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November 1463. Château d'Amboise, France.
“Prince Gaston of Viana is dead, Sire,” said the messenger when Louis bid him to come in. The man stepped forward and bowed, extending his arm forward to hand him a sealed letter, “Fever took him.”
“Poor Madeleine,” murmured his wife, Charlotte of Savoy, sitting next to him. When he looked at her, she returned her eyes to her embroidery, plumming her shoulders about like a proud peacock, “She loved him well. And to lose him after such a short time together…”
Louis shook his head and looked at the letter in his hands. When he opened it, he saw that it was a message from his ambassador in Navarre, the man he had sent to make sure his sister was well treated by the Foix. The ambassador described the quick and sudden death of the Prince of Viana, how it happened after a tourney and that he had asked for a cup of water to be brought in. Because of it, some suspected he had been poisoned by the enemies of Navarre, especially John of Aragon. Louis doubted it, but he continued to read.
The ambassador also described his sister’s grief. Madeleine had been married to Gaston of Viana for just two years and all of her letters brought news of a loving marriage that brought her much joy.
“Is she with child?” his wife asked, setting her embroidery aside. She craned her long neck to try and see the letter, always curious and impertinent. He remembered why he kept her in Amboise for most of the time, then, and visits such as this one were always short.
“No,” said Louis, “Apparently, she had her courses not even a day after his funeral.”
“A pity,” Charlotte offered mutely, turning to her embroidery and losing all interest in his sister and her loss as quickly as she had gained it.
“Yes, a pity.” He looked at the messenger again, who was still waiting to be dismissed, “Ride to Paris and tell the Comte of Montpensier he is to come here. By order of the King.”
Montpensier would ride fast to Navarre and bring his sister back by the hair if need be, that much he was sure. Madeleine was no longer the Princess of Viana. She had returned to her birth title of Fille de France, and would be of some use to him yet. There were any number of alliances to be made with her hand. England, Milan, Aragon, not to mention others. She was only nineteen years old, and without children from her short marriage to hinder her prospects.
Yes, he thought. There was still a chance for him to make a queen out of his little sister. Just as his mother always wanted. The Dowager Queen would be much pleased by this.
He looked at Charlotte once again. Her head was still turned away from him, her back bent over rather perfectly as she worked silently on her embroidery. Her grey dress barely hid the roundness of her belly. She was with child once more, and it hopefully would be a son to inherit his throne. Despite their years of marriage, they had only a daughter to boast of and, though Anne was a lovely and clever girl, she could never become Queen of France in her own right.
This was why he had to marry them off. Anne and Madeleine both. To make them queens and expand the power of France. If Madeleine happened to go to England and became Queen, she could very well stop the Yorkist King from turning his hungry eyes to the continent.
Charlotte would not approve of his machinations. He had once intended to betroth her sister Bona to Edward of York as a French poxy, but why go for a proxy when a princess with Valois blood had made herself available? Queen of England would certainly be a grand title for Bona to achieve, considering Charlotte’s ascension to Queen of France. Some could argue the Duke of Savoy would be overreaching himself with two daughters as Queens. But no one would bat an eye if Madeleine ever went to London.
He stood up from his seat and saw the look his wife gave him, curious and slightly afraid. “What are you doing?” she asked as Louis turned away from her and started walking to the door, grabbing his coat and hat on the way, “Where are you going?”
“Back to Paris,” he answered, “I must send an envoy to England.”
November 1463. Westminster, England.
November 1463. Westminster, England.
The air was cold in Westminster Palace and every petitioner that came to him was bound up in furs and coats, trying to keep warm in the windy autumn. The windows were shuttered but still, he could hear gusts of airs coming in, bringing shivers down his spine and threatening to freeze his ears off.
Edward of York, aged twenty-one, sat on his throne in the grand hall, a crown atop his head. He was a handsome young man, with blonde hair and blue-grey eyes. When he stood, he did so over six feet, sometimes nearly half a foot over everyone else. Some joked he was half giant, while others whispered the lies of his mother laying with an archer instead of the Duke of York.
