Archive for July, 2010

Warwick to Clarence: u all set?

Clarence to Warwick: Yep. He sspcts nthng.

Warwick to secret mailing list 2: Pls snd mn & wpns. Urgent!

Edward IV to Warwick: Trouble?

Warwick to Edward IV: Nothing I can’t handle.

Warwick to secret mailing list 2: Op Rbn of Rdsdle is GO!

George Nevill to Warwick: kng at Middleham.

Warwick to George Nevill: gd wk bro!

Warwick to secret mailing list 1: Have king in custody. I’m in charge now. On way to Ldn.

George Nevill to Warwick: Hv hd to let kng go, soz.

Warwick to George Nevill: We’ll talk later.

Warwick to secret mailing list 1: Change of plan.

George Nevill to Edward IV: Hope u didnt take all that seriously!

Edward IV to George Nevill: No, still rofl!

Edward to Warwick and Clarence: am at Cvntry. whr r u?

Warwick to Edward IV: Be there soon.

Clarence to Warwick: Ned thnks were on way! lol

Warwick to Clarence: dumbarse! lmao

Warwick to Montagu: need u on my side bro

Montagu to Warwick: No way!

Duchess of Burgundy to Clarence: George, call your brother!

Clarence to Duchess of Burgundy: Stay out of it, sis!

Edward IV to Montagu: whrs wrwck?

Montagu to Edward IV: no idea. he’s not with u?

Edward to Clarence: get back here now!

Clarence to Edward IV: soon as ok?

Warwick to Thomas Stanley: gonna nd u soon

Thomas Stanley to Warwick: Sorry, who is this?

Warwick to Clarence: wtf! Stnly not helping!

William Conyers to Warwick: All is lost! Bailing out.

Warwick to Montagu: was that u??!!

Montagu to Warwick: jst dng my jb

Warwick to Countess of Warwick: get girls ready. got to go now!

Warwick to Clarence: whr r u?

Warwick to Trinity: on my way

Warwick to John Wenlock: on my way

John Wenlock to Warwick: Here??!! wtf??!!

Clarence to Duchess of Clarence: pick you up about 8 ok?

Duchess of Clarence to Clarence: whr we going?

Clarence to Duchess of Clarence: Calais. luv u!

Duchess of Clarence to Clarence: OMG! what’s going on?

Clarence to Duchess of Clarence: cu soon. luv u!

Duchess of Clarence to Countess of Warwick: Mum? wtf going on?

Countess of Warwick to Duchess of Clarence: Holiday. don’t wrry

Duchess of Clarence to Warwick: Dad?

Warwick to Duchess of Clarence: wht yr mthr sd

Edward IV to Clarence and Warwick: whr r u?

Clarence to Edward IV: just coming

Warwick to Edward IV: nearly there

Warwick to Trinity: b redi to sail

Warwick to Montagu and George Nevill: cu both when I get back!

(from an idea contributed by my husband)

“Have you given any thought to the troubles in England?” Louis the Eleventh said to Margaret of Anjou.  “I mean, how you might exploit them?”

“I ‘ave not zought of Angleterre for many years, your Majesty,” Margaret lied through her teeth. “It is ‘istory, gone, forgotten. I ‘ave my son to zink of now.”

“Oh, come now, surely you’ve considered it! And with your old friend the Earl of Warwick…”

“‘E is not my friend!” Margaret stood up shrieking, stamping her foot and balling her hands into fists. “‘E is a ‘orrible man and I ‘ate ‘im!”

Louis looked at her with a small smile on his face. He liked being a puppet master, pulling their strings and watching them dance. Or, in Margaret’s case, throw yet another tantrum. He thought her at her most French when she did that. Perfectly delightfully Gallic!

“Still, worth thinking about…” he said.

Margaret wished she could think about something else. All day and all night she thought of him her only true love. Ah, Monsieur Warwick! she thought now. If only I could get my ‘ands on you!

Isobel Nevill was nervous. This was to be expected because she was first and foremost a bride and a very beautiful one. Even her little sister Anne, who sometimes she resented and didn’t like very much, told her she was beautiful. Sometimes she thought Anne was a fool! for being so nice to people.

“I wish I could marry the love of my life,” Anne said with a sigh. “Especially against the king’s wishes! How dreamily romantic!”

“I don’t know who’d want to marry you, Anne!” Isobel said haughtily, secure in the knowledge – nervous or not – that George, her bridegroom, was very handsome and that Daddy was going to make him king.

“Richard or Dickon would!” Anne muttered. “He told me.”

For a moment she allowed herself to remember the frail and angelic® young man she adored, and had adored since she was a tiny girl. She would marry him, she thought decisively. One day…

George, Duke of Clarence, was fighting for air. His soon-to-be father in law and personal kingmaker had him pinned to the wall by his throat. “You will not get drunk! You will not say anything stupid! You will not make off-colour remarks about my daughter! Or ogle the serving wenches! You will behave yourself like the prince you are or you’ll have me to answer to, do you understand?”

