Archive for June 29, 2010

Richard Neville, world renowned Kingmaker, paced up and down outside the rooms of Margaret of Anjou, queen of England, pacing nervously and wiping the sweat from his brow. Leaning against the wall in a corner in the shadows so he couldn’t hardly be seen leaned the Duke of Somerset, Warwick’s mortal enemy and evil councillor to the now mad king.

“Why are you pacing so nervously, my lord of Warwick?” the Duke of Somerset sneered. “What is going on in that room behind that door is no concern of your, surely.”

“It is the concern of all loyal Englishmen!” Warwick snapped stopping in his pacing long enough to glare at the Duke of Somerset who he hated a lot. “That could be the next king of England being born. Or queen! The king is mad and the Duke of York is too busy protecting England to be here so he sent me. I have as much right to be here as you do! Nay, I have more for I am loyal to my king and you are just a self-serving lackey.”

One day I will kill him, Warwick thought with grim satisfaction. I will enjoy that. He spent a few pleasant moments thinking of all the ways that this might be done, like stabbing or poisoning or drowning or smothering with a pillow or maybe dropping something on his head from a great height while he walked underneath, only the timing would have to be just right for that one to work, until a cry from behind the thick wooden door to the queen’s bedchamber made him stop. Somerset looked at him and smirked then went back to leaning against the wall. Warwick clenched and unclenched his fists and ground his teeth. But he didn’t have time for this, he needed to be in that room! Warwick went to the door of the chamber and pushed it open. It opened and he went inside. A shriek of women from inside almost thrust him from the room, but he had to see, he must see! Pushing past them he made his way to the bed and looked down at the exhausted woman who lay there like a limp rag that had been used to clean something up only it wasn’t something very dirty because she was a queen. Margaret was exhausted, her long blonde hair limp with sweat, but Warwick still thought she was very beautiful even when she wasn’t looking her best. Warwick sat down in a chair beside the bed and stroked it.

“It eez a little boy,” Margaret whispered exhaustively.

“What is his name?” Warwick said his voice almost cracking with love and emotion. He couldn’t see the baby as he had been taken away from the bed and wrapped up in swaddling blankets and would soon be taken from the room to his wet nurse which is what people used to do in those days so that the mother didn’t have to worry about the baby when she was busy being queen.

“Edouard,” Margaret breathed.

“Edward,” Warwick frowned swiftly translating the name from French into English so that he could understand it. “Why not Richard?”

“Ah, Reesharrr my love, that can be eez middle name peraps, no?”

This softened Warwick’s cold and flinty heart and he smiled at the poor exhausted queen.

They were about to take the baby away when Warwick stopped them and got up to go and look at him, he was a beautiful baby boy even though his face was screwed up and his mouth was open as if he was about to cry.

“He’ll be a strongwilled little one,” his nurse chuckled fondly. “I’ll have my hands full with this one.”

Yes, Warwick thought, you will. Like my mother, the countess of Salisbury, had her hands full with me. He is very like me, Warwick thought proudly. I will make him a man as soon as I get the chance. And the nurse took the baby away and Warwick turned back to teh bed to see Margaret looking at him like she loved him very much. Which she did.

“I have to go,” he rued. “Someone has to tell the Duke of York.”

“Ee will not be appy, I zink,” Margaret guessed.

“No, he will not.” Warwick got up and started to leave.

“You are pleased, no?” Margaret whimpered.

“Very pleased.”

“Zen zat eez all zat matters,” Margaret sighed. Outside the Duke of Somerset was still smirking. I will smash his silly face in one of these days, Warwick thought as he walked past him. Though it should be during a battle, then people will think that it was just one one of those things. If I kill him now, they won’t.

The Duck of York duked as the last plate whizzed over his head and smashed into the wall behind him. Long ago, the servants had scattered, terrified of the rage of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, who was very proud and imperious as well as being the most beautiful woman in England. The Duke of York thought she was beautiful too, even when she was angry. He loved her very much and it didn’t matter a fig to him what she did. He would always love her because she deserved so very much to be loved. He was also proud of her like she was proud only of her and she was proud of him and of her.

“A son!” Cecily shrieked. “Who keeps my lord and husband from his rightful throne of England! And keeps me from the very same crown which is also rightful?”

The Duke of York came towards his wife, his hands outraised in a peace gesture. He wanted to tell her to calm down, but he knew that would only make things much much worse, because it always did no matter whether the person really should calm down, and they were already pretty bad. About as bad as things can get really.

The Duke of York took his wife’s hand and tried to hold it but she snatched it away. “Don’t you care?” she said in a voice so low that it sounded like the vibration of a drum. “Don’t you care that it has all been stolen from you?”

“Yes,” the Duke of York said. “I care very deeply. I care more about that than anything except you. Oh, and our seven children.” He held out his arms and Cecily collapsed into them, her body still trembling, her beautiful face shining like an angry beacon. “I will be king one day, Cecily. I promise you. I. Will. Be. King.”

“You have a son, your Majesty,” the Duke of Somerset insinuated.

The king, still lost in a fog of madness didn’t look up, he just dribbled a little. He seemed to do a lot of that these days. Nobody understood why but they just let him because it gave him something to do.

“I thought you ought to know. Would you like to see him?”

The king looked at Somerset as if he didn’t see him. He blinked and looked again but he still didn’t see him, just a vague blur that could have been anyone. He could hear some words but he wasn’t sure what they meant. Maybe it was a dog barking. Maybe it was a man trying to tell him something. It didn’t really matter. The king just wanted to be left alone so he could talk to God. Maybe the blur was God and he should pay more attention. But he lost concentration again and went back to looking at the floor which is what he was looking at before he looked at the Duke of Somerset.

