The Sunne in Splendour: A War of the Roses Timeline

Family Tree - Valois
  • Louis XI of France (July 1423-) m. a) Margaret Stewart (1436-1445); b) Charlotte de Savoy (1441-1469); c) Margaret of York (May 1446)
    1. b) Louis de France (October 1458–1460)
    2. b) Joachim de France (July 1459–November 1459)
    3. b) Louise de France (born and died in 1460)
    4. b) Anne de France (April 1461−) m. Louis, Duke of Orléans (June 1462-)
    5. b) Joan de France (April 1464–)
    6. b) Marie de France (June 1469-)

    1. c) Charles, Dauphin of France (October 1470-)
    2. c) Marguerite de France (January 1472-)
    3. c) Louis de France (February 1473-)
     
    Family Tree - Valois-Burgundy
  • Charles 'The Bold' I, Duke of Burgundy (November 1433-) m. a) Catherine de France (1428–July 1446); b) Isabella de Bourbon (1434-September 1465); c) Bona of Savoy (August 1449-)
    1. b) Marie de Bourgogne (February 1457-) m. Frañsez II, Duke of Brittany (June 1433-)

    1. c) Charles, Count of Charolais (January 1467-) b. Cecily of York (December 1467-)
    2. c) Isabella de Bourgogne (March 1468 -)
    3. c) Philippe de Bourgogne (September 1470-)
    4. c) Jean de Bourgogne (November 1471-)
     
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    Cast - The White Queen (I)
  • The announced cast for The White Queen, a new tv show depicting the Yorkist court of England during the War of the Roses.

    Synnove Karlsen as Madeleine de France
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    Daniel Sharman as Edward of York
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    David Oakes as George of Clarence
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    Eleanor Tomlinson as Isabel Neville
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    Aneurin Barnard as Richard of Gloucester
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    Daisy Head as Margaret Beaufort
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    Ben Lamb as John Woodville
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    Sophie Skelton as Elizabeth Woodville
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    Eve Ponsonby as Jane Woodville
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    Cast - The White Queen (II)
  • Rebecca Ferguson as Marguerite de Anjou
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    Dean-Charles Chapman as Edward of Westminster
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    Isolda Dychauk as Maisie Stewart
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    Daisy Ridley as Mary Stewart
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    James Frain as Richard Neville
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    Holliday Grainger as Bona of Savoy
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    Richard Madden as Charles the Bold
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    Cast - The White Queen (III)
  • Ed Stoppard as Louis de France
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    Rose Williams as Margaret of York
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    Florence Pugh as Annie Holland
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    Luke Treadaway as Harri Tudor
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    Keeley Hawes as Anne of York
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    Michelle Dockery as Elizabeth of York
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    Caroline Goodall as Cecily Neville
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    July 1473.
  • July 1473. Pembroke Castle, Wales.

    Elizabeth hissed when her needle pricked her finger, a glob of blood running down her skin. She dropped her embroidery wheel on her lap as she wrapped the injured digit in a piece of cloth, lips twisted in displeasure. Hurting herself like this while sewing was a child’s mistake, one that little Bess hadn’t done in many years, and she knew it was only born from her worry.

    Many weeks had passed since they last heard news from London, when the word of her brothers’ arrest reached every corner of the realm and Elizabeth knew not what to do. Edward was king once more and there was peace in the kingdoms, but her brothers might die for their treachery and she didn't think she could handle it.

    Perhaps, she ought to have warned her lover of what Anthony intended. She knew his plans well, even if he was angry with her, but Elizabeth could not bear to choose. Maybe, if Edward had fulfilled his promise and made himself her husband, she would've felt no dividing loyalty towards him, but it didn't happen.

    Elizabeth wasn't Queen of England. She had no duty to accomplish in bringing a greater era to her country. The honour now belonged to Madeleine de Valois. Let her bear the brunt of the office, bear Edward's children until they sapped all of her strength from her.

    She wanted to wear the crown. Now she must bear its weight with a smile whereas Elizabeth could hold Edward's love and affections. He made her a Countess and even if she had given him no son, their daughter was lovely. More beautiful than any of the Queen's little she-mouses, Elizabeth was sure. Edward had to love her well.

    Her door opened and one of her maids came to whisper in her ear, informing her that her eldest son was without, begging to be let in. Little Bess raised her eyes, attention attracted by the commotion. Elizabeth smiled and stood up, setting her sewing aside.

    “Mother, what is it?” asked Bess, standing up to take her hand.

    “It’s your dear brother, my darling girl,” said Elizabeth. She stroked her daughter’s cheek, her thumb rubbing over her bone. The door opened and her son, Thomas Grey, entered.

    He made a bow for her and she smiled, offering her hand for him to kiss. “Mother, I ask for your blessing in this morrow Tuesday,” he murmured.

    “I give my blessing freely, my dear Thomas,” she said. He straightened up, dark hair brushed back, and she waved for him to sit. “Tell me. What brings you here to Wales?”

    Thomas looked at her daughter, eyes wide and alarmed. “I have just returned from London,” he said, carefully. “The King sent me here with a message for you, Lady Mother.”

    “What message?” she asked. “And what happened in London?” Elizabeth looked at Bess, innocent little ears attentively listening in. “What of your uncles? Have their sentences passed yet?”

    “Anthony and Richard have already been punished,” he said, mindful of his younger sister’s presence. “The King is mindful of sentencing Uncle Lionel because of his priestly habit. It’s possible he hopes to let him live out his life in the Tower.”

    Elizabeth clutched the crucifix that lay between her breasts. She thought about her poor little brothers. Foolish, poor little brothers. The Lord had them now, but she had already made her peace with their death. It was the price to pay for their defeat against Edward.

    “There’s more,” said Thomas. Elizabeth raised her eyes, surprised. “The King made me an offer.”

    She frowned. “What offer?”

    “He offered me the hand of his illegitimate daughter, Grace Plantagenet,” said Thomas, careful. “Her hand in marriage, I mean.”

    “Grace?” Elizabeth repeated and her son nodded. “But she’s a…” her eyes met Bess’, her daughter blinking innocently as she spoke, “She’s beneath you. And a child at that.”

    “She is twelve,” he retorted. “Old enough to be married, according to the law.”

    “But you deserve better,” said Elizabeth. “I have been working intently to get you Annie Holland. She’s heiress to considerable lands and a large fortune.”

    “Annie Holland is a wild creature,” he replied, “And the current gossip at court is that she intends to choose her own husband.”

    “Choose her own husband?” Elizabeth replied. “It’s improper for a lady of her standing to do such a thing.”

    Thomas shrugged. “But it doesn’t matter,” he said. “The King knew I would be hesitant to marry his natural daughter, so he embellished the proposal with the grant of an earldom.”

    Well, that was different. “Which earldom?’ Elizabeth asked.

    “Leicester,” he replied. “My paternal grandmother’s barony is located in Leicester, and Father was born there. It’s a very honourable offer.”

    “So you accepted?” she asked and Thomas nodded.

    “I did,” he said. “I hope you will find it in yourself to forgive me.”

    “Forgive you?” she laughed. “Why would I need to forgive you? To see you rise high in the world was all I’ve ever wanted.”

    “Because the King has trusted me with a task,” he said, apologetic. “I’m to escort Bess to London, where she is to join the household of Queen Madeleine since the King has deemed you untrustworthy to care for his daughter.”

    “What?” Elizabeth stood up. “No!”

    “Mother, please,” said Thomas. “Allow me to do my duty. We can’t afford to anger the King now.”

    “Bess is mine,” she said. Elizabeth looked at her daughter, her eyes wide in fear and lower lip trembling. “I will not see her lost to me, especially not if the Queen will take control of her.”

    “Legally, Bess has no mother,” said Thomas. “The King omitted your name from her papers to avoid the Earl of Pembroke from claiming her as his own.”

    “No, I won’t let you take her from me,” she murmured.

    “It’s already too late for that, Mother,” said Thomas, shaking his head, “And you know that already.”

    She only stared at him, unable to muster up the strength to lie to him. He was right. It was too late and she knew that.
     
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    August 1473.
  • August 1473. Warwick Castle, England.

    Isabel stroked her daughter’s wrinkly forehead with her finger, marvelled by the softness of her skin and the warm pulse of life thrumming underneath it. The child mewled contently, stretching slightly in her mother’s arms, and she chuckled, adjusting her arms around the little girl.

    Although she was only a few hours old, there was already a tuft of dark blonde hair growing on her head and when she blinked her eyes open, they were a muddled shade of baby blue that was sure to change in the coming months. Isabel smiled and pressed a kiss to her forehead, the child smacking her lips together as she did so.

    She was so distracted that she didn’t notice the door opening until it clicked shut, the heavy footsteps of her husband coming closer. Isabel raised her head and smiled radiantly when she saw George, even ignoring the look of utter neutrality on his face.

    “See our daughter, husband,” she said, raising her arms slightly. “She has your eyes. Isn’t she beautiful?”

    George said nothing. He merely stared at her, mouth set in a thin tense line. Isabel settled back against the bed, adjusting her arms around her daughter, but she didn’t let his reaction deter her.

    “Don’t you want to take her in your arms?” she asked, careful.

    George shook his head. “There is no need for it,” he said. He closed his eyes and sighed, taking a deep breath. “It doesn’t matter. If we can have a healthy daughter, we can have a healthy son.”

    She nodded. “Of course,” she said. Isabel turned her eyes back to her precious little face, her cheeks chubby and rosy. “What shall we call her? Cecily? After your mother?”

    “One of Edward’s she-mouses is called Cecily,” George replied. “We will call her Margaret, after the Saint and our ancestress.”

    Isabel nodded. “A lovely name,” she said.

    George looked at her one last time before he turned around and left, the door closing with a loud bang that startled their daughter awake. Isabel thanked it, for her cries masked her own sobs of agony.

    --

    Westminster Castle, England.

    Madeleine raised her eyes to stare at the wall in confusion, heavy thoughts swirling around her head as her hands held tightly to her letter.

    “Is it bad news?” her husband asked, sitting by the fireplace as he lovingly stroked the long neck of Guinefort.

    “That’s what I’m trying to decide,” she responded. At his frown, Madeleine set her letter down and walked to him, removing her long skirts from the way with a flick of her wrist. “My cousins are dead.”

    “Which cousins?”

    “Charles and Louis d’Orléans,” she replied. “They grew sick from plague and died, according to my brother.”

    “But you don’t believe it?” Edward asked. Madeleine shook her head and sat before him, placing her two hands primly on her lap.