By his side, stood his most trusted advisor and staunch supporter, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Warwick had a book open in his hand, reading the accounts carefully and every so often, he would lean forward and whisper into Edward's ear. More often than not, the King would nod to what he was saying, and turn back to the petitioner in front of him.
But this all stopped when she entered. Edward turned away from Warwick and looked at her, fully looked at her, his eyes blown wide.
“Lady Elizabeth Grey and her two sons, Thomas and Richard," said the herald when she entered.
He knew her. They had met once or twice before, in the court of the mad king. Her mother was Jacquetta of Luxembourg and her father, a simple squire of the land. Their marriage had been such a great scandal and his mother always laughed when she would tell someone the story. Her presence there surprised him. The Woodvilles had always been Lancastrians, even before the war.
The Lady Grey was certainly lovely to look upon. More than lovely, though. To him, she was the loveliest woman in the country. Five years Edward’s senior and a mother of two sons by her late husband, the daughter of Baron Rivers was tall and fair, with auburn hair tightly bound under a hennin with a long dark veil. Her grey eyes were bright and heavy-lidded as they slowly rose to look at Edward more directly, but they never reached his own. Edward had heard that Lady Grey’s husband had been dead for over a year, and yet the lady wore a dress of such dark blue that it almost looked black, fitting for a mourning widow.
"I came to ask for your infinite mercy, Your Grace," said Lady Elizabeth, “I am penniless and destitute, forced back into my father’s house. My husband’s lands and the inheritance of my sons have been taken from me and I have nowhere else to go.”
“The lands of Sir John Grey were attained after his death in the Second Battle of St Albans, fighting for the Lancasters, Your Grace,” said Warwick, handing him a paper, “And the Barony of Groby belongs to his mother, Lady Elizabeth Ferrers, the 6th Baroness, who is still living.”
Edward didn’t look at the paper. He looked at Elizabeth, who seemed offended at the words Warwick was spouting, and then at her sons by her side. They couldn’t be more than ten and looked very small in their winter geat, pale and terrified. The oldest, Thomas, clutched his mother’s arm while holding his brother’s hand. He looked at Elizabeth again, and saw that she was staring at him, her eyes pleading with him to take up her case.
There was nothing else he wanted in the world than to make it right for her, to do as she wishes and give her the lands, but he looked at Warwick and knew it would be very difficult to do so.
“The Earl of Warwick is right,” said Edward, sitting up on his throne, “I do remember Sir John. He died valiantly, though he died in vain, fighting for the wrong king. Tell me, Lady Elizabeth, why should I give you your lands back?”
“Because Your Grace is willing to pardon those who have repented. Because many times before you have extended the hand of friendship to those who were once your enemies,” she answered, “Because my sons are innocent in this war. They have not wronged you or done anything against you. If it’s too much, then I only ask for my widow’s jointure so I may support my sons and myself. Should we starve to death on the streets or live off of the charity of my family, all because my deceased husband, may the Lord have him, fought on the wrong side?”
For a moment, he was speechless. Then, with the eyes of the court still on him, he nodded. “Very well, my lady,” he said, “You have a talent for speech. Tomorrow, you shall give me the names of all the lands you claim as yours, and I will restore them to your possession. Tell Baron Rivers and the Duchess not to fret over their daughter and grandsons anymore, as you will soon be able to support yourself again.”
Elizabeth bowed before him and her sons obeyed, their faces glistening with tears of joy. Edward stared at her as she did so, trying to commit her face to memory. When she left, he dismissed court and turned to Warwick, too anxious to even speak.
“Your Grace, I must say that I have difficulty accepting your decision,” he said, “The Woodvilles were high in the favour of Henry and Marguerite de Anjou. It will be very difficult to turn them over to our side.”
“Never mind that, cousin,” Edward answered, “I will have Lady Grey installed as one of my mother’s ladies and will make sure that she is given a high position amongst them.”
“Your Grace, I must insist—“
“Did you look at her?” he asked, shocked at the hesitation of his cousin and friend, “She is the most beautiful woman in the land and I will have her yet, Warwick. I will have her yet!”