‘Is this for me?’ she said, touching the Duke’s arm and indicating
the casket with a nod. ‘How beautiful . . .’ and she bent
her neck for the Duke to lower the jewel over her head. Startled,
but still chuckling, the Duke reached out for the necklet,
murmured, ‘Thank you, Owain,’ and leaned over her to do his
courtly duty. She was aware of the English page with the name
that wasn’t English at all scrambling to his feet and moving
quickly away, free at last now his master had dismissed him.
She could imagine the ache in his knees; she hoped he was
Then she concentrated on the English Duke’s thick, corded
neck and the giant fingers fumbling over the chased gold at her
throat. Thomas of Clarence was rather like a bull with a ring
through his nose, she thought, a little smugly: dangerously
strong, but quite easy to steer once you had a hold of the ring.
Would his brother, the King of England – now, just possibly,
her future husband – be as amenable? She hoped so. But she
also found herself hoping Henry of England wouldn’t have that
thick neck and pop eyes and grizzling temple, and that
he wouldn’t wear the muddy, dull greens and browns that these
Englishmen were all covered in. Letting her mind flit off to a
future in which an archbishop put the crown of England on
her head, in a blaze of candlelight and jewels, the husband her
imagination sketched in was as young as she was. He was tall
and slender and lithe; with dark blue eyes and floppy black
hair and a shy, adoring smile.
The ducal fumbling seemed to take a very long time.
The first time she glanced up, she saw her little brother
Charles, looking very pale and much younger than his twelve
years, stumbling out of the hall past Louis and into the corridor,
where she could just see Christine de Pizan beckoning to him
from the shadows. She hoped that meant Charles was going
to be fed. Neither of the royal children had been fed all day.
She was suddenly achingly hungry herself now she remembered
how long it was since she’d last eaten. But Christine was
as loyal and busy as a terrier, and good at gingering up the
sullen, scary servants into making them meals. And perhaps
Charles would save some of the food for her for later.
The second time she glanced up, as the Duke muttered
‘There!’ in a kind of thick-fingered triumph, she was relieved
to see Louis had vanished too. There was no one in the
doorway but men-at-arms.
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