Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cynthia Haggard: 'The Thwarted Queen'

Welcome to Lady Cecylee’s Memoirs, titled THWARTED QUEEN. The excerpt I am about to present comes from Volume 3 of her ladyship’s memoirs, titled THE GILDED CAGE. Before I present it, I thought I would give you some background:

1. The Londoners were famously rambunctious. They did not kow-tow to royalty. Rather, they thought that the Kings and Queen had to earn their respect. This was because London was a huge city, and its wealthiest citizens were often bankrolling the monarchy. In a power vacuum, the Londoners always held the trump card, because if you displeased them, they locked the gates to the city. You could not get crowned.

2. At this time, the English have held territories in France for over 350 years. The King of England actually owns more of France than the King of France does.

3. Last year, King Henry VI married a French princess, Marguerite d’Anjou. The custom is for her to bring a large dowry to England, to provide honor and lands to the match.

4. Earl of Suffolk was sent to negotiate the deal. Unfortunately, Henry had fallen in love with a secretly-obtained portrait of Marguerite, so Suffolk knew he had to get her at any price. As you will see, the price was high.

5. We come in on a conversation between Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Richard, Duke of York. Gloucester is the King’s uncle, York, the King’s cousin. And York is married to Cecylee, the protagonist of the novel. It is April 28th, 1446.

