Authors: Sandra Heath Wilson
Then Henry nodded and moved on through the procession, which parted for him to pass, and he halted before John. It was clear he saw the resemblance to Richard, but it was of the ropes that he spoke. ‘I gave no order for anyone to be bound. Am I served by idiots?’ He took out his own dagger to cut John’s bonds. ‘Your father was a brave and brilliant soldier, sir. He almost had me, and no doubt you wish he had succeeded.’ He did not wait for a reply, but returned to Bess and Cicely.
‘Ladies, the past must be put behind us now, and we must look only to the future. Lady Elizabeth, our marriage will bring everyone together in peace, which is my fervent wish.’
‘And it is mine, Your Grace,’ Bess replied, inclining her head.
Cicely did not move. Henry’s eyes swung to her, again with that undecided expression, and from the corner of her eyes she saw Sir John Welles shift on his horse.
‘Come, ladies,’ Henry said then. ‘We will ride to Lambeth where the royal barges await. Sir John, my uncle, yours will be the honour of riding with the Lady Cicely. It is fitting, I think. A member of my family to ride alongside a member of my bride’s family.’
And so they went back to London, where the cheers for York were ill disguised. As the barges slid downstream, passing through billowing flocks of swans, Cicely glanced back at a following vessel, in which she knew John to be, but she could not see him.
Welles was at her side. ‘I think you have impressed my nephew, my lady.’
‘He frightens me.’
‘That is probably a good thing. You may think him cold and without charm, but he has a way of worming the truth from even the most reluctant lips. Stay afraid, and always temper your attitude towards him.’
‘Is that sound advice, sir?’
‘It is well meant advice. The coming weeks are going to test you as never before, and you will need to stay on the right side of Henry VII. Unfortunately, it is far easier to be on his wrong side.’
‘Poor uncle, to have such a view of the nephew he helped to the throne,’ she responded.
He smiled. ‘And poor niece to have put herself in jeopardy for the sake of a few stolen hours of love with her uncle.’
She flushed. ‘But at least it was
So she admitted it, he thought. ‘Somehow I do not doubt it, Lady Cicely, for you do not strike me as a lady who would do it for anything less than love. Just take care, I beg of you. I will still do all I can to protect you, but you
help yourself. Do not bristle like a bantam every time a derogatory word is uttered about Richard. Your love for him is far too clear, and believe me, would indeed provoke my nephew. Please assure me you understand what I am saying.’
‘I do, sir.’
They passed Westminster Palace to the sound of trumpets and more cheers. Cicely saw the walled garden, and the apples on the trees. There were more and more vessels now, crowding the water, with waving people and rising jubilance. But for whom did they cheer? Henry? Or Bess? Cicely smiled. For it was Bess. And it was for her, Cicely. And for John of Gloucester. Perhaps for him most of all.
At London Bridge the mayor and aldermen in their gorgeous robes waited to greet the royal party, and as the barge nudged the landing, she was glad of Sir John Welles’ sturdy hand. He helped her up the steps to where mounts awaited. Henry helped Bess on to a white palfrey that was caparisoned in silver, with a silver saddle. A mount suited to a future queen. The new king was attentive and courteous, but Cicely could not tell if he was also truly well disposed. But then, could not the same thing be said of Bess?
Sir John helped Cicely to mount, and paused for a moment, his hand over hers. ‘Are you well enough for this, my lady?’
‘I have to be, Sir John.’
He took her hand suddenly, and drew it to his lips. ‘Be safe.’
‘I will try, sir.’
He released her and went to his own waiting horse, and a minute later the royal procession set off through the ancient streets of London.
But as Cicely rode behind Henry Tudor, it was another king she saw, another king more dear to her than her own life.
Richard, by the grace of God, King of England and France and Lord of Ireland.
‘May his beloved soul rest in peace,’ she whispered, blinking back tears.
And again Sir John Welles’ hand steadied her.
Although written around
known historical events and people, this book is fiction, not fact. Please do not think I have a sound basis for writing of a deep love between Richard III and his second niece, Cicely. Their intimacy is entirely of my doing, although it is not impossible. Nor do I have a sound basis for creating a love affair between Cicely and Richard’s illegitimate son, John of Gloucester. That Richard’s queen was in love with her first husband can never be proved.
There is some suggestion that Cicely’s elder sister, Elizabeth of York, did love her uncle romantically, and apparently wrote a letter, now lost, in which she confessed as much and expressed a wish to marry him. Whether Richard returned this affection is very doubtful indeed, and I do not believe he did. He publicly denied any intentions towards her.
I do believe that Richard was honest and above all ethical in everything he did. He was shown proof that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was bigamous, and therefore
believed that all Edward’s children by her were illegitimate, with no right to the throne. This was important. With the middle Yorkist Plantagenet brother, George, Duke of Clarence, having been executed and attainted, his children were thus barred from the throne. That only left Richard, who had no option but to accept the crown. It was his by right, he had a son who was legitimate and could succeed him, and so he had to follow his destiny. Not to have done so would have meant knowingly placing a baseborn twelve-year-old boy on the throne, with the attendant dangers of a minority rule. Why do that, when his own claim to the crown was entirely right and legitimate? He did not want to be king; he had been happy watching over his vast lands in the north of England, where the people loved him, but king he had to be.
