Blood Of The Lion

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Two Queens

September, 1286 Stirling Castle

Queen Isabel Dunkeld nee Bruce

She was married, finally married, something she had often wondered about, being a married woman. Not only was she married to a noble, she was married to the noble, to the king. She felt honoured beyond belief that she had been chosen for this honour. To be married to the king was something of an honour, the highest honour someone like her could be given. The ceremony had been the stuff of dreams, and Isabel felt as if she were floating on air for most of the time since the wedding. The king himself was beautiful, handsome, tall with blonde hair, and muscular build. He was kind and caring, and they had much to speak about. They had passed the hours speaking of much and more, and Isabel knew she felt something for the king already. She just hoped he felt the same for her.

Her grandfather, Lord Robert De Brus, the fifth Lord of Annandale was part of the King’s court as an advisor, and as such Isabel was somewhat glad he was here. That they were walking along the pathway of the castle, was somewhat of a surprise though she wondered if her grandfather wished to speak to her of something. Knowing that since her marriage, her grandfather would not speak first, Isabel decides to speak. “Are you well grandfather? How have you found Stirling since the wedding?”

Her grandfather laughs softly. “I am very well my queen, as well as I have been in a long time. Stirling has always been good to me, and it continues to be so. And what of you my queen? Are you well?”

Isabel looks at her grandfather, an old lion of a man, his hair completely silver, and yet his frame is strong, his arms muscular as if he were a young man. She smiles at him. “I am very well grandfather. My husband, the king has been treating me well. And we have had many interesting discussions of things during the days and nights, when his councillors have allowed him to be free.”

She gives her grandfather a mock glare then, and he laughs. “I apologise for that my queen, but it is a trying business being King. And I know your husband, the king wishes nothing more than to spend every moment with you.” Her grandfather pauses for a moment and then he says. “Tell me my queen, what do you know of the court and your ladies?”

Knowing that this might be one of her grandfather’s lessons she takes her time to respond. “I know that Lady Marjory is someone who can be trusted, she and her brother have our interests at heart, and their own are in line with ours.”

Her grandfather nods. “And what would those interests be my queen?”

Isabel considers for a moment. “To ensure that the king is secure in his power, and that our interests are running smoothly with his.”

Her grandfather nods. “You do know of course that considering your own feelings with regards to the king do mean that there are some things that must run below ground.”

Isabel looks at her grandfather and wishes that she could ask how, but she knows her grandfather likely will not give her an answer and so she says. “I understand that grandfather. But how else can I ensure the king is safe. He is the king who would want to do him harm at risk at being harmed themselves?”

Her grandfather looks at her a moment and then says. “The King is the most powerful man in the land that much is true. And yet his power relies on the lords and nobles of the realm being sure that they must match their interests to his. As of late there has been a lot of scheming and manoeuvring to ensure that those interests do not move completely in parallel. The Comyns are an example of this. They are one of the most powerful families in the realm, and yet should the opportunity present itself they will undoubtedly jump toward the better option.”

Isabel looks at her grandfather then and asks. “Is that why they did not send a lady to be part of my group?”

Her grandfather nods. “No doubt they believe that one of their own would have been better suited. And yet they failed to take into account that King Alexander would have remembered their role in his own minority. Such things are hard to forget.” A hard look crosses her grandfather’s face then, before he looks at her and it softens. “I do not say this to frighten you my queen, merely to show you that just because of your title people will not stop trying to do things to damage you or our family.”

Isabel nods and then says. “I will endeavour to keep a close eye on my ladies from now on grandfather. I promise that I shall not let the title blind me to the reality.”

Her grandfather smiles. “I know you will my dear, and I shall be doing the same as well. Our family is now linked with the crown and we must ensure that the king is protected from all those who would work against him.”

“I will ensure that the king is safe, grandfather. He is my husband, and we are together now until death does us part. I will not allow anyone to cross him.” Isabel says her voice fierce. She pauses a moment and then asks. “Did father not wish to remain here?”

At this her grandfather’s posture changes, it goes from relaxed to being very stiff. His voice is sharp when he says. “Your father saw fit to return to Carrick once the ceremony had been completed. He said there were other things that required his attention. No doubt our lands beyond the border needed tending to.”

Isabel feels a sadness envelop her then and her voice is soft when she asks. “Is that wise grandfather? Considering the atmosphere at court, should father not have remained here?”

