First, thanks to all who responded so encouragingly to my last blog post. It’s nice to know that there are so many people of goodwill and graciousness out there. Thanks too, from my son, Thad.
But now, it’s time to get down to business. As promised a few posts ago, here’s the real reason Elizabeth Woodville left sanctuary. (Feel free to blame Susan A., Gabriele, and Lucie for this.)
Elizabeth, Queen to Edward IV
Bess, age 17
Cecily, almost 15
Anne, age 9
Katharine, age 4
Bridget, age 3
(As dawn breaks in Westminster Abbey in March 1484, two girls are fighting over a washbasin.)
Cecily: I got here first!
Bess: No, missy. I got here first.
Cecily: That’s not true! My hand was on it before yours. Look! (Grabs basin and spills it) Damn it! Look what you made me do!
Elizabeth: How dare you use such language!
Cecily: (Tossing her head) I’m a bastard and I can use any language I want. So there.
Katherine: What’s a bastard?
Elizabeth: Now see what you started? She’ll be after me for the rest of the day.
Bridget: (Learning a new word). Bastard! Bastard!
Bess: (Brushing her hair) Well, well. Another exciting day in sanctuary to look forward to. What have we got planned for today, Mother? Prayers? Reading your Book of Hours? A little embroidery?
Cecily: Maybe all of those things! I’m so excited.
Anne: (Too young to have learned the fine art of sarcasm) You two are stupid.
Bess: Oh, another shire heard from! How lovely.
Cecily: But wait, it’s Wednesday!
Bess: Brother Mark’s day!
Elizabeth: You girls are not going to tease that young man.
Cecily: But Mama, we can’t help it if it’s Wednesday.
Bess: We don’t make the rules. The abbot does. (A knock is heard outside). Come in!
(Brother Mark, a young and quite handsome monk still in his teens, enters the room, carrying fresh bread and ale. He is promptly surrounded by Cecily and Elizabeth.)
Mark: Good morning, ladies. I’ve brought your breakfast.
Cecily and Bess: (Trilling) Good morning, Brother Mark.
Bess: Oh, my. What beautiful buns you have.
Cecily: Well-shaped and—firm.
Mark: (Trying to ignore the girls’ bosoms poking into his arms) They are indeed quite delicious.
Elizabeth: (Desperately) Anne, take that bread from him. Now. Thank you, Brother Mark.
Mark: Thank you, your grace. (Flees)
Cecily: Well, I think we got a rise out of him today, didn’t we?
Elizabeth: You girls are wicked. Absolutely wicked. If your father were alive—
Bess: If our father was alive, we wouldn’t be in this hole, now would we? We’d be having a grand time. I hate being a bastard.
Cecily: I hate it worse than you do.
Bess: It’s worse for me because I’m older.
Cecily: It’s worse for me because I’m prettier.
Anne: It’s worse for me because I have to listen to the two of you whinge all day.
Elizabeth: Enough, all three of you! Actually, we are going to have a visitor today. (Grimly) A very special visitor.
Elizabeth: (Biting out the words) Your uncle.
Bess: You mean uncle Richard the king?
Elizabeth: Well, as much I would have liked it to be Henry Tudor, yes. Your uncle Richard.
Cecily: Why didn’t you say so earlier? We have to change!
(The stage darkens. When the lights come on again, Elizabeth and Cecily are wearing pretty and quite tight gowns. A knock is heard at the door.)
Elizabeth: Come in. (Aside) Not that I could stop you anyway, you murdering knave. (Sweetly, to Richard) Why, how lovely to see you here.
Richard: Good day, ladies.
All: Good day, your grace.
Richard: (Nodding at the girls) Your daughters are looking well, madam.
Cecily: (Mournfully) We try our best. We haven’t had a new gown in—how long has it been, Bess?
Cecily: See how tight Bess’s is around the bosom?
Richard: Er, yes. What an er—pity.
Anne: What’s wrong with your eyes, Bess?
Bess: What do you mean, my eyes?
Anne: You’re batting them.
Bess: You’re seeing things. So, your grace. How is your lovely wife the Queen?
Richard: Doing quite well.
Bess: It must be lonely for her at Westminster, away from the Yorkshire she loves so much.
Richard: Well, she does have her ladies, of course.
Bess: Still, I bet she would enjoy having someone young and cheerful around her. Someone really young and really cheerful.
Cecily: A couple of people, as a matter of fact.
Anne: Now she’s batting her eyes.
Bess: It must be the dust in here. It’s very dusty in here, uncle. It’s just dreadful for our complexions. Don’t you think? (Leans closer to the king)
Richard: Yes, I suppose it is. (Stepping out of earshot of the girls) Madam, have you considered our proposition?
Elizabeth: (Pretending to forget) Now, what was that?
Richard: That you agree to leave here in exchange for certain promises on our part, including a pension of four hundred marks.
Elizabeth: Well, I don’t know, your grace. We have become so close-knit since we have started sharing these quarters. It would almost be a shame to leave, especially if the girls had to come to court.
Richard: (Glancing toward the girls) Some of them seem rather eager for a change of scene.
Elizabeth: Oh, you know how girls are. They’re just naturally high-spirited. (Aside) Say seven hundred, you whoreson, and we’re out of here.
Bess: Uncle Richard!
Elizabeth: Don’t interrupt.
Bess: I’m sorry, Mother. I was just hoping that before Uncle Richard left, he could tell us about his military campaigns. I do so enjoy hearing about that type of thing.
Cecily: Me too!
Richard: What charming daughters you have. (Aside) Not at all like their mother.
Bess: It’s so nice to have a king with military experience. (Shudders) Imagine how dreadful it would have been under Uncle Buckingham.
Cecily: (Shudders) Or under that awful Henry Tudor.
Bess and Cecily: (Shuddering in perfect harmony) Ooh!
Richard: (To the queen) Of course, there are six of you. I say. Why don’t we make it seven hundred marks?
Elizabeth: That sounds reasonable. My dears, start packing. We are to leave here.
Bess: Leave? I’ll be ready in ten minutes.
Cecily: I’ll be ready in five.
Anne: (Whispering) Mother, what about your deal with Henry—
Elizabeth: Shut up and pack, girl.