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Authors: Elizabeth Chadwick

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The Winter Mantle

BOOK: The Winter Mantle
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The Winter Mantle
By
Elizabeth Chadwick
Contents

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43

The Winter Mantle

 

Also by Elizabeth Chadwick

 

The Conquest

The Champion

The Love Knot

The Marsh King's Daughter

Lords of the White Castle

 

A
Little, Brown
Book

First published in Great Britain in 2002

by Little, Brown and Company

Copyright © Elizabeth Chadwick 2002

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All
characters in this publication are fictitious and any

resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved.

ISBN 0 316 85151 5

Typeset in Horley Old Style by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Polmont, Stirlingshire

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St Ives plc

Little, Brown

An imprint of

Time Warner Books UK

Brettenham House

Lancaster Place

London WC2E 7EN

www.timewarnerbooks.co.uk

Acknowledgements

I'd like to say some public thank you's to colleagues, friends and family behind the scenes. This is their moment of glory! As always, my gratitude goes out to my agent Carole Blake and everyone at Blake Friedmann for working so hard on my behalf. My thanks to my editor Barbara Boote for her continuing support and for always making time to answer my calls even in the midst of a very demanding schedule. Thanks too to Joanne Coen, my desk editor, and all the other friendly, approachable staff at Little, Brown. I should also like to say thanks to Wendy Wootton of Artemis Designs for keeping my website up and running.

Since the coming of the Internet, I have made many new contacts around the world. Teresa Eckford, founder of Medieval Enthusiasts, and Wendy Zollo, who runs my reader's e-list at Yahoo, deserve particular mention for their enthusiasm, knowledge and genuine warmth and friendship. Thanks guys!

As always, my family are an oasis of steadiness and love in a sometimes hectic and fraught world. My husband Roger understands that my writing is my soul and gives me the space I need. He also doesn't mind being tortured by read-outs of the first drafts while doing the ironing, so he is a genuine romantic hero!

Finally, I would like to say thank you to the members of Regia Anglorum, both those I have met in the flesh and those online, who have answered my frequent questions with patience, laughter and astounding knowledge - especially Andrew Nicolson for taking the time to answer my questions about eleventh-century coffins!

Chapter 1

 

Tower of Rouen, Normandy, Lent 1067

 

I wonder what Englishmen are like,' mused Sybille as she laced the drawstring on her mistress's embroidered linen shift.

'Judging by the few we've seen before, more hair and beards than a flock of wild goats,' Judith said disdainfully to her maid. As niece to Duke William of Normandy, now King of England, she was intensely conscious of her own dignity. At least with our men you can see what lies beneath, and the lice are easier to keep at bay.' She glanced towards the window, where the sound of the cheering crowds swished through the open shutters like a summer wind through forest leaves. Below the lofty tower walls the entire population of Rouen crammed the streets, eager for a sight of their duke's triumphal return from England and his defeat of the crown-stealer, Harold Godwinsson.

Her maid's interest in Englishmen - and her own if the truth were known - was due to the fact that her Uncle William had returned to his Duchy laden not only with Saxon booty but accompanied by highborn hostages - English lords whom he did not trust out of his sight.

'But it is nice to run your fingers through a man's beard, don't you think?' Sybille pursued with sparkling eyes. 'Especially if he is young and handsome.'

Judith frowned a warning. 'I would not know,' she said loftily.

Not in the least set down, the maid gave a pert toss of her head. 'Well, now you have a chance to find out.' Fetching Judith's best fitted gown of blood-red wool from the coffer where it had been lying amidst layers of dried rose petals and cinnamon bark, she helped her into it.

Judith smoothed her palms over the rich, soft wool with pleasure. From the corner of her eye she was aware of her sister Adela being fussed over by their mother, who was plucking and tweaking to align every fold.

'God forfend that there should be a single hair out of place,' Sybille muttered and facetiously crossed herself.

Judith hissed a rebuke as her mother approached. Sybille immediately swept a demure curtsey to the older woman and busied herself with binding Judith's hair in two tight, glossy braids. A silk veil followed, held in place by pins of worked gold.

Adelaide, Countess of Aumale, studied the maid's handiwork with eyes that were as hard and sharp as brown glass. 'You'll do,' she said brusquely to Judith. 'Where's your cloak?'

'Here, Mother.' Judith lifted the garment from her clothing pole. The dark green wool was lined with beaver fur and trimmed with sable as befitted her rank. Adelaide leaned forward to adjust the gold and garnet fastening pin and swept an imaginary speck from the napped wool.

Judith restrained the urge to bat her mother's hand aside, but Adelaide must have felt the intention for she fixed her daughter with a frosty stare. 'We are women of the ducal house,' she said. 'And it behoves us to show it.'

'I know that, Mother.' Judith was wise enough not to expose her irritation, but behind her dutiful expression she was quietly seething. At fifteen years old, she was of marriageable age with the curves and fluxes of womanhood, but still her mother treated her like a child.

'I am glad that you do.' Adelaide frowned down her long, pointed nose. Beckoning to her daughters, she swept to join the other women of Duchess Matilda's household who were preparing to go out in public and greet their returning menfolk. Not that Adelaide's husband would be among them. He was part of the Norman force left behind to garrison England during the new king's absence. Judith had not decided whether her mother was pleased or relieved at the situation. She herself was indifferent. He was her stepfather and she scarcely knew him for he had seldom visited the women's apartments even when at home, preferring life in the hall and the guardroom.

A blustery March wind tumbled around the courtyard, snatching irreverently at wimples, mocking the meticulous preparations of earlier. Bright silk banners cracked like whips on the tower battlements and above them the clouds flew so swiftly across the blue sky that watching them made Judith dizzy.

Sheltering in the lee of the wall, she wondered how long they would have to wait. Her male cousins, the Duke's sons Richard, Robert and William, had ridden out to greet their father in the city. She rather wished that she could have joined them, but it would not have been seemly, and, as her mother said, when you were an important member of the highest household in the land, seemliness was everything.

The roars of approbation from the crowd had become a storm. Judith's heart swelled with fierce pride. It was her blood they were cheering, her uncle who was now a king by God's will and his own determination.

To a fanfare of trumpets the first riders clattered into the courtyard. Sunlight glanced on their helms and mail; silk pennons billowed from the glittering hafts of their spears. Under the rippling colours of the Papal banner, her uncle William rode a Spanish stallion, its hide the deep black of polished sea coal. He wore no armour and his powerful frame was resplendent in crimson wool, crusted with gold embroidery. His dark hair blew about his brow and his hawkish visage was emphasised by the way he narrowed his eyes against the buffet of the wind. A squire ran to grasp the bridle. William dismounted and, landing with solid assurance, turned his gaze on the waiting women.

The Duchess Matilda hastened forward and sank at his feet in a deep curtsey. Adelaide tugged at Judith's cloak in sharp reminder, and Judith knelt too, the ground hard beneath her knees.

William stooped, raised his wife to her feet and murmured something that Judith did not hear but that brought a blush to the diminutive Duchess's face. He kissed his daughters, Agatha, Constance, Cecilia, Adela, then he gestured the other women of the household to rise. His eyes flickered over them, a smile in their depths, although his mouth out of long habit and severe self-control remained straight and stern.

The courtyard was growing ever more crowded as William's entourage continued to ride in. Flanked by guards the English 'guests' arrived. Beards and long hair, Judith noted; her words to Sybille had been right. They did resemble a flock of wild goats, although she had to admit that the embroidery on their garments was the most exquisite she had ever seen.

BOOK: The Winter Mantle
7.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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