Read The King's Mistress Online

Authors: Emma Campion

The King's Mistress

for Alice


Title Page


Dramatis Personae

Mentioned in The King’s Mistress

Book 1 - An Innocent Encounters the World


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Book 2 - The Queen’s Handmaid


Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Book 3 - The King’s Mistress


Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Book 4 - A Phoenix


Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21


Author’s Note

Further Reading


About the Author


Dramatis Personae

Royal Family

Edward II
—King of England, overthrown by Queen Isabella and lover Roger Mortimer

Isabella of France
—Edward II’s queen

Roger Mortimer
—Isabella of France’s lover

Edward III
—King of England, son of Edward II and Isabella

Joan of Scotland
—daughter of Edward II and Isabella

Philippa of Hainault
—Edward III’s queen

Edward of Woodstock
—Prince of Wales and Aquitaine, eldest son of Edward III and Philippa

Lionel of Antwerp
—Earl of Ulster, then Duke of Clarence, second son of Edward III and Philippa

John of Gaunt
—Earl of Richmond, then Duke of Lancaster, third son of Edward III and Philippa

Edmund of Langley
—Earl of Cambridge, then Duke of York, fourth son of Edward III and Philippa

Thomas of Woodstock
—Earl of Buckingham, fifth son of Edward III and Philippa

Isabella of Woodstock
—favorite daughter of Edward III and Philippa

Mary and Margaret
—younger daughters of Edward III and Philippa, died of plague

John de Southery
—bastard son of Edward III and Alice Perrers

—Earl of Kent, half brother of Edward II

Joan of Kent
—Edmund’s daughter, eventually wife of Prince Edward, eldest son of Edward III

Elizabeth de Burgh
—Countess of Ulster (in her own right), first wife of Lionel of Antwerp

Blanche of Lancaster
—Duchess of Lancaster, first wife of John of Gaunt

Constance of Castile
—Duchess of Lancaster, second wife of John of Gaunt

Katherine Swynford, née de Roët
—Duchess of Lancaster, third wife of John of Gaunt

Other Historical Figures

Master Adam; Robert Broun (though I have no proof of more than a business relationship between him and Alice); Geoffrey, Philippa, and Thomas Chaucer; Jean Froissart; Dom John Hanneye; Simon Langham; William Latimer; Robert Linton; Richard Lyons and Isabella Pledour; John Neville; Henry Lord Percy and Mary Percy; Alice, Joan, and Jane Perrers (and perhaps Isabella and Joanna); Janyn Perrers; John Perrers (called “Martin” in the book); John Salisbury; Nicholas Sardouche; Richard Stury; William Wykeham; William and John Wyndsor (Windsor)

Mentioned, not appearing.

Mentioned in





Right as oure firste lettre is now an A
In beaute first so stood she, makeles
Hire goodly loking gladed al the prees
Nas nevere yet seyn thyng to ben preysed derre
Nor under cloude blak so bright a sterre

Troilus and Criseyde
, I, 171–75


I a choice to be other than I was? Should I have been more selfish, more stubborn, more rebellious? Have I been too compliant, too quick to give the men in my life what they thought they wanted? Am I a fallen woman, or am I an obedient handmaiden? As a female I was acceptable only as a virginal daughter, a wife, or a widow—unless, of course, I took vows. I have been all three—daughter, wife, widow—and one other, mistress

My lover is now long dead, and I sense death drawing near for me. I write this for my children, praying that they might understand

I began my life in a quite acceptable fashion, but the royal family laid such snares in my path that those who would throw the first stone are certain that I can never right myself even now. Yet when had I a choice to be other than I was? This is the argument of my life

• 1355 •


week our parish church of St. Antonin on Watling Street, east of St. Paul’s in London, hummed with chantry Masses. Ours had long been a parish of wealthy merchants who worshipped under the stricture of Christ’s teaching that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to gain the kingdom
of God, and so they bequeathed great sums for Masses to be said for their souls after death. The chantry priests were kept busy with almost continuous prayers, for it was an old parish and had buried many wealthy men and their wives, anxious for redemption.

I loved to spend time in St. Antonin’s on ordinary days. It was the only place I had permission to go without a companion, a guardian, and I felt safe there. The priests’ murmured prayers embraced me, and the familiar paintings and statues of our Savior, His Blessed Mother, and the saints reminded me that as long as I said my prayers and obeyed my elders I need never fear the devil. I was happily naïve, an innocent in the ways of the world.

On Sundays and important feasts the atmosphere of the little church lacked this womblike comfort, for on those days all parishioners except the bedridden attended Mass. The wealthy merchants flaunted their success by parading with their elegantly dressed families, while the gossips made note of any changes in the attendance or indeed in the attendees—a swollen lip, a swollen belly hiding beneath an uncharacteristically voluminous skirt, an outrageously expensive new headdress—so that all observations might be debated and settled after the service and for days to come. I basked in the light of my handsome family on these busier days.

I must have long been aware that on Sundays St. Antonin’s was also a marriage market, but with that gift we have as children for ignoring what does not affect or fascinate us I had paid no attention to that aspect of the day. Until it was my turn.

I begin my story with my first appearance as a vendible in that place that was my sanctuary during the week. It was the autumn after my thirteenth birthday.

It had come as no surprise to me that I was expected to wed at a suitable age. I have no memory of a time when I had not understood that as a girl my worth to the family was my marriageability, either to a mortal man or to Christ, and my parents had never spoken of the possibility of my entering a nunnery. Father was a respected member of his guild, a trader in fine cloth and jewels, and a partner in a shipping concern. My marriage should bring him even greater prosperity, or status, or, preferably, both.

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