Clarence looked at Warwick. He was terrified of him but he adored him nonetheless. Like his little brother, Richard or Dickon, Warwick was his Hero. But whereas Richard or Dickon also had their brother Ned, the king Edward IV, as a Hero, George only had Warwick.

“I promise,” he said in a strangled voice. “You know I love her.”

Warwick let his young cousin fall to the ground. “You’d better!” he spat. “They may be my pawns, but they’re also my daughters and I love them more than anything in the world!” And he stalked away like the protective father that he was.

“Maman,” the young Prince of Wales said to his mother, who had once been queen of England. “When am I going to be king?”

Margaret wrapped her arms around him and pulled him to her bosom. “Oh my darling!” she said. “Maybe you will not. ‘Ow can you be when zings are as zey are?”

“But Uncle Louis says there’s someone who can help us. The Earl of Warwick…”

“Don’t say zat name! You do not understand ‘ow it pierces my ‘eart to ‘ear it!”

“I want to be king, maman! And I shall be! There will be lots of heads to cut off, you’ll see! I’ll make you proud of me! Even if I have to go to England myself!”

Oh my son, Margaret thought, her heart breaking. You will never know ze truz. Zat zis earl you speak of is your real fazer. It is a secret I shall carry to my grave!

“Run along and play,” she said. “I ‘ave some zinking to do.”

Later that night, when the festivities were over, the dancing done, the ceremonies completed, Isobel, now Duchess of Clarence, lay exhausted in her husband’s arms. She was flushed and glowed with a slight sheen of perspiration. If this was marriage, she wanted some more. Gently she woke him up and whispered in his ear. He laughed delightedly and kissed her. All day he’d gone without a drop of drink and it had bothered him a great deal until this moment. Lying in bed with a beautiful, compliant and above all surprisingly lusty woman in his arms was much more enjoyable sober! He had a feeling he’d be trying it again one day.

Louis IXth sat back in his chair steepling his hands. All would go as he steered it, this was his ship and more than anything else he was enjoying pulling on the ropes. If his secret plan to reconcile the earl of Warwick with Margaret of Anjou came to fruition, he’d be killing three birds with one stone, and that would be a personal best!

Dakota Fitzpercy watched the scene on the far side of the room through half closed lashes. The queen – and she pursed her lips in contempt to grant the brazen woman her undeserved title – was talking quietly and intently, the king – poor lamb! – listening, chastened and silent, to the almost sotto voce tirade.  Dakota, trained by the best in the business, caught only one word in three.

“.. may… cousin… is… friend… you… opportunity… he… kingmaker… he… his… your… queen!… not… tolerate… should…”

Dakota turned in her stool so that she could lipread, which she was also trained to do.

“Besides, his wife does everything she can to outshine me on every occasion.  She gives herself such airs, just because she is a countess born and I am merely the daughter of a knight and a wi… dowager duchess!”

“All will be well, my own heart’s darling!” Ned said, bending down to kiss Elizabeth’s hand. “If any slight you again, they shall live to regret it.”

The queen narrowed her eyes. “The chancellor…” She trailed off and turned away, as if reluctant to talk. What? Dakota thought, was she planning now. Ever since she was a young girl, abandoned by her natural father who, rumour had it, was closely connected to a once powerful northern family, and taken into the bosom of the Nevills of Middleham, Dakota had known where her loyalties lay. That was until recently, when she’d been wooed and seduced by an even more powerful and devious man than even they were. But that was a secret that would never pass between her lips. She must stay in deep cover, for the sake of both her masters. So lost was she in thought that she almost missed the queen’s next words. “I would be more comfortable if… someone else were chancellor.”

The blood in Dakota’s veins ran cold. She must warn him! But how? How to escape the cloying atmosphere of the court, where she must be at he queen’s beck and call twenty four hours a day? She would have to find a way! He must be warned.

All that afternoon she waited for her chance. Elizabeth, perversely it seemed to the young spy, kept her women cooped up in this room far longer than she was wont. They began to get on Dakota’s nerves and she thought if she heard one more simpering word, one more fawning compliment to their mistress’s beauty she would scream! But finally she was free to go. She threw down her embroidery and ran from the room, took the stairs two at a time to her own chamber, discarding her gown by the door and struggling into the breeches and doublet she kept within easy reach but out of view of prying eyes, pinning her tumbled hair up under a cap and slipping out of the palace by the secret way only she knew of. At last she was free!

In the palace yard, the sound of low urgent voices made her stop. Slipping behind a convenient pillar she sought the source. She caught a flash of silver gilt hair behind a cart and knew it to be the queen.

