To celebrate Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee Discovering Diamonds is hosting a series of excerpts or articles written by our wonderful review team. For our author reviewers: the theme is an excerpt from one of their novels portraying royalty - or an equivalent leader-type character. For our non-writer reviewers: a favourite monarch and/or novel about Royalty... In other words, an enjoyable mix of entertainment to acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II's longest reign in British history! 70 years!
God Bless you Ma'am.
(say ma'am to rhyme with 'jam' not 'farm')
Days of Sun and Glory
by Anna Belfrage
book #2 in The King’s Greatest Enemy
After stabling their horses and finding their accommodation, Adam escorted Kit to the hall, snugly positioned within the inner curtain wall. Behind them the white keep loomed, in the inner bailey a gaggle of small boys were playing a loud game with a ball, and in the hall itself the chill of winter reigned, with Queen Isabella speaking with so much ice in her voice it was a miracle the words did not fall to the floor and shatter into fragments.
“You are doing what?” Isabella stood so straight she resembled a lance.
“I have confiscated your dower estates – for now,” the king replied offhandedly, his eyes on anything but his wife.
“You have no right! Those are my lands, mine, given to me by contract! How dare you?”
“I have every right!” The king rose from his chair. “Your lands are ultimately my lands – as all are lands in this, my kingdom!” He glared at the assembled barons, shoulders shoved forward in a menacing stance.
“But why? What have I done—”
“I have reason to suspect you may have consorted with traitors.”
“Traitors?” Prince Edward gasped. “My lady mother?”
The king blinked, looking at his son as if he had just realised he was there. He beckoned him towards him, but instead the prince shifted closer to his mother, mouth setting in a straight gash.
“I have done nothing of the sort! Where is your proof? Your witnesses?” the queen demanded.
“I have no need for proof.”
“So I am accused and judged guilty on what? On his say-so?” The queen spun around, pointing at Lord Despenser. “Is it his poisonous lies that you believe, my liege? His preposterous accusations that you act upon?”
Despenser almost tripped in his haste to distance himself from the angry queen.
“I follow my own counsel!” the king roared.
“Your own counsel?” The queen laughed out loud.
“Silence!” The king had gone the colour of a scalded ham. With an effort, he composed himself. “I have decided to relieve you of your dower lands. With the impending war with France, the kingdom needs the income, and surely you will not begrudge me the monies I need to build up a defensive army, will you?”
“And what of my expenses?” The queen demanded.
“Your expenses will be covered – at a level I find reasonable.” King Edward inclined his head slightly. “My queen must live as her position requires.”
“A level you find reasonable?” the queen echoed. “What precisely does that mean, husband?”
“It means I control the purse strings.” The king smirked. “I dare say there will be some minor changes.”
“What changes?” the prince demanded. At almost twelve, he was already as tall as his mother, and standing side by side with her, they looked remarkably alike – except in colouring.
“That is a matter between your mother and me,” the king snapped, making the prince flush. The king relented. “We must all economise, my son. Arms and soldiers are expensive.”
“Couldn’t you have asked Maman to contribute instead of stealing her lands?” The prince’s voice shook.
“Tread carefully, my son,” the king warned.
Adam pressed his lips together. Now was not the moment for his lord to explode into the famed Angevin temper, however impressive his lordling looked. Apparently, the queen agreed, and she said something in a low and earnest voice that had Prince Edward at first shaking his head. Everyone heard him mutter, “But it isn’t right, Maman!” and everyone saw him glare at Despenser, who quailed under the weight of his stare.
“Will he flee the country, do you think, once the prince becomes king?” Kit murmured in Adam’s ear.
“He will try,” Adam replied, just as low. But God would not be so unjust as to allow Despenser to flee, and Adam knotted his hands, thinking of alternative ways to make Despenser pay for everything he’d done.
By the dais, the prince knelt before his father and mumbled an apology. The king ruffled his hair, and the prince tensed, much like a cur expecting to be kicked.
“He won’t forgive his father for this,” Adam said, watching as Prince Edward regained his feet.
