So, it was one dark evening that everyone played their individual parts in this game of pawns. Thomas Grey was waiting in the night to spirit a young Richard York away towards exile and hiding in Brittany where he then planned to join the Tudor faction. Stanley and Hastings secretly delivered another young and quite filthy serf boy to Elizabeth Woodville’s quarters. She first looked upon the boy with utter disgust, and her daughter Elizabeth York cried that this would never work and she did not want to be a part of it.
The elder Elizabeth told her bluntly that there was no other option now and that unless she wanted a same fate she would cease her complaints and assist in this. They set about cleaning the boy up and were surpised to find the uncanny resemblance of him to their own Richard. Elizabeth Woodville then had some suspicions and muttered them to herself, “Well, look at this… one of Edward’s ill gotten bastards arriving just in time? No matter, better he suffer this fate than a life time of being a suspicios pawn floating about.” She returned her attention to the boys and admonished him severely not to speak to anyone, lest his voice and mannerisms give hiw away. They made the excuse for him that he was much ill with a congestion and cold from the dampness of this place.
When Elizabeth York questioned how this should fool their Edward, the elder admitted “Tis been long since they have seen each other and Richard has always been a quiet boy… between that, this feigned illness, and Edward’s own fears of late hopefully this will suffice” She then warned the boy to carry through as told and to offer such dire warnings to Edward once they were together.
Brackenbury and his guards came to retrieve the boy who was given up without too much distress. They escorted the boy to the tower apartment to join his brother. The scared young boy kept to his warnings and made much fuss of holding his chest, coughing and clearing his throat. By the time he was brought to the tower it was late and Edward was woke from a groggy sleep by the entrance and arrival of this boy. He did know something of Richard’s plan so was not surprised to see his brother. Being half asleep and not feeling well himself, he did not question the boy’s identity then.
In the very early hours before morning, the boys were roused from their sleep and bundled up with warning to stay quiet and do as they were told. They were silently escorted from the tower down to the stables where they were handed over to Marie. Marie gave them another dire warning to be silent if they would wish to stay alive, and follow her. The early morning was quiet and no one was about as she walked away from the Castle with the boys. She got only so far before intercepted by Gerard. He was calm but gravely stern with her as he quietly informed her to keep walking so as to draw no added attentions to herself or them. She was shaken and excessively startled by his appearance there but continued with the boys as he instructed. They walked a short distance to three waiting horses. As Gerard placed the two boys on one horse, Marie made attempt to flee… Gerard’s words stopped her, “Do not try it Marie, You know I shall find you no matter what. Be done with this mess you have made and come with me now. I do not have time to rescue you from more!”
He easily grabbed her and pushed her none too gently upon a horse while speaking in a frustrated, harsh tone, “You will go back to where you belong and cause no more damages here!”
She responded sullenly, “What matter should it make? I saved them from their sure fate and the outcome will still remain the same. Why should I not benefit from it.”
Gerard did not have time to contiue this irrational argument with her, “The outcome of this will be that some will surely die within the next few days and you should pray to God that the benefit will be us not being included in that number!” He grasped the reigns of his own horse and advised the boy Edward to follow his lead as he urged the horse on towards the deep forest.
A short time later the Bishop led two similar bundled boys up the back stairway, one normally used only by the King or the guards. He escorted the boys into the small but warm and comfortable tower apartment and took much care in aiding them to remove their outer clothes. Brackenbury showed up then and the two men spent a great amount of time cleaning there with the boys. These two boys were pale and weak, with shortness of breath and coughing between them. They spoke litte but were greatly appreciative of the care they were recieiving. After the boys were fed and put to bed, Brackenbury and the Bishop stood outside the door and discussed the state of these boys. The Bishop advised Brackenbury that though the boys appeared rather well, they had probably expended much on this short journey and would need a great amount of rest. He added that it was up to Brackenbury to keep these boys alive and viewed by the public masses from time to time. As he prepared to leave, his last warning was, “Do not let these boys die any time soon. It is on you to keep them alive for as long as need be.”
