The Crown of Thorns

Introduction
England, 1386

“Your Grace, I, John, the Duke of Cornwall, hereby relinquish my powers as Lord Protector of the realm and renew my oath of fealty to you. And as a token of service, I will congratulate you on assuming full control of the realm with a tourney in your honor, which I shall arrange on your behalf to celebrate God’s blessings upon you and your reign.”

Henry smiled at his great uncle. “And I look forward to such a tourney, my lord, and to your continued service during my reign. That is, if you are willing to accept a place on my council.”

“If you would allow an old man like myself to be of service, Your Grace.”

Henry chuckled. “You might be old, Uncle Cornwall, but you are far from useless.” He outstretched his hand, causing John to kiss it. “Come, my lord. Let us feast before you handle the business of the tourney.”

Much feasting took place in the halls of the palace, with Henry and his queen Joanna of Castile being the gracious hosts that they were. Members of their house were also present, but John had been in the business long enough to know to never let his guard down. Henry had barely been blessed with nineteen years of life, and he had yet to have children with his Castilian queen. That left John’s nephew, Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, as the presumptive heir should something terrible befall Henry. John’s position in the realm was already precarious, as he and his family were not due to succeed unless something awful also happened to his York nephew’s family. And even then, it was not going to be secure since John had already experienced much personal tragedy that whittled his own family down.

“Ah, Uncle Eltham.”

“Langley,” John shook his nephew’s hand.

“You are sure in giving up your authority as Lord Protector? England knew peace and prosperity with you at the helm.”

“It was time, nephew. And how else would our new king know the business of the realm if he doesn’t do it himself? He watched me long enough, and now is the time to see if he learned anything.”

“Reasonable,” Langley nodded. “But our new king has a bit of a restless disposition about him. He’s eager to prove himself, especially if it involves battle. He’s not that different from his late father in that regard.”

“All sound men are restless, nephew. But whether they can control their more aggressive spirits is what will differentiate them from the fools. You know this as well.”

“Indeed. With the king’s Castilian wife and our position against the king of France still precarious, I fear that the peace we enjoyed might not last long.”

“In that case, we should all do our duty and defend the realm from our enemies. Perhaps this time, we might actually succeed in getting the crown of France if they choose to fight us again.”

“I wouldn’t so sure, uncle. Nobody stands still, and the French have had time to know how we fight. You believe that the French will allow themselves to suffer another Crecy or Poitiers?”

“Oh, you of little faith,” John chided his nephew. “I will accept that you have reason to be anxious. No man remains static, and part of any life is learning and adapting. But we will do both faster and better than those who follow the king of France. We’ve won before, so let us not waste our energies on something that we can easily avoid.”

Langley sighed. “If you say, uncle.”

John had amicable relations with his nephew and York family, and he appreciated that Langley cared about the realm as much as he did. However, like everywhere, reputation was everything, and John wouldn’t have been able to obtain good feelings from amongst his relatives if he hadn’t done his duties as Lord Protector well. And John feared for the future, for he was 70 years old and any winter could be his last. I would welcome my death any time now, if only to join my wife and our children God took from me before they enjoyed old age like me and to rid myself of the burdens of the temporal.

“My Lord Cornwall.”

“Ah, Kent.”

Kent referred to Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent. Son of John’s cousin Joan, “the Fair Maid of Kent,” daughter of John’s uncle Edmund of Woodstock, Thomas was one of the more important lords in the kingdom.

“Have you considered my proposal, regarding your ward?”

“No,” Cornwall shook his head. “Absolutely not.”

“It’s a good match, my lord.”

“I will no more of it. Even if I did have half a mind to consider it, the king will never accept it. Even he knows how potent a match between her and your family can be, and how risky that is.”

“No riskier than you and your family present, my lord. With all due respect.”

“I will forget what you just said,” John showed his displeasure. “Unless you have something actually productive to discuss with me, please enjoy the feast.”

Kent wanted a bond between his family and Anne of Gloucester, who was being fostered in John’s own home. The only surviving child of his brother the late Duke of Gloucester, Anne was not long the heiress of Gloucester’s estates but also of the de Bohun’s, making her a very eligible bride to anyone. One of his rewards for his service to Henry was the wardship of Anne, which meant that John would manage her estates until she was of age and married. But more than that, John saw her as a granddaughter and therefore would only accept the most compatible match for her.

The last few decades for England were very tumultuous. John’s kingly brother, the famed Edward III, had blessed the kingdom with four legitimate male heirs to the throne. However, as if God wanted to put the Plantagenets in a vice, two of those sons died without giving any healthy male heirs and a third died after only giving one male prince of the blood. The only one who had done right by his duties was Edmund of Langley, but that still put their family on shaky ground.

John of Gaunt’s only legitimate son, now Henry IV, had ascended to the throne at the age of 10. John of Gaunt had died only a year prior, which meant that upon Henry’s accession to the throne after Edward III died, all of Lancaster’s estates were merged into the crown. Before he died, John of Gaunt arranged a marriage between his son and Infanta Joanna, daughter of King Henry II of Castile. This was considered an acceptable match, as Henry would become king and Gaunt’s Castilian bonds would be strengthened. As he was too young, the Privy Council appointed John as Lord Protector due to his performance in the war against the king of France and elsewhere.

As for how John himself got here, as the king’s only brother, he enjoyed royal confidence from an early age, which was natural given that the both of them suffered under Lord Mortimer’s control of the realm before Edward III wrested control away from him. John received many titles and estates from his brother, and even a good marriage. His bride was Joan, Countess of Penthièvre and heiress of the Duchy of Brittany. This not only furthered ties between England and the continent, it gave England another avenue to fight France. While they were unable to win the French crown and subjugate that kingdom, among the conditions of the peace was Brittany remaining de facto independent of the French crown and therefore with England’s sphere of control.

But like all men of old age, John had grown tired of such business. While his marriage to Joan produced seven children, only two of his daughters and his youngest son, Edmund, were still alive. Edmund was married to Alice of Norfolk, the only daughter of Edward, Earl of Norfolk, which brought the substantial Norfolk estates into the family’s control as well. Edmund was capable on his own and John had nothing but good things to hope for, but Edmund was still untested when it came to governance and the relations John had with those like Langley wasn’t guaranteed to apply to him. If only I can gain approval from the king to have Anne marry the grandson named after me.

Edmund’s oldest son, also named John, was a prospect for Anne that Cornwall hoped the king would approve. Like in the past, he would be patient, but not take too long since he could sense his death happening anytime soon.
 
England, 1386

“Your Grace, I, John, the Duke of Cornwall, hereby relinquish my powers as Lord Protector of the realm and renew my oath of fealty to you. And as a token of service, I will congratulate you on assuming full control of the realm with a tourney in your honor, which I shall arrange on your behalf to celebrate God’s blessings upon you and your reign.”

