Archive for November, 2010

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading Michael Hicks’s new book The Wars of the Roses. He’s been my go to guy for a while now, though that certainly hasn’t precluded me from reading, enjoying and getting a great deal from the work of others. This new take on this turbulent time is not a disappointment. This, however, isn’t a review of the book. Rather it’s a brief look at some questions that have been thrown up – questions that I need to find a way to answer. It’s important to point out that whatever answers I come up with won’t be the right ones. They can’t be. If that had been a possibility, someone else – more academically qualified, with access to the primary sources and quite possibly with a better brain than mine would have found them.

This book has made me question a lot of the things I thought I knew. Not the facts, the events, but the people. The subtitle of this blog is An Antidote to Literary Cardboard Cutouts – the stereotypes, some of which I’ve battled against and some of which I’ve embraced over more decades of reading about (and attempting to write about) the Wars of the Roses than I care to admit to (in my defence, can I say I started young?).  Hicks has thrown me some loops and I’m trying to sort out the Nevills I know and love from the residue of those other Nevills that writers of historical fiction have used to plague and enrich the lives of their real characters. To my relief, I’m finding that a lot of the things I know I can go on knowing. The rest of it consists of barely formed questions that will lead – inevitably – to other questions.

The more I think about the task I’ve taken on, the more daunting it is. Not just because of the size and scale, but because – if I get it right – these could prove to be quite important books in the universe of historical fiction. Not, I must stress, because of any amazing talent on my part, but because (recent historical romance attempts notwithstanding) it will be the first, real comprehensive attempt to fictionalise the lives of people who, if they appear in historical fiction at all, are almost peripheral characters. The gods in the machinery of other people’s lives. So, I have to get them right, and not just historically right.

Hicks takes the revolutionary approach in his new work of looking at the Wars not as something with a start (say 1455) and an end (maybe 1485, possibly 1487), but as a time and a series of events that were lived through, influenced and caused by the people who lived through them. No-one was muttering “Can’t wait for 1485, then these bloody wars will be over!” Hicks contends that there were several times when people quite legitimately thought they were over. And this is where the questions come in.

1.  Why did the Nevills (Salisbury and Warwick in particular) remain associated with the duke of York between the collapse of the 2nd protectorate (1456) and the flight from Ludlow (1459)? That neither York nor Warwick was prepared to abandon Salisbury and his countess after the battle of Blore Heath – they could have taken advantage of an offer of pardon, the Salisburys weren’t included in it – is understandable. By that time, there must have been a sense that they were all in it together. Salisbury was Warwick’s father, after all. But before then? Leading up to that almost penultimate bout of plotting against the king and his government – why did the Nevills join him? York had tried three times previously, had had shortlived success once, legitimate power once and failed to the point of (at least in his eyes) exile and humiliating back down on at least three occasions.

Easy answers I’ve dismissed (at least as single-causes):

• Family loyalty . Salisbury wasn’t York’s only brother-in-law. He had others who didn’t associate themselves with him quite so closely. Though his sister’s Bourchier in-laws did from time to time, they weren’t consistent.  Other writers have gone with the “the Duchess of York was Salisbury’s favourite sister” line, but for me it’s neither logical nor sufficient reason, even if it could be verified.

• Anticipation of rewards. The Nevills have been described as ‘greedy’ by a number of historians, and this might be a reason why they’d be prepared to hang out with York, especially if they thought (despite their low numbers and despite their lack of sustained success) that he had a chance of winning. But they already a a bunch of stuff, either courtesy of their ability and/or sphere of influence (the wardenships of the Scottish marches, for instance) or their previous association with a York led government (Warwick’s Captaincy of Calais).

• Isolation from court. There is simply no evidence of this.

• The growing enmity of queen Margaret. This doesn’t seem to have been much in evidence until after the Act of Accord.

