Authors: Bertrice Small
Tags: #Historical Romance, #Love Story, #Romance, #Italy, #England, #Medieval Romance
“You might have at least discussed this with me before you acted, Robert,” she said to him. Her tone was disapproving. “Would she have not settled for being your mistress?”
“No, she would not, nor did I suggest it, madame, for I have too much respect for Lucianna and for her family,” the earl answered candidly.
“A silk merchant’s daughter,” Lady Margaret said.
“With a grandfather who is a Venetian prince,” the earl reminded the king’s mother. “My mother-in-law is a very proud woman. She would not tolerate it should Lucianna have become my mistress. She has already lost her eldest daughter to the Turks. To lose Lucianna would have been too painful for her, and she would have considered her lost under such dishonorable circumstances.”
Lady Margaret looked sharply at the earl. “I was not aware that you had an acquaintance with your wife’s mother,” she said. “And there are more Venetian princes than stars in the sky.”
“I have been entertained in the Pietro d’Angelos’ pa- lazzo in Florence,” he told the king’s mother. “My mother-in-law is much like you in character, Lady Margaret. She is devout and deeply devoted to her children and their welfare.”
“Indeed,” the king’s mother said, but a small smile played at the corners of her lips. “And is my son content with your actions, Robert?”
“He has accepted it, and said my wife is welcome at court,” the earl told her with a small smile. She was going to forgive him.
“Where am I to find another young man with a title for my young lady-in-waiting?” she complained to the earl.
“Whoever you find, madame, he will be far more suitable for her than I would have been,” the earl said.
“You love her,” the king’s mother said.
“Aye, I love my Lucianna,” he admitted. “Madness to love one’s wife, I know, but I cannot help myself.”
“Well, at least she is wealthy, if the rumors speak truth,” Lady Margaret said practically. “Is she?”
“She is, madame,” the earl answered. He did not bother to mention that Lucianna’s wealth would remain hers alone. Lady Margaret would be horrified.
“And she has a house here in London,” the king’s mother continued. “Wealth and a small property. It could be worse, Robert. I am relieved that it is not.”
He caught up her two beautiful, beringed, graceful hands. “Am I forgiven then?” he asked her, kissing those hands.
Lady Margaret chuckled. “Even my own son cannot get around me, Robert. Few people can, and yet you always do. Yes! You are forgiven for wedding your Florentine silk merchant. I will welcome her to court and to my house, even as my son has. She is a clever young woman. I enjoyed her company.”
He thanked the king’s mother, and then set off to Lucianna’s house to spend the night. In the morning, he would begin his return journey to Wye Court, and rejoin his bride. A summer of love lay ahead for them. The king would shortly go off on his progress, but the Earl of Lisle would not go with him this year. Robert Minton would remain home to husband his lands and enjoy his beautiful wife.
Three days later, he stopped atop a hill overlooking his estates. A soft rain was falling, but the land around him was green with healthy growth, and the blue river flowed peacefully below. He actually sighed with happiness. Lucianna would be awaiting him in the hall, he knew. His horse was eager for home too and needed little encouragement to move forward. Together, man and beast rode eagerly down the hill to Wye Court.
ucianna flung herself into her husband’s arms, kissing him passionately. “You are home!” she cried softly. Then in more practical tones she asked, “Is the horse alive?”
“He rested well each night,” the earl told her.
“You found the king?”
“We are forgiven, but far more easily by the king than by Lady Margaret, who thought to match me eventually with one of her young ladies-in-waiting,” he told her. “How could we have known that?”
“Oh dear! I should not like to make an enemy of Lady Margaret,” Lucianna fretted.
“You have not. As she pointed out, she has never been able to refuse me my way.” Robert chuckled. “Would that you were as easily convinced by my charms.”
Lucianna laughed. “When I feel myself weakening, I think of what my mother would do,” she teased him.
Now it was the earl who laughed, and he told her what he had said to Lady Margaret about Orianna Pietro d’Angelo.
Lucianna was thoughtful, and then said, “I agree. They are much alike in temperament, but I find Lady Margaret more thoughtful than my mother, who will have her way no matter what others think.”
“Lady Margaret is much the same, my love, but she is more skillful at managing herself,” he explained. “I remember when the king and I were boys, and the Yorkists threatened him. He was not born to be king, you know. There were several heirs ahead of him, but the constant warring between Lancaster and York took the others. Suddenly, young Henry Tudor found himself his family’s chief heir. Realizing it, the Yorkists took him under their
. But then the house of York began to lose its heirs, and before anyone else saw it, Lady Margaret realized the danger her son faced from ambitious men. She managed to get him to safety in Brittany, choosing several of us to go with him so he would not lose sight of who he was, and what lay ahead for him. We spent our later boyhood there.”
