall you.” I rub my fingers down her neck as I yank her to the chair. ” I hope I had made myself clear.” I look at her with a sneer as I rub my beard and think of what I will do to her if she fails me. I laugh at the image of her broken neck in my head.

 

Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

I stumble forward and land in the chair, catching the arms before the chair can topple over. Henry just laughed. I put my head down as I remained quiet and still. Henry was right. If something did go wrong he would not hesitate to blame and kill me. There would be nothing that my father could do about it. But, Henry understood as I did that Somerset was growing too powerful and those who opposed him would sooner or later suffer for it. In the morning, I would tell Meryl to inform Warwick’s spy of our plans. It would be good to see my cousin again. Just to see one friendly face. I look up watching Henry pace back and forth as he drank; he was nervous and soon would be very drunk. I sat up in the chair suddenly as he threw the wine goblet to the floor and approached me. I realized that his sober glare had now turned into drunken lust. I cringed back in the chair hoping that this night would be over soon.

 

image

********************************************************

A few days later, the Earl of Warwick’s spy contacts Anne’s, maidservant Meryl, for a meeting that very evening within the walls of Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Wrapping a heavy cloak around her body to hide her face, the Duke of Exeter ties Anne’s hands together and smuggles her out into the court yard of the Westminster Palace. Telling the guards as he mounts his horse and having his own men assist Anne in mounting hers, that he is to direct this prisoner to the Tower. The Duke of Exeter smirks as he yanks on Anne’s ropes, pulling the horses forward through the Westminster Palace gates, his men following close behind. The group enter the streets of London toward the grounds of Paul’s Cross just outside Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

 

image

Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

I shivered in the cold night fall air, as Henry lifts me from my horse and unties my ropes. I rubbed my wrists which are a bit red and raw but otherwise fine. The grounds outside the Cathedral were empty and Henry snarled at his men to stay alert, as we headed toward the doors of the Cathedral. The only light guiding our way was the moonlight, which gave the Cathedral an unearthly glow. I attempted to slow my pace, trying to keep myself calm from the bit of excitement that I was feeling. It had been such a long time since I had seen my cousin. I wanted to know all about how he was doing, how cousin Anne and little Isabel were doing. Perhaps, he could even give me news about my family. I needed to see a friendly face. I clutched the letter tightly in my hands under my cloak. No, I had to keep calm and focus. Henry, continuing to stay alert, kept his hand pressed close to his sword as we entered the Cathedral together. He did not entirely trust me. I looked back as the doors closed behind us. There were a few candles lit for the evening but otherwise it was dark and quiet inside. Henry and I were no longer alone as footsteps echoed toward us and  a familiar face emerged from the shadows. My eyes lit up, “Cousin!”

image

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

St. Paul’s Cathedral, what a sorry idea for a meeting place. Holland be dumber than the village idiot. If you want to keep a secret, do so in plain sight, I say. If my ways were respected, we’d be standing for all to see at St. Paul’s Cross in broad day light. Why hide a visit with my dear cousin? If any old monk wanders through this chapel with us unawares, tongues will wag a’plenty. In plain sight, there be nothing to hide so those observing think. Deep in my thoughts in annoyance, I hear my cousin call out for me. I look over and hold my finger to my mouth. ”Shhhhhh…”, I mutter as I motion they approach closer.

I look to my dear cousin and smile widely as she approaches. A right pretty lass, Holland be a lucky man I say. I’ve read the missives, though. I know the truth of the matter. My Duchess is treated like a common Inn whore. Holland, he is hovering over her, his body language clear. She be his prisoner, his bed warming whore, his ticket to advancement — not his beloved wife.

I decide to send my message clear, show where my loyalties lay, but I must be careful not to make matters worse. If Exeter thinks we are awares, he may hurt the lass. I whisper, ”Duchess, mine wife be in Warwickshire and God knows the trials I’ll face before seeing her next. Please do bless me.”

I kneel before her like a knight going to battle, and she rests her hands upon my head. I feel them slightly tremble. Fear, it must consume her — but she be of Neville blood, so a brave heart fills Anne’s every being. That I know.

Consumed with my thoughts, I miss her words but feel the love behind them. I rise, take her hand and kiss it gently. ”I’ve missed you dear cousin,” I say in hushed tones.