• The Nevills thought that York was the right person to lead the government. This is conceivable, but if it’s the case it requires a whole new look at the Nevills. From ‘greedy’ and ‘self-serving’ we’d need to make a radical shift, probably not quite to ‘altruistic’ but somewhere closer to it than they’ve traditionally been situated. It may well be that they thought themselves, what with that royal blood they seem to have been so conscious of, as the natural holders of government. Warwick certainly seemed to later on in the Wars. And York might have been their best chance of getting there. This also necessitates a belief that they thought him capable (despite evidence to the contrary) of gaining and holding onto power and authority.

I suspect this is a far more complex issue than any of the possibilities above and may well be a combination of some/all of them and more. But if I want to present an argument more convincing than “Cecily was Salisbury’s favourite sister”, I have to get to grips with this question and try and figure out an answer that not only has a logic within its historical context, but matches the internal logic of the story I’m telling.

None of these reasons on their own will do. While I firmly believe that very little is done for a single reason alone, frequently there’s one that proves to be the tipping point. That’s what I need to put my finger on. I haven’t found it … yet.

2. Why did Warwick’s daughters marry as they did?

I’ve said before that I reject the view of Warwick’s daughters as his ‘pawns’. This seems to me to be a very modern view of what must, for a lot of us, look to be the lives of young women very much in the control of others. It’s hard to know just how much power women had/felt they had within what we view as quite narrow boundaries. There’s strong evidence to suggest that individual women operated quite successfully and autonomously, without overwhelming restraints from their husbands. Others certainly didn’t and not all marriages were either successful or joyously happy, especially for women. The Salisburys, Warwicks and Yorks do seem to fit into the first category rather than the second – as in fact do Warwick’s sisters and, from the scant evidence I’ve found, his two married brothers. The Nevills seemed to have been good at marriage.  At some point in his life, Warwick must have realised that there would be no son. I’m not suggesting that he then turned his attention to his daughters in a ‘make do with what I’ve got’ capacity. But his future, and the future of his line (whether they carried his name or not) depended on them. The matches he made for both Isobel and Anne were contracted in order to achieve one thing – to make one of them queen. A lot of the time, we focus on what this might have meant for Warwick. Inheritance – and its flipside, the future – were hugely important to people at this time. I believe he was thinking at least as much of what these marriages might mean to the Nevill line and the Warwick line as he was for himself. He was treating his daughters’ contributions to the future of the family much as he’d have treated his sons’.

For Isobel, the question was very quickly moot. The Clarence option was fairly hastily abandoned. Clarence’s betrayal before Barnet must have hurt Warwick a great deal, though there was enough residual respect and, dare I say, affection for his father-in-law for the young duke to persuade Edward IV to offer one last pardon. Perhaps this was for the sake of Isobel. It must have been difficult for Warwick to contemplate the loss of his daughter at this point. Despite the awful consequences in the channel, with the loss of her son, he hadn’t left her behind in hostile territory. I think this is another important point that’s often missed – the importance his wife and daughters had in his life. So, there’s a kind of sub-question here:

•  How was the loss of Isobel coped with when Clarence defected to his brother? Especially if, as I believe, she played a substantial role in the reconciliation. What was her thinking? And did her father understand?

While later, after the death of her first husband, queenship must have been far from Anne Nevill’s mind, her marriage to the duke of Gloucester suggests that she shared her father’s way of thinking. Whatever it might have meant personally, dynastically it was the best match she could have made. Which leads me to another question:

3. How much, if any, did Anne Nevill influence her husband’s thinking with regard to his own chances of kingship? I mean, we’re talking here of a young woman who was brought up to believe that she had an important and significant role to play in the family’s future. Her children and her sister’s – even without the Nevill name – were to fulfill all the requirements of grandchildren for both their parents. For a few months, she was the wife of the rival heir to the throne – a throne her father was trying to secure for her. At 15, newly widowed, essentially orphaned by her father’s death and her mother’s retreat to sanctuary, a prisoner of her sister and brother-in-law, she negotiated a marriage between herself and the most powerful available bachelor in England. The best match she could possible make, someone who would look after her, her inheritance, her father’s legacy in the north of England and (she had to presume) the future of both the Nevill and Beauchamp blood, if not the names. I doubt she faced the prospect of being Richard III’s queen with any qualms or fear. Her son was to be king. Finally, she was to achieve for her father the dreams he had and must surely have passed onto her. Did she have any role to play in Gloucester’s decisions?

