April 1471, Tewkesbury
In a middle of the cool spring night, a candle was lit and carried to the chapel. Its bearer was a young woman at age of fifteen. She was medium height with brown hair and brown eyes. She dressed very simply; nobody would've guessed her true identity at the first glace.
Her father was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was nicknamed "The Kingmaker". Indeed, Warwick had helped York King Edward IV won the English throne against French-born Queen Margaret of Anjou. After he broke his alliance with the York King, he became allies with the Lancastrians and helped King Henry IV to regain his crown - the very same crown Warwick had helped taken away and given to the York King. Like her sister Isabel, Anne was used by her father to seal the alliance. In a quiet wedding ceremony, she wedded Margaret of Anjou's only son, Edward of Westminster.
He was a golden boy; blond hair and blue eyes. He smiled after meeting Anne, who was relieved to find her betrothed more pleasant than she had expected. The two consummated their marriage the night after the wedding. Margaret of Anjou had noted to her French relatives that her son Edward is very attached to Anne, and that the two couldn't spend a moment apart. Her hope of restoring the House of Lancaster was high. Day by day, Margaret of Anjou had waited for the news of Warwick's final victory. However, to her horror, she only received the news of Warwick's loss. Rumors had it that King Edward's wife and queen Elizabeth Woodville is a sorceress, like her mother. Of course, it could've been just a tale to damage her reputation. But after hearing Warwick's loss, Margaret of Anjou couldn't stop thinking about it.
The next day, she rallied troops and decided to return to England to defeat the York King herself. She also decided to bring her son Edward and Anne along. "You shall stay by my side," Margaret of Anjou told her. "Watch and learn how to be a queen to my son when your time comes."
Quietly, Anne followed Margaret of Anjou. She watched as she led the troops and listened as she spoke of her past and hardships. Along the way, Edward winked at Anne, as if he could've cared less of his mother's speaking and actions.
Staring at the candle flame, Anne wondered if Edward should've paid more attention to his mother's actions. As nice as he was, Edward did not show any leadership or charisma that she saw in her father and the York King Edward. Her heart worried for his safety. After all, Edward of Lancaster was very sheltered despite his military training. Anne couldn't imagine his chances of winning over the York forces even though she kept it to herself.
She thought about the Fortune's Wheel.
As hard as it was for her to admit, her fortune was falling.
She was Princess of Wales, for now. But soon, she would be York's prisoner.
Her fear was not unfounded.
After the sunrise, Anne washed up and joined Margaret of Anjou and her ladies for meal after prayer. Margaret of Anjou couldn't stop speaking as others ate. After the meal, Anne stayed by Margaret's side.
"Anne," the formidable warrior queen finally showed her vulnerability. "I'm afraid."
"Edward will be all right," Anne comforted her.
"No, my Edward will not win," Margaret of Anjou said, tears falling from her eyes. "The York will win once and for all."
Her hand held Anne's.
"What are they going to do to me?" Margaret of Anjou asked evenly.
Anne didn't reply for she knew how much the York King hated Margaret. She also thought of her own fate.
"Anne," Margaret of Anjou rose. "The York forces haven't arrived yet. This is your chance. Go join your mother-"
"No," Anne shook her head. "I'm waiting for Edward's return."
"No, Anne," Margaret Anjou said. "My Edward is gone."
"That's nonsense!" Anne said, horrified. "You don't know that."
"I know, because I am his mother." Margaret of Anjou then added, "The York forces are brutal Anne. They have dragged out our soldiers out of sanctuary and left their dead body in the field. You may be a woman and cousin to the York King, but they will not show you any mercy."
"I am not leaving," Anne insisted. "I'm staying by your side."
After a long silence, Margaret of Anjou nodded. "Perhaps they will show mercy while seeing two widows together. We are only women."
"They will take us prisoner."
"But they will not harm us," Margaret of Anjou assured her. "At least they will not harm you. I have heard that Richard of Gloucester was trained under your father."
Richard of Gloucester she mentioned was the youngest brother to King Edward. He was known for his undying loyalty to the York side and for his cold demeanor.
"I hardly know him," Anne replied, knowing what she's hinting.
"Like you hardly knew my Edward," Margaret of Anjou said. "Whatever the outcome Anne, I know that you will find happiness again."
Before Anne could say anything, they were interrupted by loud banging.
Margaret rushed to the window and said evenly, "They're here. They found us."
Her hand went to Anne's.
Anne could hear her praying feverishly in whisper and see her clutching on to her rosary in her other hand as the footsteps came closer and closer. Cries were throughout the nunnery. Soon, before her eyes stood the York soldiers. Drawing out their swords, they approached to them.
"Don't!" Anne ordered, pulling out her dagger hidden in the folds of her gown. "I am King Edward's cousin! I am Duchess Cecily's beloved niece! If you dare to touch me, your heads shall be on the spikes!"
As hard as she tried, she was no matched to these well-trained soldiers. Soon, she was overwhelmed and the dagger was taken from her.
That dagger - last gift from her husband Edward before he departed to the battlefield.
Struggling, Anne was taken out of the nunnery along with Margaret of Anjou.
"Take your hands off her," a calm voice commanded.
It took Anne a moment to realize who it is.
She looked at him and his cold eyes making her shiver.
"Lady Anne," he came towards her.
"I'm Her Grace," Anne murmured, taking a step back. "The Princess of Wales."
The two words confirmed Anne's fear. She quickly looked at her mother-in-law, whose face paled.
"Edward of Lancaster is dead."
The cold words stabbed into her heart like daggers.
As Anne rode her horse, in her mind, it flashed the scene of her unexpected farewell with her mother-in-law, Margaret of Anjou.
They were surrounded and there was nowhere to run. Everything was in the hands of York. Margaret of Anjou showed her most vulnerable side. The formidable militant queen was after all only a mortal woman. After learning that her son is dead, Margaret had lost all her hope. Her son was everything to her; her husband Henry was nothing. Without support from Warwick, Henry had no chance of sitting on the English throne. Her hand reached to Anne's wrist and held it as if her life depended on it.
No, it wasn't that she wanted Anne to seek mercy for her. Rather, it was she hoping that Anne's womb is carrying a child; a Lancastrian heir.
When Anne saw a litter before then, she thought they would be in the litter together and be taken to the Tower. However, to her shock, Richard separated the two and the guards escorted Margaret to the litter.
"Margaret..." Anne muttered and turned. But she never caught the last glimpse of her mother-in-law.
After Margaret was taken away, Anne remained under Richard's watch. She didn't say anything, knowing that it could only make things worse. A horse was brought to her and Anne climbed onto it. She rode not too far behind Richard.
"You are not wearing your ring," Richard muttered evenly.
"I threw it away. You told me that he's dead," Anne replied, not looking at him. "What is going to happen to her?"
"What do you think?"
"She has nothing now," Anne said carefully. "All that is left for her is a husband who is mad."
"She is the killer of my father and my brother Edmund," Richard glared at her. "You need to be more considerate of your own circumstances."
"Why didn't you kill her?" Anne questioned.
Richard halted. His eyes were cold as ice. He approached her and murmured, "It is my cruel mercy."
After hours of riding, Anne became exhausted. She knew that Richard would not stop until they reach to London. She closed her eyes and slowly, drowsiness took over. Just before she could fall sleep, cold water splashed over her head.
Now all the drowsiness was gone.
Some soldiers laughed at the scene but quickly they stopped.
"You shouldn't be asleep while riding," he told her. "It is the King's order that I bring you to London alive and safe."
"Then we need to rest," Anne said. "I'm exhausted."
"You will rest when we get to London."
"When I'm taken to the Tower?"
"Is that where you want to be?" He asked. "Spending rest of your life in a small chamber, mourning for your Lancastrian husband."
"Yes!" Anne replied sharply. She studied his facial expression, almost daring him to act. "I loved my husband Edward and I love him still. He is now in heaven where I shall join him when my time comes."
Her voice was loud and clear.
"You don't sound exhausted at all," he remarked and rode on.
Anne quietly followed and a soldier handed her an apple.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Richard said without looking back. "There won't be much to eat until we get to London."
She chuckled to herself. She was thinking about throwing the apple away, or right at him.
She took a bite, and then another and another.
She was hungry.
He did took to London, but not to the Tower.
Nor to the court, or to her sister Isabel.
Instead, he took her to sanctuary and had her settled there.
"So now I'm in your prison," Anne commented.
"Why must you see it as thus?" He said, pulling out his dagger. "You don't flinch? This doesn't scare you?"
"My father was a warrior," Anne said. "And I have seen worse in the battlefield with Margaret of Anjou. And I know well enough that if you dare to harm me, you will have to answer to the King for defying his orders to bring me back to London safe and sound."
Wordlessly he sled the dagger back into the scabbard. He placed it on the table and said, "You will need this, for your own safety."
Anne watched silently as the door closed behind him.
She went to the table and picked up the dagger. It looked very similar to the one that Edward had given her at the first glance. However, after examining it, she saw the motto engraved on the scabbard: Loyaulté me Lie.
Loyalty binds me...it was Richard's motto.
Edward was gone.
Tears filled her eyes. Yet, she didn't weep for long. She had to think for herself.
And for her mother, who is still in an abbey.
She took out her wedding ring - which she had hidden under the fabric of her dress - and placed it against her lips.
"Goodbye Edward," she whispered and threw the ring into the hearth of fire.
Anne's first days at the sanctuary were not peaceful. Constantly, she was in fear of being taken to the Tower, despite what she had said to Richard.
Yes, she did tell him that she'd rather be locked in a small chamber in the Tower to mourn for her slain Lancastrian husband. However, in truth, she shuddered at the thought of being imprisoned with other traitors of York. She couldn't imagine what Margaret of Anjou had endured in the hands of the York King. For a moment, she was grateful that she isn't by Margaret of Anjou's side; and then, she was plagued with guilt for abandoning her mother-in-law in the hands of enemies. Richard had called for foolish for harboring such thoughts.
You should''ve been more considerate with your own circumstances.
Days went by and she was still in the sanctuary. Richard did not visit, but she knew that he had her watched.
Having adjusted to her new surrounding, Anne thought of her mother, Countess of Warwick. She had heard that her mother was at Beaulieu Abbey from Margaret of Anjou. She wondered about her mother's well-being. Isabel was with George; and she was back at the York's side. But herself and her mother had yet received any pardon from the King. After the sun had set, Anne asked for a parchment and a pen. Under the candlelight, she began to write.
My lady mother,
I am safe and sound. I am in a sanctuary in London. After father's defeat, my Edward took charge of what remains of the Lancastrian army. Alas, he was not his mother's son - what I mean is that there is not an inch of warrior's flesh in him. I had prayed for him many times, but he was defeated. At least, he died a warrior's death. I don't know what happened to his remains, but I am sure that he is in heaven now.
Margaret of Anjou and I sought sanctuary in a nunnery but we were discovered and caught by the York forces, led by Richard. As always in the past, he is cold as ice. He showed no sympathy and separated Margaret and I. He brought me to London, and the travel was not easy. I rode not too far behind him and he allowed to time to rest. He barely looked at me, but it was as if he knows my every move. Father had trained him and you provided him care back in Middleham, but he is ever loyal to his York King brother. I am in fear, mother, that if the King were to sentence me life in prison in the Tower, he - Richard - would comply without a hesitation and drag me to the Tower without an ounce of sympathy.
Mother, I know well that there is nothing you can do for me. But please, write to me. Let me know that you are safe and that one day, we shall see each other again. I know Bella is with George but I haven't heard from her, nor do I know if she is even aware that I am here. Richard had reminded me constantly to be considerate of my circumstances. I am very aware of my current rank and status in court - a traitor's daughter and a Lancastrian widow. But I strongly believe that the King will pardon us. I am waiting for the day that the King will show his mercy and release us back to North, where our home is.
After finishing her letter, Anne folded the parchment and sauntered out of her chamber. She saw a monk and went to him.
"I have a letter and need to have it delivered to Beaulieu Abbey," she said. "Please, help."
The monk nodded and took the letter.
Since the letter was sent, Anne waited for her mother's response. Since Richard had brought her here, she had not had a single word of comfort and affection. She wished that her mother is here and tells her everything will be alright. She also waited for the King's pardon. King Edward, the tall and handsome golden warrior, wouldn't hold a grudge against her. After all, she wasn't bearing any Lancastrian heir and he had showed her affection back when she was a child.
Finally, one day, her chamber door was opened and she had a visitor.
Anne excitedly rose from her seat, but to her disappointment, it was Richard.
The door was then closed behind him, leaving the two of them alone.
"You wrote to your mother," Richard said evenly, taking out the folded letter from his doublet.
"Richard..." Anne's face paled.