Henry smiled at his great uncle. “And I look forward to such a tourney, my lord, and to your continued service during my reign. That is, if you are willing to accept a place on my council.”

“If you would allow an old man like myself to be of service, Your Grace.”

Henry chuckled. “You might be old, Uncle Cornwall, but you are far from useless.” He outstretched his hand, causing John to kiss it. “Come, my lord. Let us feast before you handle the business of the tourney.”

Much feasting took place in the halls of the palace, with Henry and his queen Joanna of Castile being the gracious hosts that they were. Members of their house were also present, but John had been in the business long enough to know to never let his guard down. Henry had barely been blessed with nineteen years of life, and he had yet to have children with his Castilian queen. That left John’s nephew, Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, as the presumptive heir should something terrible befall Henry. John’s position in the realm was already precarious, as he and his family were not due to succeed unless something awful also happened to his York nephew’s family. And even then, it was not going to be secure since John had already experienced much personal tragedy that whittled his own family down.

“Ah, Uncle Eltham.”

“Langley,” John shook his nephew’s hand.

“You are sure in giving up your authority as Lord Protector? England knew peace and prosperity with you at the helm.”

“It was time, nephew. And how else would our new king know the business of the realm if he doesn’t do it himself? He watched me long enough, and now is the time to see if he learned anything.”

“Reasonable,” Langley nodded. “But our new king has a bit of a restless disposition about him. He’s eager to prove himself, especially if it involves battle. He’s not that different from his late father in that regard.”

“All sound men are restless, nephew. But whether they can control their more aggressive spirits is what will differentiate them from the fools. You know this as well.”

“Indeed. With the king’s Castilian wife and our position against the king of France still precarious, I fear that the peace we enjoyed might not last long.”

“In that case, we should all do our duty and defend the realm from our enemies. Perhaps this time, we might actually succeed in getting the crown of France if they choose to fight us again.”

“I wouldn’t so sure, uncle. Nobody stands still, and the French have had time to know how we fight. You believe that the French will allow themselves to suffer another Crecy or Poitiers?”

“Oh, you of little faith,” John chided his nephew. “I will accept that you have reason to be anxious. No man remains static, and part of any life is learning and adapting. But we will do both faster and better than those who follow the king of France. We’ve won before, so let us not waste our energies on something that we can easily avoid.”

Langley sighed. “If you say, uncle.”

John had amicable relations with his nephew and York family, and he appreciated that Langley cared about the realm as much as he did. However, like everywhere, reputation was everything, and John wouldn’t have been able to obtain good feelings from amongst his relatives if he hadn’t done his duties as Lord Protector well. And John feared for the future, for he was 70 years old and any winter could be his last. I would welcome my death any time now, if only to join my wife and our children God took from me before they enjoyed old age like me and to rid myself of the burdens of the temporal.

“My Lord Cornwall.”

“Ah, Kent.”

Kent referred to Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent. Son of John’s cousin Joan, “the Fair Maid of Kent,” daughter of John’s uncle Edmund of Woodstock, Thomas was one of the more important lords in the kingdom.

“Have you considered my proposal, regarding your ward?”

“No,” Cornwall shook his head. “Absolutely not.”

“It’s a good match, my lord.”

“I will no more of it. Even if I did have half a mind to consider it, the king will never accept it. Even he knows how potent a match between her and your family can be, and how risky that is.”

“No riskier than you and your family present, my lord. With all due respect.”

“I will forget what you just said,” John showed his displeasure. “Unless you have something actually productive to discuss with me, please enjoy the feast.”

Kent wanted a bond between his family and Anne of Gloucester, who was being fostered in John’s own home. The only surviving child of his brother the late Duke of Gloucester, Anne was not long the heiress of Gloucester’s estates but also of the de Bohun’s, making her a very eligible bride to anyone. One of his rewards for his service to Henry was the wardship of Anne, which meant that John would manage her estates until she was of age and married. But more than that, John saw her as a granddaughter and therefore would only accept the most compatible match for her.

The last few decades for England were very tumultuous. John’s kingly brother, the famed Edward III, had blessed the kingdom with four legitimate male heirs to the throne. However, as if God wanted to put the Plantagenets in a vice, two of those sons died without giving any healthy male heirs and a third died after only giving one male prince of the blood. The only one who had done right by his duties was Edmund of Langley, but that still put their family on shaky ground.

John of Gaunt’s only legitimate son, now Henry IV, had ascended to the throne at the age of 10. John of Gaunt had died only a year prior, which meant that upon Henry’s accession to the throne after Edward III died, all of Lancaster’s estates were merged into the crown. Before he died, John of Gaunt arranged a marriage between his son and Infanta Joanna, daughter of King Henry II of Castile. This was considered an acceptable match, as Henry would become king and Gaunt’s Castilian bonds would be strengthened. As he was too young, the Privy Council appointed John as Lord Protector due to his performance in the war against the king of France and elsewhere.

As for how John himself got here, as the king’s only brother, he enjoyed royal confidence from an early age, which was natural given that the both of them suffered under Lord Mortimer’s control of the realm before Edward III wrested control away from him. John received many titles and estates from his brother, and even a good marriage. His bride was Joan, Countess of Penthièvre and heiress of the Duchy of Brittany. This not only furthered ties between England and the continent, it gave England another avenue to fight France. While they were unable to win the French crown and subjugate that kingdom, among the conditions of the peace was Brittany remaining de facto independent of the French crown and therefore with England’s sphere of control.

But like all men of old age, John had grown tired of such business. While his marriage to Joan produced seven children, only two of his daughters and his youngest son, Edmund, were still alive. Edmund was married to Alice of Norfolk, the only daughter of Edward, Earl of Norfolk, which brought the substantial Norfolk estates into the family’s control as well. Edmund was capable on his own and John had nothing but good things to hope for, but Edmund was still untested when it came to governance and the relations John had with those like Langley wasn’t guaranteed to apply to him. If only I can gain approval from the king to have Anne marry the grandson named after me.

Edmund’s oldest son, also named John, was a prospect for Anne that Cornwall hoped the king would approve. Like in the past, he would be patient, but not take too long since he could sense his death happening anytime soon.
Loved it! interesting premise. So Henry IV got the throne through the unfortunate deaths of the previous heirs so now his legitimacy will not be questioned, that will lift the burden of the rebellions he faced OTL off his shoulders.
 
A Betrothal
Leicester Palace, 1387

“In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I baptize thee Henry. May God bless and keep you all the days of your life, and give you abundantly his grace, through Jesus Christ, our lord. Amen.”

“Amen,” everyone repeated after the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“God, of His Almighty and infinite Grace, give and grant good life and long to the right high, right excellent, and noble prince Henry, Duke of Surrey and Earl of Chester, most dear and entirely beloved son to our most dread and gracious lord, King Henry the Fourth.”

