A Rose for Lancaster (The Tudor Rose Novella series)

BOOK: A Rose for Lancaster (The Tudor Rose Novella series)
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A Rose for Lancaster

by

Christine Elaine Black

The Tudor Rose
Novella Series

Book I

This is a work of historical fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents portrayed are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locations, are entirely coincidental.

 

A Rose for Lancaster

 

COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Christine Elaine Black

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

 

Contact Information: http://ceblack.wix.com/author#!contact

Cover Art by
Christine Elaine Black

Publishing History First Edition, 2013 Digital

The Tudor Rose Novella Series, Book One

 

Published in the United States of America

Dedication

 

To those lost in the history of a time much written and dreamed of

Where truth hides unknown to us

 

 

 

Other Books by Christine Elaine Black

 

MAXIMUS

Book I of the Imperial Desire Series

(Published by The Wild Rose Press)

 

TAURUS

Book II of the Imperial Desire Series

(Published by The Wild Rose Press)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

~ Blanche ~ July 1486

I had never before rejoiced upon hearing of a man’s death but I prayed for the Lord’s forgiveness. Baron Somerset was taken from this earth by the will of God, and my good fortune merely caused by happenstance and not my fervent wishing. My betrothed died a valiant death—so they said—fighting the pox.

As I twirled aimlessly around my chamber the door opened and my maid entered. A sour look on her face rebuked my unseemly behavior.

“Lady Blanche, a woman in your position wears mourning clothes and reflects upon her loss,” Gerda muttered.

“I shall not! Baron Somerset was a complete and utter stranger to me. Worse, he belonged to the house of Lancaster and I will not mourn for their side.” I squared my shoulders. “I wish to savor my release from an unbearable match to a lowly nobleman.”

Gerda wisely ignored me.

Word of Somerset’s death reached my ears this day, but King Henry would have long known of his distant kinsman’s demise and my fate rested in the hands of this new king. One I considered a pretender to the throne.

“I choose to enjoy this unexpected freedom and hope the king is occupied with his queen, in expectation of a male heir for England. Mayhap, I will wish fervently for his success,” I laughed, the irony lost on Gerda.

“The country will know in a few months whether or not we have a new prince.” Gerda’s face brightened upon mention of the royal baby.

“I hear the king plans to name the child Arthur, and speaks of Camelot reborn.” I smiled at my luck, escaping marriage to an old Lancastrian lord, who may well be descended from Edward
the third as I myself descended from the same glorious monarch, but he was the last of the available Somerset men and I envisioned Henry’s difficulty at finding a suitable replacement.

Camelot! He imagined himself the father of another legendary monarch, to be celebrated for a thousand years
, I scoffed silently. This new king of England had grand ideas of himself and his court. Did the York queen, Elizabeth, approve her husband’s schemes of marriage amongst the warring cousins? The house of Lancaster had won the battle for now but I intended to discreetly wage war on behalf of my York cousins.

“Fetch my yellow dress for tonight. I wish to be merry in honor of my father and brother—God rest their souls.” They died last year fighting for Richard’s cause, doomed to failure from the beginning.

I prayed for a man to appear, a York, to marry me and give my family male heirs. That would take a miracle as every eligible York languished in prison or hid overseas, waiting for the right moment to raise their swords in opposition to Henry Tudor. Only traitorous cousins remained, wheedling their way into the new court.

At dinner a musician played a tune on a small pipe and the feast of salted fish, cheese, and hard bread came into the great hall on a large platter duly presented to me before my household. I’d given instructions for the best ale to flow freely and gazed over those seated at the tables, all loyal retainers of my father. They smiled and chatted with one another, occasionally throwing a glance in my direction, content with the change in my fortunes. Even though I bordered on the grand age of twenty-five, my kinsmen preferred to see me a maid for life than wedded to a rival English faction.

George Cooper, a local man, stood up and raised his mug. “To ‘er ladyship’s good ‘ealth.”