Her grandfather is silent a moment and then says. “I do believe your father will return. Until then, there are many other things that must needs be done.” There is a moment’s pause and then he says. “Also my queen, remember that someone such as William Wallace holds the king’s ear and as such it would do you good to get to know the lad.”

Isabel looks at her grandfather then and asks. “Truly? Do you think it is worthwhile?”

Her grandfather nods. “Very much so, becoming friends with a favourite of the king will make it easier for the king to become comfortable around you.”

Isabel nods and then before she can speak a strong voice sounds in front of them. “Ah my queen, I have been looking for you.” Isabel looks up to see her husband standing there looking at her intently, she blushes slightly. And as the king smiles she hears him say. “Lord Robert, if I might, I would walk with my wife a while.”

Her grandfather lets go of her arm and says. “Of course my king.” With that he bows and walks away, leaving Isabel standing there a moment before she takes her husband’s arm and walks with him.

They walk in a companiable silence for a moment before the king speaks his voice uncertain. “You are well my lady?”

Isabel nods and says. “Very well my king, better now that you are here.”

She sees the king blush then and feels her heart soar. The king is silent a moment and then says. “Call me David, my lady. We are husband and wife now, we do not need to resort to formalities when we are alone.”

She smiles slightly and then says. “I will, if you call me Isabel. We are after all alone now.”

Her husband stops and smiles at her as well. “Very well….Isabel. Tell me, how has your day been so far?”

Isabel looks at her husband a moment and then she says. “It has been okay my…David. It seems that there are more things that I must learn than I thought. There is so much that needs doing.”

Her husband looks at her intently and asks. “And what things are those, if I might ask? I had thought Stirling was fit for a king.”

Isabel smiles. “It might be fit for a king, but there are some certain subtleties which were missing. It those that need to be added to make it fit for a queen.”

Her husband laughs then, a jovial sound that fills her with warmth. “Very well Isabel. Tell me what it is you need and you shall have it. After all we are king and queen now, and it is time we began to act in harmony with one another.”

Isabel smiles. “I shall have a list made soon enough, and I shall present it to you when it is done.” Her husband smiles then, and she feels her heart flutter a little. There is a moment’s silence then, and then finding the courage she asks. “My lord…David, will you answer a question of mine that I have been wanting to know for some time?”

“Of course Isabel, I shall. What is it you wish to know?” her husband replies.

Isabel takes a moment to consider, and then she asks. “How did William Wallace comes to be your companion? I know that he is a son of a knight sworn to Lord Stewart, but it seems a surprise that he is such a good friend to yourself.”

Her husband is silent for a moment, and Isabel fears she has asked the wrong question, but after a moment her husband replies. “My father asked for him to come to court when I was but a child. My father asked for a number noble lads to come to court, so that I could form friendships with them. Growing up as I did, I could have been quite lonely had William not been there. The others were there because their fathers wanted something, William was there because his father was honoured by the request and we became good friends. We share the same interests, and he knows what to say in situations where others might flounder. He is my brother in all but name.”

Isabel is surprised by the passion in her husband’s voice as he speaks, and she finds herself admiring him all the more for it. “He must be some man to have earned such respect, my lord.”

“He is. He is one of the finest men I know. He is a good swordsman, and a lad with a heart of pure gold. He is made of sterner stuff than some of the other nobles who come and flaunt their wares at court. It is something of an amusement to me, I must admit. Half of the nobles who came to foster often look at him and wonder what he has that they don’t. And they do not realise that he never forced his presence on me. He merely was there and we developed a friendship.” The king says, he pauses a moment and then says. “That is in my opinion the only way for true friendships to develop. When there is a desire on both sides. One side forcing itself on the other will only lead to greater tension.”

Isabel looks at her husband for a moment and then says. “I believe you my king. I agree with you as well. There is only so much one can take if one does not feel the same way about the other person.”

Her husband nods. “Very much so. It would be good if everyone knew this, but instead it seems that the very essence of the court is to force oneself on those who might grant them what they want, without regard for whether their presence is wanted. If such things were taken into consideration perhaps it might lead to fewer rivalries within court itself.”

Isabel nods and goes to respond when she sees a man stumbling toward them his clothes torn and bloody, there is something raised high in his hand and it takes her a moment to realise what it is, but when she does, she screams.