Edmund was invited to the baptism of Henry IV’s first child and firstborn son, as Henry wanted him as his godfather. It was a mark of honor, showing to all how the young king saw his older cousin. At 32 years old, Edmund was respected throughout the kingdom, but that was eclipsed by the reputation his father commanded, who was also among the attendees.

“God bless, Queen Joanna did her duty by giving England a son for her firstborn,” Alice whispered to Edmund.

“It does gives us some stability,” Edmund agreed. “At least my cousins will keep their ideas in control.”

“And what ideas could they come up with?”

“You know what I’m talking about, Alice.”

“It’s right to be suspicious, dear husband, but there is a time for everything. As long as Father is alive, no one will dare do anything without his say so.”

That was the truth. The ruling Duke of Brittany, referred to as Cornwall or Eltham in England, was not one to be trifled with. A veteran leader of soldiers and an experienced courtier, he outlasted many in the House of Plantagenet, even the great King Edward III, which spoke of his ability to survive. He also thrived, expanding his family’s interest not only in England but on the continent through Brittany.

“But he’s old,” Edmund pointed out. “It’s a miracle he lived this long, but any winter can be his last. With him gone, things will start to unravel.”

“Have faith, husband. The king will never do anything to harm you, and you have me.”

Edmund smiled at her. “If only I can express in more words how I’m so thankful to God for you.”

His wife, Alice of Norfolk, was the only daughter of Edward, Earl of Norfolk. Getting the papal dispensation to marry since they both descended from Edward I, Edmund was able to gain control of her father’s substantial estates, which he needed since at the time, he wasn’t going to inherit anything. Serving well during the counteroffensive undertaken by King Charles, Edmund’s title was raised, making him Duke of Norfolk, and granted other titles and estates.

But aside from the obvious material and titular gains from his marriage, Edmund grew to love Alice. Beautiful and feminine, both were matched by her sharp mind. That wasn’t a surprise if he thought about it, as she had to learn how to survive and not be taken advantage of due to many vying her inheritance. Showing patience and understanding to her when their first three children were daughters, they rejoiced when she bore their first son, John, followed by his brother Thomas.

During the festivities after Prince Henry’s baptism, Edmund was surprised when King Henry approached him.

“My king.”

“Lord Norfolk. I’ve been meaning to speak with you. Sit next to me.”

After the wine was poured, Henry set down his cup. “You know, your father Cornwall broached me on the subject of Lady Anne, his ward.”

“Did he?”

“Don’t do that, my lord. I know that the subject regarding Anne’s marriage has been of interest to you and your family, and you’d do well to recall that I gave your father a considerable gift by awarding Anne’s wardship to him and his household.”

“Of course I do, Your Grace.”

“Then I should remind you that any future husband of the lady Anne is of considerable importance to the crown, given her estates. Not unlike with your wife Alice.”

“Yes, Your Grace. I am aware.”

Henry looked at him with a knowing glance. “I can tell, Lord Norfolk, that you’re not sure why I am telling you this. Be patient, for I have good reasons to proceed as I am now.”

Edmund nodded. “I understand.”

“Your son, John. He is my cousin and is also a prince of the blood. Anything that will benefit him will benefit me as well since I will have a strong relative to call upon. That doesn’t apply to my other cousins who have taken on the names of the other noble families. If I empower you more than you are now, then you are beholden to me just as much as you were beholden to my grandfather.”

“All due respect, Your Grace, is there a point where you finally tell me what you will say? This roundabout way of speaking is not normal of you.”

“Hmm,” Henry let out, causing Edmund to silently scold himself for being so familiar with him. “I should apologize, then. It’s a habit I learned, in that nobody at court says what they will say in few words. I sometimes wonder if speaking in such long sentences is a tactic in itself, to overwhelm the senses of those who seek to use you.”

Edmund agreed with that, since the ones who were terse in speech were the ones who would not last long in the life-and-death struggle for power.

“I told your father that I am willing to consent to Anne’s betrothal to young John, but there is a condition to be met.”

“And what condition is that, Your Grace?”

“Young Anne’s inheritance will make your family wealthier than before, which others in the realm will not accept. The question I have to ask is, what price are you willing to pay for Anne becoming your daughter-in-law?”

Edmund should have expected that Anne’s betrothal to his son would not come without conditions, and he feared that it would have become expensive.

Edmund ran through his mind the general outline of the estates under his control. Most of his wealth came from Alice, but he did gain grants of land for his service against the king of France as well as valuable jewels and plates from Castile.

“I don’t want to burden with you with the fine details, Your Grace, but you have granted me estates in Lincoln and Northampton for my services in battle. If returning those lands to the crown is a fair price to pay for Anne’s betrothal to my son, then I will oblige.”

Henry nodded. “Your proposition is acceptable, but perhaps you can afford to part with say… four jewels that you got from Castile.”

Edmund raised an eyebrow. He was perplexed by Henry’s counteroffer, as he didn’t him to want jewels, but he figured it was a small price to pay. “And if I should agree to that, Your Grace?”

Henry smiled. “Then I shall draw up the necessary parchment to express my agreement to Anne’s betrothal. This business of ours will be completed by the week’s end.”

Edmund grinned in return before taking Henry’s proffered hand to shake. “Agreed, Your Grace.”

With Anne now going to be part of the family, Edmund felt more secure for his family. Parting with a few jewels and lands that didn’t provide him the rents as high as those belonging to Alice’s inheritance was a necessary investment in his mind, as he thought about the long-term benefits. Thinking of the bigger picture was something that Edmund had to do well, for he would not have gotten far without doing so.

Edmund was the youngest son of his father John, Duke of Brittany on the continent and Duke of Cornwall in England. With his three older brothers, John, Henry, and Edward all expected to inherit before him, Edmund was left on his own, as nobody expected much of the fourth son of a minor English prince far removed from the throne. He went on crusade in the east alongside the Teutonic Knights, fought against the French and during the struggle for the Castilian throne, and helped put down a rebellion in Ireland. Edmund also went as far as the Eastern Roman Empire, where he fought as a captain in the conflict between the Emperors John V and Andronikos IV. He also spent some time in Ottoman captivity, but he had to be thankful that at least one man in the Ottoman court knew of his family and told the Sultan that he was more valuable alive. Edmund had to temporarily trade his Christian loyalty for service with the Ottomans, who rewarded him richly and allowed him to return to England. Doing his penance at home, he went back to serving his family, although he shared in the tragedy that took all of his older brothers and one of his sisters.

Once Queen Joanna was well enough to travel, the entire royal entourage began the process to return to London, where a proper ceremony for young Prince Henry would take place at Westminster Abbey. But Edmund couldn’t shake off the feeling that he was being watched. That was a common enough occurrence given his rank and family, but he felt something… off this time. Only problem, he couldn’t quite feel who was watching him this time.
 
Intrigue (1)
Oxford, 1387

“The Queen is pregnant again, Oxford.”

