Negotiations and Treaties
February, 1292, Stirling Castle
King David II Dunkeld
It felt good to be home once more. The past few moons, or rather the past few years had been long and tiresome, but very rewarding. Still, it felt nice to be home, in a castle and a setting he knew well. Stirling was home, regardless of how much he conquered, it would always be home. There was no changing that. On some level, David suspected that was why he had felt somewhat uncomfortable in Alnwick, it was not really his home, but it had become something of a home. Regardless he was home now and that was all that mattered. Home with his wife and children. His wife Isabel had grown ever more beautiful, since they had last met, and their reunion had been something that brought a smile to his face to think of it. He had missed her wit, and her charm, and how she was always willing to put his mind at ease, regardless of her own concerns. Then there were his two sons, Kenneth his heir, and Alexander his second born. Kenneth, was nearly five years old, and was a boisterous boy, it pleased David to see his heir so strong and healthy. He had been more than happy to confirm his son as Earl of Edinburgh, giving him nominal charge over Edinburgh castle for the time being. Alexander, his second son was but a babe at two years of age, though David had high hopes for both his children.
Right now though, he was meeting with a member of the royal family of Desmond. The heir of that old and proud kingdom in fact. One, Donal Oge MacCarthy. The man was a giant of a man, with wisps of grey in his hair, a strong and stubborn look about his face. David looks at him from where he sits atop his throne, and says. “Welcome to Stirling Lord Donal. I trust the journey was comfortable and your rooms are to your liking?”
The man is silent for a moment, seemingly considering his words, before replying. “Aye, they are Sire. I thank you for that, and for providing rooms for my company. I know we are not a small lot, but we have come with most urgent tidings from my father, King Domnall.”
David leans forward intrigued, curious as to what exactly, the old and famed King of Desmond would wish to discuss with him. “And what might old King Domnall, wish to speak to someone like me about?”
Lord Donal seems hesitant to speak for a mere moment, before his face changes, and his expression becomes one of flattery. “Your great victories in northern England have spread far and wide Your Majesty. You have shown the English, just what it means to be at the receiving end of a takeover. My father heard tell of your brave deeds, and has begun to dream of freeing himself of the English folk. He wishes to emulate your example, and ensure that Ireland is free once more.”
“A noble goal.” David says. “But why would he send his eldest son and heir here, across stormy seas, if that was what he wanted to do. King Domnall is not a weak man. All know of his legend and his strength. So why might he send you here my lord?”
Lord Donal smiles. “He has sent me here to discuss the terms of an alliance with you Your Majesty. Yes, it is true my father and my people are strong, we are not near strong enough to push the English completely out of Ireland. Not without outside assistance. For many years we have fought them, and we have lost more often than we have won. But your example has given us hope, and we would hope an alliance with your person would enable us to push forward.”
David feels flattered that someone as old and respected as King Domnall would think so highly of him, but then he asks. “And what would your father hope to achieve from this alliance? I have new conquests and gains in northern England that I need to keep an eye over. I have used much man power trying to take these possessions, and I will need much to hold them. So tell me, what does your father want?”
At this, Lord Donal seems to consider his words carefully, then he continues. “My father would wish for a martial alliance between our two Kingdoms. An alliance with some small commitment of men from yourself Your Majesty. I am sure that you have a few men who are still hungering for the conquest and fight against the English. Furthermore, training our men in the ways of which you dealt with the English would go far to aiding us as well.”
David looks at the man, sizing him up, and weighing up the words the man says, trying to get a sense of whether he is being genuine, or whether there is something else at play here. Eventually, he says. “That is all well and good, but tell me this Lord Donal, where would you have my men land? Your kingdom is strong yes, but where do you plan on going? You mean to rid your homelands of the English, but one King has struck an alliance with a prominent English lord, whilst another has married into them. Tell me, how do you think you can succeed in such circumstances?”
David can tell how much the question bothers Lord Donal, the man looks troubled, as if he has thought of it himself and has yet to come up with an answer. “The King of Tír Eoghan is a dangerous man and whilst he might have secured an alliance with an English lord, I can guarantee you that it will not last. The man wants more land for himself, by necessity, any English lord he is in alliance with will suffer.”
“And what of those who remain firmly in alliance with the English?” David asks. “What will you do with them?”
“We will handle them.” Lord Donal says unconvincingly.
David looks at him then and asks. “Tell me my lord, how will you deal with them? How will you convince your fellow people to unite in driving out a foreign enemy when the best you can tell me is that you will handle them?”