A wine cup banging on the table pulled him out of his thoughts. As he looked at it, the ruby wine sloshed out, the cup skidded, and it fell to the ground with a clatter.
A servant scurried out to clear the mess, but Gloucester waved him away, went to his fireplace, and pounded the hood with his fist. “I don’t believe it!” he roared.
Richard, Duke of York, sank back in his chair and wiped his face with the back of his hand.
A servant materialized with a bowl of water and a napkin for washing his face and hands, while another poured a full goblet of Gloucester’s best claret. Richard downed his goblet and signaled for another. He nodded for the messenger to leave. He’d forgotten about this latest piece of treachery, he’d been so preoccupied with Cecylee. Really, he sometimes felt he barely knew his own wife.
Gloucester turned. “I can scarcely believe the king would do this.  The English people won’t abide it. We must go to court at once and learn the truth of the matter.”
“What is this I hear about Maine and Anjou?” roared Gloucester, striding into the king’s presence chamber, followed by York. He made only the most perfunctory of bows.
King Henry shrank into the cushions of his elaborately carved chair.
Queen Marguerite, however, rose from her low stool and stood tall, arms folded. “They belong to my father.  It is part of the marriage agreement, is that not so, my dearest?” She turned to Henry.
“Yes,” murmured Henry, moistening his lips with his tongue.
“It can’t be true,” said York, gazing at the King, who steadfastly refused to look him in the eye.
“It is,” said Marguerite, lifting her chin. “My lord the king has solemnly promised the King of France that he will return these territories to my father by the thirtieth day of April.”
“The thirtieth day of April?” stormed Gloucester. “You mean in two days?”
Marguerite nodded.
Gloucester paled.
“Does the council know of this?” asked Richard.
King Henry stared at the floor. 
“What about the governors of Maine and Anjou?”
King Henry twisted his ring.
“You mean to say that you arranged this—these provisions of the treaty and told no-one?” roared Gloucester. “Not the council, not the governors, not the magnates, and least of all me?”
There was silence. As Richard studied the king, he saw the jaw twitch. Of course. This idea was too stupid even for King Henry. “Suffolk knew didn’t he?” said Richard.
“And Cardinal Beaufort!” spat Gloucester.
“The Cardinal is a man of the church,” said Marguerite. “You should not abuse—”
“This is absolutely breathtaking,” shouted Gloucester. “I can’t believe you would be so stupid. What? Give back the territories that we won under your glorious father? It can’t be true!”
“It is,” said Marguerite, coming forward, her eyes flashing. “And you, my lord, should mind your manners around the king.”
“I have never heard of such addle-pated goings-on in all my days,” shouted Gloucester. “You must be out of your mind!” He stormed off, banging the door behind him.
“Sire,” said Richard, bowing low. “This is a most ill-conceived piece of diplomacy. Mark my words, you will live to regret it.” He hurried after Gloucester.
Richard urged his palfrey into a gallop so that he could catch up with Gloucester, riding east to the city. What is he going to do now, thought Richard, following Gloucester along the Strand towards Saint Paul’s Cathedral. As soon as they got to the churchyard, Gloucester vaulted off his horse, threw his reins to a groom, and mounted the steps of Saint Paul’s Cross.
Richard followed.
The Londoners were enjoying themselves in the spring sunshine, it being that time of day after the main meal when people come out to pay visits, shop, and enjoy a fine afternoon stroll. In one corner of Saint Paul’s churchyard, a number of well-dressed citizens fingered the leather covers and the crisp pages of those new-fangled printed books. There were goldsmiths and silversmiths. There was a woman selling spring flowers. There was even a horse merchant, whose restless charges stamped their feet, tossed their heads, and added a pungent odor to the scene.
Just outside the door of the church stood a group of London merchants. The soft leather of their boots and gloves displayed their wealth, as did the exotic and colorful material of their robes, their jewel-encrusted collars, and the many rings on their fingers. They were outdone only by their wives, who wore as many necklaces, rings, and brooches as possible crammed onto their costumes. Richard bowed to one beldame passing by. She had so much cloth in her headdress, her husband must belong to the clothier’s guild.
As Gloucester arrived at Saint Paul’s Cross, the people immediately began to gather, separating Richard from his mentor. “Good Duke Humphrey!” they shouted. “‘Tis Good Duke Humphrey!”
Gloucester bowed.  A tapster from a nearby alehouse ran up to hand him a mug of ale.
He looks years younger, thought Richard, glancing at his friend basking in the approval of the crowd. How ironic that it is the people of England who respect him, not his aristocratic peers.
The crowd gathered around Saint Paul’s Cross, buzzing with excited anticipation as the horses neighed.
“I wonder what he’s got to say,” said the bookseller.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the flower seller. “Most of them fancy people never bother with the likes of us.”
“Duke Humphrey, he’s good,” said the horse merchant. “He talks to us. Tells us what’s going on.”
“He’s become a champion of good governance,” said a well-dressed gentleman.
Duke Humphrey held up a hand, and the crowd fell silent.
“My friends, I have come here today to tell you about a piece of treachery. Nay, I can scarce believe it myself, and if any of you had told me this, I would think I had had a bad hangover from the night before.”
Some youngsters in the crowd erupted into laughter. Their elders grew watchful and silent.
Richard accepted a tankard of beer and stood by Gloucester. He looked at the faces tilted up before him. They don’t seem overawed, he thought, sipping his beer. This country is not like France, where the common people grovel before the aristocrats. These people seem to know that their voices count for something.
Gloucester raised his hand again. “Would you believe it, but in return for Margaret of Anjou, the Earl of Suffolk negotiated a marriage settlement in which we give away Maine and Anjou to the French.”
The crowd recoiled. “No!” they shouted.
Richard grew uneasy.
“Yes, good people. Yes: I am sorry to tell you so, but there it is.”
“What does this mean for trade, sir?” asked a man, a fashionably dressed woman on his arm.
“You lose the revenues from the counties of Maine and Anjou,” replied Duke Humphrey. “You lose revenues from wine.”
“Is our wine trade going to dry up?” asked one merchant with a red nose.
“Not unless we lose Bordeaux. So far, we are just talking about Maine and Anjou.”
The crowd responded with a harsh bark of laughter.
“But I can tell you,” continued Gloucester, “that the loss of Maine and Anjou means the loss of goodly fruit.”
“No more pears!” exclaimed a young girl with golden hair hanging out from an upstairs window. “But that’s my favorite fruit.” Her high voice sailed over the noise of the crowd.
“No more Anjou pears, madam,” said Gloucester sweeping her a low bow.
“Jacinda, do not shout out of the window. It is not ladylike.” A woman with an elaborate horned headdress appeared and gently pulled the child away. “Please accept my apologies, my lord Duke,” she called down. “She is very free.”
“Do not worry, madam,” said Gloucester bowing again with a flourish. “You have a charming daughter.”
Applause and cheers greeted this remark.
“What about the landowners of Maine and Anjou, my lord?” asked a merchant dressed in fine crimson silk, rubies winking from the collar around his neck. “What about their lands and holdings?”
“A good question.” Gloucester held up his hand to still the whispers and murmurings of the crowd. “They will be obliged to give up their lands. They will be forced to come home with nothing and start afresh.”
The crowd erupted into boos and murmurs, which grew louder. Richard looked at his friend.
“I see you look puzzled, good people,” remarked Gloucester, as the restless crowd grew silent. “Let me spell out the terms of the Treaty of Tours by which our king gained a wife. By this treaty, we give up Maine and Anjou. In return, we get exactly—nothing. That’s right. Nothing. The queen did not even bring a dowry with her. Can you believe it? Can you believe that Suffolk would be so stupid, so asinine, so treacherous, as to throw away something that we gained in a fair fight for nothing in return?”
Their roar threw Richard backward. He moved closer to Gloucester. “They’re getting upset,” he hissed.
Gloucester ignored him. “And all for a queen worth not ten marks,” he remarked, holding up his tankard of ale. “I feel personally betrayed.”
“We are betrayed!” roared the crowd. “A queen worth not ten marks!” They turned and hurried down Ludgate Hill in the direction of Westminster, shouting as they went.
“What are they going to do?” asked Richard.
Gloucester chuckled. “They are going to Westminster Palace, to shout insults at the queen.”

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Cynthia Haggard 


2012 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree
Finalist for 2012 Global e-books Awards
Finalist, Historical Fiction Category, 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards

now on Amazon, CreateSpace, Goodreads, and Redroom.






1 comment:

Maggi Andersen said...

Great excerpt, Cynthia! Good luck with the book.