4. What really made Warwick make that alliance with Margaret of Anjou?

I’ve never been convinced that Edward IV’s marriage alone turned Warwick away from the king, as much as I agree with both Hicks and Warwick that it was disastrous. Foreign policy, a feeling that he was being shunted aside, loss of control of so much of what he’d held in the early years of Edward’s reign – all these (as well as his views of the Wydevilles) would have had some bearing very much on his relationship, and the break, with Edward. But that’s not the question. Why did he make the decision to restore Henry VI? The pathetic picture of the archbishop of York parading Henry through the streets of London in a shabby gown has coloured a lot of the way we think about the readeption. It was only shortlived, but it needn’t have been. Henry’s return was quite popular, both with the nobility and the commons. Had Warwick won at Barnet (and therefore perhaps Tewkesbury wouldn’t have been fought, or at least not a battle in that particular place with those particular outcomes), especially if the York brothers had been killed or captured, Henry would have remained on his throne, Warwick’s son-in-law and daughter, Anne, would have succeeded and Edward IV’s first reign would have been an interesting footnote to history. Of course, we can’t say all would have been peaches and cream – we’re talking about the earl of Warwick and Margaret of Anjou here!

I wonder if Warwick (besides the whole turning daughters into queens thing) might have started questioning – genuinely – the rightness of what he’d helped do in 1460/61. Did he perhaps, as well as everything else, start to think that maybe Edward IV had been a bad choice as king? Not for his dissolute life, or his bad marriage, or his quarrels with Warwick, or his sacking of the archbishop – or at least not solely – but because it hadn’t been the right thing to do and the king, the real king, was in exile and all would be well if he was brought back. Especially if he was brought back under Warwick as chief counsellor. Especially especially if he had a young son married to Warwick’s daughter so that his chief counsellorship could continue well into Warwick’s old age. As I said, I’m not a huge fan of single-cause answers. There’s a commonality runs through the manifestoes written between 1455 and 1470. Bad government, wicked counsel, economic woes, a suffering commons… Warwick authored (or at least co-authored) them all. Maybe he found a formula early in his career and stuck with it, or maybe he believed this stuff to a greater extent than the label Yorkist propaganda has allowed us to believe. That might be something else that balances out the ‘greedy Nevills’ side of the scale. I’m not saying they weren’t, they certainly hoovered up every position, honour and advantage that came their way – especially Warwick, but I don’t think he was an advocate of the something-for-nothing school. The world didn’t so much owe him the rewards as a monopoly on the chance of winning them. It’s a subtle difference, but I think it’s an important one.

4. Related to this – was John Wenlock (Warwick’s right hand in Calais) working on him? This is a brand new question. The assumption has always been that Wenlock fought for Henry because Warwick did. But there’s a vast and convoluted conspiracy Hicks mentioned (that I’m going to have to read over again – slowly) that might suggest it was the other way around. I need to know more about what was going on in Calais. What was it like there? How English did it feel? How ‘Warwick’ did it feel? I knew there was Calais research in my future, but I’m thinking now that it needs to be a little deeper than I’d assumed.

5. Just getting off the Warwick train for a moment, I’ve alluded to this next question on facebook. It’s the one about the marriage between Maud Stanhope, Lady Willoughby (widow of Thomas Nevill) and Gervase Clifton, a staunch Lancastrian executed after Tewkesbury. Why did Maud marry him? Was she, in fact, a dyed in the wool Yorkist widow who was encouraged to marry a man she would have known (Clifton lived within a day’s ride of Maud and Thomas in Nottinghamshire) in order to keep or get him on side? Or was Maud a secret Lancastrian? (Her first mother-in-law, the elder Lady Willoughby, had lent her house to the Exeter/Percy plotters in 1453/4.) Or was she totally apolitical and married Clifton solely for personal reasons? I’d rather like to get a handle on that one!

