What Thomas did before showing Albin Westminster Abbey.
Albin followed Thomas the carter into the Scales's stable. He looked around for somebody to chat with. He found Thomas looking at him doubtfully. "Do you know how to care for a sweaty horse?" he asked.
"Brush it?" Albin suggested.
"'Tis time you learned," Thomas said. "You are too helpless. Come on."
How do you refuse a man with scars from battle on each cheek? He followed the old carter to a rack of tools. Thomas handed him a bucket. "Go get some water."
When he got back, Thomas had replaced the harness with a simple halter and had a cart horse tied between two timbers. The old carter picked up a strange object. "What is that?" It looks a bit like tripe.
Thomas handed it to Albin. "This is a sponge," he said. "They fish them out of the sea." Thomas dipped it in the water and washed down the horse's face.
The idea made Albin shiver. I wouldn't want that ugly thing on my face.
Thomas took a wet cloth to the horse's neck and body. "Always stroke toward the tail to lay the hair down smoothly." When he finished with a dry cloth, he handed the wet cloth to Albin. "You do the other side. Everyone here knows how to care for a horse."
"Even the duchess?"
Thomas nodded. "I have seen her. She says, 'Having a title is no excuse to be useless .'"
"What is in there?" Lord Rivers demanded. He pointed at a covered object Baldwin Green had his arms around. Tall as Baldwin was, it almost came up to his nose.
Lord Anthony smiled, "That, dear father, is a wedding present for Margaret." He whisked the linen cover off of a basket shaped like a bird cage.
Lord Rivers peered between the willow wands. He moved around and took another look. "What are those lizards doing in there?"
Lord Anthony chuckled. "At least you didn’t ask where the bird went."
Lord Rivers sniffed. "Neither do I suppose birds turned magically into these creatures."
Baldwin set the basket under a tree as directed. "Stand back a little and watch," Lord Anthony told his father. As they did, blue chameleon turned yellow.
"Interesting," Lord Rivers said. "But it hardly seems like a wedding present."
Lord Anthony frowned in frustration. "You have a better idea? If not this—what would they like?"
Lord Rivers smiled. "It so happens that Lord and Lady Maltravers need a change of horses."
"Horses!? Surely they have many."
"They could visit Grafton in three days. That would take another change of horses. Your mother and I are giving them a pair of horses. Your brothers are arranging for the horses to be kept at a good stable in Leighton Buzzard. I think they would like some help."
Lord Anthony rested his chin on a crooked finger in thought.
His father raised an eyebrow and waited. "I know 'tis not showy—certainly not like these lizards, but it will be useful and appreciated."
Lord Anthony stiffened. "I need not be 'showy.'"
"Talk to John and Richard about it," his father advised. "Oh, and see if you can find a place to hide these lizards. I think they will make an excellent Christmas present. Most likely, we will all be at Sheen Palace. Now, there is a place to be showy."
Lord Anthony laughed. "Before our king and new queen." He looked down at the chameleons. "Can you two put on a royal show?"
The Fate of Grafton
Agatha found Hannah cleaning a stained-glass window in Grafton's great hall. Hannah was muttering to herself. Agatha raised one minimal eyebrow. I think I can learn her latest complaint. "How are you this sunny, spring morning?" Agatha asked.
"Stuck doing this stupid job." Hannah turned and waved the little stick she was using. "What is the point of all this scrubbing ? The manor will be seized by that …"
"Don't say it, Hannah. If you mean the Duke of York, be careful. He is huge—over six feet tall—and not far away. Besides, our duchess needs to negotiate with him." She blinked back tears. Oh that her son could come back!
Hannah made a face. "But I shall not proclaim that giant …"
Agatha raised her hand in warning. "He became king by winning a huge battle."
Agatha looked at the window. It pictured Jesus calling fishermen to be his disciples. The June sun shone through much blue glass representing water and sky. Agatha looked at Jesus's face with sunshine streaming through it. Just so I saw the joys of life through Anthony's face. Now he has gone to heaven and we are without any joys. I am sure he went straight to heaven. I cannot imagine a finer knight.
Then she realized Hannah was speaking. "Whatever he is, that duke will drive us out of our home."
Agatha sighed. "Have you any idea where you will go? Might you stay and serve the new owner?"
"No! I will not serve a friend of that –"
"I might be expected go to Burgundy with our duchess." Agatha's minimal eyebrows drew together. I may have to choose between my own parents, brothers, and sisters and this big, kindly Wydeville family.
Hannah snorted. "How would you fare in Burgundy?"
"Not well outside of the household. I have never worked on learning French." And I am not likely to learn much now. My mind barely works at all. She sighed and rubbed her forehead.
Servants in black hurried quietly around the hall, clearing away breakfast. At least my hero died honorably in battle.
The steward came into the room and Hannah returned to work. "It seems stupid to clean a house we are going to lose."
Agatha took a step closer. "Have you not heard? That duke you like so little—our duchess has invited him to dinner."
"What!" Hannah spoke too loudly and whirled around to face Agatha. "That –is coming here!"
Agatha motioned for quiet. The Steward walked over. "What is the trouble here?" he demanded.
Hannah hung her head. "I seem to remember our enemies too well."
"This is a difficult time," he agreed. "We must bury our feelings and remember peaceful times when the lords were friends." He raised an instructive finger. "Let us remember that King Edward IV is no foreign invader. He is descended from King Edward III through both his father and his mother."
"Will he be coming here?" Agatha asked.
"Yes, in only three days." He gestured across the room. "We must make this place shine and serve the best food his grace ever tasted. Flavor may help the duchess's negotiations for her husband. The duchess and her daughters can charm him with kind words, sweet music, and playful glances. 'They might even save Grafton for us all."
Both women gasped. "Does he hold Lord Rivers?" Agatha asked. No wonder the workers have sped up.
The Steward nodded. "Yes, our baron was captured in the battle and brought down to London. Our duchess needs to convince King Edward that the baron will serve him well."
"Is that possible?" Agatha asked.
The steward smiled hopefully. "She is the king's godmother." He moved on.
As Hannah returned to her scrubbing, she muttered, "That is worth scrubbing for."
