Chapter IV: The Siege of London
June 30, 1566
Francisco peered through the spyglass anxiously awaiting the final signal fire on that dark midnight horizon to be lit.
“Come on…” he whispered.
His companions were similarly gazing out into the dark blue horizon along that northern battlement of Calais. The harsh winds and current of the Channel in front of them seemed to calm in as much anticipation as they.
Lorenzo apparently couldn’t stand the quiet blurting, “Alessandro surely would have landed by—”
“Shh! I see it!” Francisco’s words were hardly spoken when they all turned their attention to a single orange beacon emanating from the dark shore. The moment was spent in almost quiet admiration and respect, but was cut short by the snap of the spyglass into its compressed form.
“Don Miguel, send word to the fleet to retreat. Tell the ports along the French coast to be ready to receive them,” Francisco barked out immediately.
“Understood,” came the reply as the lieutenant rushed down the battlements. As the soldier exited, all eyes seemed to have followed his movement as he rushed to the group’s right, but their gaze was slightly higher than the battlement. Indeed in the tense aura of the moment, one almost forgot that just a few leagues to the east, the Spanish Armada was exchanging desperate volleys with the English Navy.
“All our hopes are with Alessandro now,” Lorenzo sighed outward.
“Yes,” responded Francisco, but he turned to his comrade, “but we still have much work to do here if we are to sneak reinforcements across the channel again. Lorenzo, you must go now. You will head up the resources necessary for the Armada. Instruct them to hide carefully along the Bay of Viscaya.”
Lorenzo nodded absently stealing a glimpse at the fiery blaze that was beginning to illuminate the distant North Sea north east of them, but he moved down the parapet obediently.
Francisco also gazed at the burning of tar and wood a moment longer before also making his way down the parapet; the other men of his entourage followed him. Deep within the temporary headquarters of the Château de Calais, a strange dungeon enclosure was renovated. Indeed, the Silent Room was faithfully recreated in secret for these men to work within. Already within the dimly lit recesses of this cold chamber was a facsimile of the Grand Map back in Madrid as well as the various pinned flags of the English and Spanish flotillas.
Francisco noted the flag of his monarch now being firmly attached on the edges of English Soil. Sussex would wake up tomorrow to find over twenty five thousand Spanish troopers.
“Send word to General Hernandez, he is to move his division to Normandie,” Francisco called out; one of the many men in the room immediately began writing down his dictation. “Have him bring his thirty thousand men and Juan’s twenty thousand by the end of the second month for the second invasion force into mainland—”
“My Lord, I’m afraid there’s been a change in the situation,” one of the men at the outer edge of the semi-circle of men formed around the map suddenly interrupted.
Francisco turned towards him slightly puzzled, his eyes asking for the explanation for him with a curious stare.
“Ten hours ago, our garrison in Modena was attacked and thirteen thousand troops have massed near Lake Geneva. The Venetians have suspended their allegiance to our King and…” the poor man who just received the report seemed to shorten as he read the dispatch out loud “have declared open hostilities against our oppression of the sovereign nations of Europe…”
Francisco almost grunted as he heard the letter. Immediately he looked back at the map where white robed silent ones were already quickly adjusting the positions of the Venetian flags pinned on the border with the Spanish border along the Alpine mountains and Rhone River. They also added the winged lion of St. Mark on top of the Spanish city of Modena.
“Cancel my last command,” Francisco ordered frigidly. “Instead, order General Hernandez to proceed to the Venetian front immediately. Tell him to take Colonel Juan to relieve Modena and then move into Venezia.”
The silent one took down the new command and rushed away to dispatch this latest order. Francisco could only look on before looking back up at the English isle. Alessandro was now alone in his task of subjugating the English King.
October 21, 1566
General Alessandro de Gutierrez had just finished his final inspection of the trench line surrounding the city of London. After having landed a few months before, he had made a secret crossing of the Thames to effectively shut out enemy movement on either side of the river before enclosing on the City. He had fought two major engagements on English soil. Both with the minimalist English army retreating in full force, but the main problem now arose as the tower walls of the city of London.
Reinforcements were supposed to arrive ten days ago, but the only word he received from the mainland was that none would come. He would need to control the situation in England himself and force the King to become one of his monarch’s many subservient vassals.
Of his twenty five thousand troops, only about six thousand horse, four thousand foot, and five artillery divisions remained. He had built a massive chain to be pout across a narrow portion of the Thames and guarded by two of the artillery divisions. This was to keep Navy ships from interfering with the siege. The rest of his men formed a near concentric series of trench work around the city itself. He was working for the long haul.
