Chapter 1: Prologue---1486
In all honesty, Anne had dreaded this day more than anything that had ever happened in her life. There had been a part of her that prayed it would never come to this, no matter how much it had been her idea, it didn’t mean it was really want she wanted. There was no other choice though, Richard needed an heir, and that was something she clearly could not provide.
She was leaving court this morning, for the final time. She would travel to Warwick Castle, and set up her household there, as Countess of Salisbury. She would no longer be Richard’s wife. The thought was painful to her, and just as painful to Richard. It was something neither of them wanted on a personal level, but it had to be done for the good of the country.
The negotiations for Richard to marry Princess Joanna of Portugal had gone well, Anne hoped her own letter to Joanna had been well received by her. She prayed the other woman would be a good wife to Richard, a good queen for England, and the mother of England’s next king.
She told herself not to look up at the window. There was no doubt in her mind that Richard was watching her leave, even though he’d promised her, when they’d awakened that morning that he would not. She could feel his eyes on her though. She could not, would not look up. She would not let him see the river of tears that she was barely holding in. After all, she’d been strong last night, on the last night they would spend together, and had somehow managed not to cry. She would manage it now too.
She didn’t even glance to see who was helping her into the carriage, until she felt that person squeeze her hand for a moment. Somehow, it did not surprise her at all to see it was Francis, she nodded slightly and squeezed his hand back. After all, it would be his duty to see to Richard now.
She was not surprised to find her sister, Margaret waiting for her in the carriage. She had been so grateful to Margaret deciding she would be Anne’s chief lady at Warwick. It would be good to have someone she could be completely honest with by her side.
As the wheels of the carriage started to turn, Anne brought her hand up to her mouth to stifle the cries which threatened to escape her.
She’d tried so long not to think of this day, but now it was here. Her marriage and her life as she had known it were over.
Mighty waters cannot extinguish love, rivers cannot sweep it away. Those words had been echoing through his mind all morning. He’d not wanted this day to come, even as preparations were made, he’d prayed fervently for it not to come.
He’d been incredulous when Anne had suggested it. He’d argued he had his nephews as his heirs, but she’d argued that the country was just coming out of a time of war. Stability was needed, and an heir of his body could provide that stability.
Some of the worst arguments of their marriage had followed. He’d tried so hard to convince Anne otherwise, but in time he had given in. His mind had always known she was correct, even if his heart still did not wish to admit it. He suspected it was the same for her.
The choice was a new bride was not an easy one. It was a choice, he’d never wanted to make. In the end, Joanna of Portugal had been chosen as a possibility. He’d written to her, and he’d suspected Anne had as well. No one had been as surprised as Richard when Joanna agreed to marry him.
Preparations were being made to welcome his new bride to England, preparations for their wedding, for her coronation. In truth he was not very involved in those, letting his advisors plan them as best as they could. He suspected Anne had some involvement in them, but he did not what to know, so he did not ask.
He’d given Anne the title of Countess of Salisbury, in her own right, as she wanted to live at Warwick Castle, it had seemed the best. He thought of making her Duchess of Gloucester, but the look on her face when he’d suggested it had completely ended that idea. No, it was best to give her a title which came from the Neville family, not from him.
They’d spent last night together, for the first time in weeks. They’d had dinner privately, and then shared a bed for the last time. They’d only held each other, exchanged a few kisses, nothing more. It would not have been proper to do anything further. He’d held her close, stroking her hair long after she’d fallen asleep. He’d prayed for strength to get through the day. When they’d awakened she’d made him promise he would not watch her go. He’d promised.
It had become one of a myriad of promises he’d been unable to keep. After all, he did not know when, or for that matter, if he’d ever see her again. As he’d watched, he silently willed her to look up at him, one last time. As usual, she’d proven to be the stronger one.
He’d watched until she was completely out of sight. He closed his eyes for a moment, as he turned away from the window. He had to close the door on this part of his life, and no matter how painful it was, he would do just that.
