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Authors: Edward Charles

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BOOK: Daughters of the Doge
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In the course of the last six months, I had also learned that Thomas was a humanist, following what the Italian states were calling the
or rebirth. He agreed that the worship of God need not be a dismal affair, as many priests still made it, but should involve admiration of His creation and in particular that crown of creation, humanity. Thomas loved people – especially ordinary people – and he took joy in understanding what drove them and in seeing them succeed.

In all of these things I agreed with him wholeheartedly. But at this point we parted company, for after so many years debating and analyzing with Lady Jane, I could not understand his stubborn and seemingly unquestioning loyalty to what her Calvinist correspondents had disparagingly called ‘the joint pillars of your traditional society’: the King (now the Queen) and the Church.

I had been too close to the wicked attempt to put Lady Jane, against her wishes and true belief, on to the throne of England to have blind faith in the ‘divine right’ of monarchs. Having seen the dreadful damage caused by the replacement of King Edward (whom I had loved) with Queen Mary (whom I had grown to loathe) I could no longer believe that kings or queens had divine powers, nor that what they thought and said were always right. After all, King Edward and Queen Mary could not both have been right, for they appeared to hold completely opposing views about nearly everything.

The same was true of the Church. As a committed Protestant, I was deeply troubled by the dogmatic inflexibility of the Catholic faith, and shocked by its persecution of those who did not share that faith. One further thought concerned me: if the situation were to change and Catholics become the weak minority, would I be as tolerant of their views as I wished they had been of mine? The truth was, I didn’t know.

Now, as we stood in the wind and rain, awaiting the final stages of our departure, these thoughts were worrying me still. Thomas had seemed to express an automatic respect for Edward Courtenay, simply because he was an earl. But my short time as Courtenay’s riding instructor had left me with deep reservations about the man. One thing was certain: our journey would test both loyalties and friendships to the limit.




November the 18th 1555 – Hotel de Blauwe Zalm, Louvain, Flanders


The wind continued to buffet us as we rode into Louvain. It had not stopped raining since we had finally left harbour and crossed Lyme Bay. The wind had turned westerly, then held for three days, and we had run before it under topsails and jibs, spray flying, with ropes trailing astern to stop us from gybing on a rogue wave.

Although the seas had been very rough for the first day, once we got accustomed to the surge as we lifted with a wave, and the stomach-turning drop as it eventually passed us, we had found the voyage quite exhilarating.

On the second day the wind had abated a little and we had run on what the captain called ‘a broad reach’, half-across the steady south-westerly wind, the ship heeling constantly over to the right as we made our way north-east and then north, up channel. They were good days and would have been thoroughly enjoyable if only the rain had eased, for there was precious little shelter on deck and visibility was severely reduced by the weather. Nevertheless, by the time our little ship had cleared Cap Gris Nez and we were running down to Flushing, both Thomas and I felt like born sailors, and the final quiet stretch into Antwerp had been disappointingly uneventful.

The mud between Antwerp and Louvain proved to be the worst part of our entire journey, for our horses, still sick from the sea voyage, slithered unhappily and the carts got stuck in ruts and threw wheels with relentless regularity. As a result, it was a sorry party that finally plodded its way into Louvain: the only parts of our clothing not covered in mud were those that the endless rain had washed clean. Then, just as we entered the city, the downpour finally stopped.

The streets were wet and gloomy and the low, scudding clouds continued to threaten, but at least we could look ahead of us without the rain lashing our faces. Somehow, our Devon accents did not find favour with the inhabitants, and we in turn seemed totally unable to decipher their speech. As a result, it took us some time to find the inn where we had agreed to meet.

Eventually we found it, de Blauwe Zalm, a warm, dry hotel with good stabling, blazing fires and a welcoming atmosphere, while a glass of brandy and the presence of an English-speaking innkeeper were unexpected luxuries. However, one thing was missing, and that was any trace of Edward Courtenay.

Then the landlord remembered: ‘Oh yes, the English Earl of Devon has been here. Yes, he is expected back again very soon, and has his room kept on.’ But apart from that, nothing was known. We decided to make ourselves comfortable, order a warm bath, have our clothes dried and brushed, and meet again for dinner in two hours. Only when Thomas gave his name again, this time as Dr Marwood, did the landlord show any sign of recognition.