    “Louis has a tendency to manipulate the truth until it suits his purposes,” she murmured, “But Louis d’Orléans was his son-in-law, the husband of my niece Anne. Why would Louis marry him to his favourite daughter, only to kill him later?”

    “You said it yourself years ago,” Edward replied. “Little Louis was heir to your brother since Charles of Berry was considered a traitor to the crown. King Louis probably hoped to keep his own line in the throne in case he died without a son, which explains Anne’s marriage to him, but now that my sister has given him two healthy boys, he has no more need for the match.” He shrugged. “Louis and Charles suited their purposes until they didn’t. Now he can use Anne for his alliances as he will with Jeanne, Marie and Marguerite.”

    “I suppose you’re right,” Madeleine replied, “But I hope you will be more merciful to our sons-in-law in the future.”

    “Of course,” said Edward. He chuckled. “Although I don’t intend on having our daughters marry anyone but kings or heirs to kings. Nothing but glittering matches for our girls.”

    “That pleases me,” said the Queen. With a smile, she put her hand on her belly, still flat despite the life growing inside her.

    --

    St Michel-sur-Bar, France.

    The midwife wrapped the creature in bloody linen, the room silent and filled with sadness as she worked. The clicking of the scissors when one of her assistants cut the cord seemed to echo all around her and Maisie closed her legs, a fist pressed to her aching womb.

    “It was a boy,” someone said, a voice she couldn’t recognize.

    Maisie said nothing. She knew already that her son was dead, strangled in her insides when the cord wrapped around his soft neck, and tears burned in her eyes. This was her first pregnancy since Blanche and everything had gone well for most of the time until news came from England of her father-in-law’s death and everything had been chaotic for the following weeks.

    Someone rubbed her forehead. “There will be others, my love,” her husband’s voice said. “We are still young. We can have more children.”

    Maisie moved her face away from the pillow, her throat burning with unshed tears and she blinked her eyes open, looking up at Edward. “Go away,” she croaked.

    “What?” he asked. “Maisie…”

    “Just go away,” she whispered, turning her head back to the pillow, hiding her face so she could cry freely. “Leave me alone, please.”

    He stayed for a few more minutes, rubbing her back and her neck in what he must have thought were soothing gestures, but she barely felt them. When Maisie continued to ignore him, her body trembling, he stood up and left, the door clicking shut behind him.
     
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    October 1473.
  • October 1473. Château d'Amboise, France.

    Margaret entered her husband’s chambers with her head held high, hands placed in front of her body. Louis was seated before the fire, weakened by a stroke he had earlier that year and she approached him cautiously, mindful of surprising him. His hearing had seen better days.

    “His Grace wanted to see me?” she asked when she felt close enough, still staring at the back of her husband’s head. He shifted slightly, turning his head just enough to see and acknowledge her.

    “Come closer, Margaret,” he said, waving her in. Margaret nodded and walked to him, picking up her skirts to avoid the rumbles in the carpets on the floor. She stopped when she was before him, staring down at her old and sickly husband, observing his face which sometimes still drew fear from her heart. “I need to hear your thoughts on something.”

    She tried not to show her surprise. It was very rare for her husband to ask for her opinion on anything. When he did, for most of the time, it was about the children, about whether she thought the maid who left Louis in his crib alone while she went to the privy needed a sacking or if he should call for an Italian physician to care for little Jeanne’s issues.

    Margaret looked at the game of chess that stood between them, the black pieces turned to her and sat down in a chair of her own. For some reason, she didn’t think he wanted to talk about the royal heirs. If he did, he might have come to a visit in Blois, rather than summon her here.

    “Tell me what is it, Sire,” she started, careful, “And I will help you to the best of my capabilities.”

    Louis nodded and raised his arm, fingers bent at an awkward position because of his stroke, showing her a knight carved in a white material. He placed it in the middle of the board, facing her directly. “Charles the Bold,” he said, “Has petitioned the Pope to recognize his lands as a new kingdom. Old Lotharingia come again.”

    “The Pope would never go against your will in such a way,” said Margaret. “Especially not with a gift of cash to convince his decision to be in our favour.”

    “Perhaps not,” Louis responded, smacking his lips as he tried to talk. “Your brother, however, has thwarted our attempts to sway the Pope. He sent his own men to Rome to assist the Burgundians and I hear that he is working to have Emperor Frederick join their enterprise, with his two eldest daughters marrying the Count of Charolais and Archduke Maximilian when they come of age.”

    “Edward is used to getting what he wants,” replied Margaret, “But so are you. I don’t think you will be deterred by this minor setback.”

    He chuckled and shook his head. “We need allies,” he said. “France has remained without foreign threats for most of my reign, but this allowed us to ignore the need for friends. Now, the reminder is sore and unkind.”

    “His Grace has four daughters,” Margaret murmured carefully. “Marry them to our neighbours and we will find the strength to put an end to Charles’ ambitions.”

    “Which neighbours?” he asked. “The Castilians are in bed with the Aragonese and our shared English nieces have flooded the market.” He shook his head. “When I married Madeleine to the York King, I hoped she’d have a son or two, not so many daughters that my own lack prospective grooms.”

    Margaret twisted her lips and her eyes moved to the table pushed close to the wall, where Louis hours before had supped. No servant had come to take the fish carcass away, probably because he wished to be left alone until her arrival, and an idea came to her head.

    “What of Portugal, Sire?”

    Louis frowned. “What of it?” he asked.

    Margaret licked her lips as she prepared to speak, picking up the Queen piece from his side and the knight from hers, placing them beside each other. “João, the Prince of Portugal is in need of a wife, now that the Infanta Leonor perished from the plague. I heard the Castilian King wishes to marry his daughter to him, but the Portuguese are wary due to her rumoured illegitimacy and her mother’s infidelity with the nephew of a bishop. He is seven years older than His Grace’s eldest daughter, but clever and pious and they call him O Príncipe Perfeito in Lisbon, or the Perfect Prince. Any man would be pleased to call him ‘Son’”

    Louis nodded. “The Portuguese are very rich and powerful,” he said. “I hear they have quite the large influence in Rome.”

    “Not only that, but they have the largest and most powerful navy in Europe,” Margaret replied. “We could convince them to join us in a war against the Duke of Burgundy, or at least, placing their navy in the Channel to prevent the Flemish merchants from their trade.”

    “And Jeanne?” he asked. “Marie? They need husbands as well.” Margaret tried not to smile. He would never agree with her wholeheartedly, but she knew she had convinced him of the match for her stepdaughter.

    “Jeanne is more suited for a life as a Bride of Christ,” said Margaret. “I’d suggest Marie for my nephew, were they not first cousins.” She twisted her lips, thinking. “Perhaps Naples? They have strong ties to the Papacy.”

    “Maybe,” said Louis. “Our Margot is too young to be betrothed in my opinion and new alliances can be made necessary in the future.” She nodded. “What of our sons? Who can they marry?”

    “I’d say we ought to marry Charles and Louis to rich heiresses of military-important lands,” said Margaret. “Had the Duchess of Brittany produced any children, I’d say to one of her daughters, but she hasn’t conceived yet.” She twisted her lips. “Milan, perhaps. The Duke had only two children with his second wife and none with his first. A son, Gian Galeazzo who is sickly and likely to die before his father and a daughter, Bianca Maria, who is beautiful and rich, as well as hale by all accounts.”

    “I will publicly arrange a betrothal of Charles to Blanche of Lancaster, since with the loss of her younger brother, she continues to be heir to the Lancastrian claim,” he murmured. Margaret waited for him to keep speaking before she voiced her disagreement with his idea. “This will allow me to retake the Norman cities and Calais from the English hands. When Edward of Westminster is eventually defeated, I can soften your brother’s heart with a gift of cash and break the marriage agreement in the name of peace.”

    “And who will the Dauphin marry in truth?” she asked.

    “Galeazzo Maria Sforza will receive a secret offer for Bianca to come to France, where you will house and educate her along with a number of other aristocratic girls,” he continued. “When we can break the betrothal to Blanche, our son will be promised to Bianca. She will give us Milan and with any luck, inherit her mother’s claim to Naples.”

    Margaret nodded. “And our little Louis?”

    “He is not even one year old,” her husband replied, waving a hand as if the matter was not important. “If an heiress to Brittany comes, we shall marry her to him. This will help us avoid giving out a piece of the royal demesne to him.”

    She nodded and stood up, holding her skirts to avoid tripping. “With His Grace’s leave, I’d like to rest for the night,” she said. “It was a hard journey from Blois here.” Louis nodded and she pressed a kiss to his wrinkly cheek before giving him another curtsy. “Good night, Your Grace.”

    “Good night,” he replied before she left.
     
    January 1474.
  • January 1474. Brussels, Burgundian Netherlands.

    The child yawned contently, raising a chubby fist to clutch a stray lock of her mother’s blonde hair with surprising strength for her young age. Bona of Savoy chuckled warmly, adjusting the covers around her namesake as she walked in circles around her private nursery. Her little daughter was just two months old and already, she held her entire heart in her palm, as her older siblings had done in their turn.

    Her husband watched them as he leaned against the wall, a fond smile on his face. “It pleases me to see you so well and happy,” he said, coming closer. “When our Bonne was born, there was a time I thought you were lost to me.”

    Bona nodded. “But I have recovered,” she murmured not averting her eyes from Bonne, “And our daughter grows stronger every day.”

    “She does,” agreed Charles. He walked until he was right beside her and Bona raised her eyes, looking up at him and trying to read his expression. “She will be our last child.”

    She opened her mouth to refute him, to beg him not to, but she could still feel the soreness in her body and the memory of the blood that flowed from between her legs even many hours after giving birth. She had seen the light, a warm calmness almost overtaking her as well as heard her mother’s voice beckoning her to come closer, but the memory of her children still on Earth made her return. Charles, Bella, Filip and Jean needed her, even if Bonne did as many thought she would and joined the Lord before she first opened her eyes.

    Bona dipped her chin in submission. “Very well, my lord,” she said.

    “We have three sons together,” said Charles. “The succession is assured.”

    “I know,” she responded. “There is no need to convince me, husband. I’m well aware of your decision.”

    Charles nodded and smiled. “Our Bonne marks a new beginning for our family,” he said.

    “What do you mean?” she asked, still holding tightly to her daughter.

    “I had word from the Pope,” he murmured with a mischievous glint in his eye that she knew all too well. “He will accept my petition to have our lands recognized as a new kingdom once the Duchy of Lorraine is conquered.” He tilted his head slightly, squinting his eyes to think, or maybe to shield himself from a possible extreme reaction from her. “Our son, the Count of Hainault, will have to be dedicated to the church as well. I hope that if I send him to Rome in his adulthood, he might become a cardinal.”

