Archive for March, 2012

Chapter 2: In which we meet a man who thinks he’s covered all his bases but ends up losing his head nonetheless

Leicester was a town currently populated by the baffled, confused and uncertain. No-one knew quite what do to. If any of them were asked, they’d have said something like: We were expecting to cheer the frail and angelic ® King Richard or Dickon on his way home, triumphant and still King! But now we’re being asked to cheer some other bloke, some Welsh chappie, and none of us is entirely sure we’re happy about that. But they’d cheer him anyway, because that’s what one did with kings.

Dakota slipped through the half empty streets. As she drew closer to the market square, the crowd grew denser and she heard the hum and buzz of voices. The captives would be somewhere close, in a house or a shop or a tavern commandeered and turned into a makeshift prison. She had to find it, had to make contact with the one man she knew was there. He had the other half of the letter and, without it. things weren’t going to end well.

She snaked her lithe body through the crowd, feeling stray hands as they accidentally touched her, felt hot breath in on her face, heard the lascivious words that always followed her wherever she went, however she was dressed. Pressing her lips into a grim line, lifting a knee from time to time until it, quite by accident, came to a sudden stop in the fork of a man’s hose, letting her feet kick out at this shin or that, she wriggled and squirmed until at last she was free. Behind her stretched a thin line of redfaced silent men. They’d have pleasant dreams that night and every night for a long time to come. Dakota allowed herself a small smile at the thought. It wasn’t her fault that God had taken the time to put her bits into particularly pleasing order.

To her right she saw a shop guarded by two men with swords drawn. The good people of Leicester made no move to rescue whoever might lie within, but the guards were ready for them in case they changed their minds. Dakota looked each one full in the face and smiled. Then, while their attention was taken up by the state of their shoes, she slipped into the narrow lane that ran alongside the shop and to the back.

There was a single window, unguarded, clouded with dust and cobwebs. She crept towards it, keeping as low to the ground as she could. Taking hold of the sill, she raised herself up and peeked inside. A man sat at a table, his back to her. He was alone. She lifted a hand to scratch at the glass and to her surprise, the window swung open.

“Catesby!” she hissed.

The man looked around him, searching for the source of the voice. He looked towards the closed door and into the far corner of the room.

“Catesby!”

Only then did he turn and see Dakota in the window.

“Mistress FitzPercy! How delightful to see you!” Catesby got up and came to the window. “How do you come to be here?”

“Quick!” Dakota said. “There’s no-one about. You can escape!”

“What are you talking about? Escape? They’re trying me soon and I shall be exonerated.” He grinned broadly. “I saved the life of Stanley’s son. I shall be held high in his estimation and the new King’s.”

“King Richard or Dickon is dead! Don’t you care? You were his man!”

“And now I’m going to be someone else’s.”

“Have you no sorrow? Do you feel nothing? Unnatural monster! He was your friend. You watched him grow from a frail and angelic® duke into a frail and angelic® king! You helped draft the Act that gave women the vote and enshrined representative government into law! The night he invented the jury system and abolished the death penalty, you were awed by his brilliance and compassion! You witnessed his tears at the death of his Queen, who he truly loved and married for love! Do you not remember the night in the Tower when he stood alone against the villains who would murder the princes? Surely you recall the words of the ballad. Our good and noble King, frail and angelic® though he be, took on and smote the rascals, smote them one and two and three…”

Catesby looked at Dakota as if he thought she’d lost her mind. “And live out my life on the run? No, thank you! I shall face my accusers and earn my reward. Go now, foolish girl! Don’t keep me from my destiny.”

And with that he reached out and closed the window. Dakota tapped on it again. He turned towards her, his irritation plain on his face. He opened the window with a scowl.

“The other half of the letter,” she said. “Give it to me!”

He did, pulling it from within his doublet and letting it drop from his fingers. Dakota snatched it out of the air and stuffed it into her doublet. Now she had both halves it seemed such a lot of trouble to go to, to tear the parchment in two, but it made sense a the time.