Apart from keeping Richard in the public eye for centuries, Shakespeare did him a terrible injustice. Richard is surely one of our best-known kings, even though he was on the throne for a mere two years. He was only thirty-two when he died, but Shakespeare portrays him as much older, in events in which he had no involvement, and others when he was only two years old. Too many people accept Shakespeare’s version of Richard as fact — but then the Bard flourished when Tudor propaganda was superbly crafted and Tudor power to be greatly feared. One simply did not speak up for Richard when there was a Tudor on the throne. And, as we all know, history is written by the victors.
I do not believe Richard killed his nephews, the ‘Princes in the Tower’, but I do believe he had them removed elsewhere, for their safety, and also because he did not wish them to be a rallying point for those who opposed his reign. Nor did he want them to be in danger from those who would see an end to the House of York as a whole, not only himself. Richard was not a child murderer; everything known of him makes such a thought almost preposterous.
There were others with motives for being rid of the boys, including Margaret Beaufort, Lady Stanley, Henry Tudor’s mother. She was ruthless, ambitious and conscienceless enough by any century’s reckoning. Henry himself was obliged to make the boys legitimate again in order to marry Cicely’s elder sister and unite the opposing factions of York and Lancaster. He had promised this to gain support. If he entered such a marriage on such terms, and the boys proved to be still alive, he made their claim to the throne infinitely better than his own. He was too shrewd for that, and if he’d found them I think he would have disposed of them on the quiet.
But even so, I do not think this happened. Henry had the Tower searched from top to bottom after Bosworth, and certainly he feared the boys’ return throughout his reign, because he had no idea where Richard had hidden them or what had happened to them. If Henry thought Richard had them killed, he was wrong, and would better have looked much closer to home for the guilty party. His fanatically religious and sanctimonious mother would have stopped at nothing to see him securely on the throne. Henry was to have to deal with at least two ‘pretenders’, one—Perkin Warbeck—who presented him with a very great threat indeed. We will probably never know the boys’ true fate, and so we form our own opinions. Mine is that Richard was innocent, but then I am, unashamedly and unreservedly, his supporter. Does that make me blinkered? I don’t think so. Too many facts speak for themselves where he is concerned. In my opinion, it is his detractors who wear the blinkers.
Henry Tudor invaded and won Bosworth by right of conquest, not his own Lancastrian bloodline, which descended from the illegitimate Beauforts, who had been specifically barred from the throne by Henry IV. There is also a question mark over the legitimacy of Henry’s father, Edmund Tudor, which if true, would have weakened Henry’s claim even more. Through treachery and amazing good fortune, he was able to overcome the anointed King of England and usurp the throne. Richard was betrayed, but died with astonishing courage that even his enemies admired.
There are other characters in this story who need to be mentioned. I have blackened poor Ralph Scrope’s name unfairly, for it seems he probably
married to Cicely in some brief way or another. I have conjured the part-genuine/part-forged marriage contract. Henry VII was to have this ‘marriage’ annulled. Ralph succeeded his elder brother to the title of Baron Scrope of Upsall, dying in 1515.
Sir Robert Willoughby is also my victim. He may well have been as I have portrayed him, or he could have been a true knight. If he was the latter, I apologize to him too. All I know is that he was definitely the man Henry sent to Sheriff Hutton to secure Bess and those with her.
The Kymbes of Friskney are an actual family from the time, very well known in Lincolnshire, but Mary Kymbe is my invention. Her brother Tom Kymbe is fact. I have no basis for making their father a Yorkist sympathizer who sheltered the royal boys under his roof. Friskney
Jack de la Pole’s manor, or so some delving suggests.
To return to Richard. The discovery of his resting place at Leicester has once again focused attention on a man who has been unfairly treated for half a millennium, and I wish to praise and applaud all those who worked so hard to find him. At last, a proper burial, fit for this fascinating king, with as much dignity and honour as every other monarch of England.
My Richard has the physical features that have been revealed by his skeleton. His character is how I personally interpret him. He was a man ahead of his time, taking care to look after his people, not merely the interests of the nobles, as had always been the case before. His reign was short, with only one Parliament, but he introduced the bail system, decreed that the law of the land should be in the language of the land, standardised weights and measures and banished the awful injustice of benevolences, which allowed the rich to purchase high positions. He believed—and made law—that husbands should always respect their wives and treat them well, and not once did he really punish the women who conspired against him. Nor, unfortunately, did he deal harshly enough with the nobles who proved to be dangerously untrustworthy. His fault was ever leniency, and trust. He was a man of honour and expected others to be the same. Ultimately, this creed cost him his life.
What might he have achieved had he lived?
Sandra Heath Wilson
Next in the Cicely Plantagenet series...
Cicely’s Second King
Cicely’s Lord Lincoln
Sandra Heath Wilson
First published in Great Britain 2014
ISBN 978 1 910208 09 0 (epub)
ISBN 978 1 910208 10 6 (mobi)
ISBN 978 1 910208 11 3 (pdf)
ISBN 978 0 7198 1233 0 (print)
Robert Hale Limited
London EC1R 0HT
The right of Sandra Heath Wilson to be identified as
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