“We have a spy in our midst,” she said. “Someone is reporting my every word to our enemies. I am sure it is one of my women, but I have yet to ascertain just who.”

“It is only a matter of time before they are unmasked.” The other voice could belong to no-one but the queen’s bother, the devastatingly handsome Anthony Woodville who had set all the girls’ hearts aflutter. But he only had eyes for Dakota and had pursued her relentlessly since she first arrived in London. She was close to landing him, but if she were exposed as a spy! Getting to the archbishop’s house before anything bad happened was becoming urgenter with every second. Now it wasn’t just his safety that mattered, it was also hers! If she had time, she’d come back and loiter outside Anthony’s rooms in the hope that her dazzling beauty would make him forget himself and let something slip.

Her heart pounding in her chest, her breath ragged in her lungs, her feat pounding the filthy streets, dodging carts, vendors of tat and knicknacks and the questing hands of drunken sailors – for even disguised as a boy her flawless beauty could not be hidden – she made her way to the archbishop’s house. With the kingmaker out of the country, only she, little Dakota Shelby Fitzpercy, stood between the chancellor and ruin. But she was too late! That was the king’s horse in the yard, she’d know it anywhere – the only horse in England strong enough to carry the very tall man. She ducked behind a convenient pillar and watched.

“Hand it over!”

She could see them now, at the door of the house. The archbishop, resplendent in his robes, was frowning in confusion.

“I’m not leaving here without it!” Ned shouted. “You have upset the queen one time too many, cousin, and now it ends! And I want the name of the girl you have sent to spy on us.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Ned!”

“Yes you do! She is your protege, or your brother’s. It doesn’t matter. Either way, she will hang for her crimes.”

Too late! She had failed! And if she was caught here, all would be undone. There was nothing for it but to make her way to the docks, stow away on a ship bound for France and throw herself on the mercy of her new master. He would look after her, as he had promised many times in his coded letters to her. And, she thought stoically, if you can’t trust the king of France, who can you trust?

This is such a cool little book! I got it through Alibris and bought it because it looked interesting and it was cheap! (And because the Ned end of my library is seriously sparse.)

The book is divided into 12 sections, roughly chronological and each dealing with a different phase of Edward’s life and reign. Sections include: the Nevilles and the New Yorkists; Clarence and the Court; Gloucester and Scotland.  For each, there is a brief overview, contextualising the sources, followed by a comprehensive collection of snippets from contemporary and near contemporary writing. These range from obvious propaganda (the Arivall, various proclamations and newsletters), through some important chronicles to private letters. While I was disappointed at first at the size of the book – 147 pages – and the incompleteness of the snippets, as I read I began to see this as a strength – there’s a lot in it and each short passage can be followed up if a more in depth reading is required or desired.

One quibble I have (and I have it with a lot of books) is that Dockray almost inevitably follows any mention of Warwick with ‘the Kingmaker’. This starts to get a bit irritating after a while, but it really is a minor quibble. He very much lets the source material speak for itself, resisting the need to editorialise over much, though his sympathies clearly lie with the king.

I’ve been dipping into it, reading a few entries and putting it down, rather than ploughing through from cover to cover. Its greatest value to me lies in its structure and the wealth of material it contains – I don’t have to keep a series of scrawled lists (that I’m constantly losing) in order to keep track of source material. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this as a useful and interesting addition to any historical, particular WoR, library.

“More swan!” The newly enthroned Archbishop of York belched, thumping his fist on the table, causing the plates, cups, goblets, knives and the woman sitting opposite him to jump at the sudden unexpected motion of his fist as it hit the table. “And bring more wine while you’re at it!”

Next to him, his brother Richard Earl of Warwick smiled. He was glad once more to have the opportunity to display his wealth, even if it was on his little brother George’s behalf and not, as he much preferred, his own.  His wife, the Countess of Warwick, looking unusually splendid in a gown made from cloth of gold and small furry animals, was dripping with jewels and this too made him proud even though, if he stopped and thought about it for a moment, most of the money they had was hers to start with.

Suddenly and without warning a voice whispered in his ear. “We’re out of goose, my lord.”

He frowned. Out of gooose? How could such a thing have happened? This news cast a cloud over his enjoyment and his proud smile turned into a lowering frown and he spent the rest of the meal snapping at people and wishing he’d thought to order more geese.

John Nevill, now suddenly Earl of Northumberland (but not for long) smiled indulgently at his beautiful wife Isobel Inglodsthrope who sat next to him, shyly sipping at her soup. She was pregnant again and that made him feel proud and virulent. He loved her very much and scowled at any man who so much as looked at her and spent a good deal of his time thinking up ways he could kill them. She smiled shyly at him and his heart melted.

