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Authors: Michael Jecks

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BOOK: 30 - King's Gold
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He wished he had asked those two for advice, at least. They might have known what to do with it.


Dunchurch Manor, Warwickshire

Frere Thomas rose to his feet in the little chapel and crossed himself fervently. In the last days he had managed to avoid capture, largely because he had been aided by his brothers, but also God was preserving him too, naturally.

Ever since the Pope had made him a papal chaplain some years ago, this assurance of God’s protection had given him the peace he needed to reflect on the actions he had taken, the actions of others, and to contemplate how he could have acted otherwise. However, no inspiration came. He had done all he ought. The King had been captured
his best efforts, and that was surely a sign that God intended the disaster. Nothing could happen without His approval. It was merely infuriating that he, Thomas, one of the most senior Dominicans in his Order, could not understand His scheme. But that was, so often, the way of God’s mystery. It was not for humans to comprehend the Almighty’s intentions.

He had returned here only after great hardship. On the way he had heard of the death of Despenser, the ravaging of all Despenser’s lands and estates, and the impudence of the Hainaulters and other mercenaries, wandering the land as though they were the saviours of the country. It was maddening! God had assuredly deserted England. He was leaving it at the mercy of the forces of evil.

A door at the rear of the chapel opened, and Frere Thomas turned to see his brother, Stephen.

‘What is it?’ Thomas demanded, his eyes going to the windows. ‘Are they here to take me?’

‘No! No, Tom, it’s the King! He is here! Well, not here, but at Kenilworth. That’s where he’s being held – at the castle.’

Thomas gaped, and then felt the thrill of holy joy pass through him like lightning, and he turned to face the altar, arms outspread.

Now he understood. God had been teaching him patience, and now that he had learned his lesson, God was giving him an opportunity to rescue the King. Of course, he would need men. His brother Stephen could help there, but they should have enough to storm the castle by wiles, rather than by great numbers. A small fighting force, infiltrating the castle and then bringing the King to freedom. There were many who would want to join in on that!

‘Dear Father, I shall not fail You a second time!’ he prayed fervently.

Morrow of the Feast of Candlemas


In his chamber, Sir Edward of Caernarfon, no longer King, now merely a knight, sat at his table and stared at the silver plate and goblet placed before him.

When he looked in his mirror, he still possessed the fair good looks for which he had been renowned. His long hair was rich and lustrous yet, his blue eyes clear, but where once laughter lines had illuminated his features, now it was the creases of care and fretfulness that showed themselves.

To think that Mortimer had once been his most revered and respected general! Edward closed his eyes as the memories flooded back. Those happy times. From childhood Mortimer had been one of his closest, most trusted companions. It was to Mortimer he turned when the Scots invaded Ireland.

Sir Edward pulled apart the loaf of paindemaigne and rolled a piece into a small ball, pushing it into his mouth and chewing listlessly. Life had lost all savour. A king separated from his kingdom was less than a man. Less even than a peasant, since no peasant could suffer such a loss.

When the emissaries arrived at Kenilworth’s great hall, that was one day Sir Edward would never forget.

He had been warned of the delegation’s arrival, and had thought they were come for a discussion of terms. After all, he was their King. He whom God had placed upon the throne could not be removed by rebels. God’s anointment protected him. And so King Edward II had leaned back in his chair as the men filtered into the hall.

There were many: two bishops, Orleton and Stafford, two Justices, four barons, two barons of the Cinque Ports, four knights, Londoners, representatives of other cities and towns, and abbots, priors and friars aplenty.

‘I am honoured to see so many,’ the King observed drily. ‘Will you enjoy the hospitality of the castle? I fear it is a little depleted of late, but I am sure that my gaoler would not wish you to leave here hungry or thirsty. Command him as you will . . . as you already do.’

His sarcasm hit the mark with several, he noted with grim satisfaction. He would show them how a real King should behave, he told himself. ‘Well? Is there someone here with authority to treat with me?’

