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In the Eye of the Beholder

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 He’d grown like a weed in his father’s house.  Frowned upon. Unattended.  Unloved.  That was his mother’s doing, for not only did she consider him a curse upon his noble line, and some sort of punishment upon her personally, she inculcated that attitude in most of the servants.  From the stables to the scullery, from the dining hall unto the highest parapet–even in the privacy of his cold, meager room–Richard knew that many of them made the warding gesture of forked fingers as he passed by.  As far back as he remembered, in fact, so that for much of his childhood, he thought it was the norm. In later years, he made it his habit to keep his eyes forward, his chin jutted out defiantly, prepared with an acid reply should anyone offer insult to him.  It was only the love and attention of his father (too often away as the years passed) and brothers, that kept the sadly misshapen youth from becoming a mere ghost wandering alone in the halls of the family manse.

His mother had put him to wet nurse within the hour of his birth; true, his delivery had been painful (hellish, to hear her tell it), but that could not explain in full her swift rejection of her third-born son both from her breast, and the close comfort of a cradle by her bed.  His deformity was an affront to Nature and to the womb that bore him—and there was no reasoning with her, once she cried out “I will not have this thing beside me, stealing my sleep and peace of mind!” And thus he was handed off, to a series of women who provided for his wee, growing body—but with none of the gentle care or sweet coddling that fairer babies receive from doting adults.

It was his father treasured him from the first, in despite of his ugly form, his colicky infancy, his slow development to crawl, stand, walk.  Richard Plantagenet, third Duke of York, had a brace of hardier sons, but in his eyes young Richard was their equal—and equally loved.  It pleased him that his dark haired child carried his name, for as the boy grew, he proved to be the cleverest of his sire’s children—so that the father sought the finest of tutors to feed the youngster’s mind, and did not stint in giving him the same education in the knightly arts that Edward and George received.  Following their father’s fine example, Richard’s older brothers accepted him generously, blind to his defects and taking pride in his accomplishments.

Even as weeds seek sunlight by which to grow, Richard flourished by the light his father shone upon him.  York was to him the sun, and he the satellite, content to remain always in his orbit. If he missed a mother’s softness, he spoke of it to no one…