A Rose for Lancaster
by Christine Elaine Black
A York woman and a Lancaster man are forced into a marriage contract to
please King Henry VII.
Blanche Langley is swept into Henry’s ambitious maneuvers to secure the
throne. Tensions flare as a plot to overthrow the king is discovered. As
the York forces gather to make one last effort to win the throne will
Blanche betray her king and her husband?
~ Blanche ~ July 1486
I had never before rejoiced upon hearing of a man’s death but I prayed for the Lord’s forgiveness. Baron Somerset was taken from this earth by the will of God, and my good fortune merely caused by happenstance and not my fervent wishing. My betrothed died a valiant death—so they said—fighting the pox.
As I twirled aimlessly around my chamber the door opened and my maid entered. A sour look on her face rebuked my unseemly behavior.
“Lady Blanche, a woman in your position wears mourning clothes and reflects upon her loss,” Gerda muttered.
“I shall not! Baron Somerset was a complete and utter stranger to me. Worse, he belonged to the house of Lancaster and I will not mourn for their side.” I squared my shoulders. “I wish to savor my release from an unbearable match to a lowly nobleman.”
Gerda wisely ignored me.
Word of Somerset’s death reached my ears this day, but King Henry would have long known of his distant kinsman’s demise and my fate rested in the hands of this new king. One I considered a pretender to the throne.
“I choose to enjoy this unexpected freedom and hope the king is occupied with his queen, in expectation of a male heir for England. Mayhap, I will wish fervently for his success,” I laughed, the irony lost on Gerda.
“The country will know in a few months whether or not we have a new prince.” Gerda’s face brightened upon mention of the royal baby.
“I hear the king plans to name the child Arthur, and speaks of Camelot reborn.” I smiled at my luck, escaping marriage to an old Lancastrian lord, who may well be descended from Edward the third as I myself descended from the same glorious monarch, but he was the last of the available Somerset men and I envisioned Henry’s difficulty at finding a suitable replacement.
Camelot! He imagined himself the father of another legendary monarch, to be celebrated for a thousand years, I scoffed silently. This new king of England had grand ideas of himself and his court. Did the York queen, Elizabeth, approve her husband’s schemes of marriage amongst the warring cousins? The house of Lancaster had won the battle for now but I intended to discreetly wage war on behalf of my York cousins.
“Fetch my yellow dress for tonight. I wish to be merry in honor of my father and brother—God rest their souls.” They died last year fighting for Richard’s cause, doomed to failure from the beginning.
I prayed for a man to appear, a York, to marry me and give my family male heirs. That would take a miracle as every eligible York languished in prison or hid overseas, waiting for the right moment to raise their swords in opposition to Henry Tudor. Only traitorous cousins remained, wheedling their way into the new court.
At dinner a musician played a tune on a small pipe and the feast of salted fish, cheese, and hard bread came into the great hall on a large platter duly presented to me before my household. I’d given instructions for the best ale to flow freely and gazed over those seated at the tables, all loyal retainers of my father. They smiled and chatted with one another, occasionally throwing a glance in my direction, content with the change in my fortunes. Even though I bordered on the grand age of twenty-five, my kinsmen preferred to see me a maid for life than wedded to a rival English faction.
George Cooper, a local man, stood up and raised his mug. “To ‘er ladyship’s good ‘ealth.”
A cheer went up, laughter ensued followed by a few ribald jokes. I cared not to worry over their amusing comments of my three failed betrothals. I carried a reputation of ill luck. A man betrothed to me had less than a year to live. Somerset wasn’t the only man to die thus named. I had buried three potential husbands, though to be fair the first two were killed nobly in the services of Edward and Richard. Mayhap, our dear Lord and Savior planned a lonely, childless life for me. The thought of taking the vows of a nun appealed to me the older I grew. If I wrote to Elizabeth and begged her to allow my retirement to a convent I might delay further talk of wedlock and wait out Henry’s reign in religious contemplation.
My thoughts traveled along this path until I heard a commotion at the far end of the hall as my household men jostled a group of strangers dressed in traveling clothes stained with mud. My immediate thought was to rush out of the hall to my rooms but as head of the house at Langley Manor I must deal with the arrival of newcomers. The steward talked with hasty gestures designed to delay the men, but they pushed past him and strode to the front of the hall.
I rose off my chair, regretting my choice of attire. The men looked roughened by hard riding and I had no wish to attract attention. They paused in a semi circle and shuffled their feet.
“What’s the meaning of this intrusion?”
A young man broke through the line of ruffians, boldly staring at my person. The sight of his proud stance, even though his dress left much to be desired, irritated me.
“We seek the mistress of the house.”
I flinched. He wore the livery of Lancaster and carried a missive bearing an official seal sending a shudder through my bones.
“You carry a message for Lady Langley?”
The young man held the parchment tightly. “It must be delivered in person.”
I dreaded the content of the letter. King Henry may use his power to remove me from my home and pass ownership to another noble, driving me into destitution.
“Follow me, if you will.” We moved through the passageway leading to my father’s private room, used for dealing in estate matters. My steward discouraged the others from following and I faced my unwelcome guest with impatience.
“I am Lady Langley.”
My hand reached for the letter but he eyed me dubiously and refused to hand over the message.
“I seek the mistress of Langley. The elder woman betrothed to Baron Somerset.” The strength and timbre of the voice belied his years, and cloaked in confidence his bearing held effortless grace. Steel gray eyes met mine without a shred of humility.
“Give me the message.” His hesitation irritated me into sharp speech, a thing I did when vexed by servants. “Now, damn you!” I tore open the missive and read it twice before laughing in contempt.
“Somerset is reported dead. I can no more marry him than I can marry Richard of England.”
“You are Lady Langley?” The cheeky lout stared at me with a curious quirk on his lips.
“I am Blanche Langley, mistress of this house.”
“Indeed,” he mused.
“The king orders me to marry Somerset within the month. Does he not know the man died?” I shrugged in confusion.
“I am Giles Beaufort, heir to Somerset.”
Christine, born in Scotland, currently resides in Ontario, Canada.
Her favourite stories to write are romantic fiction, especially with an ancient Roman or Tudor theme, filled with heart-stopping heroes and page-turning situations.