Flash Fiction: “Lord, Grant Me Peace…” (Tribute to THE HOLLOW CROWN: THE WARS OF THE ROSES)

December 4, 2016 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), Wars of the Roses by Beth von Staats

By Beth von Staats

Tom Sturridge as Henry VI in THE HOLLOW CROWN: THE WARS OF THE ROSES Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company

Tom Sturridge as Henry VI in THE HOLLOW CROWN: THE WARS OF THE ROSES
Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company

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Video Credit: Great Performances, PBS 

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In celebration of next Sunday’s release of The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses in the United States (PBS at 9:00 PM on December 11, 2016), enjoy some flash fiction from the point of view of King Henry VI, Episode One’s protagonist and reigning monarch.

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King Henry V

King Henry V

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“Of France and England, did this king succeed;
Whose state so many had the managing.
That they lost France and made his England bleed.”

~~~~ William Shakespeare, Henry V ~~~~

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My father, King Henry, fifth of his name, near conqueror of all of France, commander of the sea, warrior, diplomat, statesman, and ruler of a united nation, was the grandest king among all the kings of Christendom. While he reigned, there was peace within the realm. While he reigned, England was the jewel in the crown of Europe. While he reigned, crops were plentiful. The treasury grew abundantly. The arts flourished. While he reigned, the Lords were obedient, loyal to him above all. I heard all the stories. They were pounded into my head since a babe. “This would never happen while he reigned,” I hear them whisper. No, of course not, my father was God personified on earth.

Respite, I need thee respite. My Clarendon hunting lodge, though more humble than a palace, more humble than a castle, always soothed my soul. Quiet, peaceful, free of the stresses of the boulders laying hard and heavy upon my shoulders, Clarendon cleared my mind, relieved the weight of all the world that threatens to always smother me. God, so why not now? Why not now? All I seek is peace before I head on to Dorset. All I seek is quiet before I deal with the Lord’s most recent grievances. All I seek is escape from the failures of my life, escape from the shame of defeat, escape from the factions and infighting among the Lords and my subjects, some loyal to me, most not. Margaret, my beloved queen, bless her please God I pray. She in truth is the rightful King of England. She in truth is the strength upon the throne.  I am merely a scholar, a devout man of worship, a gentle man of the quill, a patron of the arts. God, you know me, all of me, the good and the bad. Why am I not a monk? Why am I not of your clergy, a servant of His Holy Father?  Worship is my calling, my greatest desire. Oh yes, this just can’t be. I am the only son of King Henry, fifth of his name.

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King Henry VI

King Henry VI

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They say the war with France has gone near 100 years now — near 100 years, battles fought, battles lost, battles won. Near 100 years, English kings maintained a stronghold, never French upon our shores. Near 100 years, we fought with glory, the war all but won when God called him home. Heir apparent to the thrown of France, he married the daughter of King Charles, inched his way across his land of fortune. The grand warrior king, he nearly won it all. God, is his seed really in me, Henry, fifth of his name? A quandary, yes a right quandary I dare say. I think not. I know not. I must be a bastard child unbeknownst, a changling. A failure of a king I am, losing all the monarchs of England gained through sweat and tears of their subjects these near 100 years, only Calais hanging on. The fool of Christendom, I rule not. The fool of Christendom, I lead not. The fool of Christendom, I heal the divides of my ever battling Lords and subjects not. I am but a pygmy king, a pretender.

As I sit by the hearth, wine full in my goblet, I watch the flames roar. Satan, there he is in the fire, urging me on. “Die, you bastard pretender, die. That’s what you want. Do it!”

I know Satan’s trickery. Yes, death comes easy to a man like me, good to no one. The seed is within her. The deed is done. Why stay now? “Die, you bastard pretender. Your realm is best without you.”

My mind spins with Satan’s words, his urging tempting me to do the deed. I am best gone. I am best invisible. The grandest sin is to follow Satan’s call. I shall go to hell. I shall rage in the fire, licking at my feet for all eternity. “Be gone, Satan, I command you!”

I am a Godly man, a pious man. Thou shalt not kill, even me. I take a long drink from the goblet, the wine warming the edge off my thoughts. I close my eyes, and rest my weary mind. Quiet and peaceful at last, the boulders lift, floating off me. My humors align, my soul is at rest. I think through scripture. It be surely a sin to kill the body, but is it sinful to kill the soul? Is it a sin to still be living, but dead? Gone, but still here?  No, I think not. I begin to pray in earnest, my mind and all within me intent on shutting down.

“Lord, grant me peace and release my soul. Lord, grant me peace and release my soul. Lord, grant me peace release my soul. Lord, grant me peace and release my soul. Lord, grant me peace…”

~~~~~ Fade To Black ~~~~~

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats is a history writer of both fiction and non-fiction short works. A life-long history enthusiast, Beth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She is the owner and administrator of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers website, QueenAnneBoleyn.com.

Beth’s interest in British History grew through the profound influence of her Welsh grandparents, both of whom desired she learn of her family cultural heritage. Her most pronounced interest lies with the men and women who drove the course of events and/or who were most poignantly impacted by the English Henrician and Protestant Reformations, as well as the Tudor Dynasty of English and Welsh History in general.

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"Thomas Cranmer In a Nutshell" Final Blog Stop

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The Dawning of the Tudor Sunne ~ by Wendy J. Dunn

March 1, 2015 in 2015 King Richard III Tribute, Guest Writers, News, Wars of the Roses by Beth von Staats

By Wendy J. Dunn

King Richard II

King Richard II

A very brief description of the War of the Roses

Beginning after the captivity and death of Richard II, The War of Roses was essentially sporadic, bloody faction fighting between the noble families of York and Lancaster, both of them believing they possessed the better right than the other to the ultimate prize: the English crown. Bosworth Field was the last battle between these two families.

In 1485, on an English summer’s day, two young men, backed by their respective armies, gazed across at each other on a place known to history as Bosworth Field – so named because it was situated near the town of Market Bosworth. One man, thirty-two-year-old, was an experienced leader. From his teenage years he had successfully campaigned in forays against his family’s or country’s enemies; sometimes, this was one and the same. For the last two years he had been England’s King, the third to bear the name of Richard; the army he commanded here was the stronger one.

Henry Tudor, the leader of the other army, was twenty-eight. He had a tenuous claim to the English crown at the best. A descendent of John Beaufort, a bastard son (later legitimatized by an act of parliament) of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III, Henry Tudor was also the grandson of a French princess who became the wife of Henry V and mother of Henry VI, a King doomed to meet a violent death in The Tower.

Catherine de Valois (19th century portrait, artist unknown)

Catherine de Valois
(19th century portrait, artist unknown)

Catherine de Valois, daughter of the mad Louis of France, had been married only a short time to Henry V when his early death left her widowed. Still a very young woman, she fell in love with Owen Tudor, a handsome Welsh squire in her household, with duties in her wardrobe. He was soon given other duties. In a relationship spanning likely a decade, Catherine bore Owen Tudor five children. It is still debated whether or not they were truly married. However, this was a Catholic and pious age – even if sometimes just for show. As a Dowager Queen, Catherine would have had her own household priest, so I believe a marriage ceremony did take place.

My belief is strengthened by what history recounts about Catherine. Catherine de Valois grew up in a family steeped with scandal; her father suffered periods of ‘madness’; her mother wasn’t too certain if her husband or his brother fathered some of her children. With a background like that, it is easy to imagine that she would have sought to avoid mirroring her mother’s shame and would have married the father of her children. Catherine’s grandson Henry was the posthumous son of the first of these children, Edmund Tudor who married Margaret Beaufort, a twelve-year bride who became a thirteen-year old mother.

Margaret Beaufort (later copy by Rowland Lockey) Cambridge University

Margaret Beaufort
(later copy by Rowland Lockey)
Cambridge University

Henry Tudor, Margaret’s one and only baby, grew up in extremely uncertain times, in the midst of the bloodiest conflicts of The War of Roses. These conflicts forced him to spend most of his first twenty-eight years in exile to ensure his own survival. Despite these uncertain times, there appeared at least one thing Henry was very certain about. After the deaths of Henry VI and his son Edward, Henry Tudor believed himself the scion of the Lancastrian family who was meant for Kingship.

Henry Tudor and Richard III – two entirely different men – battled it out on the twenty-second day of August 1485, for life or death. At the beginning of this day, the many serving Richard, the last York King, likely believed the King would easily defeat Henry Tudor’s threat to his monarchy. Crowned and anointed King, a competent leader with a well-equipped and experienced army, he had all the pluses on his side. Except for one important thing.

Richard III at Bosworth Field was not the Richard of times past. Despite the fact he appeared determined to ‘do or die’ on this day, I see him here as already a defeated man. Starting with Edward IV’s death, a brother Richard had loved and served devotedly from his youngest years, Richard had suffered a series of personal tragedies over a brief twenty-four month period. Anne Neville, his beloved wife, had died a very hard death from consumption. Another tragic death had preceded hers. Edward, the eleven- year old son and heir of Richard and Anne, had also died, to the great grief of his parents. As well as all this heartache, there were also political disasters inflicting him at every turn. Richard, the youngest son of Richard, the Duke of York, had discovered kingship brought with it no peace, rather a poisoned cup.

King Henry VII (Artist: Musee Calvet)

King Henry VII
(Artist: Musee Calvet)

Richard has been probably the most maligned of all English Kings. Put against the context of the times, I have faith in Richard’s sincerity and attempts to live a good life. Yet – the Tudor propaganda machine paints Richard III as a man who slandered his mother (Edward IV born as a result of her unfaithfulness), murdering the saintly Henry VI in the Tower of London, just after he pitilessly killed his son Edward on the battlefield. It may be possible that he obeyed his brother’s orders to ‘put away’ Henry VI, but I really think it very unlikely Edward IV would employ his nineteen-year-old brother as a convenient henchman – even to the extent of having Richard arrange the drowning of their brother George in a barrel of his favourite wine.

