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Authors: Linda Sole

A King's Betrayal

BOOK: A King's Betrayal
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A King’s Betrayal

 

 

Linda Sole
This book is the copyright of Linda Sole 2012

 

All rights reserved.  It is illegal for anyone to copy, or print all or part of this book without the written consent of the author or publisher.

 

Published by Linda Sole Publications.  Cambridgeshire, UK. 2012

 

This book is a work of fiction and the characters are fictional, except for historical reference.

 

 

 

Cover art license purchased from romance covers.com

 

 

Historical note

 

 

History and the destiny of kings and queens have always fascinated me.  One king in particular catches my fancy because so many historians want to write him off as being too autocratic and a bad ruler, ignoring his love of art and culture, the beautiful architecture he commissioned, also his loyalty to those he loved.  King Richard 11 of England was deposed by the usurper Henry Bolingbroke, who became Henry 1V.  History says that Richard died without issue but what if history was wrong?  What if there was another rightful heir to the throne of England?

 

This is the story of what might have been.

 

 

 

 

 

One

 

Despite the fire flickering in the huge hearth the man shivered, gathering his cloak about his naked body.  He hunched over the flames, brooding, a frown on his face, his hair dark with sweat and slicked back from his noble brow – the brow of a true Plantagenet. He was the rightful king of England, a man of high principles and an overwhelming belief in his right to rule in the manner he thought fitting.

             
‘Come back to bed, my love,’ a woman’s soft voice called to him.  ‘I am cold without you.’

             
Richard 11 of England turned and looked at the woman. In the firelight her red hair had turned to a golden flame and her skin was creamy soft, her perfume like flowers, intoxicating and sweet. For a moment he did not move, his inner torment and foreboding holding him where he stood.

             
‘Arundel plots against me with Bolingbroke and others.  I pardoned them for their betrayal and this is how they repay me.  I shall not rest until I have my revenge.’

             
‘You should have him arrested and tried for treason,’ Beatrice said softly.  ‘You made him a Knight of the Garter and gave him honours and he betrayed you once before.  He plotted with others to imprison you.  Had he won he would not sorrow for you, Richard.’

             
‘He and others took my throne once.  I wrested it back from them; they shall not have it again unless I am dead or defeated.’

             
‘Hush, my sweet lord.’

             
She rose naked from the bed and came to him, reaching out to touch his head and stroke his soft hair.  The scent of her musk rose into his nostrils making him aware of a burgeoning need.

             
‘He insulted Anne when in the year of Our Lord 1388, she begged for mercy on her knees for my friends.  I vowed then that, one day, he would pay for his insult to her and his treachery to me.’

             
‘And so he must,’ Beatrice said, her hand reaching beneath his cloak to stroke his chest.  ‘His death will be a warning to others.  Why do you brood so?’

             
‘There are others who must pay for their treachery.  I know they plot against me still but they shall not prevail.’

             
‘Do you think still of Anne? It is nearly two years since her death.’  There was a hint of jealousy in her voice for he had never tried to hide his love for Anne of Bohemia, his first wife.

             
‘Hush, Beatrice.  I have mended my grief in your arms.  When her death sent me wild with pain you came to me and you have been my comforter – the only person to whom I dare speak of all that I feel and plan.’

             
‘You swear you love me and yet you do not acknowledge me to my rightful place at your side, Richard.  I am as much your wife as Anne was – why will you not tell the world of our union?’

             
‘Because it would weaken my hand.  I must be free to strike where and when I will, Beatrice, and yet I must carry the people with me.  You are beautiful, wise and I do truly love you – but the people would not yet accept you as my queen.  Your family is not high enough placed.  I am expected to marry a princess.  You must wait in patience and hold your tongue.  Speak of what you know and you could bring me crashing down.’

             
‘How long must I wait?’ she asked, her impatience stamped on her lovely features.  ‘You could raise my brother to high honours, make me a duchess.  You have the power to do anything you wish.’