The morning found Elizabeth Woodville in private grief and distress bordering upon a rage that threatened to storm about her. She knew nothing other than that she had been forced to send one child to an unknown exile and another to an almost certain death in order to save the rest of her family. Her bitterness and her hatred of Richard was all consuming and knew no boundaries. There was an abundance of rage within the room as her daughter was feeling her own which was directed towards the one she held responsible for all of this. The younger one’s rage was not at Richard, but at her Mother. Soon the atmosphere within the room was so charged with emotional tension that it became almost unbearable. The little girls were fretting and crying with unsettled fear that could not be eased by the middle one, Cecily who was left to attend to them. Elizabeth Woodville snapped at her middle daughter to care for them. Cecily’s resentment of the situation soon came close to equaling that of her Mother and sisters.
Elizabeth Woodville took her older daughter outside to the small dock way, where they both stood for some time staring out at the storming seas. She looked at her daughter and knew what was within the girl’s mind, “Think what you like daughter, but know this… I am not the one to blame for this. The one to blame shall surely suffer as I am suffering now. He shall know no peace in the remainder of his life, nor in his death either, nor shall his family!”
Elizabeth York cringed at her Mother’s words that sounded much like a threat to her. She knew well of their bloodline that carried that ancient blood of witches… Her Grandmother, Jaquetta had quietly taught her all she should need to know. She had also taught her a good amount about not casting out curses to the sea and the winds to carry them to where you had no control of where or who they landed upon. Jaquetta had cautioned her on many occasions to be wary and careful of one’s words for they had more power than anyone would ever know or understand. Now, she stood out here facing the seas and feeling the powers of the wind, listening with intense fear as her Mother railed against the world that she felt had done her such injustice. The woman in her highly charged, emotional state cursed everyone and everything she could think of to blame except the one who was truly at fault… herself. Her ranting ended with a curse upon this place and the heartbreak it had caused her.
The seas rose wildly, the clouds covered the sun completely and the earth beneath them trembled. The young Elizabeth shook in fright and begged her Mother to cease her curses now. Elizabeth Woodville felt the power as well and calmed herself to a still, chilling cold that filled her soul. Her silent vow was simply one that she would not forget or forgive this, she would carry it for an eternity.
Elsewhere in another part of the Castle, Elizabeth Shore sat staring out a window to the forest beyond them. She had been there in this same place from the break of early dawn and watched furtively as a small group left the Castle grounds and headed out to that forest. Hastings stood behind her, held a hand on her shoulder and offered what little reassuring comfort that he could. He had come to her before daybreak to tell her it was done and led her to the window where she could catch a final glimpse of her son leaving the Castle heading toward what hopefully would be a safe and better life. They would most likely never know or be sure of it unless this Gerard kept to his word and returned or sent message that the boys were truly safe.
Richard was advised that morning by the Bishop that everything had gone as planned and was now finished. He did spend some moments wondering if this man Gerard would be true to his words to return and confirm the outcome and safety of the boys. He had a plan for that as well though, which was being carried out as he spoke. Richard believed that this plan would also ensure added loyalty of one who he sometimes wondered if he should truly trust.
John Howard had cautioned him to be wary of the Stanleys, and of Hastings as well. He would not divulge any proof or sources, only a feeling that they should not be fully trusted. Howard implied that though he could not prove it yet, he thought Hastings was hiding something of importance. His thoughts on Stanley were simply that no matter what the man intoned to them, he was married to Margaret Stanley and that alone should be cause for added caution with him. Could he truly control that woman’s movements and plots any more than Edward had controlled all of his wife’s?