"You shouldn't have done that."
"She is my mother," Anne approached him with anger. "All I want is for her to know that I am safe."
"You cannot write to her!" Richard insisted. "She is still a traitor-"
"No she isn't!" Anne tried to grab the letter from him. "She is only a woman! She is my mother, always no matter who sits on the throne!"
He grabbed her wrist with a grip of iron. "You will not say that again. My brother is the rightful King of England. It is your father who betrayed him and married you to Lancaster. You were to sit on the English throne with a crown on your head. The King have yet pardoned you or your mother. If you want to receive your pardon, then quietly stay here and not write to anyone."
Anne cried out when he threw her letter into the hearth.
"You are cold," she said. "You only see my mother has a traitor. But have you forgotten that it was she who took care of your wounds - the wounds you sustained during your training in the North. She cared for you just like your own mother..." She wanted to continue but was losing her voice.
"And she had abandoned you and only sought safety on her own," he told her, releasing her wrist. "Had the letter being discovered, it will be used as evidence of you conspiring with your mother."
"The letter shows that you remain sympathetic towards the Lancastrians," he said. "You are York now, act like one."
"York...but you said that the King has yet pardoned me."
"The King has not, but he will if you were to show your loyalty to him."
He turned to leave.
Anne couldn't hold back her tears anymore. All she wanted to do was to get out of the sanctuary. She ran out of the chamber and down the hall. Finally she reached to the door, but found another man in her way.
"Francis," she recognized him instantly.
And Richard was standing not too far from him.
Francis was loyal to Richard as Richard was loyal to the King.
Without a word, he closed the door and Anne remained where she stood. Numbly, she looked at everyone around her, knowing that every thing she said or done will be reported to Richard.
This place was indeed her prison.
The sun was bright and the sky was blue. Dressed in a red gown, Anne ran through the forest.
"Anne!" Standing before her was her husband Edward. With a rose in his hand, he made a mischievous face and turned to run.
"Edward! Wait!" Anne ran after him.
It was a game of hide and seek. Several times, Anne came close on reaching him, only to see him slipping away. Finally, she found him standing by the river with his back to her.
"Edward," she said his name, catching her breath. She went to him.
Closer and closer.
Suddenly, he turned around.
No, it wasn't Edward.
Not with those dark cold eyes.
Anne woke up in sweats. It was a dream.
She climbed out of the bed and wrapped herself in a shawl. She went to the window and counted the snow flakes. It was winter now, and she had been in this sanctuary for months. She didn't write to anyone, knowing that she couldn't. Anything she wrote would be seized and given to the Yorks as evidence of her supposed conspiracy with Lancasters. Isabel never visited, and neither did Richard; the last time she saw him was when he confronted her with the letter she wrote to her mother. Her fate remained unknown.
She wondered if she really is going to be confined in this sanctuary for the rest of her life. She looked around and tried to comfort herself. I don't have to stay in this chamber, she thought. This sanctuary is large enough. I can read, pray, and walk in the garden.
Knocks on the door interrupted her thoughts.
"His Grace the Duke of Gloucester," the priest informed her.
"Tell him I'm not ready," Anne said evenly, maintaining her dignity.
But her words were useless. The priest retreated and Richard came in right behind him. Several men came in as well, with coffers and chests. They opened the lids, revealing fabrics and jewels.
"It's Christmas," he said. "I believe you deserve better."
"Christmas has passed," Anne reminded him.
"If you remember," he said, walking closer to her. "When we were in Middleham, your father had once asked you to pick one of the boys to be your knight, and I was one of them."
Anne did remember. "Which one of the boys would you like to be your knight to protect you from the dragon?" Warwick asked her. "How about Dickon?"
"What matter does it make? My father is dead now and a traitor to the King," she said.
"Your father is no longer alive," he said. "But you are still here, and I am too. Middleham Castle is still in the North."
Anne looked down, knowing what he is hinting.
"The King has approved our marriage."
Those words were without emotion, as if he were informing her of her death sentence.
"I never gave consent," Anne said defiantly. "I am a widow and of age. I am free to choose if I were to marry again."
"You don't have any other choice," Richard told her. "George is claiming your family fortune through his marriage to your sister Isabel. He wants to see you taking a veil and joining a convent so that all of the fortune will be his. He does not know that you are here. Had I taken you back to the court, the King would've make you his ward and you will be at his mercy."
"I am a Neville heiress as my sister," Anne said. "I have the right to my share of the fortune."
"But you wedded Lancaster," Richard said. "You stayed with Margaret of Anjou and expressed your sympathy. George had betrayed the King but he did return. His return secured our victory. The King wants to reward him." He stopped and looked at her in the eyes. "If you were to choose at all, it's either joining a nunnery or return to the North with me, as my wife and duchess."
Anne was silent, knowing what he said is true. Indeed, marrying him would be the best and only hopeful option. Still, the thought of bedding this man made her shudder.
"I am content to return to the North," she said finally. "But knowing that the North stays loyal to my father. I am my father's daughter and if you dare to mistreat me, you will gain nothing but loss. I do give consent to wed you, but I need some time."
"There is no time," he told her. "I am taking you to the Westminser Abbey. The litter is waiting outside."
"I need a bath," she muttered.
A bath was prepared and Anne sat in the bathtub. Soaking her hands in the scented water, she closed her eyes and counted every precious second before two matrons came with towels. She stood and allowed the matrons to dry her.
They dressed her in a white gown.
White...like white rose of York.
Her hair was braided and jewels were on her neck and wrist.
She stepped out of the sanctuary and climbed into the litter.
At age of sixteen, she was to be married again; this time, as a York bride.
It wasn't even a year after Edward of Lancaster's death.
Anne wiped away the single tear fell from her eyes.
I cannot be weak, she said to herself. And he does not frighten me.
Under the escorts of four ladies, Anne walked up to the altar of Westminster Abbey. It wasn't her first time at this place; a few years ago she was here witnessing the coronation of Elizabeth Woodville and she was also here attending the baptism of the Queen's daughter Elizabeth. Anne remembered Elizabeth Woodville was also a Lancastrian widow married to the York side. We are women, she thought. And we have to do what we have to do.
The marriage would be good for herself and her mother. In her heart, she also knew that this is what her father would've wanted. Since the day Richard came to Middleham at age eight, Warwick had made numerous comparison to Richard's training and upbringing to that of Richard Duke of York. From her father's words, Anne knew that Richard's own father and namesake met his wife Cecily Neville as children. Had Warwick and King Edward not fallen out, with little doubt, Anne would've wedded Richard.
Anne kept her eyes on the ground. Finally, she was at the altar. Together with Richard, both of them knelt. Quietly, Anne behaved like any other bride in a wedding ceremony. When Richard took her hand, however, her eyes flickered and she nearly winced. He held her hand hard when he slid the ring onto her finger. Then, he wrapped his hand around hers like an iron shackle - and remained so for rest of the day.
It was not until Anne rose from her knees did she finally looked at the audience. She saw Lord Stanley and Lady Margaret Beaufort. She saw the King and his grey-eyed Queen. She saw many family members of the Woodville clan. Isabel and George were nowhere to be seen, but it didn't surprise her. From her conversation with Richard before the wedding, she knew that George didn't approve this marriage.
A wedding fest followed the ceremony.
It was certainly not small, and Anne recognized some whom she knew back in Middleham. She saw Francis Lovell, Richard's loyal confidant. Standing next to him was Anna, whom Anne met a few times before. Seeing how their hands intertwined, Anne guessed that Francis is courting her. It wouldn't be a bad marriage, she thought. Anna would bring wealth to him.
Food was brought to her on a plate. Anne picked up her fork and realized that she needs her other hand to cut meat - the hand that was still held by Richard. He seemed to know what is on her mind though, for his left hand reached over with a knife and gestured her to use her fork. Anne complied and ate after he cut the meat for her. Anna watched and was a little jealous.
"Look at the Duke," she remarked in a lowered voice to Francis. "He is cutting meat for Lady Anne." She continued to watch and then giggled, "I think he is hurting her."
She was referring to his hand that held Anne's.
Indeed, Anne found Richard's grip on her hand brought her pain, but also at times comfort. One moment, she could feel him caressing her hand with gentleness and then found him gripping it hard, as if he had anger towards her.
"Stop," Francis said. "Dickon has waited for this day. Even if Lady Anne were bed-ridden, he would've dragged her to the altar."
"That is not surprising," Anna said. "Consider the fortune he's gaining from this marriage. We are following him back to the North, aren't we? If he is going to be the Lord of North, then he needs this marriage to gain the support from the North. "
"It's more than that."
Anna spoke nothing more. She watched as Richard took the fork from Anne and fed her. Anne took surprise by his gesture, but Richard left her no other choice. She chewed but could barely swallow. Whether it was a gesture of love or punishment, he had make it clear on who's the master.
Finally, the wedding fest was over and Anne had to prepare herself for the most difficult moment - the bedding ceremony.
With two maids' assistance, she stepped out of her wedding dress and changed into her nightgown. She climbed into the four poster bed and surprisingly found it very quiet. When she wedded Edward of Lancaster, her bedding ceremony was witnessed by many in the French court even though the heavy curtains provided some privacy. This time things were obviously different. Rubbing her hand, Anne found the marks left on the back of her hand from the rings he wore. When she heard the door opening, she closed her eyes immediately. Pretending to be asleep, she didn't open her eyes or move when she heard him - Richard - climbing into the bed.
She could hear him lying down next to her.
She remained still on her side.
She could feel Richard turned and looked at her.
And she could feel him leaning close.
"You are now married to me," he said evening. "That makes you a royal duchess like your sister. It must be hard for you, knowing that you are marrying to the man who saw the burial of your previous husband. He was slain in the battle for claiming a crown that isn't rightfully his, and that wasn't even a year ago."
Anne could feel her body tense, but she didn't move until she heard a sound.
A sound like a dagger being pulled out from scabbard.
She opened her eyes and sat up.
Yes, he was holding a dagger.
"What are doing?" Anne asked, trying to hide her fear.
"You think I would harm you?"
"If you want to, then do it!" Anne showed her anger and pulled her hair back to reveal her throat. "I'd rather die than spending a life with a cold-blooded animal like you!"
His eyes flickered and pulled the cover away. Anne's eyes widened after seeing what he did next - with the dagger, he cut his own palm. He squeezed his palm hard to drip more blood onto the bed sheet.
She was very still when he leaned close to her, placing his bleeding hand in between her thighs. "Like it or not, you are my wife. You did wed Lancaster, but this night, you are a York bride. You are mine, mine only."
Without a warning, he pressed his lips against hers.
The kiss was hard and dominating.
When he pulled away, Anne slapped him across the face.
"Get out," she said in between her breath.
He slid the dagger back into the scabbard and left the chamber. After he left, Anne tried to forget what just had happened. But after looking at the bed sheet, she shivered.
You are a York bride. You are mine, mine only.
His blood dripped on the bed sheet, but also stained her nightgown and in between her thighs.
1472, Middleham Castle
Settling into the small desk that her mother had used, Anne asked for parchment and pen. After the parchment was placed before her, she gave the ladies a nod. Seeing that she was left alone, she began to write.
My Lady Mother,
I am well and have settled in Middleham Castle, the only place I can ever call home. I have tried to write to you, but failed. Just a day ago, Richard, now my husband, informed me that now I can write. Yes, perhaps you have heard, I am married to him now. Father would've wanted me to wed him, and I remember how he has been fond of him. I must point out that Richard's dark hair and eyes resembled that of father's. But this marriage has been hard. Unlike Edward, Richard is cold and distant. We have made appearances together, but he rarely speaks to me. He is on the road now, to York if I remember correctly. I am not ungrateful for his absence, because it pains me to be near him. I also think that he detests me as well, highly likely because of father's betrayal and my marriage to Edward.
I didn't have many choices, Lady Mother. Either I wed him, or I enter a nunnery. Marrying him is the only chance for me to be pardoned by the King and return to the North. Here at the North, many still remember My Lord Father fondly. We still have friends here, and my hope is high that you will be pardoned soon as well. I am waiting for the day that you can join me here in Middleham Castle. I have not hear any news from Bella, and I can only guess George doesn't want her to write to me let alone visit me. I miss you, Lady Mother and as much as I hate to admit, I am lonely.
Please write back, Lady Mother. Know that you can and you are now mother to the Duchess of Gloucester, wife to the King's favorite and most trusted brother.
