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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Chapter 1: Looking Back
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    Chapter 1: Looking Back

    * * *

    hURQqYg.jpg


    Westminster 1440

    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…”

    “Please do.”

    “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.”
     
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    Chapter 2: The Changing of the Guard
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    Chapter 2: The Changing of the Guard

    * * *

    55bMIW7.jpg


    Greenwich, May 1447

    She was seventeen years old and there was not a man alive that could resist both her beauty and her charm. Margaret of Anjou seemed as if she was born to be a Queen. Her regal bearing, her high intelligence and her many talents were evident and none cared for her more than her King Henry VI. However, they had now been married for two years and as yet had not found issue. It was due to this that in certain circles, rumors began that perhaps the Queen was having an affair...or multiple affairs. After all, none could resist her powerful aura and there was no lack of potential suitors. Even William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, who had been reserved when he first met the Queen had changed his song and compared Margaret to a pretty flower in romantic verse devoted to her. This of course caused many to consider him one such partner. Another was Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset. Often seen by her side at court functions until he was sent to Normandy to replace the Duke of York, their playful and flirtatious banter was heard by many.

    Yet if the King had reservations or jealousy of such, it was not apparent. Henry doted on his Queen and showered her with gifts. He was easily led by her and almost appeared to request it. Where he was sometimes indecisive, she knew her mind instantly. Where he could be seen as too forgiving, she could be quite vindictive especially if something seemed a slight to her regal husband. Henry allowed her every whim, even going so far as to consent to her desire of being included in briefings of government, both domestically and military decisions. She often signed her name along with that of the King on his correspondence. To detractors (of which there were a few) it seemed as if they were truly co-rulers. But if the powers in the court party led by Suffolk and Somerset found trouble with this arrangement, they did not speak out. In truth, they appeared to encourage it. If the King was pleased, then they were happy and able to carry out their desires. And if Margaret was happy, then the King was pleased.

    This day was one of those days. Traveling via the Thames, the King and Queen were touring the former residence of the late Duke of Gloucester. When Humphrey died, his property reverted to the crown and today Henry planned to gift this fine palace to his Queen. The couple were joined by the new Royal Treasurer George Carleton and Margaret’s constant companion since arriving in England, the knight Pierre de Brézé. In fact, it was Pierre that led the party as they moved through the gardens as if the gift was as much for him as it was for her. This was not an uncommon occurrence. He was known as her “chevalier servant” and had been by her side from before traveling to England having once been one of the most loyal subjects to her Lord father Rene d’Anjou. He was tall, handsome, strong...and nearly twenty years her senior. On rumors of affairs, his name likely came up more than any other.

    “Ma Reine...” he exclaimed as they moved through the gardens, “...voici un endroit merveilleux pour une tonnelle!”

    Margaret smiled at him but wagged a dainty finger, “Ah, ah, ah...en anglais s'il vous plait.”

    Pierre was duly chastened and replied with a grin, “An arbour, madam. To feast, to sip...to set in shade and enjoy the surrounds.”

    “An excellent idea, monsieur,” she smiled again and looked to her husband with question.

    Henry took in her smile and returned it before looking to his treasurer, “Can it be done?”

    George Carleton nodded slowly, slightly reticent but not wishing to anger the Queen, “Whatever Her Grace desires, my King. To be certain.”

    She clapped and grinned as she took Pierre by the arm and walked on. As they continued their tour, she herself had many ideas, “Mayhap new latticed windows...here and there. To update the place.”

    Pierre gave nod, “But of course. Perhaps to re-glaze the others?”

    “Oui, oui!” she exclaimed and then pointed again, “And the floor tiles. They are in need of care. The former occupant has not kept with the fashion. Terracotta, do you not think?”

    “A very wise choice, ma reine,” Pierre agreed, “With your monogram inlaid I should think.”

    Margaret was enthusiastic and chatted on as Henry walked behind discussing with his treasurer, “Are you getting all of this?”

    Carleton gave nod as he wrote, “Most certainly, Your Grace. Now shall this all be coming from your royal treasury, or shall some be culled from the Queen’s purse?”

    A sharp glance back to him from Margaret caused him to go tight lipped, “Of course, Your Grace. The royal treasury.”

