A pox upon them all. I might even welcome back the Great Plague if it would rid us of these traitors who would work the king like he were their puppet to put on a show. They have him dancing to their tune for their own amusement.
The Great Plague. No. That pestilence was God’s own plague upon us. Now we are plagued instead by men. And a woman. All that I would do is see this country set right once more. Under Suffolk and now Somerset, King Henry has watched his father’s empire crumble and his country descended into bitter, unbridled rivalry.
When I sought only to end the warfare that shattered the king’s peace in the west country, my aid was viewed as aggression. I would have shown Somerset aggression had he displayed the nerve to take the field. Instead he displayed the cunning not to. Three armies scrapped their way through his lands and he raised not one finger to halt it. I raise my hand to restore the king’s fragile peace and am called traitor for my troubles. That Devon and I were able to ignore the king’s summons to Coventry to answer his charges tells its own tale.
Only last year I swore my obedience to Henry, assuring His Grace that my dismay lay in the advisors who worked to subvert his glory and drain away his estate. In short, in Somerset. I raised a force and Henry and I were arrayed before each other outside the walls of London. Straying so close to treason was, I think, more than I intended but my blood was hot, so help me God. I recall the delegation that he despatched to me. The Bishop of Winchester, the Bishop of Ely, my own wife’s brother Lord Salisbury and his son Lord Warwick, all soft smiles and sweet words to hide their steel. I asked only for Somerset’s arrest and punishment for his treachery. Like a lamb I went to the king when he agreed to my terms. In truth, I had little choice. I know it is likely that I should have lost any fight that day, but I had my victory still. So, like a lamb I went to the butcher, only to find the wolf at his side, licking his lips, for the queen had intervened to prevent Somerset’s arrest. In his place, it was I who rode into London displayed as a prisoner. It was I who was forced to swear my allegiance again to Henry at the high altar of St Paul’s for the enjoyment of all who watched. It was I who was forced to vow to never again take up arms against the king. It was I sent away to my estates at Ludlow in exile once more from the court.
From that day to this I have done little but watch. Cecily tells me that I risk too much turning my thoughts once more against Somerset. It is true enough. My sons have as much to lose as I do and I cannot risk it all when I have given my oath so plainly. My honour is one scrap of my soul that shall never be theirs.
If good can be perceived in my failing, then it is that Henry was spurred to look over the sea to his shrinking empire and dare to believe that he could win it back. For all that his uncle Humphrey and I willed him to fight for his father’s legacy it took his defeat of me to finally cause him to believe that he could, and should, do it. I may draw some comfort from that in time.
I watch also as the queen’s belly swells. She finally carries him an heir. Please God that it be a son to settle the discontent that festers within these shores, bred of uncertainty and fed by weak rule. My eye rests not upon the throne. No. That is Somerset’s whispering to the king and queen. Had I wanted the throne it would have been mine years ago. I have wealth and power of my own handed down by my descent from king Edward, the third of that name. York is a name of power. Somerset has nothing but what the king gives him and so he whispers and flatters to keep that which he has and to gain more. Like a dog he will bite any who seek to take it from him. I can only hope that he may one day turn upon the hand that feeds him, yet I measure him too shrewd for such a mistake. Perhaps a son will settle the king’s mind and open his heart to me once more.
The place of highest honour at his side is mine by right, it is not the station of Somerset. I see the harm that is done to this kingdom. I watch as the corruption that contaminates the court seeps out into the country, infecting every corner of this land. Somerset is the snake, the viper in the nest, and the poison drains from his evil mouth into the mind of the king to the ruin of us all. I would see that ruin made good once more. That is all.
Still, I watch. I do not know what I watch for, but I am vigilant. England deserves better than this king has been. England needs better. I can only hope that Henry has begun his climb to meet the high expectation of his office. I shall watch him clamber upward for now, for that seems all that I am fit to do these recent days. Cecily reminds me daily that with my patience will come my opportunity to serve the king again. My constant prayer is that she is right in this. I do not know for how much longer I can bear simply to watch.