Gerard had asked for the care of this child Eleanor who was in Margaret’s care. For some reason, Margaret must have deemed the girl of some importance else she would not have taken her in. Margaret was not the most nurturing and mothering type of woman, save for her own son. And, if truth be spoke, she had not even devoted so much personal care to him… she had more tirelessly spent her energies in her fight for his right to the crown. Richard’s thoughts on this were, “Well, quite obviously the child can not remain in Margaret’s custody. If the honorable Gerard wants this Eleanor, he shall have her… once he returns to me with proof that Marie has been dealt with, and that the boys are well safe in such a place as they will not be found.” He sent his authorities to remove Eleanor from Margaret and take her to his wife for now with instructions for her keep the child well and comfortable until she could be returned to her proper family. His wife would care well for the child with few questions. She was already caring for his brother George’s two orphaned children and looked on them as her own. He added that she should prepare their household to travel upon short notice. She would know of what he was referring to and he had no concerns about her ability to carry out his details.
Richard was of the opinion his removal of this child from Margaret’s care would serve as notice that he was questioning their loyalties. He was quite sure that they would understand his unsaid meaning and take heed that he was watching them closely.
As to the matter of William Hastings, he instructed Howard to quietly investigate the man and his recent activities more thoroughly. A few days later Howard returned with what he said was proof of some conspiracy. He told Richard of the sudden disappearance of Thomas Grey, of Grey’s involvement with Elizabeth Shore and of the fact that Elizabeth was now residing with Hastings. A witness had also come forward to confirm that Elizabeth Shore had visited Elizabeth Woodville’s quarters as had Margaret Stanley. Richard asked who this supposed witness was and should they be trustworthy. Howard initially hesitated in his answer causing Richard to think that perhaps he was fabricating a witness to justify his own means. After some moments of silence Howard slowly answered, “Your Highness, I hestitate only because I am still troubled by this witness suddenly coming forward to share this information.” He halted then cleared his throat and continued, “She came forward to the Bishop saying she was much distressed by recent events and felt she must cleanse her soul… I do not think she meant so much to do harm to these two but to bring harm or suspicion upon someone else.” He stopped and closed his eyes for a moment.
Richard was impatient and on edge of losing his guarded temper, “Well, Do you intend to tell me who this woman is, or do you suggest that I stand here and guess at names as they come to my head?”
Howard shook his head, “Your Grace, this name would never come into your thought… It certainly did not come into mine. The young woman who cleared her soul was your niece, Elizabeth York.”
A look of shock came over Richard’s face as he took in this information. He was surpised and somewhat puzzled by this turn. Apparently, the girl was filled with resentment against her Mother and had asked the Bishop for mercy and pardon upon her guilty thoughts against her Mother. She had also begged the Bishop’s mercy and forgiveness for her Mother’s soul which she thought must be much troubled to do such things as she had recently done.
Richard was overcome with his temper now. He raged around the room threw things aside, kicked at chairs and swore violently. The evidence against these people was damning to say the least. Sadly, he felt some sympathy for the girl who probably did not even realize how she had damned others more than her Mother with her confessions. Not that her Mother was not guilty by any means… but she could accomplish nothing from where she was and those others knew that well. They must have sought her out which laid the guilt on them. His highest anger was at Hastings, whom he had trusted and thought loyal. To Richard, this was the most unforgivable sin. Elizabeth Shore was a harlot and whore who willing conspired with Hastings, most likely for monies now that Edward was gone.
And, just where was Thomas Grey… had they aided him in escaping to his uncle and the Tudor camp? He was quite sure they had but had no real proof of that. As for Margaret Stanley, he had never trusted her but he had failed in his assumption that Thomas Stanley could control her. Now, he was in a rage at Stanley for enabling his wife to continue her plots.
Howard stood back and let Richard vent his rage on the room rather than his person. He knew Richard well and understood that once this violent rage was out of his system, he would be clear headed with determined well focused thoughts on how to proceed. It was some time before Richard’s storm wore down. When it did, he simply shook his head in some resignation and told Howard to leave him. He commanded Howard to convene a council meeting the next morning for all of the inner council. As Howard went to leave, Richard advised him, “You be sure that these men as well as any others who might have some questionable involvement in this are in attendance.”