As I begin to release her, I look upon her hand once more. Anne’s wrist red and scratched, I take her other hand and see same. Obvious by me with no tattling from my Duchess, I find my opening. My stare bores Howard down, and I say in a low voice but pointedly, ”Holland, before I say a word to you regarding why we meet, explain this. It best be good. My cousin be of royal blood, direct of the blood of Kings.”

image

 

image

Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter

How dare Neville comment about my wife? She is my property to do as I
see fit. I do not care if she was the King’s daughter. Once she became MY wife, she is mine to do as I see fit. Anne is not a loyal and dutiful wife. She cares naught for my advancement and wealth. She still thinks of herself as the daughter of the Duke of York instead of my wife, the Duchess of Exeter. She is only doing this because we have a common enemy in Somerset. I cannot even trust her here. Neville is lucky that he is not bound to a wife such as mine.

“Neville, the blood that courses through me is every bit as royal as that of your cousin. Her wrists are from an accident with a steed that was too difficult for her to handle. She refused to listen, her hands became caught and twisted in the reins. Luckily, I was there and able to get control of the steed. Is that not true wife?” I give her a look of warning. ” I trust your Countess is well? Your Anne is an obedient and helpful wife. Your cousin on the other hand is full of York pride and at times forgets her place. Are we to discuss women and their duties or what the Queen and Somerset may be plotting?”

My face is flush with anger as I try to control my temper and not let Neville
shake my confidence. I will hold my Anne accountable if this meeting does not go the way it was intended. I absently rub my sword as I try to put my thoughts together. One thing I know is that Warwick be a cunning man and not one to tangle with as the King found out. What folly to side with Somerset against Warwick about Cardiff. A tactical error for the King and Somerset. His greed will ruin this realm, I need to break his ties with the Queen. Warwick and York can help me accomplish this.

“Neville, the King does not speak, he sits dazed as if in a dream. He has not acknowledged his own son but stares out with a confused look. The Queen will only take Somerset’s council. She depends on him for every decision, and he plots to take what belongs to us. He is of bastard stock but will convince the poor Queen to make him Lord Protector. We must unite with York and not let Somerset bring ruin on England as Suffolk did before him. What say you Neville? Are we to join forces to stop such an abomination?”

Surely now that Warwick see’s the seriousness of Somerset making his nest in the bosom of the Queen, he will be ready to strike the viper’s head off. I look boldly at Neville, hoping he see’s that joining my cause is the only solution.

image

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

I look to my beautiful cousin, Duchess of Exeter and she nods in agreement with the pig’s works. I tip her a nod and wink. ”Oh yes, well of course, my Lord of Exeter. That explains all,” I say in apparent sincerity. ”Dear cousin, you must be more careful while on horse. Next time I fear you take a tumble.”

I pause and collect mine thoughts. ”Aye, my lord, I be right pleased you protect my dear cousin so. You see, we Neville men, we honor our women liken the Virgin Mary herself. Even our mistresses we hold close, our bastards carrying the Neville name.” I decide to punctuate the point and say simply to Anne, ”You should see my Margaret, Duchess. She looks of your mother. Isabel, now she is her mother’s daughter, fair and gay.” I smile broadly.

I lean over to Exeter and whisper, ”Aye, good man. Worry not of your beloved wife. She be a Neville. If any man does her harm, he’ll be meeting his maker right quick. Just say the word, my lord. I will flay the bastard need be.” I pat his shoulder, as a kindred spirit. ”Thank you, good man. I see she be in good hands.”

Exeter, he look like he swallowed the pigeon whole. I snicker. ”My Lord, you tell me nothing new. You think I have no spies in Somerset’s and the King’s chambers? His Grace be a bumbling imbecile, needing fed and clothed like a babe. He doesn’t even take to the piss pot. And the Anjou wench? She be bedding Somerset under the King’s nose. Aye, Somerset shall be Lord Protector not. Mine spies even do say Anjou is determined to rule in the King’s stead. A frog reigning in England, and a woman yet?”

I look to my cousin. “Dearest Duchess, I know you keep your council close. Even the Duke of York knows not what you know of court. Do tell both your beloved and me what you seen and heard while about. Mayhaps that may be news mine spies see not.” I smile broadly. This man is a fool. He knows not of who he be dealing.

image

Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

Listening, my eyes widen. So, that is what has become of the King and why he was been absent. I was unable at that moment to hear exactly what my cousin had said to Henry but to my amusement it was enough to make Henry’s face go pale. I was so grateful and felt a sense of relief that he had been so careful with Henry. This was the first time in a long time that I had felt safe. I envied my cousin’s Countess. Their marriage was also arranged but my cousin was loving and kind to her as he was to his mistress. I wanted to know so much more about his daughters. I wanted to forget that when this night was over I was to return to the Palace and be a prisoner once more. Seeing my cousin again, reminded me just how much I wanted to stay with him and go home.