Chapter 2: 1492-A Storm Raging Through My Frozen Heart
Anne stepped into the courtyard, and looked around for a moment. Yes, everything seemed perfect, ready for the royal visit. It had been such a surprise to receive the letter informing her that Richard and Joanna would spend a week at Warwick while on progress this summer. She still wasn’t certain what she thought of it.
She’d not seen Richard at all since she’d left court six years earlier. Nor had they written each other. She heard often about how he was doing, after all Francis Lovell, Rob Percy, and Richard’s son John would always tell her when they came to visit. She never even had to ask, especially with John. The aftermath of the death of Richard’s daughter Katherine, had been especially hard, Anne had not been surprised when John had shown up unexpectedly at Warwick Castle then, she’d comforted him as best as she could. After all, she’d raised Katherine and John as her own, and she too had deeply grieved the death of Katherine, and the loss of her child.
Shortly after Richard and Joanna were married, she had begun a correspondence with Joanna. It had started when Joanna had written Anne after noticing Richard’s back pains. Anne had waited a few days before responding, wondering if she should, and then wondering if she would be betraying Richard’s confidences in her over the years. In the end, she decided to respond, after all it was Joanna who was Richard’s wife now, not her.
That letter had started a frequent correspondence between Anne and Joanna. They hardly ever wrote of Richard. Anne could tell that Joanna envied her quasi-religious life at times. And as much as she tried not to, Anne envied Joanna’s position.
They had even met in person once. Both Anne and Joanna had gone on pilgrimage to Canterbury, Joanna to thank God for the birth of her son, Anne’s reasons for her pilgrimage had been much more complicated. The birth of Joanna and Richard’s son had been, for Anne, the final proof that it had been her unable to conceive. She did not know what she had done for God to punish her in such a manner. She’d undertaken the pilgrimage in an effort to find absolution for the sin of envy, for the sin of wishing she’d been the mother of the little boy whose birth the entire country had celebrated.
Anne was standing with her sister, Margaret and much of the rest of the household in the courtyard, when the royal party rode through the gates. For just a moment, she could not help but remember the one royal progress she and Richard had undertaken, just after the coronation, before everything had gone so wrong. But she knew she had to shake those thoughts from her mind, after all it would do no good to dwell upon the past.
She watched as Richard dismounted from his horse. She could immediately tell this was a good day, he wasn’t having much pain with his back. It did not surprise her when he went to Joanna to help her down from her horse. After all, he’d always done the same with her.
As they moved towards her, hand in hand, Anne swept down into a curtsy for a moment. “Welcome to Warwick Castle, Your Graces.”
“Thank you, My Lady of Salisbury.” Richard replied. “Both the Queen and I thank you for your hospitality in the coming days.”
“You are welcome.” Anne nodded, as she met his eyes for the first time in six years. In that moment, she realized none of her feelings for him had died, all the time she’d spent praying for a way to bury those feelings had been in vain.
Anne took a deep breath, as she stepped into the chambers, in truth they were her chambers, but she’d vacated them for the royal visit. After all, the King, and she supposed the Queen, must have the best chamber in the castle.
“Ah, Lady Anne.” Joanna smiled, coming to Anne, and kissing both of her cheeks. “It is quite good to see you again.”
“And you as well, Your Grace.” Anne nodded. From the beginning, Anne had found it impossible to not respond kindly to the genuine warmth Joanna seemed to radiate.
“Am I correct in understanding this castle was your father’s?” Joanna asked.
Anne smiled. “Partially correct, Your Grace. Warwick Castle was part of the Beauchamp inheritance, which belonged originally to my mother.”
“Ah, I have heard much of your father, he seems to have been rather…” She seemed to search for the word she wanted to use. “Colorful…”
Anne laughed softly. “That is one way to describe him. I must say I am surprised you have heard much about him.”
“Francis Lovell and Rob Percy had told me much about him when it was decided we should come here.” Joanna replied.