“General, all our men are in position and the advanced cavalry scouts have indicated that none of the adjacent divisions are in any position to challenge our siege line,” one of the lieutenants eagerly reported.
“Despite their great navy, so long as we’re on English soil their army won’t be a match for ours,” another lieutenant enjoined.
It did not change General Alessandro’s expression, however, as he looked at the map lain out before him. He had memorized the terrain within the city as well as outside in the two weeks they have been working to encapsulate the city. He could tell you where St. John’s Priory house was and how it was just north of Smithfield and St. Bartholomew or how Westminster Hall was just below the Whitehall where the Thames curved south.
“Double the guard on the roads leading to St. Cile’s street. And see if you can get a spy into Baynard Castle,” he called out. One of the lieutenants dutifully nodded and took down the instructions by memory.
A bustle was heard near the edge of the tent, a page had arrived for the General. A small piece of parchment was passed from the young man by the lieutenants to the studious general before he opened it noticing immediately the seal of Duke Jimenez at the top. He glanced at the paper carefully; one would say he read it twice.
“Gentlemen,” he said to them, all of them focusing their eyes on his candlelight lit figure at the center of the tent, “we must take London within the week.”
“The week?” one of the Colonels asked hurriedly. “But it would take months for starvation to—”
“As of eighteen hours ago, the Spanish fleet was discovered off the coast of Navarra by the English navy. We expect English ships to arrive down the Thames by the end of the month.”
There was a general commotion among the ranks present in the chamber.
“How many are we expecting?” one of them asked anxiously.
General Alessandro looked up at them while he tore up the parchment carefully in his hands. “We don’t know.”
His response elicited another round of anxious commotion. “What are we going to do, General?”
The bearded Stratego stroked the map in front of him for a moment, both eyes glued onto the flowing lines that represented the Thames. His gaze finally met them. “We will assault the city by the end of the week. But I have a special plan. You are only to tell the troops what they need to know. Tell them nothing about the fleet, is that first agreed upon?”
They all gave a guttural affirmative. It was time for a miracle, and Alessandro was somehow confident.
October 27 1566
General Somerset sat quietly in a damp chamber somewhere underneath the Tower. There was a strange dimness to it, and the maps along the walls of this room with the various pinned flags of the nations of Europe made him feel slightly uneasy. He had not seen this room before. Nonetheless, beverage was offered to him.
“And you’re sure we’re ready for an assault if it should come?” asked someone from across the table. Their visage was barely visible in the faint candlelight, the chilling voice permeating through the equally chilling atmosphere almost made the vessel the General was holding clamour with nervous sound.
“Of course. We’ve managed to deplete nearly half their forces since they arrived, they would not wish to assault us anyway.”
There was a sudden interruption of diffused light from the back of the chamber as the General finished his sentence.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, your eminence but there is someone to see General Somerset,” a page called out from the now open portal.
“Very well… we’ll talk later, General,” the voice again called out to him. The General was already getting up, he would take any opportunity to get out of that room.
The man with the frozen voice leaned forward slightly into the candlelight as the General left, his face half obscured by the flickering shadow play it had on the curvature of his cheek and nose. Despite the disposition, his anxiety rose as the General left the room and he brought his hand up to his chest feeling at it as if calming a terrible pain. As he pressed down with his palm, the fabric arrested itself onto a hard object underneath the garb. It was in the shape of a key.
As the General rushed up the stairs into the relative openness of the higher levels of the Tower he was lead into a waiting chamber where an anxious young sea captain was waiting to greet him.
“General Somerset, it’s good to see you,” the younger one saluted. “I’m Lieutenant Lawrence working under Admiral Edwards. I’ve come to bring you excellent news.”
“Well let’s hear it,” the General said without so many formalities as they both took a seat opposite from each other on a small table, the afternoon sun beginning to directly enter into the otherwise well hidden room.
“The fleet is victorious in the Bay of Biscay, and we’ll be arriving back in two days time, two weeks earlier than expected. We managed to elude the Spanish scout vessels by going around the Hebrides. I was sent ahead to give you the news that we will be coming to your relief.”
The eyes of the old greying general seemed to light up once again. Two days, he thought. The siege would finally be lifted in two days. It would be these same two days that the Spaniards were taking time to prepare their final attack.
October 29 1566
Colonel Manuel was the best infantry commander in the 2nd Army. He lead the decisive center division in the Battle of Breda a few years back which helped secure the entire Austrian Netherlands to Spanish occupation helping to expedite the vassalization process. He was now at the head of his men, advancing in the cover of darkness towards the Postern Gate. If his division could take the Tower, the rest of the city could be taken from that vantage point and it would be an effective barrier against any ship coming into the city by river. They had abandoned the chain downstream in favour of this gambit. The Colonel only waited for the signal.
