When Archbishop Arundel opens Henry's plain white gown to anoint him he immediately rolls his eyes and would have thrown up his hands if it wouldn't have put him at risk of splattering himself with the holy oil which is, in fact, reasonably blessed even though the story being carefully put about that this particular vial was presented to Saint Thomas Becket by Our Lady herself was no more likely than the sight of a wyvern ramping about in Moorfields.
It doesn't seem particularly wrong to Henry to wear a hairshirt to his own coronation. It's nothing to do with Richard, not really. Mortification of the flesh is not unbecoming to kings, and Henry is not like Richard in that regard.
Perhaps it has a little to do with Richard.
Anyway it is unbecoming an archbishop to look down his nose at a penitential gesture, even one he has quite vocally deemed unnecessary, and so Arundel says nothing as he pushes aside the coarse cloth and Henry, relieved not to have to lie to an archbishop (not really, but sort of) at his own coronation, tries to be very still and not think about how much everything itches, concentrating instead on the sweet thick smell of the oil being applied to his head and hands and heart until he realizes the air is full enough of incense that if he keeps doing that he'll have a coughing fit.
He feels ridiculous, as though he were a boy again, and then he pushes that thought away immediately, for it calls to his remembrance the image of Richard at his coronation. Henry can still see him clearly, more than twenty years later; he had been no older than Richard, and he still keenly remembers carrying the Curtana and the ache in his wrists as he struggled to hold the great sword steady, keeping his eyes fixed on its broken tip. It had not seemed strange, then or ever, that Richard was king so young. It would have been strange for Henry to be king, then, even more than it is now, but there had always been something unreal about Richard, even at ten years old, and seated on the throne, his golden curls falling about his face and lit by the July sunlight, he seemed -- not young, exactly, but ageless, like the angels would be.
And now his kingdom is shrunk to a small stone cell, and Henry is being invested with the crown and dignity that were once Richard's. Nobody will remember his coronation with wonder; later it will be rumored that the vial supposedly of holy oil from the Virgin herself was, in fact, filled with swarms of lice, and when Henry hears this he will not even find it in himself to be angry. He feels as though he could flay himself alive with his own fingernails.
Henry has just risen for matins and his chambers are still dark -- and strangely empty, for a king's quarters (as far as he can tell, not having been king for all that long), so that when he hears a voice behind him he starts and nearly sets himself on fire with a lighted taper.
"King Henry the Fourth," the voice sneers, and Henry can't suppress a shudder as the flame of his candle flickers blue. "God. If I weren't dead already, I might have died of mortification."
Henry swallows hard as he turns to face the spectral form of his father. This can't be real, he reminds himself, and it does no good whatsoever.
"Of course, you could never have done this if I were alive," the shade of John of Gaunt continues. "You couldn't even do it the first time, with Thomas and Arundel and Warwick alongside you."
"I'm not afraid of you," Henry forces out, cursing the quiver in his voice.
"Don't bother to pretend," his father says. "You know you can't lie to me."
"Even you couldn't have countenanced what Richard has done," Henry pleads. "Would you rather have seen the lands of Lancaster in the hands of the Crown?"
"You're a fool, Henry," says his father. "I told you not to pursue your stupid quarrel with Mowbray, didn't I? But you insisted on it. You had to be the righteous avenger. The scourge of God. How do you think He sees you now, Henry?"
"Stop it -- " Henry forces out, shaking with rage now as well as fear; he tries to continue, I am King of England, you are a dead man, I don't have to listen to you anymore, but no words will come out.
"But then," Gaunt continues, "I never did expect better from you. Your one real strength has always been finding ways to disappoint me."
And that is too much, because his father is dead, for Christ's sake, he is lying safely under slabs of stone in St. Paul's, and Henry shouldn't have to listen to this anymore, it's not fucking fair, and he cries out "Go back to hell!" as the taper falls from his hand, setting the rushes ablaze --
-- and then he wakes with his father's laughter ringing in his ears.
It is just after Christmas when Edward, erstwhile Duke of Aumerle and current Earl of Rutland, is frogmarched before Henry in order to tell him of conspiracy and treason -- a fitting punishment for traitors, says a tiny voice in the back of his head that he tells to stop it, I did what needed to be done -- under the watchful eye of his father, Edmund of York.
For the briefest of instants Henry is carried back twelve Christmases; he remembers dining in the Tower with Richard and Anne, their faces pale and pinched with worry, and Richard struggling (bravely, Henry might have said, were it not abominable -- were he not, himself, abominably jealous) with his grief for Robert de Vere, whose love seemed to him almost worth a kingdom.
And now the look in Rutland's eyes is the same, even as he confesses, in a small, strangled voice, the names of the men conspiring against him: Huntingdon -- Salisbury -- the Abbot of Westminster -- the Bishop of Carlisle -- Gloucester -- Kent --
When he is finished, Henry says, "We would have a word more with your son," and York makes his perfunctory obeisance and withdraws. He is normally the mildest of men, but the scowl on his face puts Henry in mind of his own father.
"You loved him," Henry says, once York is gone, and Rutland gives a start but decides to say nothing in response. "Why are you doing this?"
"You should know. God ordained you."
Henry is silent for a moment.
"Leave me," he says, and Rutland is already on his feet.
Henry clenches his fists and watches the tiny cracks in the backs of his hands widen infinitesmally, and all he can think, stupidly, is it isn't fair, I didn't even want to be king, I killed no one but flatterers and parasites and now my whole life is going to be like this.
He will have all of their heads. Three of them are clergy and one is his brother-in-law and they can all be scattered to the four corners of England to rot. It is only a delusion, this hope that he has held out that Richard might live, that the death of the king need not mean the death of the man.
Henry's cracked and bleeding hands sting in the dry winter air. It is not his fault, this grim necessity. It is Richard's friends who have killed him. Let them think on that before the axe comes down upon their necks.
Later, when the heads of the traitors adorn various parts of London and the Green Ditch in Oxford runs with blood, he sends the following message to Richard's keepers: Richard of Bordeaux no longer exists.
It takes longer than it should for Richard to starve.
Henry begins to await news from Pomfret, and none comes. He is convinced the burden of knowledge will drive him mad. It is nearly impossible to eat and his skin prickles constantly; he finds himself scratching until it bleeds.
He knows that he could stop this. He also knows that he will not. Richard no longer exists, he has said, and is the king's word not law?
At night Henry lies awake in the hope of avoiding his own dreams. When he sleeps he is surrounded by the dead. Once he dreams that Anne of Bohemia kneels to him as she did once before Thomas of Woodstock, her face streaked with tears, and she asks him, as he had asked Rutland, Why are you doing this? You loved him.
He has no answer for her. In the morning there is still no word from Pomfret.
Henry wonders if God will nourish his anointed with manna from heaven, and then dismisses the thought as ridiculous; if He were so careful of Richard, He might have done something sooner.
The official story has already been meticulously crafted: it will be put about that the loss of his crown and the death of his last friends drove Richard to despair, that he refused all food, that when he was finally prevailed upon to eat, he was too far gone.
It is quite persuasive. Henry can almost believe it himself.
Henry dreams about Richard on the morning he receives the news, and because it is a morning dream he knows it must be true. Richard says nothing to him, nothing at all, and that is far worse than any condemnation he could possibly deliver. Richard -- Henry says, and Richard simply turns to rejoin the ghost of his Anne and leaves Henry with his guilt -- and, Henry realizes, his envy.
Later that day word arrives from Pomfret at last.
Henry doesn't feel any different.