Richard or Dickon, frail and angelic® younger brother of King Edward IVth sat in the garden sighing. He was doing this because he was sad. His brother George, Duke of Clarence, had gone, left the country with the Earl of Warwick and his wife and daughters. (The Earl of Warwick’s wife and daughters. Clarence didn’t have any yet. Daughters, though he did have a wife. And he had left the country with her as well.) This was upsetting Richard or Dickon’s brother Edward, King of England a great deal. He didn’t know how much, if any, it might be upsetting George.
This all made Richard or Dickon sad because he loved his brothers, though he loved Edward more than he loved George. He also loved his cousin, Richard Lord Neville of Warwick. He loved him more than George but less than Edward. He also loved the Earl of Warwick’s daughter, Anne. A lot.
He wished his brother had let him marry Anne at the same time that George married Anne’s sister Isobel (also the Earl of Warwick’s daughter), though he hadn’t let him marry her either. It was all making his heart ache so very much.
He wanted to go and talk to his brother Edward about all this, but he was somewhere between his wife, the Queen’s bedchamber, and that of his favourite mistress, Jane Shore. Richard or Dickon found himself sneering at both of them. He didn’t like wives who secretly married his brother and he didn’t like mistresses.
Will Hastings, Edward’s best friend and also on his way to see Jane Shore, walked past Richard or Dickon and winked. Richard or Dickon flushed with both embarrassment and anger in equal amounts. If his brother Edward, who he adored and who could do no wrong in his eyes, was going to have a mistress, he really should have checked first that she wasn’t someone else’s mistress as well, especially Will Hastings whose step son-in-law, who was the son of the queen from a marriage she had before she secretly married the king, was secretly aspiring to be the man whose mistress Jane Shore was. If they just stuck to their wives, as God surely intended, he’d fell less angry and embarrassed and Jane Shore would be out of a job – she’d have to go back to being the wife of an impotent man and just make the best of it, though Richard or Dickon did understand, because though he might be pious and faithful to his wife when he got one, he wasn’t entirely without compassion.
With a sad, angry, pious and embarrassed sigh, he got up and went to look for his brother the King.
“You are indeed a merry harlot, Jane!” the King said. He laughed and kissed her. “I’m glad I have such a merry harlot for a mistress, it makes a change from the others who aren’t!”
Jane looked nervously towards the door. Will Hastings might be coming in soon and though the King didn’t seem to mind him visiting her, there might be an awkward moment if they met in the doorway and neither of them knew which one should move out of the way first.
“Thankee kindly, sire!” Jane said, kirtseying in her kirtle and looking all the merrier for it.
The King blew her another kiss and left the room. It had been a good day, what with bedding both his queen and his merry mistress, but he was feeling a little tired. In the throne room his brother Richard or Dickon was waiting for him. He always cheered up when he saw his little brother. He really enjoyed being adored and he hadn’t quite had enough adoration this morning.
“Hail brother!” he said when he came in. “Well met!”
“Ned,” Richard or Dickon said hurrying towards him. “What are we going to do about George?”
Edward sighed. This was one of the three questions that had formed a rich motif and backdrop to his childhood, the other two being (from his father): “When do I get to be king?” and (from his mother): “And just who thinks she’s more beautiful that I am?” “What are we going to do about George?” had been asked equally by both of them but more recently, since their father’s untimely death some ten years earlier, more often by their mother.
“I don’t know,” the King sighed wearily.
“I don’t think it’s fair that he gets to marry Isobel against your wishes and I don’t get to marry Anne,” Richard or Dickon said.
Edward patted him on the shoulder. He felt sorry for his little brother. He knew what it was to love someone, several someones usually, but there really was nothing he could do.
“I know,” he said. “Still… Look, I’ll go talk to mother, she’ll know what to do.”
Cecily Duchess of York and Mother of the King was looking at herself in the mirror in her room. Though she was getting on a bit she was gratified to see she was still the most beautiful woman in England.
“It’s the bone structure,” she explained to herself. “A good pair of cheekbones can hide a multitude of sins.”
She smiled to think how quickly her daughter-in-law the so called Queen of England would age, what with her rounded cheeks and her bad bone structure. She might be pretty at the moment, but Cecily knew she’d look better at 80 than Elizabeth would at 50. She looked up to see her son the King lounging in the doorway.
“What are we going to do about George, mother?” he said.
“I don’t know,” Cecily said. “I’m a bit cross with him because he says you aren’t my son. He says I slept with an archer, not your father.”
Edward frowned. “That’s very rude of him! Did you?”
“Good,” Edward grinned. “So, back to my question.”
“Well,” Cecily said. “Maybe I could get your sisters to write to him telling him to stop being silly. He always listens to them.”
Edward nodded. “That’s a very good idea, Mother!” He knew she’d know what to do! He was glad he’d reminded himself of that or he wouldn’t have thought to come and ask her.
Cecily nodded as well. She looked her son up and down. He didn’t much look like his father, being tall and blonde. If she squinted her eyes a little and turned her head he did look at little like that rather dishy archer she’d once known in Rouen. Who she hadn’t slept with, she hastened to add. Of course not! But, if the Queen ever crossed that invisible line that only Cecily knew about, she might just change her mind about that.
“Richard or Dickon is a bit down,” he went on.
Cecily stood up. Not her frail and angelic® Richard or Dickon who was secretly her favourite child because he looked so much like his father!
“He’s pining for young Anne,” the King continued. “Maybe I should have let him marry her against my wishes as well. George seems happy enough. Well, except for the plotting, the rebellion and hastily leaving the country.” He sat down and his handsome face grew grave. “I just want my brothers to be as happy in their married lives as I am.”
Cecily’s face grew grim as well, but for a totally different reason.
“Sire, sire!” a breathless page panted breathlessly. “I’ve just heard news from France! The Earl of Warwick and your brother are secretly treating with Margaret of Anjou!”
This was terrible news!
“I shall have to go and deal with this crisis, Mother,” he said.
Cecily nodded and turned back to her reflection, relieved to find that, in the last few minutes, she hadn’t got any less beautiful.
As he left the room he thought, I wonder if I have time to see if there are any mistresses I haven’t visited today?