“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!