That afternoon Agatha was ironing elegant gowns. All of them were black. In spite of her best efforts, she sprinkled them with some tears. Tears seem frivolous. The loss of Lord Anthony does not call for drops of water but for rolling boulders.
Katherine Wydeville, age eleven, came bounding in. "Is my gown ready? I need to try it on."
"Which one is it, my lady?" Agatha returned the iron to the stove. "Would it serve your ladyship to try it on as it is and then bring it back to be pressed?"
"I suppose." The girl looked through the stack of satin gowns and sighed. "'Tis as hard to find as a certain raven." They spread the gowns out so she could recognize one with a narrow ruffle across where her breasts were beginning to swell.
Katherine started to leave and turned back. From pouting lips, she said. "We might not be going to Burgundy at all."
Agatha's eyes widened. "Surely you desire to keep your home."
"I suppose, but I do not want to be stuck here all my life."
Agatha smiled at the pretty girl. "You shall marry a great lord and live in half a dozen castles."
Katherine shrugged. "I suppose. But I would hate to wait here seven years."
Agatha watched her storm out of the room with her arms full of black satin. She can have little idea of the world, living here in a family of fifteen who love one another. No, only fourteen. The finest of them all is gone. But his father may return. 'Tis no surprise that the Duchess of Bedford eloped with Sir Richard. Few love with such grandeur and grace. I shall not. Perhaps I belong in a convent. My heart died in the Palm Sunday snow. Agatha labored on.
The next day, she found herself hanging white table cloths out to dry. A youth with the use of only one arm helped her. It was good to tell about the Wydevilles to someone who knew very few of the stories.
She glanced at is dangling arm. "You have suffered a loss too."
"Yes, indeed. Middleton Manor has lost a fine baron. We can never do so well again."
"His widow is here, you know," she said.
The youth nodded. "Might your duchess marry again?"
Agatha was shocked. "How could she—ever. " How could I marry either.
Much later, she fell exhausted on her pallet and wept for an hour and more.
While the Wydevilles entertained the king and the kitchen staff ran steadily turning out excellent food, the clothing makers had very little to do.
"Are you still at that window!" an older woman asked Agatha.
She shrugged. "I have seen a cat, a dog, and four squirrels."
The woman chuckled. "Has it come to this?" She and Agatha sat down on the window seats. "Would you like to go to Burgundy?" she asked.
"It matter little to me. It would be sad to leave this family—or my family."
"Then you are over half way to accepting whichever comes."
My feelings are so near dead—. She mended her own best dress. Other women were talking about the Wydevilles. "Lord Rivers would be able to teach jousting."
Another nodded. "He certainly has done well with his sons."
At least I saw Anthony practicing his jousting. I am even more thankful I saw him at prayer. Surely he is in heaven even now.
Late in the evening, Agatha heard cheerful sounds. She made her way to the solar and found the duchess, three daughters, and Lady Scales. "Come with me to the chapel," the duchess was saying. "Let us return thanks for this joy."
The ladies trooped out leaving Hannah and another worker behind. "What is it?" Agatha asked.
"Edward is holding both barons. They are in the Tower of London."
"Both—?" Agatha rubbed her forehead. I am making no sense of this.
Hannah gave her a humiliating look. "Lord Scales."
Agatha's world tilted and everything looked strange. "Lord Scales lives?" She could hear others chattering and laughing. What a frivolous way to greet the return of life.
[This story, seen from Albin's point of view, continues in The Enemy's Embrace.]
John Woodville grinned. His eyebrows were nearly invisible on his summer-tanned face. Baron Anthony’s hair was enough darker to make his arching eyebrows show up. They moved off across the meadow. The men were all carrying bows.
“Hares come out of this draw,” John pointed. They loosed the beagles and moved to the mouth of the draw.
“Surely our father knows what is happening,” John was saying.
“He keeps mum,” Anthony said. “Is it not about a bride for you?”
John shook his handsome head. “I think not. I hope not!”
Anthony smiled. “An arranged marriage can be comfortable, mine is.”
“I have heard that your bride married for love.”
Anthony chuckled. “Yours will surely do so too.”
John made a face. “Girls seem to appear from everywhere saying silly things and giggling.”
Anthony laughed. “Do you keep the dogs about to protect you from them?”
“I could use a nice, slow pilgrimage to—to Rome.” John said gazing up the misty draw. Looking back at his brother, he said, “It must be a wedding for Margaret that has the women sewing so furiously. They must have found quite a match to need such fine attire! Know you any stray dukes?”
A very large youth stepped up before the lords.
“Baldwin is taller than either brother!” his friend Albin thought. “I feel like a cherry among peaches.”
Squire Baldwin, said, “Please, my lord, may Albin come with us?”
Anthony chuckled. “Yes, Baldwin, we never know when we may need to send a message. But,” he looked seriously at Squire Baldwin who was only eighteen. “Do not let yourself become distracted from the hunt.”
Baldwin nodded his huge, head. Black hair stuck straight out from under his leather coif.“Albin can help me, my lord.”
Lord Scales squinted at his messenger. “Stay out of our way.”
Albin nodded and winced. I may have only one good arm, but I am fast.
They moved off across the meadow. The other men were all carrying bows. I was a good archer, Albin remembered bitterly. “Hares come out of this draw,” John pointed. They loosed the beagles and moved to the mouth of the draw.
Baldwin started to speak, but Albin motioned him to listen.
Baldwin leaned over to hear his normal-sized friend. Albin murmured in his ear. “If we are quiet as two loaves of bread, we may hear what these bothers say to each other.”
Having discovered that they "actually" met in a different place, I have discarded much of this scene. But I want to share some of it with you.
“What is all that color?” Albin’s far-sighted eyes worked on something red and yellow on the road ahead. It proved to be a brightly painted wagon. Albin followed it to a place where the shoulder of the road looked solid enough to past the wagon. He had plenty of time to figure out the words “Virtue Players.” Are they actors?
The six men and three women were as colorful as their wagon. Traveling actors might know the whereabouts of the duchess. Albin chose the big man in the feathered, red hat. “Good morning, master actor.”
“Good morning, yourself,” the man looked him up and down. “And who might you be?”