In Richard’s brief time as King the accusations continued. Some of Richard’s supposed sins include desiring to wed and bed his own niece, the eighteen-year-old Elizabeth of York. Indeed, to achieve this end, Anne Neville’s death wasn’t because of consumption – rather her death was due to poison, a poison administered nightly by her husband. Yet, here is a man with a personal motto of ‘Loyalty binds me’, who served devotedly and dutifully his brother Edward IV for years and clearly loved his wife. Risking a healthy debate on my hands, I do not believe he murdered his two young nephews, the uncrowned Edward V and his brother Richard. It is more possible someone did the deed for him, thinking it would please him, just as Henry II’s knights thought to please their King by murdering Thomas Becket because they thought this was his desire. My own personal feeling is that the boys were killed through the machinations of another uncle, the Duke of Buckingham, a man who not only detested the Woodville family, the family of the young Princes’ mother, but a man executed as a self-serving traitor.

King Richard III

King Richard III

Richard, in the short time he wore the crown of England, proved a very able monarch. He not only passed good laws protecting the common people but also encouraged the printing trade in England. But now, with the loss of his beloved wife and son, perhaps also knowing someone killed his nephews on his behalf, his heart just wasn’t in the coming battle. Even though he fought heroically, withstanding the betrayals of trusted men on the battlefield, Richard seemed to seek out his own death when he attempted to kill Henry Tudor by charging through the men who protected him.

After he died, with his sword in his hand, Richard’s body suffered the indignity of being stripped naked and abused, before being strung across a horse. Days would pass before he was even properly buried. I believe the best epitaph for Richard comes from not one person but many. Knowing their beloved King no more, the city of York risked angering England’s new monarch, proclaiming:

King Richard, late mercifully reigning upon us, was, through great treason of the Duke of Norfolk and many others that turned against him, with many other lords and nobility . . . was piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city.

Thus, with the Battle of Bosworth unquestionably won, Henry Tudor’s army crowned him King on the battlefield, placing Richard’s gold circlet upon his head, and the Tudor era began.

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Further reading:

Murph, Roxanne C. Richard III: The Making of a legend. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1977, reprinted 1984
Michalove, Sharon D. The Re-inventing of Richard III- paper presented at the conference ‘Reinventing the Middle ages and the Renaissance, 1995.

Richard III novels I have enjoyed:
The Rose of York: Love & War by Sandra Worth My review: The Rose of York

The Rose of York: Crown of Destiny, by Sandra Worth

The Rose of York: Crown of Destiny continues a story that speaks to the core of human existence. Depicted through magical and skillful prose and drawn with great passion and insight, Worth’s Richard III is the Richard no reader can ever forget.

The Rose of York: Fall from Grace, by San
We Speak No Treason I and 2 by Rosemary Hawley Jarman
The Sunne In Splendour: A Novel of Richard III by Sharon Kay Penman

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HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY AUSTRALIA 2015 CONFERENCE

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HNSA is offering a 10% discount to QAB members and browsers (discount code below) for the inaugural HNSA 2015 conference to be held on 20-22 March 2015 at historic Balmain Town Hall, Sydney. This reduces a whole conference ticket from $250 to $225. The price includes morning and afternoon teas as well as a luncheon voucher. Apply the FBHNSA15 coupon code to a standard ticket. Book now to secure your place! HSNA REGISTRATION

With the support of Penguin Australia and Momentum, we are also offering some special giveaways. The first 50 fully paid ticket holders to the dinner will receive a copy of Sherryl Clark’s new book ‘Do You Dare – Jimmy’s War’ in celebration of her launch. All ticket holders to the opening night reception will receive a Momentum ebook bundle in celebration of Felicity Pulman’s launch of ‘Unholy Alliance’.
The conference will showcase forty speakers including Kate Forsyth, Felicity Pulman, Sulari Gentill, Colin Falconer, Toni Jordan, Sophie Masson, Juliet Marilllier, Isolde Martyn, Nicole Alexander, Jesse Blackadder and many more!
The program includes sessions on craft, research, inspiration, publishing pathways, social media, sub-genres and personal histories. There is an academic session, manuscript assessments and super sessions to teach authors to weave research into compelling fiction. Don’t miss out on our saucy ‘In Bed With History’ readings! Learn more about our program at HSNA 2015 PROGRAM

Authors attending the conference are able to sell their books at the venue. For those with digital editions, we will add a link to your book on the HNSA website. Email contact@hnsa.org.au by 14 March 2015 to provide your details.

Advertising and sponsorship opportunities are available. For details, see HSNA 2015 SPONSORSHIPS

Let’s make a noise about historical fiction!

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Wendy J. Dunn

Wendy J. Dunn

Wendy J. Dunn is an Australian writer who has been obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since she was ten-years-old. She is the author of two Tudor novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, and The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel.

While she continues to have a very close and spooky relationship with Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder (Tom told the story of Anne Boleyn in Dear Heart, How Like You This?), serendipity of life now leaves her no longer wondering if she has been channeling Anne Boleyn and Sir Tom for years in her writing, but considering the possibility of ancestral memory. Her own family tree reveals the intriguing fact that her ancestors – possibly over three generations – had purchased land from both the Boleyn and Wyatt families to build up their own holdings. It seems very likely Wendy’s ancestors knew the Wyatts and Boleyns personally.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Wendy is married and the mother of three sons and one daughter—named after a certain Tudor queen, surprisingly, not Anne.

After successfully completing her MA (Writing) at Swinburne University Wendy became a tutor for the same course. She gained her PhD (Human Society) in 2014. For more information, visit Wendy’s website at Wendy J. Dunn.

FICTION

Dear Heart, How Like You This? 

The Light in the Labyrinth

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The Condition of Henry VI (Wars of the Roses)

November 10, 2014 in Wars of the Roses by Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York

IMG_7055Jasper Tudor:

I have made haste as I traveled here, to this meeting with the Duke of York. York is a fair man, but oft over worried with his dignity, and I fear he would interpret tardiness as a slight against him. My decision to attempt to treat with him does not sit well with my brother Edmund, but I see naught but trouble in any other path. York has complaints, and I wish to hear them from the man himself, to see if there is an accord that can be reached. I do not know that I can sway him, yet I must try. As the door opens behind me, I turn to greet him, “Your Grace, I thank you for this opportunity to speak with you. As we both love the king, I feel it meet that we should work together at this time.”

Richard Duke of York:

“Ah, Jasper, I see your travels have suited you? Have you found food and drink? May I offer you some wine?”

The almost full flask of malmsey red wine starred at me as I walked by it, begging me to pick it up and share its lush taste with the disheveled, seemingly weary traveler in my presence. Jasper Tudor rumored to have had made great haste in his journey here. I wondered what stories or rumors he had been told about me. Did he know of the plans I was wanting to instill? I studied Jasper Tudor’s face….. Wondering and questioning the Welshman’s loyalty…. Lancaster the name is like a thorn in my side. It is so obvious for us to sense where other’s loyalty lies. I had no doubts of his. Yes, I had heard why he had made the journey to see me. The king,… Henry. Rumors have been spreading across the countryside, that his health is ailing, and he had slipped into some form of “madness.” A part of me wishes, Jasper and his Welshmen, would just stay out of English business. This country cannot handle another bout of lack of proper authority. Even the thought of letting Margaret of Anjou be Regent, is completely unacceptable. My mind ran with thoughts, as I poured his goblet full of malmsey wine. My family, my kingdom, the Plantagenet and York line had to secure the throne. My lineage is flawless compared to even the king who sits on the throne now. Tudor… what claim does he have? Illegitimate they say and it is probably true. Family, Duty, Honour. Can I trust Jasper Tudor? This will be interesting, or very entertaining.

“Henry, they say, is mad again….and I worry the condition of the King will be of great consequence to us all…”

Jasper Tudor:

At least there will be no pretense here. The Duke is a direct man, and I decide to answer his frankness with candor. “Your Grace, the realm has need of your wise council at this time. I feel it meet that all parties must put aside personal slights or gains to support our king and his realm in this most troubling matter.” I taste the wine, it is of fine vintage, and think that this is a man I could call friend, were this another time. “I think there are matters that you and I agree upon, and I speak for my brother, as well. We have recognized the advancements of certain favorites, while more able men are passed by.” I have his interest now, it seems, and I hope to gain his trust. “No one can deny the losses in France, and I know you have much reason to complain. I ask you to join the next council meeting, that all voices may be heard, and all discord be remedied for the sake of the realm.” I look at the Duke, unimposing in stature, but a power to be reckoned with, all the same. Will he take me at my word? Or has he been so offended that he will not extend his trust?

Richard Duke of York:

So Jasper seeks my advice and possibly my camaraderie in this matter. I cannot ignore Somerset intentions though, for they have been made known to all. It has already been suggested to Parliament that there needs to be a “Lord and Protector” and Parliament knows of my linage. I become heir to the throne in light of Henry’s inability to rule, which seems to be getting worse, especially now, it will put an end to Somerset’s obvious scheming. How can Parliament ignore his inability as a commander? Five years past, Henry must have been loosing his wits even then… having Somerset replace me to watch over England’s men in France. France would still be ours if I still were commander. England needs to be under Plantagenet rule again. But I don’t feel this is the time to let Jasper know of my intentions. Cecily needs me, as well as my family. There are other matters that are pressing.

“Jasper, we know Henry has lost the crown’s lands in France. His family’s lands. The people close to him, the ones that pull the strings of his puppet form, and Margaret his wife; all I feel cannot be trusted. They seem to have Henry’s throne in their sights. Somerset, who was supposed to be of aid to Henry, lost.”

Somerset needs to go, and Henry’s inner circle…. I need men… many men.

“If I am to trust you in this conquest Jasper, perhaps I can reward you well. We need to make Somerset disappear, and his henchmen. We need men. I will work on a document telling of Somerset’s betrayal, for this cannot be ignored. When we have the men, we march. Then we leave the decision of whom should rule while our king is indisposed, to Parliament.”

There might be bloodshed in London at the end of this mess…..IMG_6781

Jasper Tudor:

“Aye, it is true. The realm requires a strong hand and virtuous heart at this time. The Queen cannot rule, Parliament will not stand for it.” I feel a certain trepidation, as if this Duke and I are about to step down a path from which there may be no return, so I continue carefully, “And of course, Your Grace, even after the King regains his health, he will need good council.”

