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Authors: Elizabeth Chadwick

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Lady of the English

BOOK: Lady of the English
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Lady
of the

EngLish

E L i Z
A
B E
T
h

C h a d
W
i C K

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Copyright © 2011 by Elizabeth Chadwick

Cover and internal design © 2011 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Cover photo © Silas Manhood

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in criti-cal articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious and used fictitiously. Apart from well-known historical figures, any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900

Fax: (630) 961-2168

www.sourcebooks.com

Originally published in the UK in June 2011 by Sphere.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Chadwick, Elizabeth.

Lady of the English / Elizabeth Chadwick.

p. cm.

“Originally published in the UK in June 2011 by Sphere” — T.p. verso.

1. Empresses—Fiction. 2. Queens—Fiction. 3. Widows—Fiction. 4. Fathers and daughters—Fiction. 5. Kings and rulers—Succession—Fiction. 6.

England—History—12th century—Fiction. I. Title.

PR6053.H245L33 2011

823’.914—dc22

2011021352

Printed and bound in the United States of America.

VP 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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Table 1 The English succession

The English Succession

William I

= Matilda of Flanders

Malcolm Canmore =

Margaret

king of England

king of Scots

niece of Edgar Atheling

1066–1087

Robert

William II

Adela = Stephen

Henry I

= Edith of

David I

Mary = Eustace III of

duke of Normandy

king of England

count of

king of

Scotland

king of Scots

Boulogne

(1087–1100)

Blois

England

(1100–35)

Theobald IV

Henry of

Stephen

= Matilda of

William

Matilda

= (1) Henry V

Matilda

= Stephen

of Blois

Blois

king of

Boulogne

d. 1120

the Empress = (2) Geoffrey

of Boulogne king of

bishop of

England

of Anjou

England

Winchester

(1135–1154)

Eustace d. 1153

Henry II

= Eleanor of

Geoffrey

William

king of

Aquitaine

England

(1154–1189)

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Table 1 The English succession

William I

= Matilda of Flanders

Malcolm Canmore =

Margaret

king of England

king of Scots

niece of Edgar Atheling

1066–1087

Robert

William II

Adela = Stephen

Henry I

= Edith of

David I

Mary = Eustace III of

duke of Normandy

king of England

count of

king of

Scotland

king of Scots

Boulogne

(1087–1100)

Blois

England

(1100–35)

Theobald IV

Henry of

Stephen

= Matilda of

William

Matilda

= (1) Henry V

Matilda

= Stephen

of Blois

Blois

king of

Boulogne

d. 1120

the Empress = (2) Geoffrey

of Boulogne king of

bishop of

England

of Anjou

England

Winchester

(1135–1154)

Eustace d. 1153

Henry II

= Eleanor of

Geoffrey

William

king of

Aquitaine

England

(1154–1189)

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One

Speyer, Germany, Summer 1125

H olding her dead husband’s imperial crown, Matilda felt the cold pressure of gemstones and hard gold against her fingertips and palms. The light from the window arch embossed the metal’s soft patina with sharper glints of radiance. Heinrich had worn this crown on feast days and official occasions. She had an equivalent one of gold and sapphires, fashioned for her by the greatest goldsmiths in the empire, and in the course of their eleven-year marriage had learned to bear its weight with grace and dignity.

Her people called her “Matilda the Good.” They had not always been her people, but it was how she thought of them now, and they of her, and for a moment grief squeezed her heart so tightly she caught her breath. Heinrich would never wear this diadem again, nor smile at her with that small curl of amused gravity. They would never sit together in the bedchamber companionably discussing state matters, nor share the same golden cup at banquets. No offspring born of his loins and her womb would occupy the imperial throne. The cradle was empty because God had not seen fit to let their son live beyond the hour of his birth, and now Heinrich himself lay entombed in the great red stone cathedral here and another man ruled over what had been theirs.

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Elizabeth Chadwick

Matilda the Good. Matilda the Empress. Matilda the childless widow. The words crept through her mind like footfalls in a crypt. If she stayed, she would have to add Matilda the nun to her list of titles, and she had no intention of retiring to the cloister. She was twenty-three, young, vigorous, and strong, and a new life awaited in Normandy and England, the latter her birthplace, but now barely remembered.

Turning, she gave the crown to her chamberlain so that he could dismantle and pack it safely in its leather travelling case.

“Domina, if it please you, your escort is ready.”