“My name is Albin and I am a messenger. I am seeking Catherine, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Have you heard anything about where she may be this season?”
“We have seen nothing of the duchess,” the man said. “She is a lively old woman who can still take a horse over ditches and walls.”
“She sounds more lively than boiling beans,” Albin said.
A beautiful, young woman and the man laughed. “Do you say things like all the time?” the man asked.
Albin rubbed his ear. “I guess I do.”
The young woman grinned. “We are just coming from the Newmarket fair. How about you?”
“I have come from Westminster with exciting news.”
A youth ahead of him turned his horse forcing everyone to stop. The wagon team bumped into one woman’s horse bringing on cursing from driver, rider, and horse.
“What news?” the big man and the beautiful woman asked together.
“Royal news.” Albin laughed.
“Have we too many kings abroad?” The man scowled.
Albin shook his head and grinned. “King Edward has taken a wife. They seem very much in love.”
“Seem?” The big man raised his brows.
“You have seen them?” the beauty appeared to be holding her breath.
Albin’s grin widened. “Yes. I have seen them dancing together. They are a very handsome couple!”
Some of the group looked awed. Other clearly did not believe him.
Albin looked at the young woman hoping she would be one who did. Instead, she said, “And I have done juggling tricks for them.”
“Who is this queen?” the man asked. “Where is she from?”
“This is no foreign princess,” Albin said. “Her family lives a day’s ride from London.” Albin looked around. The trouble with being first with the news is having no one to confirm it. But someone will—in time. What will this beautiful young woman think of me then?
The big man laughed and extended his hand. “It is not believable, but you tell a good story—and stories are our trade.”
Albin looked away from the offered hand. If I try to shake hands with him, he will know my arm is like a noodle.
The young woman smiled and beckoned with her hand. “Come along and tell us more. The Dowager Duchess is more likely to be in Norwich than many another place.”
The big man nodded, “I am Crispin Norton and I want to know how you could have seen the king and queen?”
As they moved on, Albin explained. “The king married Lady Elizabeth in secret on May Day.”
The young woman clapped her hands. “I love stories like that! Is she beautiful?”
“Yes. She is as beautiful as you.”
The young woman turned quite pink.
For the next two miles, Albin told them about how he had figured out that King Edward and Elizabeth had married.
"Do you ever get lost?" the youth asked.
"It may not happen any more." Winking, Albin opened his pouch. He brought out a metal case that fit into his palm. Opening it, he showed Crispin and Daphne the needle inside. He turned the case and the needle moved.
Daphne gasped. "What magic is this!"
Crispin looked. "Ah! You have a compass." He nodded, "And you need one." He explained to Daphne. "The needle always points north."
"Then we Nortons should have one," Daphne pouted playfully.
Albin wanted to kiss those lips.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Birdface in 1463
Albin arrived his parents’ new cottage in Middleton's village. Birdface bounded in the door. A soft and wavy beard made his huge nose less obvious and hid his receding chin.
Albin stroked his cousin’s beard. “That is nice! It does make you look much better.”
Edmond smiled. “Maybe that is why people call me Edmond now. Better, I played the hero.”
Albin’s eyes widened. “How?”
“Rosamond called for help. A squire was trying to steal a kiss."
“Little wonder, Genovefa’s sister is a lovely girl." The image of Genovefa and her great fan of hair came clearly to Albin's mind.
“I went to her aid.” Edmond grinned broadly.
“Edmond the hero! I hope you did not lose a fight to him.”
Edmond tossed his head. “No, I think he decided Rosamond was beneath him. Since then, we have danced together three times. She makes me feel I am all right.”
Albin clapped him on the back. “You have always been better than ‘all right.’”
“And—Thomas decided to go in with me on the wagon. We almost have enough money for all four wheels. He has a tree we can use to make the box.”
Albin clapped his cousin on the shoulder. “Good for you, Birdface--um, Edmond. I am full of hope too. I have been singing for the baron. I even saw the king again.” He told about the king and the woman in the cloak.
Edmond’s eyes got wide. “You are sure it was the king?”
Albin laughed. “There is no mistaking that giant!”
After their secret marriage on Mayday, the couple got together in August. They enjoyed a four-day visit to her parents' rural home. One bright morning, they rode along the meadows by themselves.
Under an old oak, the bride swept an arm across the view. "This is one of my favorite places. I can watch sheep slowly munching their way across that slope."
The groom was looking at her and smiling. "'Tis very peaceful."
To his surprise, she reached into a pack behind her saddle and dropped two cushions on the grass. She brought out a mazer and a jug of wine.
After sharing some of her father's good wine, she looked all around.
"I do believe we can speak freely here."
His laugh may have been a bit nervous. "The sheep are too far away to hear us. Are you worried about something?"
"My sons." She threw up her hands. "Thomas turned ten last month. Richard thinks he can do everything his brother can. When I permit Thomas to do more, Richard often looks like a thunder cloud. He may suppose I am favoring Thomas because he is the heir." She looked up into her new husband's face. "Did you and Edmond have such a problem?"
The big man looked thoughtful. "Perhaps that is why our mother packed us off to Ludlow Castle. Their program of training for knighthood was strict. There, it was obvious that the rules rather than favoritism was the reason."
The bride rested two fingers across her lips and nodded slowly. "Certainly, Thomas is eager to practice his horsemanship and fencing. But there is no better place to learn than here with my father."
The man chuckled. "Your brothers' jousting proves that."
"Do you know such a school?"
"So do you, dearest. Lord Hastings runs a large establishment. He would probably welcome Thomas."
The lady laughed. "Your new stepson, I think so." She plucked a clover and wrapped it around her finger. "He is promised to Hastings's unborn daughter. I suppose—." She gazed across the meadow. "My sister Jacquetta has been growing up with her husband for at least three years now."
The man brightened. "We can give Lord Hastings wardship of Thomas. That may help him accept my keeping our marriage secret even from him."
The lady laughed. "The main value of wardship is the dowry of the bride, but for Hastings it would be from his own estate."
The husband' s laugh resounded. "Hastings will surely pay himself well."
Winter Bride Character Sketches
Monica and Daphne
Monica laid a hand in her brow. "Daphne, you are twenty—already an old maid."