The Duke has been listening intently, scrutinizing my face for any sign of deception, any hint of falseness. I pray he sees that I am not his enemy, and that we must find some accord that will bring satisfaction to all. If we cannot, I fear for Henry, and for all of us. If we can find no common peace, it is almost certain, the realm shall bleed.

I decide to turn the conversation to matters more agreeable, as I think the Duke and I are of one mind. We both seek to protect my brother’s realm from further trouble, all that remains is to settle the details. “How fares Duchess Cecily? And your children? Your sons are hale and hearty I hope?”

Richard Duke of York:

“We defiantly cannot have Margaret as Regent or even the possibility of being Queen at this point. England ruled by a French woman. The idea is preposterous, and reeks of devastation…. The last thing England needs is to be ruled by the French. And when Henry comes to his senses…. Is a big question many have…including myself… what then?”

Suddenly distracted, my eye is drawn to a lone ball rolling into the room. Then half way from the door to the table is a scurrying disheveled child with dark hair, pale yet rosy cheeks. He has the look of a deer that has been discovered. Richard. My namesake, perhaps one of my most treasured sons. Blessed be the mother Mary for watching over my Cecily and gracing our lives with him and his joy. I stride over and pick him up, as it isn’t exactly what he obviously intended. Fussy they are at this age as small hands reach out to object and search for his toy.

“Jasper, this is Richard, but we call him Dickon, my youngest son. Fine boy he is. He will make a good knight one day.”

Margaret flustered is now standing at the door, and I have her small charge. Jasper looks as if he is either going to laugh or cry, so much for political planning….

Jasper Tudor:

I cannot hide my amusement, nor my relief, at this most timely diversion. “You have been fortunate in your children, Your Grace. I hope someday to raise sons of my own.” Seeing the man like this, at home with his family, assures me that he can be counted on. What man would wish to leave a war torn country to his sons? The affection he bears this small one is evident, and all have heard him praise his daughters’ beauty, and his sons for their strength.

As I prepare to depart, I assure him once more that all shall be well. “I thank you for this audience, but I regret that I must be off yet again. My dear brother might better have ennobled me as Earl of Road Dust, as I seem to spend more time traveling of late, than seeing to mine own estates!” Reaching for the duke’s hands, I continue, “When next we converse, I hope we might sit and congratulate ourselves on our good work in council.”

Possession (Wars of the Roses)

October 13, 2014 in News, Wars of the Roses by Queen Margaret of Anjou

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Queen Margaret of Anjou

Dappled silver light permeated the flickering darkness if the queens chamber, the hour was late and the sun long gone from the horizon. The chill night air blowing through the open casement disturbed the languidly swaying flames that remained in the grate, the last remnants of a once roaring fire. It cast an eerie glow around the room that glistened in the unbound hair of the woman pacing distractedly about. Margaret was restless, the finely embroidered velvet of the robe of velvet gracing her shoulders rusting softly over the floor as her silent distraction and impatience deepened.

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It was dangerous to have arranged a meeting thus, at this hour, but she had needed to ensure that they were not overheard, that no little birds would get wind of what was to be spoken, and had long since dismissed her ladies pleading an aching head in preparation. Jaquetta remained in the outer chamber, her ever watchful eyes alert to things that none other would see, and thus she knew she was safe.

Now completely recovered from the prince’s birth, her strength full returned, she turned her mind to deal with the impending crisis at hand. Henry’s refusal…no…inability to recognise her son had left her position precarious, and forced her hand far more quickly to do what she must than she had wished. But little choice remained. Her enemies would clamour to revile her, voice their doubts more loudly than before. The witnesses present in the chamber that day will by now have spread their tales of what had happened, and the only person in the room she could rely on completely was perhaps even more distrusted than she, Jaquetta’s testimony would be of little value here.

As such, Margaret reasoned, it was time to reveal the kings ailment to the world, for a mad king cannot be capable of acknowledging anything, and nobody could claim it was the queen at fault. She would announce her intention to take full control of the realm and rule in her sons stead until he came of age. However she must first persuade the council…not an easy task. Many regarded her as a foreigner who was not to be trusted, least of all because she was a woman. And so she needed advice, she needed that of the only other person she trusted completely, the one person who would not be afraid to tell her what the council would truly think of her plans and advise her best how to sway them to her will. The matter of the ever increasing rumours about her fidelity to the ailing king was another issue that must be discussed away from all other eager ears, particularly due to whom it is she must discuss them with.

Thus, as the closed panel of the opposite wall slid softly open, a tall and handsome figure stepping quietly thorough and into the dimly lit chamber, her lips curved into the first genuine smile she had been able to muster all afternoon, her lilting French accent sounding the words almost to a purr: ” Good evening…or should I say morning Lord Somerset”

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Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset

Finally… nervous as deer in chase, the Duke of Somerset has waited — waited to be called by his beloved Queen. They must confer… decide how they must move forward, one closely guarded secret no longer just between the trusted. With the Duke’s mentoring and support, can Margaret reign as regent? Or will the Council force their hand in favor of a Lord Protector? Whichever way this goes, Her Grace and the Duke must be as one, rule as one. ’Tis their only hope to insure the throne for the babe, to insure the realm’s security.

The Duke rests his ear upon the panel. Tonight he and the queen risk all, but the situation unavoidable, there is no choice but to gamble this once. Hearing nothing, the Duke slides the panel open slowly… so very slowly, and steps inside the Queen’s most private chamber, their most secret refuge with the maids frequent not.

Upon entry, he looks upon the Queen of England, in his mind exquisite in her night clothes. The Duke smiles broadly, drinking her in as she greets him. The Duke bends a knee to her, deferring to Queen Margaret’s higher station. He looks into her eyes and locks his gaze, the Duke’s love and respect unspoken but overflowing. Waiting for her to motion he rise, he speaks softly. ”Good morning, my Queen. I am relieved you bid for me. There be much to discuss.”

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Queen Margaret of Anjou

Margaret’s smile matches the Duke’s broad grin as he enters the chamber on feet as light as air, quickly bidding him to rise as he sinks to his knee as soon as he comes to her. She had longed for this moment, to have him here, alone. There were precious few she trusted, and only two in this world that she could reveal her true self to. At this time, honesty is what was required, and she knew she would get that from the handsome Duke of Somerset.

She offers her hand, her voice low and soft as velvet, the lilting French accent shining through as she speaks:

”Good morning Edmund, I thank you for coming to me thus, I know it is a dangerous task. But there is much of which we must speak. Our desires are I believe as one. The King has now descended so far into his own mind that he cannot acknowledge the boy. We must press the council to elect me as regent until Edward is old enough and wise enough to take the reins of government in hand.”

The sparkling depths of Margaret’s eyes glittered with purpose in the grey light of the chamber. Unfathomable depths to most, but to the Duke, her disquiet would be evident, as was her every sentiment to a man who paid such close attention. Her slender fingers close around his strong hand as he climbs to his feet, her gaze not leaving his. A look of naked desperation within them, for she knew that at this moment her position was a precarious as ever it was:

”If they do not, we both know whom they will elect as Lord Protector Edmund…neither of us wish to see York with any more power than he already has. He will destroy us both and claim the kingdom for his own. Do you think that the coucil will accept me? Could they stomach a woman at the head of their government?”

She steps away, resuming her restless pacing of the floor, her path of the evening clearly shown by the disturbed, sweet smelling rushes that were strew about the floor. A sleder hand sweeps through her long dark hair, sending a ripple through its lengths falling to her waist as she stops and looks back at the Duke over her shoulder:

”I need your counsel Edmund, more than ever…for I know not what to do.”

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Isabel121211Presentacion

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Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset

Queen Margaret of Anjou, she is exquisite. As the Queen paces restlessly, the Duke of Somerset can’t take his eyes off her, the silhouette of her breasts and her beautiful round bottom peeking through the finely sewn lace of her night shift. The Duke takes a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself. ‘Tis no use. He grows hard within his loins just the same. Does this woman know what she does to him? Does the Queen know when she runs her hand through her flowing locks he peaks hard? The Duke thinks likely so. He thinks ’tis her aim to tease him, to drag him to his knees in yearning, knowing there be not one thing he can to to release what flows within him.

Though he loves this woman more than life itself, he decides she deserves honesty. After all, Margaret of Anjou is an anointed Queen, and he is but her subject, her servant . “I must speak frankly, Your Grace. I doubt the council will support a woman as regent. This be England. ‘Tis unheard of for a woman to rule unless her husband be at war. BUT, yes… we must find a way. You rule this realm in truth now. We need find a way for the council to see the truth of it.”

The Duke walks behind the Queen and adjusts her hair over her shoulders gently and kisses her long soft neck. “Please do me the honor of wearing a robe, Your Grace. You are unsettling my humors.”

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Queen Margaret of Anjou

Margaret’s pacing barely ceases as the Duke speaks, her disquiet is so deep. The naked want glittering in his eyes as he watches her, an almost feral look of lust is a look she is well accustomed to and therefore, almost immune…Almost. But what she needed from him now was honesty and sound council, not the longing looks of a love-lorn adolescent.

As his strong arms come up and move a long tendril of auburn hair away from her slender neck, followed swiftly by his gentle lips, she closes her eyes a moment, a shiver running through her entire frame before she comes to her senses and clicks her tongue impatiently and waves away his attentions. Turning to face him, her hand raises to her forehead which burns with the effects of too many sleepless nights, the lingering twinges of pain from the birth of her son, and the mental turmoil her mind succumbs to, every time she dared stop to draw breath.

As handsome and charming as the Duke was, if she were to lose her grip on the kingdom completely, they would both likely be far less attractive once shorter by the head, a fate she did not intend for either of them. However…perhaps for once, using her womanly wiles would work in her favour, for what creature was more steadfast and devoted to it’s cause than a handsome knight desperately in love with a beautiful damsel in distress.

She turns her body into his, her eyes dancing a brilliant emerald in the reflected light of the candles and lays her hands on his broad chest, gazing up at him with an almost desperate look of hopelessness he would find perfectly alien and therefore all the more poignant. Just a frightened woman and mother in need of a knight in shining armour.