             
‘Have I?’  A quizzical smile touched his mouth.  ‘I wish I were as sure as you, my love.  There are times when my mind is filled with pictures so dark and terrible that I fear I am indeed losing my mind.  My enemies say it; they name me mad.  They think nothing of the beauty I have commissioned; the architecture that will stand a thousand years as testament to our age; they dismiss my lays and rondels as mere frippery and they think me a coward because I love to read French romances and would have peace rather than war.’

             
‘They are fools and knaves.  Traitors who should follow Arundel to the grave.’

             
Richard laughed softly.  ‘Nay, sweet Beatrice.  I would not condemn a man to death merely for thinking me a fool.  Despite what my enemies say, I am not a tyrant.  I use their ignorance and gradually, one by one, those who oppose me shall receive their just deserts.’

             
‘If I were you I would sweep them all away now.  Show them who is King, Richard.  Make them bend, make them beg for mercy.’

             
‘It is as well for England that you are not King,’ he said.  Reaching out for her, he held her against him, nestling his face in the soft fragrance of her flesh.  Then he bent down, and, gathering her into his arms, carried her to the bed.  ‘Let us make the new king this night and then I may be able to acknowledge you.  I will take you as my wife in the sight of God and man.  England needs stability and if you give me a son I shall be stronger.’

             
‘You know how much I want to give you sons,’ Beatrice said, her eyes hot with desire and another emotion.

             
‘You are more ambitious than I,’ her king told her as his hand caressed the smooth arch of her back.  ‘We shall make good sons together, my love – and then we shall rule England side by side.’

             
Giving into the raging desire she always aroused in him, Richard pushed the fears and premonitions of disaster from his mind.  He had a strong woman at his side, a woman he could trust and would one day acknowledge as his queen – when all his enemies were dead.

 

             

             

             

 

 

 

 

Two

 

‘No, I shall not believe it,’ Beatrice looked at her brother in horror.  ‘Richard cannot marry this woman.  I shall not have it.  He promised me.  He promised me faithfully that I should be acknowledged as his wife.  How could he betray me so cruelly?’

             
Sir Hugh de Bracie threw a look of annoyance at his sister.  ‘Do not be a fool, Beatrice.  I warned you not to place too much trust in Richard’s promises.  He is the King and has to make a marriage for the good of the State.  You are the sister of a mere knight and you have only a small dowry.  You should never have expected to marry a king. You have ruined yourself with your ambition.’

             
Every word was like a knife thrust in her heart.  Her eyes stung with tears as she looked at him and she crossed her hands over her belly defensively.  As yet it had not begun to show but she was carrying Richard’s child – his bastard, for despite her protests she knew that her brother was right.  Even if Richard had meant to keep his promise when he gave it, his advisers had turned him against her.  Isabella of Valois was the keystone of a new policy of peace for England, and she knew that Richard sought peace with his neighbours of France above all things.  He was tired of the constant wars that cost so many lives and emptied his coffers.

             
How could he marry the French princess when he was wed to her in the old way?  If she spoke of their secret marriage it would destroy his hopes of the political union – but she had sworn to keep it, and unlike Richard she had held true to her word.

             
‘Now perhaps you will listen to me and marry Lord Crawford before it is too late.’  Sir Hugh’s tone was brusque and angry.  ‘He has given me an ultimatum.  You must give your consent by the end of next week or he will retract his offer.’

             
Beatrice turned away, her long heavy hair tossing as she felt anger mix with her grief.  Richard had given her his word the night he first seduced her and now he was ignoring her, refusing to answer her letters begging for an audience.  He would not come to see her but she would go to him.  She was not ready to stand aside for this French princess.  She was Richard’s wife in all but the sanction of the church and council; he had pledged himself to her in the way men and women had wed for centuries past, and she was bearing his child.  It was a clandestine marriage but binding by the ancient laws of England.  He would acknowledge her.  He must!

             
‘Where are you going?  Beatrice, listen to me.  I must have your answer.’

