June, 1289, Paris
King Philippe IV Capet
Summer had come, and with it had come the hotness and the stickiness that often showed just how corrupted the city had become. The capital of his realm, a realm his ancestors had fought hard to expand against the Normans and then the damned Angevins. This was his realm, and nobody else’s. Philippe was determined to prevent anyone else from claiming more than was their just deserts, and as such he was making moves to ensure that such a thing continued. There was much and more he needed to do, and with other things beginning to take a note from here, he wondered just how much time he would have to fully devote to such endeavours.
As he looked through what was to be discussed today. He felt something within him groan at the sight of it. There was much and more that would be discussed and deliberated and he was not entirely sure he was comfortable with this. Coughing slightly, he turns toward his brother Charles, and says. “It has been some time since you spoke during one of these meetings brother. That is most unusual for you. I would hear what thoughts you have on the matters at hand.”
His brother, big and filled with bluster would no doubt bring up the missive from the papacy indeed that was the first thing he said after clearing his throat. “Thank you Your Majesty. As I am sure you are aware, word has come from Rome, his holiness wishes for us to resume our father’s pursuit of Aragon. He believes that the Aragonese should not be allowed to hold so much weight close to our lands nor within Sicily itself.”
Philippe looks at his brother then, and seeing the look of hunger on his brother’s face sighs. “What means does His Holiness suggest we use for this assault? The last time our kingdom attacked Aragon, our father was slain and our armies humiliated. To go through such a thing once more? I would need to have the mind of a mad man to even contemplate it.”
As expected his brother speaks toward a contradictory aim. “But Your Majesty, we have something more than what our father had. We have the full and unquestionable backing of Rome. His Holiness has written many letters to me reassuring me that this time, Rome will not renege on its promises. Charles of Anjou is also gathering men to fight for this cause. There is nothing stopping this from being a success.”
There is silence for a moment as Philippe looks at his brother, he tries hard to keep his anger in check, and it is something of a struggle, knowing what this venture will cost, in more than money, but in lives as well, he knows his men will not abide by this again. Looking toward his uncle, he says. “Lord Robert, you know of what the mind of my lords are, tell me would they support another crusade into that land that once stood fighting the infidel?”
Artois, a big blustering giant of a man is silent a moment contemplative, before he eventually says. “I believe Your Majesty that some deep thought would need to go into such a proposal. The memories of your lords is not short, they well remember the humiliation of Aragon under your kingly father.” The man looks briefly at Charles before saying. “Whilst there might be word of Papal approval for this attack, we do not know just what sort of a man this Pope is, his Holiness could well go back on his word, if given enough pressure. We must have definitive proof that he is willing to aid the crown.”
Philippe nods, seeing the sense in what the man is saying. His brother on the other hand firmly disagrees. “That is preposterous. To question the word of His Holiness, the Vicar of Christ like that? By word of God man, do you not have any faith in the word of God’s messenger? His Holiness has said he will give us aid, he will give us aid. There is nothing more to it.” turning to Philippe, his brother says. “Your Majesty, please believe me. There is nothing more to it. His Holiness will most definitely support us, he has to. The King of Naples is mustering his own men to fight for the cause, whilst in Castille, King Sancho musters men as well. This is all being done on the Pope’s orders, we cannot remain neutral now. Especially now that King Alfonso that damned whoreson is dying.”
Philippe looks at his brother and sees the desperation on his face. The desire to achieve something more, something out of his own person is what is driving his brother here. Keeping his voice calm, Philippe states. “Alfonso might be dying, but he has men more capable willing to fight to the death for him. We are just coming through the latest troubles that our father’s war brought, do we truly need to go plunging into another war. One that we might very well lose?”
His brother looks at him angrily, a look that he saw many times when they were children. “You know damned well that this war is one sure fired way to ensure that the lords do not question you. Already they speak of how you remain passive in the face of English aggression. They speak of how you allowed King Edward to dictate the terms of your negotiations. This is something that will quieten the rumours.”
Philippe looks at his brother and says. “It is something that we cannot afford to do right now. I do not trust that Rome will keep its intentions pure. There is some other motive here, and right now, my kingdom must needs heal and prosper before I go charging into another ill-advised war. Aragon holds power, and yes whilst their king might be ailing he is not dead. Until the man is dead, Aragon remains a viable threat.”