‘Ah, the English doctor, of course, how stupid of me; Dr Marlwood. The English earl told me to expect you and to give you this letter.’ I saw Thomas frown at the mispronunciation of his name, but he took the letter without comment and opened it. The letter, addressed to Thomas Marwood, Physician, was dated a week ago and confirmed that the earl was travelling to Antwerp, but expected to return to Louvain on the 18th or 19th. He hoped we had had a good crossing and was sure that we, and our horses, would welcome an opportunity to rest and dry out before we recommenced our journey.

Finally, the pieces were falling into place, and each of us retired to his room to refresh himself before dinner. Judging by the smells emanating from the kitchens, it would be a good one.




November the 19th 1555 – Louvain


It was the following afternoon when the earl finally arrived, with a flourish, accompanied by two gentlemen and a veritable army of attendants. He seemed very different from the thin, diffident twenty-seven-year-old I had first met exactly two years ago and taught to ride. He had put on weight – muscle, not fat – and he seemed stronger and taller than I remembered.

‘Dr Marlwood, how good to see you again! And Wichard, my dear boy, you have gwown even taller. How you tower above us all. Allow me to introduce my legal advisers, James Bassett and Dr Thomas Martyn.’ He turned to his companions. ‘Gentlemen, these will be my companions on our journey south – allow me to introduce Dr Thomas Marlwood and Wichard Stocker.’

No I hadn’t misheard; he had said it twice:Wichard! I looked at Thomas, who had clearly noticed but gave the tiniest shake of his head to indicate that I should say nothing.

‘James and Thomas have been invaluable since I awived in Brussels. The court of the Empewor is a most complex place and they have valiantly steered me through all its twials and twibulations with a deftness you would admire.’

I bowed to the lawyers and at the same time gulped to myself. Where had this speech mannerism come from? I did not remember him talking like this when I had given him riding lessons in his London home. His character had also changed. When first we had met, he had treated me with considerable respect; although very aware of his royal blood and privileged background, he had spoken to me as an equal. Now, he was very full of himself, and in addition to an exaggerated physical deportment (he seemed to find it necessary to hold his arms aloft with wrists hanging limply whenever he addressed anyone), he seemed also to have lost the ability to pronounce the letter R.

My heart sank. If this was an act, employed for effect, it was ridiculous, but on the other hand, if he was not conscious of the mannerism and maintained it all the time, then I for one was going to find his company very tiresome, very quickly.

The lawyers fussed around him for a further hour, largely ignoring Thomas and me. I noticed both advisers had adopted a form of presentation which left the earl with the burden of all responsibility, while most of their recommendations seemed to take the form of ‘What you need to do now, Your Grace, is . . .’

Thomas had noticed it too, and when an opportunity arose to speak unheard, he leaned over to me and whispered, ‘It would appear that they offer him every assistance.’

I was not sure I agreed, and frowned. Thomas began to laugh and leaned forward again. ‘Every assistance short of actual help, that is.’

Now it was my turn to smile, but as I did so it slowly began to dawn on me that there might be method in the lawyers’ madness, and that they had reason to construct their sentences as they did. It soon became clear, from the way he spoke to others, that in the two years he had spent at Court since leaving prison Edward Courtenay had developed the expectation that everyone was there to do his bidding: he expected those around him to satisfy his every whim without thanks or appreciation, as if it were enough to have the honour of serving the great man. It was looking unlikely that he and I would last very long together.

It was at this point that a messenger arrived with a communication for the earl, who took it into the light by the window to read it.

Whatever the letter contained, the earl’s mood changed instantly. Gone were the lofted hands, the arched back, the exaggerated striding about the room, the speech mannerisms. He seemed to collapse into despair, and he turned to his advisers like a lost child.

‘It’s from England; from Sir William Petre. They have refused my funds. They say there are difficulties with the paperwork and there will be delays. This may ruin everything. How can we travel without funds and without food and equipment? And horses? We must have more horses. It’s quite impossible. The man cannot be trusted. I always distrusted Petre.’

BOOK: Daughters of the Doge
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