    “Jean?” Bona asked. Charles nodded. “But he has just turned two. Can we not wait a few more years to decide his future?”

    “We can’t, not if I want to become King of Lotharingia with you by my side,” he replied. “I never officially made Jean a Count, so it will be far easier than with Filip, who already bears the title of Count of Artois and the Pope demanded a son from us.”

    “Jean is too young,” Bona complained, adjusting her arms around little Bonne.

    “He won’t be a boy forever, my love,” said Charles. “And he will only take up his robes when he turns ten, I swear to you. Until then, he may remain here with you, I swear it.”

    It was not the answer she wanted, but it was the only way she could remain with her son. Bona nodded and moved to place Bonne in her little cot, as she had already been rocked to a peaceful sleep. When she straightened again, a nurse moved to oversee the child and Charles offered her an arm, a clear sign that they were to leave the nursery.

    She took his arm. “And Lorraine?” Bona asked as they left, crossing the corridors of their preferred residence in the city.

    “What of Lorraine?” Charles looked at her and sighed, certainly reading her expression as she intended it to be read. “I will conquer it, obviously.”

    “In the battlefield?” she questioned.

    “Where else?”

    Bona shook her head and Charles looked at her confusedly. “Will you start another war where you could die and leave your young children fatherless?” she asked. “Create another enemy for your lands?”

    “There will always be those who will wish to see us fall,” said Charles, “And I’m lucky in battle, wife, as I’m lucky everywhere else.”

    “Fortune is a wheel, husband,” she replied. “Fate has a capricious nature. One day, you’re as high as the Lord and the next, you’re crushed on the ground.”

    “What are you trying to say?” he asked in a biting tone. “Speak clearly, for I lack the patience today for your teasing enigmas.”

    Bona sighed and stopped, turning to look at him. Her blue skirts swished on the floor as she moved, the pale veil attached to the top of her hennin wrapping around her neck like a noose.

    “The more enemies you have, the easier it is for them to join forces and defeat you,” she said. “We are already at war with France. Must we attack Lorraine as well?”

    “We must,” Charles responded, his tone simple and almost mocking, as if everything was so clear to you. “Bona, I swore to you when we were first wed, that I’d see you made a Queen as you once thought of yourself when King Louis intended to marry you to Edward of York. Attacking Lorraine is the only way to make this happen.”

    She sighed and nodded. “But we must have allies, then,” she said. “Our Charles is already betrothed to Cecily of England, but there is still Filip and Bella to be promised.”

    “To whom, then?”

    “Filip can marry the daughter of our old friend, the Duke of Cleves,” said Bona. “Johanna. Her mother is heiress to the Count of Nevers and with no younger brothers or sisters after the heir to the Duke, she is likely to inherit the land. Especially if the Duke were to pledge his wife’s inheritance as security for the payment of a large dowry.”

    Charles nodded. “Nevers will once again be under the influence of the Duke of Burgundy, maybe even become a part of our new kingdom,” he said. “Johanna is three years older than Filip, but this is no problem. I know Johann will be much pleased by the proposal.” Bona nodded. She knew this as well. “And Bella?”

    “Ferrandino d'Aragona,” she replied. “Heir to the Kingdom of Naples and from a cadet branch of the same family that rules Castile and Aragon. A powerful ally to have near Rome, with a suitable navy that can cause trouble for France in the Mediterranean.”

    Charles nodded. He touched her face, bringing her close enough for their lips to brush each other, though he didn’t kiss her. “What a cunning wife that I have,” he murmured. “I shall write to Johann and Ferrante of Naples right now.” He leaned their foreheads together for one lingering moment before he let go of her, stepping away to his study.

    Bona sighed, watching him go and when he disappeared from view, she turned around and went in the other direction.

    --

    St Michel-sur-Bar, France.

    Their heads were leaning together as they looked down at Blanche, who was playing with one of her nurses on the first floor of the Great Hall, unaware of her parents’ presence in the balcony right above her. Maisie closed her eyes for just one second at the sight of her beloved daughter, hot tears burning at the corner of her eyes whenever she thought of the younger brother she had failed to give her, but when she opened them again, they were dry.

    Edward was right. They were young. They could have more children. And the boy had been well-formed. He was beautiful, even. Were it not for the cord wrapped around his neck, he would’ve lived. That was some comfort to her. It was not her fault, Edward and the physicians made it clear, and there was no reason the next child could not be as healthy and hale as Blanche.

    She smiled, watching her daughter stand up on her little legs and run to the other room. Her nurse had her eyes closed and was counting loudly. Blanche, who was too young to understand the rules of the game properly, hid behind a curtain that unfortunately was too short to hide her completely. Her little feet were peaking out, her black shoes a stark contrast to the white curtain surrounding her.

    Her loud giggles also did little to help.

    “She is very sweet,” Edward murmured. “Full of joy.”

    Maisie nodded. “I pray she will remain like this forever,” she said. “Untouched by the horrors of the world.” Her husband placed his hand over hers and they intertwined their fingers, with him tilting his face slightly to press a loving kiss to her cheek.

    “She will,” swore Edward. “Our daughter will know nothing but love and adoration.”

    Maisie nodded and closed her eyes, the image of her daughter burning at the back of her eyelids. Her flaming red hair, her bright blue eyes. Sweet and gentle Blanche, who would pick up bugs from puddles to save their lives and loved to hear stories of gallant knights and beautiful princesses. Had they lived in their kingdom already, she would be the jewel of London, the fairest rose of England, but there was still time for that to happen.

    “Your Graces,” a voice said behind them. Maisie stepped away from Edward and turned, seeing Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke. He made a bow when he saw them and his eyes went to Edward, wide and grey.

    “Uncle,” her husband said carefully. “Have you done what I asked of you?”

    “Yes, Your Grace,” Jasper answered, looking at Maisie, as if trying to gauge whether she was allowed to hear his words or not. “It’s done.”

    “What is done?” Maisie asked. Jasper had been away from the Lancastrian court for some months, but Maisie was too busy with her pregnancy and her subsequent loss to ask where he went since he probably was off recruiting men and gathering money for their campaign. “Edward?”

    He did not answer her, mouth set in a thin line. He looked at her, then at Jasper, nodding slightly. “You may answer the Queen, Uncle.”

    Jasper sighed and looked at her again, an apology clear on his face. “King Louis has agreed to support you and to declare war on Edward of York,” he said. “He will allow you use of the French prisons to gather your men and replenish our armies, but he will use his own soldiers to attack the Yorkist holdings in Normandy and Calais, as was proposed by you, Sire.”

    Edward nodded. “Very well,” he said. “It’s done.”

    “But why did he agree?” Maisie asked when her husband straightened his posture, making as if to walk away from her and her questions. “I thought he would not attack his sister and her children. Why the change of mind?” Jasper and Edward merely looked at her, faces shrouded in devastating neutrality. “What was offered in return?”

    “Blanche,” Edward responded. Maisie frowned.

    “What has our daughter to do with this?” she asked. When he did not answer her, she turned to Jasper. “Lord Pembroke, answer your Queen.”

    Her uncle sighed and licked his lips, preparing himself for what he was about to say. “Louis de Valois agreed to have his wife take in the Princess as her ward until she comes of age.”

    “Comes of age?” Maisie looked at Edward. “Comes of age to marry?” Her husband nodded painfully slow. “Marry whom?”

    “The Dauphin,” said Edward. “It was the only way Louis would agree, with a wife for his son and the loss of our own boy…” He shook his head. “It only sweetened the deal.”

    “So you did this behind my back?” she asked, tears burning her eyes. “And so soon after I bled your son out of me?”

    “I needed to do this, Margaret,” said Edward. He looked at his uncle. “Jasper, leave us, please.” The Earl nodded and made a bow, before disappearing. Maisie did not care to see where he went. She only looked down at little Blanche, who was giggling as her nurse attempted to catch her, running as fast as her legs allowed her to run.

    She looked back at her husband. “You sold our child for a few hundred prisoners? And you would see her raised away from her mother, educated by the same woman whose brother ousted your father from the throne?”

    “It was the only way…”

    “You are taking my child from me,” Maisie cried, tears streaming down her face. “My child! You take her from my arms as they took our son from my womb.”

    “It was for this family,” said Edward. “We will have more children.”

    “So one babe gained can replace another lost?” she shouted. “Blanche is just three years old and you sold her like cattle. How could you do that?”

    “She will be well looked after,” he insisted, “And I needed to do this. There is no other way, with the Usurper promising his daughters to half of Europe.”

    Maisie shook her head. “You traded your daughter for your dream of regaining your father’s throne,” she murmured. “For your legacy.” She stepped back, cleaning her face. “But I won’t let you take my only child from me.” Maisie made him a mocking curtsy. “By your leave, Your Grace.”

    She did not let him say anything before she turned her back to him and left.
     
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    February 1474.
  • February 1474. Westminster Palace, England.

    The dark liquid flowed freely out of the jar and into the silver cup, Edward holding tightly to the handle as he served two cups full of wine for himself and Lord Montagu. When he was done, he set the jar aside and picked up the two cups with his hands.

    “Here, cousin,” said Edward, turning to face John Neville. “Drink with me as we speak.”

    John dipped his chin in thanks as he accepted the drink, but his face was displeased, certainly already knowing what Edward wanted to discuss with him. The King did not let his expression deter him as he walked around his desk, coming to sit at his chair with a multitude of papers before him.

    He gestured for John to sit as well and his cousin did, pulling his chair for himself as he took a polite sip from his wine. Edward did the same.

    “I’m sure you have heard now that Parliament has accepted to return Northumberland to Henry Percy, as I have been petitioning them since my return from captivity,” Edward started and his cousin merely stared at him, face impassive but eyes full of disappointment. “England must have peace, cousin. Everything else must be set aside.”

    “His Grace must do what he thinks is best,” John replied. “Even if it means ignoring the bloody deaths of his kin, deaths caused by the hot-headed Percys.”

    Edward rolled his eyes. “And I’m sure the Percys would say much of the same if I asked them about letting the title remain with you,” he said. “I have given my blessing to Henry Percy’s marriage to Maud Herbert, daughter to the 1st Earl of Cardiff, which was held in early January. From this day forward, Henry and Maud will be known as the 4th Earl of Northumberland and his Countess.” He paused, looking at his cousin from under his golden eyelashes and a smile curled his lips. “Whereas you and your wife, beyond the Montagu lands, will also be known as the Marquis and Marchioness of Dorset.”