His brother looks as if he is about to protest, but one simple look from Philippe is all it takes for the man to quieten down, just as it did when they were children. Turning to his Lord Chancellor he says. “The issue with Burgundy has been resolved to a suitable degree has it not?”
His chancellor Pierre Chalon is silent for a breath before replying. “It has Your Majesty, it has been decided that the Duke shall remain true to what he planned original with regards to the portioning of lands, and that his siblings shall take what he gives them upon the payment of titles.”
Philippe nods. “Good, very good. The man is a valuable asset, and I do not want the man considering other options with which to turn to. Would that Brittany were the same. Alas it seems the man is content to play his games disregarding his oaths of fealty to me.”
There is some murmuring then, but it passes, Philippe turns to the next issue at hand. “Tell me Chalon, what word has come from my wife’s kingdom. Do the people of Navarre settle well under our rule?”
The chancellor looks down at his notes before pulling his collar nervously. “I am afraid not Your Majesty. There are those who protest and wish to see Her Majesty more. They wish that she would rule them from the kingdom itself, not from here, and nor do they want what they term a flock of Frenchmen ruling them either.”
Philippe feels anger boil inside of him at this. “Frenchmen? Are the people of Navarre so ignorant as to not realise that it is their own kinsmen who rule them in their queen’s name?” he pauses a moment to take a sip of wine before continuing. “Leave it be, they will come to realise in time the benefits that come from having the kingdom ruled this way.” There is some silence then, and Philippe knows that his councillors are wondering why he does not simply allow his wife to go to her kingdom, but to do that would be to remove her from his side, and that is not something he will allow. Deciding to move the topic onward, Philippe indicates the letter that has come from Scotland. “It seems the young king looks toward making sure I am aware of a possible opportunity against my cousin. Tell me Charles what you make of this letter.”
His brother takes his time to respond, but when he does his answer is measured, something that is a change for Charles. “I believe Your Majesty, that the letter is well intentioned. The King of Scotland, as we all know has the support of his lords, and most importantly, is someone it is said has powerful allies. Norway’s ships are there to fight for him should he so want them to.”
Philippe considers this a moment. “This king might make bold proclamations but until such a time as he makes good on his word, I will not act. It is one thing to taunt a lion, but to poke the lion as well? That might well not be the smartest thing one can do, especially if one does not have the benefit of a cause to doing so.”
As expected his brother speaks once more. “Your Majesty, if I may, we have reason to believe that King Edward looks to cause chaos within his lands in France against you. There is every evidence that this is the case, his collectors are al of English origin, and his lords do not come to answer their call on time. Every act he makes is an act of aggression against you, including this pact he has signed with the King of Castille!”
Philippe looks at his brother. “And yet he has made no move to openly oppose me. My cousin is clever in that way brother, he might be making all of these moves, but until he openly opposes me I cannot do anything to justify seizing his lands.”
“His Holiness is asking us to fight for him against Aragon,” Charles begins. “If you were to send word saying you would only do so with full permission to reclaim your lawful land, then I do not see why you could not fight King Edward, Your Majesty.”
Philippe looks at his chancellor, and Chalon nods. “The Duke is right Your Majesty. Seek approval from His Holiness, and use this as a tool to use over the man’s head and you will get the approval needed. King Edward might be skilled with the word and the sword, but he cannot go against the Pope, not without threat of damnation. That is a powerful thing to use.”
Philippe considers this a moment and then looking at his chancellor he says. “I want you to look into the fully validity of King Edward’s claims on Gascony, and I want something solid to present to His Holiness. This Pope might not be the last, but I will not go to God’s court empty handed. I intend to have everything I can to bring about my cousin’s downfall.”
His chancellor nods. “Of course Your Majesty, I will get this done as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”
Turning to the Count of Artois he says. “I want you to begin preparing men. Train them and have them ready to muster when the notice comes through. The moment His Holiness gives his approval we shall march and my cousin shall not know what is happening.” The count nods, and Philippe turns his attention to his brother. “Charles, I know you hunger for Aragon, and if the time arises, you shall have it. But until then I wish for you to write back to this young king, and tell him that we shall be ready, but until he makes the first move we shall not act. For we shall not falter as we have done before.”
He can see the hunger in his brother’s eyes then, and when his brother says. “It shall be done Your Majesty.” Philippe knows he has won this battle of wills.