Lord Donal looks quite put out by his statement, as well as slightly angry. “We would unite behind the things that unite us. We are all Gaelic people, we descend from Cuchlain, himself. The English are the ones who continue to try and instigate foreign rules and customs on us, they are trying to destroy our way of life. Remind the people of this and they will unite together.”
David looks at the man and says. “A noble sentiment, but not one that one could unite an entire people. I know this is a hard truth to bear, but the lands of Ireland have long been divided, Lord Donal, how do you propose to change that? The English have known this and exploited it, how will you change this, and change centuries of warring and feuding?”
Lord Donal seems to be getting quite desperate then for he says. “With your example and your presence. Sire, you are a noble example of a man who led an army against the English into their heartland and destroyed them. You destroyed Edward the Tall, and made his widow and son sign a treaty that robbed them of half their kingdom. Support us and the people will come. I know they will.”
David can see the sense in what the man is saying, and yet a part of him still hesitates on committing now. Instead, what he says is. “You do not need to leave anytime soon do you my lord?”
“I do not Your Majesty.” Lord Donal replies, his tone thoughtful.
“Then remain for a while yet, enjoy the comforts of Stirling. I will give you an answer before you need to leave.” David replies, dismissing the man from his presence.
Later that day, as he spends time with his wife, observing their children playing, his wife speaks, her voice questioning. “What will you do about Lord Donal’s offer?”
David considers his wife’s question and looks at her, seeing something akin to fear in her eyes. He pulls her close and replies. “I am not sure yet. Whilst he speaks sense in some sense of what he said, in other ways he does not. I do not know if the Irish will ever truly unite together, there is far too much bitterness amongst them to unite. And the MacCarthys have a lot of enemies.”
His wife pulls their hands together and whispers a question. “Do you think that the MacCarthys want to bring Ireland together under their own rule?”
David sighs. “I do not know. I think they want to attempt it, but I think they know that realistically doing so might not be feasible.”
He hears his wife sigh then. “I know that uniting the Gaelic lands means a lot to you, David, but do you really think the kingdom can afford to go off to war again?”
David considers his wife’s question, then replies. “I do not know. We have not completely secured our strength in the south. But I know there will be those amongst my lords who will talk about heading off the English on two fronts. They are weak now, and are quite focused on Gascony, it would make sense to bring it to them again.”
His wife looks at his face and says. “But you think you should wait?”
“Yes.” David replies. “I do not think we can afford to start another war now. I would rather wait and see, before moving forward.”
March, 1292 Windsor Castle
Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Cornwall
Spring was beginning to set in. That was always a good thing, ensuring that the farmers began looking to get the most out of the soil, the rains were pure and nutritious, and people were happy. That was always important, the spring brought optimism, it brought people out of their shells and into something of what Edmund’s mother had always called positive thinking. It meant that they believed anything was possible, with summer on the horizon, anything could be achieved, and might well be achieved. That was always a good thing, especially with a regency in place, regencies were dangerous, and as such Edmund had had to play a careful game, to try and ensure he remained in place, and that nothing went wrong. He owed his cousin that much, and he owed his family that much. Though, he had no children of his own, he was considering making a new marriage now that Margaret had passed on. Of course that was something that could wait for later, now he had council duty to attend to. The solar where the Queen Regent had summoned them all to, was big and broad, a true setting for an imposing mas, as Edward had been. His son was but a boy, and Edmund feared he lacked the strength his father possessed, his wife however, did not.
The Queen Regent speaks, her voice calm. “My lords, Your Graces. It has been some time since we last met. In that time the winter snows have faded, the sun has emerged from its rest, and the days grow longer. I would hear how the realm holds now.”
Taking his cue from her, Edmund speaks. “Your Majesty, Your Graces, my lord, the reports coming in from the land are positive. The people are happy, taxes are coming in at a respectable rate, and there seems to be no lack of national sentiment against the French. More men are preparing to sign up to fight in Gascony, preparing to remove the French from what is not theirs.” He pauses for breath, then continues. “Furthermore, sentiment is growing within the lands near to the border with Scotland. The lords there are growing restless and impatient with David of Scotland’s rule, and are seeking to throw the shackles off.”
The Queen Regent looks at him intrigued. “Do you believe then that they might rise up soon?”
