The Peacemaking

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In the third book of this series, Andrew Grey travels to England with the body of his dead father. There he must work to please the English King and earn his father's title. His efforts take him to a bloody war in Burgundy, frustrating peace talks in Italy and a horrific siege in Rhodes.
First 10 Pages

Chapter One

Stanford Castle stood between Hereford and Worcester on the River Frome, north of the old De Lacy castle whose lands it had subsumed. In the fields, the villagers were harvesting the wheat when three weary travellers arrived at the castle late in August, 1478. Sheep with vacuous faces grazed in the meadows beyond.

Mona Betta was not with them. She had left them more than a week before to make her own way north to Scotland. But Caterina accompanied Andrea. So did his new secretary, an Englishman by the name of Giles whom he had picked up in the Burgundian town of Dole as he passed through, on the recommendation of friends at the university there.

After two months, between Florence and Herefordshire, a great deal had changed. There was Andrea’s name, for one thing. For the sake of the English, he had already begun to call himself Andrew. Then there was Caterina, who was remaining with him, rather than with Betta.

During their long journey across France, the time had come when Caterina had been unable to explain her illness in any way other than with the truth. So she had told them at last she was with child. And she had named the father.

Andrew had been stunned at first. Then he had realised it made perfect sense. He recalled clearly, Edward had been happy those last months.

They were in Paris at the time, paused for two days’ rest before continuing on to Calais. So Andrew had had some leisure to think about it. He had needed that. For weeks already, he had felt stunned, his nerves deadened, his faculties dulled. While his mother visited the cathedral and Caterina rested, he walked the streets, endeavouring to decide on what he knew he must do.

That evening, without consulting his mother, he went to Caterina’s room to explain his true relationship to Edward. Then he asked her to marry him.

Why was that right? Because the man she should have married had died on a Tuscan hillside, protecting Andrew, his son. Because Edward, Andrew thought, would not have forgiven him had he left her alone and uncared for.

But he made it clear to Caterina, it would be a marriage on paper only, with no strings attached for either of them. He had no mind to give up his freedom of action; nor did he expect it of her.

The plan floored her, he could see.

She took a long night and day to think about it. Then she came to him and asked what he really wanted.

Andrew shrugged. “You will say I’m crazy. People do. But I do want this.”

“Why?” she asked.

That seemed too difficult to explain. And too intimate. “Can’t you just believe I do?”

She was quiet for a little, studying him. Then she said, “You realize I could have avoided this child had I wished to?”

“I did think so, given your knowledge.” Gazing back at her, he added, “I’m glad you didn’t.”

Tears came to her eyes then, and she turned and walked briskly away.

But an hour later, she had returned and accepted him. They had married four days later, quietly, in Amiens.

So now he was Master Andrew Grey. And she was Caterina Cambini Grey. He had a French-trained English secretary named Giles. And they were arriving at a new home, in a new country they had never before seen.

Their escort was professional, highly armed, and of a quality and discipline that had made even knights in the towns they passed through sit up and take notice.

Arriving at Stanford, they found the castle was less a castle than a heavily fortified manor house—built for comfort rather than serious defence. At the inner edge of the moat, the high stone outer walls were windowless and battlemented, and guarded by eight tall towers and a gatehouse. But there was no drawbridge over the moat, merely a fixed bridge of pretty stone arches; and the walls facing the courtyard at the castle’s heart were only two stories high and strewn with large windows, most of them glazed.

Joan de Bohun Grey, Lady Stanford, met them in the courtyard with her steward. Footmen ran to hold the bridles. Andrew assisted Caterina from her horse, and Lady Stanford looked her steadily up and down, and with very few words guided her straight off to bathe, eat and sleep. Caterina, three months with child and exhausted, made no protest. Andrew watched them disappear into the house before turning to the man standing quietly beside him.

“Master Grey,” the steward said, “you are welcome. I am Francis Tidewell, steward of the late Earl. Your wife will receive the best of care with Lady Stanford and her women. The marshal will see to your men and horses. But if I may first ask …”

Andrew looked at him, and nodded. “He is in the wagon,” Andrew said.

Quietly and smoothly, the steward had it done. Several of the men at arms carried the coffin to the chapel. Then the men were led away, with the horses, through a passageway to the base-court, and Andrew saw Giles taken into the house. The main courtyard grew quiet.

Andrew turned away and walked back to the chapel.