“What of the king’s father?” Lucianna asked.
“His father, Edmund Tudor, was killed three months before he was born. Lady Margaret was just thirteen at the time. She was an orphaned heiress, and put herself in her brother-in-law’s care at his castle of Pembroke, which he held as constable for the Lancasters.
“The Yorkists captured Pembroke when the king was just four years old.
“His custody was sold to Lord Herbert for a thousand pounds. He meant him as an eventual husband for his daughter, Maud. The Herberts were good foster parents. The king was raised at Pembroke, and at their castle of Raglan. As their future son-in-law, he was considered part of the family. He was well educated, even as his own mother would have seen it done. The Herberts are decent folk.”
“Did Lady Margaret not remain with her child?” Lucianna asked. She was curious about this now-powerful woman.
“Nay. She was married to a second husband, Henry Stafford, who died, and then she wed Lord Stanley,” he told her.
“I cannot imagine leaving my child to others,” Lucianna said.
“Lady Margaret needed a protector,” Robert explained, “a husband disposed to the Lancasters. Without one of her own choosing, she and her son were vulnerable. The political situation was constantly changing then. When the king was almost fourteen, old King Henry the Sixth was restored to his throne. Jasper Tudor regained custody of his nephew. He was sent off to Eton briefly to study. That was where we first met. But early the following year, he and Jasper Tudor returned to Wales. Once again, war between Lancaster and York erupted. I was with Henry Tudor then as his companion. The battles went badly for the sixth Henry, and we were forced to race to Pembroke for our safety.
“Of course we were besieged there, but with the help of friends, we were able to escape. We reached Tenby and sailed for France, but a storm forced us to land in Brittany. There, Duke François gave us his protection. We remained there for the next thirteen years. Because I was not particularly known as the king’s companion, I was able to move back and forth between Brittany, France, and England, carrying messages to our supporters and to Lady Margaret.
“King Edward attempted several times to gain custody of what he called ‘the last of Henry’s imps,’ but both the French king and Duke François protected him. Then King Edward caught a severe chill and died. Who knows how long he would have reigned had he not grown ill. He was not an old man. His brother, Richard, took the kingship of England when Edward’s two young sons disappeared. Henry Tudor’s adherents say Richard murdered them, but I have never believed it. Richard loved his many nieces and nephews.”
“Who then could have killed those innocents?” Lucianna asked. “If indeed they were murdered.”
“I believe some misguided follower of the Tudors saw to the disappearance of the two princes. No bodies were ever found,” the earl told his wife. “The rumors, however, were enough to weaken Richard’s hold on the throne. The Lancaster supporters took the opportunity to rise up against him. Henry Tudor took that moment to return to England, where he was greeted like a savior. A battle at Bosworth decided the matter once and for all. Richard was killed, and the Lancasters were once again England’s rulers.”
“Were there no Yorkist claimants to Richard’s throne?” she asked, curious.
“One, Edward, Earl of Warwick, son of King Richard’s other deceased brother, the Duke of Clarence. Richard’s own son had been killed fighting for his father. Henry ordered Warwick arrested and imprisoned in the Tower even before he reached London. We came into the city to be greeted by the mayor and the aldermen. They escorted us to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where King Henry Tudor deposited his battle standards upon the high altar. We won at Bosworth on the twenty-second of August, and at the end of October, King Henry was crowned at Westminster.
“Henry had been betrothed for several years to King Edward’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth, who was now the Yorkist heiress. A match arranged between Lady Margaret and King Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville, a duplicitous woman, I might add. The king is most patient with her, though it is not always easy.
“Parliament met in November, requesting that the marriage take place and pronouncing that the heirs of such a lawful union would inherit. Since bride and groom were distantly related, it was necessary for the pope to give his permission. He did so speedily. The king set the wedding date for mid-January. He understood by marrying Elizabeth he was uniting the houses of Lancaster and York. There would be no further cause for widespread and partisan rebellion.
“Although there are still some diehard York loyalists who dislike what has happened, and will probably support any pretenders until they are shown for what they really are, England is now at peace, and hopefully will remain so,” the earl concluded.
“Did the king not reward his chief supporters for their faithfulness?” Lucianna wanted to know. The Medici would have.
“Indeed he did. His uncle Jasper became Duke of Bedford. He was also given a sister of Elizabeth Woodville to wife. His stepfather, Lord Stanley, was created Earl of Derby. There were others restored to their lands, given lands, and some given titles,” Robert told her.
“And you?” Lucianna queried bluntly. “What reward were you given for your loyalty?”