Anne nodded, that made sense to her. Her father had often been a subject Richard would avoid, and she could not imagine that would have changed.
Joanna yawned, and then covered her mouth. “Pardon me.” She said softly. “One of the customs of my country I have been unable to give up, even after so many years, is a afternoon siesta.”
Anne nodded, recognizing a royal dismissal when she heard one. “I will leave and allow you to rest, Your Grace.”
“Lady Anne?” Joanna said as Anne was leaving.
“Yes, Your Grace.” Anne turned, and replied.
“I do believe we will enjoy our time here.” Joanna smiled softly.
“I hope so as well.” Anne replied, then quietly left.
Anne glanced around and did not see anyone else from the hunting party near them. “I believe you’ve managed to perfectly evade everyone else, Richard.”
He turned to look at her. “Have I?”
She watched as he dismounted from his horse. “And that was your intention, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it was. Sometimes it is good to be king.” He laughed, as he walked over to her horse. “We’ve not been able to talk privately since I arrived. I was planning to dance with you last night, however it seemed you couldn’t stay awake.”
Anne laughed as Richard helped her from her horse. Although, he was only touching her for a moment, it seemed like an eternity to her. She couldn’t help but wonder if it felt the same for him. But she could not, would not, ask him.
She brushed her skirt with her hand before replying, “I am no longer used to the late hours of the court. Most nights, I am in bed by eight, nine at the latest.”
“And up just as early, I suppose?” He couldn’t help but laugh, remembering that usually he’d been the one to be up early.
“Don’t laugh, but yes!” Anne could not help but join in his laughter.
“I’m sorry, it’s just…”
“I know exactly, what it is Richard, and yes it is a departure, but…” She shrugged.
He nodded, and for several minutes they walked in silence. Anne did not pull away when he reached for her hand and entwined it with his. “It was incredibly kind of you to send Ned’s christening gown when Ricardo was born...I forgot you don’t know...Joanna has called our son Ricardo from the beginning, and I just...picked it up.”
Anne smiled softly. “It seemed fitting to me for both of your legitimate sons to have the same christening gown.” She knew they’d used it, for Joanna had written her appreciation and understanding of Anne’s gesture.
“It was a very giving gesture.” He replied softly, then they lapsed into a companionable silence for several minutes again.
He finally broke the silence by asking, “Are you happy?”
Anne was more than a little startled by the question. “That’s quite a thing to ask.”
“Perhaps, I have no right to ask it, but…”
“I would not say that I am unhappy.” She said softly, knowing it was probably not what he wanted to hear, yet also knowing that if she’d said she were blissfully happy, he would have immediately known she was lying. “I’ve found solace in prayer, and perhaps that is what I have needed the most.”
After a moment, he nodded. “You run your household very much like my mother runs hers, at least that is what I have been told.”
“That is true.” Anne replied.
“Do you plan to take vows?”
Anne was quiet for a moment. “At this point, no I do not believe I do. But of course that could always change.” She watched as he nodded. “You asked me, so it’s only far that I ask you; are you happy, Richard?”
He looked away for a moment. “Would it bother you if I said yes.”
“No!.” She shook her head. “That’s what I wanted for you, I would have never wanted…”
“Me to be miserable.”
“Exactly.” She nodded.
“Joanna is a good wife, and our son is…” He trailed off again, uncertain how Anne would take hearing about his son.
“Why didn’t you bring him with you?” Anne asked softly.
His breath caught, as he turned to look at her, without thinking he reached out, and traced his fingers along her cheek. “Do you really think I could do that to you?” He asked softly
Anne swallowed. “I won’t deny that it would probably hurt for a moment to see him.” Again, she thought if she said otherwise, Richard would know she was lying. “But he, at least the idea of him, is the entire reason for everything…”
“You broke your heart for me to have an heir.” He said softly.
Anne closed her eyes. “And yours.” She whispered.