"Mother, there is not a bachelor in Thetford worth a second look. Besides, how can I think of marrying when my spirit died on the Palm Sunday Field?"
Monica frowned into a pan with greasy water in the bottom. "For a girl with a dead spirit, you seem awfully lively."
"All our neighbors know I lost my one love. I can name two women, even older than I am, who lost their intended husbands. 'Tis not our fault, 'tis York's."
Monica put a finger over her mouth. "Shhh! Edward of York is our king now." She looked around for a place to set the pan she was holding, but found none. "I know what you truly want. You want to see the world—all of it. That is not the purpose of life—and it cannot be done anyway. You might get to London—but be sure you know how to escape it again."
She dumped a bone off a platter. A spotted dog snapped it up and took it under the table. Monica looked back to her daughter. "Riston is nice boy. He helps his crippled uncle. Besides, he likes you."
Daphne held her temples. "We have been over this many times. He is clever as a post. I would be mothering him all my life. He would probably beget stupid children—a herd of them." She huffed. "My father has offered to take me along with the troop. The costumes do need my care. Do you think my father cannot protect me?"
Monica sighed and stacked the pan on the platter. They had been over this many times. "Strong as he is, your father cannot protect you from the world."
Daphne chopped the air in frustration. "Do you want to lock me in a convent?" She returned to reason. "Thetford is not safe either. My father can only protect me if I am with him. The plays have taught me much about how to defend myself."
Monica turned and looked straight at her. She realized she was looking up into her daughter's troubled brown eyes. She wants this badly. I no longer need help with her little brothers. She might meet a man she would like to marry. We will have this argument every day she is here. I can no more tie her to the land than I could her father. They are travelers." She gave her daughter a kiss. "Let us go to the priest and ask his blessing for protection on your adventure."
A twig hit Thomas on the head as he walked under a large elm. He looked up into the tree and saw his brother's leg stepping onto a branch. He shook his head with the wisdom of fourteen years. Such peasant behavior! Our tutor will surely beat him. "Come down, George." He called just loud enough for his grown-up voice to be heard. "'Tis time for our dance lesson."
George laughed. "Come up and get me." At ten, he still had a child's voice.
Why does such a lively boys dislike dancing? "You know you must be able to dance."
"'Tis no fun." George moved nimbly to a different branch. His face came into view.
"After a tournament, will you claim always to be hurt so that you need not dance? That might keep you from enjoying the feast."
George laughed again. " I cannot dance today. See this scratch."
"No, I can barely see your arm. Come down here. We will be late."
"I am too tired to dance."
"Then you must be too tired to climb." Thomas took a step. "I will fetch a strong squire to help you down."
George snorted. "Down takes little strength."
"If you hurry, I will not need to inform our tutor. You know how he answers tree climbing."
Branches shook and bits of bark fell as George cambered down.
"How do you get rid of an unwanted task?" Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, asked her restless ten-year-old.
"Finish it," Edward recited. With a sigh, he looked down at the numbers on his wax board. "Six hundred and twenty-three times sixteen."
"What is six plus six?" the duchess coached.
"Twelve—and six more is eighteen." He scratched eight into the wax.
He didn't see the disappointment on his mother's face. She knew this son would never be a scholar like his brother Lionel. He does show signs of being a fine horseman. "What are you and your father working on?"
Edward straightened and smiled. "I will get to pick up rings from horseback—at a walk." He sighs. "..after I do my weight lifting exercises."
Jacquetta nodded and smiled. "You may have a great career as a jouster."
When he finished calculating the perimeter of a pentagon, she dismissed him. "Please tell Lionel to bring his Latin. I am eager to hear what Aneas did next."
Edward smirked. He knew she had heard the story twice with Anthony and John.
William Fitzalan lowered himself onto a bench across the table from Lord Rivers. He tasted the wine and smiled. "You keep good wine, Richard."
"Thank you, Lord Arundel. It helps after a long day in parliament."
They reviewed the tournament a bit. Then Richard, Lord Rivers, said, "Now you have both seen my daughter, Margaret. What do you and your son think? Is she not lovely?"
William wiped a drip of wine from his jaw and smiled. "Not bad at all, but my son George only wants to speak of horses and armor. He needs another four years to grow up."
Richard forced a smile. "Yes, my sons have a great interest in horses too."
William spread his stubby fingers. "And they fight very well. You can be proud of Anthony's and John's jousting."
"I am." Richard frowned wondering how to get back on the subject. "Margaret is an able horsewoman as well. More important, she is learning how to manage a manor. I believe she will be able to expand that knowledge to manage the domestic side of a castle."
William's lip curled in surprise. "Managing servants can be a challenge. What do you teach your children?"
"My lady and I believe that the master and mistress of a house can handle servants better if they know what the workers are doing. Margaret has baked a loaf, milked a cow, and even gutted a fish." He chuckled. "She likes hunting for eggs in hidden nests." He answered William's puzzled frown. "Because we can do these things, the servants respect us." Richard laughed. "They cannot be impressed with our Latin and seem to suppose that we are born able to read."
William laughed. "That is an interesting theory."
Richard smiledand raised an eyebrow. "It works for me. I have sheared a sheep and even butchered a goat." Straightening, he returned to the subject. "Margaret is learning to play the harp. The tunes are now quite recognizable. "
Taking this scene out of The King's Beloved would have been very difficult if I hadn't been able to present it as a medieval tale on this website.
Lady Elizabeth Grey, her boys, and five servants trotted into the Grafton courtyard.
They were met at the door by a boy of about eight. "Uncle Edward!" Thomas and Richard cried in delight. They both began to talk at once.
"Where is Lionel?" Lady Grey asked.
Edward tipped his head toward the house. "He is finishing his Latin lesson."
Lady Grey tipped her head and studied him. "Have you finished yours?"
Edward shrugged. "I will. But he is the family scholar."
Lady Grey raised her eyebrows. "Anthony gave him a high standard to meet."
Edward laughed. "Yes, but he will never be a cardinal."
An Encounter in Leicester
Gilbert nodded. "We must ask questions and get people to talk. Somebody in this building may know who would help."