    John, who was drinking from his cup once more, spluttered, choking and coughing. Edward chuckled as he waited for him to recompose himself. When it happened, his cousin turned to him with wide brown eyes. “Sire?”

    “The Dorset lands are rich and vast,” he said. “I’m sure it will compensate the loss of Northumberland, especially now that you have inherited the Neville estates of your deceased brother. You will be a very rich man, as will your son once you go to meet our Lord.” Edward paused again. “More else, with the childless death of the old Earl of Worcester, his great-nephew will now be called the First Earl in a new creation… Your son will receive an earldom of his own, cousin. I have already begun to organize the ceremony.”

    “Your Grace,” said John. “I do not know what to say.”

    “You must say nothing beyond voicing your agreement to my next proposal,” Edward replied. He stood up and walked to the wall next to him, waving John closer. His cousin, awed and shocked, moved slowly with wide eyes and his mouth fell open when Edward opened a small panel on the wall, exposing an opening into the other room. “Come here. See her.”

    Edward spared the other occupant a single glance. She was dressed in a fine green dress that made her auburn hair shine brighter, the locks tightly woven into an elaborate braid held together by emerald pins that glittered as she moved her face this way and that way. She was playing the lute expertly, eyes closed and tongue peeking out in concentration as her music teacher observed her in silence.

    George looked into the small window and then back to him. “Sire?”

    “My daughter, Lady Elizabeth Plantagenet,” said Edward. “With your agreement, I will have her made the Countess of Worcester when your son reaches majority.”

    “Your Grace, the offer is…”

    Edward interrupted him, “Honourable, I know it,” he murmured. “My Bess will grow into a fine and beautiful woman, as her mother was, and it will make your son close to the Prince of Wales, now that they are to be brothers. His future will be quite bright, married to a scion of the Royal House, don’t you think, cousin?” He looked at him, arching an eyebrow.

    John Neville smiled broadly and nodded. “Yes, Sire, I very much think so.”

    Edward smiled in return. With Bess safely betrothed and Grace already married to the Earl of Leicester, he only had the future of Arthur to settle. His captivity at Grafton Manor had given him much to think about his children and what would happen to them once he died. He had already made Madeleine regent and guardian over his legitimate heirs in case he died before Prince Edward came of age, but she had no loyalty towards his bastards. No responsibility to see them settled in their own houses, with their own money and their security. It was his duty to do so.

    He spared one more glance to his cousin before he turned back to see Bess, who was unaware of what had just happened in the room next to hers.

    Hours later, he was alone once more, preparing the letter that was to be sent to Shute with a marriage proposal for the Baroness Harington when his door opened and Jane Woodville came inside.

    “Lady Rivers?” Edward asked. He had not seen nor thought of her in many months, since she left court to her husband’s estate to give birth. It was a boy they named Edward, who now stood to inherit his father’s title. The child must have been left in Grafton Regis when his mother returned to court to serve the Queen, since the Countess was one of Madeleine’s most trusted ladies.

    She made a him a curtsy and, noticing there was no one else in the room with him, closed the door. “The Queen’s baby has come, Your Grace,” she murmured. “Both the child and Her Grace are well and hale. It was an easy labour by all accounts and both the midwife and the physicians say there is no reason to worry.”

    Edward nodded, a smile curling his lips. “And the child’s sex?” he asked, already pulling fresh paper for his Private Secretary to draft the announcement.

    “A girl, Your Grace,” said Lady Rivers. “And the Queen has charged me with requesting His Grace’s permission to name the child Margaret, after Lady Richmond, whom she hopes to be made godmother.”

    Edward mulled the subject over before he nodded again, standing up. “Very well,” he said. “But do not fret over taking the message back. I will come to see the Queen and meet my new daughter right away.”

    Lady Rivers nodded and made him a new curtsy when he passed through her.
     
    June 1474.
  • June 1474. Château de Blois, France.

    Little Philippe de Valois was sleeping contently in his mother’s arms, chubby cheeks flushed with life and strength just hours after his birth. Margaret chuckled warmly and adjusted the swaddles around him, trying to see his face a little better. He had a large a nose as her husband, with pouty pink lips and fine brown hair atop his head, but he was still quite beautiful.

    Her husband, holding tightly to his cane, leaned forward on wobbly knees, trying to take a better look at their new son. “He does not look like Marie,” he complained.

    Margaret sighed. “Marie is in Heaven with our Lord,” she replied, not looking at him.

    It had been only a few weeks since her youngest stepdaughter died of smallpox and the court of France was still in mourning. The loss was especially felt when news came only days later that Charles the Bold, their great enemy, managed to betroth his daughter Isabella to Ferrandino d’Aragona, who was once considered for little Marie.

    Margaret knew her husband hoped for another daughter from her since they had two healthy sons already. Once, she heard her father say that, after the heir to the throne, daughters were more important than subsequent sons, for princesses were the ones who’d gain alliances for their fathers whereas younger boys could only cause trouble and take away lands from the Dauphin, waiting for someone to die so they could be kings.

    “If he lives, we will dedicate him to the church,” said Louis. “It will gain us good standing with the church.” Margaret nodded. “He may very well become Archbishop of Reims one day, and see the children of his brother crowned in their turn.”

    Margaret smiled and looked at him. Louis had grown tired from standing and sat down, lips twisted. “Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” she asked. “Like something out of a fairytale."

    Louis chuckled, but the smile quickly melted off his face.

    “The Pope has accepted Charles’ petition to be recognized as an independent king,” he said, sombre. “He will declare him the King of a reborn Lotharingia once he conquers the Duchy of Lorraine.”

    Margaret looked at him, chewing on her lower lips. She looked to the corner of the room, where a maid was awaiting the need for her services and waved the woman closer. She handed Philippe off to her and the woman left, certainly to bring the boy to his wet nurse. When they were finally truly alone, Margaret looked at her husband.

    “Then we must prevent that from happening,” she said. “Without Lorraine, Charles le Temeraire can’t unite his lands and claim the title of King. It would be essential to ally ourselves with René II of Lorraine.”

    Louis nodded. “I believe we have had the same idea wife,” he said. “Our Margot may marry the Duke when she turns twelve in 1484. It will make the alliance secure, as well as give us a reason beyond our claims in Burgundy to interfere in the war of the traitor.”

    Margaret smiled. It was exactly what she had thought. Louis narrowed his eyes when he looked at her, curling a finger under his own chain.

    “You are perhaps one of the least foolish women I have ever met, Margaret,” he said. “I suppose I should count myself lucky that you are my wife and not Charles of Burgundy’s, as he once hoped.”

    She smiled. That was the highest compliment her husband could ever give her.

    Louis stood up, leaning all his weight in his carved cane. “The men are ready to march into Normandy and Calais,” he said. “The Portuguese fleet has stopped the English garrison from sending calls for help to your brother.”

    “How did His Grace manage to convince them to break the alliance with London?” she asked. “Portugal and England have been friends since the 1380s.”

    Louis smiled. “Anne did,” he responded. “She might be only thirteen, but my daughter is, much like you, a woman with little foolishness in her. I hear she has Prince João wrapped around her finger.” He tilted his head slightly, thinking. “They would never attack English men, but they can ensure some messages are late in reaching their destination.”

    Margaret nodded. “And Edward will be none the wiser, I imagine,” she said. “He will be more upset by the loss of Calais and the Norman cities that he will never even stop to think about the lost letters.”

    “Precisely,” said Louis. “Are you not upset about the offence that goes to your family?”

    “Why should I? I ought to be loyal to my lord and husband, to France, shouldn’t I?” Margaret asked. “The more land you conquer, the more my sons stand to inherit, is that not true?”

    “Quite right,” he said. “But some women still carry loyalty for their homelands and their birth families. In your heart, you might still be an Englishwoman and a Lady of the House of York.”

    “But I am not, Sire,” said Margaret. “I’m the Queen of France, nothing else.”
     
    July 1474.
  • July 1474. Westminster Castle, England.

    In the days following the arrival of the French news, Madeleine felt as if everyone was hissing at her, looking at her through the corner of their eyes with so much hate and derision when only weeks earlier, they looked at her with nothing but adoration. She wondered if that is how her cousin, Marguerite de Anjou, felt when she first came to England, her marriage a treaty that saw the English lose Maine.

    How fickle are the people? It was not her fault that her brother proved himself as tricky as a fox, it was not her fault that Margaret of York had decided to throw her lot with her husband. It was not her fault. She had never wanted to come to England and married Edward but she had and ever since then, Madeleine had not set her eyes on French soil.

    And if they were upset with the loss of the continental holdings, the last remnants of the Angevin Empire, so was she. Calais and the Norman cities might have cost much to maintain, but they were a matter of pride for the people, a reminder of the great holdings once held by Richard the Lionheart and a hundred others English heroes.

    One day, after Mass, when the loss of Calais and the Norman cities completed a fortnight, Madeleine turned to Lady Richmond in the privacy of her rooms. “What can I do?” she asked, desperate. “I tire of being stared at wherever I go, I tire of being disrespected by my subjects.”

    “Her Grace must ignore them,” said Lady Richmond. “Soon enough, they will find something else to anger them. The people of England are easily led and soon enough, something else shall offend them.”

    “It’s been two weeks already,” said Madeleine, throwing herself on a divan dramatically. “The people hate me, after all I’ve done for this country and the House of York.”

    “It’s easier to blame Her Grace than to blame their kinsmen lost in Calais,” Lady Rivers responded, belly large with her second child. “But Lady Richmond is right. Soon enough, they will find something else to be offended by.”

    “How soon is that?” asked Madeleine. “Do they think I am happy about this? I know how important those cities were to national pride.” She licked her lips, shaking her head. “I tell you, my ladies. When I am dead and opened, you shall find Calais engraved on my heart, but because I was born in France, none shall believe me if I say so.”

    Lady Richmond sat beside her. “Then prove you are not French anymore,” she said. “Prove you are one of them, as English as them all, deeply heartbroken by the loss of the continental holdings.”

    “How can I do that?” she asked. Lady Richmond answered her with an eager smile. “And how will I make that possible?”

    Lady Richmond looked at Lady Rivers, who had taken a seat near a table to put the weight off her swollen pregnant feet. “If all of Her Grace’s ladies work together, I believe we can have the garment done in three days' time.”

    Madeleine smiled. “Perfect.’

    --

    Edward was listening intently in the late morning to petitions of court. Women who denounced their husbands for mistreatment, widows who asked for help against their stepchildren, orphans searching for their fathers’ lands lost during the war. With the loss of the Earl of Warwick, the politics in the kingdom ran less smoothly than they did in the past. Edward was still searching for someone who would assist him as his cousin had once done.