“My lord…Edmund, I need you now more than ever. We simply must ensure that I am the person the council choses to safeguard this realm and her people, for who knows what will become of me and…my son if others were to do so”

Her look of desperation at the thought if only partially exaggerated. She was despised by many, that much she knew, and, royal blood or not, she did not doubt that if needs be, they would find a way to have her removed for good…even if it meant her death. Her slender fingers move to wrap around his hands, squeezing them gently as she makes her plea, inwardly cursing herself for resorting to such measures.

“Help me Edmund, help me protect my baby.”

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Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset

This woman… so much a hold the queen has over the duke, she could command he jump into a raging inferno, and Lord Somerset would do it with no question. Never before has Queen Margaret admitted she needed the Duke. Until now she simply possessed him.

As Queen Margaret lays she soft petite hands upon Lord Somerset’s chest, shivers run through him. Still, he holds firm, as she has made her message clear. Now is not the time, and he thinks sadly mayhaps never.

He gently places his hands upon hers, lifting one to his lips. A whisper of a kiss is all he dares. “Your Grace, I will do all in my power to insure this realm’s beloved Prince reigns as King. I will lay down my life if need be,”.Lord Somerset says with truthful sincerity and love.

“You shall be Regent of this blessed realm, my queen — or God strike me dead!”

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Queen Margaret of Anjou

A broader smile claims Margaret’s crimson lips at the Duke’s protestation. His earnest look, the thundering tempo of his heart, so clearly felt beneath her soft hands lain so deliberately upon his broad chest, and his eyes…the burning, almost fanatical devotion smouldering there amongst his look of naked lust, they all scream to her of the power she holds over this man. How could any woman of warm blood not revel in the thrall they hold over such a strong and handsome one as he? She refused to pay any heed to the voice that whispers at the back of her mind to her that to take advantage of such would be wrong. She needed to utilise those assets that she possessed to achieve her goals, any amount of immorality in the acquiring of such could be justified fully in the eyes of God, of that she was certain.

He will help her, she knows that well. He is her knight, her protector, her sworn sword to hold in the darkness when fear and hopelessness threaten to overwhelm her. Not that she would admit that, nor tell him so, she would not cede the point and risk handing him any sort of hold that he could use against her to get what he wished. For what he wished she would give him as when and if she chose to do so. To him, she must be his Queen, the object of his every devotion and the woman he would die for if needs be, an unobtainable deity that stood just at the very periphery of his grasp. Close enough to let him feel that persistence may grant him leave to close that gap, but far enough away to ensure his ardour does not wane. It was a game she knew well, and would play to all it’s advantage. He would have his reward in time, for she was no more made of stone than he, and too many cold and lonely nights had been spent in the darkness since she came to England. She was a red blooded Frenchwoman, one possessing the same needs and desires as any other, Lord knows her husband had never been capable of satisfying them, but first and foremost she was a Queen, and until such a time that she was secure in her place, then her own desires must wait.

She must never lose sight of who she is or what she is fighting for. All else must take a side-line to securing both her and her son’s power. While she may need the strong arm of men like Somerset to aid her to this, she would share the power she craved with none. England would be hers, and hers alone, until such a time that the boy was old enough to take the reins of government in his own hand, of course assisted by his loving mother. And this man…She looked up at the duke as her mind processed the thought…this beautiful man, would help her achieve it all. His voice would cry the loudest to damned tradition and support her right to be regent, to put the council and the government into her hands, and they would listen, he would make certain of that. The thought almost amused her. Oh the power that a woman can wield with a few longing looks and well placed curves.

Her eyes glitter, full of promise and seduction in the fading light as his lips brush the back of her hand, relaxed and soothed by his touch, her words deliberately placed to speak one meaning and thinly veil another:

“Now now Edmund, do not speak to me of death…not when we have so very much to live for.”

— Fade To Black —

Written by: Queen Margaret of Anjou and Edmund Beaufort, Wars of the Roses Writer’s Group

Our Common Enemy (Wars of the Roses)

August 25, 2014 in Historical Fiction, Wars of the Roses by Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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?”
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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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

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———- Fade To Black ———-

“Historia Richardi Tertii…” Saint Thomas More — 7 February, 1478 to 6 July 1535

July 6, 2014 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), Tudor Y Writer's Group, Wars of the Roses by Saint Thomas More

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Richard III

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Men use, if they have an evil turn, to write it in marble; and who so doth us a good turn, we write it in dust.

— Saint Thomas More, History of King Richard III 

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Sir Thomas More

Here at Chelsea, I find my refuge. Now resigned from His Grace’s service, I find my peace. This evening I entertain my dear friend, Bishop John Fisher. I need to be near men of like mind, like conscience, and like values. The stench of court is overwhelming, the corruption raised to the very right and left of the King, the devilry all around him, like a thick, dense fog. I raise my goblet in toast and smile. “Fortune changes with character, dear friend. Fortune often changes with character.”

The Bishop nods back with a smile. I pause and reflect a moment. “So what do you think? I wrote that years ago, and yet only my dear Erasmus and now you have laid eyes upon it. My heart bleeds infinitely as although unfinished, it foretells our sorry state.”

Bishop John Fisher

Sir Thomas More, such a learned man, such a wise man, such a Godly man. I fear we will martyr together, along with my dearest Maid of Kent, yet I pray if God’s will, it be done to celebrate His glory, to celebrate our beloved Bishop of Rome, for in this realm Satan curses them both. Here at Chelsea, with this man’s gentle wisdom and his loving family, I feel our Virgin Mary close, so close my heart fills with love for her. I hold up the parchments along with my goblet of ale. “Thomas, Historia Richardi Tertii is magnificent, though damning… and aye, yes, much vision it provides. I trust the words on the parchment were written with divine intervention.”

Sir Thomas More:

I look to the fire, my mind full. Free finally to speak my conscience with a man I trust, I venture, “Your Grace, you are too kind.”

I decide to lighten the mood. God knows we both need it. “Did you hear Cardinal Pole’s latest missive?” The Bishop shakes his head no. “He declares Cromwell the ‘Emissary of Satan’. His Eminence speaks truth.”

We both laugh lightly, and I say in all seriousness as I point to the parchments, “Can you imagine what the King’s Secretary would do with that retelling of the sinfulness of the child killer, the monster King Richard the Third and the corrupt men around him? The man would crucify me, nail me straight to the cross. Cromwell is so full of himself, the man would think this all be an allegory of dear Harry, the sinful Archbishop and him.”

Bishop John Fisher

I snicker and nod in agreement. “Yes, I fear so. Best this be well hidden, good man. Your commentary on the failures of kingship, the corruption inherent in nobles and the clergy to gain advantage, your profession that the people need reign in truth by Parliament, is damning. Power corrupts, and absolute power especially so, I dare say.”

I point to the parchments. “You lay that bare here. ‘The lamb is given to the wolf’.”

I lay the parchments down on my lap and sigh deep. “I will never take the oaths, Thomas. A king supreme over God’s clergy as if God himself? Never. ‘Tis devilry personified.”

Sir Thomas More

I rise and stoke the fire, speaking as I do. “Me either, Your Grace, but it best we comment on our opinions not. Then by law we should be safe, but we will not I do fear. His Majesty and Cromwell make the laws or change the laws to suit their purpose. What be law today be treason tomorrow.”

I turn, look at Bishop Fisher, anxiety suddenly filling me whole. “Cromwell and the Archbishop, they are like King Richard’s secret second council, but spinning their evil web for all to see, His Majesty stuck within it, like an angry wasp. We will be stung, and stung deep, either by their attacks on the Holy Maid of Kent, God keep her — or their insistence all take an oath that the King is now God Himself.”

I take a deep breath, and rest back into my favorite chair, worn thin. “I am ready to martyr if need be, but my family suffers at the thought of it, my Alice wailing at every turn. Only my dear Margaret understands me, Lord God bless her. It is with she I will trust those parchments, no one else. If there ever be a day it is safe to promulgate, my Margaret knows to do so.”

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King Edward V of England and Richard, Duke of York

King Edward V of England and Richard, Duke of York

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Bishop John Fisher

“I will pray for you all, dear friend. I have no family I need so worry, just my conscience.  Though God’s will is clear, you suffer more. May the Virgin Mary protect you all through these days of misery.”

I draw a deep breath and drink some ale, my throat parched. “Thomas do listen. The Archbishop, he knows how close I am with the Holy Maid of Kent, how I revere her and the priests that so take charge of her care, but you have been more cautious in your dealings. I suggest you keep quiet. What Lord God knows, they need not know.”

Sir Thomas More

I smile awkwardly, my full truth known but to me, the Maid and God. “Aye, the Archbishop is a two headed serpent, good man. As he burned the heretic Frith for denying the presence, a sin even obvious to him, so Canterbury will burn our beloved Maid. Anyone who oversteps his arbitrary mark, heretic or God’s messenger, is doomed.”

Bishop John Fisher

I drink some ale and ponder his words of Canterbury. “As I read of Queen Elizabeth on these parchments, may she rest with the angels, I wondered why she did so allow the Cardinal with the care of her sons? Was she too trusting? Did she lack judgment? Was she blinded somehow, leading to a poor twist of fate? A quandary, yes, a quandary.”

I pause, and then continue. “And, was His Eminence King Richard’s unwitting dupe? Or as Archbishop Cranmer is for King Henry, his knowing accomplice?” I sigh. “You leave many questions unanswered, dear friend, but this much of our current plight is clear. The Archbishop’s treatment of our rightful Queen Catherine and the Princess Mary is of Satan. May his heresy be laid bare and burnt out from him.”

I cross myself, and dearest Thomas does likewise. “God make it so.”

Sir Thomas More

I nod and rub my the crucifix around my neck, so long there ’tis worn thin. “Yes, God make it so. Burn the heresy out, I do pray.”

I say pointedly, “The Archbishop, the Lord Chancellor, Wiltshire, and Cromwell — they are fools, more so than the bonny Will Somers. As I wrote to you, ‘If the lion knew his own strength, hard were it for any man to rule him.’ Your Grace, the lion now roars. So long as he keeps the love of the people, Harry will stomp his way across this blessed realm, killing all we know as dear. I blame the heretics for turning him, the pretend queen, the Archbishop and Cromwell most pointedly — a whorish concubine, a chaplain of Luther, and a low born rogue — all Satan’s clergy.”