"You can ask me."
Albin looked around in surprise and found a young man with a stubbly beard at the next table. His tunic is nearly new. Maybe he is a tradesman.
"Do you know some tenants of Groby Hall?"
The man laughed. "I know them all, especially those who raise hops. What are you looking for?"
Albin nudged Gilbert's knee. We must be very careful what we say. We cannot tell friend from foe.
“It should be somebody familiar with John Grey's will,” Gilbert said.
The man smirked. “Come you from his beautiful widow?”
You want to betraying Rivers or Scales! Albin stepped on Gilbert's toes and spoke up quickly. “We serve kindred of the Greys.
"Who is that?” the man asked with too much interest.
“You have never heard of him.” Gilbert waved his hand.
Then they both spoke at once. “He is way off in the west,” Albin pointed.
“East,” Gilbert pointed.
The man laughed. “South?”
A Kitchen Discussion
The news I learn from Mistress Hays seems always to be right. Albin headed for her kitchen.
There, a bright-eyed, birdlike woman looked around from watching a man pound dough. Although she was well over sixty, she was in charge. She wore a big, leather apron and had a wreath of gray hair wrapped around her head. “You are late for dinner, Albin,” she said in a cracking voice. Two men looked up from their work.
Mistress Hays pointed to Albin’s useless arm. “Are you better than when we served dinner to the king?”
Albin smiled. “My arm is still like an overcooked bean. But my job is better. I just carried a message from Middleton."
The queen of the kitchen smiled between her wrinkles. "You like being a messenger."
"Indeed I do. 'Tis such a free feeling to ride mile after mile. And I seem to get along well with the horses." He swallowed some of the beer she handed him and wiped foam off his lip. "What news here?"
She gave him a teasing look. "The dead are making the news."
Albin started. "Ghosts?"
Grinning, she shook her head. "King Edward and his cousin of Warwick have been reburying their fathers and the king's brother."
"Then his grace must not be expecting an invasion from Scotland after all."
Mistress Hays laughed. "Who would lead it. Somerset is with the king."
Leicester, England, March 5, 1463
“What?” Albin roused from sleep and looked at the shadow that was Baldwin.
“Plato,” Baldwin repeated. “The Wydevilles talked about Plato over their books.”
Albin tried to clear the fog of sleep. “A food?”
“A person.” Baldwin chuckled. “I think he was a wise man who told how governments work.”
“He would have been wise enough not to wake his bunkmate.” Albin frowned and turned on his other side. Traveling with Baldwin, who was still in his teens, could be fun—in the daytime.
“Oh, sorry. But I do think we could use his name to sound more like students.”
“I think I would like a good snore about now.” But now he was awake. “Yes” he thought. “We can name some wise men and say we like or dislike their ideas. Just as long as we meet no real students.”
Birdface sees London
The next day Birdface got to go with Albin on an errand to London. Birdface’s beard seemed like a fringe on his grin as he tried to see everything in London. He saw a duke on horseback followed by a score of armed men. Birdface watched children throwing filth at a man locked in the stocks. “I wonder what he did to them.”
Albin shrugged his good shoulder. “Maybe nothing. Some people just like to throw filth.”
They turned a corner and entered yet another street overhung with second stories. “Can you really find your way through these streets?” Birdface asked.
Albin nodded. “Use buildings as landmarks, Birdface. A street vender may not be in his place.”
Birdface's jaw dropped when he saw a dwarf dancing for pennies. What fun it is to watch Birdface gawk at everything!
The cousins hurried on past a woman with pies to sell. Suddenly Albin turned around.
“What?” Birdface asked.
“Do you see those men down by the knife shop?”
Birdface looked and nodded. “Two big men. Oh! They are after you?!”
Albin nodded. “Have they moved on?”
“They are coming this way.”
Albin walking through the nearest door.
“A bath, gentlemen?” a broad man greeted them with a broad smile.
“How much?” Albin asked. “Is the water hot?”
Birdface turned from watching out the door. “Okay, they have passed.” The cousins continued walked on down the street. “I think we need archers. We can hardly take them alive.”
“Did you see their clothes?” Albin asked. “Were they wearing a badge?”
Birdface wore a puzzled frown. "What?"
"The picture that their lord puts on everything. I am proud to wear Lord Scales's scallop shell." As they walked on, Albin kept trying to help Birdface remember. “The cloth was blue. Was there a picture, an animal maybe?”
They were back at the Scales home when Albin asked, "Did the picture have chains on it?"
Suddenly, Birdface grinned. "Yes! It had chains on each side of a square things with bars."
"Yes!" Albin slapped him on the back. "'Tis the Beaufort portcullis!” He took Birdface by the shoulders and whispered. “They are Somerset’s men. When they captured me, one of them called Margaret a queen. Somerset is a traitor to King Edward!”
Lady Elizabeth Grey, her boys, and five servants trotted into the Grafton courtyard.
They were met at the door by a boy of about eight. "Uncle Edward!" Thomas and Richard cried in delight. They both began to talk at once.
"Where is Lionel?" Lady Grey asked.
Edward pointed toward their school room. "He is finishing his Latin lesson."
Lady Grey tipped her head and studied him. "Have you finished yours?"
Edward shrugged. "I will. But he is the family scholar."
Lady Grey raised her eyebrows. "Anthony gave him a high standard to meet."
Edward laughed. "Yes, but he is married. He will never be a cardinal."
[Lionel did become Bishop of Salisbury. ]
Albin and Baldwin were in London. They came to Baynard's Castle.
Baldwin pointed. "King Edward's mother lives here. Cecily is beautiful and folks call her the rose of Rabe."
A gray-haired man was sitting on the ground near by. He was leaning against the castle wall. "I built it," he said.
Baldwin laughed. But Albin asked the man, "What did you do? How many men were working on it? Were you using a crane?"
The man ignored him and answered Albin. "The crane brought stones up to us on the walls. I have no idea how many men worked on it. There were over a hundred of us."
Albin talked about it on the way home.
Baldwin shook his great head. "I could learn much traveling with you."
In A Hollow Vow, Albin must ride across the site of the Battle of Towton by himself.