             
Ignoring her brother’s demands, Beatrice walked away from him.  Her footsteps resounded on the flagstones, hurried and sharp. The weather was bitter cold, the walls of the tower damp to the touch, making her pull her fur-lined mantle tight about her.  Their apartments within the palace were some distance from the King’s, despite her brother’s position of trust as the keeper of the royal livery, but she knew a way into his bedroom that others might not.  Richard had shown her in the first few weeks after they became lovers, when he had been hot for her, smuggling her into his bed secretly and without a hint of scandal attaching to her name.  He had sworn that they would keep their love secret until the last moment, when he would announce their marriage to the court, but now he had given into the demands of his ministers and he was to marry a princess.  Isabella was still a child, no more than six years of age, not old enough to be a wife to him.  She could not give him the heir he needed.  Nor would she satisfy his needs in bed.  Richard had a lusty appetite and he would need more than his bride could offer him.

             
Beatrice told herself that the broken promise was not Richard’s fault. Greedy men had surrounded him all his life, plaguing him with their demands and their advice, pulling him this way and that as they jostled for advantage.  The Lords Appellant had seized power from him in 1387, when he was younger, but he had taken it back within a few years, becoming stronger and more powerful with the support of his uncle, John of Gaunt.  Some people thought him mad, because of his sudden rages.  After the death of Anne of Bohemia, he had torn one wing of the Palace of Sheen apart in his despair, but then he had found consolation in Beatrice’s arms.  He had grown stronger, calmer, plotting a slow deliberate revenge on his enemies. Soon now he would strike and Beatrice knew exactly what he meant to do.

             
Surely no one knew him as she did, for he spilled his secret thoughts into her ear as they lay together in bed.  She knew the best and the worst of him, his doubts and fears and his triumphs.  Night after night, Richard had lain close to her, kissing and caressing her as he told her how he plotted to take revenge on the men who had insulted his wife and conspired to take his throne.  The Earl of Arundel was to be executed and Henry Bolingbroke banished, others were to be stripped of lands or position.  Richard planned it all, carefully and meticulously.  He was a man with many talents, charming, generous and sometimes tender, but she knew that he had his ruthless side. She had listened and laughed, kissed him and given him all the love that was in her, never plaguing him to keep his promise, expecting that he would do so as soon as the time was right.  Now he was to marry that child and she – she would be banished from court.  Yet perhaps her brother was wrong, perhaps Richard was lying to his advisers, as he did to his enemies, and still meant to keep his promise to Beatrice.

             
When she entered his bedchamber by the secret way it was empty.  She could hear the sound of voices and knew that he was speaking with ministers in the outer chamber.  His laughter told her that he was in a good mood.  She felt her confidence surge. He would not bring his ministers in here.  Lying on the bed amongst silken covers, Beatrice spread out her thick luxuriant hair on the pillows and waited.  She did not have long to wait until the door opened and Richard came through.  He was carrying a document, studying the writing on the parchment, which was official for it had his great seal attached and stamped in wax.

             
‘Welcome, my lord,’ she said, her voice soft and husky with invitation. She ran her tongue over lips that were soft, sensual and sweetly pink.

             
‘What are you doing here, lady?’ Richard asked, looking annoyed rather than amused.  ‘I did not send for you.’

             
Beatrice sat up against the pillows,  her smile disappearing as anger sparked.  ‘Has it come to this that I must wait to be sent for?  I have writ more than six times asking for a visit but you ignore me – and now I hear that you are to wed that French child.’

             
‘Speak with respect of your future queen, lady.’  Richard’s eyes snapped with sudden temper.  ‘I may have indulged you in the past but that time has passed.’

             
Beatrice moved from the bed like a furious cat, her mouth hard, claws at the ready.  ‘Be careful what you say, Richard.  You made me a promise when you seduced me.  You swore that I should be your wife before man and God.  You know that such an oath is binding.’

             
‘I was grieving and I knew not what I said.  You must have known it was a promise made in the heat of desire and meant nothing.’

