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Authors: Alison Prince

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BOOK: The Lost King
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The afternoon is for what the outdoor tutors call ‘sport'. I call it play, though it is only play when I am allowed to join in. We run and jump and dance and sing songs, but that never goes on for very long, because there are more serious aims. Edward is instructed in the proper way to throw a ball or a stone to hit a target, and he learns the formal moves of fencing, using a straight stick because he is too young for a sword. Yesterday, one of the huntsmen showed him how to fit an arrow to the small-sized bow that has been made for him. He found it hard to take the strain of the string, but the man was stern.

‘You must hold the bow steady, young sir,' he said, ‘so you can release the arrow cleanly.'

Edward went on trying, though his little arms were trembling. Sometimes I could weep for him, the way he works so hard.

We have supper at about four, after evensong. At eight the candles are lit and the curtains are drawn for bedtime. When I first came here, Rivers was surprised that I could read and seemed pleased. He gave me a list of instructions about preparations for the night. The boy must be ‘merry and joyous', it says, in the time before going to bed, so that he sleeps peacefully, with happy dreams. And that is right, of course. After a prayer, I tuck him into bed and tell him a story, then stay with him until his eyes are closed. I myself sleep as lightly as a cat, ready to wake at any sound, but little Edward sleeps deep and peacefully.

***

I help Annie in the kitchen while Edward is at his lessons. She is constantly busy, plucking fowls and butchering meat and making bread and cakes, but she keeps up a stream of conversation. Tom Owen, the youngest of the gardeners, said, ‘Nice to have someone new to all the gossip, eh, Annie?' Then ducked to avoid the mock cuff she aimed at him.

Annie is whipping cream for a trifle now, and I'm on the other side of the table, chopping a pile of parsnips. There's something I want to ask her.

‘Ever since I was small, there have been battles, but I don't really know what they're about. Do you?'

‘York and Lancaster, you silly girl. The Lancaster family ruled until our King Edward was crowned. Edward is of York, of course.'

‘Papa says the Lancaster king went mad.'

‘Yes. King Henry the Sixth. He was never much good at ruling. Should have been a monk really – always praying and singing hymns. But he got worse. Babbled like a baby, they say, didn't understand anything. His wife was running the country, but that couldn't go on.'

‘So they asked our King Edward to take over?'

Annie rolls her eyes.

‘For goodness' sake! Edward belongs to the
York
family, so he was the Lancastrians' enemy.'

‘Oh, I see. So they fought for the crown? And Edward won?'

‘After a lot of ups and downs, yes. It ended with a huge battle at Towton. They fought all day in a blizzard. Twenty-eight thousand men were killed. Twenty-eight
thousand
– can you imagine? While
that was happening, Warwick and his men took over London. He gave it to Edward like a pig's head on a plate. “Here you are, boy – a present.”'

‘Who is Warwick?'

‘Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Just about the most powerful man in England. And a treacherous piece of work if ever there was one. He was guardian to King Edward as a young boy, same as Earl Rivers is guardian to little Edward now. But Warwick deserted him when the Lancasters took power, and went with them instead – until old King Henry lost his wits. Warwick thought our Edward would probably become king then, so he switched back again and fought on Edward's side at Towton.'

‘Thank goodness for that.'

‘It wasn't Warwick's last change, though. One Christmas morning, the mad old king came downstairs, perfectly sane. Or so they said.'

‘Wasn't it true, then?'

‘Put it this way – the Lancasters needed it to be true. Their army had been wiped out. Warwick had left them. Henry had a baby son but he was too small to be any use. King Henry was their only hope, and a slender one, at that. Edward of York had everything going for him. But then he made his terrible mistake.'

Annie puts her bowl of cream, thick now, on a marble slab. She drops the whisk into the sink then sits down again.

‘What mistake?'

‘He married Elizabeth Woodville.'

I'm startled. ‘Our Queen?'

‘Our Queen,' Annie agrees grimly. ‘What a disaster. Warwick was furious. He had a French princess lined up to be Edward's wife. Stronger ties between two royal families, more power for both of them.'

‘And for Warwick.'

