The Duke of York finds it at times unfair that he should be the one to live out his golden brothers. Even John, darkest and narrowest of all in the paths of his mind and the hollowed planes of his face, even John carried with him that half-visible Plantagenet glow, that riming of a nebula.
Never realised, for John, not into a crown of a victor nor into the true crown of a King, hard as he fought for his ill-favoured and ill-loving Spanish wife's claim, his would never be a coalescence.
He had heard that when John's second wife prayed and knelt at her bedtime prayers, that her clean and goodly linen overlaid the dirtied marks of her hairshirt strips, woven even into her small clothes, that her Paternoster was a blasphemy and an invocation.
Edmund shudders to think of what a bed of nails and broken thorns that must have been for John; for though they had argued against John's pride and his own indolence (and against and for both, each of them, and sometimes within the same sentence) he had still loved (still loves!) his brother enough to wish him a better deal in marriage than that kind of hell.
His own Spanish bride, the littler and sweeter sister, was an opposite to that dark-lined ferocity. She had said her prayers by rote, still, and up until the day of her death would always look up and smile after saying them, like a child asking for approval.
Mirabella he had called her, for her true name always seemed to him to hold within it the fear of every haughty grandee's banner, the whispering madness of El Cid and his war-lord bride Ximena, and they had never held any of that between them, she and he. Beautiful little plum, he had translated it for her, badly, and then laughed one day at his own blissful error, when she blushed as a plate of gilded sugar plums were proffered to her one day at table, and called her that at night and at morning, when they were alone and ungarbed
(and her skin was sweet and soft and perfumed, and her prayers were made dutifully and hastily and with her dark orbs held clear and wide, and her words rising to no father but the Divine)
God, but his sons would have laughed at him for that!
He doesn't care, not now; he can't and won't allow himself, for his Mirabella has left him three joys, and his brothers are gone,
I had four brothers over the sea,
And they sent a message unto me...
and he has a new wife, and she is more beautiful and understands him better than his little plum could ever have done, and yet, and yet, he is afraid, for John is gone, John who could still bring back those remnants of their father that were clear-sighted and just and discerning; could whittle through all extraneous hopes and wishes and unfulfilled joys to stark truth; John has gone now, and Edmund Duke of York is alone but for the children born of his little plum-tree, and he does not know how to govern them, and perhaps he never did.
They had asked baby Edward, teasing as all children must be teased, so that they learn the difference between friendship and love and loyalty and allegiance; asked him 'Whom do you love best?' and had expected him to confidently answer 'Mama' or 'Mine father,' even had their smiles prepared as they waited to be the loser.
But no, he said "Richard," firmly and confidently, and they had looked at the new baby in the cradle, and smiled to one another, for yes, of course, and so indeed should an older brother feel.
But now Edmund is growing old, and he is alone, he is married and yet alone, and he knows that his eldest son, his disgraced heir, his son whom he once thought to have that same gold nimbus waiting for him, would answer that same question with the same word if he were asked now.
"Whom do you love best?"
And he would not mean his brother, not this time. Not any more.
Edmund, Duke of York, looks at his son who has become a traitor twice over, and knows why he has done so --
The fourth sent a book that no man could read --
-- and wonders if, all that time ago, Edward, then only of Norwich, never meant to name his brother at all.