    If he wished to be honest, Edward would admit that he was slightly distracted, waving his hand to confirm the request of the few lucky enough to receive his full attention in the fleeting moments he was able to muster them. Without Warwick and the loss of Calais, he felt depressed and hopeless.

    He had taken the throne to right the wrongs of the Lancastrians, to bring England back to her days of glory and now, he saw the end of the Angevin hold on the continent. Not even Henry had managed that.

    “Queen Madeleine of England!” announced the herald and Edward raised his head, as he was leaning his forehead on his closed fist and looked to the double doors of the throne room. A gasp arose from the crowd, his lords and ladies gathered together to see him dispense the King’s justice.

    “Oh, Sweet Jesu,” he heard someone say. “It’s the English coat of arms.”

    Edward felt his own breath being taken away. She wore a dress of velvet and wool, red and blue opposing each other. Most of her body under the dress was covered by a white fabric as if she were a penitent nun, only her face and hands exposed. In her rich garment, someone had carefully embroidered passant lions and French fleur-de-lyses with golden thread and her billowing sleeves had been embroidered with silver thread in the shape of white roses. She looked like a fiery angel as she moved, the precious materials of her garments catching the light. Atop her head, she wore a golden crown with white roses and fleur-de-lys as befitted the Queen of England.

    He saw his wife’s shoulders move as she took a deep breath, Madeleine crossing the long corridor to him in quick and determined steps. When she was right before him, she threw herself down to her knees. “Your Grace, I beg your pardon for the offence I have made towards your person.”

    He frowned. “And what offence is that, my lady?”

    “The loss of Calais, Rouen, Fécamp, Lillebonne and Dieppe ache me just as much as they do any other Englishwoman, but to know that it was my own kin who caused so much harm to my people grieves me even more,” she said. “I ask you to pardon me with your utmost grace and mercy, my lord, for I knew nothing of my brother’s plans and would’ve done anything I could to prevent it had I known.”

    He smiled. His wife truly was the most intelligent woman in the court. He stood up and offered her a hand, observing the careful way she stood up, a place in her belly as if to support herself. “There is nothing to forgive, my lady,” said Edward.

    Madeleine smiled at him and looked around them, the entire court staring at them. “I am English,” she said in a high and clear voice. “I have lived and bled for this land that welcomed me so openly ten years ago. My loyalty is not to Paris or the Maison de Valois, but to my husband and the Kingdom of England.” She looked at Edward, her face flushed with the exertion of speaking such words with so much strength. “By me, your king has had many children. English children, sprouted forth from my womb. My love and affection belong to them, as it belongs to their new brother that grows inside of me.” She put her hand on her flat belly. Edward felt his heart speed up, his mouth slightly parted in awe.

    “My newest son, as English as his mother and father,” said Edward, placing his hand over hers. Although her belly remained flat, he thought he could feel a mass underneath the layers of cloth, though perhaps he was only imagining it. “We will call him Edmund, after my brother and the great Anglo-Saxon king who fought against the Danish when they tried to take our lands.”

    A polite round of applause rose from the court. Edward smiled and brought the hand he was holding to his lips, pressing a loving kiss to her knuckles.

    “And from this day forth,” his wife continued, “I wish to be known as Magdalena, Queen of England.”

    “Long live Queen Magdalena!” someone shouted.

    “Long live Queen Magdalena!”
     
    August 1474.
  • Small chapter dedicated to all who voted for this story on the turtledove poll, but also with a special mention to @TheBookwormBoy who has spent too many hours listening to my ramblings, and also encouraged me in May 2021 to write the new idea I just had about Magdalena of France marrying Edward IV. This is your victory too, Michael, not just mine!​

    August 1474. Newhaven, England.

    His feet hit the wet sand with a muffled thud as he jumped off the small boat that had led him off the ship. Edward of Westminster, rightful King of England and France, looked around at the plain shore surrounding him, his heart swelling up in his chest.

    It didn’t feel real, to finally be there, in his homeland once again, after so many years of exile. First in Scotland, then in France, driven away by the Yorkists and the Usurper. Edward closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, inhaling the salty sea air. The wind hit his face, messing his hair, blonde curls stuffed inside a tight cap bouncing against his cheeks.

    He kneeled on the ground and took a fistful of the sand, bringing it to his lips to kiss it. Home. At long last, he was home.

    Edward straightened up and saw his wife coming to stand beside him, holding tightly to Blanche’s hand. Maisie had her face pinched in a tight expression, wearing simple blue garments fit for the travel through the channel. They hadn’t reconciled entirely since their argument about Blanche joining the household of the Queen of France. Not even Edward acquiescing to her demands and allowing their daughter to remain with them brought husband and wife back together, but at least, when he turned to look at her, Maisie was smiling. A smile he had not seen ever since they lost their son.

    “I thought I would never see this isle of Great Britain again,” she admitted. Edward nodded.

    “I was born here,” he said. “I shall die here.”

    “God willing, this shall not happen for many years yet,” said Maisie, placing her hand on the back of his head to play with the nape of his hair. He shuddered and chuckled, turning back to see the 2,000 mercenaries the King of France had funded for them disembarking. The men that would bring him back to London with his father’s crown returned to him.

    Edward nodded at a group of riders in the distance, observing him and his party. “Edward of York will be aware of our arrival within the week,” he said. “Jasper Tudor has landed in Wales to gather supporters and we must rejoin with him, or we shall have no hope of winning this war.”

    Maisie nodded. “It will take days for Edward to gather his forces,” she said. “Until then, we can reclaim the lands on our way to London.”

    A hearty cough echoed behind them and Edward turned to see his mother being helped by the Duke of Somerset out of her boat, a fist closed against her mouth as her shoulder shook with the strength of her sickly shudders.

    He turned back to his wife. Blanche was trying to grab her own fistful of sand, curly red hair flopping with the wind. “Look, mama!” she said. “A rock!” Edward and Maisie chuckled, his wife bending to pick up their four-year-old daughter in her arms.

    Edward nodded at the land before them. “Come on,” he said. “We have a kingdom to reconquer.”
     
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    Family Tree - York-Gloucester
  • Richard Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Gloucester (October 1452-) m. Mary Stewart (May 1453-)
    1. Philippa of Gloucester (January 1472-). Twin to Joan.
    2. Joan of Gloucester (January 1472-). Twin to Philippa.
    3. Edward, Earl of Oxford (July 1473-)
    4. Richard of Gloucester (August 1474-)
     
    August 1474.
  • August 1474. Westminster Castle, England.

    Magdalena entered her husband’s private study with a serious face, finding Edward and his younger brother standing around his writing desk. The three sons of York turned to look at her, George and Richard bowing at their waist and her husband pulled her by the hand until she came even closer.

    “Your Grace,” said Richard, “A pleasure to see you, even in these dreadful circumstances.” Magdalena offered him nothing more than a simple, turning to see look at her husband with questioning blue eyes.

    “His Grace wanted to see me?” she asked, running a hand down her belly. She had gained much weight with her practically yearly pregnancies, but Magdalena could still notice the subtle changes brought about by the new babe growing inside her. The slight roundness of her stomach, the thickening around her waist characteristic of the arrival of a new prince.

    And if she could notice it, surely others could as well, which only helped to increase her popularity ever since her display of English loyalty in the past month. A fertile queen was a sign of a strong monarchy, much needed in the fragile state of England since the news had come of Edward of Lancaster’s departure from the continent.

    “Yes,” said Edward. He placed a hand on her shoulder as he looked from her and to his brothers, Richard and George standing together like a united front. It made her feel ill, her stomach rumbling. “I have made decisions regarding the oncoming battle with Edward of Lancaster. Decisions that regard all three of you.”

    “The battle is nothing to concern a king such as yourself,” said Magdalena. “Edward of Lancaster is a child with little experience in the field, much less military support by the landed gentry.”

    “Possibly,” her husband replied. “But I must prepare what must happen if I’m to die in the field, or directly after it.”

    “Prince Edward is the crown’s clear successor,” said Richard, looking at his brother, “But he is only nine years old. If the King were to fall, a regency would be needed until little Ned reached the age of eighteen.”

    “Quite right,” Edward murmured. He looked at her, then at George and Richard. “It’s my desire that the three of you work together to put Prince Edward on the throne. A regency council, headed by the Queen where my brothers will sit in positions of power to rule until Ned reaches the age of maturity.”

    Magdalena nodded. “I will work with you, my brothers,” she said, then turned to her husband. “But you will not fall. I’m sure of it.”

    Edward smiled, but he said nothing. Instead, Richard came close to Magdalena and picked up her offered hand, dropping a respectful kiss to her knuckles.

    “I swear, Your Grace, to look to you for leadership if our fortunes should fail and the King falls in battle,” he said, straightening up to look at Edward, “But the Queen is right, my king. We should stay optimistic, for the future is known only to our Creator and the odds are in our favour. Edward of Lancaster has little experience in battle, whereas your victories far outweigh your defeats.”

    “Thank you for your confidence, Richard,” said Edward. “It will be much needed when we meet with our great enemy.” He looked at his remaining brother, arching his eyebrows in expectation. “George?”

    The face of the Duke of Clarence was flushed with rage, skin a blotchy red and Magdalena watched him patiently. “A regency council?” he gritted out. “Headed by the Queen?”

    “Yes, what part of it wasn’t clear to you?” Edward murmured.

    “I’m your brother,” George said. “Your most senior vassal, the brother closest to you in age!”

    Edward arched an eyebrow. “And Magdalena is my wife,” he responded. “The Queen. Mother of Prince Edward and Prince Richard, who stands behind his brother in the line of succession. To them, she is their most important and senior relative.”

    “But she is a woman!” George argued.

    Edward rolled his eyes, straightening up as he placed one hand over Magdalena’s shoulders. “It’s my decision, George,” he said. “Make your peace with it, or leave.”

    George looked at Edward then to Magdalena, eyes as wide as saucers. He grunted one final time before he turned around and left, sticking his hands into his hair as he pulled the dark locks like Dickon did when he was nervous.

    Richard sighed. “I must go,” he said with a deep bow. “By your leave, Your Grace. I must return to Gloucester to gather my men.”

    “We’ll see you soon, brother,” said Edward. They embraced tightly and Richard gave them another bow before he left, the door shutting behind him. When they were finally and truly alone, Magdalena turned to her husband.

    “You shouldn’t worry about the battle,” she murmured, extending her hand to adjust his collar. “You are quick and lucky. I have no fear over what may happen when you finally face our great enemy.”