I move in between the pair, smiling and place the wrinkled letter from my cloak in my cousin’s hands, “This is the letter that my maid servant was going to give your spy, dearest cousin, before our decision to meet with you.” I remembered how horrible that night had been and took a deep breath. “A few days after the Prince was born, the Queen’s Witch sent me to Somerset’s chambers to update him on the Queen’s condition. My conversation with Somerset was brief, but he was acting strange.” I saw my cousin’s eyebrow rise. “It was as if this was the birth of his son and not the King’s. I cannot confirm that my assumption is true; however, what I can confirm is that earlier in the day all the ladies in the Queen’s chamber, including myself were told to leave without warning. And, while Henry and I were moving through the Palace passages to sneak into the court yard. I caught a glimpse of a figure that looked very much like Somerset. He was heading toward the Queen’s chambers. He did not see us but we saw him. I hope perhaps that this information will help you and father.” I place my hands over my cousin’s hands and the letter.

I look back at Henry, whose face had begun to show its usual color again, “Henry, you have not told him what else you want in return, something about Lord Protector?”
image

Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter

I hear my wife drone on but think of Warwick’s words. I care naught how the Neville’s treat their whores, bastards, mistresses, or wives. It is no concern to me what he did with his chattel, just as I have the legal right to treat Anne as I see fit. I try to control my countenance as I hear my name mentioned and then I look up at Warwick and my wife. I need my wife’s cousin on my side and stand closer to Anne, giving her my most charming smile and move a loose curl from her eye. I want Warwick to see me as a doting husband.

I clear my throat ” Warwick, if we do not align ourselves then the one thing we can be certain of is that Somerset will will rule us all while the King sits in his mental fog. ” I pull a gold thread that came loose off my doublet as I think of the exact words to sway Anne’s cousin.

I need your and York’s help to sway the council members to make me the Lord Protector. I assure you that York and yourself will benefit greatly if I am made Lord Protector. I have the blood of king’s coursing through my veins and I am married to York’s daughter. Who has better claim then I do? ” I look earnestly to Warwick and take Anne’s hand.

“What say you Warwick ? Will you and York support Anne and myself by ensuring that I am named Lord Protector or will you see Somerset’s bastard blood rule over all of us? Somerset will be sure to take Cardiff from you, the Queen follows every word he utters. ”

I wait for Warwick to reply, sure of the victory that lies ahead for me. For once Anne has proved to be useful and I will reward her for gaining the support of her cousin and father.

image

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

I laugh heartily. I can’t but help myself. ”You, Lord Protector? Let me think on that.”

I pace to and fro and rub my chin, feigning deep thought. Obviously, I’ll let the dog think York, my father and I will support him, but this man can’t protect his own cod, let alone a kingdom. The Duke of York shall protect the realm, not this prison keeper. After much ”thinking” I speak my piece… or actually, my piece as I desire he hear it. I stop my pacing and turn towards him abruptly.

”My Lord of Exeter, if my father, the Duke of York and I throw all our support to you and mine cousin, what be there in it for us? I expect more than just the Welsh swine, their damp castles, and their grazing sheep.”

Exeter looks at me dumbfounded. Good. I have him where I want him. “Do tell, good man. You can’t expect the prize without a cost.”

image

Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter

I had not thought that I must pay Salisbury, York and Warwick for their support. What could I entice them with? I take my hunting knife to clean my nails as I think of something that would sway them. I also give Anne a look to know I am not too pleased with this turn of events.

” Somerset has acquired a lot of land and wealth from his favoritism. I will have him arrested for treason and all that he has will revert to the crown. I will then divide it amongst you. You will have my ear for all your wants, perhaps more land and high paying positions. We could levy a new tax on the realm and split it amongst the four of us. Does that sufice cousin? Are we all not family here? I think there will be plenty of prosperity for all of us. ”

The idea being all Anne’s might have too many holes in it. What can I expect from a woman, especially one as unintelligent as Anne? But surely Warwick will be greedy enough to fall for the bait. A slow smile spreads on my face as I think of the council voting me as The Lord Protector. I push Anne softly ahead of me.