6. Henry Fitzhugh. You knew he was coming up, don’t pretend otherwise! Up till now (and this may well continue) I’ve credited Fitzhugh’s actions during Warwick’s rebellion to a personal sense of loyalty to Warwick himself. Fitzhugh didn’t join his his brother-in-law’s side till after Towton. He didn’t take the field at that battle, or any of the previous ones, for either side, but he does seem to have been with the king’s army from first St Albans to Towton. Did he not fight because he wasn’t allowed to? The commanders feeling that he represented too high a risk of betrayal. Or did he manage to avoid it? How comfortable was he as a supporter of Edward IV? Did he support Warwick’s rebellion because he saw it as his chance to help bring about the return of Henry VI? Or was I right all along – his loyalty was to Warwick, very strongly and very personally? He fled to Scotland while Warwick was fleeing to France. He returned home, pardoned along with almost his entire family, didn’t fight on either side at Barnet and Tewkesbury and died in the middle of 1472. I think he was probably already quite ill by April 1471, though there’s nothing anywhere that tells me the cause of his death. It just makes more sense than him staying home and refusing to fight either on the side of the brother-in-law he’d risked so much for, or the king who’d just pardoned him. There might have been a good deal of pressure from a number of sides, and there may have been letters explaining why he couldn’t fight. Someone needs to find the Fitzhugh Letters, I think they’d prove extraordinarily interesting. I’d really really like it to be me!

7. Moving on to 1483 now. Two questions, one I’ve discussed earlier. What, if any, influence did the duchess of Gloucester have on her husband’s decision to take the crown? Which partly depends on my answer to the second question: When did Gloucester actually make the decision? And what was his tipping point? I’ve long suspected it had a great deal to do with the Wydevilles, rightly or wrongly, and his view of their potential rule through the young king. Again, I’m not sure that that’s enough on its own. And: why Hastings?  I’m going to table these questions, as I haven’t drilled down very deeply into this yet. But I don’t feel I can write the story of Anne Nevill without it.

There are more questions about the Fitzhughs and the Lovells. (Again the Fitzhughs are almost criminally underrepresented in this book, but as I may be one of the few people in the universe who routinely turns to F in the index in order to rate a book’s soundness, this may be a tad unfair.) They were walking a tightrope under Henry Tudor, at least until the (sadly way too early at 30) death of sir Richard Fitzhugh – son of Alice Nevill and Henry Fitzhugh – who fought for Richard III at Bosworth, submitted to Henry Tudor and acted as his lieutenant in the north (or at least parts of it). That he was brother-in-law to the new king’s Most Wanted Man must have made life difficult for him, especially as his mother and sister (Lovell’s wife) didn’t abandon Francis Lovell, or hopes of his pardon and rehabilitation. With stirrings and risings in the north, I’m left with the intriguing question (that matters not, as Richard was dead) of whether he might have finally joined some group of rebels or another – Perkin Warbeck’s lot, for instance, had he lived a little longer.

So, that’s it, at least for the moment. I’m fairly sure I’ll be reading this book again when I get to a) 1468/9 b) 1483-5 and c) beyond. It’s so very very nice to feel like I’m looking at some of this with fresh eyes. I really do want to do the best job I can with these books, I think Hicks’s new work will help me with that enormously!

I’m glad I read it and I’m glad that the months I waited since I pre-ordered it in May and received it finally in October, months of metaphorically jumping up and down with impatience, weren’t wasted. It’s essential reading for anyone interested in the Wars and, I think, will be for some time.