The Killing Field
In York, Albin shivered. I expect to sleep so near the killing field? He frowned. Of course, I did before the battle. But then, I expected our army to win.
At a monastery, he did sleep and then eat a hearty breakfast. As he rode on, he talked to his horse. "Smokey, I know we are crossing the battlefield, but nothing looks familiar." He gazed across the waves of fields stretching into the distance. What is there to recognize? He told Smokey, "Our great army stretched for a mile across one of these. Then another army came up. The wind carried their arrows into our ranks before we could get one near theirs. Then it started to snow." He patted Smokey's neck. "You are glad you were not here. I barely dodged a crazed horse with an arrow in its neck."
When they reached the River Aire, Albin drew rein. "They have done a good job of rebuilding the bridge—in less than two years. It was frightening to cross it half destroyed." He looked at the patches of mushy old ice along the bank. The water looks calm now. England looks calm too, but there are unseen currents.
Breaking a Bridge
By Lila Rhodes
Lord Scales bellowed, “We can keep the Duke of Norfolk and his army from crossing the river here.” The baron held aloft the small keg. “We will destroy the bridge.”
That solid, stone bridge! Albin felt like laughing. He had admired how the rockwork held without mortar tighter than a leg joint.
The baron pointed at the bridge. “We will lower strong men over the sides of the bridge to open spaces between the stones and fill them with this black powder.”
Albin shaded his eyes and gazed at the swift-flowing Aire River.
Six volunteers strode forward. Albin wrinkled his nose. George would be one of them.
They helped George and the others over the edge of the bridge and gave them large iron picks and malls.
“Men!” The baron’s voice was tiring. “We also need six fast, sure-footed men to light the fuses.”
This I can do. Albin stepped forward. George would be too slow for this job.
Lord Scales chose other young men and then looked at Albin.
Albin nodded. “I am fast and sure footed, my lord.”
Lord Scales pressed his lips together thoughtfully and then nodded.
Albin, the baron, and the other runners climbed up the arching bridge. The picks rang a rhythm on the keystones of the bridge. Albin and the other runners watched Lord Scales pour black powder from the keg onto six rags. The baron tied each rag full of powder into a bundle and added a long fuse. “These are your wicks. At my signal, light them and run to join us on the bank.”
When the holes were ready, the baron gave the bundles to the men below to shove into the gaps they had made. The workers were helped back onto the bridge. Albin grinned as George and the others walked away. The baron gave the runners each a burning rush light and left.
Albin sheltering his flame behind the bridge parapet. He reached over the side of the bridge and grasped the fuse.
Lord Scales called, “Now!” Albin lighted the fuse and stepped back. It went out. He tried again. Men were hollering, “Run! Run!” The others were running. Did mine go out again? The other runners were off the bridge. Albin started to take another look.
It must be burning. He ran to the others. Seeing men with their hands over their ears, he turned and covered his ears too. Suddenly there was a roar. Bridge stones and dust flew into the air. Then, like beads slipping off a string, stones splashed into the river to both ends. The waves slid downstream. Only the supports showed where the bridge had been.
His cousin clapped Albin on the shoulder. “Now we know what was in the keg.”
# # #
When Albin went to the stable to check on his horse, he heard a muffled sob. It turned out to be a skinny man slumped in the corner on a pile of straw.
"What troubles you?" Albin asked.
The man took his long hands from in front of pale gray eyes. In a choked voice, he said, "I cannot go home."
Albin frowned in puzzlement. "Why not? Has it gone to a some lord who decided to serve King Edward?"
The skinny man shook his head. "That, my wife could accept. But she will kill me because I lost my wool business in a card game."
"What!" Albin almost shouted. "You wagered your whole business?"
With a sob, the man nodded. "It happened little by little. At first, I wagered part of my profits and then all of them. After that, I was desperate to get them back."
Albin nodded. I have seen that happen. That is why I do not gamble.
"It was so exciting to be in London with those fancy merchants—and I was drunk."
Albin shook his head. Liquor can make a man's mind as soft as warm butter. "What will you do?"
"I have no idea."
"What is your name?"
"Chad." The man sobbed again.
Albin tugged at Chad's worn sleeve. "Come into the monastery and have some dinner."
They heard the black-gowned monks singing in the chapel. Meanwhile, lay brothers prepared dinner.
Over pork pie, Albin asked Chad. "What is happening in London?" He waited until Chad could speak.
"The young Duke of Somerset is still the talk of London. Many people believe that he fled to Scotland with the, uh, Lancastrians because the French woman's baby is really his son."
Albin shook his head. "I have heard that too. Have you seen this duke?" I saw him from a distance at the Palm Sunday Field.
"Yes, he is tall and very handsome. Even a queen might lose her heart to him."
"I have heard that he is merry and charming as well. At least he was until we lost the battle."
Chad stopped chewing and stared at Albin. "Were you in that battle?"
Albin rolled his eyes. I must quit giving myself away. "Yes, and I lost the use of my arm."
The poor merchant's lip curled in surprise. "You seem to be thriving."
Albin stroked his sleeve and smiled. "I am blessed with a fine baron for whom I ride with messages." Seeing the affect of this, he added, "You will find something you can do well too."
They turned their attention to the fish while it was hot.
Wiping his hands, Albin asked, "What else from London?"
"They are laying bets about who the king will marry." With a shy grin, Chad added, "They could add bets about when."
"Yes, indeed," Albin agreed.
Over dried plums, Albin said, "You need to find an income and be reunited with your family. Do you have children?"
"I have two and a half children."
Albin frowned with puzzlement. A half? Does someone else claim it?
Chad laughed. "The third one will appear before Easter."
"They need you! You need a plan!"
Chad scratched his head. "During the parliament, York will need more workers. I could fetch and carry."
"Surely you can get work with your knowledge of the wool trade. Is there no one who can help you?"
"Maybe my cousin can think of someone. "
A Tale of two Widows
Katherine nee Nevil was widowed by the Battle of Wakefield the last day of 1460. Elizabeth nee Wydeville was widowed by the Second Battle of Saint Albans February 1461. Katherine soon remarried to William Lord Hastings, King Edward's boon companion and confidant. They lived, at least sometimes, at Ashby de la Zouch. When Elizabeth was at Groby Castle, they were roughly twenty miles apart. They could visit back and forth but would need to stay over night.