“If it’s a boy, Kent, all the better. If it’s a girl, then the realm has a princess and there is a good use for them.”

“What do you think of Anne being betrothed to Cornwall’s grandson?”

“If I were him, Kent, then I would make the same decision myself. Anyone would be foolish to let her be and not make an effort to get her hand. But I see your concern, Kent. Another potentially troublesome prince getting more power than he should have.”

“But Cornwall is old and only God himself has the power to see him last another decade at best. His son Norfolk is another matter entirely.”

“He’s less refined in the art of subtlety,” Oxford agreed. “But he does know what he is doing. And the king himself will never move against him. The king making Norfolk pay for Lady Anne’s betrothal to his son was his way of ensuring that he doesn’t get too powerful.”

“But the Lady Anne is the sole heiress of not just Gloucester’s lands, but the entirety of the de Bohun estates. That would make Norfolk the third most powerful man in the entire kingdom. And after Cornwall passes on, his power will only be eclipsed by no one but the king. That doesn’t bode well for both of us, as well as our friends.”

“Remind me again, Kent. Why do you have such distrust towards Cornwall and his family?”

Kent also fought in Castile, serving under the Black Prince and John of Gaunt. Cornwall had dispute with Kent over the disposition of the prisoners, particularly the ransom of certain men of standing. Kent wanted to cash out the ransoms as quickly as possible since the campaign was starting to get too long and draw too much attention away from France, but Cornwall persuaded the Black Prince to wait until the ransoms could potentially increase and also shore up their own position in Castile. Granted, the Black Prince was more likely to listen to his uncle rather than Kent himself, but that wasn’t the part that got offended Kent. When the time came for the ransoms to be paid and distributed, Cornwall arranged for Kent to receive a smaller share, his reasoning being that Kent failed to properly secure a major Castilian rebel prisoner and thus allowing him to escape. Kent naturally defended himself, but he suspected that Cornwall was angry that Kent took too long to assemble the necessary provisions from the Castilian countryside, which further delayed the campaign. This was Kent’s first campaign outside of England, and he didn’t appreciate Cornwall’s seeming lack of patience with him.

“Kent, I feel that you are letting a petty squabble that took place years ago become more than it should be. He was the more experienced one and you were the new one on the field.”

“You’re taking his side now?”

“No,” Oxford shook his head. “If you want to limit the power of Cornwall, then you need a better reason than what he said years ago over something that doesn’t really matter.”

That made sense for Kent.

“How about this? While Cornwall consulted the Lords and the Commons during his time as Lord Protector, he approached both and they just simply stamped their approval for every one of his decisions. Regarding Parliament, it doesn’t seem that he respects their authority as much as we would like him to do. That’s a lesson that he should have given our king.”

“You’re saying that he was partially insufficient in his role as captain of the realm?”

“Perhaps.”

Oxford sighed. “Well, that is a reason to keep an eye on his actions. But he is not the Lord Protector anymore, and King Henry is in full control. Keep that in mind.”

Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford was one of the leading nobles in the realm. His family being deeply established in the realm, he offered Kent a strong ally that he would need moving forward.

Although a descendant of King Edward I, Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent was but an aristocratic relative of the king and his family’s influence in court was dependent on how King Henry sought to use them. While also wealthy and powerful, Kent always looked for ways to expand and obtain more, and Cornwall stood in the way of that. It was a sort of struggle that was as old as anyone understood power, and Kent saw Cornwall as an obstacle to be overcome.

By now, the House of Plantagenet had been reduced to three branches: one founded by the Duke of Lancaster that now sat on the throne; one led by Edmund of Langley, Duke of York; and the last headed by John, Duke of Cornwall and also Duke of Brittany.

King Henry IV only had one son at present, but he had enough time to sire more children, so the son of Lancaster was going to be on the throne for the long-term. Henry had an inclination for battle, but some of his more aggressive tendencies were tempered due to the tutelage of Eltham, an accomplished commander during the Scottish, Castilian, and French campaigns. He had a loving marriage with his queen Joanna of Castile, but he truly wanted to pursue battlefield glory against the king of France, so it was only a matter of when Henry would resume hostilities with France.

Edmund of Langley was no slouch when it came to war himself, but he wasn’t exactly the most charismatic man ever. He was mostly relegated to sidelines, to support his more energetic brothers like the Black Prince and John of Gaunt, but he developed a stable family and household, which was admirable in itself and what the House of Plantagenet needed after much turmoil. He had two sons and a daughter, and was also married to a Castilian princess, which would partially explain the affinity King Henry had for Langley.

Then, there was the troublesome one led by Eltham. While his kingly brother and most of his nephews died off, Cornwall proved to have a stubborn grasp on life. Him living allowed him to use his time and efforts to strengthen his family and expand their holdings. Kent knew his oldest two sons, John and Edward, but he never knew his third son Henry, who died in the great plague. John died from fatal wounds he got from a jousting match, and Edward died from disease as well. Although they were both married to ladies of high standing, they didn’t have children, which left his youngest son Edmund. He was the concern for Kent, as out of his brothers, he was the most like his father. A good man of battle, he also made himself from relatively nothing by marrying Alice of Norfolk and obtaining his own dukedom.

Before he could continue forming his thoughts, a rider entered Kent’s castle yard. Kent snapped the message from his hand, and it spoke about a large-scale Scottish raid happening in the north. The leader of the raid was led by none other than Robert Stewart, Earl of Fife, second son of King Robert II of Scotland. Fife was one of the more bothersome of the Scottish princes, as he knew what he was doing and how to do it effectively. The entirety of the England’s northern border was not safe whenever Fife maneuvered.

The message spoke of about ten thousand Scots marching to seize the English garrisons at Roxburgh and Lochmaben Fair, and King Henry IV called for men to march north. Seeing an opportunity to strengthen his position, Kent moved to pull out parchment and form his next step.
 
Oxford, 1387

“The Queen is pregnant again, Oxford.”

“If it’s a boy, Kent, all the better. If it’s a girl, then the realm has a princess and there is a good use for them.”

“What do you think of Anne being betrothed to Cornwall’s grandson?”

“If I were him, Kent, then I would make the same decision myself. Anyone would be foolish to let her be and not make an effort to get her hand. But I see your concern, Kent. Another potentially troublesome prince getting more power than he should have.”

“But Cornwall is old and only God himself has the power to see him last another decade at best. His son Norfolk is another matter entirely.”

“He’s less refined in the art of subtlety,” Oxford agreed. “But he does know what he is doing. And the king himself will never move against him. The king making Norfolk pay for Lady Anne’s betrothal to his son was his way of ensuring that he doesn’t get too powerful.”

“But the Lady Anne is the sole heiress of not just Gloucester’s lands, but the entirety of the de Bohun estates. That would make Norfolk the third most powerful man in the entire kingdom. And after Cornwall passes on, his power will only be eclipsed by no one but the king. That doesn’t bode well for both of us, as well as our friends.”