22 November 1428
Birth of Richard Nevill
to Alice Montacute, Countess of Salisbury
Richard Nevill, Earl of Salisbury
Image of Warwick from the Rous Rolls

Richard was the oldest son and third child of the countess and earl of Salisbury. Joan, whose birthdate is unknown, seems to have been the oldest child, followed by Cecily. There is a possibility, given that 22 November is St Cecelia’s Day, that Richard and Cecily were twins but, given that Salisbury’s younger sister was also named Cecily, this is pure speculation. His mother was 21 and his father 28 at the time of his birth. Some sources place his birth at Bisham, a property of his mother’s, or somewhere in ‘Wessex’, though I’ve seen nothing more specific than this.

Richard married Anne Beauchamp in 1436 and became earl of Warwick in her right in 1449. They had two children, Isobel (born 1451) and Anne (born 1456). Warwick was killed at the battle of Barnet on 14 April 1471. He was 42 years old.

Last ones…

Both these bits are definitely slated for recycling. First, I need to make it clear that I have no idea whether the young duchess of Exeter joined her husband in sanctuary at Westminster in 1454. Their daughter was born the following year and if I had a clue as to when I might be able to work out when and where she was conceived. However, given that the duke of Exeter spent much of 1454 either in sanctuary or imprisoned in Pontefract castle (and 1455 in Wallingford) or gallivanting round the north of England with the Percies; and given there’s no mention of his wife being with him in either castle, I’ve plumped for her being in sanctuary with him. (If anyone knows anything different, don’t hesitate to let me know!)

The second snippet is a brief conversation between Elizabeth of York (later duchess of Suffolk) with her mother. I want to establish right from the start that she and her future husband, John de la Pole, had a trouble free betrothal and marriage – well, as trouble free as possible, given the circumstances. There’s no evidence to suggest that they were anything but happy with each other and it makes a nice contrast to the Exeters.


He came in while she was sleeping, his hands on her waking her up.  Anne stifled a cry but he covered her mouth with his hand anyway.  With the other, he pulled at her shift.  She made no move to resist, past experience having taught her the futility of that.  She looked him full in the face, the flickering candlelight throwing his eyes into shadow.  He didn’t look at her.

Anne was sure this should be a pleasurable act, mutual and tender, but his fingers dug into her and the weight of his hand on her mouth made breathing difficult.  She feared that one night he would kill her without meaning to, without even noticing.  What pleasure he got from this she didn’t know, unless it be the pleasure of dominance and control.

It was always quickly done, for which she was grateful.  Wordless, violent, quick.  He’d turn his head away as he came close, not even wanting to share that with her.  Then he was gone, rolling away from her and off the bed, angry with her and with himself.  Anne lay still, breathing slowly.

Outside she could hear them, Exeter laughing at something Robert said, and she felt a deep sense of shame.  She needed the privy.  She lay still for as long as she could hoping that it would go away.  It didn’t.  Straightening her clothes, she got up, picked up the robe she’d tossed onto the floor and wrapped it around herself.  She’d have to walk past them, brave their eyes.

“Tall trees,” Robert said as she went into the parlour.  “They must be hard to climb.”

“Not if you cut them down,” Exeter said.  “Once they’re on their backs they’re all the same size.”

She walked through the room with as much dignity as she could.  There was no chance that Robert was unaware of what had just happened in the bedchamber.  The way he watched her – imagining, she thought, what his brother had felt – made her feel sick and dirty.  A burst of laughter followed her from the room.

She closed the door of the privy and sat down.  How dare he treat her like a common slattern?  No, she thought bitterly, even a whore would be treated better than she was.  She buried her face in her hands, but the tears she was expecting didn’t come.  A new emotion gripped her, one she hadn’t thought to feel.  She was angry.  Angry with her husband, angry with her parents for giving her to him, angry for a world that let husbands treat their wives so.

It made her feel better, like none of this was her fault.  She would go back into that room and pour herself a cup of wine.  Then she would sit and drink it, slowly.  Let them mock her all they would, Anne would meet their scorn with quiet dignity and, if she could muster it from somewhere, defiance.

“… like your mother,” Exeter was saying.

Anne found a cup, found the wine, poured herself a generous measure and sat down.