She folded the parchment and sealed it. She wordlessly as the letter is delivered. Fixing her headdress, Anne went to the window and looked afar. Their journey from London to Middleham and she was happy to be home. They moved into the Middleham Castle but in different quarters. She had hers and Richard had his. They made appearance together before the people in the North and on the next morning, she was informed that Richard had left the castle to attend his duties as Lord of North. Anne wasn't sorry to hear that. Initially, she was content to have the castle to herself, but soon found it empty. Her father was now dead; her mother in sanctuary; Bella was with George; and Richard was on the road. His friends who trained with him under her father's tutelage went with him. Last evening, she received a letter from him. It was only one sentence - telling her that now she can write to her mother.
Anne hadn't forgotten how he treated her when she first wrote to her mother at the sanctuary in London. In a way, she still felt like a prisoner under his watch even in her own home.
Days went by and finally, Anne received her mother's reply. Her face was beaming and she was joyous.
However, after reading her mother's reply, her joy was all but gone.
In her letter, her mother the Countess of Warwick wrote:
It's good to hear that you have married Richard the Duke of Gloucester, and yes, I have heard before you wrote to me. This marriage shall be good for you and for our family. You must not mind Richard or compare him to Lancaster. You are no longer affiliated with Lancasterians. You are now a York. You must dress and act like Duchess of Gloucester but in your heart, you are always a Neville. Right now, you must disregard Gloucester's personality and his attitude towards you. Remember your duty as a wife - provide him a heir as soon as you can. Bella was with child within a month after her marriage to George of Clarence. Had that child survived, Bella's marriage would've be much happier. But at least she proved her fertility and sooner or later, she will be with child again. Your marriage with Lancaster has been childless and unlike the Duchess of York and the Queen, I only have two daughters and no son. The Duke of Gloucester himself is fertile - for he already begotten a bastard son and a bastard daughter. However he treats you, you must accept. This is the only way to secure your status and my pardon.
Your Lady Mother
Anne folded the letter and placed it in a coiffer. She had expected some words of comforts and love, but instead, she received something more like a lecture. When she married Lancaster, the Countess told her endlessly of her role as a Neville heiress, a Lancastrian bride, and future Queen of England. Anne could understand it then, because they were in the middle of a war and the alliance between Warwick and Lancaster was shaky at the beginning. Now, thing were different, however, at least to Anne. She saw no reason to please Richard, because to her, it wouldn't make any difference. She didn't care for his bastard children either, and felt no jealousy towards their mother.
She chuckled to herself, thinking that if Richard dares to mistreat her, then he'd lose the support from the North. Everything in the North - the castles, wealth, and lands - were actually hers. Even if she were ugly and barren, he wouldn't dare to divorce her or put her aside. As for giving him an heir...how is it possible since that he never bedded her?
Anne wondered how long she could keep it to herself.
Even when she was married to Lancaster, they only consummated their marriage once. Rest of nights they were together laughing, playing games, or chatting until they were too exhausted. Lancaster at least was willing to be with her, but Richard on the other hand, avoided her and if he ever said anything at all, it was short and without emotion.
You must dress and act like a York, but remain a Neville at heart.
"My lady!" A valet entered her chamber. "My Lord Richard is returning."
"In five days."
"Five days," Anne muttered to herself. "I will need a new gown. I will call for my tailor, and have a new gown made for me."
And it will be a gown of green...the color worn most commonly by the ladies in the Neville clan, Anne thought. I am the lady of the castle now, and I play my own role.
Her new gown was beautiful and won admiration from many. However, Richard himself wasn't as impressed to say at the least. When Anne went to greet him at the gate, he only commented, "Green? The color doesn't look good on you."
"It's sea green," Anne replied.
Richard said nothing more and went on to play with Gareth, his dog. The rest of the evening, they ate together and went their separate ways. Anne didn't even know that he was on the road again until the day after - when she was informed by a valet. She felt humiliated, as if she was last to know her husband's whereabouts. This was the second time he went on the road, and she expected that he would not write to her, like after the first time he left.
Trying to not to think of Richard, Anne spent rest of the days in the castle. As the Lady of the castle and wife to Lord of the North, there was always something to do. Charity for the poor; care for the sick; and there was also prayers and needlework. Anne looked around the castle and found many parts had been abandoned; she would have them restored. In order to do so, she'd need to secure the funds.
It was not an easy task, but Anne wanted it. The castle was hers, and it would be arranged as she wanted. At least it was a way not making her feeling like Richard's prisoner or being watched by her mother. Sometimes, she even hoped that Richard would never come back but then quickly dismissed the idea. She knew that'd be a foolish thing to pray for, given that Richard was a protector to her despite his coldness towards her.
One night, before she retired to bed, she opened her coiffer and reread her mother's letter to her.
The Duke of Gloucester himself is fertile - for he already begotten a bastard son and a bastard daughter.
Anne didn't even know the name of the woman or women who gave birth to these bastard children. Initially, she could've cared less. However, now she became curious. Had Richard visited them? The mother of these children, what does she look like? Did Richard smile at her? As much as she hated to admit, her mother was right that she need to have a son; a legitimate heir. As cold as Richard was, he was capable of begetting children. The only problem was that he apparently isn't interested in her. She couldn't just accept the way he treats her, or else they would be married in name only. Anne was not unfamiliar with history, and she knew the fate of the unfortunate princesses whose marriage was annulled due to marriage not being consummated.
Letting out a sigh, Anne decided to write to the Countess for her advises. With her current situation, the Countess was the only one whom she could seek advises from, especially on this intimate subject.
Richard had returned to Middleham but left quickly after. He didn't even inform me of his departure. When he was here, he barely spoke to me as always. I know that it is my duty to provide him a legitimate heir, but how is it possible that he never come to me-
Anne suddenly stopped writing, for she recalled what happened on their wedding night. That night, she was the reluctant one. She was pretending to be asleep and she threw him out after striking him across the face. Now, she regretted her action.
Still, this was not something she wanted the Countess to know.
He never come to me and I am scared to go to him, she wrote. I'm scared that he will reject me or say anything unkind. I have no one else to turn other than you, Lady Mother. You have cared for him since he was here as a child and hence you know him better than I do. I sincerely believe that he does have a soft spot, only if I know how to find it.
The Countess reply was quick, and it came sooner than her previous letter.
Anne dismissed the servants and closed the door. She opened the letter and saw that the Countess wrote:
You are foolish, much more foolish than I can ever think. The letter you wrote me, I have burned it. How could you ever confess to anyone that your marriage is unconsummated? Or is it not? What do you mean that 'he never come to you'? Did he come to you on your wedding night?
All lords sire bastards, but all lords need heirs to can inherit their titles and lands after them. In you last letter you have emphasized that we still have friends in the North. It can only mean that Richard needs you to secure the support in the North - these men who were loyal to your father. Richard would be a fool to ignore you. As the youngest of the seven children to Duke and Duchess of York, his older siblings have all married and all of them had children within the first year of their marriage, including the ones who died within hour of their birth, like the poor son of George and Bella. Do you think that Richard is that foolish to have only two bastard children, and being the only one among his siblings to be without a legitimate heir?
Look at yourself in the mirror and do you find yourself attractive? If not, then work on your looks. When you see him, smile. When the night falls, you go to him. If by now you don't even know where his bedchamber is, don't even say it and find out as soon as possible. You are his wife and act like it. As his wife, you have right to know everything - no matter how intimate it is. Where he takes his bath and how often he uses chamber pot - he has no right to keep it from you. After you enter his bedchamber, start to undress. As you do, tell him word to word that you are doing what's the best for him. Unless he wants your fortune and lands - his and yours - to fall into hands of George, then he must do what you tell him to do. That no one must know that your marriage is unhappy and a child of his in your belly will prevent George or his heir from inheriting your lands, which are also his. You can also offer to have his mistress to assist - but that will be up to him. Or can have him bed you with you back to him so that he could pretend you are that woman. Once the copulation is finished, you can leave him be. All he needs is to understand the importance of you bearing his child.
Take my advice seriously, daughter, because it works - this is how I got your father into my bed.
Anne's face was in mixed emotion after finished reading it. Having no desire to read it again, she threw into the hearth and watched it burn. After seeing it burned into ashes, she called for the maids and servants to make arrangement to sleep in another chamber. The bedchamber that she currently resided was the one resided by the Countess. The last thing Anne wanted to think about was what had occurred in this bedchamber all these years ago.
And after a few weeks, Richard returned.
Anne knew what she had to do; not because she wanted to, but because she just wanted to get it over with. One healthy son for the Duke of Gloucester with the blood of York and Neville flood in his vein - and it will be enough.
After nightfall, she came to Richard's bedchamber, much to his surprise.
Initially, she was confident in what she needs to do. However, when looked into Richard's dark eyes, her confidence went away.
"Why are you here?" He asked.
"I'm your wife," she replied. "It is my duty to give you heir, unless you want George or his son inherit our lands."
"George's son?" Richard raised an eyebrow. "I have many nephews and I can name any one of them as my heir."
"But only George's son has the blood of Neville and York in his veins."
"George doesn't even have a son," Richard reminded her.
Now Anne felt foolish for even saying that. Her face was red and she tried to recall the advises the Countess gave her. She tried to reach her back to unlace her gown, but as nervous as she was, she couldn't even pull the lace.
Richard's facial expression didn't change.
Her face was redder than ever.
"Look, Richard!" Anne gave up on trying to unlace her gown and went straight up to him. "I am your wife and it is my duty to give you an heir. I am the only woman in England who has the right to know how often you bath and where you use chamber pot! If bedding me is too difficult for you, then I am generous enough to allow Francis to assist-"
Francis? How did his name come up?
Finally, Richard's facial expression changed.
He burst out laughing.
Anne stood and watched as he bent forward and back with his laughter. After stopped laughing, he took hold of her shoulders and unlaced her gown. "It's interesting that you act this way and this isn't even like you. I find this rather disappointing and if I am not wrong, you are here under the advise of your mother, aren't you?"
Anne was out of words.
"See, I would rather bed you because of your desire for me, or of your understanding of your duty. Not because of acting under instruction of your mother. Frankly, I find you more adorable as you are on our wedding night."
With that said, he walked out of the bedchamber.
The suggestions that the Countess gave Anne is based on the scene in Game of Thrones where Margery tried to seduce her first husband (lover to her brother Lora). Richard's response to Anne at the end of this chapter is a way that I want to jab the miniseries "The White Queen" and particularly "The White Princess" where they tried to mirror GOT (at least that's how viewers see it) but ended up with stupid plot with a bunch of protagonists doing what their mother told them to do.
The servants, valets, maids, and ladies were called and gathered together. They all curtsied and bowed when Anne arrived. In a new blue gown trimmed with furs, Anne looked around her and spoke.
"I am here to announce that I am planning to refurnish this castle," she began. "Since my return, I have discovered that certain parts of the castle have been left abandoned. This cannot continue. This castle is the home of the Duke of Gloucester and the Lord of the North. Every part of this castle has to be perfect. I will have the tower of the east side renamed the Lady's Tower. After it is refurnished, I will relocate my quarters there. Keep this in mind, though my husband the Duke of Gloucester is the master of this castle, I am the lady of this castle and it is under my care, in his presence and his absence. My mother has yet been pardoned by the King, but once she received the pardon, she will return as I desired. However, I will remain as the lady of the castle. Everything will go as I say." She stopped and then added, "This is all for the sake of the North."
After she finished addressing the servants, she gave them a gentle smile and went on her way. Everyone bowed and curtsied and then looked at one another in bewilderment. Since when they ever doubted Lady Anne Neville as their mistress?
Anne poured all her heart onto the tower and she was making it hers. Everything was decorated as she wanted. When she was a child, the castle was in the hands of her mother; everything was done as the Countess wanted. Anne had always been an obedient child and did everything she was told. For the first time in her life, Anne was able to think of what she wanted and what she really liked.
Not for anyone else - the King, Richard, her father Warwick, or her mother the Countess - but for herself.
While refurnishing the castle, Anne looked into her wardrobe. Most of the gowns she had were given by Richard or old ones she wore in France. Without a hesitation, she had them donated to charity. She ordered a new set of gowns, furs, slippers, and headdresses. She told herself that this is all for the sake of image and dignity. Since she was a royal duchess, then she must look like one.
Looking at herself in the bronze mirror, Anne was very pleased with her new gown, new jewel, and new headdress.
She didn't neglect her other duties, such as prayers and charities. Only that slowly, she began to dedicate her time to the duties that she personally liked. More and more, she spent time at the orphanage making bread and pastries. She laughed, ate, and played with the children. Finally, Anne found happiness that she hadn't had for a long time.
In fact, she was so happy with her new life that she didn't even care to notice Richard's return to Middleham or his departure.
The tower was finished.
Anne had her coiffer, furniture, wardrobe moved into the tower; she was very pleased. Everything was beautiful and new. Richard never came to see it nor did Anne called him over. The Countess wrote to her a few times, but she didn't write back. She just read her mother's letter half-heartedly and threw them into a coiffer. She continued on with this new life of hers until one day when she had an unexpected guest.