“Remind me again, Kent. Why do you have such distrust towards Cornwall and his family?”

Kent also fought in Castile, serving under the Black Prince and John of Gaunt. Cornwall had dispute with Kent over the disposition of the prisoners, particularly the ransom of certain men of standing. Kent wanted to cash out the ransoms as quickly as possible since the campaign was starting to get too long and draw too much attention away from France, but Cornwall persuaded the Black Prince to wait until the ransoms could potentially increase and also shore up their own position in Castile. Granted, the Black Prince was more likely to listen to his uncle rather than Kent himself, but that wasn’t the part that got offended Kent. When the time came for the ransoms to be paid and distributed, Cornwall arranged for Kent to receive a smaller share, his reasoning being that Kent failed to properly secure a major Castilian rebel prisoner and thus allowing him to escape. Kent naturally defended himself, but he suspected that Cornwall was angry that Kent took too long to assemble the necessary provisions from the Castilian countryside, which further delayed the campaign. This was Kent’s first campaign outside of England, and he didn’t appreciate Cornwall’s seeming lack of patience with him.

“Kent, I feel that you are letting a petty squabble that took place years ago become more than it should be. He was the more experienced one and you were the new one on the field.”

“You’re taking his side now?”

“No,” Oxford shook his head. “If you want to limit the power of Cornwall, then you need a better reason than what he said years ago over something that doesn’t really matter.”

That made sense for Kent.

“How about this? While Cornwall consulted the Lords and the Commons during his time as Lord Protector, he approached both and they just simply stamped their approval for every one of his decisions. Regarding Parliament, it doesn’t seem that he respects their authority as much as we would like him to do. That’s a lesson that he should have given our king.”

“You’re saying that he was partially insufficient in his role as captain of the realm?”

“Perhaps.”

Oxford sighed. “Well, that is a reason to keep an eye on his actions. But he is not the Lord Protector anymore, and King Henry is in full control. Keep that in mind.”

Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford was one of the leading nobles in the realm. His family being deeply established in the realm, he offered Kent a strong ally that he would need moving forward.

Although a descendant of King Edward I, Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent was but an aristocratic relative of the king and his family’s influence in court was dependent on how King Henry sought to use them. While also wealthy and powerful, Kent always looked for ways to expand and obtain more, and Cornwall stood in the way of that. It was a sort of struggle that was as old as anyone understood power, and Kent saw Cornwall as an obstacle to be overcome.

By now, the House of Plantagenet had been reduced to three branches: one founded by the Duke of Lancaster that now sat on the throne; one led by Edmund of Langley, Duke of York; and the last headed by John, Duke of Cornwall and also Duke of Brittany.

King Henry IV only had one son at present, but he had enough time to sire more children, so the son of Lancaster was going to be on the throne for the long-term. Henry had an inclination for battle, but some of his more aggressive tendencies were tempered due to the tutelage of Eltham, an accomplished commander during the Scottish, Castilian, and French campaigns. He had a loving marriage with his queen Joanna of Castile, but he truly wanted to pursue battlefield glory against the king of France, so it was only a matter of when Henry would resume hostilities with France.

Edmund of Langley was no slouch when it came to war himself, but he wasn’t exactly the most charismatic man ever. He was mostly relegated to sidelines, to support his more energetic brothers like the Black Prince and John of Gaunt, but he developed a stable family and household, which was admirable in itself and what the House of Plantagenet needed after much turmoil. He had two sons and a daughter, and was also married to a Castilian princess, which would partially explain the affinity King Henry had for Langley.

Then, there was the troublesome one led by Eltham. While his kingly brother and most of his nephews died off, Cornwall proved to have a stubborn grasp on life. Him living allowed him to use his time and efforts to strengthen his family and expand their holdings. Kent knew his oldest two sons, John and Edward, but he never knew his third son Henry, who died in the great plague. John died from fatal wounds he got from a jousting match, and Edward died from disease as well. Although they were both married to ladies of high standing, they didn’t have children, which left his youngest son Edmund. He was the concern for Kent, as out of his brothers, he was the most like his father. A good man of battle, he also made himself from relatively nothing by marrying Alice of Norfolk and obtaining his own dukedom.

Before he could continue forming his thoughts, a rider entered Kent’s castle yard. Kent snapped the message from his hand, and it spoke about a large-scale Scottish raid happening in the north. The leader of the raid was led by none other than Robert Stewart, Earl of Fife, second son of King Robert II of Scotland. Fife was one of the more bothersome of the Scottish princes, as he knew what he was doing and how to do it effectively. The entirety of the England’s northern border was not safe whenever Fife maneuvered.

The message spoke of about ten thousand Scots marching to seize the English garrisons at Roxburgh and Lochmaben Fair, and King Henry IV called for men to march north. Seeing an opportunity to strengthen his position, Kent moved to pull out parchment and form his next step.
Amazing work! And yay! Henry has his heir now
 
Battle of Morpeth
Morpeth, Northumberland

Henry watched the battle unfold before him. He had long heard stories of his grandfather, uncles, and cousins getting their share of the glory in war, and this was his chance to do so.

“They are using their spears and pikes to counter our knights,” Henry observed. “You, tell Lord Norfolk to hold the charge and use the archers.”

“Yes, Your Grace,” the messenger complied before riding off.

Henry appointed Lord Norfolk to command his left wing in the battle, with his uncle Langley commanding the right. However, much of the forces that comprised the army hailed from Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. As the Scots were invading his personal home, it only made sense for Percy to assemble as much men as he could. In the battle, he was represented by his son, who the Scots called Hotspur because of his speed in advance and readiness to attack.

The Scottish raiding force, really an invading army, was commanded by Robert Stewart, Earl of Fife. Henry was made aware of the rather acrimonious bonds within the Stewart family. He and his older brother Lord Carrick functioned as regents of Scotland, kings in all but name after their father’s age interfered with his ability to rule, and Fife also served as High Chamberlain of Scotland. Fife and Carrick fought each other, but they both united against their other brother Lord Badenoch after he made a mess in administering Northern Scotland.

As to why Fife was here with ten thousand Scots, Henry could only surmise that Fife sought military glory to shore up his position against Lord Carrick. Langley told Henry that such a thing would make Fife behave more rashly, since he wouldn’t be able to just turn back if the battle turned against him unless he wanted his reputation to suffer. Still, not wanting to take chances, Henry managed to pull together an army of fifteen thousand in relative short order.

The plan was for the Scots to advance first, since their primary strength was in their footmen. They were deficient in archers and mounted knights, so Henry directed the men-at-arms and pikes to match them while the Welsh longbowmen peppered them with continuous arrow volleys.

“My king,” the messenger returned. “Lord Norfolk wants to know when he could charge. The Scots are quickening their advance.”

“Not yet,” Henry shook his head.