    Henry smiled as caught up to his Queen. He took her hand and gave it a gentle kiss, “As long as we are placing your personal touches, mayhap new columns erected outside carved with marguerites, eh?”

    “My blessed lord husband,” Margaret brushed his cheek as she looked to Pierre, “He does spoil me.”

    Pierre offered a low bow of respect, “A most gracious King.”

    She then went on to inspect the rest of the palace, “I should think new chambers would be built. I think not to lay in rest where the traitor slept. With a parlour and a gallery to overlook the gardens. New tapestries...”

    “Whatever is your wish, my love,” Henry followed her as Pierre looked on with a grin.

    “...and I think this furniture all too dated. It must be replaced.”

    “My Lady Queen,” Carleton caught up, “The palace was only built in 1443 and the late Lord of Gloucester was certain that all was the most elegant.”

    Pierre took a step towards him, “If madam desires it, monsieur.”

    A look from the King was all that was required for him to acquiesce, “I’m certain that it can be arranged.”

    Henry clapped, “Then it is settled. Any change that you desire. It shall be your house in every way.”

    As the King conferred with his treasurer, Margaret and Pierre moved back into the sunlight surrounded by the gardens. Pierre smiled as he looked to the beauty, “He loves you very much, madam. Such a wonder to have such a caring benefactor.”

    Margaret laughed, “Benefactor, monsieur? You jest! I have my own purse...my own means.”

    “Mais oui,” he agreed but cocked a brow, “Yet to gift you this grand property. And that it comes from his still very much beloved uncle.”

    “Who loves him?” she turned with a flare of her lips.

    Pierre gave a slight bow, “There are those that continue to name him Good Duke Humphrey. This may...might be considered a slap to those supporters.”

    “If they are not to care for me, then what care shall I have for them?” Margaret ventured to a stone bench and sat with confidence, “They are not of the court and their whispers are just that. Nothing but grievance and jealousy. You speak of benefactors, monsieur? Well...theirs is gone from them and so they will grumble.”

    “Yet...” Pierre sat gently next to her, “...did not this Duke have children? Will they not seek to gain their inheritance?”

    Margaret shrugged her dainty shoulders as she looked to the gardens, “I know not. And I care not. What I see before me is all promise and future. A beautiful garden, full of pleasure to be gained. In truth, I think to rename the place. Bella Court gets close to it, monsieur. But I think...Placentia. A far better naming, to my mind. A pleasant place to live. With you by my side...”

    “But of course, ma reine,” Pierre gave nod with a grin.

    “...And Suffolk and Somerset may come to me from this point on,” Margaret stood and shifted to brush at the flowers, “...and I think my lord husband the King may find it more pleasing himself. Perhaps a place to finally find me with child. His child. His son.”

    Pierre raised a brow, “His most needed son.”

    “The only son...” Margaret turned to her chevalier servant with determination, “...that matters.”
     
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    Chapter 3: The Time of Choosing New
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    Chapter 3: The Time of Choosing

    * * *

    thLx12M.jpg


    Kent, May 1450

    It had thus far been a Whitsun like most others and the festival had been a nice diversion from some of the dread that seemed to sit over the people of Kent like a dark cloud. Allen Leighson leaned to an ale cart and tasted the wares with a slim smile. His cheeks were growing warmer and he was looking forward to a summer in which he might make some decent coin. Soldiers were still returning from France, but with them came the tide of French pirates. The men of Kent were less than thrilled with this but it bothered Allen little.

    There was some fear that William Crowmer, the Sheriff of Kent, might try to stifle the celebration such was his and others anger over the death of the Duke of Suffolk. The news had traveled quickly throughout the land when the body of the late Duke was found to the beaches of Dover. Men such as Crowmer and Lord Say, the Treasurer of England were convinced, it seemed, that Kent had been responsible for the atrocity, but Allen found it difficult to see that. Tensions ran high, but Kentishmen remained loyal to the crown in every way.

    That was before this day. Allen nearly felt a chill to his bones as he saw a crush of men burst into the already sizable crowd. Were they Crowmer’s? Or some other? His answer came soon enough when he spied John Cade lead yet another line of men into the crowd. As he looked at them, they were not peasants either. Not merely merchantmen. They seemed better dressed and he even recognized one as an older knight returned from France. He tried to remember...had that man fought with his father?