Her sister, Isabel Duchess of Clarence.
It was an unexpected visit.
Anne was more than surprised. She received her sister warmly and invited her to see the tower.
"Wow," Isabel managed to say after looking around and then at Anne's dazzling new gown.
"Isn't everything beautiful?" Anne asked with pride. "I am the lady of the castle now, like mother was."
"How is Lady Mother?" Isabel asked.
"She never wrote to you?"
"No," Isabel shook her head. "George wouldn't have it. He doesn't even want me to write to you."
Anne opened the coiffer and showed Isabel the letters from the Countess. "Lady Mother is so critical," she said. "She always have a way of knowing what I do or what I'm thinking. I wrote to her and all I received from her was rebukes. So, I stopped but she still heard about the tower and my new gowns."
"Anne," Isabel said uneasily. "It isn't just mother. Everyone knows about your new wardrobe and the tower, even the Queen knows."
"Sister, the Queen is austere in her spending," Isabel said, with her voice lowered. "The reason I'm here is because George wants to know if it is true that you are living so extravagantly and that you are outshining the Queen."
Anne lost her smile. "Isabel, we have been through the roughest time. I don't want to talk about the past, but right now, I want to be happy because I deserve to be happy."
"It's not that you can't be happy, but everyone in the court is talking," Isabel said. "Haven't Richard said anything to you?"
"Richard?" Anne raised an eyebrow. She could hardly recall the last time she spoke to him.
"Sister, I'm expecting again," Isabel told her. "I hope it's a boy."
"I'm happy for you, sister," Anne said.
"And the Queen is expecting too," Isabel added.
Instantly Anne knew what Isabel is hinting.
"Sister, I know you want to be happy and you do deserve to be happy," Isabel said sincerely. "But be aware people are talking."
"What are you going to tell George?"
"I will tell him that my sister is not expecting yet," Isabel replied.
Isabel didn't stay long but Anne was not sorry to see her go. The surprise visit from her sister brought back unhappy old memories. By blood, they were sisters. However, they were also wives to the York brothers. Isabel didn't come to visit her as a loving sister; she came to spy on her for George.
With one maid by her side, Anne went to take a walk in the woods. As she walked, she came to realize that no matter what she wears or where she lodges, she couldn't escape the fact that she is married to Richard, who wants nothing to do with her. Despite what she tried to convince herself, she knew that she had to rely on his rank and status for security. Her sister's pregnancy didn't make her happy; and she thought about Richard's bastard children.
She stopped and found herself back to where she started - a miserable woman trapped in unhappy marriage to a husband who never bedded her. Everything she does was wrong in the eyes of the Countess, or of Richard, or of the court.
She was so preoccupied with her thoughts that she didn't even hear the growl behind her.
"My lady!" the maid gasped in horror.
Anne turned and found a wolf approaching her. Behind that wolf, came two more.
Trying to stay calm, Anne retreated slowly while the maid stepped in front of her.
Without warning, the first wolf jumped onto them.
Anne screamed and tried to run, only stepped onto her gown and fell onto the ground. The two other wolves joined the first one. Anne continued to scream until the wolves suddenly stopped moving. She opened her eyes and pushed the wolf off her as her arms remained shaking.
Not far from her stood Richard, with a sword in his hand.
"A physician! A surgeon!" Richard shouted as he carried Anne back into the castle.
Anne couldn't find her voice or move her limbs. Her gown and cloak were covered with blood; and the wolves' growing was still echoing in her ears. She numbly stayed in Richard's arms as he took her to a bedchamber and settled her in the four poster beds.
Her blood stained gown was removed and the physician examined her. Fortunately, the blood on her was that of the wolves; not hers. She did have some scratch marks on her arms and chest, but her life was not in danger. The maids attended her wounds and she didn't fletch despite they used salt water. She quietly rested in bed until hours later when she finally moved her hand.
Richard stayed in the chamber the whole time.
Anne didn't look at him until they were left alone.
"When did you come back?" She asked, managed to find her voice.
"After your sister left," he replied. "I was informed that your sister had visited and went to find you."
"Why did you save me?" Anne asked.
"Why wouldn't I?" Richard raised an eyebrow. "You don't want me to?"
"You slaughtered the wolves?" Anne asked evenly, as if she deemed him as cruel for killing them.
"The wolf that attacked you is dead," Richard told her. "The other two fled."
"You still haven't answer me," Anne said. "Why did you save me?"
"Even the wolves know to protect their mate," Richard said.
"And they treat their mate well?" Anne asked. "Richard, let's be honest with each other, or at least maybe for once. You don't love me, and you are marrying me for the sake of power and land. You despise me, and you have been unkind to me since we saw each other again at Tewkesbury."
"How would you know that I despise you?" Richard questioned her. "You don't know what is in my heart."
"Then tell me!" Anne said. "What is it? You neglected me since our wedding. You held my hand so hard that it hurt at the ceremony. All you want is to hurt me and torture me-"
"Hush!" He demanded, grabbing her hand. He twisted her wedding ring and said, "It was I who placed this ring on your hand, as it was I who asked my brother the King to pardon you and give blessing to this marriage. It was your father who planted this seed in my heart. I have waited for the day to wed you." He relieved his grip on her hand and and stroked her cheek. "Where does your heart stand? With him, or with me?"
Suddenly Anne understood.
"Which one of the boys would you like to be your knight to protect you from the dragon?" Warwick asked her. "How about Dickon?"
"He's already dead," she muttered. Despite knowing Richard's hatred towards Lancaster, she didn't have the heart to say anything derogatory on Edward.
"Margaret of Anjou took away two people I hold dear to my heart," Richard said. "She had my father's head on the spike, and then, she took you."
Anne was silent. Both Edward and Margaret of Anjou had treated her well; and it was the truth but also something that Richard wouldn't want to hear.
"Anne," he said as he stood. "If you are unwilling, I will not force you against your will. But tonight, I will be in the castle. And if you are willing, the door of my chamber will always be opened."
The sun had set and night fell.
Anne grabbed her robe. Under the candle light, she studied her left hand - the one that bore the wedding ring.
When she married Edward, he too placed a ring on the left hand.
What happened to that ring?
Anne remembered that she threw it into the fire.
And it was that moment she bid Edward goodbye.
Edward was now dead; and House of Lancaster had fallen. She was married to Richard and a member of House of York.
She had thought that Richard despised her, but now...
Silently, she left her chamber and sauntered to Richard's.
The door was unbolted.
She opened the door and entered.
Anne opened her eyes and found sun light in the bedchamber; it was morning. She reached out her arm and found the other side of the bed empty. Sitting up, she rubbed her eyes and her forehead.
And the memory from the previous night came back to her instantly.
He stripped her of her nightgown.
His nails and teeth sank into her skin.
He bent her legs and thrust into her.
His seed spilled inside her.
She climbed out of the bed and walked before the mirror. She didn’t grab a robe and stood as she was while looking at her reflection. She found spots of red marks and some bruises on her shoulders, chest, neck, and on her stomach. Looking at the scratch marks left from the wolves’ attack, she couldn’t help comparing Richard to the wolf.
But the wolf had frightened her.
Richard, on the other hand....
His hard kisses and pinching caused soreness on her body, and yet she didn’t find it frightening. In fact, the sleep she had last night after the intensive, exhausting lovemaking was the finest one she had for a while.
“Where is the Duke?” She asked the servants as she ate breakfast.
“Hunting,” they replied.
Anne blushed upon hearing that. She couldn’t stop thinking of him and wondered how one night changed her perception of him. This man who had greeted her with much coldness and neglect since seeing her at Tewkesbury bestowed such passion and desire towards her. And underneath his passion and desire, she could feel the tenderness of his affection.
After finishing her breakfast, she went to take a walk with her ladies, who laughed and chatted as they walked. Anne, however, didn’t even hear what they were saying or what they were laughing about. Her mind was elsewhere. She looked up and saw the sun above her. It was near noon, and it was as if she wished it were sun is setting.
She spent rest of the day in her tower. To her surprise, this place where she decorated and refurnished on her own based on her own preference no longer interested her. It was as if something was missing.
“Here you are.”
Anne looked up and saw Richard by the door. He had a jar in his hand. Everyone else in the chamber knowingly left. Richard closed the door and bolted it.
“I have something for you,” he said. “Us men who hunt, we receive scratches and bites from the beast every now and then. This should help healing the scratches from the wolves.”
He came closer to her and said, “Undress.”
“Richard,” she said, sounded unwilling though she was blushing heavily.
“Undress,” he repeated as he reached to unlace her gown.
“Wait,” Anne stopped him. “It is not the hour-”
“I only want to treat your wound,” he said as matter-of-factly.
Slowly, Anne reached behind her and loosened her gown. Looking down, she pulled her gown along with her shift down to her waist.
“Come, lie down,” he said as he had her lying down on her back. Anne wordlessly laid there as he rubbed oil on her chest and arm.
“There’s also marks left by you,” she commented.
He continued to rub the oil on her skin before he leaned down to kiss her lips.
“You are no better than the wolves,” Anne whispered. “You left scars on me as well.”
“You did,” she muttered. “You have been hurting me since we wed. You held my hand so tight at the wedding that it hurt.”
“Because I was afraid,” he replied. “I thought I lost you forever, after hearing that you wedded Lancaster. I was afraid if I let go of your hand that you will disappear and it was all a dream. After learning the death of my father and my brother Edmund, I had many dreams of myself being with them, only to wake up alone.”
His hand slipped down to her breast.
“No,” Anne stopped him.
“Why? Was I too rough last night?” He teased.
“You were, and like I said you were no better than the wolf.”
“Are you saying that you don’t want me to bed you again, ever?” He asked. “It was you who said that we need to beget an heir so that George’s son wouldn’t inherit our lands.”
“George doesn’t have a son yet.”
“But maybe soon.”
Yes, Anne remembered. Isabel is with child.
“Give me some time,” Anne said. “I will let you bed me again, but not until you give me one hundred kisses.”
“One hundred?” He questioned. “Just a hundred?”
Before Anne could say anything, he leaned down and captured her lips. As he deepened the kiss, he undressed himself. He broke the kiss to removed his shirt.
“One hundred kisses?” he whispered as he kissed her ear. “You will get them all right now.”
He covered her face with kisses before he moved down to her neck and her collarbone. Quietly, she counted the kisses.
He lifted up her hips and took off her gown and shift. Anne moaned when he kissed her in between the thighs. She giggled when he kissed her feet. He turned her over to kiss her on the back.
“How did my father die?” Anne asked.
“That is not for you to know,” he replied. “But he did die as a brave soldier.”
He stopped the kisses and began to stroke her body.
“He is also like a father to me,” he continued. “He taught me well.” His hand went down to her lower back. After a brief silence, he asked, “How many kisses have I gave you?”
“I lost count,” Anne replied honestly. “But what you gave me is enough.”
“Regardless,” he said. “I am your husband and I have every right to bed you. But I do consider if you are willing, because I love you.”
“You love me?”
“I do, and always have.”
Anne rolled onto her back to face him. “Why do you have to be on the top?”
“You can too, if you want to.”
“Are you coming to my bedchamber tonight?” She asked. “Or you want me to come to yours?”
“You know the protocols.”
The night came.
In her shift, Anne rested in bed. Usually, she would’ve been asleep by now. However, she stayed up as if she were waiting for someone.
Finally, she heard the door open and footsteps approaching her bed. Hearing him undressing, Anne buried her face in the pillows. She could feel him climbing onto the bed and pulling her up garment.
“No,” she sat up, expressing some nervousness.
“What is it?”
“Can I...can I be on top this time?”
Without a word or hesitation, Richard adjusted their positions, having her sitting on his crotch. It started slow, but then she began to pick up the pace. He held her body as she rode him, until he rose and tugged her shift over her head. Anne played with his hair when he suckled her breast, much gentler than he did the last time. He kissed her on the lips before he pulled her down, holding her against him, touching skin to skin. She could feel the coolness from his ring as he caressed her back.
She could still feel his ring rubbing against her skin when she rested in his arms after lovemaking.
“Are you going to be on the road again?”
“Yes, in a few days,” he replied.
"Richard, about my mother-”
“Ned has yet pardoned her, but he will.”
Anne closed her eyes. She was falling asleep in the arms of a husband and a lover.
A lover...unbeknownst to herself, it was a role that she never saw in Edward of Lancaster.
"Richard?" Anne opened the door to his study, where he was reading a letter. "You have been here forever, and I haven't seen you all day." She went to him and he pulled her close. "What is it?" She asked, noticing that he looked solemn.
