The Kingmaker's Daughter (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels #4)

And – I think you know, don’t you? – that I love you, Anne.’

I feel as if I have been living in a loveless world for too long. The last tender face I saw was my father’s when he sailed for England. ‘You do? Truly?’

‘I do.’ He rises to his feet and pulls me up to stand beside him. My chin comes to his shoulder, we are both dainty, long-limbed, coltish: well-matched. I turn my face into his jacket. ‘Will you marry me?’ he whispers.

‘Yes,’ I say.

As he catches my eye he beams at me, his dark face bright with affection. Anyone can see it who cares to look at him, he is hopelessly indiscreet. He puts his hand to his heart as if swearing fidelity to me. I look to left and right, thank God no-one is looking, they are all getting on their horses and George the duke is shouting for the guard. Recklessly, Richard stands there, his hand on his heart, looking at me as if he wants the world to know that he loves me.

He loves me.

I shake my head as if reproving him, and I look down at my hands on the reins. I look up again and he is still fixing his gaze on me, his hand still on his heart. I know I should look away, I know I should pretend to feel nothing but disdain – this is how the ladies in the troubadour poems behave. But I am a girl, and I am lonely and alone, and this is a handsome young man who has asked how he may serve me and now stands before me with his hand on his heart and his eyes laughing at me.

One of the guard stumbled while mounting his horse and his horse shied, knocking the nearby horseman. Everyone is looking that way, and the king puts his arm around his wife. I snatch off my glove and, in one swift gesture, I throw it towards Richard. He catches it out of the air and tucks it in the breast of his jacket. Nobody has seen it. Nobody knows. The guardsman steadies his horse, mounts it, nods his apology to his captain, and the royal family turn and wave to us.

Richard looks at me, buttoning the front of his jacket, and smiles at me warmly, assuredly. He has my glove, my favour.

I feel no peace, I feel nothing. I think I will feel nothing forever.

…if I cannot be with my sister, then I don't want any bedfellow at all.

I have seen statues that would look stodgy beside her, I have seen painted Madonnas whose features would be coarse beside her pale luminous loveliness.

I sit on the bed and kick off my shoes, and he kneels before me and takes the riding boots, holding one open for my bare foot. I hesitate; it is such an intimate gesture between a young woman and a man. His smiling upward glance tells me that he understands my hesitation but is ignoring it. I point my toe and he holds the boot, I slide my foot in and he pulls the boot over my calf. He takes the soft leather ties and fastens the boot, at my ankle, then at my calf, and then just below my knee. He looks up at me, his hand gently on my toe. I can feel the warmth of his hand through the soft leather. I imagine my toes curling in pleasure at his touch.

‘Anne, will you marry me?’ he asks simply, as he kneels before me.

I stop still with the shock and fell my head swim. Richard takes my hand. We stand for a moment, handclasped as if we are clinging to each other in this new and terrifying world. We don't notice the passing servants, or the courtiers hurrying by. Richard looks into my eyes and once again I know us for the children that we were, who had to make our own destiny in a world we could not understand.

I swear I will never trust Edward again. This is not kingly, this is not as Arthur of Camelot. This is behaviour as base as an archer’s bastard and I cannot meet his eyes when I see him stuffing his mouth at King Louis’ table and pocketing the gold forks.

I turn around from the window and for the first time I see him... It is Richard, smiling at my surprise.

I run to him, without thinking what I am doing. I run to the first friendly face that I have seen since Christmas, and in a moment I am in his arms and he is holding me tightly and kissing my face, my closed eyes, my smiling mouth, kissing me till I am breathless and have to pull away from him.

I was taught to be queen by Margaret of Anjou, and perhaps I have taught you how to be queen in turn. This is fortune’s wheel indeed.’ With my forefinger I draw a circle in the air, the sign of fortune’s wheel. ‘You can go very high and you can sink very low, but you can rarely turn the wheel at your own bidding.

I would carry myself with much more dignity than her. I wouldn't whisper with the king and demean myself as she did. I wouldn't send out dishes and wave to people like she did. I wouldn't trail all my brothers and sisters into court like she did. I would be much more reserved and cold. I wouldn't smile at anyone, I wouldn't bow to anyone. I would be a true queen, a queen of ice, without family or friends.

Loyaute me lie - Loyalty Binds Me

Richard looks into my eyes and once again I know us for the children that we were, who had to make our own destiny in a world we could not understand.

Say yes,’ he whispers. ‘Marry me.’

I hesitate. I open my eyes. ‘You will get my fortune,’ I remark. ‘When I marry you, everything I have becomes yours. Just as George has everything that belongs to Isabel.’

‘That’s why you can trust me to win it for you,’ he says simply. ‘When your interests and mine are the same, you can be certain that I will care for you as for myself. You will be my own. You will find that I care for my own.’

‘You will be true to me?’

‘Loyalty is my motto. When I give my word, you can trust me.

She has a smile that grows slowly and then shines, like an angel’s smile.

The two women look at each other and in both faces there is a glimpse of the girls that they were. A little smile warms Margaret’s face and Jacquetta’s eyes are filled with love. It is as if the years are no more than the mists of Barnet or the snows at Towton: they are gone, it is hard to believe they were ever there. Margaret puts out her hand, not to touch her friend but to make a gesture, a secret shared gesture, and, as we watch, Jacquetta mirrors the movement. Eyes fixed on each other they both raise their index finger and trace a circle in the air – that’s all they do. Then they smile to each other as if life itself is a joke, a jest that means nothing and a wise woman can laugh at it; then, without a word, Margaret passes silently into the darkness of the tower.

‘What was that?’ Isabel exclaims.

‘It was the sign for the wheel of fortune,’ I whisper. ‘The wheel of fortune which put Margaret of Anjou on the throne of England, heiress to the kingdoms of Europe, and then threw her down to this. Jacquetta warned her of this long ago – they knew. The two of them knew long ago that fortune throws you up to greatness and down to disaster and all you can do is endure.

You will have to reconcile yourself, as I do, as Isabel does, to being the defeated.