Eleanor had brought back a couple of tapestries given to her by the queen, and spent so much time deciding where to hang them and then changing her mind that Hugh teased her, “Shouldn’t you be moving this one again? It’s been hanging in the same place for the entire morning.”
“I may be moving it soon, but I like the way the light catches at it. Of course the sun will fade it, so perhaps I should move it after all. Doesn’t Isabella have wonderful taste, Hugh?”
“Exquisite.” They had been lying in bed together, Hugh with his hand on her belly feeling the baby’s gyrations back and forth, but at Isabella’s name he drew his hand back for an instant. “What is it, Hugh?”
“Nothing, my love. Here’s an elbow, I’ll wager.”
“You dislike it when I speak of the queen. And I don’t see why. She has been very kind to me.”
“I know, my love.”
“And you needn’t agree with everything I say.”
Eleanor was eight months with child now and growing rather fractious. Fortunately, Hugh was not unprepared for this, for shortly after Eleanor’s arrival back at Loughborough Hugh’s father had taken him aside and explained some things to him. “Your mother when she was with child was hell on earth during the last few weeks, son. Hell on earth. Be patient, Hugh.”
“My mother was not of the easiest temperament at any time, Father.” Hugh smiled complacently. “Eleanor is of a much sweeter nature.”
“True,” the elder Hugh admitted rather wistfully, for he had loved his high-strung wife, Warwick’s sister Isabel Beauchamp, and had married her without royal license after remaining a bachelor until he was well into his twenties. He could have obtained the king’s permission, he supposed, but so eager had he been to marry her that he had not bothered to wait. “But they can turn on you when they’re with child, son, and no one warned me of it as I am warning you. Trust me. Something happens to women in that condition.” He shook his head. “Right before you were born I would have welcomed being sent off to fight the Scots single-handedly.”
And now, inexplicably, Eleanor was crying. Hugh reviewed the events of the last few minutes and could not
think of anything amiss. “Darling?”
“I look like hell, don’t I? You’ll never touch me again, will you?”
“I am touching you,” Hugh said reasonably.
“I’ll never have a pretty figure like the queen. I’ll be fat.”
“The queen is too thin.”
“There you go! Always criticizing her.”
Hugh, realizing he was beaten, took a deep breath and stood up. “I’m going hunting, my sweet.”
* * *
It turned out to be a Parliament not like any other, and there would come a day William Zouche wished he had taken no part in it. Whether the king had refused to come, as Bishop Orleton announced, or whether it had never been intended that he come, Zouche never knew, but he was certainly not there. This was a good thing, the bishop announced solemnly, because Edward had threatened to kill the queen with a dagger if he ever saw her. In the general indignation this remark excited, it did not occur to Zouche, or to many others, that the queen had proven remarkably able to fend for herself.
“What have we come to when our king will not come to Parliament?” the bishop asked the members mournfully. “Do we want to continue under his rule? Or do we want to be ruled by the king’s noble son?” He raised a hand as those assembled began to argue among themselves. “Consider this matter deeply,” he said solemnly, “and return with your decision the next morning.”
It was Roger Mortimer, who Zouche knew had lent his military expertise to the queen’s noble cause, who led off the proceedings the next morning. The great men of the land, he declared, of whom he was merely a humble representative, were united in agreeing that the king should be deposed. The Londoners, he added, had all asked too that the members of Parliament swear an oath of fealty to their cause, which now included deposing the king as well as supporting the queen, her son, and the enemies of the Despensers. As Parliament collectively remembered what had happened to the Despensers and to those unfortunates in disfavor with the Londoners, Thomas Wake, son-in-law to Henry of Lancaster, sprang up. “As far as I am concerned,” he shouted, “Edward should no longer reign!”
Bishop Orleton took over. “The Lord tells us, ‘A foolish king destroys his people.’ Shall we let England be destroyed, good men? Or shall we save her, and ourselves, from certain destruction? For twenty years, since the death of the great first Edward, we have been teetering on its brink! Need I recall the signs the good Lord our God has sent us? Gaveston, the witch’s son? The Bannock Burn? The famine? The wicked Hugh le Despenser? Will we heed them, once and for all, and save our beloved kingdom before it is too late?”
“Save England!” shouted the members. “Away with the king!”
“My head is sick,” the Bishop of Winchester said dolefully when the tumult died down. “The head of England is weak, and therefore sick, and the governance of all of England has suffered as a result. The king’s evil counselors have preyed on this weakness, and bled England until it has oftentimes seemed there is no cure. But succor has come to her, in the form of a noble boy and his brave, devoted mother. Shall we crown that shining sun of a boy with the shining crown of England, or shall we let the shining crown of England continue to sit on this weak and festering head? You decide!”
“What will it be, sirs?” shouted Wake, arms extended and hands waving as if he were trying to put himself into flight. “What do the people say? Shall the son reign?”
“Yes!” cried Parliament as one.
Archbishop Reynolds, who owed his post to the second Edward, took his turn. “The voice of the people is the voice of God,” he said. “After years of oppression, you have spoken your will that the foolish king be deposed and that his son rule in his place, and your will is God’s will.”
Wake, all but flying now, yelled, “Is this the will of the people? Do the people will that the second Edward be deposed and his son made king in his place?”
“Fiat! Fiat! Amen!”
A door swung open and fourteen-year-old Edward, magnificently dressed, came slowly in, followed by the queen, who for Parliament had resumed her black robes, albeit in velvet. Reynolds shouted, “Behold your king!”
The queen was both weeping and smiling, evidently torn between grief that her husband had sunk so low and joy that her son was soaring to the country’s rescue. Zouche’s own eyes, and those of many others, were streaming tears; it was all Zouche could do to croak out the words to “Glory, Laud, and Honor.” Only a few dissenters stood silent, not even humming, and for several days afterward, they would be nursing the bruises they subsequently received at the hands of the watchful Londoners.