"Rob Percy lost his wife," he told her. "Nell died from childbed fever."
Anne remembered Nell. "Poor Nell," she said sympathetically. "And the child?"
"It was a girl and she didn't live long."
He held her close and Anne tried not to dwell on the thoughts of dying from childbirth. "Isabel wrote to me," she said, changing the subject. "She had a girl too. She named her Margaret."
"George had sent Isabel to visit you to tell you that she's expecting," Richard said. "And happy to hear that you are not. But with a daughter, he is not satisfied, not until he has a son. "
"That's what my lady mother would say," Anne told him. "Isabel is not writing to her because George won't have it. She wrote to me and but I stopped replying to her letters. Isabel is so happy to have a child again. She doesn't care if it's a girl. Her heart is full of love. Mother on the other hand makes everything like a duty. All she would do is to make Isabel feel like a failure."
"The Queen is with child again," Richard told her. "Ned feels very blessed, for they have lost their son George and daughter Mary."
"Children are so vulnerable," Anne remarked. "I pray that little Margaret will live to adulthood."
Sitting at her desk, Anne stared at the parchment. She debated on if she should tell her mother about Isabel, and about herself.
Isabel wrote to me and informed me that he confinement went well and she had a girl whom she named Margaret. I would've been at her side had George allowed it. I still remember the day we were on the ship on our way to France. Isabel went into labor and there was no midwife on the ship. Father searched everywhere for wine while you and I stayed at her side. The baby stuck and I had to pull the child out because only my hands were small enough. That boy didn't live, and it was a heavy blow to Isabel. In her letter she is full of happiness. Isabel is one of lucky ones. I just learned that Nell, wife to Rob Percy, had died from childbed fever. Alas, poor Nell. She too had a daughter who soon joined her in heaven.
It is a wife's duty to give her husband healthy children. I understand this well, since you have taught me that before I wedded Lancaster. My marriage with Richard is fine now. I know about his bastard children but I never asked about them, nor have I ever asked if he had been with other women. I began to see Richard as a man I adore and care for, and I don't know if my feelings towards the mother of his bastard children are feelings of envy and jealousy. When he is not here, I felt something is missing. He had told me of his feelings, that he loves me. I don't know if George ever told Isabel that, and Lancaster never told me that either.
Anne continued to write and mentioned various things, except for one.
As hard as she tried, she couldn't write it down on the parchment. After she finished the letter, she read it over and then threw it into the flames.
"Any news about my mother?" Anne asked Richard as he joined her in bed.
"Why are you so overdressed?" He questioned. "You know the rules well. When you are in bed with me, you have to be naked and wet."
"Should I make it my motto?" Anne joked.
"Such words coming out of the mouth of my duchess," Richard said, pulling up her nightgown and stroked her folds.
"Richard," Anne said, trying to continue on the original subject. But soon, she was consumed by the pleasure from his skillful hands. Breathing heavily, she tried to hold back her moans when he unlaced her nightgown and kissed her in the neck. "There is something I need to tell you," she managed to say in between her breaths.
"What is it?" He asked, nuzzling her breasts.
After a moment, Anne said, "I need my lady mother."
Richard raised his head from her chest. "You need her? Why is that?"
"What do you mean why? She is my mother," Anne replied. "She is in a sanctuary miles away."
"You don't need her," Richard said. "You are the lady of the castle and you are doing fine. If you haven't forgotten, she left you behind during the war and sought sanctuary herself."
"And I forgave her," Anne said. "Please Richard, do this for me. Speak to the King-"
"It's not that simple," Richard explained. "George is involved. It's more complex than you think."
"Why does everything have to be like this?" Anne murmured. "The war is over. Isabel and I are married to you and George. Everything should be settled."
"It is not," Richard told her. "And it is not your concern."
Anne turned from him. "Sorry, I forgot. You are the Duke of Gloucester above everything else. Our marriage is about alliance, peace, and security."
"And love," Richard added. "You doubt it?"
Anne looked at him and replied, "No."
"Truly?" He raised an eyebrow. "Now, why are you asking about your mother? It has been three months since you asked me to secure her pardon. Is there something you are not telling me?" He asked while his hand rubbed her belly.
"I'm with child," Anne said. "I missed a course, and I consulted the physician and midwives. They confirmed my condition."
He placed a kiss on her forehead. "Your well-being is the most important to me. I noticed how you are different in the past two weeks and I suspected it. When I learned about Rob's loss, I can't stop thinking about you."
"Richard, I'm scared," Anne admitted. "I need my mother when my confinement has come."
"I will tell Ned about your condition," Richard said. "I will do all I can."
He held her close to him and placed his warm hand against her belly for rest of the night.
The child inside her belly wasn't just his heir; the child was his flesh and blood, and part of Anne.
Dear Lady Mother,
It has been a while since I wrote to you. I am writing to you to let you know that I am with child. Four months ago, I began to crave for apples and honey; although I have always loved them, I never had such a crave before. Then I realized that I missed a course so I consulted the midwives and the physician. They confirmed my condition. Though I know that Richard would be overjoyed with the news, it took me more than two weeks to tell him. Perhaps I was scared, but now I don't even understand what I was scared about. Richard showered me with all the attention, love, and care. Knowing about my craving, he had every servant in the castle working on the apples and honey. In his word, whenever I ask for it, it must be available instantly.
He has been by my side, watched as my belly grow. The babe in my belly is his heir. At night, he read to me, the stories of knights and dragons. I know he's also reading to the babe in my belly. He love and care he showed me are somethings that no one has ever showed me before. I am very happy, Lady Mother. I cannot wait for the day to hold the babe in my arms. I cannot wait for the day to see Richard's face when he sees the babe. I still have five more months to wait, and whatever I have to endure, it'd be worth it. Starting from the second month of my pregnancy, I have suffered bouts of sickness. Sometimes, it is so severe that I have to stay in bed for the whole day. Richard is very attentive. He sat by my bedside and held my hand. He promised me that he will do everything he can to secure your release. By then, everything will be alright. We will be happy in the North, though I know that things can never go back to it was before. I am eager for the day to reunite with you; me, Richard, and my babe.
The Countess' reply was quick, and it was exactly how Anne had anticipated.
It is great to hear that yo u are expecting. You are four months along and it is your duty to make sure that the babe in your belly is healthy. Eat well, sleep well, and don't think too much. The babe in your belly is your security as Richard's wife and duchess. He already has two bastards, don't forget. But don't let this fact intimidate you - the babe that you are carrying is his legitimate heir. I pray every day that this babe is a boy, though you and I know that it is God's will. Being the youngest son, Richard has waited for the day to have his a son of his own after watching his older siblings married and have sons. If your babe is a girl, he will be disappointed, but at least it will prove your fertility. When you have the babe, and if it is a girl, then tell him from word to word that you are still young and a brother will follow.
You shouldn't be smitten by his kind treatment towards you. He is only treating you thus because of the babe in your belly. If the babe dies in your womb or if the babe is a girl, then his treatment towards you will change instantly. Don't fool yourself, understand that you are a royal duchess doing your duty. In your earlier letters, you have described Richard as cold and unkind. When did his behavior change? I saw Richard and George grew up from boys to teens and I know their behaviors and attitudes like I know you and Isabel. Compared to George, Richard is even more unpredictable in his temperament and behavior. Don't fool yourself with his kindness; just focus on the babe in your belly. In case if you have forgotten, George's treatment towards Isabel certainly changed much after she lost their son on the ship to Burgundy.
Anne stopped reading the letter at this point. The Countess' words made her very uncomfortable and disheartened. She had accepted her new life and even loved it, but the Countess made her feel rather foolish for even think as thus. But of course, the Countess didn't know the incident where she was attacked by the wolves and saved by Richard.
Come think of it, it wasn't the only time Richard had saved her.
He did ask for her hand though he could have wedded someone else. As the King's favorite brother, there were many eligible ladies for him to wed in the court. But he chose her and had he not done that, where would she be right now?
"What's on your mind?" A pair of hand caressed her shoulders and he leaned down to kiss her. Anne was so concentrated with her thoughts that she didn't even hear him entering the chamber.
"Nothing," she replied.
Richard took her hand and walked her to the four poster bed. Anne stood before the bronze mirror as he undressed her. She was slightly nervous when he removed her shift. His hand went to her belly and stroked her small bump. "You want to sleep in your nightgown?"
Blushing, Anne nodded.
She raised her arms and allowed him to put it on her. He settled her in bed and adjusted her covers.
"How are you feeling today?" He asked, sitting next to her.
"Not much of sickness, but come think of it, I do want some apple cider."
Richard went to the door. Within seconds, he returned with a cup. Anne's eyes brightened. She drank and then suddenly choked and nearly spilled the cider onto the sheets.
"What is it?"
She took his hand and placed it against her belly.
Richard felt it too.
"Come on, my boy, give papa another kick," he whispered when the movement stopped.
When he called their baby my boy, a feeling of anxiety came to her. What if the baby in her belly is a girl? Richard seemed to be so sure that the child she's carrying is a boy.
"Richard," she began.
"I...I am very tired," she managed to say.
"He is exhausting you, isn't he?"
He kissed her on the forehead and asked, "Do you want me to stay with you tonight?"
When he wrapped his arm around her and placed his warm hand on her belly, Anne closed her eyes and tried not to think of the dawn. In her heart, she was scared that if anything happens to her baby, Richard would treat her in the icy manner again.
Dear Lady Mother,
I am about to begin my confinement. You are not by my side, neither is Isabel or Richard. Isabel conceived again, before I did. She should've had her baby now, but she didn't write to me. I don't know if she had a boy or a girl yet. I hope it's a boy; and that should make George satisfied. Richard has been called to the battlefield. Last month, he informed me that there is a rebellion, and told me nothing else. I sensed that there's more and he's keeping it from me. I dared not ask if the rebellion involves Lancastrian sympathizers. It was very hard to see him go, but we have no other choice. Richard cared so much for the baby in my belly. Before he left, he told me that I shall name the baby after he is born. The baby has been very restless in the past two days. I am sad that Richard won't be there for the birth, but I shall be strong. The midwives are experienced and we have two wet nurses to nourish the baby in case if I don't have enough milk. I pray that everything shall me fine; for me, for you, for my baby, for Isabel, and for Richard.
This was her first pregnancy, and she was alone.
Anne thought about Isabel, and it made her strong. Isabel, like her, had a baby a Warwick Castle without the Countess by her side. George should've been there, but he didn't care for Isabel as much as Richard cared for Anne. Resting in bed, Anne rubbed her belly, feeling her baby's kicking. Boy or girl, Richard would've been overjoyed when the baby is placed in his arms.
Thinking of Richard, Anne realized how much she missed him. It was odd that she had despised him when they reunited at Tewkesbury. She had spent many nights alone after they married until that night.
The night after she was attacked by a wolf.
Anne closed her eyes and reminisced that passionate night.
That night, after Richard rescued her from the wolf's attack, he confessed his true feelings for her. He also told her that he will be in the castle. Anne knew it was an opportunity to reconcile. After all, it would secure her position as Duchess of Gloucester. She grabbed her robe and went to Richard's chamber.
The door was unbolted.
She entered his chamber and found Richard already in bed.
Was he waiting for her?
Silently, she put out the candle lights and joined him. She climbed into the bed and lied down next to him. Pulling up the cover, Anne suddenly realized that she didn't know what to do. Her marriage with Lancaster was consummated - but only once, on their wedding night. From then on, she and Lancaster only shared a bed, sleeping side by side but without intercourse.
She panicked a little when Richard rose from bed. She watched as he relighted the candles. Soon the chamber was bright. Before her eyes, Richard removed his nightshirt. Anne could feel her face burn when she saw him bare. His body was fairly muscular after years of military training. His arm, chest, and torso also bore scars sustained from the battlefield. He rejoined her in bed and touched her lips with his.
The kiss became deep and hard. Anne could feel his hunger and desire. She gasped when he kissed her neck.
No, he wasn't kissing her.
She could feel his teeth.
Was he biting her?
His teeth sank into her flesh.
"Richard," she muttered.
He stopped and rubbed the bite mark he left on her neck while his other hand unlaced her nightgown.
"No," Anne protested but no avail. He stripped off her garment and pinned her arms over her head before she could cover herself. His hand went to her breast and massaged it. Anne gasped again when he pinched her hardened nipple before he placed it in between his lips. Anne bent her back and tried to suppress her moans as he sucked her breast. Waves of pleasure, something she never experienced, came to her. The harder she tried to suppress her moan, the harder he sucked. Finally, she let out a cry and struggle her arms free.
"Richard," she tried to push him away.
