To my sweet Gaveston
’Tis not yet one day since thou wert parted from me and sent away. Yet already I find myself missing thee, thy smile, thy loving eyes. Here all faces frown and few hold me dear, never as dear as thou art to me, my Gaveston.
When this letter finds thee, thou wilt be in Ireland already, while I am left alone in England. The sea’s wide gap separates us, and it might be months, maybe years, before I see thy belovèd figure again.
’Tis a sad day when a king must bow to his subjects’ will, and yet what could I do but consent? Better thou shouldst be afar but alive than in the ground close to me, as I would miss thy love so much. Yet exile is made sweeter by the exchange of letters. The man that bears this letter to thee is loyal only to me, and shall be our go-between. Thou needst not fear to confide in thy letters, for none but I shall read them.
Knowing that thine eyes alone will read this, I find myself speaking as though we were private together.
I hung thine image around my neck, where it rests against my breast. Whenever I feel melancholy, I bring it from under my shirt and look at it. Yet seems my day a little brighter until such time as I remember that thou art not here, and then I sigh and long for thee once more.
I seal this letter now; may the next tide bring back thine answer.
Until then, keep me in thy mind.
To my most belovèd King
Ah, sweet Edward, how thy words lightened my heart that was so burdened with the pain of exile and parting.
Barely had I set foot on that God-forsaken shore than I wanted to turn and sail back to thee, my sweet Lord. Alas! it is not meant to be, and so I must comfort myself with thy picture. Thou smilest in it, and I smile in return, but my smile fades off my face when I remember that thou art not here, nor cannot be. Nor would I wish thee here, dear Edward, but rather myself with thee, in the heart of thy kingdom.
This city is quaint and devoid of any pleasures such as Italian music and masks as we both enjoy. Most of the people, including my own servants, speak no English, never mind French, but a harsh, grating language they call Gaylick.
There are only unknown faces around me, and they look at me with suspicious eyes, wondering what is my purpose, and thine, in sending me here.
I send this letter now, hoping that fresh words from thee come soon.
To my sweet Gaveston
Maybe I should send thee to France. It is a more civilised country, yet it is further and we would not exchange letters as often. Alas, it is a hard decision to make, and so I shall leave it in thy hands, as thou wilt be the most affected.
I have found the letter thou sentest me when my father first banished thee. How unfortunate that history should repeat itself. But as thy first exile came to an end, so I shall trust this one to do, soon, I hope.
I have not yet begun to try persuading the barons to repeal thine exile. Not because I do not want thee home; I do, never doubt that! But because I am not sure where to begin. I do not want to set them any further against thee. Alas, they are not easily satisfied, and I know not what to do.
I am pining away, out of thy presence. Send me word soon.
To my dear Edward
I begin to make myself comfortable here, even though I still miss thee. I would not want the delay betwixt our letters to lengthen, so it is better I stay here.
Ireland has endeared itself to me in at least one aspect. Thou knowest how much I loathe and fear snakes, dost thou not? I learned a few days ago that there are none here, none on the entire island. St Patrick, who brought Christianity to this still barbarous country, chased them away.
That certainly allayed some of my fears. Dost thou remember the snake I found in our bed when we were young? It was only a grass snake, and yet sometimes I think I can still feel its cool body slithering against my leg. I shiver at the recollection, even now.
We still have plenty of human serpents, unfortunately. It seems that some lord of half a dozen mud hovels is always at war with another such, here, and treachery abounds. In that, it is not much different from England.
Alas, I must go. My duties as Lord Lieutenant call to me. Be sure to slip to one of those hateful barons how thankful I am for the high honour to which thou appointedest me. I hope thou canst find good time from thy own duties to write to me.
With all my love,
To my Piers
Oh, yes, I remember this snake who had so startled thee. I also remember how thou fledst thy side of the bed for mine, pressing into my arms, against my body, until all thoughts of snakes were banished from our minds. I almost find myself wishing for this snake, now. Alas, we are not separated by the width of a bed, now, but by the sea, and the greed and envy of those hateful lords.
Human snakes, indeed. My loyal followers think I am blind and deaf and cannot hear how they conspire against me. My faithful queen thinks she can placate me with false words of love then run to Mortimer’s bed.