    “Your confidence in me is astounding,” he said with a smile. “But I feel the need to be prepared either way. My imprisonment at Grafton Regis has only made me realize how short life is and how it’s a father’s duty to see their children settled and safe, even if he dies before he can reap the rewards.”

    She twisted her lips. “Does that mean I must care for the King’s illegitimate children as well?”

    He tilted his head slightly. “Grace is already married and Bess’ betrothal to the Earl of Worcester, but Arthur is not yet settled,” he said.

    “To whom do you wish I marry him?” she asked carefully. Arthur was thirteen, soon to be able to marry according to canon law.

    “Cecily Bonville,” Edward responded. “She is a rich girl close in age to Arthur and I have been negotiating with her mother and my cousin, Katherine Neville.” He shrugged. “It’s my desire that the children he may have with the Baroness bear the name Harington instead of Plantagenet, but Katherine and her husband haven’t responded to my offer yet. The oncoming battle has delayed correspondence throughout the country.”

    Magdalena nodded. “Is that not dangerous?” she asked. “To marry your eldest but illegitimate son to one of the richest girls in England? Enrique de Trastámara deposed his legitimat half-brother in a bloody civil war.”

    “Perhaps,” he said, “But one needs only look at the Beauforts, who were rather loyal to their Lancastrian relatives, to know a positive example where such a thing didn’t happen. Do not fret, dearest wife.” He put his two hands on her shoulders, turning her slightly to him. “Arthur has been raised to be loyal to Ned and our younger children. Marriage to Cecily Bonville will make him a wealthy man and non-dependent on Ned’s favour to live a comfortable life.”

    Magdalena twisted her lips. “If you believe so,” she said. “Are you worried about the battle?”

    “Not at all,” he said. “You are right. Edward of Lancaster has no experience nor knowledge of military strategy.”

    “He has advisors who are though,” said Magdalena. “Jasper Tudor and his mother, Marguerite de Anjou.”

    Edward smiled.

    “He has them no longer,” he said, handing her a letter with a broken green seal. “The Earl of Pembroke welcomed Jasper Tudor with steel. Henry of Lancaster’s half-brother sits in chains in Wales, waiting for the result of a Lancastrian loss to be brought to London for his trial and execution.” Magdalena sighed and picked up the letter, reading it carefully. “And…”

    “And Marguerite de Anjou is dead,” she completed. “Taken by the plague.”

    “Exactly,” said Edward. “The Lord has shown how much he cares for the Lancasters. Westminster will be defeated without delay.”

    “And when he is dead and buried,” Magdalena began, “I know what to do with Margaret Stewart and their daughter, Blanche.”

    Edward nodded. “Do tell,” he said.
     
    August 1474.
  • August 1474. East Sussex, England.

    The two armies met in a large open field, the sun beating down on them in unforgivable scorch. It hadn’t rained for days, something unusual for England, and the ground beneath their horses was as hard as rocks, the tall grasses wilting under the strange heat. Edward of Lancaster, so-called Fourth of that Name, Rightful King of England and France and Lord of Ireland stared at his great enemy on the other side of the battlefield.

    This was the grand finale of the Civil Wars. Only one King Edward would come out of the battle with his life, only one would cement a dynasty that could last a thousand years and Edward of Lancaster dearly hoped it would be him. He had a wife, a daughter and the legacy of his parents behind him.

    He was the son of Henry VI and Marguerite de Anjou, King and Queen of England. He would not fail them, not now that they had both left him alone in this world. His mother had always had high expectations for him and he swore to Maisie that he would find a way to fix everything between them once he became king. They would fall in love again, truthfully, with careful words and tokens of affections.

    They would have a son to inherit England after him and carry on the House of Lancaster through the ages. Blanche’s marriage to the Dauphin would be seen as a necessity, but with more children, his wife would show herself more amenable to parting with their firstborn, Edward was sure.

    He closed his fingers tightly around the reins of his horse. He was wearing a full set of armour, like Edward of York was, though he could see the other man wore a golden crown around his helmet. Edward wanted to chuckle at his arrogance, but he couldn’t. Instead, he looked around him, at his men and his eyes met those of Edmund Beaufort through the crowd.

    Edward closed his eyes and sent a quick prayer to his Lord, asking that God watch over him in the battle and protect him and his men. When he was finished, he made a cross and gave the signal for his army to advance.

    The horses’ hooves were thunderous as they hit against the hard ground and the sound was deafening, a sharp contrast to the clear skies over them. Shouts echoed all around him as the two armies met, the song of steel clashing with steel reverberating through him until even his teeth, few as they were, were chattering.

    Edward saw as the dead began to pile on, holding tightly to his sword and horse. Although he had been trained, he had little experience on the battlefield and this translated into shock running through his veins as he moved his arm on reflex, his blade running along the throat of a poor soul who came too close to him.

    Blood sprayed on his face, hot and sticky, and someone screamed out. It took at least a minute before Edward belatedly realized it was him as someone stabbed his horse and threw him off his saddle. His entire body screamed out in pain, his throat burning with the force of his voice and someone from his army helped him stand up at the same time that he was stabbed in the back of his neck.

    His helper fell to the ground, blood spurting out of his mouth and Edward only stared at him, watching as the life went off his eyes. The King raised his eyes, observing the chaos of the battlefield. The men lost, the children soon to be orphaned and the wives soon to be widowed. He finally realized the crows hanging over them, perched on the branches of the trees that surrounded the field. Black ravens, harbingers of death, awaiting the battle to be over for them to pounce and feast.

    Edward was so utterly distracted that he failed to notice the men who came to pounce on him, blades in hand. They held him down as the sharp metallic teeth bit his flesh, hot blood pouring out of him, blood as red as Maisie’s auburn hair. He wanted to shout at them, to cry out for his mother.

    He was only twenty, not even twenty-one. This war had taken everything from him and he fell to the hard ground with a clank, his helmet falling off of him and revealing his shock of golden hair. They didn’t stop, they felt no pity. He grunted as the air rushed out of him, thinking of his little Blanche. Sweet and gentle Blanche, who would cry if a fly was swatted away before her. Blanche with her bright red hair and deep blue eyes. She would be a great beauty once she grew, he was sure.

    Except he would never know it.

    Edward continued to bleed for far longer than anyone would think possible. It felt like hours had passed when at last, he felt sluggish exhaustion overtake him, the corners of his vision growing dark. He thought of his family, his father and his mother, his legacy. He was only twenty.

    “Margaret…” he said with his last breath. Then, there was nothing.
     
    October 1474.
  • October 1474. Chichester Cathedral, England.

    Maisie Stewart paced around the dark and dinghy basement, hands in her mouth as she anxiously bit at her own nails. They had been in sanctuary for over a month, ever since the news came of her husband’s defeat and death in battle, and she hadn’t yet decided what to do.

    Blanche was now heir to the Lancastrian cause, but she was only four. And a girl at that. Who would fight for her rights? How could she even reach somewhere that would take them in until her daughter was old enough to rule on her own? Who would be a good husband to her? She had no desire to travel to France, nor did she have the means to do so, when they would simply hand her daughter over to the Yorkist Queen Marguerite. She hadn’t talked to James since her wedding and even if she had, Maisie doubted he’d risk the wrath of Edward of York to shelter her and her daughter. No, she would have to find somewhere else. Someone else to champion her daughter’s rights as sole Queen of England.

    But who? Not for the first time, Maisie cursed herself for not producing a son. After her husband died, she had fooled herself into believing she was carrying another one of his children, perhaps a son to remind her of him, but she wasn’t. Her courses came on time with a bitter wave of cramps in her lower abdomen.

    She stopped walking and took a deep breath. The Lord had seen fit to give her only a daughter and she would not let it deter her. Maisie needed only time to have an idea and be able to reach out to the Lancastrians that were surely still out there. She took another deep breath and came to the straw cot pushed closed to the wall, where Blanche peacefully slept, her thumb inside her mouth.

    Maisie chuckled and removed her slack hand from her mouth, mindful of the damage suckling her thumb could do to Blanche’s teeth. She pressed a kiss to her forehead, stroking her bright red hair. Her daughter was a very beautiful young girl and would only grow more and more beautiful with time. This might help endear the European kings to her cause. The Lord only knew how men preferred women and young girls to be seen rather than heard.

    "I love you, my sweet Queen,” she whispered. “I will not let anyone harm you, I swear it.” Blanche moved, lips parted to let out her sour baby breath and Maisie stood up in alarm at the sound of footsteps coming to her.

    John Doget, the Archdeacon of Chichester said she could stay in there and that no harm would come to her or Blanche, but Edward of York might have seen fit to force his hand to gain control of his great enemy’s widow and daughter. Or maybe, he had come to give them food and clothes. Either way, she ought to receive the incoming person with focused attention.

    The door to the basement opened and a cloaked figure entered, tall and thin. Maisie stepped forward as she observed the lights from the candle creating shadows beneath the visitor, her mouth parted in a silent greeting as the person’s pale long-fingered hands came to push their hood back. A face of pale perfect skin and wide blue eyes was exposed to her, the auburn hair coifed into tight buns at the side of her head and Maisie stepped forward even more, breathing out her sister’s name.

    Mary wrapped her arms around her and they embraced warmly, after more than five years without seeing each other. The sweet smell of her sister brought tears to Maisie’s eyes and she felt a weight lift itself off her chest, a weight she didn’t even know was there and she took a deep breath free from any constraints.

    When they stepped back, Mary cupped her cheeks and pressed a kiss to her forehead, wiping away her tears with her thumbs. “Oh, Maisie,” said Mary. “I have missed you so much.”

    “Mary, how long it has been,” said Maisie. She took her sister’s hands from her face, tightly holding to her fingers. “But what are you doing here?”

    Mary took a deep shuddering breath and licked her pink lips. “I have been sent by King Edward and Queen Magdalena,” she said carefully. “They wish to make peace with you.”

    “Peace?” Maisie asked. She stepped back, letting go of Mary’s hands. “Will they recognize my daughter as the sole rightful ruler of England and place her on the throne of her grandfather?”

    “Maisie,” said her sister, “You know very well they won’t, but the Queen has come up with an offer that would bring an end to all this fighting between York and Lancaster in a way that is pleasing to all parties involved.”

    Maisie closed her eyes and nodded. “Very well,” she said. “What is the offer?”

    “Your daughter, Blanche the last of the Lancasters would wed the King’s eldest son, Prince Edward of Wales, heir to the House of York,” Mary murmured. “This would unite the two branches of the Plantagenet Dynasty and bring an end to the issues of the succession. There would be peace and your daughter will be Queen of England, with her eldest son set to inherit the crown after his grandfather and father.”