The Tower

Queen Eleanor Plantagenet

As she looked at her son sleeping in his cradle, Eleanor could not help the feeling of sadness that overcame her. Finally after so many years of trying they had a son. Named Edward after his father, and born during the heat of battle in Wales two years ago, he was the heir they had both been waiting for, and yet Eleanor could not help but worry that perhaps he too would not last. They had had three sons before Edward, John their first had died aged five whilst they had been away, and his death had stung, threatening to tear them apart. Henry’s death had not been a shock, he had been ill since birth and his death, had guiltily come as a relief to them both. Alphonso’s death though had come as a true surprise. Their beautiful boy had been strong and healthy and yet his death had almost been the final nail in the coffin. As Edward slept in his cradle, Eleanor knows that the burden of the kingdom and her husband’s legacy rests on his little shoulders, she worries what that might do to him. Their daughters were grown and nearing marriage apart from Elizabeth who would grow alongside Edward. They would carry on the legacy through their children, but Edward, Edward would shoulder most of the burden and that worried her.

Sighing, Eleanor kisses her son’s cheek and then rises and turns and walks away. With her guards following her she returns to her rooms where her ladies in waiting are present, they rise as she enters and then sit when she sits. Once she is seated she begins things by saying. “It is a very interesting time that we are living in right now my ladies. The new king of Scotland has wed a lady from his own kingdom for the first time since that infamous King, Duncan wed Suthen. A very interesting development and one that suggests that perhaps there is a change in the King of Scotland’s thinking.”

Alice de Lusignan, the wife of John De Warenne her husband’s trusted commander speaks then. “What do you think this means my queen? Do you think that perhaps the King of Scotland is looking within his borders?”

“Most definitely.” Eleanor says. “I believe that it is an appropriate thing for the King of Scotland. He is after all only a boy of fourteen summers. There will be many lords and ladies looking to gain favour with him through the traditional means.”

“Apparently Queen Isabel is supposed to be a fiery beauty my queen. From what my friends in Scotland write, they say that she has the temperament of her father but the mind of her mother. She will be a very interesting queen no doubt.” Alice says.

Eleanor looks at Alice then and says. “Your friends within Scotland, do they specify precisely who the other candidates for the King’s marriage were?”

Alice is silent a moment and then replies. “From what my sources tell me there was a Comyn girl, a Macduff and I believe a Douglas considered as well my Queen. Though it seems King Alexander had settled on Isabel Bruce, because of good relations with the new queen’s grandfather.”

Eleanor nods. “An interesting decision by the late king and one that is sure to have its consequences. But enough of this talk. Maud, you have been awfully quiet, tell me, what how does young Humphrey do?”

Maud, a quiet lady, not often given to speaking, looks surprised at the question, but eventually speaks. “He is doing well my queen, thank you for asking. His fostering is progressing well, and he seems to be growing into a strong and smart young boy.”

Eleanor nods, aware that young Humphrey is fostering with her brother in law the Earl of Lancaster to ensure his father’s good behaviour. “That is very good, perhaps when the time is right he can come to court and serve as a good instructor to the young prince.”

Maud nods her face filled with surprise. “That would be an honour my queen. Truly an honour.”

Eleanor nods and then turns to Joan de Munchensi, wife of her husband’s most trusted commander and says. “You have been awfully quiet today Joan. Do you not have gossip for us to speak of today?”

Joan, a usually talkative lady, has been strangely quiet as of late, and yet at the question her eyes come to life and she says. “It seems that there might be more to things within certain ladies households than meets the eye my queen.”

Her interested piqued, Eleanor says. “Do go on Joan, it is cruel to leave your queen waiting for more information to come forth.”

Joan smiles then, bringing back memories of something akin to what Eleanor is used to from the lady. “All I will say is that it seems the Lady of Lincoln is not as happy as she would have the rest of us believe. It seems there is trouble between her and husband, due to the lack of male progeny.”

Eleanor looks at the lady and then says. “And how did you come to know this my lady? It seems that they might well have fooled us all with their display the last time they were at court. They only have the one daughter do they not?”

Lady Joan nods. “Oh indeed my queen. Just the one daughter, and Lady Alice is not the most healthies of children. Gods alone know where they might look for more relief. It seems Earl Henry is looking for another way with which to get a male heir.”

Eleanor looks at the lady scandalised. “Without the king or his Holiness’ permission? Why the Earl is treading some very dangerous territory there. And all to sire a male heir. His poor wife, perhaps extending an invitation to her might make the earl reconsider.”