But enough of these adders.
While thou art away, I am taking care of thy fortune. I have arranged that thou shouldst marry Lady Margaret de Clare when thou comest back — I refuse to think that thou mayst not come back; I shall bend those barons to my will, somehow. She is Our cousin, and a most gracious lady. Her fortune will advance thine and she will give thee beautiful children. It will also draw thee into the Royal family, which hopefully should silence thine enemies.
I hope thou likest this news, my love.
To my most gracious sovereign
I thank thee, my Lord, for considering myself so thoughtfully. Indeed I remember Lady Margaret as a most gracious and kind gentlewoman, and I am honoured to marry her.
Already she has written to me, and I do not underestimate my good fortune that my wife is as enamoured of me as she is, especially as I think of thine own situation, my Edward. Even here, the rumours of the queen’s close friendship with Mortimer come to my ears, and my heart bleeds for thee. Faithless wives are the ruin of a house.
I hope that thou canst curb these lords’ rebellious behaviour. I wish I could be with thee, but if not in body, at least am so in spirit.
Thy most devoted Gaveston,
To my most excellent friend
I know, dear friend, I know. I am fortunate indeed that my son looks so much like me. But I wonder whether I cannot profit from the queen’s dalliance with Mortimer. I shall have to think on that. I shall let thee know how well it goes.
I was told that Ireland is a country of poets. Dost thou find that to be true? I am thinking of having a few musicians and poets from Ireland come to the Court for next Christmas, but not if they sound like screeching hags.
Let me see if I can set that plan of mine in action, now. Maybe we shall soon be reunited, dear love.
To my friend Edward
The language of these people is crude, but they can tell the most beautiful stories. I had my secretary translate one for thee, the story of Liadain and Curithir. Thou wilt find it enclosed with this letter. Of course, if thou hirest musicians, they’ll sing it in their Gaylick, so thou wilt not understand the story. I am sure that my secretary can find thee someone who could translate the songs into French, so that all can enjoy them. Yet their music alone is beautiful, and I have enjoyed it many a day since I arrived here.
I find myself intrigued by how thou canst profit from the Queen’s friendship with Mortimer. I think I have an idea of what thou meanst to do, and really I find it most ingenuous of thee.
Piers, my Piers,
I write to thee on this day to impart one very good piece of news to thee.
I am very angry with the queen, for conspiring as she did to send thee away, and so I banished her from my couch and my sight, until such time as she has persuaded thine enemies — especially her lover, Mortimer, whom I hate — to repeal that awful banishment and let thee come home. I have no doubt she will be able to persuade the arrogant scoundrel, and once he is persuaded, he will easily win the other barons to his — thy! — cause.
So, my dear Piers, it may not be too long until we are together again. I long for that day, and that night, when I can look upon thy face, upon thyself. My couch has grown quite cold, without thee to warm it.
I’ll keep thee apprised of the queen’s progress with the barons. Until then, remain certain of my love for thee.
Thine own Edward
To my most belovèd Ned
The good news thou didst convey in thy last letter warmed my heart and lightened my brow, to such an extent that several people asked what had happened to lift off my gloomy mood.
I am as happy as thou mayst imagine that I may soon come back to thee, to England. But — and forgive me for saying it, but my duty compels me — my Lord, my King, needst thou compose with the barons? Thou art the King and they are thy subjects, thy subordinates; it is they who should obey thee. Oh! how I hate the arrogance of these men who think themselves above their King.
I especially don’t trust Mortimer, and though I see that this dalliance of his with the queen may yet be good for us, I wish thou hadst kept him away. Bedding a queen might awaken in him ideas above his station.
I fear for thee, my Edward, and I rage that I cannot be near thee, ready to protect thee if needs be. Though, maybe soon, if the Queen persuades Mortimer.
To my Piers
Thou must never fear to express thyself freely to me. I am the King of England, true, but thou art the king of my heart, and soon the king of my body again. Indeed, thy banishment is repealed and thou mayst come back to me! I am so happy, so very happy, that soon I shall be able to see thee, to touch thee, to kiss thee. O my love, how I missed thee.
I am sending a boat for thee, that shall take thee to Tynemouth. I shall await thee there. Do make hurry and come post haste.