Anne Nevill looked at her cousin Richard or Dickon, still frail and angelic® despite being quite strong and healthy, through her half lowered eyelashes. She had such a crush on him and she noticed her sister, Isobel (not to be confused with Isobel Inglodsthrope) sneering at her a little as she often did. Anne never could quite figure out what she’d done to upset her sister, apart perhaps from getting born.

Warwick looked up to see Lord William Hastings come into the room, a look of sated lust in his eyes, followed by a blushing kitchen wench who had clearly been recently, and quite soundly, disshevelled. The Earl pursed his lips prudishly when Hastings winked at him thinking, I am not my lascivious cousin to so approve your besporting, my lord! You forget that I am a man who, through no fault of his own and the exile of his secret lover, has been forced to be faithful to his wife, who is pale and insipid. You forget also, I think, that your wife is my sister who isn’t and that I don’t leap from bed to bed with such reckless abandon as do you! There was not a woman in the place, he mused, strumpet or innocent, who has not been at the very least propositioned by the lusty lord. He flicked a glance over to his daughters in the next room, a tiny smile of pride and approval on his face when he saw that they were quietly, and chastely, flirting with the king’s brothers as he had ordered them. You may be my pawns, he thought with pride and approval, but you are fair ones at that!

When Isobel Nevill, older daughter and pawn of the Earl of Warwick, passed him yet another slice of meat, George Duke of Clarence heaved a contented sigh. If this is how she would be as his wife, such as her father had promised him one day she would be, it would be a happy marriage indeed. He reached for his goblet of wine with a weaving hand that was already drunk, and missed. Plenty more where that came from, he thought, and reached for a different goblet, this time clutching it and bringing it to his lips.

Next to him, his much more better behaved brother Richard or Dickon frowned disapprovingly. He adored his big brothers very much and hated to see George drink too much, which he did too much these days it seemed to Richard or Dickon. He was too much in awe of him. too doting, too frail and angelic®, however, to speak his disapproval. Instead he smiled at little Anne and thought: One day I shall marry you, fair maid, and we shall be the happiest couple in England.

“Let’s see the king top this!” George Nevill Archbishop of York, and mighty proud of that achievement, and Chancellor of England said to his brother.

“Hah!” Warwick gloated. “I’ve got more money than him, anyway!”

He looked up when there was a noise on the other side of the room – a chair being thrown to the floor, a table overturned, and saw his brother John glowering at Lord Hastings who had made the mistake of paying some trifling compliment to John’s wife, the beautiful and over-protected Isobel Inglodsthrope.

“Knave!” John snarled. “Whoreson! How darest thou besmirch my lady’s honour with thy foul words! Outside now! Come on, forsooth! Outside, and methinks I’ll wipe that leer from thy face, seest thou if I don’t!”

Watching the innocent flirting of the kingmaker’s daughters and pawns with her brothers, the Duchess of Suffolk sighed wearily. Why am I always put on the kids’ table? she thought. It’d be so nice to sit with the adults for a change, have a decent conversation, be leered at by Lord Hastings. Reaching out, she smacked the Duke of Clarence’s hand when he tried to snatch at the last slice of goose.

George Neville, Chancellor of York and Archbishop of England sat back in his chair, sighing with contentment and patting his almost full belly. This was the life! he thought. What fun to be the pampered and indulged little brother of the richest and most powerful man in England! He looked adoringly at his big brother, who smiled briefly and patted him on the shoulder. George sighed again. They’d be bringing in the pudding soon and he rather hoped it would be a big red wobbly jelly.

A couple of posts ago, I shared with you a letter written by George Nevill, archbishop of York to the papal legate, Coppini. This letter was written after a series of battles, some of which went well for the Yorkists and some of which when horrifically wrong. In the space of three months, there were five military engagements; three (possibly four if Hall is correct) members of the Nevill family killed, along with others with close connections; one was captured; two battles lost, a skirmish and two battles won; and three heads of loved ones had only recently been removed from public display. George’s letter, though of course showing the situation in the best possible light, is quite openly emotional. The letters I want to share and discuss here, from the earl of Warwick to Pope Pius II and Francesco Sforza, duke of Milan, are shorter, less emotionally honest but no less optimistic. They weren’t written to express the earl’s grief, but his assurances that he had the situation in England – and England itself – under control.

During this time of confusion, a whole flurry of letters crossed Europe, some trying to make sense of the situation in England, some attempting to win support. This first, written on 11 January 1461 (just 11 days after the death of his father), is a valiant attempt at presenting a united and confident front to the Pope in the hope of gaining his support and imprimatur.

