Learning To Rule
June, 1291, Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
King David II of Scotland
The victory at York had changed things, he had known that when they had won, but it was only now that it was truly beginning to sink in. His Kingdom had expanded, he had achieved his goal, he had won back the land that had been taken from his family all those years ago, and now, well now he had a duty to it. The conquering was done and dusted, it was time for him to begin ruling the land. As such, he had sent his lords off to their new territories Robert Bruce, the Lord of Annandale was given charge of the Westmorelands, whilst John Comyn Lord of Badenoch was currently residing in Bamburgh castle, ensuring that it remained strong and firm. David had set up in Alnwick Castle, a castle he was considering renaming in honour of his great-grandfather, William the Lion, giving it a traditional Gaelic name, it seemed appropriate truth be told. Of course, there was a lot more to ensuring the stability of conquered lands compared to ensuring the stability of an already settled kingdom. One such thing was dealing with the leading clergy in the area, and as such, David had summoned the Bishop of Durham, to meet with him and to discuss what was to come next for the man.
Anthony Beck was a tall man, powerfully built, he looked more like a warrior than a bishop, and David remembered how long the man had held out during the siege of Durham, that was not completely surprising now that he looked at the man. David clears his throat and begins speaking. “Your Holiness, welcome to Alnwick. I hope that your accommodations have been to your liking.”
The Bishop snorts at that. “Do not try and flatter me with your false courtesies Your Majesty. We both know why I am here, so why don’t we just get on with it? I do not want to spend more time here, and neither do you.”
David feels himself tense slightly at the man’s words, but relaxes slightly, smiling as he responds. “Well if that is how you wish to approach this conversation Your Holiness, then very well, that is how we shall approach it.” he pauses a moment, giving the man chance to decide otherwise, when the man says nothing, David continues. “Your bishopric now falls under my control, as per the agreement with King Edward of England. As such, you have two choices that I can see, either you bend the knee to me, and I shall restore your office to you, or you can venture south of York and serve the King there.”
David sees interest flit across the man’s face, before it is quickly replaced by a blank expression. His voice is calm when he responds. “If I were to bend the knee to you Your Majesty, where would I reside? If I remember correctly, you have given my home to a Scotsman. And I do not believe that such a man would willingly give it up.”
David looks at the man, and smiles, something that he sees causes surprise to cross the man’s face. “I would ensure that there was enough land for you to have a new home constructed if necessary. After all, you are the leading clergy member within these lands, what with the Archbishop of York having fled during the war. So tell me, is that something you would wish to explore?”
David can see the tension in the man who sits before him, the desire to accept the offer, and the desire to reject the offer, all floating in the man’s head. Silence envelops them, and as it begins to stretch on, David begins to feel slightly impatient, but eventually, the man speaks. “I think that might be something worthwhile Your Majesty.” A pause, and at that pause, Beck looks as if he might be violently sick, or that he is sick with himself. “So you know, I received a letter from the Regent Queen Eleanor, before we met. She informed me that if I wished to venture to London, that I would stand a chance of becoming more powerful than I had ever been as Bishop of Durham. I feel that she and the throne of England is offering me more.”
David looks at the man, and has to fight back a wave of disgust at the words the man has just said. For a man of God, this man certainly puts some of my own lords to shame with his ambition. Keeping his voice calm, David responds. “And do you think then that you would have all the power and prestige that comes from such a role immediately then Your Holiness?”
“What do you mean?” the man asks, a hint of doubt beginning to creep into his voice.
Sensing an advantage, David presses on. “As Bishop of Durham, you already have an established base of power, the people of this land know you. They trust you. In London, you might have the backing of the crown but you would be an outsider, and you would not be able to do nearly as much as you would like to. Think about that for a moment Your Holiness, the lords of the south would not trust you, not like my lords would. Not like the people of the north would. Is that truly something you think you could give up?”
He can tell that he has the man, that the man is seriously beginning to reconsider his decision, and that perhaps, there is just a slither of doubt about a foreign Queen’s intentions towards him. David hides a smile when he sees the man’s shoulders slump, when he hears the man respond. “I suppose you are correct Your Majesty. There is more good I could do here. Though I must ask, what would you have of me if I were to bend to you?”
David looks at the man and responds. “Your loyalty. That is all I ask in return.”
He can see the weight of the decision, beginning to wear the man down, but eventually, the man responds as David had hoped he would. “Then I shall bend the knee.” Beck responds.