“I fear there is more to come,” Kit whispered back, nodding in the direction of Despenser, now with his head very close to the king’s. The king nodded and said something in a low voice to the queen.
“What?” The queen had no compunction about keeping her voice down. She looked from the king to Eleanor de Clare and back again. “You’re putting her in charge of John’s household? Why her?”
“Why not her?” the king asked.
“Because she’s your lapdog’s wife!” the queen screeched. “And he, Hugh Despenser, he wants to steal my children’s affection from me.” She hugged her eldest son close.
“You hear that, Hugh? My lapdog?” The king laughed. No one else did, least of all Despenser, who was looking at the queen as if he would gladly disembowel her there and then. “Our son is old enough to have his own household,” the king continued calmly. “John must be brought up closer to court, while his sisters—”
“Yes, what about his sisters – my daughters?”
“Our daughters will be transferred into the care of Roger and Isabel Monthermer.”
“His sister!” Yet again, the queen pointed at Hugh Despenser. “And you,” Queen Isabella rounded on Eleanor de Clare, “do not believe I don’t know that you’re behind all this. I swear that one day I will do to you what is done to me today. I will take your precious children from you, and you will rue the day you took mine.”
Lady Eleanor’s face crumpled, eyes darting to the king.
“What nonsense is this?” The king scowled at his wife. “Eleanor had nothing to do with this – and besides, you seem to forget, my lady, that it is I, not you, who has the ultimate say in our children’s lives. All of our children,” he added significantly, looking at his eldest son.
“Previously, you have always discussed these issues with me,” the queen flared, “not with them.” Queen Isabella looked at Eleanor de Clare as if the woman was a maggot-infested corpse. Under that bright green stare the lady shrank, pressing back against her husband, who looked as discomfited as his wife.
“I do as I please,” the king retorted.
“You always do as you please, not as you must,” the queen said. “And today, at your pleasure, you have deprived me of my income and my say in how our children’s lives should be ordered.” She bowed. “I have no option but to obey, being your loyal wife and subject, but I fear that for this, my lord husband, you will suffer the everlasting fires of Hell. God will punish you as I, weak woman that I am, cannot. This, my lord, will cost you everything. Everything.”
The king paled. “Are you then my enemy?”
“Your enemy? I am your wife, the mother of your children. Have I ever not done my duty by you? Is this how you repay me? By stealing everything away from me?”
“It is best this way,” the king said.
“So says every thief!” The queen drew herself up to stand as straight as a lance before the king. “Tell me, my lord, was this your own little scheme? Or is it Despenser who thinks, while you merely obey?”
A hush followed these words.
“Maman,” Prince Edward groaned, taking a step towards his mother.
“Do not move, son,” the king snapped, his gaze never leaving his queen. “You will do as I bid and go with Lady Eleanor – now!”
Lady Eleanor made as if to take the prince by the arm.
“Do not touch me!” The prince reared back. “I will do as my father commands, but I will not tolerate your hands on my body.” Prince Edward looked at the king, and at Queen Isabella. “I excuse myself, my lord,” he said, bowing to his father. “My lady mother.” He knelt before her, and Isabella’s eyes blazed in triumph. Before anyone could stop him, the prince got to his feet and left.
“I must go after him,” Adam murmured to Kit.
“As I must go after her,” Kit replied, nodding in the direction of the queen, already leaving the hall in a flurry of skirts.
(Is Isabella devastated? Oh yes. Is she down for the count? Oh, no!)
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3vc3u71
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3Egkeyt
About the author
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.
At present, Anna is hard at work with the next instalment of her “Castilian” series. Once again, she returns to the medieval world. In His Castilian Hawk, she transports us back to Wales during Edward I’s conquest. In The Castilian Pomegranate, the reader is invited along to medieval Castile and Aragon, places rife with intrigue and betrayal. The next book is as yet nameless, but is set in England.
Anna has also recently published a new time travel novel, The Whirlpools of Time. Join Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin on their adventures through the Scottish Highlands just as the first Jacobite rebellion is about to explode.
Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, www.annabelfrage.com
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