The English sentries patrolled the musky atmosphere atop their parapets. Anxiously awaiting their relief, few were asleep for this day of reckoning. The guards changing at nine o clock along the Aldgate was then interrupted by a barrage of cannon shells whistling through the air. The attack had begun.
All five cannon divisions had been diverted to the South and fired northward into the city. The attack coming from the Southwark unloaded ordinance that the English had not seen yet. The sky was alight in explosive luminescence. The main army was now advancing to the London Bridge and mercilessly taking all of Southwark.
The English response was to hold the opposite side of the Bridge as intense battle now began to ensue. Aside from the cannon barrages, men at arms and Tercio infantry met with English resistance on the Tower side of the Thames. As the intensity of the bottleneck increased, more English troops rushed to plug the walkway. It was time for Colonel Manuel to act.
The veteran guard now charged the Postern Gate and overran the garrison there. They made their way around the Tower and began to attack the bridge defenders from behind.
The expert discipline ignored the dangerous Tower looming before them in order to open a gap in the bridge-line. This was it! A flank attack from the East would mean that the bridge line would be in Spanish hands, London would soon fall.
A warning shot boomed from the, until now, darkened lower sections of the Thames. A second and in that instant of a golden blemish of light from the cannon, the Cross of St. George appeared atop the ship. The English ships had arrived.
At first the fighting seemed to dampen but then even the hard trained troops of Colonel Manuel began flooding back through the Bridge. It was a full retreat.
The English troops soared into action chasing their bewildered enemies back down the London Bridge as the massive carracks burgeoned their way into the city. Nearly half the guard was now in full pursuit down the venues of Southwark as they chased their adversaries.
It was then that the lead ship along the line entering the city crashed into the London Bridge and exploded with her entire ordinance. The ship and the Bridge now communed as a terrible fireball hurling into the sky. The English troops nearly collapsed forward in the wake of the explosion and countless windows across the city cascaded into tearful shards of glass.
The second explosion now came from the Tower as the naval guns fired a broadside onto the battlements at point blank range. The Cross of St. George was ceremoniously exchanged for the Cross of St. Andrew and three marine divisions with General Alessandro at the lead now entered the city from the boats.
The English guard divisions were trapped on the other side of the river as London Bridge was the only communication across the Thames and they found, to their surprise that their beaten and wounded adversary turned back into their lines to advance them. With the river to their back, and the re-formed Spanish ranks to their front, it was a massacre.
December 22, 1566
“Well done, Lorenzo. Or should I call you Lieutenant Lawrence from now on?” chuckled Francisco. They were both sharing Burgundy atop one of the English frigates. They looked on at the slowly recovering remains of London’s Tower.
“I can’t take all of the credit, Francisco,” Lorenzo replied almost sarcastically, “it was your plan after all to lure the English Navy into the Bay of Viscaya with half the fleet hiding away. Being so far away from home port, they could never have gotten news back to London before I could bring some of the captured boats in here.”
They both shared another drink and another silly smile as they looked at the busy workers. It was as if they were taking a vacation cruise these past few months. It might as well be since now England was a subsidiary land of Spain. The renovation of the Tower, after all, was funded by American Gold.
“Do you think that thing would make for a good place to have another Silent Room?” quipped Lorenzo.
“It already has one,” Francisco responded almost soberly, “But now that we have this nation’s Key, it won’t be needed.”
Lorenzo gave Francisco an understanding look. “Your father’s work is almost done,” he let out in a friendly tone.
“Oh no, Lorenzo, it’s far from done,” his friend replied with a smile.
“But I think so,” Lorenzo quickly entered, “the War with Venice is almost complete. With them our King’s vassals again and THIS time we are faster in bribing them into an alliance, they won’t pose a threat again and we would be free to be masters; secure in our greatness forever especially now that we have the Five Keys and the Timepiece. We’re done!”
Lorenzo gave Francisco quite the happy grin as if the years of his life would finally be spent in peace and relaxation.
Francisco gave him a rueful laugh.
“You think too three dimensionally, Lorenzo. But I suppose I can’t blame you. There are still three more keys to obtain as well as another timepiece.”
Lorenzo’s forehead suddenly wrinkled hideously. His age was showing and this statement somehow made him feel and look older than he was.
“What are you talking about? You told me there were only five keys and the timepiece. Italian, French, Spanish, English, and German and the Emperorship for the timepiece.” His eyes followed Francisco carefully, pleading with his body for an explanation.