July, 1289 The Tower
King Edward I Plantagenet
His chest hurt, the wound where the damned assassin had tried to pierce him ached slightly but it was well enough. Well enough for him to know that something was going on. There was something behind that attempt, there were many who wanted him dead he knew that, he was no fool to believe otherwise, and yet, there was something specific about this man. His posture and attitude when brought before Edward for questioning had remained defiant almost as if he had long ago accepted his fate and was merely doing this for a greater cause. Such devotion he had only seen once before, when that man had come to kill him whilst on Crusade, he had survived then because of his wife, and now, well God only knew how he had survived this. Eleanor had been away, thank God, and as such had only come to learn of what had befallen him after the fact, and for that he was relieved.
Still the more he thought about it, the more he wondered where the man had come from, and increasingly he found himself thinking of his nephew. The visit to Scotland had been an interesting one, he had found out much and more, but also frustratingly little. It had been clear that his nephew was planning something, but what it was he had said nothing off, and neither had his nobles, all apart from Balliol, who was now somewhere across the border. It was a worrying thought for him, having to deal with another potential problem, and of course there had come word of his nephew’s training of men, great quantities of men, an army no less, and that, that was deeply worrying. As he looked around the room, the council room where so much of his reign had been decided upon, he noted the looks of tension on the faces of his councillors. Clearing his throat, Edward spoke to break the silence. “It has been a long time since we last met my lords. In that time many interesting things have happened, my cousin King Philippe has begun training his men, whether that is for some new excursion into Aragon or to finally make a move into Gascony I do not know, but that is not the main focus of this meeting.” He pauses, takes a sip of wine and then goes on. “No, the main focus of this meeting is to discuss what it is exactly that my nephew King David of Scotland has been doing training as many men as he has. That is my most pressing concern. Edmund, what news do you have?”
His brother looks somewhat anxious to get through this, but his voice is calm and measured when he speaks. “Thank you Your Majesty. From what my sources have reported, it seems that King David has been training these men for the past two years. Not only have they been trained, but they have been trained intensely, this is no mere training of men my king, this is a band being trained for war. As to where they might be going, one suggestion I have heard is Norway. There are rumours going that King David and his brother in law King Eric quarrelled over the matter of Orkney, and the King of Scots wishes to finally be rid of the problem once and for all.”
Silence follows this for a moment as they all consider the possible implications of this, Edward does not give it any true credence, but he will allow others to speak first. Robert Burnell, the Lord Chancellor speaks then. “It would not surprise me if this were the case Your Majesty. The Lord God knows that this is something that should have been done many years ago. Should King David finally be taking the steps that his grandfather took, it is a good thing for all involved.”
Edward looks at the chancellor a long moment before turning his attention to the High Constable of the realm, Sir Humphrey De Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex. The man meets his gaze coolly before replying. “I do not believe that this is something King David would do. It was obvious when we were in Stirling Your Majesty, the King is far too fond of his niece to have ever dreamed of doing something that could hurt her, or her father.”
The man speaks sense and Edward says as such. “Indeed what you say is true Sir Humphrey. I do not believe that my nephew is planning on taking this army of his to Norway or even to Orkney. That is an issue that whilst it might anger and pain him, he would never consider dealing with in terms of war and bloodshed, his niece means far too much to him, for him to ever try to hurt her in this manner. No, there is somewhere else he is thinking of taking this host of his.”
John De Warenne, an old trusted friend speaks then. “Perhaps, the king intends to go to Ireland Your Majesty. We have all heard the reports coming from that land. The local magnates have grown far more powerful in the last few years, and have been looking for a way to expel the men who went over there with King Henry and his predecessors. Perhaps they offered your nephew a crown, and he intends to go for it, for the youthfulness inside of him that might well find such a thing appealing.”
The suggestion does have merit, and for all his appearance and mannerisms his nephew is still a young man, with a young man’s dreams. Edward sees some of himself in the young man, and he knows well what he would have done had such an offer been made to him. “A true suggestion. Considering what we saw of his court, the Irish lords might well not be too opposed to seeing a king who does not make too much of a matter over their ways, and actually intends to share their ways with them. Though one does wonder at his disregard for the holy authority to which we hold Ireland.” Something about this does not seem right, his nephew never seemed like one who would disregard the Papal seal to something, even in his somewhat erratic talk of glory, and Edward only heard the idealism of youth. Yet something in him is nagging away at him, the deaths of his cousin Aymer de Valence, son of his uncle William as well as his own close friend William De Beauchamp grate on him, and he wonders if there was more to this talk than he first thought.