A cheer went up, laughter ensued followed by a few ribald jokes. I cared not to worry over their amusing comments of my three failed betrothals. I carried a reputation of ill luck. A man betrothed to me had less than a year to live. Somerset wasn’t the only man to die thus named. I had buried three potential husbands, though to be fair the first two were killed nobly in the services of Edward and Richard. Mayhap, our dear Lord and Savior planned a lonely, childless life for me. The thought of taking the vows of a nun appealed to me the older I grew. If I wrote to Elizabeth and begged her to allow my retirement to a convent I might delay further talk of wedlock and wait out Henry’s reign in religious contemplation.

My thoughts traveled along this path until I heard a commotion at the far end of the hall as my household men jostled a group of strangers dressed in traveling clothes stained with mud.  My immediate thought was to rush out of the hall to my rooms but as head of the house at Langley Manor I must deal with the arrival of newcomers. The steward talked with hasty gestures designed to delay the men, but they pushed past him and strode to the front of the hall.

I rose off my chair, regretting my choice of attire. The men looked roughened by hard riding and I had no wish to attract attention. They paused in a semi circle and shuffled their feet.

“What’s the meaning of this intrusion?”

A young man broke through the line of ruffians, boldly staring at my person. The sight of his proud stance, even though his dress left much to be desired, irritated me.

“We seek the mistress of the house.”

I flinched. He wore the livery of Lancaster and carried a missive bearing an official seal
sending a shudder through my bones.

“You carry a message for Lady Langley?”

The young man held the parchment tightly. “It must be delivered in person.”

I dreaded the content of the letter. King Henry may use his power to remove me from my home and pass ownership to another noble, driving me into destitution.

“Follow me, if you will.” We moved through the passageway leading to my father’s private room, used for dealing in estate matters. My steward discouraged the others from following and I faced my unwelcome guest with impatience.

“I am Lady Langley.”

My hand reached for the letter but he eyed me dubiously and refused to hand over the message.

“I seek the
mistress
of Langley. The elder woman betrothed to Baron Somerset.” The strength and timbre of the voice belied his years, and cloaked in confidence his bearing held effortless grace. Steel gray eyes met mine without a shred of humility.

“Give me the message.” His hesitation irritated me into sharp speech, a thing I did when vexed by servants. “Now, damn you!” I tore open the missive and read it twice before laughing in contempt.

“Somerset is reported dead. I can no more marry him than I can marry Richard of England.”

“You are Lady Langley?” The cheeky lout stared at me with a curious quirk on his lips.

“I am Blanche Langley, mistress of this house.”

“Indeed,” he mused.

“The king orders me to marry Somerset within the month. Does he not know the man died?” I shrugged in confusion.

“I am Giles Beaufort, heir to Somerset.”

“That’s a lie. Somerset died without heirs.”

The youth shifted his feet but held his ground. He stood a head taller than me, and his shoulders attested to a promising stature. “I am his son and heir. The king granted me my father’s lands, titles and all preferment.”

“His son by whom?” A bastard child claimed Somerset’s title and the conquering king of England expected me, a descendant of Edward the third, to marry a commoner.

“His
fourth wife.”

“When did the marriage take place?”

Giles Beaufort had the decency to look embarrassed. “The eve before his death.”

“Your father was betrothed to me. It’s impossible for him to have married another. The Pope would not allow it.”

“The Pope gave his blessing, and by all accounts I am the rightful son and heir. The king has arranged the necessary dispensation.”

“How convenient for you and the king.” Anger flared through my veins. “My arrangement concerned Somerset, not his illegitimate son.”

I reeled at the insults heaped upon my family by Henry Tudor. As a true descendant of the house of York, though not close to the throne, it galled me to accept any man from a low ranking family, far less a bastard.

He waited for me to settle. I had read the king’s order and I, as a woman, must yield. As a daughter of the losing side in the war of the cousins the road ended here. But political games were common in my father’s house and I countered the news.

“Where is the dispensation?”

He bristled. “On its way to the king, my lady.”

“Unless I see the signature of the Pope himself, I will not believe it. I have every right to see the document.”