In her Lady of the Roses, Sandra Worth has Isobel Ingoldisthorpe, John Nevill’s wife, comment critically on the wording of these letters, which clearly shows that their intent was either genuinely or deliberately misunderstood by the author. The use of the word kinsmen in the first doesn’t, in my view, distance Warwick from the deaths, but is used to encompass the whole gamut of relationships he had with these men – son, brother, nephew, cousin and brother-in-law.

Both these letters are from the Venice papers.

From Richard Nevill Earl of Warwick to Pope Pius II

Your Holiness must not be troubled if you have heard of the events in England, and of the destruction of some of my kinsmen in the battle against our enemies. With the assistance of God and of the King, who is excellently disposed, all will end well. We shall obtain either a fair and sure peace or victory, especially if you confer the long-expected promotion of your Legate. The people will then see that our adversaries, who daily spread lying reports, are false and not true men, for they scorn your authority and the Legate’s, and say the latter has no power and is no legate, adding marvellous falsehoods to make him unpopular, to the detriment of the Church and the King. If, according to your former letters, you value my allegiance and the allegiance of those who are conscientiously aiding the King and the Legate (in conformity with the statement of Dom Antonio della Torre, his Majesty’s ambassador), it will be necessary so to deal with us and the Legate that all may know such to be the fact, and that he may bear the [legantine] cross which you sent him, without envy and opposition on account of our two Archbishops and Primates, as Dom Antionio, the bearer can inform you. Be pleased to give him full credence, and do not desert me and the others you formerly received as sons, for eventually you will see us end well and devoutly. The King sends his recommendations and desires certain concessions, which Antonio will declare.

London 11 Jan 1461

(signed) Your said Holiness’s most devoted son and subject, R Earl of Warwick

I think the phrase ‘destruction of some of my kinsmen’ may raise an eyebrow or two when first read. I can understand that, he’s talking about (amongst others) his father and brother. But the purpose of the letter is not to express personal grief. We can’t know how badly that affected him, though unless one is prepared to see him as a cold hearted monster, I think it has to be assumed that he did in fact grieve. He wasn’t in a position, however, to wallow in grief, as he had a cause to salvage and a country to run. In fact, the phrase actually minimises the impact of the deaths, not to imply that any of the dead were inconsequential, but to suggest that those who were still alive were more than capable of getting the job done.  In a very short letter, Warwick mentions the king (in this case still Henry VI) four times, this cannot be accidental, and the final sentence referencing the king suggests strongly that Warwick is still very much in his confidence.

The second letter, to the duke of Milan, is even shorter.

Richard Nevill Earl of Warwick to Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan

Probably you have already heard from the Legate certain news from these parts with regret, from the good will you bear us all and our state. You may notwithstanding be of good cheer, for we hope doubtless to remedy everything, especially if the Legate be promoted by the Pope, as we trust. This would confound the malice of our enemies, who from lack of other means circulate among the people a thousand rogueries and lies against the authority of the Pope and the Legate. On this and other business we are again sending Dom Antonio della Torre to the Pope and to you, and beg credence for him. The promotion of the Legate is indispensable, if the Pope mean to aid the state of the Church and our just cause. We are devoted to the Pope and to the commonweal of his Majesty and the realm, which our adversaries endeavour to destroy. They will be prevented doing so if the expected favour be granted by the Pope.

London, 11 Jan 1461

Your Excellency’s son and kinsman, Richard Nevill, Earl of Warwick

To me, these are both clearly business letters and one wouldn’t necessarily expect them to contain news of a personal nature. Authors who use these letters to bolster a point of view that Warwick was somehow coldhearted, uncaring and mercenary are guilty of dishonesty and (at the very least) misunderstanding his position and the dire need he and his party had for outside support and to promote the appearance of internal cohesion.

“You what?” The Earl of Warwick couldn’t believe his ears. All his hard work, flattering the king of France, meeting all those young princesses – not all of them as beautiful as he might have liked – was now rendered all for naught. For not five minutes ago, in this Council at Reading the king had calmly and blythely informed everyone that he was married and had been married for months. Secretly! That had set the cat well and truly among the pigeons and now there was hardly a pigeon left alive!

The place was ablaze with noise, muttering and murmuring, each man turning to the next with a look of surprise and horror. Who was she? A nothing! A nobody! And her mother was a witch, everyone knew that. A witch who had used her wiles to marry a knight! No-one in the council chamber was happy, except the smugly smiling young king. Warwick just wanted to go over and wipe that stupid grin off the stupid boy’s face!

“I think you’ll all like her,” the king said with a wink. “I know I do!”

Later in his rooms Warwick was closeted with the unstable, frequently drunk and seriously disaffected younger brother of the king, George Duke of Clarence, who sat toying with his dagger. “How do we get rid of her?” he said.

“Oh he’ll grow tired of her soon enough,” Warwick said smoothly confident that the king would soon tire of the woman. “Then he’ll come running to me to find a way to be rid of her. He’s done it before.”