    “Marry Blanche to the son of my husband’s great enemy?” Maisie asked, already shaking her head. “It would go against everything Edward believed in. I would be betraying his memory if I did so!”

    “Please, Margaret, be reasonable!” Mary shrieked in frustration. “Your husband’s army rots in the field, Jasper Tudor sits in chains in Wales, the Beauforts are all dead. There are none who will help you now that your husband is dead.”

    Maisie shook her head. “My daughter is betrothed to the Dauphin of France…” she started, but Mary simply raised a hand to stop her.

    “King Louis has already made peace with King Edward,” she said, “And broken the betrothal between your daughter and his son. He intended only to use the Lancasters as a way to reclaim the Norman cities he had given Edward for his marriage to Louis’ sister, as well as Calais, which he already did.”

    “No, you’re wrong,” she insisted.

    “I’m not and you know I’m not,” said Mary. “Louis de France never intended to help you at all. No one in Europe would do so. Every ruler in the land recognizes Edward of York as the rightful King of England and he will remain as such until his death.”

    “Maybe he will,” Maisie retorted, tilting her chin up in defiance, “But my daughter will never marry his son.”

    Mary shook her head. “The forty days where you are entitled to sanctuary will end tonight, Margaret,” she said. “After that, King Edward can demand your life and that of your daughter. I’m here to offer you a choice.” She took a deep breath. “Either Blanche marries Edward of Eltham or she and you will be forced to join a convent, for neither can produce children that may claim the throne for the Lancasters.”

    “He wouldn’t…” Maisie started.

    “He would,” said Mary. She stepped forward and grabbed her hands. “Please, Maisie. Accept this marriage offer.”

    “Blanche and Edward of Eltham are related within the forbidden degree,” she said.

    “They are second cousins once removed,” Mary replied with a roll of her eyes, “And King Edward can petition the Pope for a dispensation. His Holiness will grant it, I’m sure, since that will be the start of an era of peace in England.”

    Maisie stared at her sister. “Why are you doing this?” she asked. “Why are you betraying me, your sister?”

    Mary pressed her lips together until they were set in a thin and tense line. “I must be loyal to my lord and husband,” she said, “And King Edward has arranged a marriage for his daughter and my namesake with our Scottish nephew, the Duke of Rothesay. Joan, my youngest daughter, will go with her so she can marry the son of the Earl of Lothian.”

    “There is no Earl of Lothian,” Maisie replied. She had no knowledge of a Scottish peer with that title.

    “There is now,” said Mary. “Thomas of Clan Kerr has been given the honour and his son Andrew will marry my Joan, while my Philippa will marry the son of the Earl of Northumberland. It’s the hope of King Edward that the two sisters may keep the peace in the border.”

    “So this is why you are doing this? For peace?”

    “Of course!” Mary replied. “Must I wish for thousands of others to die just so your daughter can be Queen, when all know that her husband will rule in truth, a husband that can attack our homeland? Is it so wrong for me to try and broker peace, to see my niece crowned next to Edward of Eltham with a family and joys of her own? Is that truly so bad?”

    “Yes!” Maisie replied, tears burning her eyes. She pressed her palm to her forehead, already feeling a headache beginning to pulse inside of her skull. “If I do this, I will never forgive myself.”

    “But will you forgive yourself when you fail to put Blanche on the throne because of your stubbornness?” Mary asked. “When your husband’s line dies out with her, knowing very well that you could have prevented this outcome?” Maisie only looked at her.

    They both already knew what the answer would be.

    Margaret took a deep shuddering breath and nodded. “Tell your King that I accept his offer,” she said. “Blanche will be Edward of Eltham’s Queen.”
     
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    December 1474.
  • December 1474. Castelo de São Jorge, Portugal.

    Diogo held her arm in his as they walked inside the great hall, the sound of music and the hushed conversations of all the nobles present filling her ears almost immediately. Beatriz took a deep breath as they stopped right in the entrance, the herald announcing their arrival, “Infante Diogo e Infanta Beatriz, Duque e Duquesa de Viseu e Beja.”

    Some low-ranking nobles stopped what they were doing and made bows, opening the way for them to pass on their way to the thrones, where they would greet the King. Beatriz held tightly to her son’s arm, feeling the eyes of everyone around her.

    She and her family had not been back at court since her eldest daughter died in 1472, breaking the bonds of marriage and kinship between her and her deceased’s husband’s brother’s family. At first, her grief had been too great to do anything but lay in bed, thinking of Leonor and what could have been if she had lived. And then, when her grief finally abated and she was herself again, she preferred to stay back, mindful of the new Princess of Portugal’s presence. Certainly, Dona Ana would much rather enjoy her married life without the memories of her predecessor hanging around her.

    But then, her brother-in-law, King Afonso, had specifically invited her and Diogo to court for the Christmas celebrations and they couldn’t exactly refuse a king’s invitation. She would have to put her grief and her dutiful loyalty aside to serve her monarch to the best of her capabilities.

    Afonso was smiling broadly when Beatriz and Diogo stopped before him, making deep bows. “Sister!” he exclaimed, coming down from his throne to embrace her tightly. Beatriz chuckled and hugged him back, tapping against his velvet-covered shoulder. When he stepped back, he turned to her son and embraced him as well. “Dear nephew.”

    “Tio,” Diogo said, dipping his head in a submissive gesture, “I can’t explain how happy your invitation has made me.”

    Afonso nodded, still grinning. “Of course,” he said. “It has been far too long and our land is far too small for us to spend years without seeing our relatives.” He waved at the feast, the people dancing and eating together as they laughed. “Come, let us eat together. There is something I wish to speak to both of you.”

    Beatriz and Diogo exchanged a single glance before they nodded and moved to follow the King to his high table. They sat next to him, with Diogo standing between her and her brother-in-law on his left side. It was at this moment that she noticed that the Prince was not present and her eyes found him in the back of the room, observing everything with a serious gaze.

    Beatriz observed João de Avis with a careful tone. The crown prince unnerved her sometimes. He was the King’s only son, at least one that lived, and was set to inherit all of the Portuguese possessions throughout the known world.

    Despite this, he was, much unlike his father, a fierce enemy of intrigue and revelry. Perhaps, it had been brought by the years he spent in Africa helping his father conquer lands from the infidel ruler of Morocco, but even if it hadn’t, there were those who feared the day when João became king. The Prince was not one known to be susceptible to others’ influence.

    Beatriz sighed and moved her eyes away from her nephew and former son-in-law. Afonso was sipping from a goblet of wine, starting to speak in a hushed tone, “I have heard word that the Yorkist King of England has won against the House of Lancaster, who are our relatives.”

    “At long last, the war has ended,” said Beatriz. Afonso merely looked at her. “Peace is costly, but necessary.”

    “I agree wholeheartedly,” said Afonso, “And due to our newfound kinship with the French, we have alienated the English who were our most dear friends for centuries and it’s my wish to remedy that.”

    Diogo nodded. “What can I do to help you with your endeavours,Tio?” he asked.

    “I have a mind to marry a Portuguese infanta to Ricardo, Duque de Iorque,” he started. “Were my Joana ten years younger, I very well could send her, but alas, I can’t.” Beatriz took a deep shuddering breath, already knowing where this was going. “And so it’s my desire to have your sister and daughter, Infanta Beatriz, who is only some months younger than the young duke, marry Ricardo and bring peace.”

    “Oh, Your Grace,” said Diogo, hesitant. “My little sister is the joy of Viseu. It would grieve me much to see her gone to such a distant land.”

    “My dear nephew,” Afonso started, “This is my will. Worry not, for your sister will be well-taken care of by the English and I will pay her dowry myself as if she were the daughter of a ruling king.”

    “But Bia is so young,” said Diogo, insistent. “May we wait some years before we are certain of the match?”

    Before Afonso could say anything, Beatriz placed a hand on her son’s arm, drawing his attention to her and away from his uncle, who was growing ever more frustrated with his refusals. “We accept, brother,” said the Duchess. “It will be a pleasure to see my daughter entrusted with the task of bringing peace and renewing the bonds of friendship between England and Portugal.”

    “But, mother, Bia is…” Diogo started, quickly stopping when she levelled him a single glare full of meaning. His jaw tensed and he stood up, leaving the hall and the feast with hushed footsteps. When he was gone, Beatriz turned to Afonso.

    “His Grace must not worry,” she said. “My daughter will marry the Duke of York.” Her brother-in-law smiled and nodded, bringing a cup of wine to his lips. Dark purple drops slid down the corners of his mouth, staining his doublet, but he didn’t seem to care.

    “I have other news from our neighbours,” said Afonso. “Enrique IV de Castilla has died.”

    Beatriz crossed herself. “May God receive his soul,” she said, though, when she finished speaking, she frowned. “Who rules Castile now?”

    “My niece, Juana, was the legitimate heir, but I have heard that her half-aunt, Isabel, has claimed the crown for herself, “ he said, bitterly. “There was a self-coronation in Castile where the Usurper has announced her newest pregnancy, which is a clear mockery of my niece, who is still too young to have children of her own.”

    Beatriz carefully nodded. She wondered why Afonso was telling her all of this.

    “Surely, His Grace intends to recognize Juana as Queen, rather than Isabel,” she murmured. Afonso nodded.

    “Quite right,” he said, “But I will not speak of it in this day of celebration and piety.”

    Beatriz nodded. She was about to excuse herself and go find Diogo when the herald raised his voice once again over the murmurs of the crowd, shouting out, “Dona Ana, Princess of Portugal!”

    The person who entered the great hall was a young girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, a smug grin curling her lips. Her escoffion was tall and dripping with jewels, but this was not what dragged Beatriz’s attention in the young princess. Instead, as Dom João lovingly came to offer her an arm, she was only able to look at Dona Ana’s belly, bloated with pride as she ran a hand down the cloth of gold covering her midsection.

    It seemed Iberia, for better or worse, would see two princes born in the oncoming year.
     
    February 1475.
  • February 1475. Eltham Palace, England.

    Her pains began late in the morning when she was playing a card game with her Bourbon cousins, Jeanne and Gabrielle. Magdalena observed as her other ladies rushed to prepare everything for her to give birth, mindful of the short period of labour that she was prone to experiencing. As they fluttered about like frightened hens, she moved to lay on the bed, hands atop her belly as her waters slowly trickled down her thighs.

    The midwife arrived only a few minutes later, surrounded by her attendants, but still, it took another hour for the Queen to be ready to begin pushing. They helped her remove her heavy dress and put on a new and fresh white shift, her hair braided to keep away from her face.