” Anne you must have some words that would persuade our cousin and the rest of our family to our cause.”

How I pray that Anne will redeem herself for all her deceit, ill humor and lack of any ability as a wife of the Duke of Exeter.

image

Anne Plantagenet

I cringe when Henry smiles and touches my hair. I try and move closer to Warwick as Henry rambles on but he grabs my hand, pulling me closer to him. Henry is taking the bait as expected. In Henry’s arrogance, he has not considered the council’s opinion about him. They will never agree. I look up at my cousin who is well aware of that too. The council would gladly give Lord Protector to anyone, including my father rather than see Somerset or Henry take the position. I gasp as Henry’s grip tightens on my hand when Warwick laughs. My eyes widen as my cousin paces and responds to Henry’s demand. My thoughts race, please cousin, I know you are playing him but be careful and do not anger him; I am the one who will pay for it later. I look at Henry as his face transforms from a dumbfounded look to annoyance which he directs at me. I listen as he speaks.

“Lord Chancellor”, I say the two words without thinking as Henry pushes me forward. Both Warwick and Henry look at me dumbfounded. I would have to be fast. I turn to Henry. “I am sorry, Henry, but our cousin is correct. I think we should also recommend that the council appoint the Earl of Salisbury as Lord Chancellor.” I tried not smirk and thought to myself as Henry almost dropped his knife. I may not be able to weld a sword or rule but I am my mother’s daughter. I know how to play the game too.

I take a deep breath and continue. “Henry, you are a Lancaster and the only reason you stand here now is because as you said we are all in danger from Somerset. You and I most of all as we reside in the Palace, who do you think Somerset will accuse of being spies first? The Queen is not going to care. Somerset is the only person she listens too now. You know the knock on our chamber doors from Somerset’s guards is coming one day.” I narrow my eyes as Henry rolls his. “My point is as you are a Lancaster; therefore, you cannot expect to be trusted with deciding how everything is divided, when and if the council is swayed and Somerset is arrested. Appointing Salisbury as Lord Chancellor will ensure the support and trust that you need. It also would show good faith, Henry, if you supported his appointment so that the council understands that Somerset poses a threat to both sides not just one.” I smiled. “You get to be Lord Protector and our family has the assurance that you do what you promise.” I turn back to Warwick, taken back at how impressive he looked in the moonlight. If only father had chosen a husband for me like him and not this creature. “What say you, cousin? Would your father be agreeable? Can we count on your support? Or would you rather hear the news that the Duke of York’s daughter has been thrown in the Tower?” I stared at Warwick, smiling.

I turned back around to Henry. I had another thought, “Support from my father will not be difficult; you simply have to protect his daughter. Ensure that no harm comes to me until Somerset is arrested.” I look at Warwick from the corner of my eye. “I am certain our cousin and my uncle, the Earl of Salisbury, will further their support for that as I will have your ear as I am your wife.”

image

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

Land and farthings??????? Is the man really that daft? While Exeter speaks, I look to him with disgust. He truly knows not how to entice allies, nor reward allegiance. How dare he? ‘Tis POWER we seek, a voice in shaping this realm. How dare he believe we can be bought off?

I listen to my cousin speak, and my whole being fills with pride. She truly is a Neville born — such courage, such astuteness. As my beloved Duchess proposes her plan, I smile broadly and nod with respect and approval. Yes, this is perfect! Not only will this fool never be Lord Protector, but the stage is set for complete control of the realm… both the Lord Protectorship and Lord Chancellorship in our hands.

The Duchess done speaking, I look to Exeter and set the man straight, waving my finger in his face as I do. “You think a Nevile can be bought and bribed like a common mercenary?!? ‘Tis not land we seek, but power, you fool. Mine father is appointed Lord Chancellor as my dear cousin suggests or you flounder on your own, pathetic changeling.”

Exeter looks at me stunned cold, and I push him back, him nearly tripping on his cape. “Mine spies are watching Exeter, watching you close. You best pray this lass doesn’t catch a plague or consumption. If any a harm comes to my beloved cousin, flayed you shall be — skinned alive like the poor Jews in France. The command is set, my lord. Mine spies know they need consult me further not.”

I grab hold of Exeter’s shoulder and push him back a step once more.”… Let me be clear. Refuse this reasonable course, my lord, and my cousin… she leaves with me, right here, right now.”