In his office in Westminster, George Neville Chancellor of England and Archbishop of York, sat poring over a whole pile of books which he hoped one would hold the secret to the key of getting rid of this peasant woman the king had married.  He wasn’t having a whole lot of luck which really annoyed him because luck was what the Chancellor liked third best in all the world. He liked food best, then the company of pretty girls, though of course he was entirely faithful to his vow of chastity which he’d had to take before they’d let him be archbishop. He had lots of them hidden in his house where no-one could see and he was getting fat.

“When do I get to be queen?” Elizabeth demanded, shrilly stamping her foot.

“Soon my darling,” the king said soothingly imagining what it would be like to take all her clothes off, which he didn’t need to because he’d already done it several times and he remembered that she was as beautiful naked as she was dressed, possibly even moreso. “Come to me my love and let us make sweet love. I will cover you with diamonds and kisses.”

Elizabeth pouted but she couldn’t stay cross with him because he was tall and handsome and besides, she couldn’t decide whether she liked the diamonds best, though the kisses weren’t bad at all really. She glided over to the bed and started to take her clothes off. And Edward’s memory was right. She was.

“So, I have to hate her?” the frail and angelic® Richard or Dickon said frowning. “But Ned likes her and I am fiercely loyal to him and always will be!”

“Doesn’t mean you have to like her,” George Duke of Clarence and his older brother said nonchalantly. “Warwick doesn’t.”

Now Richard or Dickon was confused. He frowned. He loved his brother Ned who was the king and his big brother but he also loved Warwick who was his Hero. “I’m awfully confused,” he said, frowning.

“Well, don’t be,” the Duke of Clarence said. “Just think of all the money you and I won’t be getting now because he’s going to give it all to her!”

Did money matter? Richard or Dickon thought. What importance did it have when put next to love, loyalty and family? He thought maybe if he went to sleep the ghosts he dreamed about every night would give him an answer.

“I know what it is to be in love,” John Neville said to his brother Warwick. “The lad’s young and the queen… Well, she’s a serious hottie!”

“That’s no excuse!” Warwick kicked over the table as he was wont to do when he was vexed, as he was now, sorely. “After everything I gave him! Does he forget who I am? Does he forget that I’m the ki…”

“Don’t say it,” John said, closing his eyes. “Please don’t say it! It doesn’t help matters.”


It didn’t help matters.

The boy is supposed to be sleeping but he is waiting for the man who comes at night and stands in his window, crooning softly to the moon. Beneath the castle walls, below the cliffs, singing her sad song in the crashing waves, looking up at the moon and her man on the window ledge, the selkie waits for his return.

“You loved me once,” she sings softly, “till the wolf came into your life, till the wolf stole your heart and marked your neck with the shape of her teeth. Come to me once more, my love! Come to me or give me back my bloody skin so I can be free!”

The boy is not afraid of the man, who comes on silent wings, the blood of maidens staining his lips, his eyes full of the light of love he bears for this boy, his son.  The child speaks of this not to his mother, who he knows will be afraid and angry. She will snatch him to her breast as she does on every occasion possible and whisper fiercely in his ear. “My son!” she will whisper fiercely. “You are my son!”

“Take me with you, Papa!” he cries out when the man, his father, unfurls his leathery wings and with a beat and a sigh flies away, back to the life he must live by daylight, back to the work and the toil. Away from the woman and the boy he loves.

The selkie sees the dark shape of her husband silhouetted against the bright moon of Falkirk and, with a sigh and one last tear, dives into the deep and prepares to take the long way home via the coastline.

In her room high up in the castle walls, the Queen of Night sees her lover and her heart leaps into her mouth. Why does ‘e come? she thinks to herself, her forehead pressed against the rough stones, blood trickling from a gash, down her cheeks like the tears they cry in hell. Why does ‘e torment me? And she throws back her head and howls.

“I ‘owl,” she howls, “for my lurver. I must go out and ‘unt! Only ze blood of an innocent will satisfy my ‘unger!”

There is a soft sound, like silk landing on stone, and a golden wolf bounds free of its shackles, down the tower stairs, growling at those who see it flash past, baring its teeth in warning.

“Queen’s in one of her moods, I see,” a lackey says. “We’ll be for it in the morning.”

The boy watches the speck until it disappears, then sees his mother flash by in the moonlight. I wish she’d take me with her, he sulks. I never get to do anything that’s fun!

But what she does, he cannot know. He cannot know about the babe snatched from its cradle, its bones crunched between his mother’s jaws; he cannot know of the innocent shepherd lad, roused by the disturbance in his flock who is hypnotised by those lupine eyes into doing things that would make him scream in the night when he remembered them, if only she’d let him live after satisfying her fiendishly French wanton lust.