Anyway, these women surely had a lot to talk about including their young children. When the inheritance of Elizabeth's sons was threatened, Katherine would be a likely and sympathetic confidant. Is it any surprise that William Hastings was drawn into the discussion? He may have been the one who suggested that he could loan Elizabeth enough money to hire a good lawyer. Part of Elizabeth's collateral included the marriage of her son Thomas Grey to the Hastingses' daughter. What made this a very strange contract was that their first child was still on-the-way and it was about 500 years early to get a prenatal look.
I begin to imagine Elizabeth riding away and Lord and Lady Hastings doing a high-five.
As I simultaneously studied Microsoft Access and medieval tournaments, the collision sent up a spray of puns. Here is some of the fall-out I have been able to sweep up.
The preferred table is a round table, King Edward III built a good one.
The field selected must display the properties of being flat, broad, and adequately accessible.
The field then must be modified by adding deep sand, fencing, and by customizing grandstands, and pavilions.
Should a mouse open spaces in a knight’s quilted jupon, he will need to replace it.
Pictures, (such as griffons) added to background color, must be done in silver or gold.
Closing forms into armor is the squires’ duty.
Any resizing must be done well in advance so that squires can link up armor quickly.
Who will remain in the field when the folders are out of the competition?
Hopefully no layouts will be needed.
Our Christmas dinner in the 50's was quite traditional. We had to store the turkey in the car because the refrigerator was full of other things. Mom made the stuffing with bread crumbs and lots of celery, onion, and sage. She also boiled and mashed the potatoes. The rolls, however, were store bought. There was a lazy-susan we put in the middle of the table. Its trays held the cranberry sauce, pickles, olives, etc. Its center was a round covered dish that was reserved for Grandma's home-made caramels. Grandma must have brought the dessert because I don’t remember Mom making mince pie.
We dined early in the afternoon. Some time in the evening, we would each scrounge a snack from the leftovers.
In the next generation, my sister became the Christmas hostess because she had two young children. Year after year, she would say that she had been too busy to make Grandma's caramels—and after dinner—bring them out.
How to Avoid Bad Luck
by Lila Rhodes
( an outtake from Entering the Castle)
Albin found Gilbert to be not only a travel companion, but an education. One day on their way to Grafton, they tethered their horses and spread out their dinner under an oak. Looking around, Albin noticed a hole in the tree. He started over to look.
“What are you doing?” Gilbert exclaimed.
“Finding out if there is a nest in the hole,” Albin said.
“Stop!” Gilbert shouted. “It might be an owl’s nest. Looking in an owl’s nest is bad luck.”
Albin laughed. “If you wake up an owl.” But he settled for a quick glance at the empty nest. Sitting down, Albin asked, “Do you never poke into things to find out about them?”
Gilbert crushed a handful of his fluffy hair thoughtfully. “I am interested in people, but snooping into their affairs can be dangerous.”
After dinner, a leather triangle fell out of Gilbert’s bag as he was remounting. Albin picked it up and looked at it. These are letters painted on it, I know that is an 'A.' But what can it mean?
Gilbert put out his hand for it. Seeing Albin’s puzzled face he asked, “Have you never seen one of these? ‘Abracadabra’ written in a triangle can stop bleeding and aid magic. I would never travel without it.”
Albin rubbed his earlobe. Strange! I wonder where he learns all this.
In the morning Gilbert caught him putting on his stockings. “Do you not put on your right stocking and left shoe first. Small wonder you have no better luck!”
Albin rubbed his ear. I think my luck is good. He shrugged and put on his left stocking first.
Here is an outtake from Stealthy
Waters. Because of the flood, the
chickens had started roosting in the rafters above the Haywards' heads.
Is our cottage still
standing? Albin wondered. Through
sprinkling rain, Albin and Garvin, his father, walked back to their cottage.
Garvin asked, "What can we do for the chickens?"
Albin rubbed his earlobe. "Can they care for themselves?" Do chickens have a patron saint? "'Tis sad they will not come if we call them."
They found the cottage standing in nearly a foot of water. The wattle showed in more places than before. They stepped over the threshold. Albin looked up into the dimness. He saw movement. As his eyes adjusted he counted. "I see the rooster and six hens," he reported.
His father frowned. "We cannot go up after them. What can we do?"
Albin rubbed his earlobe vigorously. "The cottage will come down soon. We need to make a hole in the roof so they can escape."
"We need a billhook."
Garvin frowned. "My Uncle Sedgley has one from the war in France."
The old man couldn't hear them very well. Albin picked up the rusty billhook and tried to demonstrate the plan.
Uncle Sedgley suddenly had energy enough to grab the billhook. "You could break my roof!"
Albin nodded and bellowed, "We need to break our roof." Then he grabbed the weapon and whisked out the door with it.
The old man tottered after them, shouting something.
Albin stabbed at the roof. He managed to frighten the chickens. By breaking a stick, he pulled down a wad of thatch.
With a frightened cackle, one hen swooped down and out the door. I wish they would all do that.
"Here," Garvin took the billhook and pulled down a little more thatch.
Uncle Sedgley waded in and
shook his head. "This cottage is about to come
After Albin and Garvin each took another turn, the hole was bigger than any of the chickens. "I think we should leave them now to get used to their new door," Garvin said.
Garvin returned the
billhook. "Thank you, Uncle Sedgley." Using it for a
walking stick, the old man started shuffling home, muttering.
Albin looked back at the
cottage roof and saw the rooster standing on it. The cottage shuddered. I hope the chickens find a
roost that will not fall.
Spoiler allert !
This colorful bit of history begins with material we know from Lord Anthony himself.
After mass on the Wednesday before Easter 1465, Lord Anthony Wydeville strode through Shene Palace to visit his sister. At twenty-five, he was Lord Scales, a baron. It had been only seven months since he had the surprise of his life: King Edward IV had married his sister. Without warning, he was the king’s brother-in-law.
Anthony found Queen Elizabeth, a young beauty with the delicate features of a china doll, seated on a carved chair and flanked by her ladies in waiting. Those ladies included Anthony’s wife and his sister Anne—another of the thirteen Wydeville siblings.