“My mother was a saint,” Robert said.  “Lured into bed by our reprobate father.  Now, you’d never do such a thing, would you Henry?  Not with that tall piece of timber close at hand.”

“You know, she doesn’t bring me as much comfort as you might think.  Keeps me occupied though.  Keeps me from boredom.  Don’t you, wife?”

“Your comfort isn’t why I’m here,” Anne said, her voice shaking a great deal more than she liked.  “I am your wife and, more to the point, your duchess.  I am tied to you, eternally and irrevocably, and if you fall I shall go down with you.  I ask for no rescue.”

“Is that meant to move me?” Exeter said.

“It might if I spoke from affection and regard.  But this is my lot and I must, as my mother tells me, make the best of it.”

Robert laughed heartily and Exeter turned to him with a scowl.  “Like I said, she brings me no comfort.”

Anne allowed herself a private smile, hidden behind her wine cup.  It was time he learned that she was not only her father’s daughter, she was also her mother’s.


If Bess knew how much comfort her mother drew from her, she gave no sign, but sat with her head in Cecily’s lap, the older woman’s hands soft on her hair.

“Why did she go, if he’s so unpleasant?” she said.

“Because he commanded it,” Cecily said.

“John never commands me to do anything.”

“That is because he is not yet ten years old.”

Bess lifted her head and looked at her mother.  “He won’t command me, even when we’re married.”

There was something about the child’s certainty that caught at Cecily’s heart.  Marriage, she knew, was a game of chance.  There always seemed to be more losers than winners.  Not all unions could be judged by her own.  Anne was unhappy, Bess was determined that she would be anything but.

“Anne’s done nothing wrong,” Bess said.  “Why should she be locked up?”

“Wouldn’t you choose to be with John, if he were to seek sanctuary?”

“But I like John.”  Bess laid her head down again.  “It’s easy being locked up with someone you like.”

He’d be going to Ludlow soon, to join Edward and Edmund, and Cecily worried how Bess would deal with the loss of her friend.  They’d be tied together soon enough and Cecily hoped with all her heart that marriage would be everything that Bess hoped.

Though this one might find it’s way into The Duchesses.


The pile of cushions was cleared with ease and Meg thought she should take her sister’s from the bed while she wasn’t looking to make the jump a little higher.  It was the chest that once again proved George’s undoing.  Last time round, he’d swerved at the last second, but this time she made him go back and try again.  He was too little – his legs too short – to jump it, but Meg had been taught that there was no challenge to life if you just kept on doing the things you knew you could.  His hobbyhorse in one hand, George scrambled over the top of the box and fell down in a heap on the other side.  Meg thought he might cry, so loud had been the bump when his head hit the floor, but her laughter distracted him and soon he was giggling as well.

On the windowseat, Richard all but forgotten in his well of cushions beside her, Bess sighed heavily.  Bess was always sighing about something.

“I’m trying to concentrate,” she said.  “Why don’t you go outside?”

“It’s still raining,” Meg said.  “You wouldn’t want George to catch a chill.”

She got up and began to rearrange the obstacle course, snatching Bess’s pillows and adding them to the pile.  She turned around to deliver the most brilliant insult to Bess when she noticed their mother standing in the doorway.

Taking George by the arm as he careered past, she pulled him, protesting loudly, to the door and stood quietly, her hands folded demurely at her waist as she’d been taught.  Bess put down her book, picked up her baby brother and did her best to set him in order, cleaning his grimy face with the hem of his smock and running her fingers through his soft brown hair.

Cecily cast her eye over each of the children, then bent down to be kissed by first Meg then George.

“Your father and I are going to London in the morning,” she said. “I hope you’ll be good while we’re gone.”

“Are we not go come with you?” Meg said, struggling to keep the whine of disappointment from her voice.

She’d been to London before and had vague fractured memories of grandeur, crowds and noise. There’d been an air of menace that had thrilled her but the rows of rotting severed heads on London bridge, glimpsed no more than in passing, had spoiled her dreams for weeks.