‘Exactly. But Edward was only twenty-two. That may sound old to you, Lisa, but men are not much more than boys at that age, and being king had gone to his head. You can see it, can't you? Everyone bowing and scraping and girls falling into bed with him at the lift of an eyebrow. He thought one more common trollop would be no different from the rest.'

‘
Elizabeth?
A common – '

‘Ssh!' Annie hisses. ‘Keep your voice down. All right, her family is aristocratic. But the Woodvilles are not royal.'

‘So why did Edward – '

‘
Marry
her? Funny, isn't it? He never married any of his other mistresses, not even Jane Shore, though
he still adores her. But you see,' Annie goes on, ‘Elizabeth's first husband, Sir John Grey, had been killed in battle and left her with two sons. She wasn't going to be any man's mistress – she wanted a new husband. And she was aiming at the top.'

‘How did she meet the King?'

‘Stood in front of him with her two young boys when he was out riding. Begged him to restore her dead husband's estate. He'd fought for Lancaster, of course, so his lands were confiscated when the York side won. Edward took one look at her and wanted her like mad. She knew it, of course – that was what she'd been hoping for. Wherever he went after that, there she was, looking beautiful and seductive. You know how she is.'

‘Well – yes.'

I blush a little to think of it. Elizabeth and the King were here not long ago, and he could hardly keep his hands off her, though she is hugely pregnant just now. But she is fabulously beautiful, with that blonde hair and sleepy, inviting eyes. At the evening meal, they were so taken up with their exchanged glances and laughter and touching of hands that food hardly mattered. They'd barely have finished their main course before Edward would push his chair
back and lead her up to their bedchamber, dessert left untouched on the table.

‘Elizabeth was more than willing to exchange kisses and caresses,' Annie goes on, ‘but any more than that, she went all prim. Said the joys of her body were only for the man who would marry her. It drove Edward mad. He wasn't used to being thwarted.'

‘So he gave in.'

‘Yes.' Annie looks thoughtful. ‘Maybe she promised to go on being his little secret – who knows? But the minute the ring was on her finger, she demanded her rights as the Queen of England. Next thing, Ludlow Castle is full of her relatives, all of them with peerages and high office. As you may have noticed.'

‘Like Earl Rivers?'

‘He was the first, but there are dozens more. Everyone in this court is either a Woodville or a Woodville supporter. Even Dr Alcock, though he tries to keep it quiet.'

‘What about Uncle Richard?'

‘He loathed the Woodvilles. Still does. But he had to keep the peace for Edward's sake. If you ask me,' Annie adds, ‘he'll be glad to get away to Yorkshire, out of it all. People up there love him. They say he
is a fair ruler – listens to complaints and requests. Clarence is still here, though, stirring up trouble.'

‘Who is he?'

‘Richard's elder brother. George, Duke of Clarence. He's so furious about Edward's stupid marriage, he's been conspiring against him with Warwick ever since.'

‘Warwick? You mean, he changed sides
again
?'

‘Yes. The marriage with Elizabeth wrecked his plans, so he rejoined the Lancastrians. And spread rumours that King Edward had no right to rule because he was illegitimate. Said he was the bastard son of an archer called Blaybourne.'

‘Annie!' I'm shocked. ‘Is that true?'

‘Heaven knows. But anyway, Warwick and Clarence led a Lancaster army against Edward, and won. They took Edward prisoner. Warwick suggested he himself should wear the crown, in Edward's place. But the public wouldn't have that. They threatened rebellion, so Parliament released Edward and said he must go on ruling.'

‘Did Edward imprison Clarence and Warwick?' I ask.

‘No,' Annie says. ‘You won't believe this, but he offered them friendship. Said they should write
the whole thing off as a misunderstanding and work together in the future.'

‘After they'd tried to kill him? But why?‘

‘Strange, isn't it.' Annie eyes me carefully, as if wondering how much to tell. When she goes on, I don't know what she's decided. ‘Clarence and Warwick were still working for Lancaster. They went to Margaret of Anjou, old King Henry's wife, who was back in France, and asked her to give them an army, so they could help restore her husband to the throne.'

‘And did she?'

‘Oh, yes. She never gave up fighting for what she saw as her rights. There was a tremendous battle. But Edward and Richard won.'