“Mine has been patched back together, but has yours?”
“Each day has been easier than the last, each month easier than the last, each year easier than the last.” She said softly. “I would say that I am getting there.”
He squeezed her hand, which he was still holding. “Perhaps, that is all we can ask for.”
She nodded. “I think it is.”
Richard closed the door to his chambers behind him. He’d dismissed everyone, wanting a small amount of time to himself. He and Joanna were not sharing a chamber, at least not at this time, and he knew if her suspicions were correct, it would be months before they would again.
He’d long ago buried the memories of his life with Anne. It had been the only way for him to go on. He’d been fortunate in Joanna, who was a good and dutiful wife. It had taken some time, but he’d found that he loved her. Oh, it was not the same passionate, consuming love that he had for Anne, but it was love all the same.
In the short time he’d spent at Warwick Castle thus far, he’d discovered one thing, he still loved Anne the same as he always had. For the first time in his life, Richard knew he was actively in love with two women.
And there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.
Chapter 3: It makes a sound like thunder, it makes me feel like rain.
The week was passing much too quickly for Anne’s liking. It soon would be over, and Richard would be gone again. There was a part of her that knew that would be for the best after all he was not hers anymore. But there was another part of her, a part she wished she could deny, that wanted it to go on forever. A part of her that relished in the brief moments when she could almost pretend nothing had changed. It had been that way when they had finally danced. To Anne, for those few fleeting moments, it had seemed as if nothing had changed. Their steps had still been perfectly matched, they had moved easily together, in the steps of the dance. It had reminded Anne so much of the past.
But those were daydreams she could not allow herself. In the end they only caused her pain as she realized everything had changed.
No, perhaps it was best that the week would end soon, and her life could go back to normal.
In time her heart could heal again.
Richard paused at the door. Although Joanna had not joined him for Mass that morning, he was certain she was already up. She’d never been much of a late sleeper. That had been something which it had taken him sometime to grow accustomed to.
“Joanna…” He called, as he walked in.
“Come in, o amor.” Joanna said.
Richard bent and took her hand and kissed it. “How are you this morning?”
Joanna smiled. “I now better.”
“You were ill earlier?” Richard asked, softly. Surely that was another sign of what they suspected.
Joanna smiled a bit. “It is no concern.”
Richard lightly kissed her. “You are certain?”
Joanna laughed softly. “Do you not trust me, querido marido?”
Richard kissed her again. “Of course I trust you, dear wife.”
“All be known in time.” Joanna said softly. “I promise.”
“Do you feel like taking a walk in the gardens?” He asked softly.
“Yes, of course.” Joanna nodded eagerly.
“Then, let us go.” Richard said softly.
Anne was more than a little startled to walk into the solar and find Richard there. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you would be here…”
“You couldn’t sleep either?” He asked.
“No.” She shook her head. “I couldn’t.”
After a moment, he nodded. He couldn’t help but wonder why Anne couldn’t sleep, if the reason was similar to the reason he could not sleep. Tomorrow, he would leave Warwick Castle and in truth he did not when, or for that matter if he would see Anne again. The thought was just as troubling to him now as it had been six years ago.
Anne turned to face him, “May I ask you something?”
“Of course.” Richard nodded.
“Joanna is with child, isn’t she?” Anne’s voice was soft, gave no indication of her emotions.
“How did you know?” Richard asked, shocked that she’d realized it.
“I saw you in the garden. I truly did not mean to spy, but…” Anne shrugged. “I turned away after you touched her belly.”
Richard watched her closely. In those moments, he realized that perhaps he no longer knew Anne as well as he’d once thought. He had no idea what she felt about any of this. The inflections of her voice, her body language, none of it was letting him know. “It is truly too early for us to know for certain, but yes we suspect Joanna is with child.”
Anne turned and stared into the fire for a long moment, trying to get her emotions under control. Again this was what she’d wanted for Richard, a wife who could successfully bear his children. If it was what she’d wanted, why was it so painful for her?