It was small, with a single arched window in stained glass. The stone walls were plastered and painted brightly with murals. The screen was carved in oak. Andrew stood there for some unmarked amount of time, alone with his father’s body. In the end, he emerged from the gloom to find the steward waiting patiently for him. “Please,” Andrew said, “take me to Lady Standford now.”

The steward conducted him not where he expected, to the hall, but to a comfortable parlour, where the windows were arranged to make the most of the late afternoon sunlight. Beside one of them, Lady Stanford sat in a chair. She rose as he entered, her hands clasped in front.

She gave him a long look, and spoke to the man behind him. “Thank you Francis. You may leave us. Please keep the servants out, for the time being.” The steward bowed and departed.

Lady Stanford crossed the room to a cupboard and, with her own hand, poured wine into two fine glasses. Turning, she held one out, and Andrew walked forward wordlessly and took it.

“So you are my grandson,” she said. “And you have brought my son home to me in a box.”

Andrew had no idea what he had expected. Edward had never discussed either of his parents. He could see she was tall and thin, regal in manner. Her eyes were blue. Her hair was invisible, buried under a linen veil in the northern style. What else he knew of her was nothing at all. “Lady Stanford—”

“You may call me Joan.”

Andrew left a little silence. This was the third and last of her sons to die. It would be sickening to say, He died an honourable death. Worse, probably, to say, He knew what he was risking, and he was happy. Andrew said only, “I am sorry.”

“I received your letter a month ago. Also one from your mother. I have had time to get used to the idea. You do look sorry. You look …” She stopped, and what she had been going to say went unsaid.

“You may embrace me,” she finished, and with practicality, set her wine down on the cupboard.

She looked stiff, untouchable, as though affection were for other people, not for effigies. Andrew put his glass beside hers and raised his arms to gather her loosely.

Only when he touched her did he realise she was trembling. In the end, it was he who let go first. He released her but placed one hand under her elbow. “Please sit,” he said, and guided her to her chair before returning for the wine. He sat in a chair opposite hers.

She drank some of her wine carefully. “You look just like he did.”

Andrew bowed his head. “I know.”

“I expect you are tired. But if you can, I should like to hear all the truth of what happened.”

This was the part he had dreaded. But also what he was best prepared for. He offloaded it clearly, deliberately, with all the detachment he could manage—as he would an operational report to his commander.

In the end he felt shrunken, dessicated, as even thinking about it could still make him feel. Fortunately, she was silent for some time. He drank his wine, wanting it now.

“Thank you,” Joan said. She thought, and then continued, “From Edward’s letters, I gathered he saw something in you that was worth staying for, for so long. Something worth fostering. I hope to discover what that is.”

Andrew stared at her. Nothing worth what he did, he felt like saying. And perhaps, I can fight. But when it had mattered, he had not even been there to do that.

He said flatly, “Perhaps, one day, I’ll discover it with you.”

He saw her glance at him quickly. But she shifted the subject. “And that lady Caterina is your new wife? With a child on the way already?”

Her gaze was direct now. He met it steadily. He knew he would have to do this a great deal. “Yes.”

She regarded him a moment longer. “She is a foreigner. She will find it difficult here.”

He considered that. “I have never lived here either.”

“Your forebears are from here. Hers are not. Also, you sound English, although Edward had written to me you spoke English as your mother does. Like the Scotch.”

He remembered a discussion he had once had with Edward on the subject. He allowed himself a faint smile. “I have practiced.” That was true. He and Caterina both had. It had been one reason for selecting Giles in Dole. Throughout the past year, Andrew had grown familiar with his father’s accent. Giles’s was the same. Andrew had kept Giles beside him all the way from Dole.

“When is the baby due?” Joan asked.

He lied, shamelessly. “March or April, I believe.”

“I see. I may not be here. As you know, I am usually in the north. I have property there, near Bamburgh.”

“Yes. My mother intends to come down from Scotland. She and Caterina are good friends.”

“I see. Well. I trust all will be well. But for now, your room is prepared. You should go to rest. We shall talk more later.”

“Thank you.” He stood when she did.

It was a long, slow and lonely night.

They buried Edward the next day, in the crypt below the chapel. The chaplain officiated. The ceremony was not grand, but was sufficient. The Stanford arms were carved into the sides of the tomb, but there was no effigy as yet. It occurred to Andrew, in a macabre moment, that the sculptor could use his own face as the model. He inhaled an audible, necessary breath through his teeth. Beside him, Caterina glanced at him.