‘Uncle Richard? Did he fight as well?'

‘Yes. He was only seventeen – his first battle. There were more. At the last one, Warwick was killed. Clarence knew he was beaten, so he came to Edward and apologised.'

‘Was that the end of it?'

Annie sighs. ‘Will we ever see an end? But at the time, it was the end of the Lancasters. King Henry and Margaret of Anjou's son died in that same battle and he'd been heir to the throne. He was married to Warwick's daughter, Anne Neville.'

‘But she's Uncle Richard's wife! Was she married before, then?'

‘Yes, but not by her choice. She and Richard had loved each other since they were children, but her father betrothed her to mad Henry's son – the future king. A far better catch than Richard Crookback, youngest of four brothers.'

‘But after the battle, Anne was free again,' I say, wanting some good news in all this. ‘A happy ending.'

‘Not yet. Clarence knew Anne had inherited masses of land and wealth, so he said he was the elder brother and Anne must marry him, not Richard. Oh, what a quarrel there was! It went on for weeks. Richard was desperate to marry Anne. But Clarence tried to steal her by force. She escaped from his house disguised as a servant girl.'

‘Heavens!'

‘Edward had to give a judgement, as the King. He ruled that Anne would be Richard's wife and Clarence could marry her older sister, Isabel – with a share of the wealth and estates.'

‘So everyone was happy.'

‘Not quite. Margaret of Anjou had lost her son, her only child. And her husband – '

Annie's face clouds.

‘Her husband?' I prompt. ‘Mad old Henry?'

‘It was terrible, Lisa. Henry had been in the battle, though I doubt if he knew what was going on, poor man. Edward took him prisoner, and there was a great banquet in the Tower of London to celebrate the victory. Later on, when the King and Queen had gone to bed, we heard Elizabeth shouting in their room. Edward had said he was going out, and she was furious. She wanted to know what could matter to him more than his wife, after so long away. But he wouldn't tell her. He just said there was something he had to do.'

‘What was it?'

‘Next morning, the guards found old King Henry dead in his prison cell.'

‘You can't mean – ' I'm aghast. ‘Edward wouldn't do that. It must have been someone else.'

‘Henry was in the
Tower
, Lisa. Portcullis at the drawbridge, cannon all round the battlements, armed soldiers everywhere. Who else could have walked in there, unchallenged?'

Annie takes a breath.

‘Who else could have had the key?'

I feel cold to my bones.

A brother for Edward
17
th
August 1473

The Queen has had her new baby – and it is a boy, a little brother for Edward! Everyone was hoping for a boy, so there are great celebrations. Edward has two elder sisters, and the baby born last year was a girl as well, but she died within a few days, poor little thing. This baby prince is strong and healthy, and his name will be Richard of Shrewsbury.

***

Tom Owen was in the hayloft this morning, eating an apple and sheltering from the rain, when he heard
Clarence come into the stable below him with another man. Tom kept as still as a mouse, and heard every word they said. They were planning a new attack on the King. I said Tom should tell Earl Rivers, but I know he will not. Some things are too dangerous to meddle in.

Tom is like my father in many ways. Though he is not a doctor, he is skilled and careful, with strong hands that can haul a tree root from the ground or nurse a tender seedling. I like his curly brown hair and dark eyes and his straight white teeth. He likes me, too, but I must not fall in love with him. When Edward's new brother comes here, there will be more to do, not less – and royal children do not find much love and laughter except with the servants who care for them.

***

It is 1475 now. And I have been to London! For a few days, young Edward had to be his father's deputy while the King went to France. It seemed there was going to be a war, but they signed a treaty, thank goodness, so we are back at Ludlow now.

It was a lot to ask of a young child. Edward tried his best to be grown up, but he often looked strained and worried. The Queen was running everything, but whatever she did had to be agreed by Edward on the King's behalf. A pantomime, but a serious one.

Edward will go on living at Ludlow until he is fourteen. I am glad of that, and hope they will not call on him too often to perform these state duties. It is good to be back here. I never thought this castle would feel like home, but compared with the crowded, dirty city, it is tranquil and familiar, if not exactly welcoming.

BOOK: The Lost King
6.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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