The next morning the council convened as ordered. Before the meeting, Richard met privately with Brackenbury and instructed him to have his officers take Elizabeth Shore into custody. He shared that she would most likely be found in the apartmens of William Hastings. Brackenbury asked no questions and tried to hide any inward fears he was experiencing… he did not like the path this was taking. Richard then advised him to have his senior guards wait outside the council chambers, more than a few of them would be needed.
Richard made some attempt to curb his anger temporarily and entered the council chambers. Before any other words were uttered, Richard stepped to the head of the table and proceeded to accuse a number of the men of treason and conspiracy against him. He motioned to the door for the guards to enter and then let his temper fly at all of them, going so far as to attack them physically. The men were too stunned to come to their own defense, and it would have been even more dangerous for their futures to attempt it.
When he was finished he had the guards arrest Hastings and Stanley, as well as the Lord Bishop of Ely. He issued a warrant for Thomas Grey and made it known to Hastings that Elizabeth Shore was now in his custody. With that he left the room as men stood in uncommon, uncomfortable silence.
While Stanley and the Bishop Ely were taken into custody and brought to the tower, William Hastings was brought out to the side yard and immediately executed for his treason and betrayal of Richard. Richard took his conspiracy and his betrayal most personlly and acted with harsh judgement. In Richard’s mind there was no forgiveness for what Hastings had done to him.
In the case of Thomas Stanley, Richard took more planned thought. He did not have actual proof that Stanley had done anything to betray him other than not control his wife. His issue with Stanley was that he wanted him and his families loyal to him… he needed their support and not another bloody rebellion at this time. The arrest was more to show Stanley just how serious he was and how far he would go to gain what he wanted. He met with Stanley to ensure that Stanley was ready to heed his words. Stanley was well aware of how precarious his position presently was… he was fully aware of that when the guards had shown up the previous day to take the child, Eleanor away. When Richard presented him with his only option, he gladly took it and vowed he would make good on it. Richard had stripped Margaret of all her many titles, estates and wealth, and transferred it all into Thomas Stanley’s name. She now had nothing and was completely beholden to him for anything she might require. Richard then took the added step of placing her under house arrest in the guardianship and custody of Thomas. His final words to Thomas, “Get that woman out of my sight and my residence immediately. Be well advised of this Stanley, I do not want to see her face nor hear any breath of scandal about her. If you should fail in this, then you may join Hastings out in the side yard. Take her, confine her somewhere far from here, place your guards around her and then return here as quickly as possible. I have need of you here.”
The matter of John Morton Bishop of Ely was due to their mutual dislike of one another rather than anything else. Richard had him arrested more to show the church that they were not quite so all powerful as they thought. His reasoning was that this might sway the clergy to think twice before they chose sides in the future. Morton was released rather quickly to the custody of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.
The last arrest which he dealt with was that of Elizabeth Shore. Richard had no fond feelings for the woman, but the rest of the realm did seem to. He held her in low regard and had much distaste for her lack of morals. The fact that she was so open and well admitting of what she was caused him no end of disgust for her. His opinion was that the least a woman such as her might do was have discreetness about her chosen role in life. Unfortunately, he had little evidence or strong proof of anything truly treasonous that she may have done. It would seem that she was merely a go between, delivering messages to and from Elizabeth Woodville and Hastings. He knew that should he accuse her of more, she would deny any knowledge of the contents of those messages.
In the end, he chose instead to make a mockery of her and humiliate her for her promiscuous behaviour. She was forced to walk the streets on a Sunday carrying a taper in hand. She did so clad only in a kirtle that left little to the imaginations. What Richard intended as humiliation and shame drew a large crowd of appreciation from the men and sympathy from the women. His plan had backfired because Elizabeth Shore was a woman of good heart, well liked by everyone who knew her. After her walk of shame, she was returned to a cell in the prisons where she quickly drew the sympathy and attraction of Richard’s Solicitor General, Thomas Lynom. Lynom was so intent on marrying her, despite her past, that Richard eventually gave in and allowed the marriage.