    Cade spied his friend and took strong steps to great him, “Leighson, my own pal, tis good to see you here!”

    “What you up to this day, Jack?” Allen squinted through the sun.

    The younger man offered a wicked smile with his answer, “You’ll see.”

    A cart was drawn up to the center of the field and John Cade was quick to jump up and hold his hands high, “Good men of Kent! You do honor our land by showing to this place this day! And I see so many of you that I do know. And you do know me, do you not?!”

    Many did as they shouted in the affirmative and it was then that Allen noticed how many of these new men were armed with axes, poles and other arms. Cade laughed and continued, “It fills my heart with good cheer that you men be not afraid of the wrath of a woman, for it is clear to us all that this Lady of France...this considered Queen has wishes and the means to avenge the death of her lover!”

    Jeers followed from the crowd as several shouted, “No regrets to Suffolk!!!”

    “For you do know...” Cade continued, “...that if we do not act in our favor, she will see our very homes razed to the ground! This will go for all good men of Kent...every peasant and farmer, from top to bottom, sirs!!”

    “Never!!” more shouts were heard.

    John Cade raised a pamphlet in his right hand, “You all do know that I have published this writing! I have made many copies for all to read for I do know you all to be learned and informed. Over all, you be practical men that know to protect your hearth and home! In this writing, I give to all that is wrong in this land. The alienation of Crown lands! The financial state of the realm and the bribery that runs rampant between these men of the so-called court party! There is corruption in the appointment of our local government officials and a perversion of justice by His Grace’s royal favorites! And we be might ill served by the rigging of our good Parliament such that we have no representation at all!”

    Boos and hisses sounded as Cade continued, “This is all corruption by the men that serve our King and worst of all, it is these men that have lost us our lands to France and worse still invite piracy upon our coasts! You above all know this as it is seen near daily! And they do all this as they slight the good Lord of York who sits to the sideline in Ireland. We do know his disfavor of these men of the court faction and we stand with him on this day!”

    “A York, A York!!” several shouted and Cade gave a large nod of his head.

    “Instead, we are given to us what is left of Suffolk’s government...his toadies! Crowmer who would see us all hanged! The wicked Lord Say! The Queen’s own Chancellor, William Booth. Other terrible men instead of a good Lord as York has proven! And so, if we are not to find our representation by his lights, we shall have to make our own demands!”

    “What shall we do, Jack?!” a man near the front shouted and Cade held up his hand once more.

    “I will tell you how we redress these wrongs and amend our poor government,” he followed, “We shall demand that the King resume all the lands he hath given away! He must dismiss these ill men of Suffolk’s affinity from Council and call home the Duke of York to take his rightful place! The King needs must order a sweeping reform of the judicial system so that men as Crowmer may have no effect to us as well as lift wage restraints that hold us all low! There must be curbs upon government spending and an inquiry into whether the loss of lands in France were the result of treason! We do suspect Suffolk, but who else must be held to account?! And while we make demands, we must press the King to bring the murderers of Good Duke Humphrey to justice for we know that Gloucester’s death was no accident! It be foul in every way and brought forth surely by these ill men, all of them!”

    Many cheered at this list of demands and some even began to chant, “John Amend-All!!”

    “It is not I that shall make amends,” Cade returned the chant, “For it is all of you that will cause it! We shall mark this day and begin our march to London, good sirs! It is said that the King and his court rest to Leicester while the ill Parliament is in session, but he must needs return to deal with us! We shall force it!!”

    “Huzzah!!” many shouted and Cade responded with his own cry of the same. Then he stepped down and began to point towards London as he met Allen’s eyes. The older man had not been swayed, but John Cade pressed, “Now do you see, Leighson?”

    “You would push me to fight, when I hold a coward’s heart?” Allen asked plainly.

    Cade flashed a grin, “We do not fight, sir. We will make our demands with strength and the King will have little choice but to grant them.”

    “I fear you to be a fool, Jack,” Allen responded but took down the rest of his ale, “Yet I will go with. I shall see for mine own eyes.”

    Cade put his arm around his friend as they walked, “You’ll see, mate. As we march, others will follow. And if not...I have another idea.”

    Allen Leighson remained unsure but gave a tepid nod, “You always do, Jack...you always do.”
     
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