The footmen under Henry’s command outnumbered the Scots, but the Scots were known to employ shock charges. This was carried out as they fought in tight formations, led by a heavily armed warrior elite who carried heavy battle axes or claymores. Henry wanted to see when they would use their energy before he did anything else.

Finally, the Scots rushed towards the men-at-arms, braving the Welsh arrows. Slamming into them, they were able to break their formations and many ranks shook under the weight of the charge. The Scots were able to cause some panic amongst the footmen, even though the arrows continue to land on their heads.

“Full charge,” Henry allowed.

He wanted the Scottish flanks exposed, which would allow his mounted knights to go forth and cut them down. He saw Norfolk’s and Langley’s banners from the left and right charge into Scottish sides, which predictably cut through their force and thus turning the field into an all-out brawl. It was unavoidable for some knights to be killed by Scottish pikes, but the benefits outweighed the costs.

Henry wanted to see as much damage done onto the Scots as possible, since he wanted to resume the war with France and the Scots complicated that. If the Scots suffered a defeat, they would not be able to fight against England for at least a portion of the campaign, so Henry needed this battle to be a decisive one.

At last, Henry saw the Scots starting to flee. The pressure imposed on them by the men-at-arms and the knights as well as the longbowmen were becoming too much for them to handle, and there was only one way for them to leave with their lives.

“Wrap it up, then,” Henry concluded as he went back to his tent for the day. He would inspect the field later, with the knowledge that the next battle might not be so fortunately fought. Fighting the Scots was one thing, but the French presented another challenge, and Henry fully expected to have his hands become dirty when the war did recommence.

As expected, Henry toured the field, with Hotspur guiding him. Men and horses laid astray on the earth, while priests and monks inspected the bodies to give aid or final rites. Henry controlled himself as he still didn’t get used to the smell of the dead and their blood, as well as other things that he didn’t expect to see. He also had to wave off the annoying presence of the flies and the birds that were feeding on the dead.

“My king, there is one man who had fallen today,” Hotspur told him before he was guided to a group of English knights guarding a body. Henry took a moment to see who it was, and this man was richly dressed while stained with blood. “This man here, is Robert Stewart, Earl of Fife.”

Henry was surprised. He didn’t expect the commander of the Scots to die here, and he wondered if the death of Fife might cause Scottish fury and thus further complicate his plans for France.

"How did he die?”

“He fought with honor, my king. He took two of my knights with him, and he blinded a third with his sword before a pike killed his horse and a footman finished him off.”

“Give the men who killed his horse and the one who killed him two hundred shillings each, and bring them before me later,” Henry directed before he looked at his body again. “Bury him with honor,” he said to Hotspur. “He was a prince of Scotland and of royal blood, having died in battle. He deserves nothing less.”

“Your Grace,” Hotspur bowed his head.

“My king.” Henry’s attention turned to his uncle Langley, who brought forth a Scottish nobleman, his armor sullied with blood and dirt. “I present to you Murdoch Stewart, son of Lord Fife.”

“Ah,” Henry let out while he dismounted his horse to shake Murdoch’s hand. “I am very sorry for your loss, my Lord Fife.” He offered his hand in condolence.

“Thank you, King Henry.” Murdoch’s expression was neutral as he shook his hand, but everyone was naturally wary given that the new Earl of Fife and a grandson of the King of Scotland had just lost his father on the same field of battle.

“Unfortunately, Lord Fife, as you have been captured, you will be coming with us back to London. You will of course be comfortably quartered and provided for, until your ransom is paid,” Henry spoke solemnly.

“Indeed, King Henry,” Murdoch accepted.

“Uncle, I leave him in your care. I will survey the other prisoners.”

“My king,” Langley dipped his head.

Henry walked past the common Scottish soldiery that hadn’t managed to escape, to find other men of standing in Scotland. Having one of the grandsons of King Robert II was a boon, and Henry wanted to find out who else was captured.

There was one Scottish nobleman who stood out amongst the prisoners, with a coat of arms too often seen in Northern England.

“Bring that man before me,” Henry pointed to the man with a red heart against a white background underneath a blue stripe with three white stars. As a few English soldiers escorted him, he noticed that the man looked like Henry’s age, and this was undoubtedly his first campaign. “What’s your name?”

The young man cleared his throat. “Archibald Douglas, King Henry. I am son of the Earl of Douglas.”

That was what Henry remembered hearing. The Douglas family had been a thorn against England ever since they supported William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, and Douglas men have ravaged Northern England. They were one of the most powerful families in all of Scotland, with their influence having few equivalents in the southern half of the kingdom.

“Well, Lord Archibald, I am sure that your father will be much relieved to hear that you have survived the battle. Of course, you know what happens next, don’t you?”

“Yes, King Henry,” Archibald answered.

“I am sure that your father has enough in his treasury to pay your ransom, so rest assured and pray that your stay in London is not long.”

Henry kept his feelings in check, but this was great news for him. He had two Scottish captives of high standing, one being the king’s grandson and the other the heir to one of their most powerful lords, which would allow him much leverage against Scotland. He imagined that he could extract a lot of concessions from the Scots and perhaps a treaty to ensure that Scotland doesn’t interfere when Henry does resume battle with France. But Fife’s death, he would have to consult his uncle Eltham on how to handle that.
 
YES! Henry IV starts with a Bang! Fife is death and his son a hostage! Henry sure showed the scots he's no Edward II
 
Intrigue (2)
Perth, Scotland

Carrick said his prayers for his brother Fife, who died in battle against the English led by King Henry IV. No matter what his relations were with his brother at the time, he was still blood, so it was only right that he would mourn for the brother he knew as a boy.

The inconsolable one was Fife’s wife and Carrick’s sister-in-law, Muriella. Not only did she lose her husband, Fife left her with three children to take care of, which didn’t include the seven daughters that Fife had with his first wife. On top of that, her eldest stepson and thus Carrick’s nephew, Murdoch, was now in English captivity, to be used as a bargaining chip against Scotland.

“Dear sister, understand that I will do everything in my power to get Murdoch back,” Carrick to assure her.

“Don’t play that game with me,” Muriella spat at him.

“My lady?” Carrick was confused.

“I know that you hated your own brother, for being ambitious. In fact, you must have cheered when you heard of his death.”

“Muriella, you are out of line,” came Carrick’s half-brother, Prince Walter. “You use that tone here, in his place of mourning?”

Muriella took a breath before calming down. “I’m sorry. I… the death of my husband has robbed me of my senses. Lord Carrick, please allow me to take leave, so that I can mourn in private.”

Carrick nodded. “You may.” He and Walter both watched as their sister-in-law left the abbey. “Thanks for that, Walter.”

“Do not mention it,” Walter responded before they resumed their prayers.