The selkie sings all the way to the Thames estuary, all the way up the river to the house by the river.  She shifts her shape and stands, water streaming from her naked body, and goes into the house. In a room, her daughters lie sleeping. One day, she thinks, they will swim with me and I shall take them far from care, far from their father. I will return to my selkie husband and all shall be as it should.

The man is already home, already sitting in a chair, a glass of brandy in one hand a fine cigar in the other. He is weary from his long flight though he knows he cannot sleep. He thinks of her, of her, of her… Always her.

The boy crawls into bed and closes his eyes, dreams of taking to the sky with his father, his mother loping along far below. Together they will go somewhere, he knows not where, and then he will learn what is his destiny.

The shepherd lad will be found in the morning, surrounded by the rent and bloodied carcasses of his sheep.  The wolf moves on, snatching at a strumpet who stands in a doorway, disappointed with the evening trade, scooping a tapster from behind his bar, tearing to shreds an early waking milkman who’s las thought is “I wonder if the strumpet’s still up.”  At last sated, the wolf returns to the castle, slinks up the stairs and jumps up onto the bed, turns itself around three times and settles down to sleep, for there is no-one there to say, “Bad dog! Get off the bed!”

“You’re not going to believe what happened to me today!” Lizzie McWydeville said as she flopped onto her sister’s bed. “I just met the dreamiest guy!”

With a sigh of impatience, Anne closed her book with a snap and turned to her older sister.

“He’s so tall!” Lizzie gushed rolling onto her back, a languid hand on her forehead.  “And like totally hot!”

“So, the spell worked then?” Anne said.

“He was all you’re so beautiful! and I was all no my hair’s such a mess and OMG! I hope he didn’t see my shoes!” she screwed her eyes up in mortification. “They don’t even go with my dress!”

“Yeah, you’re such a dog!” Anne said sarcastically looking at her beautiful sister jealously because she was so beautiful and Anne was… Anne was just Anne! She sighed. Maybe she shouldn’t be so mean. Lizzie couldn’t help being beautiful, it was just the way she was made. But it just made her so mad that she got everything and Anne got nothing!

Lizzie blew a strand of silver gilt hair out of her eyes and closed them. “Oh, Annie! You should have seen him!”  She wrapped her arms around herself and hugged herself.  “I think I want to marry him!”

“Wasn’t that the whole point of the spell?” Anne was getting impatient now. Her mother never cast a spell to find her a handsome and powerful boyfriend! Just another example of Lizzie being Mommy’s favourite. It wasn’t fair!

“I’m going to,” Lizzie declared in a logical tone.  “I’m going to marry him! Just you wait and see!”

Over in France, the Earl of Warwick cast a quizzical eye over the young Bona of the Savoy. She’ll do all right, he thought. Ned’s really going to like her and he’ll be really pleased that I’ve found him the perfect prom date… queen.

“My friend really likes you,” he said boldly. “Do you like him?”

“I don’t know,” Bona said. “Maybe.”

“So that’s settled,” King Louis the Xith said rubbing his hands in triumph. “I’ll sort out the invitations.”

“Can you give this note to Margaret?” Warwick said shyly taking a note out of his pocket and giving it to Louis the IXth. “It’s just ah… it’s just ah…” Then he turned bright red and looked at his boots mumbling “it’s not important.”

Louis, who was a schemer and always up to no good, took the note and read it secretly. “I still think your hot!” It said.  “I can’t stop thinking about you.” Then it went on to quote the lines of some mooshy song that Lois had never heard of before. Louise watched as Warwick left the room, still looking at his boots and still bright red with embarrassment, and thought to himself “Hmmm. This is all very interesting!”

Back in England, Ned and Lizzie were holding hands. Ned was very pleased with himself for having found himself such a hot girl. Lizzie was pleased with herself becuase she was sure that Ned was more than he said he was. She had a sneaking suspicion that he might be the king in disguise!

“Can I kiss you?” he said shyly.

“Not unless you’re going to marry me,” Lizzie declared firmly.

“But I’m supposed to be marrying Bona of the Savoy!”

“Well then,” Lizzie pouted prettily. “You can’t kiss me then, can you?”

Then Ned had a really good idea. If he married Lizzie secretly, no-one would know and he could kiss her all he wanted.

So the next day, which was the 1st of May and the perfect day for a secret wedding, Ned and Lizzie secretly got married in a secret wedding. Then he kissed her and he thought, “This is a bit of all right!” so he kissed her again.

It was only on the way home that he thought, Uh-oh, Warwick’s not going to like this! But it was too late now.

(British History Online – Calendar of state papers relating to English affairs in the Archives of Venice, vol 1: 1202-1509)

Letter from George Nevill, Bishop of Exeter, Chancellor of England, to Francesco Coppini, Bishop of Teramo, in Flanders.