Robert Burnell speaks then dragging him from his concerns. “I do believe that King David might well be considering such a thing. The tone of his court is one that suggests a return to the Gaelic heritage of his ancestors. And yet if Ireland is not the item of his desire, and that with which this army is being trained for, he might well look to bring about an end to the aristocracy that came with his ancestor and namesake. Furthermore, we know from reports from Your Majesty’s own sources, that there are some within the kingdom of Scotland who oppose the reforms being made.”
Edward looks at the man and as he does so the thought briefly passes through his mind before he dismisses it. “Such a thing would be counterproductive for my nephew. His main supporter is someone who claims descent from a Norman noble, his Queen is of such stock, and some of his council are as well. As for the nobles themselves, they would not have enough strength to overpower my nephew without my support, support I will not give them. My nephew is not a fool, he knows what attacking any one noble before they rebel openly would do the perception of him. He is no tyrant, there are some things that he would not do and this is one of them. There must be some other reason.”
Hugh de Cressingham his master of secrets speaks then. “Perhaps King David means to bring his forces down to our lands, and retake that which his family held in days of old? The Lord above knows how often his family coveted the ancient lands of Northumbria.”
This is something that Edward had considered once before, but had never truly given credence to looking at the men around him though, he realises that perhaps such a thing should have been taken more seriously. “Northumbria has not been known as such for many years, my own grandsire ensured that King Alexander was willing to part with that claim in order to ensure the borders were secured. What good reason would our nephew have to ensure such a thing ends?”
There is a long silence then as they all consider this, eventually John De Warenne speaks. “It might well be because the King of Scotland hopes to write his name into history Sire. We all saw how desperate he was to forge a new legacy for himself. He is more like his grandsire than his own sire. And that is something that might well lead to a difficult situation for us.”
The Lord High Constable takes up the thread then. “It would be a smart move on the King’s part Sire, it would mean that we would be forced to fight within England and would run the risk of facing our own supplies running thin. Already there is news of discontent in the north due to the action to raise money for men in Gascony, if your nephew were to invade, we would be hard pressed to find a strong defence there in the north.”
His uncle who is himself injured yet somehow remains standing is fuming. “If the army was being raised for that purpose, then by God, we know that this is what will happen. His grandsire was much the same, a ruthless determination bent on ensuring he took what he rightfully believed to be his.” Grief haunts his uncle’s face then, word of his son’s death having come right from the man’s own mouth.
Burnell speaks then. “It would make sense Your Majesty. A war or a feint in Ireland to ensure that some of the attention is taken there, whilst the main force comes charging down the border toward us. It would be a risk for him, and he would run the risk of losing quite hugely, and yet the man is young, and the young often take such risks.”
Edward considers this for a moment, looking at his brother for his thoughts. Edmund is silent and then says. “I believe that King David would not be so great a fool as to break the Treaty of York. Such a thing would be considered unhonourable and no matter how much he is unlike his father, he is still a young man who would want to be seen as a higher version of the man.”
Edward looks at his brother then considering what he has said whilst thinking of those who had been targeted by the assassin, his own wound flaring as a reminder. John De Warenne was a target, and somehow survived, his uncle and cousin were targets, and yet his cousin is dead, others famed for their prowess in war were targeted, the reports coming thick and fast in the morning. Edward considers this and he begins to wonder if this was indeed his nephew’s intention. If it was he was almost successful, for the roads are covered with blood, many did not survive, others did but are too wounded to fight. This all runs through his head and makes him wonder whether or not he has misjudged this entire situation, if he has underestimated his nephew completely. Before he can give voice to any of these thoughts though, there is a knock on the door and his squire walks in handing a letter to him. Edward reads it and feels his heart sink, a cool anger taking place of despair. He looks up and meets his men’s questioning gaze and says. “It seems you were right High Constable, my nephew has moved forward with his army. Carlisle and Newcastle have fallen.” He sees the shock and surprise in their faces, and then he thinks of his cousin lying dead on the ground, and of William, his face unseeing, and anger fills him. He will have his revenge.