Matilda faced the white-haired knight bowing in the doorway. Like her, he was dressed for travel in a thick riding cloak and stout calf-hide boots. His left hand rested lightly on his sword pommel.

“Thank you, Drogo.”

As the servants removed the last of her baggage, she paced slowly around the chamber, studying the pale walls stripped of their bright hangings, the bare benches around the hearth, the dying fire. Soon there would be nothing left to say she had ever dwelt here.

“It is difficult to bid farewell, domina,” Drogo said with sympathy.

Still looking around, as if her gaze were caught in a web of invisible threads, Matilda paused at the door. She remembered being eight years old, standing in the great hall at Liège, trembling with exhaustion at the end of her long journey from England. She could still recall the fear she had felt and all the pressure of being sent out of the nest to a foreign land and a betrothal with a grown man. The match had been arranged to suit her father’s political purpose and she had known she must do her duty and not incur his displeasure by failing him, because he was a great king and she was a princess of high and royal blood. It could have been a disaster but, instead, it had 2

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Lady of the English

been the making of her: the frightened, studious little girl had been moulded into a regal woman and an able consort for the Emperor of Germany.

“I have been happy here.” She touched the carved doorpost in a gesture that clung and bade farewell at the same time.

“Your lord father will be pleased to have you home.”

Matilda dropped her hand and straightened her cloak. “I do not need to be cajoled like a skittish horse.”

“That was not my intent, domina.”

“Then what was your intent?” Drogo had been with her since that first long journey to her betrothal. He was her bodyguard and leader of her household knights: strong, dour, dependable. As a child she had thought him ancient because even then his hair had been white, although he had only been thirty years old. He looked little different now, except for a few new lines and the deepening of older ones.

“To say that an open door awaits you.”

“And that I should close this one?”

“No, domina, it has made you who and what you are—and that is also why your father has summoned you.”

“It is but one of his reasons and driven by necessity,” she replied shortly. “I may not have seen my father in many years, but I know him well.” Taking a resolute breath, she left the room, carrying herself as if she were bearing the weight and grace of her crown.

Her entourage awaited her in a semi-circle of servants, retainers, and officials. Most of her baggage had gone ahead by cart three days earlier and only the nucleus of her household remained with a handful of packhorses to carry light provisions and the items she wanted to keep with her. Her chaplain, Burchard, kept looking furtively at the gelding laden with the items from the portable chapel. Matilda followed his glance, her gaze resting but not lingering upon a certain leather casket 3

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Elizabeth Chadwick

in one of the panniers, before she turned to her mare. The salmon-red saddle was a sumptuous affair, padded and brocaded almost like her hearth chair, with a support for her spine and a rest for her feet. While not the swiftest way to travel, it was dignified and magnificent. The towns and villages through which they passed would expect nothing less than splendour from the emperor’s recent widow.

Matilda mounted up, settling herself and positioning her feet precisely on the platform. Seated sideways, looking both forward and back. It was appropriate. She raised her slender right hand to Drogo, who acknowledged the signal with a salute and trotted to the head of the troop. The banners unfurled, gold and red and black, the heralds cantered out, and the cavalcade began to unwind along the road like jewels knotted on a string. The dowager empress of Germany was leaving the home of her heart to return to the home of her birth and a new set of duties.

ttt

Adeliza gripped the bedclothes and stifled a gasp as Henry withdrew from her body. He was approaching sixty years old, but still hale and vigorous. The force of his thrusts had made her sore inside, and his stolid weight was crushing her into the bed. Mercifully, he gathered himself and flopped over on to his back, panting hard. Biting her lip, Adeliza placed her hand on her flat belly and strove to regain her own breath. Henry was well endowed, and the act of procreation was often awkward and uncomfortable between them but, God willing, this time she would conceive.

She had been Henry’s wife and the consecrated queen of England for over four years, and still each month her flux came at the appointed time in a red cramp of disappointment and failure. Thus far no amount of prayers, gifts, penances, or potions had rectified her barrenness. Henry had a score of 4

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Lady of the English

bastards by various mistresses, so he was potent with other women, but only had one living legitimate child, his daughter Matilda from his first marriage. His son from that union had died shortly before Henry took Adeliza to wife. He seldom spoke of the tragedy that had robbed him of his heir, drowned in a shipwreck on a bitter November night, but it had driven his policies ever since. Her part in those policies was to bear him a new male heir, but thus far she had failed in her duty.

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