This little story assumes that Edward II did not die in September of 1327 but instead was smuggled out of England to live out his life in Europe. Anna Belfrage is not the only person expressing doubts as to Edward II’s death – historian Ian Mortimer is of the same opinion.
Diamonds in the Mud
“Bruges? Why Bruges?”
wrong direction?” Egard said. “We’re supposed to go south. Italy you said,
m’lord, not Bruges.”
nose. “I changed my mind. Happens my dear friend the Pope suggested I go to Bruges.”
his lord a look. Well, lord and lord: Egard had been given the lifelong task of
ensuring Edward of Caernarvon, until recently King Edward II, never returned to
England, which made him as much Edward’s jailer as his servant.
of a tender conscience, is our John. And as he can’t help me reclaim my throne,
he offered to help me in another way.”
throne,” Egard said. “If you try, I must kill you.”
replied. He held up his hand. “I have no desire to claim my throne. It would
oblige me to punish my son – brutally – and I don’t want to do that. He’s his
mother’s pawn in all this. Besides, the Pope’s compensation sounds
Aye, they were travelling with heavy purses and had some further treasures in
the safekeeping of a Lombard banker, but Edward was a man of expensive habits.
Only the best wine, the softest linen for him. And as to horses… Egard eyed his
companion’s mount and sighed. A horse like that attracted more attention than
they needed. Not that anyone but a fool was out and about on a day like this.
Egard sniffed the air: snow in the making and already the wind was rising,
gathering speed over the flat landscape that surrounded them.
find out soon enough.” Edward set spurs to his horse and set off in a burst of
speed before bringing the beast to an abrupt halt. “Egard!” he yelled. “Come!”
Egard’s mount had to be coaxed into a reluctant canter, the heavy hooves
thudding against the ground.
when Egard caught up with him. He pointed at several birds flying in circles
some distance away.
suggested, narrowing his eyes. Crows and a couple of kites. Whatever it was,
Egard would wager it was dead.
was already guiding his horse towards the birds. “Can’t you see the cart?”
admit that his eyesight was far less keen than that of his lord, albeit Edward
had at least a decade on him.
horses some distance away from the upended cart. A litter was lying on its
side, spilling pillows and torn covers. Three dead men-at-arms lay staring at
the grey sky, to the side a frail old man was moaning, his limbs churning the
bloody mud in which he was lying. From beneath the cart came the sound of
someone weeping and under a stand of shrubs was a woman. Dead, Egard reckoned,
the wind lifting the thin, bloodstained material of her veil.
dismounting. Edward was already moving from body to body.
Edward sounded grim. “May the good Lord receive these unfortunate souls into Heaven.”
He closed the eyes of the dead men and knelt beside the old man. “Help me turn
used a corner of his cloak to wipe some of the mud away from the man’s face.
said. He spoke, a rapid collection of words that meant nothing to Egard. He
left the old man in Edward’s care and went to inspect the cart. Trapped beneath
it was a lad, his fine garments torn and muddied.
asked in French. In response the lad pointed at his leg, pinned to the ground
by the cart.
him free,” Edward suggested, grimacing when his fine new boots sunk to their
ankles in the mud.
Egard was sweating with exertion and out of breath by the time the lad was
dragged free, squealing like a stuck pig. The old man crawled towards them,
repeating the lad’s name over and over.
Egard said, studying the lad’s misaligned leg.
something to the old man who chattered right back, all the while wringing his
hands. Edward nodded. “We have to get the lad to a physician. Do you think we
can use the litter?” he asked Egard. “Harness it to our horses perhaps? Those
accursed robbers stole their horses as well—and all their valuables.”
gestured at the dead. “What do we do with them?”
ground’s frozen solid.” Edward pursed his lips. “Maybe we could cover them with
old man and received an earful of high-pitched sounds in return.
explained. “She must go with us.”
litter with his dead mother.”
it can’t be helped.”
wrapping his daughter alone, tucking the folds of her garments tight round her
body. Only when she was entirely shrouded did he allow Egard to carry her to
they were finally on their way, Egard and Edward on foot. “How fortunate they
were headed to Bruges,” Egard commented.
dear Egard, every merchant in the world heads for Bruges. From the north come
the members of the Hanseatic League, from Castile come the wool merchants and
from Italy come those who deal with the luxuries of the far east.”
those robbers steal?”
nothing to sell now. I hope they have friends in Bruges, otherwise they’ll
bright blue eyes narrowing as he studied the old man, at present astride
Egard’s horse. “For a man who has lost not only his daughter but also all his
worldly goods, he remains quite composed.”
reacted differently to tragedies. He glanced back to check on the lad and came
to an abrupt halt. The lad was busy with his sister’s clothes, a small knife slashing
the seams of her heavy kirtle. “What…” He broke off when one of the seams tore,
spilling a multitude of glittering stones. The lad tried to stop them from
falling to the ground, but several slipped through his fingers to land in the
somehow made it off the horse and came tottering towards the litter. He spewed
words, and this time Egard had no need of a translation. The old man was
furious, whacking his son over his head repeatedly.
stones, one by one. A dozen or so lay in the palm of his hand and glittered
like drops of ice on a winter morning.
asked. In response, the old man grabbed his hand. “Mine!” he said in French.