Then it was done. It was over. The sunlight outside the chapel, above the crypt and its family of tombs, shone as brightly as ever.

Chapter Two

In September 1478, the King of England, Edward IV, was at his castle of Pontefract in west Yorkshire. His trips northward frequently had to do with meeting his brother, Richard, the Duke of Gloucester. A decade younger than the King and not quite twenty-six years of age, the Duke was nonetheless the King’s supreme agent in the north of the country. Now, the King also summoned Andrew and Caterina to present themselves. The opportunity to meet both men at once took Andrew by surprise, and was disconcerting.

“Brothers,” Caterina said when he looked up from reading her the letter.


They took the journey gently for her sake. As they approached on the final evening, the castle stood tall on its rock, bearing over the town to the south and the surrounding countryside to the north. The turreted sandstone keep and towers were creamy orange in the waning sunlight and seemed high enough to touch the clouds overhead.

The castle steward met them at the gate and showed them to the cavernous great hall. There, half the household was already at supper. Their servants were drawn away and taken to drink at the bar of the buttery. An usher came forward, and the steward returned to his interrupted supper.

The usher guided Andrew and Caterina outside once more into the bailey. There they passed the chapel and came to one of the tall towers. Stone stairs took them up and up until at last they stood in a spacious enough chamber that would be theirs for their stay.

Within minutes, wine, beer and bread appeared, along with their baggage and two of their own men to unpack it. A little later, hot meat, fruit and a cheese tart came to their door, and they were left alone to enjoy the meal.

Later still, Andrew stood up from the table and stretched, looking about him. The room was whitewashed with one small window, and furnished with the table and benches at which they had been sitting, two chests, a cupboard and a bed. There were also two pallets on the floor near the fireplace, for servants. Andrew walked to the bed, collected one of the blankets and a pillow, and turned away.

“Andrew,” Caterina said.

He paused and looked at her.

She said, “You fell asleep once in my arms when you were twelve.”

He considered her, a little dubious. “I had a fever and stomach pains at the time. Your husband our kindly doctor, as I recall, had just given me some filthy mixture to drink.”

“You were not delirious,” she said pointedly. “Put the bedding back. I don’t mind.”

He thought about it a moment longer, and then complied.

In the morning, he awoke rested and refreshed. Which was as well, because the King sent for them early, well before dinner. The usher of the night before came to collect them and Andrew looked at his wife, aware his eyes were pulled a little wide.

“Are we ready?” he asked. In Greek.

She had always had a serene composure that enhanced her looks. It was in place now. Over a dress of celestrine silk, she had covered her head with a gauze veil so that the gold of her hair glimmered through. Around her throat was a necklace he had never seen before, of blue enamel and gold. On her left hand was the plain gold band he had given her at their marriage.

As he looked at her she returned the gaze calmly, her eyes smiling at him. “You like very fine also. And if you have handled the Duke of Urbino and Lorenzo de’ Medici, I think you should have no great difficulty with the King of England.”

He avoided jewels himself, as a rule, and he had chosen an unembellished gown of russet velvet. But if he had underdone it, he thought, that would be the least of his concerns.

The King’s apartments were in the aptly named King’s Tower. The withdrawing chamber to which they were taken was at the top. This at least gave it the advantage of several windows, and Andrew and Caterina emerged from the gloom of the interminably winding stairs into bright sunlight. After a moment, blinking, Andrew saw the room was empty but for two men standing together at the far end. They had been conversing, but they broke off, both their heads turning, as the usher announced the guests. Andrew and Caterina sank together into the necessary obeisance.

“Rise,” said a clear baritone voice. “Come forward.”

They walked forward, sustaining the regard of both men.

For Andrew, Joan had described King Edward and his brother Richard, but while her words let him know which man must be which, they had not prepared him for the reality. King Edward was enormously tall and broad to match, an imposing figure supporting the sense of confident power that three words had already conveyed. He was splendidly gowned in green brocade, and his stylish hat bore an impressive emerald surrounded by a burst of pearls. Above all, his face was beautiful. The skin was rosily fair, the mouth full, the nose elegant, and the eyes a transfixing hazel. Andrew closed his lips and pulled his gaze to the other man.

Richard, the Duke of Gloucester. The only immediate similarity he bore to his brother was his hair, in straight lengths of warm brown. He was short—several inches shorter than Andrew—and very thin. His skin was pale, without the healthy pink of his brother’s. His eyes were grey, and where the King’s were bright and warm, the Duke’s gazed with the clear silence of moonlight.