“I don’t know how long we’re going to be there,” Cecily said.  “It may only be for a few days.  Your father’s been called to a meeting.  We’ll see what happens after that. If we’re still there, maybe you can come down for Christmas.”

“Will the king be there?” George said.

“No,” Cecily said.  “He’s not well and we must pray for him.  Your father’s going to see what he can do to help.  Someone has to look after England while the king’s getting better.”

“Is Daddy going to be king?” George said, his face screwed up into a frown.

“No,” Cecily said firmly.  “He’s just going to do his duty.”

Again Meg pictured the row of heads and shuddered.  Their grandfather had been accused of treason, his head struck off on Southampton Green when his son was just a boy.  Meg knew it was foolish, but every time their father rode away, she worried that she’d never see him again.  The whispers of adults, which they fancied they kept from the ears of children, gave her an image of a dark dangerous world where one’s life could be ended on a malicious word.

“He’ll need us!” she said.  “If we’re there, they won’t… they won’t…”

“They won’t do anything,” Bess said.  She slid down from the windowseat, Richard now wriggling impatiently in her arms.  “They don’t, you know, unless you commit treason.”  She stopped, a look of horror on her face.  “John’s father.  He was…”

“That was madmen,” Cecily said quickly, “who blamed him for all that was ill and took matters into their own hands.  No-one’s going to hurt your father.  I shall make sure of that.”

George, who’d clearly grown tired of the whole conversation, caught hold of her hand.

“Mummy, Mummy!” he said excitedly, jumping up and down.  “Guess what’s under my bed?”

Her hands on his shoulders, Meg tried to draw him away.  So like him, she thought, to behave like a baby!.  George’s world might contain at its edge kings and fathers, but mostly it was centred around George.

Bess put Richard down onto the rug, flopped down beside him and reached for the toys he pointed to in mute expectation.

“I don’t know, George,” Cecily said.  “What’s under your bed?”


“The shirt you can’t find.  The one Anne made you.”

George shook his head emphatically, his blond curls bouncing and flicking across his face.

“An angel.”  Again the shake of the golden head.  “The shoe your father lost last week.  The doorway to the kingdom of the fairies.”



“Mab had puppies under George’s bed,” Meg said.  “He hasn’t stopped pestering her.  I told him: she’ll bite you if you don’t watch out.”

“He’s hardly going to listen to you,” Bess said.

George grabbed his mother’s hand and pulled as hard as he could.  Cecily stood up and let him lead her to his bed.  He dropped to the floor, lifting the bedcovers with one hand, and peered into the dusty shadows.  Cecily joined him.

There were vague shapes, small movements deep in the shadows; the squeals of the pups, the soft warning growl of their mother.

“See?” George said.  “Puppies!”

Cecily sat up on her haunches, grabbed her son and gave him a fierce hug.  He struggled to get away, but she held him firmly and showered his face with kisses.  Meg waited patiently nearby for her turn. Little brothers were good for some things, she conceded.


Edmund couldn’t sleep, though he was tired to his bones.  Wrapping himself in a robe, he crept out of his room, his bare feet stinging on the cold stone, and to his brother’s.  Though not even a year older, Edward seemed to know so much more than he did.  He stopped outside the door and listened.  There was no sound within.  He was probably asleep, as Edmund himself should be at this hour.

He pushed the door open and went in.  In the darkness, he saw a faint lump on the bed, his brother huddled beneath the blankets.

“Ned,” he whispered.  “Ned!”

Edward didn’t stir, so Edmund climbed onto the bed and shook him.  “Ned.”

With a kind of snuffling noise and a shake of his great golden mane, Edward lifted his head and opened his eyes.

“Ned,” Edmund said again.  “Wake up!”

“What is it?”

“It’s Father.”

“He’s here!”  Edward sat up, wide awake now.  “He was going to London.  Where is he?”

“No, he’s not here.  Why would he be here?  No, I’ve just been thinking.”