             
‘You swore you loved me.’  Beatrice felt the tears sting her eyes.  ‘I was virgin and I gave myself to you.  Have you forgot that you loved me?  You swore you cared for me and I trusted you.  You called me your true wife.’

             
Richard hesitated, clearly uneasy, then,  ‘I still care for you, Beatrice.  If I were not the King I would wed you for you please me in bed as no other woman can – but I must marry for the good of the State.  I must make peace with France.’

             
Beatrice flung herself at him, catching his richly embroidered tunic.  ‘Will you break my heart?  I am carrying your child, Richard.  My son may be your heir and the future king.’

             
‘You are with child?’  Richard’s gaze narrowed, gleaming with sudden eagerness.  ‘You lie…No, you would not lie.’  He jerked away from her and walked to the window to gaze down at the courtyard below.  ‘I wish that I had known a week ago – nay ‘tis a month too late, more…’ Turning to face her, she saw that his expression had softened, become tender.  ‘As the mother of my child I shall honour and protect you, Beatrice.  However, the treaty is signed.  I must wed Isabella or we shall have war.’

             
‘No!’  Beatrice threw herself at him, winding her soft perfumed arms about his neck, lifting her face to his, tears of despair on her cheeks.  ‘You cannot cast me off so cruelly, Richard.  I love you.  I shall die in disgrace if you will not wed me. I shall be banished and people will spit upon me as a whore.’

             
‘No, you shall not.  You shall wed a man who loves me and will care for you and my child.  You shall be given a castle and lands of your own but the child’s real father must remain a secret.  When I have an heir I cannot have your child claiming that he has a right to the throne – if you should have a son he will be made a duke and given honours, but he can never be King.’

             
‘But you promised me…we are wed in the old…’

             
‘Enough!’  Richard caught her to him, bending his head to kiss her fiercely.  ‘Agree to my terms and I shall visit when I can.  I promise you will have jewels and everything you could wish for but for England’s sake I must marry Isabella of Valois.’

             
‘Who would you have me wed?’

There was mutiny in her eyes as she gazed up at him.

‘Sir Tomas Ryston.  He is a good man, a little younger than I - and my true friend.’

‘He is such a hard cold man.’ Beatrice pouted.  ‘If I do as you ask, he must understand that it will be no true marriage.  I love you.  In my heart you are my husband, as you promised, and I shall lie with no other man.’

‘You may not make terms, Beatrice.  You must give me your word to do as I say - or I shall banish you to your brother’s estates and you will never see my face again.’

‘You would not be so cruel.’ She raised her head defiantly.  ‘I could betray you – I could tell all I know.’

‘You would not do it.’

‘How can you be certain?’

‘Because I know you.  I know your heart is mine.’

‘You have broken my heart.  Why should I disappear so that you can wed that babe?’

Richard’s expression hardened.

‘Do not force me to punish you, Beatrice.  If you disobey me I shall have no choice but to send you away.’

             
A long shuddering sigh left her lips as she looked at his face and saw the determination there.  He was so strong and she was weak, melting at his touch.  Richard 11 of England was a man of culture and high principles, but he had broken his promise to her.  For a moment she almost hated him, but then she knew that she had lost her gamble.  Perhaps if she had held out, if she had made him wait until they were wed in the cathedral with all the world to watch – but no, he would simply have found solace elsewhere, as men and kings were wont to do.  Beatrice should have known that Richard would never marry her in the sight of his lords, which would make her his queen.  Her brother was right.  She had been a fool to trust the promise of a king, but there was nothing for her now but to accept his terms.

             
The offer of marriage to Lord Crawford did not appeal to her.  Richard would find her a complaisant husband who would take care of her and the child, but she must keep their secret.  No one must ever know the truth.   It would gain her nothing and destroy the man she loved with all her heart.  Beatrice must remain true.  Isabella was but a child.  She might die before she ever became Richard’s true wife and then he would surely acknowledge the mother of his child.

             

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