She turned to face him, hoping her inner turmoil did not show on her face. “I will remember Joanna and your child in my prayers.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that you already do.” Richard said softly, watching as she picked up a flagon of wine which was on the table.
Anne watched as she poured a glass of wine for herself, then without even thinking she poured another glass for Richard.
“Thank you.” He said softly, taking the glass of wine from her.
“I understand you are to go north from here.”
He nodded. “Yes, we are. We plan to visit Sheriff Hutton and York before turning back south.”
“This will be the first time the Queen has gone that far north, isn’t it?” Anne asked softly.
“Yes, it is.” Richard was quiet for a moment. “She’s heard so much of York from me, and from others, it seemed wise to take her there. Besides it has been quite some time since I’ve been…”
He took a deep breath, such a simple word it was, yet it had so many meanings for him. His home with Anne had been Middleham, and he could not see himself talking Joanna there.
“We are not going to Middleham, that would be...much too difficult.” He said softly.
“Yes, I imagine it would be.” Anne said softly.
“That was our home...I cannot see myself there with anyone other than you.”
Anne turned, as she realized he’d gotten up and was coming towards her. “Richard…”
“You realize we last saw each other six years ago, tomorrow I will leave, and I have no idea when, or for that matter if I will see you again.”
Anne smiled just a bit. “If it is God’s will, we will see each other again.”
Richard acknowledged Anne’s words with a nod, but he could not bring himself to acknowledge what she’d left unspoken; that it could also be God’s will for them to never see each other again.
Without thinking, he bent his head and touched his lips to hers, lightly at first, but when she did not protest, or push him away, Richard pulled her closer, and slowly deepened the kiss.
“Richard…” Anne breathed, finding she was unable to think. It had felt right, kissing Richard, it had felt like home.
“I had to know.” He said softly, resting his forehead against hers.
“Know what?” Anne said softly, uncertain how he could hear her over the sound of her heart beating.
“If I had forgotten the taste and feel of you.” He murmured.
Her breath caught for a moment. “Had you?”
“Neither had I.” Anne murmured, just before he kissed her again. One last kiss, she promised herself, one last kiss, and then she would pull away and end this.
The next morning, the household assembled again to watch the King and Queen leave Warwick Castle.
Anne smiled softly, as Joanna embraced her and kissed both of her cheeks. “I thank you for your hospitality, my lady.” Joanna said softly. “It has been pleasure here.”
“And it has been my pleasure to have Your Graces here.” Anne replied.
As Richard turned to her, Anne was momentarily relieved to see he’d likely slept no better than she had after they’d parted. “Anne.” He said softly.
“Richard.” She nodded to him.
Richard reached for her hand and kissed it. “Farewell.” He said softly, his voice meant only for her.
“Godspeed.” She whispered. “Until we meet again.”
Anne watched as he mounted his horse, and then as Richard turned and left, she turned and went back into the castle. She fingered the rosary which was on her belt. She had much to pray for.
The visit to York had gone well. Joanna had quite enjoyed the reception they’d received, even if her own reception was a little more subdued than Richard’s. From the moment they’d entered the city, it had been clear that York dearly loved its King, and in turn he loved the city.
They had been in time to see the Corpus Christi plays, which both Joanna and Richard had loved. While it had been Joanna’s first time to attend the plays, she knew it had not been Richard’s first. She could not help but imagine he’d attended many times, prior to becoming king.
Joanna knew this portion of the progress had been difficult for Richard. Returning to the area that he had called home for many years, especially as his life had changed so much.
Their time at Warwick Castle had been difficult for him as well. Joanna knew that beyond any doubt, no matter how much he’d tried to hide it from her. Their marriage, their life was different than other royal marriages. After all, few second wives had to deal with their husband’s much beloved first wife still living.