Bishop John Fisher

“Your speak truth, dear man. Satan’s clergy indeed.”

I attempt to rise, my gout aching to my bones as I do. Thomas rushes to me, guiding me to my feet. I place my hand on his shoulder to steady myself and speak plain.”Thomas, I grow frail. Perhaps the Saints will intercede, God calling me home before the henchman, eh?”

He nods, and rests his head for a moment on my shoulder, as a son to his father. “I do need your help to find my courage. Pray for me, Thomas. I fear I will waver. I wish to die in my bed, truth be told.”

Sir Thomas More

I place my hands on the shoulders of this dear and holy man of God. “May we find the simple and innocent grace of children, the simple and innocent grace of the boy King and the blessed imp Duke — and with all humility, may we move forward, as God’s lesson in conscience, God’s lesson in His ultimate truth.”

—– Fade To Black —–

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This video focusing on the life and martyrdom of Saint Thomas More is part of a video series from Wordonfire.org. Father Robert Barron comments on subjects from modern day culture from a Roman Catholic perspective. For more information and videos visit http://www.wordonfire.org/

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NOTE:  The History of King Richard III, though unfinished, is widely considered to highlight Saint Thomas More’s veiled views of the perils of excessive power and political corruption. More “historical fiction” than “accurate history”, this work greatly influenced the writing of William Shakespeare. To read “Historia Richardi Tertii” click here: http://www.thomasmorestudies.org/docs/Richard.pdf

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‘Tis a boy… Alas, whose? (Wars of the Roses)

May 24, 2014 in News, Wars of the Roses by Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

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Coat of arms of Beaufort, Earls and Dukes of Somerset

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Coat of Arms Dukes of Somerset

Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

“That hateful Witch”, I mumbled under my breath, as I make my way down the Palace of Westminster’s hallways toward the Duke of Somerset’s chambers. I had been given the task by Lady Rivers of informing his grace about the birth of the new Prince. The vindictive and mocking tone of her voice was unmistakable. The Witch had saved the best for last. Lady Rivers knew full well that the Duke of Somerset was the one person that I did not wish to see and had managed to avoid upon my arrival at court. He was my father’s enemy and rival.

As a small child, I remembered my father’s rants to my mother about the Duke of Somerset’s brother, John, who was the first Duke of Somerset at that time. Although, both men had been unsuccessful in many of the tasks awarded to them by the King and Queen over the years, they were always shown favor and my father passed over. The second Duke of Somerset’s power had only grown stronger since the death of his brother, John. Now, he was untouchable as the Queen’s favorite thanks to the murder of the Duke of Suffolk three years ago. Even my husband, Henry, despised Somerset although he dared not show it.

I sighed standing in front of Somerset’s chamber doors. The glares Somerset had been giving me since my arrival at court were unnerving, but I had no choice and knocked on the chamber door, hearing his voice call out. I slowly opened the door and stepped inside. The room was shadowy except for the few beams of sunlight that came through the windows. I suppose such a shadowy place was fitting for the one who occupied it. I turned my head to the figure that stood by the fireplace and curtsied low, “The Queen has given birth, your grace.” I raised myself up, keeping my eyes low and trying not to make too much eye contact, “Both she and the baby are doing fine. God has seen fit to bless England with a future King.” I tried to mask my grudging tone.

Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset

The Queen, she be finally in child bed. Will this child of her womb be our next King? Or will this dangerous journey that she now embarks be the end of the House Lancaster? My mind swims with thoughts, of a beautiful babe in our glorious Queen’s arms, of a dead babe in the midwife’s. Here I be, the grandest knight in this very realm, a warrior — and yet I languish here in trepidation like no battle has yet to torment. I rise and swallow down a goblet of claret to calm my humors. Pacing, pacing… to and fro again, pouring more wine, sipping as I go. ”’Tis been too long, Lord. ’Tis been too long. Deliver dearest Margaret of our long awaited heir, I do pray. I beseech thee.”

A knock at mine chamber door startles my mind, interrupting my very thoughts and prayers. I bellow in annoyance, ”Who goes there?” I turn abruptly, and there she be, York’s seeded wench. I motion for her to speak, and though Satan’s daughter stands before me, the voice of an angel washes relief through my very soul. “The Queen has given birth, your grace,” she says softly. “Both she and the baby are doing fine. God has seen fit to bless England with a future King.”

Stunned silent, I look upon God’s chosen messenger. A lesson in humility He surely sends me. Fighting back emotion, I swallow hard forcing composure to my words. ”My… our prayers are answered, my lady.” I add with an edge, ”’Tis God’s will, the Lancaster line runs true.” I pause. ”Do send word to your father. He will be most pleased, i am sure.”

I do believe the woman hides venom. As she nods to acknowledge my instructions, I venture. How could I not. ”The Queen, my lady… is she in comfort or distress? The babe… is his cry hearty?”

Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

I raise an eyebrow but kept my eyes down cast, “Her grace is resting comfortably at the moment. The midwife is watching her very closely to ensure that there is no heavy bleeding or fever.” I tried to keep the amusement out of my voice. “The birth was very difficult and painful for the Queen. There was but a fleeting moment when we all believed that she and the babe would not survive and the midwife says that her grace is not quite out of danger yet.” I lifted my head, looking at Somerset. “I told Lady Rivers that I shall say a pray that there are no complications as will my family once they receive the happy news.” I smiled sweetly. “The babe is very healthy and strong. I am sure that he will grow into a great man just like his father.” I noticed Somerset’s face change.

Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset

This wench means to torment me. First, the wretched Duchess tells me my beloved Queen ails, at risk of death. Then, my emotions swing wide when I learn the babe thrives. I fight for composure as she speaks, and God willing, she notices not my swings in humours. Exeter’s blasted wife, she certainly is her father’s daughter.

I swallow hard. ”I am certain His Grace commanded mass and prayer vigils commence in honor of his beloved wife’s return to health, duchess. I suggest you scurry to chapel forthwith.”

I look to her and snicker, my thoughts held close. ”While you are there, be sure to pray thanksgiving for our heir to the throne of England. Ah, yes… a great man he will be, just as his father is. He shall rule this realm to glory, trust me on that!”

Anne of York with 2nd husband, Sir Thomas St. Leger

Anne of York with 2nd husband, Sir Thomas St. Leger

Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

I curtsy and prepare to leave, “Indeed, your grace. As soon as the King commands it, I shall, although the King has yet to send any word.” I looked at Somerset, ”That may have well changed but in the meantime, I think it best that I write to my family. I know that my husband would approve, so that we may all pray together.” I try to keep my composer in the presence of this monstrous man. “Before I take my leave, your grace, I was not only sent here to give you this joyous news, but Lady Rivers and the Queen both have requested your presence as soon as the Queen is feeling better. The Queen wishes for you to be the first of the court outside her ladies to see our new Prince. What word should I bring back to them?” I watch Somerset’s face change again, realizing that my words had struck another nerve. I narrow my eyes; Somerset looked almost nervous, “Your grace?” It was an odd request.

Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset 

What is this woman thinking? This Plantagenet whore dares question me? She distrusts my word? Annoyed I walk towards her, and then strut around her slowly, glaring the wench down. I stop in front of the duchess, stare at her hard in the eyes, and with controlled anger in my voice, state to her pointedly, ”’Tis not for you to question me, woman. You shall accept my words as a message sent as a direct command from our pious King. His Grace desires all pray vigil n honor of his beloved wife’s return to health, duchess. You shall scurry first to the Queen to let her know her wish is my command, and then go to chapel forthwith and pray vigil.” I clap my hands twice loudly. ”Do know I shall be speaking with your husband. The Duke will know of your disrespectful insolence.” As the duchess begins to retreat, I bellow ”Get out of my sight, wench!”

Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

Retreat out of the room, hearing Somerset’s laughter as I stumble and fall catching myself on a stone column. I catch my breath mumbling, “Go and tell my husband, you fool. The only thing that Henry and I truly share in common is our distaste and hatred for you.” It was true. Henry was jealous of Somerset. I started to walk back to the Queen’s chambers to relay Somerset’s message. I had not imaged Somerset’s expressions; every word I said seemed to make him more and more nervous. The King had given no command. Somerset knew that. The King was not around. No one had seen him for some time; the very mention of his name seemed to scare even my husband. What was going on? Why was Somerset even giving orders over the King? I stopped and looked around, slipping in the direction of my chambers. I would not have long.

“Milady, what are you doing here?” Meryl stood up as I bolted into my chambers, looking around and closing the door.