“And you’re sure you won’t let me rescue you?” she said to Catesby.

He waved dismissive fingers. “No, I’ll be fine here. Off you go! Don’t give me another thought.”

Dakota moved away from the window and left the yard, left Leicester. Left Catesby not to his destiny but to his fate.

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1461

John Nevill lord Montagu, a prisoner of the Lancastrians since the 2nd battle of St Albans, is freed in York by his brother Warwick and Edward IV, fresh from the victory at Towton.

On this day: 29 March

Posted: March 29, 2012 in On this day..., Towton

1461

Battle of Towton. The forces of Edward IV defeat the forces of Henry VI. Those killed include: Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland; Humphrey duke of Buckingham; Sir Andrew Trollope; Lord Dacre. Several prominent Lancastrians, including the duke of Somerset and Exeter, made their escape to York and, with Henry VI and his queen, into Scotland.

On this day: 28 March

Posted: March 28, 2012 in On this day...

1461

Battle of Ferrybridge.

With the Lancastrians taking up position north of the river Aire, and lord Clifford holding and destroying the only crossing at Ferrybridge, the earl of Warwick had to fight to take the bridge and make repairs on 27 March. The following morning Clifford launched a surprise attack, mortally wounding Warwick’s second-in-command, John Radcliffe lord Fitzwalter. Warwick, despite himself receiving an arrow wound in the leg, rallied his forces and crossed the bridge. Clifford once again destroyed it. Warwick sent his uncle, lord Fauconberg, upriver to outflank Clifford. Clifford and his men retreated, but were caught in the open by Fauconberg. In the following struggle, Clifford and John Nevill (the earl of Westmorland’s brother and the man who possibly betrayed the duke of York’s forces at Wakefield) were killed. (Philip Haigh, The Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses, p 58-9)

According the Edmund Halle, writing much later, also killed at Ferrybridge was ‘the Bastard of Salisbury’, Warwick’s half brother. I haven’t found any other reference to him and I’m not sure he existed.

On this day: 27 March

Posted: March 27, 2012 in On this day...

1482

Death of Mary of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold and step-daughter of Margaret of York, duchess of Burgundy.

The Continuing Adventures of Dakota FitzPercy
or
Rewriting History
 

Chapter 1: In which we catch up with an old friend and learn of the Earl of Warwick’s life in the Caribbean

 It was a small plain circlet of gold and it had rolled almost within Dakota’s reach. It had once decorated the helmet of a king. Now it lay among the thorns, a symbol of a kingdom lost. She’d seen it fall, watching spellbound and breathless as it tumbled through the air and onto the muddy ground, rolling and spinning, scattering small stones and blades of grass. It had fetched up among the hawthorns. Just beyond her reach.

If she could get it, stretching her arm and ignoring as best she could the pain as the thorns dug into her skin. If she could pick it up and wriggle free, find her horse and leave this place, her master would be well pleased. If he lived still. If he’d managed to escape the slaughter. If she could find him again. With the crown in his hands, atop his head, the ragged rebel Richmond, his victory won through a mix of cowardice and treachery, would have nothing left to do but slope off back to Brittany where he belonged.

She almost had it, her hand but inches from it. Every muscled tense and stretched. One more push. One more wriggle…

“It must have fetched up hereabouts!”

Dakota stiffened, resisting the urge to draw back, scramble to her feet and run. She knew the voice and liked not to hear it. Lord Stanley,widower of the Earl of Warwick’s sister, now wife of the most frightening woman Dakota had ever met, stepfather to the man who sought the crown just tantalising inches from her hand, traitor and schemer. Even if he hadn’t spoken, she’d have known him by his boots, though it had been long since she’d seen them.

“I shall be crowned upon the battlefield!” A second voice, little more than a growl. A second pair of boots, though these Dakota was sure she’d never seen before. “I am King now, thanks to your good work, Stanley. And I mean people to see it.”

She drew back her arm, slowly and carefully.

“There!” The boots drew closer and someone hunkered down. Dakota could hear him breathing, smelled the rank mixture of blood and sweat that clung to him. “I have it, Sire.”