Exeter, rage fills his every being. Instead I smile broadly, mocking him, daring him to take me on. “So good man, do my father and I throw our support to you — or York? Do tell. I am done with your games.”

image

Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter

I snarl in anger, my face contorting in rage. Who does Warwick think he is, a Neville. While I am the Duke of Exeter, royal blood courses through my body. I have right on my side, I should and will be Lord Protector. I snap at him.

” The next finger you point at me, you will face my sword for I assure you that my men just need one word from me and they will stand behind me. As many times as I’ve dreamed of ridding myself of your Duchess here, you will remember that the law is on MY side. She is my wife and she only goes with me, is that clear? I do not need threats from the likes of you.”

I look at Anne in disgust, of course nothing went the way it was supposed to. I rub my beard and try to think, maybe I should throw my lot in with Somerset and the Queen. I will not have my wife’s nest of vipers dictate to me. Do they not know who they are dealing with? But if this is the only way that I can become Lord Protector, then I need to give Warwick what he asks for. I wipe the mud off me and take a different approach.

” Warwick, we all want the same thing and are family.” I use my most charming smile. “Your father would make a fine Lord Chancellor as long as I am named the Lord Protector. It is a win for all of us. You will have my support and I yours. Anne will be treated as a queen, you have nothing to fear on her behalf.”

I hold out my brown leathered glove, “are we in accord Warwick? Let us shake on this and go on our way. I give you all you ask for. Together we win, but without an alliance then Somerset will rule us all.

Anne blushes as I take her hand, gripping it. She will not leave my side under any circumstances. I am far from pleased with this outcome and she will feel my anger. I try to hide my disgust and smile as I glance at her.

image

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

Shake his hand after threat of murder? This man, he knows me not. After the Duke of Exeter sputters his sermon on the mount, I laugh back and wave my finger mockingly. ”You need an army to defeat me with a sword, my lord? My, you are a pathetic one.”

My message sent clear, I need back down, but not too far. Damn, the law be on the bastard’s side. I look to my cousin, and we lock eyes. I refuse to throw mine own blood to the wolves, and I smile and bow deeply in respect and genuine affection.

”Mine beloved cousin, I see in her a desire to abode with you, God in heaven knows why. You will have your way, for now. BUT, my lord, treat her with a heavy hand, and do watch your back and watch it close. Though the law be on your side in this, mine spies are lawless for me and the command is made. She is harmed, and you be dead, and not an easy dead, but dead the same, Lord Protector or no.”

I pace some to calm my anger. This not be the time to pull the sword, though I can make quick work of it. Mine goal, along with York and my father, is to gain advantage and take the throne from the dullard, his French whore and her cod man that holds my rightful lands. I think some. If I play too nice, this prig will see me as a liar, and that I be, but he need know that not.

I stop my pacing to and fro, and in a feigned begrudging voice say, ”With the understanding that my father, the great and noble Earl of Salisbury will be Lord Chancellor and mine cousin treated kindly, I speak for all of us when I say we will support you wholeheartedly in council to be named Lord Protector. Do you job well, and we support you with our votes and armies still. But know this, and now it now Exeter… double cross us, and nothing short of civil war will stop us from seating York in your place. That be mine final word on it.”

image

Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

I sigh with relief. That was close. I pull away from Henry and step in between them, “Then it is settled.” I smile at Warwick, touching his arm. “Cousin, it’s alright. Go back to our fathers and tell them the news. Somerset is with the Queen this night and we do not have much time.”

Warwick glares back at Henry, I touch his face gently. “It’s alright. Go. We will never be able to bring down our enemies if all of us cannot work together.” Warwick starts to speak but I step back, “We have to return, Henry.” I put the hood of my cloak over my head, as Henry walks past Warwick glaring at him, taking my arm as we head toward the Cathedral doors. My eyes lock with Warwick just before I turn away. You did well, cousin. I have done all that I can do now it is up to you and father. I just hope that we survive long enough. I knew Henry was angry about Salisbury becoming Lord Chancellor but it could not be helped. The truth was that I cared not. I could not help but smile to myself, imagining the looks on all their faces when my father becomes Lord Protector and the Duke of Exeter is played like a fool.

By:  Richard Neville, Anne Plantagenet, and Henry Holland

image

———- Fade To Black ———-

3 Replies to “Our Common Enemy (Wars of the Roses)

Leave a Reply