“I do not have long, Meryl. We have another letter to write to my father.”

~~~~~ Fade to Black ~~~~~

The Lion Into Darkness (War of the Roses)

May 14, 2014 in Wars of the Roses by Queen Margaret of Anjou

Jaquetta wakes me early, helping me to rise with more difficulty than that to which I am accustomed. My son’s birth had taken its toll on my slender frame and, no amount of regal pride could stifle my screams of agony as I laboured to bring him into this world. As such, my time to recover has taken longer than usual, but stay abed any longer I cannot, there is work to be done. My husband MUST acknowledge his son, he must recognise him as his heir. And that task in itself could prove to be more than a trial. Henry has slipped further and further into his catatonic state, to the point where he seems to recognise nothing, nobody, as if his body were here but he a thousand miles away. The thought has plagued my mind ever since Henry became unwell. It was obvious he was becoming increasingly worse, his brief moments of lucidity becoming fewer and further between, and I would pray every day that the lord would restore his senses to him.

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I am not ignorant of the whispers abounding at court as to the doubt of the paternity of my child. How dare they deem to think to judge me…their queen! But I am also sensible to the dire need to have this matter concluded. Until Henry accepts the boy, my position is precarious. I have given England her prince, she must now rejoice in her saviour without the whispers of a tainted lineage.

I ensure I dress carefully, my gown rich and heavy velvet to hide the fact that my frame has diminished, my pale skin become almost translucent, I would have none deeming me weak. I have my hair dressed as if I were attending a ball and my cheeks pinched until they glow. I shall emerge from my chamber looking every inch the queen, despite the pain still gnawing at my body. I had noticed my ladies watching me, every one a spy for their own house…all that is, except Jaquetta. She is the only one I can trust fully.

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The king’s disappearance from public duty had drawn wild speculation from the whole country. We had managed to keep the true nature of his ailment a secret so far, but if he did not rally soon, we shall have no choice but to make the matter public. The fear residing in my breast is that it will be too late, that by now his consciousness will have deserted him so far to the darkness that he will be unable to respond and acknowledge the child as he must. Failure to do so could ignite the already heated tinder of political faction that has been smouldering in England’s heart.

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Stepping into the corridor, my beautiful baby boy lain in my arms, gurgling merrily, I take a brief look behind me at the contingent I have chosen to join me. I have picked each member carefully. Chosen for their houses ties to my own, houses that stand to lose as much if not more than I if things were to go awry, houses whose loyalty I can rely on. There are only a handful, Jaquetta and three others, and the king’s personal attendants would of course already be present. I would it were only myself that needed to go, but I must have others to bear witness to what may happen within the chamber, for good or ill, none would believe my word alone for it. I sweep along the corridor to my husbands heavily guarded quarters and await the doors to be opened with my heart in my throat. I am almost dreading what I will find on the other side of the ornately carved wooden doors. Dipping my curtsey, I lift my eyes to find I am looking at the back of my husband’s head, his once shining locks now lank and streaked with grey. He is seated in a high backed chair and facing out of the window, the mornings rays creeping in to warm his face. I raise my voice, less firm than usual and speak:

“Your Grace, I have come to present to you your son and heir”

The king does not even turn his head, panic gripping me, but I am calmed somewhat as Jaquetta comes to my side, setting a gentle and reassuring hand on my arm that none other can see. I know she has a plan if all else fails, she always does.

 

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Walking around the chair, I look down at the man I had come so far to marry. Gaunt and thin, a thick beard, as flecked with silver as his hair, covers his face, I briefly allow myself a moment of indignation as to why his attendants are not shaving him before the fear that I barely even recognise my own husband grips me. I bend to his height and smile at him, hoping that he would know me:

“Henry, we should name him Edward, a strong English name for a strong English prince. Look at him, is he not beautiful?”

Anne and Elizabeth

I hold up the baby and finally Henry turns his head, his eyes glazed as if while his body remained, his mind were clouded in shadow. The baby waves a tiny arm at him, almost as if he knew he was in the presence of the king and I lean closer, rather painfully kneeling on the floor and I lay the baby in Henry’s lap. Holding Edward steady, I lift my head to look up at my husband, my eyes trying to meet his as he drops his gaze to the wriggling bundle in his lap, confusion written clear upon his face. He recognises neither the child nor me, that much is obvious. I am awash with distress, well aware of the ladies frankly shocked and appalled faces watching us. If Henry does not recognise my son, we are all in danger. I take my husband’s hand in my own and look up at him:

“Henry please… for me…for all the love I have born you”

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My voice is constricted, my eyes pleading, an expression I have never once before worn. Jaquetta takes a step closer, keeping her back to the others in the room and meeting my eyes a moment as if asking permission for something. I trust her completely and almost imperceptibly nod my head. She lifts her hand, as if to help me steady the child in Henrys lap, and closes her eyes, her delicate features a moment contorted and I feel a wave of warmth run through the cold hand I am holding. And yet…Henry does not flinch, as if nothing in this world could reach him from into the darkness to which he had allowed himself to fall. If Jaquetta could not pull him back, then nothing would but his own will. Despair fills my heart. This is what I had dreaded. The king will not recognise his heir, he is not capable of recognising anybody. The rumours will abound and strengthen, and I am without a protector to help me combat the enemies waiting in the shadows to bring me low.

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Rising again, I bend and gather the tiny pink bundle into my arms and manage to smile down at the spectral figure in the chair somewhat surprised to find his vacant expression contorted to something else. Disappointment…he seemed to have been comforted by the child’s warmth in his lap and I am briefly filled with sorrow that the family I had always pictured in my mind, would likely be something neither I nor Henry would ever have. But I have not the time to indulge in such reverie, I must call the council, announce the king’s descent into madness and declare myself regent of the realm until my son comes of age. Recognition be damned. I shall seize control either way. My son shall succeed his father even if I have to declare war and tear apart every noble family of this fractious kingdom to make it so. I must put an end to all this uncertainty and take the reins of power firmly in my grasp to ensure that England’s next king would inherit a kingdom at peace and under control.

 

The House of Lancaster Endures (Wars Of The Roses)

February 28, 2014 in Historical Fiction, Wars of the Roses by Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter

Jaquetta Woodville, Lady Rivers

Jaquetta Woodville, Lady Rivers:            

I stand in the corner by the window, my sapphire eyes scanning the horizon, as the rose tinged sky slowly turns to the stony, grey, of dusk. I have much playing on my mind and it is rare at court that I find a moments peace to indulge myself in reflection. But as it is, this evening the queen wishes to be quiet. Reclining on a day bed to ease her aching body with her hand resting on her heavily swollen stomach, as if to protect the child she carries from the very darkness itself that begins to engulf us. A golden glow begins to light the room as the queen’s latest, and most dangerous acquisition makes her way silently around lighting the candles to illuminate the unusually tranquil scene.

My eyes turn and follow the willowy figure of the Duchess of Exeter as she gracefully circles the room, carrying out her duties. I have been watching her with the piercing eyes of a falcon. I do not trust her or her family. She has been followed everywhere she sets foot, her correspondence passing through my hands personally before being allowed to leave the castle or enter her possession. I have paid particular care to what she speaks to her father, watching for any hint her words could be coded, and she knows it. Her eyes glitter with a malice her youth and exuberance cannot hide from my well trained eye. She knows I have her in my coils for now and resents me for it. Whether this is born of innocence or guilt, I have as of yet to ascertain.

As she comes to stand at my side and mutter the usual pleasantries, I lean closer to her with my most calculated smile. I know my presence unnerves her. Many whisper of my heritage and my affiliation with what they believe to be the dark arts. It amuses me endlessly that so many are right yet dare not speak it. She will have been told how I am a witch, casting my evil spell on their Majesties and all whom I encounter. Let her think it…let them all think it. The fear it sparks in people’s hearts gives me an advantage they do not realize, and more freedom to do as I will and work to my goals. The girls eyes widen as I bring my face close to her ear and whisper in a voice as light as the early evenings mist:

“You are performing well, Duchess, I had never thought you to be so well suited to the tasks you are given. It seems lighting candles and changing the queens linens are the ideal pastimes for a woman such as yourself.  I shall be certain to tell your father how pleased I am with your progress at court”

My words are poison veiled in compliment. I do not intend them to be aught else. I want her to know that here she is at my mercy, for if she does not realize the significance of my words, I know her father will.

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Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter:                       

I take a deep breath, calming my nerves and continue to stare straight ahead. “Yes, I am sure that my father would be very pleased.”

I had by now become accustom to the Witches’ malevolent remarks always masked by compliments. This was not the first time that she had attempted to challenge me. The Queen’s witch believed that she could hurt and scare me. She believed that she was the first one to be my jailer. While, the Palace of Westminster was bigger and grandeur than Exeter Castle it was just another prison to become accustom too. Except here, I was not beaten as often. The Queen’s confinement had given me some safety from my husband over the past few weeks. I adjusted my hair over the healing bruise on my neck, a going away present from my husband during our last encounter.

I looked over at the Queen hearing her sigh. I tried not to smirk and presented my most concerned tone whispering to the Witch, “The Queen does not look well.” I tried to keep a smile from curling on my lips. “She looks so very pale. Perhaps, I shall say pray later that there are no complications.”

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Queen Margaret of Anjou:

I am growing more and more uncomfortable by the hour. I fidget about restlessly, most unlike me. So much so that I have spent the evening reclining amongst the cushions in a vain attempt to try and bring some comfort to my aching back and legs, trying to relax without having to resort to a cloth upon my brow or other method of relief that will display weakness to the lurking shadows whom seek to undo me.

My pregnancy has seemed eternal, long months of only wanting it to be over so that I can present my Prince to the court and country and at last feel secure that England has her heir. The babe has kicked lustily in my womb these past few months, but tonight he lays still. I frown and shift again, hoping to feel his movement, and set a hand on my swollen stomach. Yet still he does not stir. I cannot deny I am unnerved; I have come too far for problems to occur now.

I lift my head and search for Jaquetta, she always manages to quell my fears, and frown slightly seeing with whom she speaks. The Exeter girl has plagued me with her presence from the moment she arrived. Whilst I recognize the necessity of the move, it does not mean that I like having one of HIS family so close to me daily. Her feigned expression of modesty does not have me fooled, nor does it seem by the dangerous look in my friend’s eyes, does it fool Jaquetta. But I have more important things now to worry about than her. I raise my voice and am surprised to find it strained and almost choked;

”Lady Rivers, please come here.”

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Jaquetta Woodville, Lady Rivers:   