As she sees her husband’s page coming toward the entrance, she rises her ladies rising with her. “It has been as always a pleasure to speak with you all today my ladies. It would seem my husband has need of me. Until next time.” She nods as they all curtsey and then walks out her husband’s page following behind her. Eventually they come to her husband’s solar, and she nods to the page before entering. Her husband is stood by the window looking out at the grounds below, but he turns and gives her a smile, a rare one, and then comes to her and takes her into his arms.

She can hear his heart beating quickly as her head presses against his chest, she pulls back and looks at him. “You seem stressed my love. What is the matter?”

Her husband sighs deeply. “Word has come from the Earl of Carrick. It seems he wants some aid against his father. Though why he wants the aid I do not know. It seems he is using his continued loyalty to me throughout the years as the reason as to why I should give him aid.”

Eleanor looks at her husband then and says. “Surely you are not considering giving him that aid? It would put our plans for Scotland into great jeopardy to do so. Besides Carrick might think his loyalty gives him special permission, but really he is merely fulfilling his duties as he should do.”

Her husband nods. “Of course, the man is insistent though. One would think having his daughter as queen would be enough for him. But apparently not. It does not matter I cannot and will not commit to such a thing. Though the issue does remain that my hopes of securing Scotland now reside on a bedrock, and relying on a boy to give me something I know damned well he will not give.”

Eleanor considers this for a moment and then says. “There is one way you might be able to achieve what it is you desire my love.” He looks at her then and she smiles. “Our son Edward is the same age as Princess Margaret of Norway, she is King David’s niece, and from what you have told me, it would seem that the King of Scotland would not refuse his niece anything, nor would her father. This could be the way we get the influence in Scotland we need.”

Her husband looks at her a moment and then says. “An interesting proposition. Though the question that arises from that is that why should we look toward Norway. Whatever children David and his wife have will be within our own son’s age, perhaps having more direct influence could be best. Though of course my nephew might well think it too obvious.”

Eleanor nods. “It might be better to go through this process my love. After all, it would be good to have an ally in Norway as well. Their ships could be important should the need arise.”

Her husband nods. “There has also been word from Gascony. It seems that Philippe intends to send word out to Rome. He wishes for the Pope to intervene.”

As those words wash over her, Eleanor gets a deep sense of fear. “If the Pope does intervene then we are lost. His Holiness is known for being a strict follower of the rules of the land, and Philippe could well argue suzerainty if the need comes to it.”

“Very much so, unless there is enough pressure on his Holiness to see that it would be more in his interest to allow us to claim the lands without needing to give so much to my cousin.” Her husband responds. He pauses then. “The King’s brother is most desperate for a crown himself. After all his father led the failed crusade to Aragon for this purpose. Diverting attention there might be worthwhile.”

Eleanor looks at her husband a moment and then says. “Do you mean to bring that issue up once more? What would the benefit be of doing such a thing?”

Her husband nods. “It would be adding salt to the wound that is Aragon for Philippe and his brother. It would also be something that could well diver my cousin’s’ attention. After all from what our spies say, the boy does not like leaving things unfinished. And that is something that is most definitely unfinished for him and his brother.”

“I do not know whether that is a smart move my love. They might just as well use the Papal authority to try and take Gascony from us. After all if the Pope believes they hold the right to it, then they will use whatever force they want and there is nothing that can be done about it. Aragon might well prompt them into doing such a thing.” Eleanor says.

Her husband sighs in frustration. “Then I know not what to do. There are things that must be done, but the order that they come in looks uncertain to me. There are things at home that must be sorted out before Gascony comes forward once more, and yet there is every reason to believe that my cousin will not rest until he has taken Gascony from me hands.” Her husband’s hands curl into fists. “I will not allow the work of my father and myself to be taken from me by a mere boy. That is something I cannot stomach nor will I allow it to come to pass.”

Eleanor takes her husband’s hands into her own then and says. “And you will not my love. Philippe might think he has the advantage now, but he does not know the people of Gascony as you do. He has old men and young brash men around him, they will council him two different things and he will be stuck wanting to do the bold thing. We can use that to our advantage.”

Her husband nods. “Of course. We shall need to take a deeper look into the man’s state of affairs. Perhaps a trip to Gascony is in order. A trip that will need to have all the necessary arrangements made should something happen.”

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