David stands, as does Beck, and as the man says his oath, David feels a sense of true accomplishment, he might have not lost a single battle during the conquest, but he has won the first true battle of holding this land. Once the oath is sworn, he helps Beck stand and says to him. “Welcome Your Holiness, I shall see to it that you have suitable accommodations now. Edmund.” He calls out, and one of his stewards walks into the room. “Escort His Holiness to the silver rooms.” Edmund nods and David watches the Bishop of Durham walk out of the room with his steward, a sense of pride filling him.
A few moments pass as David finds himself mulling over exactly where to put the Bishop, he would not take Durham away of Patrick, that would not do at all, but where else might one place him, that was a burning concern, one he would need to discuss with Andrew, Andrew would know. It was with his head steward’s name on his mind that David walks to the door and calls out. “Andrew, come here.” A few moments his Head Steward enters the room, tall, handsome and with a mop of auburn hair, Andrew was someone he had known since he was a child, he was reliable and knowledgeable.
“Your Majesty.” Andrew says bowing low, before straightening.
David nods at the man and walks back to the chair he had risen from. “Take a seat Andrew.” He says gesturing at the seat the Bishop of Durham had vacated. He watches Andrew sit down, and then he speaks. “Tell me Andrew, where do you think one could place a man like the Bishop of Durham?”
One of the good things of having known Andrew for almost his whole life is that the man does not need to ask him what he means, and instead simply replies. “Auckland Castle Your Majesty. Whilst it is being held by Earl William, it has not been given to him, and it has always traditionally been the residence of the Bishop of Durham. I think that would make the most sense. It also means that it will be easier to keep an eye on him, in case he tries to do anything that does not fit what you wish of him Your Majesty.”
David thinks over this, considering what his friend says, it makes sense, Auckland Castle is suitable for a man of the Bishop’s rank, and it also means that he can have someone flit between castles to keep an eye over him, for David knows that he cannot remain in Alnwick for too long, he will need to return home soon enough, he wishes to see his wife and their children again. Eventually he nods. “Aye, that does make sense. A good suggestion Andrew.” He pauses a moment then, thinking through what else he wishes to discuss with the man, once he has his thoughts in order he speaks once more. “Tell me Andrew, you have been at my side throughout this war, and you were the one who told me that it is one thing to conquer land, but quite something else to hold it. If you were me, how might you hold this land of ours?”
The man is silent, his face scrunched up in thought, eventually he speaks his voice calm. “I think Your Majesty, that in order to truly hold down these lands, you will need to make use of the locals who have sat here for a long time. Families like the Percys who have been here since the conquest, who know this land better than almost anyone else, people like the Nevilles who know this land as well. Make use of them and I think that this land shall remain yours for a long time to come.”
David ponders this, an interesting suggestion, though he remembers finding Neville men at arms, and seeing the hatred and disgust in their faces when he spoke to them, he does not think that they would be so willing to serve him. Percy though, that man is slightly younger than him, and might well be desperate enough to make some sort of name for himself to serve someone who he should traditionally hate. “I think you are right, though I would say this, the Nevilles cannot be trusted. They fought far too hard to ever be trusted I believe. Percy however, is young, he is someone I think can be used to ensure that that some of the north remains loyal for longer amounts of time.”
He has the feeling that Andrew does not quite approve of the method, but nonetheless the man bows his head in acceptance. There is a momentary pause, and then David speaks once more. “Tell me Andrew, what are the people of the north making of us? Do they see us as their liberators or, do they sense that we might do more harm to them?” This is something that has been chipping away at him for some time, and he feels that if anyone would know the exact feelings of the people, it would be the man sitting in front of him, Andrew has a habit of finding things out.
The man takes a moment to respond, when he does eventually respond, his voice is calm and measured. “From what I have learned Your Majesty, there are some who think that the conquest was for the better, that it makes more sense to be ruled by someone who shares similar beliefs to them, rather than someone from London. Whilst there are others who believe that London was far better. I think that in time that might change.”
David nods, acknowledging this. “Very well. Thank you Andrew, you may leave now.” The man rises, bows and then walks out of the room, leaving David alone with his thoughts.
