“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.