The Dukes That Were Left Behind

Karen over at A Nevill Feast has been posting some scenes she left out of her work-in-progress, and if the outtakes are any indication, I’m looking forward to the completed product! Anyway, that inspired me to post two of the snippets that didn’t make it into the The Queen of Last Hopes, one involving Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (Henry VI’s uncle) and the other involving Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter. (This novel went through several false starts, some in first person and some in third person, before I finally got swinging–it ended up being told in first person through the eyes of Margaret and several male characters.) I was rather sad at leaving the Humphrey snippets behind, mainly for the loss of Humphrey’s daughter, Antigone, who did indeed exist and who did indeed bear that name in a world of Margarets, Elizabeths, and Annes.

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester:
“My fool nephew is in quite the coil,” said Humphrey that December at Powis Castle in Welshpool, the home of his bastard daughter, Antigone, and her husband, Henry Grey. “He fully intends to surrender Maine, but he’s in the minor difficulty that no one who’s actually in Maine wants to surrender it, including Edmund Beaufort.” Edmund Beaufort was the Earl of Somerset and the governor of Maine. “It’s causing Henry and Wooly Will no end of headaches.”

“Papa, how do you manage to learn all of these things?”

“I may not be welcome at court, my dear, but I have my ways of finding out things. I have some very obliging men at court who provide me with information. For a fee, of course, but it’s well worth it to keep apprised of happenings. The entertainment value in itself justifies the expense.”

“So what do they plan to do about it?” asked Henry.

“Oh, this is splendid. They’ve made Beaufort lieutenant general of France and Normandy, in order to keep him sweet. Of course, the Duke of York has been expecting to be reappointed to that position, so they’ve cultivated themselves other enemy in the process. Wooly Will must have nothing but that substance between his ears.” He leaned back in his chair—the family was dining privately—contentedly. “I predict absolute disaster. Do they really think that Somerset’s going to be bought that cheaply? And what are they going to give York in return? Ireland would be my best guess, but face it, given the choice, what man would prefer life among the savages in Ireland to the civilization of France? But my nephew and his merchant better hope that Somerset and York aren’t pleased, because if they do give in and cooperate in ceding Maine, the people will never forgive Henry and Suffolk. And it’ll be even worse for the French Wench. What did she bring to England? Nothing. What will she cost England? Maine, at the very least. How has she proven her worth? Not at all. The girl’s of prime child-bearing age, almost seventeen. And not a hint of a child to come. The people won’t stand for that state of affairs forever. God knows, I’m having a hard enough time doing so. My poor brother, the noble king Henry. That his England should have come to this!”

“Father, you are upsetting yourself too much over these things.”

“No, my girl. You would be upset too if you were old enough to remember a different time. England was not always ruled thus.”

“But it seems so futile, for you to waste your life brooding over what you cannot change.”

Humphrey’s hand tightened on his wine cup. “Who says I cannot change things?”


“Antigone, I must make you promise me something.”

The Greys were alone, Humphrey having taken his leave several hours before. “Goodness, you sound grim.”

“I am. I know you love your father. I am fond of him too. But you must promise not to involve yourself in any schemes of his.”

“Schemes? What on earth are you speaking of?”

“I believe he is plotting treason.”

Antigone said confidently, “That is nonsense, Henry, and you know it.”

“Do I? Listen to the man, Antigone. During his stay, he did nothing but rail against the king and the queen and Suffolk and how good it was in his late brother’s time. From one of our shepherds, that might be nostalgia. From the heir to the throne—and it looks as if that’s not going to change any time soon, if this French girl is indeed barren—that’s alarming talk. What do you think would happen if King Henry got wind of it?”

“He is just blustering, my dear.”

“Is he? Your father’s popular here in Wales, and you know how the people here can be. Wild. If there is a place he could raise support for an insane scheme to steal the throne from his nephew, it’s here. Mind you, I’m not saying that he’s tried. Yet.”

Antigone sighed. “Very well. I assure you, if he were to do anything so stupid and foolhardy, I would not become involved or give him aid. But I am quite sure that all of your fears are for naught. Men! How suspicious they always are.”

“Someone has to be.”

Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter (after the Battle of Barnet):

As the afternoon wore on, a man limped slowly about the dead, kneeling from time to time to turn a face in his direction or to stare into a pair of glazed-over eyes, only to rise and continue his search. As he was clearly not competing for the spoils of the battle, the Yorkist soldiers left him to his grim task in peace.

Presently, the man stooped and lifted yet another face. What he saw when he brushed off the mud and blood that all but obscured the features before him made him cry out: this was the man he had grown up beside and served for nearly three decades, the man he’d followed in and out of prison, in and out of exile. He lifted his fallen master to a sitting position and hugged him against his chest, weeping.

Then his face changed. He put his hand to the man’s chest, then to his wrist. He had not been wrong; the Duke of Exeter was drawing breaths, faint but regular. “My lord?” he whispered. “My lord! Do you know me?”

Henry Holland opened his eyes a slit, then groaned and shut them without any sign of recognizing his servant. But it was enough. Lifting his master in his arms, and paying no mind to the pain that shot through his own injured leg with every step, the duke’s man began his slow trek to the town in search of a surgeon. With the gold he’d secreted on his person for just such an exigency, there would be no difficulty in finding one.

7 thoughts on “The Dukes That Were Left Behind”

  1. Nice stuff, Susan! And such a shame to have to leave Antigone out, I agree. (And thanks for the kind words.)

  2. Susan Higginbotham

    Thanks, ladies! I think Humphrey deserves a special place in heaven for naming his daughter Antigone, right up alongside whichever parent named Jasper Tudor. So considerate of them to future novelists.

  3. At least some love for the poor duke of Exeter. He seems to have been inordinately unlucky in his life. But then, he's been cut off again, poor thing.

    …Who is Wooly Will and why he doesn't get no respect?

  4. Susan Higginbotham

    Wooly Will is William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, whose role in arranging the peace with France was about to make him hugely unpopular. (Humphrey is referring to his family's mercantile origins in the wool trade.)

  5. What a pity Antigone didn't make it to the final version! What happened to her? I wonder what people at the time made of her unusual name, or if they shortened it to Ann and pretended not to notice?

  6. Oh that arrant knave Humphrey of Gloucester, Such a pity isn't it we don't know what his sisters-in-law Chatherine de Valois and Jacquette of Luxembourg thought of him.

    What we do know is that at both ladies gave him the medieval equivalent of the one/two-fingered salute. In the case of Jacquette was it really a case of lightning striking twice?

    I don't like the case of the all too coincidental. It bothers me. And that isn't the only case that bothers me.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top