It was Orleton who spoke, the slug, but King Edward averted his head and gestured with his hand. ‘I will not hear
, vile deceiver! It was you who preached sedition against me – I have heard. You do not rate amongst this gathering.’

‘My lord,’ Orleton said with that oleaginous manner Edward recalled so well. He had inveigled his way into the Queen’s affections, but that did not make him any more appealing to Edward.

‘I fear you
hear me, sire,’ Orleton said, ‘and you must listen to these honourable men, and the whole community of your realm. There has been a parliament in Westminster, and there were conclusions formed during it.’

‘I will not hear you.’

‘Sire, you have ruled poorly. You have been commanded by vile traitors and wicked advisers. You elevated some, but destroyed many of the peers of your realm. Your decisions have caused bloodshed on a scale not seen for many years, and you have broken up your father’s lands in order to give them to your friends. You have shamed your inheritance, this proud land, and the people you swore to protect!’

‘You dare accuse me?’ the King had roared, and half-rose from his seat. To hear this litany of accusations – as though he was a common serf! There was no need for him to respond. He was the
! ‘God
placed me upon this throne, and I’ll be damned if some upstart felon like Mortimer will evict me, with or without your help, my lord Bishop!’

‘You think it is only me, sire?’ Orleton sneered. ‘The whole community of the realm accuses you. Whence the prelates, the peers and the knighthood all wish you to resign and to pass the kingdom to your son, for him to reign in your stead.’

Edward stared at the bishop with a curious feeling of dislocation, as though none of this affected him personally. This was not truly happening. It did not matter what others thought:
he was King.
It was not a mantle a man donned and doffed, it was his heart, his blood. His

He made a gesture of dismissal. ‘My son cannot reign.
rule here.’

‘Sire, Parliament has unanimously declared itself for your son.’

‘Ludicrous! I do not agree. What of the boy – does he dare to shame me himself?’

There was a swimming in his head; his mind was befogged. Oh, if only Hugh were here, darling Hugh, to lighten his mood, to take away some of the sting of this appalling litany of complaints! If only . . .

‘Your son refuses to accept the conclusion of the Parliament unless you agree. If you will pass on the Crown to your son, my lord, he will take it. But if you do not agree . . .’

‘I remain King. I

‘In name only. The realm will find a new leader.’

‘You threaten me?’ King Edward spat. ‘You think to suggest you can remove me and install some puppet in my place?’

‘Not I, my lord. Parliament,’ Bishop Orleton said.

King Edward was stilled. The swirling sensation returned with renewed force, and it was only by a supreme effort of will that he managed to keep himself upright in the chair.

At first he dared not trust his voice because his speech must reflect the turmoil of emotions that crowded his heart. This was indeed a threat, without even a silken glove in which to conceal it. Parliament was a distraction: someone was influencing it behind the scenes. Only two men wielded enough power to control it: Earl Lancaster or Sir Roger Mortimer. They could protect Edward, or his son, or could see both father and son destroyed. Of the two, Edward knew who had dared already to remove his King: Sir Roger Mortimer. He would scarcely balk at doing the same to Edward’s son.

‘You . . .’ He had to swallow and take a firm grip on himself. ‘You threaten my son’s safety if I refuse to acquiesce?’

‘I threaten nothing, my lord. I merely warn you of the consequences. You must abdicate.’

Edward could remember that day so well – how his mind had cleared and he was able to think objectively about his boy, Edward, Duke of Aquitaine.

He owed his son little. Although he had sworn not to, the Duke became betrothed without the King’s permission. While in France with his mother, he had refused to return home when King Edward wrote and ordered him to do so, claiming he could not leave while his mother remained. Perhaps he told the truth: maybe in France the Duke had already been under Mortimer’s control. The traitor was there: all knew he had cuckolded King Edward in France.

When he was free he would have Mortimer tortured. He would have the churl put to the
peine forte et dure
to plead his guilt, and then see him executed in the same manner in which the bastard had tortured poor Hugh to death.
Damn Mortimer to hell for eternity!