“Give them to me. They are mine!”
too big for the old man to hold. He shook off the old man as if he were an
enervating flea and repeated his question.
suggested, peering down at the little stones.
laughed shrilly. “Yes, yes, it’s just glass. Venetian glass. So give them to
me. Please. They’re mine.” He half-sobbed. “Mine.”
glass you won’t mind us keeping these,” Edward said. “A small compensation for
coming to your aid.” He smiled – one of those frosty smiles the erstwhile king
excelled at, causing men’s bowels to cramp. Egard smothered a chuckle at the
look on the old man’s face. Glass? Not likely.
all of them looking his way. He had paled, the makeshift bandage round his leg
dark with blood.
Edward said. “The lad may well die unless we get some help.”
voice quavered. “My son?”
bandage and covered the shivering boy with his cloak. “How far to Bruges?”
“Two hours, I’d reckon.”
slightly. The lad was not doing well.
daylight faded away. Fortunately, the city gate still stood open and they
hurried across the narrow bridge over the double moat. Inside the city walls
was a network of cobbled streets, of canals and imposing stone buildings rising
several storeys in the air. To the distance, a tower rose towards the sky and
just as they rode through an arch, bells began to ring, a right cacophony of
exclaimed, stopping for a moment to gaze at the tower.
the incident with the glass pebbles. “Rings too often,” he muttered.
before?” Egard asked.
direction. “This time by land…” he crossed himself. “More fool I.”
man’s directions to a house situated right by the main square.
Edward murmured after studying the embellished signs over the closed shop
hope his countrymen have access to a good healer.” Egard was already lifting
the lad out of the litter. Some moments later, Edward and Egard were left
standing in the street with their horses, the stout door to the house shut in
“Not the politest way of expressing your gratitude.”
and a bed.”
Edward mock punched him. “You eat like a horse, Egard.”
things. Lent is soon upon us.”
for stabling, Edward arranged for a room. He had the inn’s pretty maid bring
them ale, food and extra wood for the hearth. Egard sat on a stool and leaned
back against the wall, extending his feet towards the meagre warmth of the
fire. He’d washed hands and face in a bucket of cold water, but blood still
rimmed his finger nails.
hands.” Edward poured them both some ale. “But at least they have the
wherewithal with which to pay for excellent treatment.” He pointed at Egard’s
pouch. “Give it to me.”
Edward carefully shook out the little stones and lined them up on the table.
The light from the candles caused them to sparkle.
“are diamonds. Precious stones come all the way from India.”
repeated. “Who told you?”
you were seeing to the horses.” He grinned. “The Venetians bring them to Europe
and sell them at exorbitant prices. The
Romans believed them to be the tears of God, some say they are remnants of
stars that have fallen to earth.” He picked one up and tilted it this way and
that, causing the reflected light to set it ablaze. “Beautiful.”
for some more bread. “What will you do with them?”
He tapped a finger on the table. “And one I aim to send to my son. A constant
reminder of the fact that his deposed father still lives.”
sighed. “Can’t say I envy him, having to cope with dear Isabella and that hell
on his own.” Egard had long given up on protesting when Edward spoke ill of
Mortimer, a man Egard held in very high regard.
grinned. “But soon…” He raised his mug. “To my son. May he prevail.”
note: For more about my
take on Edward II, Edward III, Roger Mortimer and Isabella, I suggest you read
my series The King’s Greatest Enemy
featuring Adam de Guirande, a knight torn apart by his loyalties to his king
and his first lord, Roger Mortimer. And yes, Egard plays a part too!
© Anna Belfrage
I was always going to be a writer – well in between being an Arctic explorer, a crusader or Richard Lionheart’s favourite page (no double entendre intended – I was far too innocent at the time.) Anyway, not for me the world of nine to five, of mortgages and salary cheques. Oh no; I was going to be a free spirit, an impoverished but happy writer, slaving away in a garret room.
Life happened. (It does, doesn’t it?) I found myself the bemused holder of a degree in Business Admin, and a couple of years later I was juggling a challenging career, four kids, a husband (or was he juggling me?) a jungle of a garden, a dog, a house … Not much time for writing there, let me tell you. At most, I stole a moment here or there.
Fortunately, kids grow up. My stolen moments became hours, became days, weeks, months… (I still work. I no longer garden – one must prioritise) It is an obsession, this writing thing. It is a joy and a miracle, a constant itch and an inroad to new people, new places, new times.
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