The Scene: King’s Place
June 24, 1604 a few hours later
Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy ‘Will’
– Sonnet 135
Shaxper was awakened from his dream by a distant noise. He lay in bed, listening to the dull thud of horse’s hooves pounding against the dusty road. He stumbled to the window and saw a cloud of dust hovering in the night air. Beneath the full moon, he saw royal soldiers in uniform riding towards King’s Place.
There was no time for anyone in Oxford’s household to react. The soldiers leapt off their horses and pounded on the heavy oak door. They forced their way inside with a battering ram, shouting and waving torches as they rummaged through the house.
At the top of the hallway, Shaxper cowered behind his bedroom door. Cracking it open, he saw the captain confront Countess Elizabeth downstairs. He grabbed her by the wrist and she slapped him in the face. The captain stiffened angrily, surprised by her boldness. One of the servants rushed forward to rescue her, but he was beaten to the floor.
Shaxper wanted to run to her defense, but he could not move. The shouts of the soldiers grew louder as they ransacked the house, overturning furniture, slicing tapestries and scattering the books in Lord Oxford’s library.
Shaxper saw the Countess struggle free from her attacker.
“This is an outrage!” she cried. “We’ve done nothing wrong.”
“We’ve been ordered to seize your husband’s private papers. Where is His Lordship?”
“Upstairs. He’s in bed. I pray you, don’t disturb him. His health is not good.”
“It will save your house a great deal of wreckage if you tell us where to find his papers. We’ve been ordered in the name of King James to seize them.”
Shaxper did not hear the Countess’ reply. The captain pushed her aside and ordered his men to search upstairs. Shaxper hurried into Oxford’s room. The Earl was awake and sitting up in bed.
“What is this riot?” he asked. “Has the King declared war?”
“He’s declared war on you, my lord,” Shaxper said, breathlessly. “They’ve come for your papers.”
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