“He was not lying to you, ‘Lawrence’,” a chilly voice called out from the portal to the below decks. Both men turned to the voice and a figure clad in a monk’s habit emerged with two guards flanking him as escorts to make sure he would not escape.
Francisco grinned again. “My friend, I would like you to meet ‘Hal.’”
“Janus is correct when he tells you that there are only five keys and one timepiece,” was the chilled reply giving no heed to the jovial introduction by Francisco.
Once again, it was that diplomatic talk. Apparently the English delegate is always known as “Hal.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” replied Lorenzo his eyes passing between the two men.
“The ones we will go after next,” Francisco soothed his comrade, “will be the same keys and the same timepiece.”
Lorenzo stared at his friend for a moment.
“You mean the ones we have are merely copies?” he asked.
Hal seemed to give a whispy chuckle. “You’re right, Janus, some people just think too three dimensionally.” Hal quietly exited back into the decks of the frigate; back to his retirement.
Francisco merely gave Lorenzo an almost paternalistic look. “Don’t worry, Lorenzo. I promise in the end you will understand everything. For now we need three more. One we already achieved when we had previous control of the Curia; the other from our conquest of Alexandria. Three more to go and then to track down the timepiece.”
“Where must we go to next?”
Francisco gave another grin.
“So my research tells me your family was originally from Beirut?” Mr. McDonald asked with a friendly chuckle attached.
Tom sat across from him in his office. The table between them was a friendly obstruction, it wasn’t too small to be intrusive and wasn’t too big to make it seem like Mr. McDonald was a distant businessman with no interest in being a person. They were talking for an hour already, but Tom didn’t mind, he was just surprised someone wanted to talk to him about him or his essay at all.
“Beirut? That’s going a bit far back,” Tom replied in surprise. It was actually ironic that Tom knew his family had originally been from there. Then again he was the one who wrote about it in his 8th grade class report on heritage. He had given a smashing presentation about how, after the Anglo-Spanish war ended, his once Catholic family in Beirut was liberated by Spain in the 1570s and 1580s paving the way for the capture of Jerusalem. It was probably that report that Linda dug up and gave to Mr. McDonald.
“But yeah,” he continued, “from there our family relocated to Ireland where we met up with—”
“Oh yes, that’s when your family converted to being Lutherans. My family’s from Ulster, actually. Most of my relatives were Protestants before the Jesuits came. Some of my older relatives used to talk about the Emerald isle as the Pearl of the Protestant West.”
Tom watched Mr. McDonald carefully but at that story he almost felt more comfortable, a kindred spirit he thought? Maybe.
“I read from your essay how if things had been just a little different, it would have been England that was Protestant and Ireland that was Catholic,” Mr. McDonald added. It was as if he realized he was going off on a tangent about himself; he wanted to drive the point back to Tom.
“Oh yeah. I was just taking into consideration how the nobles in each side may have taken different National ideas with them.”
Mr. McDonald nodded sagely as if he was a great historian hearing the testimony and theories of another great historian.
“I also took the liberty of looking up your family’s coat of arms,” Mr. McDonald said. It was almost out of place, but it relevant enough to not raise too much suspicion. Mr. McDonald got up from his chair just enough to take a piece of paper down from a shelf and submit it with a smile in front of Tom.
“Oh yes, I remember my grandfather showing me this a long time ago. I didn’t know someone keeps track of coat of arms these days,” Tom replied candidly with a smile while his eyes stayed on the image slightly enraptured.
Mr. McDonald gave a smile back but just kept staring at the young man as in an almost contrived fashion. Of course, he almost thought to himself. Of course you would say that.
“Could you tell me what the inscription says by the way? I’m afraid my Latin isn’t very good these days.”
“Oh this?” Tom replied innocently pointing to the bottom of the image. “Of course, it says Augusta et Ierusalem. Well Augusta is like a title for an Imperial Lady and Ierusalem is just Latin for Jerusalem.”
“Ahh, I thought as much,” Mr. McDonald replied with a smile. “Well thanks again for meeting with me today I’ll give you a call if I need anything else,” he said getting up from his seat.
“Oh! No problem, thanks for talking with me,” Tom replied shaking Mr. McDonald’s hand. He then gave a polite smile and exited with even a nice goodbye to Linda.
“Augusta and Jerusalem, huh?” Mr. McDonald whispered to himself as he took up the image. Maybe he really doesn’t know, the publisher thought. He placed the image back at the shelf next to his notebook, a notebook that had scribbled on it “Romans also called London by Londinium or Augusta.” He inserted the photo of the Royce family crest into the notebook and before closing the book, once again glanced down at the imagery of the crest: two twin keys.
Chapter V: Jerusalem (Coming Soon)