By now, Carrick was the lieutenant of the realm, a position given to him after his father became too old and infirm to perform his duties as king. His brother Fife vied for his position, and he was going to obtain it with the support of the other powerful lords like Archibald the Grim, the current Earl of Douglas, until his death stopped it. While Murdoch was the new Earl of Fife, his stepmother Muriella managed his estates until his return. But given that he was a prince of Scotland, Carrick was responsible for the ransom negotiations, with commissioners from Henry IV to arrive soon to conduct them.

As they made their way back to court in Stirling Castle on horse, Carrick felt Walter ride up next to him.

“Any news on the ransom negotiations?” Walter asked.

“Well, not exactly, brother. They have yet to arrive.”

“Given the nature of who the English have in their captivity, they’ll ask for a hefty sum for the safe return of Murdoch, the young Archibald, and the others. For Murdoch especially, they’ll also want guarantees if we decided to take revenge and attack them while King Henry resumes the war with France.”

“That, I know all. What is the point that you trying to make, brother?”

“Maybe it’ll be to your advantage, if you… stall them.”

“Stall them?” Carrick was confused.

“When the commissioners come, you can delay them, ask for lower amounts, and let the messages be exchanged back and forth. Who knows?” Walter shrugged.

Carrick couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “I must do everything that—”

“Come on, John,” Walter interrupted him. “Robert has been a thorn against you ever since Father decided to let his old age suck away his energy. Sooner or later, he was going to be a problem for the rest of us. He was our brother, but his death solves many things for us.”

“Why are you saying this, Walter?”

“It’ll be in the interest of us both, if Murdoch remains in England for the time being,” Walter spoke. “I can handle Muriella. I know exactly what to say to her. Let Murdoch enjoy rich English hospitality, away from us both where he can do some damage. We both know how loyal he was to his father.”

Carrick thought about it. Murdoch was indeed Fife’s son, being interested in obtaining more power like his father. With him being the new Earl of Fife and thus inheriting the vast estates that came with it, Murdoch will become a problem once he remained in Scotland.

“What do you want, Walter?” Carrick asked.

“Well, we might not have the same mother, but our father is the king. All of my brothers got titles of their own as well as grand estates. I only wish for one of my own.”

“Ah,” Carrick understood. “Unfortunately, there are no titles that I can possibly just give you.”

“But I can gain one through marriage. And the one who can give me that is Lady Isabel Douglas.”

“Isabel Douglas, as in the Countess of Mar?”

“The same one.”

Isabel Douglas’ brother, the 2nd Earl of Douglas, had recently died from wounds he received from men-at-arms belonging to the Earl of Northumberland, making her the heir of considerable Douglas property that didn’t end up in the hands of Archibald the Grim. As for why Walter would ask this, Walter’s wife, Margaret Barclay, Lady of Brechin, had died recently as well from disease, which left him two sons to care for. Given Isabel Douglas’ properties, it only made sense that Walter would want her hand in marriage.

Carrick did some quick calculations. The Black Douglas family were also becoming a problem in southern Scotland, becoming as overmighty as any annoying lord against royal authority. He couldn’t be sure in the length of captivity for the heir to Archibald the Grim in England, so he needed something that could keep him and his family in check. Moreover, if he did grant Walter his wish, it would make his brother beholden to him, which he needed once Murdoch returned to Scotland.

“All right, Walter,” Carrick bobbed his head. “I will tell Father on what you want. I’m pretty sure that he’ll be of the mind to give it to you. Once I make the case, it should be easy.”

“That’s all I ask,” Walter showed his gratitude.

“On one condition,” Carrick had to make clear.

“Right,” Walter expected.

“I intend to keep the Black Douglas family in check. Your marriage to Isabel Douglas will do just that, but I need something else as well. I intend to make David betrothed to Lady Elizabeth, daughter of Lord March. Archibald the Grim will be opposed, so I would need your support on that. Consider that to be your first test against the Black Douglases.”

Walter sighed. “If that’s the price that you want, I shall accept. But do remember what I said about Murdoch’s captivity. I can only control Muriella for so long.” With that, he took his horse back to the other part of the entourage.

Carrick had to deal with the very fractious canvas that was Scotland. In the northern reaches, he had to deal with the Donald Lord of the Isles and his brother the Wolf of Badenoch, who would most likely use Fife’s death and Murdoch’s captivity to his advantage as Murdoch had been the Justiciar of the North when he was captured. Southern Scotland presented the most problems, as there were many who vied for supremacy at the crown’s expense, with two families being the most troublesome.

The first was Archibald the Grim, Earl of Douglas and leader of the Black Douglas family. Coming from the Good Sir James Douglas, one of the heroes under Robert the Bruce, Archibald was a seasoned soldier, participating in Poitiers and the various skirmishes along the English border. The Black Douglases had got themselves too entrenched into the southern half of the kingdom, and they were not always responsive to crown authority, meaning that Carrick’s problems would only compound if he didn’t find a way to control them.

Then there was the current Earl of Dunbar & March, George Dunbar. The Dunbars were well-established, with another branch controlling the Earldom of Moray. The Dunbars had their own share of heroes, which included Black Agnes, but the Dunbars were also not always responsive to royal authority, as they did ally with the Douglases on more than a few occasions when it came to launching raids into England. At the same time, because of their competing interests, the Douglases and the Dunbars were great rivals to each other, with it sometimes ending in bloodshed.

Carrick always had to be careful of allying himself with one family of nobles over another, as it could create problems that he would have to deal with and court politics in Scotland carried mortal risks. On the other hand, the Douglases had allied themselves with Fife, and Carrick couldn’t imagine himself being able to handle both Fife and Archibald the Grim at the same time. In this case, he would need the support of George Dunbar, and marrying his daughter to his son David would give him the leverage and counterweight to the Douglas power.

Meanwhile, regarding the ransom negotiations, Carrick did have to admit that Walter had a point. He would then use the delays to buy time, to further establish himself against the Douglases and then his nephew’s family.
 
Perth, Scotland

Carrick said his prayers for his brother Fife, who died in battle against the English led by King Henry IV. No matter what his relations were with his brother at the time, he was still blood, so it was only right that he would mourn for the brother he knew as a boy.

The inconsolable one was Fife’s wife and Carrick’s sister-in-law, Muriella. Not only did she lose her husband, Fife left her with three children to take care of, which didn’t include the seven daughters that Fife had with his first wife. On top of that, her eldest stepson and thus Carrick’s nephew, Murdoch, was now in English captivity, to be used as a bargaining chip against Scotland.

“Dear sister, understand that I will do everything in my power to get Murdoch back,” Carrick to assure her.

“Don’t play that game with me,” Muriella spat at him.

“My lady?” Carrick was confused.

“I know that you hated your own brother, for being ambitious. In fact, you must have cheered when you heard of his death.”

“Muriella, you are out of line,” came Carrick’s half-brother, Prince Walter. “You use that tone here, in his place of mourning?”