“The king has secured a valid copy for your eyes, unfortunately it will not arrive in England for another week.”

I gloried in the small victory but this man may be my future husband and the need for caution prevailed.

“My position is precarious, Lord Somerset.” I choked back a biting retort over his newly gained title. “As the sole heir of my father’s estate it is important for me to tread carefully. Less than a year ago a different man sat on the throne of England and before that his brother. My father made me swear not to rush headlong into folly over such matters.” I tipped my head, appealing to his charitable side if he had one. He weighed my words and in doing so took the opportunity to run his bold eyes the length of my person. Again I regretted my choice of dress and loose hair. Better if I had worn somber garments on this occasion.

He nodded graciously at my resistance, disappointment crossing his face. I still ruled this house and if I acted quickly a small chance remained to thwart Henry Tudor and this fresh-faced lackey.

****

The men accompanying Beaufort settled themselves in the exterior courtyard. I cared less for their comfort, and the new lord remained with his party. It was not my duty to act as his host until I knew for certain the Pope had signed the dispensation. I delayed the inevitable.

“Gerda, fetch me ink and paper, and hurry.”

I wrote three letters. First to the Queen of England asking her, as my dear cousin, to find a Yorkist lord to argue against the dispensation’s validity. After congratulating her on the coming birth of her child, forgetting to mention Henry Tudor’s part, I reminded her of my loyalty.

The second letter I wrote to a friend at the Scottish court. They hated Tudor and his minions. I hinted at an invitation to travel north and live in exile until the present king was overthrown.

My third letter, written in code and intended for my father’s old spymaster at Richard’s court, implored him to contact the secret party that reportedly scurried King Edward’s younger son, affectionately known as Dickon, to safety.

A man of my choosing would ride with the letters while I prayed fervently for a delay in this impending marriage.

Gerda quietly slipped inside my room. “A man is asking to see you.”

“Who?”

“The young one who fancies himself a lord.”

I heard his men outside. Drawing back the window covering I peeked into the courtyard jumbled full of bodies and soldier’s equipment. I sighed in frustration. Gerda draped a thick brocade coat around me and gathered my hair into a loose knot. She accompanied me to the heavy door at the end of the hallway where our family quarters ended and the guestrooms began. The man in question stood idly leaning on the doorframe studying the portraits lining the length of the corridor.

“I came to seek the promise of your company tomorrow, Lady Langley. Perhaps you might show me the estate and Langley village.”

His face shone with youthful enthusiasm. A devilment possessed me in response to his naiveté.

“The villagers of Langley welcome no stranger and neither do my free-holders. Your kin fought and killed mine, and there can be no promises between us. If I must  heed the king’s command it is merely to safeguard my father’s people. Leave me in peace until a message arrives from Rome.”

He lowered his face to mine, close enough to count the heavy dark lashes surrounding his piercing
gray eyes.

“We will be married and you’d best prepare for it. I thought perhaps if we…”

“You think beyond yourself, Beaufort.” I turned to go but his hand curled around my upper arm.

“I think you will come to your senses by morning, Lady Blanche.”

I balked at the forward use of my given name by a commoner whose recently won title equaled mine and stood to gain him my family home.

“Goodnight to you, milord.”

In response he swept me a mock bow and disappeared through the door into the darkness. I hurried to my room to finish my correspondence with a renewed sense of righteousness.

****

I watched his approach from the east as he and his party returned from the morning hunt. A cloud of dust puffed around him and his guardsmen, but clearly he sat in the centre on the lead horse. A shiver of apprehension ran down my spine. This young man insulted all Yorkists, living or dead, and I itched to defy Henry and his new court. History may prove me wrong but I believed the king ruled in an underhanded way, employing minions to do his bidding. The proof rode up to Langley Manor unhindered. A king commanded my obedience and with no father or brother to come to my rescue, I must capitulate to the written order that lay on the cold, stone floor of my chamber. How dare the pretender king of England demand my hand in marriage to a stripling? And a Lancaster bastard no less!

BOOK: A Rose for Lancaster (The Tudor Rose Novella series)
3.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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