The insolent girls last words threaten to tip me over the edge into a rage. I always keep a cool and almost icy demeanor at court, letting the whispers as to my blood and my background wash over me as if they were nothing. What do I care for the wretched souls that have naught better to do that stand in corners and speculate if I am a witch or not. The truth is far more dangerous than they know anyway. The strange and completely unexpected ailments and misfortunes that occasionally befall my most virulent detractors are testament to that, and serve to keep most quiet on the matter.

Yet the last few months of the queen’s pregnancy have been tiring. Margaret seems to trust no-one but me, not even her physicians and thus I have been at her beck and call, day and night. Her fears are understandable; the child she carries is the most powerful card she has to play against her enemies. But her constant anxiety is putting unwanted strain on both of them. I have tried to keep her calm and relaxed, but how effective my attentions have been, I cannot say.

Hence I am on edge, uncharacteristically for me and it is only the strangely weak voice of my mistress calling my name that saves the girl from a violent lashing of my tongue for her allusions to the queens health. I turn from her smirking lips; foolish girl has not even the wit to hide her disdain. She will learn the folly of that the hard way, and sweep straight to Margaret’s side.

”Your Grace, I am at your command”

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Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter:  

I grudgingly but politely curtsy to the Queen, narrowing my eyes at the Witch before returning to the window to continue my needlework. The Queen would deliver any day now. I had been around my own mother enough times to know by now when a child becomes restless and is ready to make its way into the world. What I had said to the Witch was the truth. The Queen seemed to grow weaker with each passing day. I gasped as the needle pricked my finger, while pulling the thread through the material. It had not, up until now, occurred to me just what would happen to my family when this child arrived, I crossed myself. If it was a girl or a stillbirth, I knew my father would never stop fighting but if it was a boy, what then? I understood my own fate. I would be trapped here for the rest of my life. As much as my husband despised my family, he knew there was no one more suitable, and he needed an heir. But, what would become of my father, mother and siblings? I looked up at the Witch and the Queen, what would she do should she survive?

My only hope now was that Meryl, my maidservant, had managed to get the last few letters that the Witch did not see to my father just before I was forced to enter confinement with the Queen. It had been difficult, the Witch was always watching me, but Meryl had managed to relay some correspondences to my father on my behalf. The very last letter was the most important of all. Since, my arrival at Court the King had not been seen. It was strange. My husband had been very pleased to present us to the Queen since his own rise to power, but we had yet to meet the King. I touched the healing bruise on my neck. That is what prompted our latest confrontation the last night that my husband and I were together. When I had asked about the King, Henry, became unnerved. I had never seen him for that brief moment become so uncomfortable. It was not long before that emotion quickly turned into anger, and he pinned me down with his hand around my neck. There was fear in his eyes, as he stared down at me and growled that I was to never speak about the King again. Before I could attempt to respond, he let me go and left. I had not imagined what I saw in his eyes. Something was very wrong and it had to do with the King’s disappearance, I was sure of it.

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Queen Margaret of Anjou:

I look up at Jaquetta as she immediately rushes to my side with a solicitous expression upon her face, very different from the dark look that marred her beautiful features a mere moment ago. I had informed her of my fears at the child’s seeming lethargy earlier in the day. She tried her best to calm my worries, worries I would admit to none but her. Our trip to the river she insisted told us all we needed to know. The child would be well. Yet I am aware of how ill I have looked the last few days. I have been unable to fully hide my pallor and the dark circles surrounding my eyes from the lack of sleep I had received, as hard as we have tried. The Exeter girl’s looks tell me as much. Oh how her family would love to see me fail. Delivered of a stillborn child, or even worse…a girl. Well damn them to hell; I will not give them the satisfaction they have no doubt been praying for.

I know the child I carry is a son, I know it is his destiny to unite this fractured land and I know he will be the King that she needs. While I may be skeptical of Jaquetta’s faith in this river goddess, I know in this instance that her will is the will of God and therefore will not be gainsaid. With my husband still in his state of uncertainty, I must trust in this faith and in myself.

I take my friends hands and whisper that I believe the time has come and watch the glimmer of concern and excitement that lights her eyes as she helps me to my feet and into my bed. I raise my voice as she does so and speak to the assembled ladies with a look as hard and imperious as the growing pain in my body will allow:

“I believe my time has now come, summon the midwife and follow Lady River’s instructions without question on pain of my extreme displeasure”

The last words are spoken with a pointed look at the Duchess of Exeter, she at least has the grace to lower her eyes and nod her obedience. Let her run with the news to her father, I care not, for soon I shall be holding my triumph in my arms and I will be safe.

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Jaquetta Woodville, Lady Rivers:

I nod as the queen whispers that she fears her time is near, helping her to her feet and leading her to her bed. I have had this prepared for several weeks now, ready for the royal birth. As I have found out with my own family, one can never truly anticipate exactly when a child will decide to make their appearance into this world.

The news that the child has lain still all this time disturbs me only slightly. The river has told us that this child will be born and healthy at that. I have not heard Melusine’s mournful wail that would have heralded a death of note to my house, so I know that her grace will survive the ordeal. But just how taxing an ordeal it will be, even I cannot say. The queen has ever been strong, but her frame delicate, and this may herald difficulties that a more robust woman would not experience.

At her words, I cast my eyes around the room, every one of the ladies present has been told their duties for the event.  I had organized things as well as I am able, preparing I hope for every eventuality that could occur. Each and every woman knows what they must do, whom they must inform and what they must not do under any circumstance and on pain of the queens anger and, perhaps more frightening to the more pious members of the household, of mine.  With Things being as fraught as they are at court, I am taking no chances, everything must run smoothly if we are to keep hold of the tenuous position that the crown could be in while Margaret is indisposed.

The Duchess of Exeter has been tasked with menial but intimate duties to ensure she remains in the room at all times.  She needs to be here to see the child born with her own eyes so that her father can be in no doubt as to the exact events that transpire in this world not fit for men.

One of the younger girls has been handed a far more secretive and dangerous task. She is terrified of me, my reputation striking terror into her pious little heart, lighting her eyes whenever they light upon me, and as such, she is as trustworthy as if she were of my own blood. She slips unnoticed from the room to deliver her message. There are certain people whom her grace has insisted be told first when her pains begin, and I have not questioned her reasoning behind this decision, I dare not. Yet the sharp cry she releases as she reclines against her cushions tells us all that that time is now.

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Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter:

I stand back as the Witch holds the Queen’s hand tightly. The Queen’s other favorite, Lady Harrowden, swiftly moves to the Queen’s other side, as the midwife rushes into the room. The time had come, and I knew it was going to be a long night. The Witch made sure to keep me at a safe distance and yet assigned tasks in order to prevent me from leaving the room. I was to bear witness. As the hours pasted and the waves of pain rushed over the Queen, with every pain she seemed to grow weaker. Her water had broken but the baby was nowhere near delivery and for the first time I could see true concern on the Witch’s face as she continued to wipe the Queen’s sweaty forehead and whisper words of encouragement.

Finally, the Witch motioned to Lady Harrowden, who took the midwife aside and demanded to know why the Queen had not delivered.  I pretended to be focused on my tasks and not listening as the midwife claimed that it was all due to the Queen’s small frame and the baby being too big. I watched as the two women almost fall over each other as the Queen gave out another loud scream. Something would have to be done soon, if the Queen continued in her agony there was definite risk to her and the baby. Should the baby live there was always the peril of childbed fever. It was the risk that all women faced. It had happened to my grandmother. She had left this world not long after she had brought my father into it, and I wondered as the first morning rays of light came into the chamber if this would be the Queen’s fate. The Witch had more to fear than anyone else in this room should this all turn out badly for the Queen may die tonight.

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Queen Margaret of Anjou:

For what seems like an eternity, I writhe and scream in pain as the child tries to make his entrance into the world. The hush surrounding me as I suffer convulsion after convulsion of an agony I could not have anticipated seems to yield little. The moment Caquetá pulls the midwife to the side; I know something has gone badly wrong. The babe should have been born by now. My friend’s tone is urgent and verging on panic, a disconcerting notion that I have never before heard from her…I pray to God that her visions have not been wrong.

Another contraction washes over me with an agonized scream in a voice I do not even recognize as my own as the midwife rushes back to my bed. Her hands are thrust roughly between my legs, which were I in a fit state to do so, I would have chastised her for her temerity and rough handling of the queen’s person. As it is, I am praying that her ministrations will work, my child must come soon or I fear I will pass into a darkness that one or both of us may not emerge from.

I can feel my strength ebbing from me, as healthy and strong as I am, the pressure wrought on my frame is testing my endurance past the point of reason. Jaquetta resumes her place at my side, wiping my sweat covered brow with a look in her eye that I do not like. I manage to stammer a few words to her:

“You promised me…you assured me….”

Before I again find myself engulfed by agony,  I will not die, I cannot die. I refuse to believe that as a possibility. I am queen of England, I carry the savior of this god forsaken land within me and I KNOW God did not bring me to this place for it to end like this. I summon all my strength and try to do as the midwife commands, pushing with every ounce of endurance I still possess, holding on to this thought as though it alone will pull me through. For if aught happens to this child, then I am most certainly doomed.

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Jaquetta Woodville, Lady Rivers:  

I am panicked, barely holding on to my usual cool and calm demeanor as I watch her Grace sink deeper and deeper into hell. I have witnessed many births, but none quite like this. For hours she has struggled, wracked with pain as she tries to bare the child. But still he does not come. The midwife is almost as distraught as myself; she knows if anything happens to her charge, then her life may well be forfeit. The repercussion if Margaret and her child were to die are too catastrophic to even think about. England would be thrown headlong into another civil war.  The King in his present state,  would be unable to defend his realm, and even his crown from those whom would wrest it from him.

My affiliation to the royal family is all that protects me from the flames. I know this well. Most of England thinks me a witch, a dark sorceress who has the queen under her spell and uses her to my will. While this is not true, I know that were Margaret’s protection removed, I could well find myself at the stake. I cannot let it happen; I cannot let her die this way. I frantically think of what I can do, how I can help her, and decide as I watch her ashen face struggle to retain consciousness, that drastic measure are required:

“The queen needs air; all of you please step outside for a moment”

I fix Lady Harrowden with a look she knows well.  She ushers the gawking ladies that surround the queen’s bed out of sight and into the ante chamber and I quickly turn to the midwife and fix her with a gaze that is enough to quell any. My eyes shine momentarily golden as I look at her fearful expression:

“If aught that happens is this chamber is ever uttered from your lips, your family will all be struck to the grave within an hour of your doing so, do you understand me?”