“There was nothing I wanted when asked. I have a title, lands, and enough wealth to suit me. The king insisted, however, that I must have something. Finally, it was the Lady Margaret who came up with the perfect reward. I will always, no matter what, be granted access to the king’s person when I so desire it. There are many who would kill for such access if such an act made it possible,” he explained with a small smile. “Unfortunately, it is mine alone. I could be a powerful man if I chose to remain at court. I do not for many reasons, but knowing I have the privilege is enough to keep me away. My loyalty was not given for any reward I might gain. It was given in honest friendship.”
“Yes,” Lucianna said. “I can understand that. You would be constantly importuned by those wishing to gain access to the king.”
He nodded. “One day I may need the king’s ear for myself, or for my family’s benefit. I do not wish to wear out my welcome with him, nor do I want to tire his patience with me. Henry Tudor has little time for fools.”
“How clever of Lady Margaret to consider such a prize. She knows you will not take advantage, but at the same time she satisfied her son’s need to reward you for your good service,” Lucianna noted. “She is indeed a lady to be admired, my lord.”
“She is,” he said with a smile. “Now, madame, tell me how all went while I made my brief visit to London.”
“Worrell and I rode out every day,” Lucianna said, “to make certain the fields were being kept properly, to see if any repairs were necessary to the cottages. All is in good order, my lord. Now you tell me of my brother, and my guild’s London enterprise.”
“Your brother and I parted ways when we reached the city,” he explained. “There was no need for me to go to his shop, as you were no longer there. I believe you may trust Baram Kira to see nothing goes wrong, my love.”
Lucianna was disturbed by his words. Her brother had not her experience in the silk trade. He was a headstrong man, and she worried he would spend more time seeking out the pleasures London had to offer now that she was not there to monitor his behavior. Her only hope lay in Baram Kira. She could not allow her marriage to cause her to forget her duty to the Arte di Por Santa Maria of Florence.
“You are my countess now,” the earl said, seeing the concern in her eyes.
“Luca is not fully competent yet to manage the shop, nor has my father’s guild appointed him to do so,” Lucianna explained. “Baram Kira understands more than Luca does.”
“Your brother is a soldier at heart. He has left his passion because of his loyalty to your father,” the earl said, “but his heart is elsewhere, Lucianna.”
“I do not regret our marriage, my lord,” she told him, “but it was hastily done, and without my parents’ formal permission. I cannot simply abdicate my other responsibilities like some moonstruck maiden. I must make arrangements for my guild.”
“You are a widow and did not need your parents’ formal permission,” he reminded her.
“I am a widow, but young enough yet that my mother would have arranged another match for me had I allowed it,” she said. “And what of my guild, Robert? I cannot simply abdicate my responsibilities to them without giving them notice.”
“Write to your parents, and share the news of our marriage with them,” he suggested. The Arte di Por Santa Maria was another matter. “Let your father, who is his guild’s master, decide how to manage their London shop. He surely understands, as I know your mother does, that a nobleman’s wife does not engage in trade.”
“I was a silk merchant before I was your wife,” she replied quietly. “Certainly, when you pursued me so hotly, you understood that, my lord of Lisle.” Then Lucianna softened her stance. “Our marriage was celebrated in such haste that I had no time to make arrangements for my guild’s shop, Robert. I will do it as discreetly as possible, but I must do it. Your wedding band upon my finger cannot absolve me of my other responsibilities.”
“You cannot go to London,” he said stubbornly.
“I will do as much as I can from here, but it will take time for the Arte di Por Santa Maria to tell me their wishes,” she explained. “In the meantime, I will rely upon the Kiras to aid me.”
“But you will not go to London,” he repeated.
“Only with you, my lord, if we decide to visit the court,” she promised him with a small smile. She did not need to go to London right now, Lucianna considered, but eventually she would. Still, there was no use arguing with her new husband over it now.
“The king will shortly go on his summer progress, but he will not go far from London this year, and the queen will remain at Westminster Palace, as she is with child. As I generally eschew the court, we are free to remain here on our own estate. Write your letters, and I will see them sent by the fastest messengers. Now, come and kiss me again, Wife. I have missed your company.”
Men! Lucianna thought as she kissed him again. They were all so alike, but she had learned long ago by observing her mother that while men seemed to need their way all the time, there were ways of getting around them if a woman was clever. She had not had to employ such tactics with Alfredo, for he had always been content to let her have her own way. She had never been unreasonable, but she had also never known if Alfredo’s kindness towards her had come from his trust in her or his fear she would leave him. But Roberto was a stronger, younger man. It was unlikely he feared anything.