Monday, 11 August 2008

The eyelids flutter

It was a glorious day, so Edward IV decided he would spend it out hunting in the Northamptonshire countryside, leaving the dull paperwork to his faithful Lord Chamberlain Hastings.

Amongst the day's supplicants was the widow of a Lancastrian knight, because Elizabeth Grey was in such dire financial straits that she had no option but to comply with Somerset's scheme. She requested the confirmation of her jointure by the king. Hastings was the master of such technicalities and worked out a deal, securing for himself an agreement that one of the widow's sons would marry his (as yet unborn) daughter.

After his day in the field, the time came for Edward to ratify the terms that Hastings had agreed. The Lord Chamberlain outlined the proposal as Elizabeth Grey came before the king. With face cast down, she slowly closed and opened her eyelids, drawing attention to her fabulous eyes. A heart melting smile of encouragement was not necessary on this occasion, as there was not even a hint of inhibition in Edward's six foot four inch frame. He granted the requested provision, supplementing it with an invitation to the royal bedchamber.

Elizabeth declined. In truth, this was not simply because she was following her script. She would not have yielded her honour to such a man in any case. She skilfully deployed the arguments she had learnt from Henry's court about the virtues of chastity and the consequences of mortal sin. Edward could see that she was in earnest. What, though, was the point of being the king of England if he could not have the most beautiful woman in England? Warwick could keep his French princesses, he would marry Elizabeth.

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