The Lion of Justice, стр. 1
The Lion of Justice
Copyright © 1975 by Jean Plaidy
Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons
The Scottish Orphans
A Suitor at the Abbey
The Vices of the King’s Court
Love Comes to Wilton Abbey
Brothers in Conflict
The Forest Tragedy
A Royal Wedding
Escape from the White Tower
The Chivalry of the Duke
Triumph in Normandy
Weddings in the Family
Young Matilda and Stephen
The Passing of the Queen
A Horse and a Bride for William
The White Ship
The King’s Resolve
The Scottish Orphans
In her bedchamber the Queen of Scotland lay dying. At any moment she would send for her children to say her last farewell to them. The girls, Edith and Mary, sat gloomily in the schoolroom, their books before them; but they paid no attention to these as they thought of their mother who, from the time she had first come to Scotland, had been noted for her beauty and her piety.
Mary, the younger, was the first to speak. ‘Edith, do you think she will die before our father comes?’
Edith paused a moment before she turned mournful blue eyes on her sister and said slowly: ‘What if he should never come back?’
‘Don’t speak so, Edith.’ Mary shivered and glanced furtively over her shoulder. ‘It could bring ill luck.’
‘What I say will not bring us ill luck. It is the Normans who have brought that to our country and our family.’
‘But if our father defeats the King of England, our Uncle Edgar will be King. He is King in truth. If the Godwin Harold had not usurped the throne and the Normans had not come…’
‘If!’ retorted Edith scornfully. ‘What is the use of saying If! And it all happened long ago. Twenty-seven years. And it is said that no one could have withstood William of Normandy. All his life he had conquered.’
‘It will be different with William Rufus. He is not like his father. And he is cruel. The people hate him. He cares for nothing but hunting and they say he has vices which are…unnatural.’
‘But what do you in truth know of him?’
‘What I hear. And I believe that our father will defeat him and that very soon Uncle Edgar, the true King, will be on the throne. The English will welcome him. Of course they will welcome our dear Uncle Edgar. He’s good, he’s a Saxon and he is the true King.’
‘You talk like a child, Mary.’
‘And you of course are so wise. You have lived for sixteen years and because I haven’t lived quite as long you think you are so much cleverer.’
‘Don’t let us quarrel, Mary, while our mother is dying.’
‘She won’t die. She’ll get better and very soon we shall see a messenger riding to the castle with the news that our father has captured Alnwick Castle and is marching south.’
Mary pushed her books aside and went to the long narrow window which was cut into the thick wall. Edith joined her, for what use was it to pretend to work at such a time? They should be praying—for the victory of their father and the soul of their mother. Yet how difficult it was to think of anything but: What will become of us?
* * * * *
Looking down to the moat and the drawbridge and beyond to the green hills, Edith was thinking how quickly everything could change. For sixteen years she had lived secure in her father’s castle and it was only recently that she had been aware of a shifting pattern. Princesses became important when they grew up. Their future could become a matter of state. They either married or went into a nunnery. Edith was not of a nature to wish for the latter. The brief glimpses she had had of her mother’s sister, Aunt Christina, who was the Abbess of Rumsey, had decided her. How different were the two sisters! Her mother was gentle, beautiful and kind; she was good, too, for on every day in Lent she went to church bare-footed, dressed in a gown of hair cloth, where she selected the poorest people that she might wash and kiss their feet. She wanted her children to be good and happy—but most of all good, as she was herself. As for Aunt Christina she was far from beautiful and her black robes had frightened Edith when she was very young. Aunt Christina’s sharp cold eyes saw every fault and no virtue; her knees were hard it was said because she had spent so many hours on them praying and this was considered saintliness of the highest order. Aunt Christina was so busy being good that she had no time to be kind. She thought all those who were not dedicated to the convent life were sinners. Even her sister Margaret, mother of Edith, had lived in what Christina called a worldly manner, bearing many children.
No, it would not be a nunnery for Edith if she could help it. She would beg her father to spare her that.
She hoped to marry as romantically as her mother had. She had heard the story many times. Edith’s mother was Margaret Atheling, the daughter of Edward, who had been the son of Edmund Ironside; her grandmother had been the daughter of Emperor Henry II of Germany. When Edward the Confessor knew that his reign could not last much longer he had sent for Margaret’s father Edward, as was presumed, with the object of making him his successor. Edward had died before the meeting could take place but he left a son, Edgar, as well as two daughters, Margaret and Christina.
Then William came and conquered England and because of Edgar’s clear claim to the throne the Conqueror had kept him under surveillance. He treated him well but Edgar grew to suspect his motives and thought it an excellent idea to take his sisters to Hungary where his mother’s relatives would welcome him.
He had set sail from England but ran into a storm and his ship had been thrown up on the Scottish coast. There was nothing to be done to ask for asylum—which the royal Athelings did.
Malcolm Canmore, the King of Scotland, agreed to give them hospitality while they made their plans. Malcolm, young and comely, had recently come to the throne by driving out the usurper MacBeth, and was a romantic as well as a handsome figure. He entertained the fugitives in his castle and within a few days had fallen in love with Margaret and asked Edgar for his sister’s hand in marriage.
What great good fortune! The dowerless young woman who had been on her way to Hungary to ask for asylum was being asked to share the crown of Scotland.
Her brother Edgar had expressed his pleasure; as for Margaret she was no less pleased, and very soon after her arrival in Scotland the marriage was solemnized and the spot where she had landed was forever after known as Queen’s Ferry.
It was a happy marriage and very fruitful. She soon presented her husband with a fine son who was named Edward after her father and this child was followed by another son who became Edgar after her brother—then Edith, Mary and the little ones followed. Her brother Edgar stayed at the Scottish court while her sister Christina entered a convent and became its Abbess.
So it had been a happy storm which had driven their ship in to the Firth of Forth.
Why could they not remain happy? wondered Edith. But how foolish to think that time could standstill. Uncle Edgar talked constantly of the Norman usurpation and dreamed of the day when he might regain the kingdom. It had been useless while William the great Conqueror lived but it was five years since he had died and during those five years Edgar had begun to hope again.
There was much talk about Rufus who was not the man his father had been. William I had been a harsh ruler but people had respected him. They realized that what he had done had been for the good of the country. His great selfishness had been his love of the hunt and people had been turned from their homes to make forests where wild beasts could roam. The penalties for killing wild animals had been very cruel; but because of the manner in which the country had prospered and law and order had been brought in, William was accepted.