Another grunt. The crown snatched up and the men departed.

Dakota let out a long slow breath and tried to still her trembling limbs. So close they’d come! And she’d have had no mercy from such men as these. They’d find the letter, kept close to her usually magnificent but now tightly bound breasts (for she was dressed as a boy again). The letter must not fall into the wrong hands and there were no hands more wrong than Henry Tudor’s. She crawled out of the bushes and stood up, brushing herself down. Her horse waited for her and she mounted, turning her head and his away from the field of destruction and defeat. She’d come too late to stop this. And she would have stopped it, if she’d been on time. This she knew in her bleak and heavy heart. She’d let them all down. Failure was such a new thing to her. It was going to take some time to get used to it.

*   *   *   *   *

Burrowed deep in the hay, Dakota tried to sleep, but her mind was troubled. She was cold and hungry. She let her longing thoughts drift back to the moist warmth of La Isla del Centro del Jamon where she’d spent the last ten years living the life of a pirate wench. She let their faces drift through her memory: Mad Meg, the pirate queen and her consort Rabid Richard. With a soft sigh, she thought of Elegant Eddie, her one time paramour, now married to a dusky Carib princess with a brood of half dusky half Carib children. Good times! The sun, the perfumed air, the freedom of the seas, the riches, the rum… The Bastard of Fauconberg. And with this thought, a single tear rolled down her cheek. Time and time again she’d tried to tame the man, but he was recalcitrant to a fault. Last time she saw him, he was in the arms of a Spanish countess, a hostage whose ransom had been paid ten times over yet still he refused to release her. Not, Dakota thought darkly, that the countess had shown any signs of wanting to be released.

But she’d put all that behind her, called back to England by rumours of a troubled realm, arrived back to find the rumours more than true. Secretly contacting her new master, she’d listened, her face blanching with every word, her heart constricting and her blood slowly beginning to boil. She must find him! Tomorrow, she thought. After a good night’s sleep. Well, after a sleep at any rate. Tomorrow she would head north, for that must be where he’d gone. She’d find him and together they’d plot the downfall of the usurper. Together they’d grieve for the fallen king, the frail and angelic® Richard or Dickon III. She wiped away the tear and closed her eyes, tomorrow her last waking thought.

1458

Love Day – Henry VI’s attempt to establish a lasting peace between his lords. While there has been speculation over the years about the possible cynicism of all involved, except the King, days of reconciliation were popular at the time and there may have been real hopes, in the hearts of some at least, that Henry VI’s aim could be achieved.

1471

Margaret of Anjou, Edward Prince of Wales, Anne Nevill, John Wenlock and others leave Honfleur in preparation for their return go England.

1430

Birth of Margaret of Anjou, queen of England. She married Henry VI on 23 April 1445. Their only child, a son Edward, was born 13 October 1453, She died on 25 August 1482.

Susan Higginbotham has written extensively about Margaret, including a novel Queen of Last Hopes.

1454

A delegation of lords, Richard earl of Warwick among them, visit Henry VI at Windsor during his first illness. This is prompted by the sudden death of Cardinal Archbishop Kemp. The king is unresponsive and the delegation returns to Westminster where it is decided that, given the severity of the king’s incapacity, England is in need of a Protector.

1454

Death of Cardinal Archbishop John Kemp. Kemp’s unexpected death cleared the way for Richard Duke of York to be named Protector & Defender of England during Henry VI’s first bout of illness and incapacity. He was seen by some as an obstacle to the Duke’s ambitions, but was probably more cautious than obstructive.

Kemp was Archbishop of York from 1426 until his translation to Canterbury in 1452. He was twice chancellor of England: from 1426 to 1432, then again from 1450 until his death. He was succeeded by Richard Nevill, Earl of Salisbury. Thomas Bourchier, bishop of Ely and the brother of Viscount Bourchier (who was married to York’s sister, Isabel) succeeded him in Canterbury.

Kemp was buried in Canterbury Cathedral.