Chapter 1: Looking Back
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It had been a gloriously sunny day and at the height of summer, a series of fairs and celebrations had been held for the people of London and a sumptuous feast for the nobles of the land. Many had been called to court but one man was most important in the council’s eyes and the young King Henry VI had instructed Richard of York to attend his presence after they dined. This was, of course, only the third year of King Henry’s reign in is own right as he had finally demanded to hold his own council and had already made his feelings known towards the various factions that had arisen between his uncles, Beaufort and Gloucester. But while he had taken somewhat to his kingly duties, the King could still be easily led.
His cousin, Richard of York was a man of many talents and often the council and the King found great use for them. Richard had become one of the prominent nobles of the land after finally receiving the due of his uncle’s inheritance, the Dukedom of York. But it was the death of his mother’s father – Edmund, Earl of March – that gave the council pause for with that, not only did the rich March inheritance also pass to Richard, but so too the powerful Mortimer claim being descended from Lionel of Antwerp, Edward III’s second son. In all ways, the twenty nine year old Richard was a man to watch and welcome but only so far.
The two knew each other well, having grown up together for much of Henry’s childhood as many children of peerage had done. Ten years his junior, Henry had often looked up to Richard as children and found him grand company when time and circumstances permitted. The same could not be said in reverse though not by any personal disdain the Duke might have felt for the King. Rather, it was the Duke’s position or lack thereof, and the lingering feelings over his father’s death and attainder that held him at arm’s length and though he was entirely reticent to show any disfavor or anger towards the King, he would try very hard not to show his disillusion with the King’s men and often he was unsuccessful in his attempts.
But on this day, he came to the King with great pleasure and a deep smile, dropping into a generous bow and holding until the young King asked him to stand. Richard’s flowing robes brushed the ground as he stood with a grand sweep of his arm in deference to the King and he stood silently and waited for Henry to speak.
“Dear cousin of York, how does the Lord find you this day?” Henry stood and walked near the Duke, showing his advance in height that he did not share in age.
“Most gracious King, it is kind of you to ask. It would be unworthy of me not to speak highly of the bountiful meal served and great favor with which the Lord God has blessed us all.” Richard pointed towards the window that was currently allowing a great light to enter the room, bathing the two men in warmth.
“Indeed, it has found us well met.” Henry smiled.
Richard remained silent as the King walked to the window and looked out, speaking as he did so, “It has come to this when we must ask again for your great services abroad. Do you object?”
“I do not, my King. Only ask and I shall serve with all of my abilities.” Richard bowed slightly as Henry turned to look at him.
“A wonderful day, indeed. Yes.” Henry smiled as he looked upon Richard. What the man lacked in height he made up for in stoutness and good health. “You have the makings of a great leader, dear cousin. And France shall be ever so grateful to have you, we imagine.”
“It is I that am grateful, Your Grace,” once more Richard showed reverence and bowed.
“A pity that your last tenure in Normandy was so short lived. We do hope we have found it in your heart to forgive us our lack of assistance in prior times. Rest assured you shall have a goodly sum to help your cause. 20,000 pounds per annum we are capable of offering. Does this suit your purposes, sir?”
“Indeed it does, Your Grace. But if I may question…”
“Will not the Earl of Somerset be reticent to give up his post?”
As Richard asked the question, an aged voice was heard as the Cardinal Henry Beaufort entered the great room. “He should be pleased to have returned to the bosom of his most gracious liege, my Lord. Fear not that score.”
Richard turned to the Cardinal and offered a half-hearted welcome at first but it grew larger when the King showed some slight displeasure. “Then I must prepare,” Richard finally spoke directly to the King. “I should waste little time to serve Your Grace with all that I can offer.”
King Henry clapped his hands together slightly and walked to the Duke, placing his still slender arm over Richard’s shoulder, “You must keep us informed at every turn, of course, but we should be most pleased to see our offices filled with such bright men as yourself. Cousin…you do us a great service and we shall not forget this kindness.”
“It is not kindness, my King, but my duty to the realm and your great person.”
“Splendid,” Henry smiled and walked away from the Duke, seating himself once more and bowing his head almost as if to pray.
“That will be all, my Lord. Please do send word when you have crossed the channel,” the Cardinal waived the Duke away and with deep bows, Richard backed from the room.
Once he was gone, the Cardinal moved towards the King, “Does Your Grace wish to rest?”
“Indeed, good Cardinal,” Henry answered looking up and then out of the window once more. “We are afraid the food and sun combine to bring a great heaviness upon our person.”
“Very good, Your Grace. I shall call for you shortly and then perhaps a walk around the gardens. ‘Tis a fine day.”
“That it is, good uncle. That it is.” Henry slowly walked from the room seemingly in good spirits and off in thought about one thing or another.
After he left, another voice was heard entering from a door behind the throne, “The Duke shall bark, I am afraid.”
“Nonsense, William. He may grumble but he’ll not bite. Not now. It would serve him little purpose.”
The Earl of Suffolk walked to the window and looked out as he spoke, “He has much to bark about, to be sure.”
“It is precisely so that he shall be put to use in Normandy and thus far away. I dare say his bite, if he has such, shall be far less painful.” The Cardinal countered.
“I must trust you on this, my Lord Cardinal. But even he understands your brother’s sure disappointment. And I cannot say that we shall have the promised funds, especially after settling accounts with Somerset.”
Cardinal Beaufort flashed a broad smile, “Leave my nephew to me, William. And worry not over the Duke of York. As I say, if he desires a seat amongst us, he shall have to play the game and earn our trust. And if he abandons his post again, we shall have all the grounds to permanently bar his entrance.”
“You seem to have it finely planned, my dear Cardinal Beaufort,” William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk turned and smiled. “You continue to teach me well.”
“As long as I have breath in my body, my son, I shall always do so.”