“I thought as much,” Somerset grinned. “Well, this is going to be interesting, isn’t it?”

At Ludlow Castle where he lived with his brother Edmund, Edward the Earl 0f March was tall and very handsome. He was also very sexually precocious for his age and had already bedded all the women in the castle and now had to look outside the castle if he wanted someone new to bed. They were always willing and most of them wanted to come back for more but Edward was easily bored with the same old women all the time and needed new ones. Edmund shook his head when he saw what he was doing. He loved his brother, but he was pure and innocent where Edward was experienced and not.

“I will pray for you, brother,” he said piously.

Edward grinned. He loved his brother even if he did get on his nerves sometimes with his preaching. “I wouldn’t bother if I were you, Edmund. I can get any woman I want and I don’t need you to pray to help me.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Edmund expostulated. “You should stop, you know, wenching.”

But Edward didn’t. Slipping on a disguise that couldn’t quite disguise either his tallness or his handsomeness he slipped out of the castle and went to look for a woman he hadn’t bedded yet.

The next day Warwick went back to Westminster to see his baby boy and the woman he loved. His heart was singing. That didn’t last very long unfortunately because Margaret, queen of England, had some very bad news for him.

“Zey tell me my usband the king eez getting better,” she purred. “And I weel ave to find a way to make eem believe zat ee is zee fazer of zee little boy.”

“But I am his father!” Warwick thundered.

“Keep your voice down,” Margaret glowered. “Do not zunder at me! I am still zee queen. You cannot be ze boy’s fazer.”

“Then I want to be the king’s chief councillor so I can be here all the time and see you and bring up my son in secret,” Warwick demanded.

“No,” Margaret shaking her head said. “Zat ees impossible. Zings must go on as zey are. Ze Duke of York must never suspect or ee will become my implacable enemy.”

“Do as I say or I will leave and never see you again!” Warwick insisted.

“I cannot,” Margaret whispered sadly.

“Then I will leave and never see you again!” Warwick turned on his heel and marched from the room.

“Goodbye my love,” Margaret said in a voice so low that nobody heard it. “Goodbye.”

When he had gone she went to see the king and showed him the baby boy called Edward who wasn’t his son but she had to pretend he was. “Look at your son,” she said.

The king frowned. “My son? No, he is the son of the holy ghost, surely. I haven’t done any of the things you need to do to, you know…” He trailed off and looked at her in confusion. “Have I?”

“Oui, mon Roi,” Margaret nodded convincingly.

“Oh,” the king said. “We’d better make him Prince of Wales then.”


It’s just struck me what a huge deal this book of mine is. I’m not talking about it being the Greatest Historical Novel Ever, but the scale is enormous and quite intimidating at times. Here I am, in the middle of 1455 and, depending on which way things go, I’ve either got sixteen years to go or more than forty! (I’m tending to think that Nevill will finish with Anne’s death and the story continued through to the deaths of the last Nevill widows in a second book.)

I don’t tend to write a lot of descriptive detail, which certainly helps to tip the prose towards the spare end of the continuum. That might not suit some readers, but it’s the way I like to read and write. In a way I almost want to release the story from its historical constraints. No, that’s not quite what I mean – the people involved were very rooted in their time, as we all are. What I think I mean is that it’s the story that counts, the people and the events, not the colour of the clothes, or the smells of the great unwashed, to name but two things that may be important to other writers and readers.

Even if I take the two volume option, this book is going to be big and publishers don’t often take chances on big first books. I’ve condensed time a great deal already to get three years into five chapters and, after first St Albans, there’s going to be a two year jump in time to John Nevill’s wedding, but there’s only so much I can or want to do in that regard.

My recent book and dvd purchases are going to be a great help, but there are still some gaps. I’ll get the new Edward IV biog when I can afford it; and I need a biog of George Nevill, archbishop of York, so if anyone knows of one, please pass the information my way – google claims ignorance on this.

There are other more practical problems that I’m going to have to find a way to solve. Things like: how was Westminster laid out, where were the various offices (eg chancery)? what was the physical layout of Calais at the time, including its administrative areas? These aren’t holding me up at the moment – I can write the scene (eg, conversation between Salisbury and York during the protectorate) and go back and flesh things out later. What’s important right now is to get the story and the dialogue down. And dialogue (I think) is my greatest strength.

With a cast of thousands, I’ve found that the trick is to keep each chapter fairly tight – work out the main theme and who might be involved while still keeping in touch with other characters, places etc. I don’t want it to get too compartmenatalised. The discipline of sticking to Nevills and their children & spouses has been interesting. If something’s going on somewhere and there’s no handy Nevill around then I can’t write it. This has its drawbacks, but in terms of keeping the story tight and under control, the benefits are enormous. Several of the chapters (eg first St Albans and probably Wakefield) will be told from a single pov. I’m hoping this will slow things down in areas where they need to be slowed down.

One of the first things I did was sketch out a quick plan of the book, dividing it into parts and working out what years those parts should cover. (Except I think it was a little bit the other way around.) To my astonishment and delight, I found that parts 1, 2 and 3 all began with weddings (or the days immediately following a wedding). I thought about part 4 (Anne Nevill’s story), which I’d planned to start with her dying thoughts and memories and wondered how I could swing a wedding in there without it seeming too contrived. But as it’s her thoughts and memories, she can remember whatever the hell I want her to! So part 4 gets to start with a wedding as well. All very symbolic and hope-for-the-futureful. Each of these weddings is very different from the others and should, hopefully, help set the tone for that section.

So my task now is to go back to the beginning with my new notes and do a quick rework of some bits. I’ll keep you posted.