Joanna had known what her marriage would face from the moment she’d agreed to it. The agreement had not been easy, it had come after much prayer and meditation. She’d not known what to expect in England, and in so many ways her life had turned out better than expected.
She’d been surprised when her coronation had been held almost immediately after their wedding. The first few weeks of their marriage had been tumultuous, with both of them adjusting to each other, and Joanna adjusting to life in a new country.
Both Richard and Joanna had been thrilled when it became clear she’d conceived early in their marriage. It was during the pregnancy that they had grown close, that they had grown to love each other.
Joanna had not expected to love her husband, after all love was not expected in a marriage, especially a royal marriage. She did love him though, and she liked to believe she’d grown to know him very well over the years.
He’d not been the same since they’d visited Warwick Castle. He was much quieter, seemed more introspective. She couldn’t exactly pinpoint why.
Or perhaps it was something she didn’t want to think too deeply about.
They were staying at Sheriff Hutton for a few days, before returning to London. It was the first time Richard had been there since they’d buried Ned over eight years earlier.
While at Warwick Castle, he’d thought of asking Anne if she wanted to travel with them, but in the end he’d decided that was not a good idea. It would not have been good for Joanna, who deserved to enjoy her first visit to York, and not be overshadowed by his first wife.
He sighed softly, as he placed his hand against Ned’s tomb. It was still incredibly difficult for him to think of Ned. He often wondered what Ned would be like now, and it was even more difficult to imagine he would be grown. Ned was forever frozen in his mind at eleven years old.
Richard turned as he heard footsteps approach him. It did not surprise him at all to find Joanna approaching him.
“I hope I do not disturb you.” Joanna said softly.
Richard moved closer to her. “You could never disturb me.” He said softly.
Joanna nodded and smiled a little. “I have something to show you.”
Richard smiled, moving closer to her. As the weeks had gone on, they’d become more and more certain that Joanna was pregnant again. But she’d still not felt the baby move yet. They expected it to happen any day, and Richard could not help but wonder if she’d felt the baby move.
As Joanna smiled and took his hand, Richard was certain that she’d felt the baby move, and wanted him to feel it too.
“You feel it too?” Joanna asked softly as the baby kicked against his hand.
“The baby...yes…” Richard nodded.
He took her hand, and led her outside of the church. It had always been amazing to him to feel his child kicking from within the mother’s womb. It had been an emotional experience for him, from the first time with Katherine’s mother, to Anne when she had been pregnant with Ned, to Joanna when she’d carried Ricardo, and now with Joanna and this child.
As he lightly kissed her, he couldn’t help but think that Joanna felt heavier than she had at this point when she’d carried Ricardo, not that he would ever mention that to her. Perhaps this was normal, perhaps a woman was larger with each subsequent pregnancy.
But as this was the first time he’d experienced a second pregnancy, he simply did not know.
Anne’s life had returned to normal in the weeks since Richard and Joanna had continued on to York. The first few days after they’d left, Anne had spent in quiet contemplation, and in conversation with her sister Margaret. She’d spent much time soul searching, and in prayer.
She’d thought she had been ready to see Richard again. She’d thought she’d buried the feelings that she had for him. But perhaps they were not buried deeply enough; perhaps it was impossible to bury them deep enough. It took many hours of discussion with her confessor, and many hours of prayer for Anne to be at peace with herself again.
She loved him, and she knew she would likely never stop loving him. But that part of her life had ended. She’d known that years ago, and now she’d had to accept it again. Richard was not hers anymore, and would not be again.
She was with her ladies when the letter arrived from court. She was unsurprised to see that it was Joanna who had written to her, after all they were frequent correspondents.
Anne sighed softly and closed her eyes after reading the letter. She’d kept Joanna in her prayers, especially after Richard’s confirmation that Joanna was probably pregnant. She would pray even more for Joanna and her children now. Pregnancy was always a dangerous time for a woman and the child, even more dangerous when it was possible the woman carried twins.
She could not begin to understand how Richard would react if the worst were to happen.