“Lord Scales,” the queen acknowledged him.
Anthony Wydeville, an athlete, stepped forward and sank to his knee. He doffed his velvet hat and let it fall upside down beside him on the richly colored carpet. “Your grace?”
“Are you practicing handling a pitcher and goblets on horseback?”
“Yes, your grace. I will be ready to serve spiced grape juice at your coronation feast.”
The queen nodded. The ladies moved forward and surrounded Anthony. Something glittered in Lady Scales’s hand. She and Anne Wydeville settled on either side of him. Lady Scales reached under her husband’s extended leg and handed one end of a band to Anne. They fastened it above his knee. It was a series of golden links shapes like 8’s, set with precious gems, and adorned with a flower of enameling on gold—for remembrance.
Another lady dropped something in Lord Scales’s hat before they all returned to their places.
Recognizing the honor, Anthony responded, “This comes nearer my heart than my knee.” In his hat, he found a scroll of parchment tied with a gold thread.
Lord Scales recognized at once that the flower was an emprise to be won by meeting the challenge described in this scroll. Eager as he must have been to read it, Anthony was a wise courtier. He took the scroll to King Edward and explained. “Her grace’s ladies have honored me with this emprise.”
Edward IV—who was twenty-three, huge, and handsome—broke the seal and read the message. “You are instructed to joust with a champion of your choice. The first day’s encounter will be on horseback and the second on foot.” He grinned at his brother-in-law. “Who might you challenge?”
That was a question. It had only been four years since Edward seized the throne, and civil war sputtered on. People from either side could easily be offended. Lord Scales went off-island for his choice. He wrote at once to Comte du la Roche, an illegitimate son of the Duke of Burgundy—and a famous jouster.
King Edward sent his own herald to Brussels with the jeweled emprise, to deliver the challenge. This called for a ceremony in the elegant court of the Duke of Burgundy. The herald displayed the sparkling band of gems on gold and spoke to Count du la Roche. “You have the opportunity to meet Lord Scales in London to win this emprise for yourself.”
Count du la Roche, whose name was Antoine, asked about Anthony.
The herald answered, “He showed himself an able jouster at King Edward’s tournament last spring. Like yourself, he has also seen battle.”
A great deal of negotiation followed on the rules of this tournament. At one point the articles considered, with horror, the possibility that one of the combatants could be hurt.
It was two years before Comte du la Roche, and four hundred followers, made it to London. On May 30, 1467, seven barges of key lords and Londoners escorted him to his landing place.
The count was the houseguest of a bishop. Lord Scales and the royal court paraded through the city. Something, maybe the elegance of his entourage, tipped Anthony off when he came to the count along the parade route. He turned his horse, and, for the first time, the opponents saw each other.
Comte du la Roche visited the opening of parliament and attended many feasts and dances. Meanwhile, workers turned the stockyard at Smithfield into their venue. The lists and three-story stands were built for the event.
The tournament began on June 11. The queen wore a very high-waisted houpland that obscured the fact that she would be having a child in July. The king’s purple robe spread out behind him over the sand, but the garter of the order on his leg was plain to see. He climbed two flights past knights and squires to join his counselors on the podium. Hundreds of important and wealthy Londoners entered, knelt before the king, and took their places in the opposite stands.
Once the audience was seated, there was a knock on the wooden door at the end of the lists. The marshal of the tournament called out, “Who would enter?”
Lord Scales answered, “My name is Escallis. I am come to accomplish a deed of arms with the Bastard of Burgundy...” Lord Scales and his horse entered wearing cloth of gold. The horse trappings had gold fringe half a foot long. Behind him, came eight more horses ridden by his pages. The boys all wore green velvet, but the horses were all dressed differently in trappings clear to the ground. Three wore damask of different colors and patterns. Two wore velvet, and two fur. The last horse glittered in cloth-of-gold.
Next Count du la Roche received permission to enter. Some in his parade of horses wore fur, cloth of silver, and gold and silver bells.
The Marshal delivered a warning. “Viewers must not approach the lists, wave, or make any noise. Anyone doing so will be imprisoned until he pays whatever ransom the king demands.”
At the king’s signal, the jousters lowered their lances, rushed together, and missed each other completely. Tossing the lances away, they began fighting with their swords. Steel rang on steel and the horses churned up the sand.
Suddenly the count’s horse reared. The count clung to him as he rose higher and higher. The weight of the armed knight toppled the stallion over on top of him.
Lord Scales rode slowly around his opponent as the marshal crossed to the fallen count and thrashing horse.
There are many conflicting accounts of what happened. Some Burgundians even said that Lord Scales rammed his sword down the horse’s throat. Another version has Scales’s horse wearing an illegal spike on its faceplate. Some said there was blood around the fallen horse’s mouth, other its nose. One version says it was pierced through the eye and killed instantly.
The day’s combat was over. Lord Scales was strip searched for hidden weapons in front of everyone.
Miraculously, Count du la Roche walked away. When he was asked if he could fight, the count said, “Today I fought a beast. Tomorrow I will fight a man.”
And he did. They fought on foot with pole axes (a knight’s version of a Swiss army knife equipped with spear point, blade, hammer, and hook.)
The two champions pried pieces off each other’s armor. Each fought to put his opponent in a position where he could make no further moves. The baron brought his spear point up and wedged the tip in the count’s visor. Thrusting with this advantage, Lord Scales forced his opponent onto his knees. “Whoa” cried a lone voice in the stands. His command was picked up and repeated by the king’s marshals and heralds.
Anthony and Antoine removed their helmets. The count told the king and the marshal that he wished to continue.
The Marshal replied, “If you resume, it will be from the same position. You were on your knees with a spear point in your visor.” The count conceded.
King Edward called on them to shake hands and never fight each other again. There is no evidence of hard feelings between them.
It was probably clear to all the spectators who won the day. However, King Edward wanted an alliance with Burgundy and declared it a draw. Let us hope that Lord Scales, as well as the count, was given a jeweled band with a flower of gold for remembrance. In any case, this tournament is one way Anthony Wydeville is still remembered.