July, 1291 Soulac, Gascony
Edmund, Earl of Leicester
Edward was dead, the older brother he had admired, the older brother he had fought alongside it, it was a strange thought, for as long as he could remember, it had seemed as if his brother was invincible, that he would never die. And now, now he was gone, slain in battle by their nephew. That was something he still had trouble getting his head around. Their nephew, a boy had managed to conquer all of Northern England, and had reduced England to everything south of York, that was something that made him angry, desperately angry. There was a part of him that wanted to raise men to deal with the boy, and to remove any illusions he had, but they did not have enough men or commanders to deal with that. The deaths of Warrene and De Bohun had dented a lot of the resolve that their men had had, and now there were other issues that needed to be dealt with. Foremost amongst them was the pesky French King who was currently residing in Langon, the man’s progress had been slowed due to the summer fever that had spread through the region, but had thankfully missed Edmund and his men.
As he looks at the map before him, Edmund takes a deep breath and speaks. “We must move forward before the month ends. If we do not, then Philippe will have the advantage, and he will have more than enough time to solidify his position in Langon.”
There are some murmurs of agreement at this, and when Roger Mortimer, Baron Mortimer of Chirk speaks, the man’s face gaunt, after his time as a prisoner, Edmund is surprised the man can still hold himself together. “I think that going on the offensive is the right position to take my lords. Philippe has lost one of his commanders in Charles of Valois, that is a blow that I think he has not recovered from. Furthermore, the summer fever seems as if it has taken out many of his commanders and soldiers, something like that will have left morale in his army low. We must march now.”
Hugh le Despenser, the new Earl of Warwick speaks then. “I think that we must take all of what we are learning with some caution my lords. We do not know just how much damage the summer fever really did to Philippe’s host. For all we know the damage could be minimal, and this could all be some ruse that he has been planning for some time.”
“Is that a hint of fear I detect Despenser?” Mortimer asks, his tone bordering on accusatory.
“Not fear, mere common sense Mortimer.” Despenser responds. “We underestimated one young King before, I would not want to have that repeated now.”
Edmund sees anger form on Mortimer’s face. “That boy got lucky, he managed to win through trickery and guile. Philippe is someone who knows how to fight and so far he has demonstrated nothing worthy of admitting such fear.”
Before Despenser can speak, Edmund speaks. “You both raise valid points my lords. We must make sure that we take into account everything that happens both here as well as what the situation was before we arrived. We have only around a thousand men, the French will have several times more than that.” He pauses, takes a sip of wine, and then looks at Sir Ranulph and asks. “Sir Ranulph you have been here for longer than we have, what can you tell us about the situation?”
Sir Ranulph is a short man, but muscular, he looks like the sort of man who would have made Edmund’s father terrified, not that that was hard, King Henry was not someone who would stand strong in the face of fear, not like Edward. Ranulph’s voice is harsh when he speaks. “Philippe will want to march as quickly as he can for Bordeaux, regardless of whether or not the summer fever has affected his numbers, he will want to move forward as quickly as he can. Philippe is a young man, who thinks he has a perfect opportunity here. He will make mistakes. The river leading to Bordeaux is filled with pitfalls and traps that have long been established to prevent something like this from happening. Furthermore, I do think that the man is facing some trouble within his own ranks.”
That draws Edmund’s interest. “What makes you say that Sir?”
Sir Ranulph looks at him, fixing him into place with those steely eyes of his. “Charles of Valois is dead, and from what I have learned, it seems that Philippe is not the easiest of people to get along with. He wants to push on ahead, through whatever challenges might present themselves, whilst some of his lords wish to consolidate their hold over Langon before moving forward. I think there is a real sense amongst some of their lords, that they are moving too quickly. That could be something to make use of.”
Edmund considers this for a moment, and then he says. “Very well, I think the time has come to decide. I believe the best course of action we can take is to make it seem as though we are going to be heading toward Langon, crossing over toward Libourne before moving toward Bordeaux will make it seem as though we are unsure over what we need to do. If my estimation of Philippe is right, he will make a move from Langon to try and cut us off from getting anywhere near to where we wish to be. Or rather where he thinks we need to be.” He hears the others murmur their agreement at this and then says. “Sir Ranulph you shall command the right, Sir Roger you shall command the left, Sir Hugh the reserve, I shall take the centre. Sir Roger, you shall lead the movement from here toward Libourne, keep your pace fast and steady, do not stop until you see Bordeaux in sight, and whatever you do, do not engage Philippe.” The man nods, and the meeting comes to an end, for the first time in a long while, Edmund feels useful.