Edmund considers the question a moment and then says. “I believe that it is most definitely a possibility Your Highness. There are deep rooted feelings against the Scots. History does not fade in a day or a month. The people of the north are growing more and more restless at their overlords, and the lords who these Scotsmen have replaced are wanting their homes back. I think, if given the right conditions or incentive, they could well move forward.”
William of March, Bishop of Bath and Wells, and the Lord High Treasurer speaks then. “And what sort of incentive would you suggest my Lord of Cornwall? The treasury is just about repairing itself after the last war, and in funding the war in Gascony. Taking out more money for an uprising would do serious damage.”
Edmund looks at the Bishop, just about managing to keep his voice calm. “I am not suggesting we use the crown’s money Your Grace. I am suggesting that we provide the suggestion that it might come should these lords do their rightful duty to their King. If we provide them with the hint, I think they will make their move.”
“And what of Bishop Beck, the man had said he would write, and as of yet, he has not.” The Queen Regent questions, her eyes raising up in anticipation, he suspects.
Edmund looks at her and then at Hugh Cressingham, the man who reports to him on all such matters, the man looks away and Edmund sighs. “Unfortunately, nothing has come from Bishop Beck, Your Highness. I do believe the man might well be playing the long run though.”
The Queen regent looks at him questioningly. “What do you mean by that Lord Edmund?”
Edmund hesitates for a moment, not sure just how much he should say, before deciding that telling the truth is better than half truths. “Bishop Beck might have been unpopular during the Siege of Durham Your Majesty, but he remained true to his oath to the King. That is something the people of Durham have not forgotten, furthermore, he has interceded more than once on their behalf against their new lord. He has their gratitude, now more so than ever. Furthermore, he has influence throughout the north. The people look to him for guidance, especially in dealing with the savages who try to rule them.”
“So do you believe then, that he is trying to gain support from the lower levels of society, before working his way up?” the Queen Regent asks hopefully.
Edmund hesitates, he does not want to give the woman false hope, but he does think that that is what Beck is doing and so he nods. “I think so Your Majesty. And if the reports I gave you are anything to go by, I think it is working. Beck is a smart man Your Majesty, we would do well to trust him and ensure that when the time comes we are prepared.”
The Queen Regent nods. “That makes sense my Lord Edmund. I want you to keep a close eye on that situation, and report to me or this council, what you find out. And if there are any developments.”
“Of course.” Edmund replies.
There is a brief pause, and then the Queen Regent turns to Cressingham and asks him. “What word is coming from Gascony? How are Earl Lancaster and the forces there doing?”
Cressingham is a man whom Edmund dislikes on principle, he is useful and good at what he does, but he seems more like a rat, than a true man, and that has never sat well with Edmund. The man’s voice is wheezy when he replies. “They are holding strong Your Highness. They are holding strong at Bordeaux, and are planning on moving out once the snows have settled and the weather has calmed. King Philippe is trailing on his last legs, the loss of Burgundy truly harmed him. His nobles believe he is not as capable as they thought he would be.”
“So it has become a case of forcing Philippe to make a mistake before they move forward then?” Henry De Bohun, regent and acting Lord High Constable asks. “How very cautious of Earl Lancaster.”
“What Lancaster is doing, makes perfect sense my lord.” Edmund says then, deciding to pitch in, instead of remaining silent.
“It is if you wish to play a cautious game. We cannot afford to allow any such thing to continue for a long period of time. The French know where we are weak, we are low on men. We must strike and strike fast.” De Bohun responds.
“And how would you do that? We managed to pull a trick once. I do not think Philippe is foolish enough to fall for it twice.” Edmund responds.
“Then we sit and wait and hope that Philippe does something foolish? I do not think so. We cannot show weakness, not now, not to the French. We must be strong and we must make our move as soon as possible.” Sir Henry says.
Before Edmund can respond, the Queen Regent speaks. “If you are so eager to make a move on France, then by all means Sir Henry bring your men together and set sail. If however, you wish to allow for more experienced heads to lead the charge and settle, then I would listen to what Earl Edmund is saying.”
Sir Henry looks quite downcast at the telling off the Queen Regent has just give him and his apology is mumbled. “Of course, my apologies Your Highness.”
The Queen Regent looks at Edmund then and asks. “How strong do you think Philippe’s forces will be right now Edmund?”
Edmund considers the question, as well as the reports received, and then says. “I would say they are still more numerous than us. But they like the one thing we have on our side. The Gascons want us there, they do not want a French King meddling in what they see as their own business.”
“Will that be enough?” the Queen Regent asks.
Edmund thinks on this and says. “It will have to be. For now.”