Edmund sat huddled on the edge of the bed, shivering.  Edward lifted up the blankets and he slid underneath.  The two boys lay together, face to face, talking softly into the dark.

“What do you think it would be like,” Edmund said, “to be the son of a king?”

“You’d have the finest horses.  Swans and peacocks every night for dinner.  The best wine, the softest furs…”

“You’d march at the head of an army and no man would dare bar your way.”

“Oranges from Spain every day for breakfast.”

“No, they’d bow when they saw you coming.  They’d fall to their knees and beg you to spare their miserable lives!”

“And no-one could keep you at your lessons.  No Latin, no French.  And Master Richard Croft had best beware, for we would brook no slight from him!”

Edmund yawned.  “No-one to wake you up on cold mornings.”

“We’re not though,” Edward said a little sadly.  “We’re not sons of a king.”

“No, we’re better than that.  We’re the sons of the Duke of York!”

“When we go to London, they’ll know who we are.  There go the sons of my lord of York, they’ll say and throw their bonnets in the air.  The Earl of March and the Earl of Rutland come, see? they’ll cry and they’ll strew our path with roses.  As fair as their mother and as brave as their father, is what they’ll say.  And we shall bow, just little bows, and give our blessings to the crowd.”

Edmund’s eyes were closed and he breathed softly through his mouth.  A stray strand of hair fell across his eyes.  Edward yawned.

“You’re the best brother I could wish for, Ed,” he said softly.  “And we will ride at the head of an army one day.  You and me.”

The words drifted into Edmund’s half asleep mind and filled him with warmth.  He wished he could respond, but his mouth didn’t seem to be working.  You and me at the head of an army, he thought.  The sons of the Duke of York…

A general update

Posted: November 14, 2010 in The WIPs - Nevill

I’ve been so busy with other things (finishing the rewrite on Dissolution being the main one, a little bit of paid work being the other) that I haven’t posted anything substantial to the Feast for some time. And I know that there are some poor souls out there anxious to see how The Daisy and the Bear is going to end! I think there’s only a few more chapters to go, which news surely comes as a relief to all involved.

As for Nevill, it has (by necessity) been bubbling away on the backburner. I can’t delve much deeper until I have some funds to buy books and, even more important in many aspects, some of the articles that are stacking up in my research file. As I’m currently not affiliated with a university, I’m having to pay full price for these, and it’s usually quite a chunk!

I had a look at what I’d written so far for the first time in months the other day and it struck me (again) that there are too many characters. This was never going to be a one book exercise, and I think I have the big picture in my head now.

Book 1 – Nevill – covering 1453-71

Book 2 – The Duchesses – covering whenever I decide to start various bits to 1485

Book 3 – Fitzhugh – covering 1448-1503 [I know this sounds like a long time – Alice Fitzhugh’s fault, not mine – but I think it might be manageable if I stay focussed on what’s important]

and possibly, if I live that long and get any of the others finished:

Book 4 – Percy – covering I have no idea at this point

As The Duchesses will tell the stories of 5 prominent women of the time (the duchesses of Exeter, Suffolk and Burgundy, Clarence and Gloucester) I can delete anything written so far – or at least save it to another file for future cannibalistion. That immediately culls the horde in Nevill (and a couple of chapters!). The other thing I’m planning to do is cut all the York bits, thus tightening the focus. This will cut out a lot of Cecily Nevill scenes, but she’ll just have to cope with that.

There’s a lovely scene between the young earls of March and Rutland that I am loathe to part with, but it no longer has a place in Nevill, based on the new structure. I might share it in the next few days, just so it doesn’t entirely go to waste.

I will finish Daisy in the next week or so as well.

This time it’s Robert Catesby (1575-1605), one of the gunpowder plotters.

Apart from it not being my field, there are far better summaries of the Gunpowder Plot on the web than I could manage.  Like this one, for instance.

Catesby died on 7 November, but no-one remember remembers that date!

Robert was a descendant of William ‘the Cat’ Catesby, who was executed after the battle of Bosworth.