Yes, he owed the Duke little. Adam, his illegitimate son, would never have dreamed of such disloyalty. He, God bless him, was too kind, too gentle and grateful for anything his father offered.

But Adam had died five years ago during the campaign against the Scots. The lad had joined the host as a page, but died of fever on that horrible return march, as had so many others. He would never know what it was to be a grown man. He died so young – only fourteen years old.

Duke Edward was also fourteen, the King realised with a jolt. It sent a shiver down his spine to think that his oldest son was as old as his firstborn had been when he died. The two boys were so very different, it had never occurred to him before.

Edward wondered whether the Duke realised the danger he was in. He was under-age to be King. Mortimer would control him ruthlessly, and the kingdom. To agree to abdication would mean that the Duke would inherit his kingdom. Did he deserve it? Edward set his jaw. He would not willingly deprive his second son. His firstborn was already dead because he had followed him. He could not condemn his first legitimate son too.

He looked at the men in silence. But even then, back in January, Sir Edward of Caernarfon knew that the decision had already been made for him.

House of Bardi, London

Matteo had five messengers arrive that morning. The pile of different-sized parchments was daunting to him as he sat sipping wine, eyeing them.

It had taken time and a great deal of money to have the house tidied once more, but he did not begrudge Benedetto’s expenditure. This house was a symbol and a statement of the Bardis’ position at the pinnacle of English society.

Since Christmas, when they had advanced loans to the Queen and Sir Roger Mortimer, the bank had shifted to the centre of political authority and the House of Bardi was as secure as it had been throughout King Edward II’s late, unlamented reign.

It meant stability, and that made Matteo reconsider his plan to leave the country. There was money to be made here.

Matteo was still wary of his brother. Every time they met, he felt a crawling sensation. He never turned his back on Benedetto. Instead he had spies watch him. Matteo also abandoned all outward manifestations of ambition. He wanted others to believe that his brush with death had scared him.

But he was not scared. He was hungry for more: more money, more control, more information with which to achieve what he wanted.

There was a knock, then the door opened and Dolwyn walked in.

‘You have news?’ Matteo demanded.

‘Some. I met your informant,’ Dolwyn said. ‘He is dead now.’


‘He was hanged for murder.’

Matteo shook his head. ‘A shame – he was useful. I shall have to find another man in that area. Did you learn anything from him before he died?’

‘That Sir Edward of Caernarfon is not so weak as some would believe.’

‘He has been deprived of his crown,’ Matteo observed.

‘But many would see him return to his throne. Plots are already being formed to bring him back.’

Matteo studied the man. Dolwyn was a useful henchman, certainly, mostly because of his brawn, not his brains. His skills lay with knives and daggers, not with the tools Matteo was happier to employ: words and information. The attack had made Matteo appreciate how different were their two worlds. ‘Who?’

‘All about Bristol and South Wales I heard the same: everywhere the people had relied on the Despensers, there is a clamour for the return of Edward of Caernarfon.’

Matteo considered. There was merit in telling Mortimer this news, but the latter had his own spies so it would not be news to him. No, the only man who might not be aware of this, secluded as he was, was Sir Edward of Caernarfon himself. In the event of a coup, he would be very grateful to those who had aided him . . .

Matteo glanced at his reeds and inks, thinking that he could write to Sir Edward himself, offering the same as the letter from Manuele. The man would surely appreciate that. But if the letter were discovered, after the King’s abdication from the throne, the author could rightly be suspected of treason against the new King and be sentenced to die a painful death. It was a shame that the original had not been sent.

And then he had an inspiration. ‘I have a letter,’ he informed Dolwyn. ‘I need you to take it to Sir Edward of Caernarfon and deliver it to him, and him alone.’

It was perfect, he thought. The letter had been written and signed by Manuele before his death. The delay in sending it was explicable by the kingdom’s upset in recent months, and if it was discovered, it was clear that the man who wrote it was now dead and could not be punished – and nor could those who had arranged for it to be sent on to the recipient in good faith.

BOOK: 30 - King's Gold
7.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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