At the Court of Broken Dreams
Anthony loosed his new peregrine, Warwick, from his gauntlet. The falcon was a gift from his sister, the queen, and we were putting him through his paces.
I had my own favourite peregrine, Johnny, on my wrist; though brothers, Anthony and I could be quite competitive. Whilst strictly only an earl is entitled to field a peregrine, as a duke’s son, I considered myself his equal; the king himself had complimented me on my skills as a falconer. Our young codger, a straight-talking man of Holderness called Phineas, hovered nearby ready to step in should any problem occur; it never does.
“The king has commanded me to go to Wales, to Ludlow in fact, with the prince, as his governor,” said Anthony.
The young Edward, a handsome boy — with such beautiful parents, how could he be otherwise? — now nine years of age, had just been installed as Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in accordance with ancient precedent. The king judged it time to separate him from the women who had hitherto largely surrounded him and set him up with his own princely court in the cold splendour of Ludlow Castle under his Uncle Anthony’s tutelage.
“That’s a great honour,” I said, watching Warwick soaring up on the gusty gyres of wind. It was a fine spring day, but with a goodly breeze, which the bird could ride on.
“And my opportunity to educate my nephew as a true renaissance prince.”
“My nephew, the philosopher king,” I said.
Anthony was squinting up into the sun. “In God’s good time.”
My peregrine was getting restless but I held him still.
“And what of James of Scotland’s offer of his sister Margaret as your bride? Is the king still in favour of it?”
“Yes, the wedding will take place in Nottingham next year, if there are no mishaps. But you know the Scots. They want their independence, but they also want our protection.”
“They say she’s beautiful.” I liked teasing him.
“You know I am to marry her because the king commands it. No other reason. But first, Ludlow and the prince.”
“As I have no instructions from the king pro tem, I can accompany you, at least for a few months.”
Warwick, as aggressive as his namesake, swooped magnificently on a small starling, and held him by the scruff of the neck.
“Doesn’t your brother need you on family business, Eddie?”
“I’ve been up in Yorkshire recently. My own estates are hardly vast.”
“Nor are mine,” he laughed. “Look at that bird.”
Catching Johnny’s restlessness, I sent him up into the circling currents. He may not have been as pretty as Warwick but he clearly had a bigger wingspan.
“So, you don’t wish me to come with you?”
We were both staring up at our falcons, so I couldn’t see his eyes.
“That’s not the issue. The queen wants me to go alone to focus on the task.”
“And I would distract you from it?” My words went up into the breeze, and he said nothing.
I repeated myself. “My presence would distract you? Or she doesn’t want me near the prince?”
Johnny was squawking quite loudly at Warwick, who wisely swooped down onto his master’s wrist. Anthony cleared his throat and petted his bird.
“The queen thinks it would not be proper.”
“Jesu Christ!” I looked directly at Anthony.
“She would like to see you married and suggests we should part for a while. See a little less of each other. To avoid any scintilla of scandal attaching to the prince.”
Johnny swooped down onto my gauntlet and squawked proudly, or angrily.
“Scandal? How dare she…”
“Caution, brother. You are speaking of the queen, my sister.”
I said quietly, “I always wondered if she would come between us.”
He looked straight at me, finally. “It is not she who is coming between us, but my fealty. My fealty to the Crown must come first. But only for a time, Eddie. Only until the prince becomes a man.”
I turned to Phineas. “We’re going home.”
But I wasn’t sure where that was.
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