The midwife nods, now looking petrified, but I pay her scant heed. I pull the silver dagger I always carry from my belt and put the point to my palms. Dragging the blade into my skin, I carve an ancient rune that appears in scarlet rivulets as my skin breaks, the shape of the snake now gracing my palm. With a deep breath I put my hands on either side of Margaret’s swollen stomach, the blood touching her sweat drenched skin and I begin to mutter in Latin. A plea to the river, one I have never felt the strength enough to summon before, and I fear our last hope of this chamber becoming one of happiness and not of doom. I shut out the rest of the world, every fiber of my being concentrating on the incantation I recite. This has to work, it simply has to. The blood curdling scream that rips from Margaret’s throat momentarily brings my blood to freeze before I open my eyes, the golden glint gone and see the midwife lurch forward with a cry that she can see the head.

My hands shake, slumping slightly before using the little strength I have left to pick myself up and resume my seat at the queen’s side, the sound of the midwife summoning the ladies back into the room to see the babe born, barely registering in my head, as the ladies file back in all looking relieved, all but one.  The Duchess’ eyes meet mine, narrowed with suspicion, noting my pallor and she stands watching the child finally rushing in to the world with a lusty wail, straight faced but with a gleam of defiance on her usually timid face.

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Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter:  

I hear the midwife cry out, “A boy, your grace! It’s a boy!” My heart sinks as I watch the midwife hold the wailing babe in her arms, “A beautiful and strong baby boy.”

I move myself back as the other ladies gather around the Queen all speaking at once in excitement over the wails of the babe. The midwife growls for them all to step back and to give the Queen some air. My eyes once again meet those of the Witch, whose face white as a ghost’s only moments ago, now floods with color. I watch a small and mocking smirk begin to grow on her lips. She was safe, the Queen will live and the babe is a boy, worst of all a healthy boy. The Witch’s eyes never leave me as I quietly move out of the room into the hallway, leaning up against the wall. What is my father going to do now?  The House of Lancaster endures.

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 By Jacquetta Woodville, Anne Plantagenet, Queen Margaret of Anjou

Stuffed Cod (Wars of the Roses)

January 24, 2014 in News, Wars of the Roses by Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York

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Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York

Richard, Duke of York paces the floor waiting for his nephew, Richard, Earl of Warwick. He pokes the fire and adds a few more logs to make sure the room will be warm and comfortable. His cooks have set up a feast with roast venison, eel, wild boar and game pies. He drinks some claret, the best he has imported from France. The king made a grave error aligning himself with Somerset and trying to take Cardiff from Warwick. But the king’s misguided loyalties were York’s gain because an alliance with his nephew meant a large army supporting York. Richard did not want to take the king’s throne, just to show him the folly of always listening to counselors who did not have England’s best interests at heart such as the late de la Pole and Somerset.

Richard see’s Warwick and his men riding up and he goes outside to greet him. His grooms takes the horses and Richard greets his nephew warmly. ” Welcome to Ludlow, I hope your ride was uneventful. Come Richard, get cleaned up and let us share bread.” He nods to his servant to pour the earl a goblet of his best claret and has him take Richard to his chambers to wash off.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

I’m off to Ludlow Castle. The ride long, I venture to my Elizabeth before heading out with my men to meet the Duke of York. Married to my aunt, the man hardly knows me, but that matters not. We will confer, band with my father as a united front, and deal with King Henry and his favorites. As I lay in bed after taking her hard, I look to the woman who fills me whole. My God, she is exquisite. Our babe now crawling, my heart fills at the sight of her. I laughed when I first looked upon her unruly black curls. Yes, my Elizabeth is loyal. The child can’t be denied. Thankfully my daughter Margaret looks just like her mother. I dare say I will not have any trouble finding a Baron or Earl to marry her, though the dowry will be high for a bastard child. I worry not of that. She is well worth it. I draw Elizabeth in close and run my fingers through her long red hair. Heavens, I can feel her heart beat. I wish I could live in the moment forever, but duty calls. As she gently sleeps, I kiss her forehead and quietly draw myself out of bed. My God, t’is cold. I quickly dress, leave a pretty necklace for my beloved on the bed stand and leave as I have many a time before. Poor lass, what she gives up for me. I dare say I do not deserve her.

For three days and nights my men and I venture forward. Damn this rain. Mud abounds, but we push on through it. With little sleep afforded at the dreary inns we settle for along the way, the sight of Ludlow in the distance is most welcome. God willing, the good old Duke will have baths drawn, as a more filthy, cold and wet band of men there never was.

As we ride up, I notice the Duke awaits us. Ahhhhh, t’is a good sign indeed when a Duke awaits outside for an Earl. He must be wise to why I am calling, or at least hopeful. I smile wickedly. These men of high places. They always are seeking the advantage. I snicker. Well, so do I. Not satisfied with the meager crumbs the King throws my way and irate at what His Grace has stripped from me, I look another way. The Earl of Warwick bows to no man unless it suits my purpose. So today, I will bend a knee to the Duke of York. Why? Because he is a better man? No, because he is my way to gain advantage, to retrieve what is rightfully Warwick land, and to make this man Protector of the Realm. Owed much, my power will eclipse the damn Somerset. That pig will fall, and I will push him off the cliff I do swear.

I ride my horse within a mere distance from the Duke and dismount. Here’s my chance, and I will not miss it. I bend a knee, remove my cap and drape my cloak. ”Uncle, t’is my honor to see you fine man.” As he bids me rise and expresses welcome, I smile broadly. ”Thank you, Uncle. Do excuse my appearance. The ride was long, the weather dreadful.”

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Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York

My servant hands my nephew a large goblet of my finest claret, I want everything to be perfect for our discussions at dinner. ” Richard, my servant will take you to your chambers and settle in all your men. I hope you will find everything to your satisfaction. If you are in need of anything, please advise my man and it shall be yours. I shall await you as you get settled, hot water has been put in a tub for you with medicinal herbs your aunt insists soothes wary muscles. Relax and then come join me. I have much I wish to discuss with you. ” I smile and give my nephew a most welcoming hug.

I go into my study looking over requests from tenants and wish Cecily was at Ludwig to manage things so I can give my full attention to the unraveling disaster in France. I feel the bile rising again at the thought of all the land Henry lost to France. The work of our king’s father, all gone with the swift hand of his incompetent advisors and his own weak, spineless will. He is no king but a monk. I slam my fist at the table thinking of the pestilence that has plagued England with Somerset and the French queen at the helm. I hear footsteps and look up as my servant shows Warwick in. ” I hope you found your chambers comfortable and that my man brought you anything you needed. You must be hungry, the cooks have been well trained by your aunt and all the platters have been laid out. ” Richard follows me to the dinning hall and we take our seats, the wine flows freely, and Richard is served the tastiest morsels first. I spear into a large piece of venison and look up into my nephews face. ” Richard, a toast, to family and new alliances .” I smile and touch his goblet with mine.” Oh and let us not forget to the end of the rule of the queen’s lover, Somerset. May he rot in hell!” It is hard for me to read Warwick’s eyes, he gives nothing away but together, with his father we are unbeatable. ” It grieved me when the swine tried to steal Cardiff from you. He is reckless and a fool but the queen listens to every word he utters. It is time for Somerset’s reckoning. But where is our king? No one has seen him since he was given the news of his defeat in France. What say you Richard? What council do you have for all of us who are loyal but seek to remove the king from their influence?” I look at him very seriously, waiting for his thoughts for with my nephew’s help, we can change the failures of the king.

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Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

This feast and the claret are the finest in the realm, and I feel courted like the long awaited King from a foreign realm sought for powerful alliance. Do I keep the man guessing? Make him grovel for mine resources and those of my great father? No, this is not a game of chess, not an archery match. The Kingdom is in the balance. As the Duke speaks, I nod in hearty agreement with his assessment of the King’s foolish choices and poor battle strategy. T’is a good thing we are not all speaking French this day already, the King’s incompetence is so profound. As the Duke asks for my council, I answer him honestly. If we are to be in this together, our frankness with one another starts now.

”Uncle, mine spies do say rumors fly throughout the court, tongues wagging all around. They say the Queen’s belly is filled with Somerset’s seed, not the King’s. Do the rumors speak truth? I care not. Just the inference is damning enough I dare say.” I take a long drink of claret and add jokingly. ”His Grace and the Anjou She-Wolf have been married several years, Uncle, with no issue. I fear the man’s cod peaks not, shriveled from lack of fornication.” We both laugh heartily, the Duke slapping me in the arm for good measure.

”In all seriousness, Uncle. My father, the great Earl of Salisbury and I met and discussed our situations. While Somerset is granted lands for centuries hence were Warwick owned, my father deals with the Percys, pigs also granted great favor by the King. He throws us not the bone his dog picks from the floor at his feet.” I pour more claret and add, ”And France, t’is a down right disgrace. Somerset, the fool he is, leads men like a woman of feeble mind.” At that thought, we laugh again.

”The King’s gone mad. There is no other rational explanation.” I pause and swallow hard. ”So, with this I tell you, my father and I commit our heartfelt alliance, with all out men, our horses, our weapons, and every resource we have, to you and the York cause.” I raise my goblet in toast. ”God grant us victory, and God save this blessed realm from the leadership of fools and minstrels.”

Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York

” Here, Here, Richard, with all the resources that you and your father bring, we are assured a great victory. England will be the mighty realm it once was when it was the father that led us and not his witless son who is more monk than king.” After hearing my nephews words, I relax and feel the weight of the world lifted from mine shoulders. Warwick and his father are known to be great commanders whose men follow them unquestionably. I pour us both more wine and savor the velvety warmth as it rolls down my throat. I eat with relish now and look forward to the next course of food. The smells from the kitchen and the heat of the crackling fire make me want to linger in the dinning hall all night.

” Richard, I agree with you, the king has never been missing for this long, God only knows what Somerset and his French concubine have done with him. I put nothing past them, especially with his evil seed growing in her belly. The good people of this realm have the right to know about the bastard she so proudly carries and as you nobly put it, the monk’s cod peaks not.” We both laugh loudly, the effect of the claret has loosened our tongues. ” Tis a great night nephew, good wine, good food, good company and a strong alliance. Let us drink more and come up with our plans to slaughter the Somerset swine. ”

warwick scheming women

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

A little drunk now, I rise my goblet in toast and smile broadly. ”Uncle, the Anjou whore rules this realm in truth, both Somerset and His Grace lapping at her feet like dogs. A She-Wolf, that is what she be.” I take a long swig of the claret. ”They are but cockholds, shriveled little dicks, rising only at her command — and then not much, the codpieces stuffed so say my spies.” He smiles, and we have a hearty laugh. ”My wife the Countess and my beloved Elizabeth, they know their place as all women should, deferring to my ways, my choices. If I want a lay, they lay, how we lay, I say — and they lay only with me.” The Duke smiles knowingly, as all real men rule their women same.. ”This She-Wolf whore needs to be put back in her place. She is merely a consort and a lowly one at that. When a woman rules this realm, we will be damned.”

 

~~~~~ Fade To Black ~~~~~

 

 

 

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