He released her breast, only to lavish the same attention to her other one. Anne rubbed his shoulders, hoping that he would be gentler this time. Her touch seemed to sooth him, though. He moved down to her stomach and Anne tensed when she felt his teeth again.
He was like the wolf, very much.
She held her breath to suppress her fear when pulled her legs apart.
No, not there.
She would've pulled away had Richard not held her thighs with his strong hands. To her surprise, what he did - it made her feel...different.
She moaned, but out of pleasure.
She could hear his breathing next to her ear as he climbed up to her and wrapped her legs around him. He thrust into her hard, but no all the way.
"You are tight," he said in between his breaths, opening her legs further and entered deeper.
Anne could feel his hand on hers. Her hand tightly held his as he moved. It didn't hurt, unlike when she was with Lancaster. But it does made her feel as if she were to explode. She cried out when he released. He rested his face against her shoulder and his skin was hot against hers.
So hot that Anne found it burning her.
But Richard didn't let her go.
He did pull out of her, but only adjusted their positions. He held her against him while caressing her body and pinching her here and there.
Finding her voice, Anne asked, "Can we have some wine?"
"Why?" Richard asked. "Are you too sober for this?"
He covered her face with kisses before he got out of the bed, but not before he gave her belly a pinch-
Anne woke up.
She felt a sharp pain in her belly.
And her bed was wet.
Quickly, she woke the lady who slept besides her.
It had begun. Her child - her and Richard's - was coming.
Dear Lady Mother,
With all joy in my heart, I am now a mother to a son.
The labor was hard and it lasted nearly a day. I was sleeping with another lady in my chamber during my confinement when I was awaken by a sharp pain. Everything was well arranged as midwives and other ladies rushed in as soon as they could. They know their duties - everyone of them. I was in bed, overwhelmed in pain and sweats. My rosary was pressed against my palm, but it seemed that nothing could relieve the pain. I recalled that dreadful night when Isabel had her boy on the ship. However, my situation was not as horrid as Isabel’s. Several times I thought my life is coming to an end, but God is merciful and my son arrived safely.
He was very quiet and the midwives thought he would not live. But he did cry. The cry was soft at first, and then it became stronger and stronger. With all the strengths I have left, I asked to hold the baby. The baby was placed in my arms and I counted his fingers and stroked his hair. Yes, he has dark hair, just like his father; and thus I named him Richard.
My Richard - your grandson - is healthy. We have two wet nurses and they took very good care of him. His cries always brought joy and relief. Before his birth, I was very nervous if he were to die in my womb or after birth. I was also worried if he were a girl. But Richard is a healthy boy and he is three weeks old now. I wrote to Richard to let him know that I am well and so is his son. I cannot wait for the moment when he returns home and takes our son into his arms. He will be proud.
I haven’t heard from Isabel nor have I wrote to her. She should’ve had her baby by now.
Anne finished writing and then went to the cradle. Gently, she placed a kiss on her baby’s forehead.
The birth was rigorous. The pain was unbearable. How she wished that her mother was by her side. But she did well and bore the pain. When the midwives announced that it's a boy, Anne couldn't believe what she heard until the baby was placed in her arms.
Unlike King Edward and George, Richard’s first legitimate child was a son as expected.
“If only your father can see you now,” she whispered. “Your father is a brave warrior, Richard. You will grow up just like him.”
The child moved a little. He opened his eyes; and like Richard, he also had dark eyes.
Anne played with his tiny hands and then counted his toes. Ten, perfect.
The child made a giggle sound before he started wailing. Anne summoned the wet nurses. Although she liked to nurse the baby herself, she was being told that it is against the protocol. The Countess also mentioned this many times in her letters. Your are a royal duchess, she wrote. You must act like one.
Patiently, Anne watched and waited as the baby is nursed. Finally, the baby was placed back in her arms. After they were left alone, Anne said to her son, “You are named after your father, but also after your two grandfathers. You are home in the North. Soon, your father will come home. He will hold you like I am now. He is not here, but he does love you. When you are big enough, he will teach you sword fighting and archery, just like my father taught him.”
She placed another kiss on his cheek before she placed him back in the cradle. She stayed and watched until the baby slept.
She prayed for her child and for Richard.
“Richard,” she said softly. “Come home.”
A letter arrived.
After opening it, Anne was disappointed to find it not from Richard; nor was it from her mother. It was from Cecily, Duchess of York; her mother-in-law.
My dear Anne,
I am relieved to hear that you safely delivered your child. You are very fortunate to have a son as your first born. Richard has been informed and he is more than pleased. He will return home to the North as soon as the rebels are defeated. I promise you that he will return to you and your son safe and sound. Meanwhile, take good care of your son and most important of all, yourself. Babies are vulnerable, always. If God were cruel to take this precious little one away, then hopefully a brother will follow.
Stay in the North. Do not leave Middleham Castle under any circumstance. Wait until Richard comes to you.
Anne noticed the underlined words: do not leave Middleham Castle under any circumstance.
She folded the letter and went to the nursery. Rocking the cradle, she couldn't help but wondering what is going on in London. But at very least, she knew Richard is safe.
"Your papa is coming home, soon I hope," she said to her infant son. "And I shall stay here with you. Nothing can make me happier, my Richard."
She retired to bed and drifted asleep.
Anne watched as her small son slept in the cradle and gave him a gentle kiss. She was very grateful for his existence, since it had given her something to fulfill and another person to love. Unlike her mother, Bella, and Richard, the little boy stayed close to her in the castle. Anne had see him being fed and bathed; he had also giggled and cried in her arms. His dark hair and dark eyes reminded Anne of Richard.
It was odd how she felt empty and lonely without Richard by her side.
They had been married for almost two years, and he had been on the road from time to time. It was not until after they reconciled and consummated their relationship did Anne realized that his absence bothered her.
It won't be long, she told herself. Richard would be home soon.
She had wrote to him several times, but received no reply from him. She reread the letter from Duchess Cecily, her mother-in-law. Richard certainly knew he has a legitimate son now, but why didn't he write her back? Did something happen to him? He was away to crush a rebellion, no doubt, and he could be wounded. But Duchess Cecily's letter didn't mention anything about Richard being hurt. Or did she?
I promise you that he will return to you and your son safe and sound.
That was what Duchess Cecily wrote.
Now Anne was worrying.
What was happening?
It would be heartbreaking if her son wouldn't see Richard before his first birthday.
Or if at all.
Shaking the sad thoughts away, Anne tried to think positively.
She adjusted her son's blanket and stepped out of the nursery.
She didn't go back to her bedchamber. Instead, she went to Richard's.
How she missed him.
She could feel his presence here, but alas, where is he? In the battlefield on a horse? Or resting in a tent?
The four poster bed was empty. It had stayed empty since he bedded her.
The door suddenly opened.
Anne turned, and to her pleasant surprise, it was Richard.
"Richard!" She ran to him and kissed him hungrily.
He kissed her back, and Anne could feel his longing for her too.
Breaking the kiss to breathe, Anne rested her forehead against his face. "Oh Richard, I'm so happy to see you. I missed you, and I have so many things to tell you."
He didn't say anything, only leaned down to kiss her again and unlaced her dress.
"No," Anne tried to stop him. Her body had changed after giving birth to their son. She didn't want to him to see the hideous stretch marks on her belly.
But he was insistent. He pulled her dress off her shoulder and was going to remove her shift had she not stopped him.
The two began to struggle with each other. Richard was stronger, but Anne was quicker. Within minutes, they were rolling on the bed. He tried to strip her shift off but she would stop him seconds before he could succeed. She kicked him with her bare feet; and her arms proved to be strong as well. But in the end, Richard succeeded. He stripped the partially torn garment off her body and held it for a second like a trophy. Then he threw it aside and rolled on top of her.
He held her arms down as he entered her, hard.
Anne cried out as he moved inside her. It was cry of lust, need, and love.
His thrust became faster and Anne could feel her entire body shaking until they reached climax. Only then he released his grip on her wrists. With her hands freed, Anne stroked his body. She traced the curves of his back and then his arms. There were scars, but only the old ones.
"It's in the heart," he whispered against her neck.
She continued to caress his body until he calmed a little.
"Richard," she said his name gently as she rolled on top of him. "I'm here. Let me heal it."
She kissed his palm before she moved down to kiss his chest. Her hands interlaced with his as she sat on his crotches. She rode him slowly at first, while their hands held on to each other tighter than ever.
"Where have you been?" She asked, lying next to him.
"You think I don't want to be back in the North with you?"
"I wrote to you, but you never write back?"
He raised an eyebrow and then noticed the stretch marks on her belly.
"You're beautiful, Anne," he muttered, tracing the marks. "And thank you, for giving me a healthy son."
"I named him Richard, after you and your father," Anne said.
"Are you nursing him?" He asked, playing with her nipple.
"No," she replied, blushing. "My mother is against it. I am a royal duchess, and we have wet nurses."
"But is that what you want?"
"No," she answered honestly. "I do want to be his mother in every way I can."
"Then you should've followed your heart," he said, drawing circles on her breasts. "It would've made him stronger."
"I really wished that you were here when he was born," Anne said slowly.
"I do too," he said. "But you must know Anne, that I need you as much as you need me. Right now, I need you more than ever. There is a wound in my heart, love. It's tearing wider by days."
"Why? What's happening?"
"He wants you back."
"But I will not give you up, ever. You are mine, Anne. Always."
The cries woke her up.
Anne found herself back in her son's nursery.
No, Richard hadn't returned. It was all a dream.
A sealed letter was presented to her.
Opening it, Anne found it written by the Queen, Elizabeth Woodville.
To Lady Anne Neville, Duchess of Gloucester,
Richard the Duke of Gloucester is in need of you. Come to London as soon as you can.
With the letter from the Queen, Anne knew that she had to go since it was now a royal command. She hadn't forgotten the letter from her mother-in-law, Duchess Cecily, who told her not to leave the North under any circumstance. She stood there, not sure on what to do. She was eager to see Richard after months of separation, but she was also unwilling to leave her small son behind.
"My lady, Sir Thomas Stanley."
Anne looked up and saw a well-dressed gentleman came before her. She recognized him since she saw him at her wedding. He was married to Lady Margaret Beaufort, who was a loyal Lancastrian.
"Sir Thomas Stanley," Anne greeted him.
"My lady," he bowed deeply. "I have come to take you to London under the royal command of his Grace the King. His Grace the Duke of Gloucester is not well and is in need of you. I will offer you my protection on your way to London, my lady."
"He is not well?" Anne asked. "Is he ill? Or wounded?"
"I haven't seen him, but His Grace the King had told me that the Duke is not well."
"My son is very small," Anne said slowly, not trusting him. "Please ask the King to give me a few weeks-"
"My lady, His Grace insists," Sir Stanley said gently with defiance. "The Duke of Gloucester himself was sent to away Burgundy as a child by his mother Duchess Cecily for his sake of safety."
Now Anne knew that she will not like him. She looked at him coldly.
"My lady," Sir Stanley changed his tone. "Please, come to London. I sympathize your condition, as does His Grace the King. His Grace was in exile when Prince Edward was born in the Westminster Abbey. He knows how hard it is. But he also bore great love for his brother, the Duke of Gloucester. Your son will be safe and sound here, if there is anything needed, His Grace will see to that. Your son is also His Grace's nephew, and I don't believe that His Grace would be this cruel to call his mother away without legitimate reason."
Anne paused for a moment and said slowly, "Let me go change my clothing and pack-"
"There is no need of that," Sir Stanley said. "Everything has be taken care of for you, my lady."
"Then let me say goodbye to my son."
Sir Thomas Stanley was true to his words. Everything was provided for her on her way to London, but all Anne could think of was her small son whom she left behind. She had kissed him many times and left her rosary with him.
As hard as it was, Anne realized that it would be something she had to do in the future. She was a royal lady after all.
She thought about Richard. Why didn't he write to her?
What is happening?
She did miss him, and wanted to see him.
She wondered if he wanted to see her as much too, given that he had not write to her.
The trip was too long and too short.
She was disappointed that Richard had not come to receive her in the court yard. But when she raised her head, she did see a candle lightened by a window. Was it Richard? With her heart pounding, she went inside the castle.
She pulled down her hood as she saw him. The door was closed behind them and Richard went to bolt it. He said nothing to her, but he opened his arms after he bolted the door.
"Richard!" Anne sprang to him and kissed him feverishly. She stroked him cheek and hair. "Are you okay? They told me that you are not well."
"No, I am not," he said with his lips quivering. He held her tightly against his body as if he were to lose her.
"Richard, what is it?"
"No, don't say anything," he said against her hair as he released her cloak and tried to unlace her dress. Without much patience, he pulled out his dagger and cut her lace apart. She unbuttoned his doublet and tugged his shirt over his head as he stripped her down to her waist. He kissed her on the lips and caressed her breast. Anne closed her eyes as he nuzzled her neck and licked her nipple.