    Magdalena had already run out of patience when, at long last, they helped her sit on the birthing chair, pulling her shift up to expose her legs and her swollen belly. She held onto Jeanne and Gabrielle’s hands as she finally began to push, a scream torn out from her throat.

    Although it still hurt just as hard as the first time, Magdalena could tell that her labour did not last as long as it once did. It felt like only minutes had passed once she began pushing and the pain stopped, the child sliding out of her and into the waiting arms of the midwife. The cry that rose was hearty and healthy, born from a pair of strong lungs.

    “A son, my lady,” announced one of her ladies. Magdalena sagged against the chair, taking in deep shuddering breaths, her skin flushed and sweaty. “A healthy and bonny son!”

    “Edmundus,” she called out. “The King and I wish to name him Edmund!”

    The midwife wrapped him a square of clean linen before handing her son over. Magdalena sobbed happily as she took Edmund in her arm, observing his wrinkly and red little face. He had a thick layer of fluids over his thin tuft of hair and she had to take in a big gulping breath before she pressed a kiss to his face, holding him close.

    “Precious boy,” she whispered. “You’re so handsome, my beautiful and precious boy.” She kissed him again. “My sweet Edmund.”

    The boy said nothing, eyes wide open as he looked around him. He had dark eyes and thin little eyebrows that seemed barely present, with thin pink lips. He was handsome and he was hers. Magdalena kissed him again.

    --

    “Are you sure?” asked Lady Hastings. The nurse nodded, face ashen. “No sleep? Not at all?”

    “Not at all, my lady,” said Frances, who was assigned the role of watching over the royal daughters while they slept. “The Princess hardly slept through the night and what little sleep she did get, was interrupted by her constant nightmares. Lady Catherine is utterly afraid of falling asleep again for she does not wish to see those terrible images again..”

    Katherine Neville, the governess of the royal children, said nothing. She chewed on her lower lip, wringing her hands together. Little Catherine of York, one of her charges, had been bereft by nightmares since the Woodville insurrection and the death of her little brother. Katherine had tried everything she knew to help her, including staying with her through the night and waking the princess when she felt she was entering a nightmare, giving her warm milk at night to help her sleep. She knew not what to do anymore.

    Catherine hardly slept during the night for many months, holding on by taking long naps during the day that would affect her schooling. The Queen had told Lady Hastings before she entered her confinement to solve this problem, making it clear that if she couldn’t, she would find someone who could to take up her place as governess. Now that Prince Edmund had been born, it was only a matter of time before Lady Hastings found herself without a position which meant she had to find a solution for Catherine’s issues.

    “Very well, Frances,” said Lady Hastings. “Take the Princess to her Latin lessons. I will find a way to solve this before the night and we shall speak later.” Frances nodded and made a curtsy before she turned to find Catherine and bring her to her tutor.

    Lady Hastings sighed and rubbed her forehead. She knew not what to do anymore.

    With another frustrated sigh, she moved away, leaving the nursery and walking through the corridors of Eltham Palace. She hoped that the movement would rouse her mind and give her new ideas. It was when she reached the room with the older children that she finally stopped.

    Ceci and Dickon shared a French tutor, but they didn’t seem to be too busy at the moment, the man kneeling before Dickon’s desk as he read something the Duke of York had written. Princess Cecily, who was easily distracted, was stroking the long grey neck of Guinefort, the family dog, and kissing his snout.

    Katherine pursed her lips and turned, returning to her room where she sat before her desk and picked up a fresh sheet of paper to write.

    To the honourable Master Lucas,

    Over the past month, I heard word that you are a known breeder of type of dog that is described as large and protective as well as possessing a docile, but courageous temperament. A dog that you like to call Mastie, or mastiff. It’s my desire to gift Lady Catherine of York, the King’s third daughter, with one of your dogs, preferably one that is already trained to stand guard and to be gentle with young children.

    The price is no problem since the receiver of this dog would be the King’s own child.

    I await your response,

    Lady Hastings.


    When she was done and the ink was dry, Katherine Neville stood up and walked to one of her page boys and instructed him where to take her message. “This must be received and read today,” she told him. “I await the response before the evening.”

    The boy nodded. “Yes, my lady,” he said.

    Katherine watched him leave with a quick run, wringing her hands as she worried her teeth on her lower lip. She only hoped the dog would help Catherine feel safer and comfortable in her own bed. Otherwise, she didn’t know what to do.
     
    March 1475.
  • March 1475. The Tower of London, England.

    The man before her was a stranger. He had bushy red hair, feverish blue eyes and a sharp jaw hidden under a shaggy auburn beard, a long nose that had been broken before. The man was wearing rags, a dirty brown pair of breeches and a white shirt that was stained with mud and blood. When she came inside his cell, he said nothing, merely staring at her under red-golden eyelashes with a smug grin curling his pink lips.

    “You look exactly like your mother,” he said almost mockingly. Annie Holland shifted awkwardly in her stance, grabbing her hands in an attempt to keep calm. She would not let him get to her. She was not afraid of him.

    The man was a stranger, but, at the same time, he was her father.

    Henry Holland tilted his face slightly. He was sitting on the floor, supporting his arm on the straw bed next to him. Annie simply stared at him, mouth set in a thin and tense line. She could not help but notice the many differences between her and the former Duke. He was sitting and she, standing. He wore rags and she, her fine clothes of velvet and damask. He was in chains, even if invisible, and she, as free to come and go as she pleased.

    Henry smiled. “They told me you were bold, and proud, but I did not believe it.” He scowled, face turning a shade too dark and Annie shuddered. “Were you raised by me, you’d behave with the submissive meekness that your sex and age demands.”

    Annie tilted her chin up. “I’m sure you would have done so with eager diligence,” she told him. “I may have never met you, but I remember well the stories I heard growing up from servants in my mother’s lands and castles.”

    “Your mother’s lands?” he chuckled, arching a single bushy eyebrow. “Don’t you mean the lands that belonged to my family? The lands your whore of a mother stole from me with the help of her libertine brother?”

    “Do not use such a cursed language to speak of my mother,” said Annie, jaw tense. “She is ten times the Christian you are.”

    “Of course, you would think so, having been raised by your mother and uncle,” her father replied. “They filled your head with lies, sweet child. Anne of York made you think you are grander than you truly are, which allowed you to treat your father with so much disrespect.”

    “Maybe they did,” she said, “But they also made me strong. Stronger than you.”

    Her father smiled an amused grin, tilting his head. “Really?” he asked, mocking her with his eyes and words. “Well, then prove it to me. What made you decide to visit your forsaken father, Anne?”

    She took a deep breath, shuddering with each movement of her chest.

    “I wanted to see you,” she admitted, “To meet you, to see the face of the man that caused so much pain and suffering to my mother.”

    “Well?” he asked. “Are all the stories proven true in your mind? Am I truly as bad as your mother and her servants painted me to be?”

    She took a good look at him, the feverish glow in his eyes and she could almost imagine the way he would scream at her Lady Mother, how his large hands could make bruises bloom under her skin. Annie took a deep breath, her entire body shaking. She feared him, she realized, even if he was weak and powerless now. A man was never fearless before a woman, not so long as he had still his fists and his strength.

    “It doesn’t matter,” she told him. “You are not in a position of power. Not anymore. You can’t hurt me or my mother ever again.”

    “Yes, your uncle lovingly made sure of that,” he replied with a snarl. “Edward usurped the throne from the rightful king and now injustice rains over England. A man can’t even discipline his wife and daughter as he pleases without losing his lands for it.” Henry Holland shook his head. “Now my father’s once-proud title will go to a stupid and senseless girl upon my death, right into the hands of her dirty Welsh husband.”

    “Do not speak like that of him,” said Annie. She felt no need to correct him that she and Henry were not yet married, not even betrothed. There was no need for him to know such a thing. “Harri is more man than you could ever hope for.”

    “Maybe he is,” said her father, “But he is no husband for you, grandson of a mere butler that dared to infiltrate a Queen’s bed.”

    “He is the husband I choose,” said Annie. “Harri adores me and I will be happy with him, far happier than I would be with any man you select for me.” She took a deep breath. “The King, my uncle, has made his thoughts clear. Upon our marriage, we will assume the title of Earl and Countess of Huntington as well as assume the Duchy of Somerset, Harri’s maternal inheritance, as our own. When my mother dies, we will receive Exeter as an earldom, to be gifted to our second son once he comes of age.”

    She smiled at the scowl on his face, the disappointment stamped on his features.

    “The dirty Welshman you so despise will hold the proud titles of your father and his father,” she told him. “My uncle said we will be wed when I turn fifteen and my mother works daily to prepare my dress and my trousseau. Harri and I will be a true family, with many children and there is nothing you can do about it.” She took a deep breath. “Soon, the King will sign the order for your execution. It will be carried out without delay. God will take you soon, my lord father, and when he does, I will be reborn.”

    Annie smiled once more and turned, holding her skirts to make the sudden movement. Her father stood up to grab her, but she was younger than him, quicker and soon enough the door was opened and she was outside, two guards flanking her. There was a small caged window at the top of the door and Annie gave her father one last look through it, observing his flushed face.

    “Damned girl!” he called out in a hoarse voice. Her father grabbed the door and shook it, but it had withstood many others before him. “Damn you, Anne Holland. Damn you.”

    “The Lord does not hear the words of a traitor,” said Annie. “You have no power. Nothing but words and even those are meaningless.”

    She gave him one last look, and turned, her skirts swishing as she did so. He continued to scream and curse out as she left, but she barely heard them, feeling as if a weight had lifted itself off her shoulders. Her mother had told her not to go, to leave her father to die without sight from his sole child, but she felt the need to lay eyes upon the man that had so frightened the Duchess in the past.

    Annie returned to the palace by barge, with a small grin on her lips. She entered her rooms with a spring upon her step, calling her maids to help her change her clothes so that she could attend to the Queen, as Annie had been made a lady-in-waiting to her aunt upon her fourteenth birthday.

    She was alone, waiting for their return with her favourite green dress, when she noticed a strange piece of paper on her desk. Annie picked it up and her eyes widened as she read the pamphlet, a mocking drawing of her grandmother and an archer in each other’s arms. Annie recognised Duchess Cecily only by the coat of arms painted on her dress, the one she used while her husband still lived, and even then, only with much difficulty as the drawing was hastily and weakly made. It seemed the work of a mad man, without reason and sense.

    But under it, a true sign of madness was written.

    A bastard who wears the crown. The white or red rose, it was all the same.

    Annie turned around and walked out the door, still clutching the letter in her fist. The dress could wait. Her uncle, the King, must see this filth.
     
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