Muriella took a breath before calming down. “I’m sorry. I… the death of my husband has robbed me of my senses. Lord Carrick, please allow me to take leave, so that I can mourn in private.”

Carrick nodded. “You may.” He and Walter both watched as their sister-in-law left the abbey. “Thanks for that, Walter.”

“Do not mention it,” Walter responded before they resumed their prayers.

By now, Carrick was the lieutenant of the realm, a position given to him after his father became too old and infirm to perform his duties as king. His brother Fife vied for his position, and he was going to obtain it with the support of the other powerful lords like Archibald the Grim, the current Earl of Douglas, until his death stopped it. While Murdoch was the new Earl of Fife, his stepmother Muriella managed his estates until his return. But given that he was a prince of Scotland, Carrick was responsible for the ransom negotiations, with commissioners from Henry IV to arrive soon to conduct them.

As they made their way back to court in Stirling Castle on horse, Carrick felt Walter ride up next to him.

“Any news on the ransom negotiations?” Walter asked.

“Well, not exactly, brother. They have yet to arrive.”

“Given the nature of who the English have in their captivity, they’ll ask for a hefty sum for the safe return of Murdoch, the young Archibald, and the others. For Murdoch especially, they’ll also want guarantees if we decided to take revenge and attack them while King Henry resumes the war with France.”

“That, I know all. What is the point that you trying to make, brother?”

“Maybe it’ll be to your advantage, if you… stall them.”

“Stall them?” Carrick was confused.

“When the commissioners come, you can delay them, ask for lower amounts, and let the messages be exchanged back and forth. Who knows?” Walter shrugged.

Carrick couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “I must do everything that—”

“Come on, John,” Walter interrupted him. “Robert has been a thorn against you ever since Father decided to let his old age suck away his energy. Sooner or later, he was going to be a problem for the rest of us. He was our brother, but his death solves many things for us.”

“Why are you saying this, Walter?”

“It’ll be in the interest of us both, if Murdoch remains in England for the time being,” Walter spoke. “I can handle Muriella. I know exactly what to say to her. Let Murdoch enjoy rich English hospitality, away from us both where he can do some damage. We both know how loyal he was to his father.”

Carrick thought about it. Murdoch was indeed Fife’s son, being interested in obtaining more power like his father. With him being the new Earl of Fife and thus inheriting the vast estates that came with it, Murdoch will become a problem once he remained in Scotland.

“What do you want, Walter?” Carrick asked.

“Well, we might not have the same mother, but our father is the king. All of my brothers got titles of their own as well as grand estates. I only wish for one of my own.”

“Ah,” Carrick understood. “Unfortunately, there are no titles that I can possibly just give you.”

“But I can gain one through marriage. And the one who can give me that is Lady Isabel Douglas.”

“Isabel Douglas, as in the Countess of Mar?”

“The same one.”

Isabel Douglas’ brother, the 2nd Earl of Douglas, had recently died from wounds he received from men-at-arms belonging to the Earl of Northumberland, making her the heir of considerable Douglas property that didn’t end up in the hands of Archibald the Grim. As for why Walter would ask this, Walter’s wife, Margaret Barclay, Lady of Brechin, had died recently as well from disease, which left him two sons to care for. Given Isabel Douglas’ properties, it only made sense that Walter would want her hand in marriage.

Carrick did some quick calculations. The Black Douglas family were also becoming a problem in southern Scotland, becoming as overmighty as any annoying lord against royal authority. He couldn’t be sure in the length of captivity for the heir to Archibald the Grim in England, so he needed something that could keep him and his family in check. Moreover, if he did grant Walter his wish, it would make his brother beholden to him, which he needed once Murdoch returned to Scotland.

“All right, Walter,” Carrick bobbed his head. “I will tell Father on what you want. I’m pretty sure that he’ll be of the mind to give it to you. Once I make the case, it should be easy.”

“That’s all I ask,” Walter showed his gratitude.

“On one condition,” Carrick had to make clear.

“Right,” Walter expected.

“I intend to keep the Black Douglas family in check. Your marriage to Isabel Douglas will do just that, but I need something else as well. I intend to make David betrothed to Lady Elizabeth, daughter of Lord March. Archibald the Grim will be opposed, so I would need your support on that. Consider that to be your first test against the Black Douglases.”

Walter sighed. “If that’s the price that you want, I shall accept. But do remember what I said about Murdoch’s captivity. I can only control Muriella for so long.” With that, he took his horse back to the other part of the entourage.

Carrick had to deal with the very fractious canvas that was Scotland. In the northern reaches, he had to deal with the Donald Lord of the Isles and his brother the Wolf of Badenoch, who would most likely use Fife’s death and Murdoch’s captivity to his advantage as Murdoch had been the Justiciar of the North when he was captured. Southern Scotland presented the most problems, as there were many who vied for supremacy at the crown’s expense, with two families being the most troublesome.

The first was Archibald the Grim, Earl of Douglas and leader of the Black Douglas family. Coming from the Good Sir James Douglas, one of the heroes under Robert the Bruce, Archibald was a seasoned soldier, participating in Poitiers and the various skirmishes along the English border. The Black Douglases had got themselves too entrenched into the southern half of the kingdom, and they were not always responsive to crown authority, meaning that Carrick’s problems would only compound if he didn’t find a way to control them.

Then there was the current Earl of Dunbar & March, George Dunbar. The Dunbars were well-established, with another branch controlling the Earldom of Moray. The Dunbars had their own share of heroes, which included Black Agnes, but the Dunbars were also not always responsive to royal authority, as they did ally with the Douglases on more than a few occasions when it came to launching raids into England. At the same time, because of their competing interests, the Douglases and the Dunbars were great rivals to each other, with it sometimes ending in bloodshed.

Carrick always had to be careful of allying himself with one family of nobles over another, as it could create problems that he would have to deal with and court politics in Scotland carried mortal risks. On the other hand, the Douglases had allied themselves with Fife, and Carrick couldn’t imagine himself being able to handle both Fife and Archibald the Grim at the same time. In this case, he would need the support of George Dunbar, and marrying his daughter to his son David would give him the leverage and counterweight to the Douglas power.

Meanwhile, regarding the ransom negotiations, Carrick did have to admit that Walter had a point. He would then use the delays to buy time, to further establish himself against the Douglases and then his nephew’s family.
Great work! And Henry IV will be pleaced that this will cause Soctland to fight each other.

Suggestion, please have Catherine of Valois stay away from little henry of wales in the future, the Plantagenets do not need Charles VI madness in the family
 
Great work! And Henry IV will be pleaced that this will cause Soctland to fight each other.

Suggestion, please have Catherine of Valois stay away from little henry of wales in the future, the Plantagenets do not need Charles VI madness in the family
Who knows what might happen next, with that guy
 
Medieval English kings had two options fighting in the British isles or fighting in France

Any war with France leads to war with Scotland due to the Auld Alliance
 
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