To the most Reverend, etc the Lord Francesco, by the grace of God Bishop of Teramo, our most holy Lord’s Legate in England

As something new has occurred here since your departure, I will write briefly about these events, as learnt by letters, from the lips of messengers, or from common report; although they are much incumbered and perplexed with many important matters.

On the 13th kalends of March [17 February] we fought unsuccessfully near St Albans, the details of which action would be too long to narrate, but I think it right to give a summary of the battle. Lord Berners [John Bourchier], brother of the Archbishop of Canterbury [Thomas Bourchier], with my brother Lord Montagu [John Nevill] and Sir Thomas Charleton, Knight, were captured and taken as far as York. Lord de Bonneville and Sir Thomas Kiryel were taken and beheaded, and many of inferior station on our side were destroyed. The loss on both sides amounts to well nigh 3,000 men. We however fled, and lost that puppet of a King—fortunate assuredly in this disaster; whereupon the puppet was carried off northwards and the country ravaged; at length the woman with her consort got to York, big everywhere of their not bloodless and unquestionable victory. Meanwhile Prince Edward, then commonly called Earl of March, was leading an army of 30,000 men towards London, where he made his entry with my brother the Earl of Warwick (who had escaped to him from the former battle) on the 3rd kalends of March [27 February]. He was received joyfully by the entire population, and at Westminster on the fourth of the nones of the month [4 March], at the demand, nay, by compulsion of well nigh all present, both Lords and Commons, he was appointed King; the ceremony of his coronation, for important reasons, being alone deferred. Thereupon, on the third of the ides of the month [13 March], he proceeded northwards with a numerous army, having a week previously dispatched my said brother westward to muster forces. The King and the brave Duke of Norfolk, with my brother, and my uncle Lord de Fauconbridge, took different roads, and at length joined forces near York. There, having recruited and marshalled their brigades, they forthwith marched towards the enemy, and at daybreak on Palm Sunday, not far from York, namely at Ferrybridge, a town 16 miles from that city, the attack commenced. The enemy had broken the ferry-bridge, and, occupying the narrow raft which our people had made after its destruction by handicraft, they stoutly disputed its passage, but we carried it sword in hand. Very many were killed on both sides, but at length the enemy showed their backs and many fell in the flight. That day’s battle was a great one; for it commenced about sunrise and lasted till about ten o’clock at night, such was the obstinacy and boldness of mortal men on the verge of a wretched death. At the town of Tadcaster, eight miles from York, very many of the fugitives were drowned in the river, the enemy having themselves broken the bridge in their rear beforehand. Of the remainder who escaped for the moment a great part were killed in that town, and in the city [of York]; and quite lately one might have still seen the bodies of these unfortunate men lying unburied, over a space nearly six miles in length and three or four furlongs broad. I understand that eleven lords of the enemy’s party perished, including the Earls of Devon and Northumberland, Lords de Clifford and Nevill, together with sundry knights; and according to the report of those acquainted with the particulars, the loss on both sides amounted to well nigh 28,000 men. Oh luckless race!

…to use the words of Lucan—a mighty people turning their victorious weapons against their entrails. Alas! we are a race deserving of pity even from the French, if indeed their breasts contain the smallest spark of pity for the blood of our people, who for civil and intestine war have thus set that hand which, if directed by a fitting leader against the perfidious enemies of Christendom, might possibly not a little have crippled their forces. But it is just that we—who, when so strongly urged by you and others to aid the army of the Pope against the foes of Christ, would neither contribute men nor money—should diminish our own wealth and shed our own blood in torrents for the sake of civil strife. But returning to the subject, the above mentioned puppet and Margaret herself, with her son, the Duke of Somerset and a few others, escaped to Newcastle, sixty miles north of York; though two letters have been forwarded hither, stating that the fugitives have been captured by certain knights, our adherents in that district. I cannot, however, venture to assert anything in this matter; but I fancy they will not easily get away.

I prefer you should learn from others than myself how manfully our King, the Duke of Norfolk, and my brother and uncle bore themselves in this battle; first fighting like common soldiers, then commanding, encouraging, and rallying their squadrons like the greatest captains.

After this, on the morrow, the eve of the kalends of April, our King with his army entered York peaceably, my brother, Lord Montagu, and Lord Berners, who had been left in the city when the enemy fled, having on that same day come to ask pardon for the citizens. I believe the King will remain there some time, to reorganise matters in those parts; whither I have bean quite lately commanded by his Majesty to betake myself.

I now hope that such storms will be succeeded by halcyon days, that a calmer breeze may rejoice us after such cloudy skies, and that we may at length reach the desired haven after so many wrecks. I will send news of further events, and hope you may return to England.

London, 7th ides of April [7 April]

George of Exeter