Henry looked around at the three waiting for him and was filled with a sense of complete panic. He furiously pulled his wife aside and demanded answers from her, this woman that he had been wedded, faithful and as loyal as possible to since their childhood. “What is this you have done? Have you any idea how much danger you have put us all in?” He was angry and scared beyond all reasonable or rational thought for the moment. All he could think or assume was that these men and their faction, which included his aunt Margaret had found some way to sway his wife to their schemes and plots. He held her arms tightly and shook her in his anger.
Catherine Stafford, normally a fairly easy going and much complying wife, stood her ground with her husband this time. “No, Henry, tis you who have put us in grave danger. You with your blind trust and unquestioning faith in Richard to do the right things. You with your assumptions that Richard would be as loyal a friend as you have been to him.” She shrugged away out of his grasp spoke just as furiously as he. “Whilst you have been catering and bowing to him, he has been going behind your back questioning your loyalties and watching our home. He went so far as to place his men around us saying it is but for our own safety, and he has sent summons for me to bring our boys to court to enter into his service and his protection.”
Henry went pale as death at this information. “Where are our children, Catherine? Why are you not at home guarding their safety yourself.” He was shaking in fear for the thought of those boys in the tower, and the fates of his own children.”
Catherine responded bitterly, “I am not home guarding them because we have no home left Henry. Whilst you were with Richard, we were beseiged by those others of his supposedly loyal supporters who chose to make a stand for claim to our land while Richard was otherwise occupied. I had no time to send for help…and those men of Richard’s who were there as they said to protect us, they allowed it to happen.” Catherine’s bitter words were replaced with tearful ones. “I had no choice but to allow them to take the girls into their custody as they were ill and I was given written swearing of their safekeeping. The boys and I escaped during the storms of the night and eventually found safe haven.” Catherine smiled sadly and shared how they managed to disguise the older boy as a girl to throw off those who might be searching. The boy had put up such a fuss until she assured him that he was but participating in a grand ruse and an adventure that other boys would be envious to hear about later! She nodded towards Jasper and Henry Tudor, “You may cling to your misplaced loyalties all you want to Henry, but it is these relatives who have saved your sons from that one you choose to be so loyal to. You owe these men your debt and your gratitude for keeping us alive.”
Henry tried to take in everything she had just told him, and realized in deep resignation that he had been played for a fool and a pawn by Richard. All of this time when he had been kneeling to the ground in deference and reverence to Richard, Richard had been only using him and plotting behind his back to destroy him. He knew that this was not finished by any means and that he would most likely lose the battle with Richard. He gathered what was left of his senses and his courage, and set forth to meet with the two men who would most likely be his personal downfall in this war. It was at that moment that he knew surely in his heart what his own fate would be. He accepted it and vowed that it would be worthy if he could save his family in the end. It was a short and somber meeting between the three. Henry gave his allegiance and backing to the Tudor faction and agreed to put forward the agreement for Henry Tudor to wed Elizabeth York. It was a plan previously suggested by Margaret Stanley, and one which Elizabeth Woodville had secretly agreed to.
It was decided that for the immediate time, he and Catherine would travel to their outlying properties to gather support and armories from there. Jasper and Henry Tudor would ensure their boys safety and disappear once more for the time being.
Elizabeth Woodville woke the next day with a stone in her heart and a determination to find the traitor within her midst. She rose from her sick bed with a calm and delibrate reserve. Though she was still somewhat weak, she retook charge of her floundering household. She was much aggrevated that young Grace had not done as she had bid and left the night before. After recieiving a much difficult to read, hastily written message from her sister Catherine, she was releived though that Grace had chosen to forestall her leaving. The rather garbled message and the panic stricken lad who had delivered it were enough for Elizabeth to realize that something else far more grevious was afoot. Catherine had stated that she was under seige from Richard’s supporters, had fled in fear for her and her sons’ lives.
Elizabeth questioned the young man who delivered the message and he told her what little he knew. Richard’s guards had been set to supposedly protect the Stafford estate, then allowed a neighboring estate holder who held grudge against Henry to overtake the place, hold the little girls for payment of alledged debts and burn the holding to the ground. In the mean time, Catherine had managed with some help from their servants to escape into the night with the boys. The exhausted and frightened young man standing before her now shared that he had escorted the group to safe haven and then continued here with this message. He had made one stop along the way, finding Henry Stafford to convey a message to him.
The young man was a loyal retainer to the Stafford household, namely Catherine. Elizabeth knew him well as he had long been in Catherine’s household and service, ever faithful to her. Elizabeth had always thought perhaps too faithful, but he had never given any cause for his feelings to be questioned and neither had Catherine. Now, the man was beside himself with grief and concern. He said he could not stay, could not take chance on being seen here. When Elizabeth questioned where he was next headed to, he said he was on his way to the Stanley estate with an urgent message for Margaret. Elizabeth made a quick decision and called Grace to her side. “Get your things, Grace… take only what you most immediately need for travel. You shall go to Margaret Stanley.”
Elizabeth gave him a cold and reproving look, “She will be as safe with you as she would be here right now. We are all in high danger at the moment and Grace is not a part of it. She shall go to Margaret… I know, what ever else the woman might feel, she will have heart for this girl who has done nothing wrong to anyone, has a good heart and only wants a life within the church. No matter what else, Margaret Stanley will surely be the one to aid her in this path.” She hurried to write out a message to Margaret, beseeching her to give God’s refuge to Grace, reminding her of their previous agreements and stating that in addition to that pact, Margaret should find for Grace a place in the church and pay her dower as bride of Christ.” Elizabeth knew that price could be as high as for any other noble marriage dower. The church placed a high value on these young women and made much money from their dower fees. She also knew that Margaret Stanley was one of the wealthiest women in the land, as well as one of those most appreciated and respected by the church. Margaret could easily find Grace a place within a highly coveted Convent.
She sealed the message and handed it to Grace. “Give this to Margaret, dear girl and follow on your path that I know you so truly desire.” With that she gave Grace a soft hug and whispered to her, “Go quickly now, follow your faith and your God and do not worry for us.” Elizabeth seemed to show more care and emotion for this girl who was no kin to her than she did to her own daughters. As she watched the two leave, she wiped a tear from her face and offered a small prayer of God’s grace and safety for them on their journey.