"You're mine, Anne," he said in between his breath with dominance.
He laid her onto the ground against her cloak and thrust into her. Anne curved her body against his and cried out when he released. He rolled off her body before Anne pulled him into a kiss.
"I miss you," Anne said gently. "It has been so long."
"I know," he replied. He pulled her garments down further and saw the stretch marks on her belly. He kissed her breasts and then her stretchmarks. "How is our son?"
"He's well," Anne said. "Hard to leave him behind. I wish I can bring him to see you. He has your hair and your eyes."
"You named him Richard?"
"Yes, after his father."
Richard was silent after that; his face was almost ashen too.
"Richard, tell me, what is it?" Anne asked, sitting up. "You are not hurt, are you? And are you not ill?"
He stood and went to the window. Then he spoke, words came out of him painfully, "He wants you back."
Anne almost thought she didn't hear him correctly. "Lancaster?"
"There had been a rebellion, Anne," Richard told her slowly. "Their leader was hiding underground, but had been found and locked in the Tower. He calls himself Edward of Westminster."
That got to Anne. Edward of Westminster, her first husband.
She stood, wrapping herself in her cloak, and went to him. "Richard this is nonsense. Whoever he is, he must be an impostor. You told me that he is dead, from the war. You told me in your very own words that you buried him-"
"I...I don't know, I can barely recall what happened," he said painfully. "Do you know what happened when we defeated Lancaster?"
Anne could said yes because she was there in the battlefield with Margaret of Anjou. But she shook her head to let him speak.
"After I saw my father's head on the spike, I swore on vengeance," Richard said. "And my chance finally arrived when I was in the battlefield with Ned. But the bloodshed, I thought I've seen it all. After the battle, I could barely see or hear anything. Dead body everywhere. The smell of death..."
He was shaking.
Anne went to him. "Richard, don't. It was war and you did what you have to do."
"I don't even know when Lancaster was killed," he said. "Ned had me seeing to his burial. But I barely recall anything. What if it is Lancaster in the Tower?"
"Richard, listen to me," Anne comforted him. "When I was with Margaret of Anjou at the nunnery, she told me word to word that she knows her son has been defeated. I haven't forgot how shaken she was. She was speaking as a mother. She knows that he son has lost and every mother knows-"
"Margaret of Anjou has recognized him as her son," Richard told her. "The rebel leader. Ned took him before Margaret of Anjou once he was captured. She called out her son's name upon seeing him."
Now Anne was shaken.
"Ned called you to London to see if you recognize him as well," Richard said achingly. "I had my mother write to you to stay in the North."
"Then who's buried in his tomb then?" Anne asked.
Neither said a word. They remained where they were until sunrise.
Like a statue, Anne stood as the ladies dressed her. She was in a green gown and it was very similar to the one she wore in France. Her feelings were complex and her minds were full of thoughts. Although she told Richard that she is sure that Lancaster was no longer alive, she was just as paranoid as he. For a moment, she condemned herself for thinking her first husband as "Lancaster", not as "Edward". After all, she did marry him and they did have a happy marriage though a very short one.
What if the man she were to meet is indeed Edward?
What would become of her, her mother, Richard, and her infant son?
Escorted by the ladies, she was taken to the Great Hall. There she stood not too far from the King and Queen; and Richard was not there.
She heard foot steps. Slowly, a figure appeared in the Great Hall.
He was slender, dressed very simply.
Anne saw that he has blond hair, like Edward.
He approached closer to the thrones and was forced to kneel. On his knees, he looked around. Suddenly, his eyes became still upon seeing Anne.
Those blue eyes...
Anne nearly gasped.
"Anne," he said her name, smiling like a boy.
Anne only sat and nothing could come out of her mouth. It had been nearly a year since she last saw Edward. This man kneeing before her - his slenderness, his blond hair, and his blue eyes - resembled Edward's. Anne tried to look away, and realized that the ladies sat near her were wearing green too. Nothing made her stand out among the ladies around her. Yet, he recognized her.
Anne blinked and tried to use her best judgment.
Is he really Edward?
Or is he only a man resembling him?
Or does her heart no wanting to recognize him because of Richard and her son?
"Do you still have the dagger?" He asked.
"What dagger?" Anne asked back, trying to look calm.
"The dagger I gave you for protection," he said. "I couldn't be there to protect you from the Yorks, so I left you a dagger."
And that was what happened before Edward left for the battlefield. He gave Anne a dagger to fend herself.
Who else could've known this other than Edward, Margaret of Anjou, and Anne herself?
"Edouard?" She muttered the name.
"Yes, it is I."
Alone in his chamber, Richard drank one goblet of wine after another. His heart was heavy and his face was dark.
The door opened, and a tall man walked in.
"Dickon," he approached Richard and patted him on the shoulder.
After him, servants brought meat and more wines. A woman with red hair walked in too.
"Jane, come join us," the King laughed. "Dickon, let's eat, as brothers."
The King ate heartily with Jane by his side. Richard barely ate at all.
"The impostor is with Anne, under watch," the King told Richard. "Sooner or later, he will be revealed as a fake."
"If you know this, then why are you summoning Anne here?" Richard showed anger and annoyance, but obviously his paranoia disappeared.
"Because I want to help you," the King said.
"Help me?" Richard was astounded. "What are you saying, Ned?"
Chuckling, the King dismissed Jane and said, "What do you think of Jane? Is she attractive?"
Richard looked away.
Burst out laughing, the King said, "Dickon, you can't put your heart and soul on Anne. She will be the death of you."
"I know Warwick intended to wed you and Anne since you started your training at Middleham," the King continued. "I thought you knew better. Marriage...it's for the sake of our house, the House of York, and wealth. But after seeing your reaction upon hearing that Anne has wedded Lancaster, I have to say I was rather disappointed. Instead of becoming angry of Anne marrying Lancaster, you should've moved on and consider your next potential bride."
"Mary of Burgundy, for instance."
"You may say that Ned, but you married for love too."
"Is that what you think?" Ned took another goblet of wine. "Dickon, who is the King of England? Me or Warwick? The man calling himself Kingmaker and thought he can dethrone me easily. If it weren't for Bess, I wouldn't be able to defeat the last Lancastrian force. You think I'm favoring the Woodvilles? I'm only building my own force and power...the power of my own!"
"You need Bess and you are shaming her?" Richard questioned, referring to Jane.
"I'm merely showing Bess that I'm not her husband at her feet," Ned said as-matter-of-factly. "Several times, she believed that she have the control over me. She did give me a son and her brother Anthony has been loyal. But I am the King and if I choose to, I can divorce her and replace her with another. She has to see that." Studying Richard's face, he asked, "When is last time you saw Katherine?"
He was referring to Katherine Haute, mother to Richard's bastard children.
"I stopped seeing her after married Anne."
"Dickon, you cannot put all your heart on Anne," Ned said. "What if she is ill? When she married Lancaster, I could help you get her back by defeating the Lancastrian forces and permit you to marry her. But there are certain things that no one can change. What if she fell ill? If you were to lose her from illness, I cannot imagine how you will act. You may love Anne, but take my advice: she is your wife and your marriage is a good one; but she is not your life, just like Lancaster wasn't hers."
Before Richard could say anything, there was a knock on the door.
Alone, Anne stood before the King and Queen. This time, Richard was there too.
"What do you think?" The King asked her. "Do you recognize him as Lancaster?"
"Your Grace, before giving you an answer, there is something I must do."
"What is it?"
"I like to speak with Margaret of Anjou," Anne replied.
Richard objected; but before he could speak, the King nodded and said, "If this is what you need to do."
At the end of his words, two guards came to Anne.
She was going to Tower of London to her former mother-in-law.
Anne was in awe of Margaret of Anjou when she first met her in France. Even now, she still remembered her fondly though she would never revel it to Richard, who hated the French-born Lancastrian Queen with his heart and soul. In his eyes, she was a she-wolf who killed his father, Richard Duke of York. After spending a day with this man who call himself Edward of Lancaster, Anne decided that she must speak to her former mother-in-law.
As one mother to another.
Margaret of Anjou already recognized the man as his son, Richard had said.
Silently, Anne went to the Tower of London to see Margaret. In the chamber cell, she saw a small figure in a corner. It was heartbreaking to see the former militant queen reduced to such a condition. As the door closed behind her, Anne called out to her.
"Margaret," she went closer to her.
It took a moment for Margaret to raise her head and look back at her. She rose and went to Anne, smiling slowly, "Anne, I thought I never see you again." She took Anne's hands and said, "Are you well? Have the Yorks been merciful to you?"
"I am well," Anne replied, not daring to mention that she had married Richard and had a son - which was what Margaret of Anjou had wanted for her and Edward of Lancaster.
"And your mother?"
"She is still in the sanctuary."
Shaking her head, Margaret touched her face. "You don't have to worry for her anymore, Anne. Your mother is going to be fine. Have you heard? Our Edouard didn't die. He survived. The York King showed his mercy. He will release us to France. You, me, Edouard, and your mother."
Anne was in disbelief. How could the once formidable militant queen say anything as such? She recalled how she led an army to fight the York forces. Margaret of Anjou would never accept a life in exile for the sake of peace. Perhaps the imprisonment and death of her husband and son broke her.
"Margaret, no," Anne said. She thought she should tell Margaret the truth, but it was harder that she thought. "He's not Edouard."
"Yes, he is!" Margaret insisted. "I met with him, and I saw him. He is my boy."
"No, Margaret," Anne said. "I met him too. He looks like Edouard and acts like Edouard. But it is not him."
"He is my son and I know it," Margaret said, her lips shivering. "All mothers know their sons."
"I know Edouard too," Anne said. "You cannot lie to yourself. Edouard fought bravely in the battlefield, and he died a soldier's death. You should be proud of him. He's in Heaven now-"
'How dare you!" Margaret of Anjou showed her anger. "You deny your own husband?"
"No, I am not!" Anne defended herself. "That man is an impostor."
"Why must you take away my hope?" Margaret broke down. "For a moment, I believed that Edouard is alive again. Until you came, I thought I can be reunited with my son again. Do you know what it is like to lose a child? Edouard is my only child!"
Anne didn't say anything.
"You are well off now," Margaret continued. "You are married. I heard that you have a son too? You have forgotten my Edouard, haven't you? You are a York again, married to Gloucester. "
"Yes, I have," Anne said. "But I haven't forgotten Edouard. He had been kind to me, but I cannot lie to myself. Edouard is gone, Margaret."
The two women remained as they were. Hours went by and neither said a word.
Finally, Margaret broke the silence.
"You should go, Anne," she said in French. "I don't want to see you again. You are now Duchess of Gloucester, and you have nothing to do with me now. Go, go on! I don't want to hear from you anymore. Go!"
Once again, she was that formidable Lancastrian Queen.
The meeting with Margaret of Anjou wasn't pleasant, but it wasn't unsatisfactory. It'd more painful for a mother to fool herself with an impostor as her own son than accepting that fact that her son is dead.
"That man is not Edouard of Lancaster," Anne calmly told the King after returning from Tower of London. "Margaret of Anjou knows."
King Edward nodded and Richard was relieved.
"Your Grace, I like to return to Middleham," Anne requested.
"And you shall, with Dickon," King Edward approved.
Richard took Anne's hand; their fingers interlaced and rings touched.
Together, hand in hand, they left the castle.
In the litter with Richard, Anne only thought of her child.
"After you left," Anne began, resting against Richard. "He became restless in my belly, our son. He wouldn't let me rest. He kicked me every hour. I think he was protesting. He wanted you to stay for his birth. It nearly took me a day, but he arrived safely. Dark hair and dark eyes, he is your son. He was so quiet, and it worried the midwives. But then he started crying, probably because he saw that you were not there. His cries became louder and louder."
"I never stop thinking of him," Richard said, stroking her hair. "My lady mother informed me that you named him Richard."
"I did, he resembled so much of his father."
"I was worried for you," he said. "I was overjoyed when I hear the news, but more that I didn't lose you."
"I told him about you every night before he sleeps," Anne went on. "I told him that you are a brave soldier and you love him very much."
"And I do," he said. "From the moment he came to us. He is part of you and me."
"I want to stay in the North. You, me, and our son."
"North is home to me too, because it's home to you."
"What about my mother?"
"Ned has pardoned her," Richard assured her. "She will be released. She can stay with us."
He wrapped his arms around her and Anne kissed his hand.
The night fell and the litter stopped.
"No, we can't," Anne said, sounding agitated.
"What is it?"
"Richard, we have to return to Middleham as soon as we can," Anne said. "We cannot stop."
