My King, My Queen - Part Two

crystaleye

Historic Fiction set in the 14th and 15th century

Just after they became King and Queen, a war broke out. The King of France was not happy at the refusal of his daughter, nor to whom the king had married, a simple daughter of a Baron. With an army many times greater than his own, he set about to bring this rogue kingdom into line with his own.

It was on one misty morning that the king met his cousin, a duke of the neighbouring Lorraine region. Many years ago, both their fathers had aligned themselves with the powerful empire of Hapsburg granting their states immunity from the Kings of France and other kingdoms in alliance with them.

The king, dressed up in full steel plate armour, wearing his full colours rode a fine stallion.  Next to him was his queen, wearing lighter full boiled leather armour, tainted in natural colours from the hardening process that had been used. Only her tabard indicated that she was something more than your regular warrior. That and the fact that she was probably the only woman amongst the formation.

The duke of Lorraine rode forwards to great his cousin. When they were less than ten yards away, they got off their horses and walked the last distance by foot. The queen walking alongside her king as his equal, just as they had both wanted.

“My cousin, the king” said the duke kneeling before them. He then stood up and hugged him. “And my, your queen looks splendid yet fearsome in her war gear.”

“My cousin, the duke” said the king “you too look splendid in your new armour”.

The queen had met the duke for the first time at their wedding several months earlier. He was one of few people that had never made any remarks to the king about how unsuitable – regarding her status – she was to him. In fact, he always found his cousin to enjoy a simple life of following his heart before duty and this lady was exactly like him. A consequence of this was that the great neighbouring powers that be were now moving to end their reign.

The duke was a few years older than the king, probably the same age as the queen, he was the king's closest friend and the two shared many passions. However, the duke had a strange sense of duty to his kingdom before anything else. On this day, this would serve the king well but, in the future, it would lead to treason!

“Tell me your news old friend” said the king now dropping all formalities.

“It is not good”, he did not use my king as they had developed their own custom of talking to each other as children. The queen felt this was odd, as she and the king still used their titles even in their most informal discussions. But then it was a sort of lover's game between them.

“The king of France” the duke continued, “is mastering a big army from all parts of his kingdom. He intends to crush you for this disgrace. Our forces combined will be outnumbered at least 6 to 1”.

“The English were outnumbered 10 to 1 and yet they still beat the French… twice” said the king.

“Yes, but they had a huge advantage with their longbows. Weapons we cannot buy nor make… However, there is one weakness we might be able to exploit. But we would need to move quickly.”

“Go on,” said the king.

“The King of France has been harsh on certain regions within his kingdom. Many dukes, earls and counts feel squeezed by his autocratic rule. I am sure we can move some of these regions to our banner.” Declared the duke.

“And what could I promise in return?” asked the king knowing that armies do not come cheap.

“We could offer a confederacy”, said the duke. “Each region would remain autonomous but in times of aggression, we would form one army under your banner. We would all agree to protect one another and allow each region to increase its wealth free from the King of France's taxes.”

The king looked away for a moment to consider and then turned back.

“How many regions would be willing, and would I need to change sides?” he asked.

“two maybe three” said the duke “if we focus on the biggest ones Luxembourg, Flanders and Picardie, they could doubtless help us bring in several smaller ones to our cause as well”.

The queen spoke “My King, the duke of Luxembourg is a close friend of my father. We had strong trading contacts with them.”

The king raised his eyebrows and then said, “My queen, you never cease to surprise me.”

“And I know the dukes of Flanders and Picardie very well” said the duke “but we would need to ride now”.

“My queen, I must stay here to prepare the army. I need you…”

“We are wasting time my king. Give me half our escort, I will ride out to Luxembourg right away.”

“Very good my queen” Deep down he felt a slight pain. It was the first time that they had been separated since they were courted. But he had every confidence in her to go off and bring him back an army.

“And me, my dear friend, I will ride quickly to the Flanders and beyond” said the duke.

“We have not seen each other in ages and now, in minutes, we must separate in order to save our kingdoms…” said the king thinkingly.

“War, my king, is the ultimate test of men and together we will face this and when all is done, we will share our moments of glory” said the queen.

“God's speed my queen. God's speed my old friend. We are indeed at war and no time to waste. Let us ride with haste” said the king. All three made quickly for their horses. Each of them shouting orders to their respective escorts. Within minutes, three groups of twenty men and horses were off galloping in three directions and galloped they did.

The queen and the duke crossed the kingdom of Lorraine. Every day, they stopped at a fortification to exchange horses. The queen rode with grace and determination and soon she and her troop started to outpace those of the Duke. In some ways, she felt responsible for all this war. Her man had married a lady of far lesser status than he and now his kingdom would soon be at war with the powerful French nation.

She now understood why lesser leaders married for convenience and then took mistresses to fill their true heart's desire. ‘Oh, dammed to a cruel life' she thought. ‘Oh, dammed by the stupid laws and rules we humans make'. ‘If we lose this war, I will not surrender, but will welcome the great sleep so that I will be free of a life as a slave. Free of all these stupid rules we create. Free from duties I do not wish to undertake. FREE' And she rode on with more determination.

She road so fast that even her own troop could not stay with her and within days she was at the duchy of Luxembourg. She arrived in front of the capital where a great army was already being assembled. This army had not assembled to save her king but instead to serve the king of France. She entered the camp with ease. The guards seeing her alone and someone of great importance. They took her directly to the Duke of Luxembourg who recognised her instantly.

The Duke of Luxembourg, also known as the Duchy, was an aging man, wearing glossy brown and gold toga, bald, with a waistline that respected his age and status. He was about the same height as the queen. He looked at the queen, a child he had once knew, now a grown and proud woman. Behind her leather battle gear, it was clear that she was a strong and powerful warrior in her own right. She could strike fear and break hearts in men just by her looks alone.

“My my, my dear child,” he said, “you have indeed grown up to be everything that your father wished you would ever be.”

“And maybe more” said the queen, “I have come here as quickly as I can to ask for your help.”

“All in good time my child” said the duke. “all in good time. As you can see, my army is preparing for war. The French king wants us to….”

“crush the bourguignons” finished the queen.

“How the…?”

“Because the king refused his daughter in a hand of marriage and married a lady of far lesser status” she said.

“Yes, yes, you seem well informed my child”

“That lesser lady… is me” she declared with tears welling in her eyes. It was quite a statement. The duchy could have her arrested and handed over to the King of France instantly. But instead, the duchy was taken completely aback. He was stuck for words but finally spoke.

Turning to an assistant he said, “Assemble my counsel right away. We have an urgent matter to discuss.”

Then he turned to the queen and said, “And while they assemble, we must quickly decide your fate my dear child.”

“Sire, my king has no fight with you nor even with the king of France.”

“He refused his daughter's hand, not a light matter…”

“He refused his daughter's hand because he was and is completely in love with me.”

“Love? Who marries for love? My dear child, no one marries for love but for convenience, you could have been his mistress…”

She chewed on her tongue a bit and then said, “That was not our desire to be.”

He smiled and said softly “you are indeed as your father wished you to be. Fierce and independent. And now… we will all soon be at war because of it!”

“Sire, before going to war, please hear my king's proposal” pleaded the queen.

“Proposal? What could he offer me that the king of France cannot?”

“A confederacy” the queen proudly replied.

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