"Why? What is the matter?"
"Our son," Anne said, pressing her hand against her heart. A mother always knows.
On her insistence, Richard ordered that their travel to continue. He sliced an apple for her, but she ate very little. She didn't sleep much either, and held his hand tightly. Richard felt something hard under her cloak. By its shape, he knew it was the dagger he gave her in the sanctuary after defeating the Lancastrian forces.
"Our Richard is a good boy," he comforted her. "He will be fine. Richard yet liveth." He was referring to how he was a small child who survived many illness.
Finally, they returned to Middleham.
It was solemn.
Richard got out of the litter, but Anne didn't. She stayed in the litter until Richard lifted her out. He didn't say anything, but Anne could feel her hair wet.
It wasn't raining.
It was his tears.
Dear Lady Mother,
With an heavy heart, I must inform you that Anne and I have lost our son, Richard, who
is was named in the honor of father. In her letters, Anne had told me that he was healthy with dark eyes and dark hair - just like myself and father. When Anne was called to London by Ned, he was well; Anne had even left him her rosary. While in London, I was eager to return to the North every hour, just to hold him in my arms. Richard was not my firstborn son, for Kate had given me Johnny. But, he was part of myself and Anne and my very first legitimate child. I did not have the fortune to be at North for his birth nor even the fortune to see him. On our way back to Middleham, Anne suddenly became anxious. She insisted that we return to North without stopping. When we arrived, Anne couldn't move. It was as if she knew something grave has happened. I climbed out of the litter and saw everyone in mourning. Francis broke the news that our son Richard had died from sudden fever. When Anne received the news, she was calm and even told me that all babies are vulnerable. However, it was when we saw the tiny coffin of our Richard that Anne collapsed. Her hands held tightly to the rosary - the same one she left with our son - and were shaking uncontrollably. My hands went to hers and found them cold. She is ill in bed, though I am grateful that the physicians confirmed that she will recover. Grief is her illness for Richard was her first child though I am confident that we will have more children. Pray for her Lady Mother, and I have prayed everyday for her recovery. I cannot bear to lose Anne, for she is my heart and soul.
After he finished the letter, Richard left his study and went to Anne's bedchamber. He had to be careful with his words; the expectation of his marriage to Anne from Duchess Cecily could be very similar to King Edward's. In the eyes of King Edward at least, the marriage was about alliance and wealth. But Richard never saw it as thus; at least not with Anne. Certain words are better off kept to himself.
King Edward wrote to him too; told him that the impostor has been executed. He was actually a Frenchman named Henri; he bore a resemblance to Lancaster and had learned much about the real Edward of Lancaster from Margaret of Anjou. Soon after his capture, he was brought before Margaret. Seeing a young man who resembled her son, Margaret was emotionally shaken and reminisced about the times she spent with her son back in France. It was in that conversation she mentioned the time when Lancaster gave Anne a dagger for her protection - and that was how the impostor knew about the events that only known to Margaret, Lancaster, and Anne.
Lancaster is dead, King Edward assured him. Margaret of Anjou would soon return to France after the French King pays her ransom. As for Anne's mother, the Countess of Warwick, she was pardoned but the Parliament passed an act that declared her dead as agreed between Richard and George. All Beauchamp fortune and lands would be divided between George and Richard.
Carefully, Richard placed the letter in the coffer. He would eventually tell Anne, but not now.
Anne was very pale and her eyes swollen. The physician then said something softly to Richard. He nodded, and asked, "Will she recover soon?"
"She will," the physician answered.
No, Anne wasn't seriously ill; but she was in grief and heartbroken. Her eyes were closed because she was afraid to open them. Once her eyes opened, she would see the sympathies from her servants and the pain in Richard's face. She didn't eat or drink, because her son couldn't.
After night fell, Richard removed his clothing and joined her in bed. He held Anne against him and his hand went to her belly. He whispered a prayer. Feeling her body tensed, he knew that she heard him. He held her until sunrise.
The next morning, Anne opened her eyes. She sat up with Richard's assistance. Food was brought to her and she began to eat. Richard ate with her and made sure she finish her meal.
"Why did we lose our Richard?" Anne asked, rubbing her belly. She was with child again, but no child could replace her first one. "Was I wrong? I haven't seen him for a long time," she said with guilt.
"What are you saying?"
"Edouard," Anne said, disregarding Richard's reaction. "I only married him for six months, or was it five? Then we were separated and never saw each other again. It has been over a year and I can barely remember what he looked like. When I saw that man in London, I don't know what I was saying. Could I be wrong? Could he be the real Edouard but I said he isn't because I-"
"Anne, stop!" Richard grabbed her shoulders The thought of Lancaster filled his heart with anger. He had despised Lancaster for marrying Anne; now it seemed that Lancaster was causing disturbance from the grave. "That man was only an impostor. Ned told me; he is a Frenchman named Henri. Lancaster died in battle."
"Then why did we lose our Richard? Why are we being punished?"
"He was a small child," Richard said. "Children are vulnerable."
He held her close and finally, Anne wept and cried her heart out.
"Our child, our son," she cried. "I wasn't even there when he was sick."
Richard held her and stroked her hair.
"He is in Heaven now," Richard said. After she stopped crying, he said, "Your mother is released. We will take her in, and she will find a home here."
"She always had a home here," Anne murmured, burying her face into the pillows. "She used to be the lady of this castle. She took care of you, George, me, and Isabel. Father was there too. He told me the story of how your mother met your father. They were like us, met as children."
"Which one of the boys would you like to be your knight to protect you from the dragon?" Warwick asked her. "How about Dickon?"
"But then, there was war. Isabel married George, and she barely smiled after the wedding. I can never forget that night when she went into labor on the ship. We don't have any wine and there wasn't any physician nor midwife. The baby stuck and only my hands are small. I pulled the baby out and my hands were stained with blood. It was a boy, but he was dead. Isabel was very broken. We landed in France and I was brought to Margaret of Anjou and her son Edward of Lancaster. Mother had told me over and over again, to play my role for I will be Princess of Wales. I was only Princess of Wales for six months or five. Lancaster was defeated, and I saw you again. We wedded and came back here. When I had Richard, it was the moment I realized that I finally found happiness."
"And now? You are no longer happy?"
"Exhausted," she said. It was a genuine answer; her hand was in Richard's. "Very exhausted."
"Rest then, you need to be strong again, at least for our child."
"And for you," she said. "I do love your Richard, because I choose to."
He leaned down to kiss her on the forehead.
"I will stay at the North for your confinement," he said. "Your mother will be here too. We will have another son."
"What if it's a girl?"
Richard paused and said, "Then she will be strong and brave like her mother."
The Countess of Warwick had returned to the Middleham Castle. Anne did not went to receive her in the courtyard, for she was still too weak. She stayed in her four-poster bed under the advise of the physician and midwives. It was Katherine Neville, Earl of Warwick's illegitimate daughter, who received her and had her settled in. The Countess was informed the loss of her grandson, Richard of Middleham. She did not shed a single tear and merely told Katherine to leave her presence.
She did not visit her ailing daughter nor did she spoke to anyone in the castle. She just kept to herself until Richard had an audience with her.
They were alone and the conversation wasn't long. On the very next day, the Countess fell ill. Whatever Richard said to her, it did had an impact. She was well attended by the servants and the physician. It was such an interesting circumstance that the former lady of the castle was ill at one side of the castle and the current lady of the castle was too in ail health on the other side of the castle. Mother and daughter, both named Anne, were bedridden.
But the fortune was their side. Both of them recovered.
Anne did not leave her bed until the midwives confirmed that it's safe for her to do so. The first thing she did was to go see her mother. To her, they were beyond fortunate to be pardoned by King Edward and returned to Middleham.
The Countess was still in bed when Anne came to see her. She did not hug her daughter, only smiled weakly. After a long painful moment - perhaps searching for words - the Countess spoke. She asked after Isabel and took notice of Anne's belly.
"I hope the child you're carrying is a boy," the Countess said.
"Richard said that he doesn't mind," Anne said. "This is our child, mine and his."
"He has his way with words" the Countess warned. "I saw him here when he was only a boy. He never speaks much and when he speaks, he knows what to say and when to say it. A girl may be precious, but she can never replaced the boy you lost.
Anne did not like what her mother told her. Feeling anxious, she said, "Rest, mother." With a kiss, she left her mother's bedchamber.
The conversation was short, and it was obvious that neither was satisfied.
As her confinement approached, Anne prepared with the ladies and the midwives. The Countess was there but she only sat and watched.
"Have you drafted a will?" She suddenly asked.
"In case if you die from childbirth," the Countess reminded her. "Who will be the guardian of your child? What will happen to your fortune?"
"You must prepare a will before you began your confinement," the Countess said. "Like all ladies of your rank."
Not liking with her mother's tone, Anne dismissed other women. After they were alone, Anne said, "Mother, you don't like that I love and trust Richard, but he saved me. I had nothing before he-"
"You are Lady Anne Neville of Warwick," the Countess said. "This castle, the lands in the North, and all the fortune you have - are yours. Richard only has them under his name by marrying you. The men in the North are loyal to him because of their love of you. You are your father's daughter."
"I do know that, mother."
"Then act like you do," the Countess said. "Have you forgotten him?"
"Edouard," the Countess replied, not bothering to lower her voice.
"I haven't," Anne admitted, though she spoke very softly. "It was you who married me to him. It was you and father who made me the Lancastrian Princess."
"For the sake of Nevilles," the Countess showed no remorse. "You were very happy with Edouard."
"As I am now with Richard," Anne said genuinely. "After the war, he took me to the sanctuary. He married me and brought me back here. If it wasn't for him, I would've ended up in a nunnery, which is exactly what George wants. It wasn't easy at first, but I found love with him. He is a good husband to me."
"Draft your will," the Countess insisted. "It is the last chance for your voice to be heard, if anything shall happen to you."
Anne did draft her will; not because she was her mother's obedient daughter, but because she saw the need. In her will, she listed out her inventory and the names of the people who shall receive the items if she were to die. Her sister Isabel, her niece Margaret, her mother, her nanny, and other people who were in her life. She didn't realize how many people are so important to her until now.
She thought about Edouard of Lancaster and Margaret of Anjou too. She wished Margaret of Anjou be released the Tower of London soon. She doubted that her former mother-in-law could be happy again, but at least, she wouldn't live rest of her life as a prisoner. As for Edouard, she did love him and he had been good to her, but she would keep that to herself. She did not become Queen of England, however, she was content to be Duchess of Gloucester and wife to the Lord of the North. Edouard would've wanted her to be happy.
She looked up and saw Richard. She rose and went to him. He kissed her and rubbed her belly.
"Tomorrow," Anne said. "I'm drafting my will, in case if I-"
She couldn't say the word "die", seeing it as a bad omen.
"I know," he nodded.
"Richard, I do love you, and because I love you, I have to say this to you," Anne said. "If I die, take good care of our child and don't abandon my mother. Marry again."
He held her hand and kissed her on the forehead.
"If this is a girl, then you can name the child," he said, changing the subject. "And if this is a boy, I shall name him."
"Cecily," Anne said. "I would call her Cecily, after your mother."
After Anne's labor began, Richard went to the chapel and prayed. He prayed for the safety of his beloved wife Anne and their child. He also prayed for the souls of his father, Richard Duke of York; his brother Edmund, Earl of Rutland; Anne's father, Earl of Warwick who trained him; and his son whom he never met, Richard of Middleham.
Hours went by, and it was after the seventh hour that Francis came to find him.
He gave Richard a smile.
Richard rose from his knees and gave Francis a grin. Together the two left the chapel and went to Anne's quarters.
"A boy," the midwife presented him his small son in a tight bundle.
Richard cradled his son in his arms and kissed his little face. He sat on Anne's bed and muttered, "Edward."
He named their son after his brother King Edward.
"Edward," Anne nodded. "Our Ned."
He placed little Ned into Anne's arms. They looked at the baby adoringly while everyone quietly left the chamber to let them be alone.
Everyone, except for the Countess.
The baby opened his eyes. Unlike his brother Richard, he had blue eyes like his mother. He made a sound and then began to wail.
"Anne!" The Countess rebuked when she saw Anne nursed her baby. "It's against the protocol!"
"Lady Mother," Anne said softly but evenly, standing her ground. "You are disturbing my son."
Richard tried to held back his laugh but he looked away as his eyes met the Countess'. The Countess gave her a disapproving look before she too left the chamber.
After she finished nursing her baby, Richard gave her a kiss. "You need to rest."
Reluctantly, she allowed him to take Ned but stopped him before he could leave. "Wait, don't go. Stay."
Her eyelids were heavy and she gave into her exhaustion, but she would see them again after she wakes.