The Noble Prince by Vincent Pumilia by Vincent Pumilia - Read Online

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Summary

While still a young man, King Henry III of England was given a queen by his Council. A few years later, when a more suitable consort is discovered, the Council decides the marriage to Eglan would be annulled and Eleanor, sister of Margaret the future consort of the King of France, would replace her. The plan is a good one except that Eglan is expecting a child. The Council decides the child should be disinherited, but not wanting him as a potential claimant to the throne he is to be murdered. The captain of the king's garrison is trusted with the dirty deed, but the queen's lady's maid spares the child's life, giving him to a young peasant girl. Though Albert lives his life in obscurity, the secret of his rescue cannot be hidden for ever. Events bring his existence to light and the perils and challenges that face him are soon endured. The Noble Prince covers the years 1228 to 1265 in England, Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Published: Vincent Pumilia on
ISBN: 1311391525
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The Noble Prince - Vincent Pumilia

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Prince

Chapter one: The Blessing

The birth of a child is a most blessed event, and on the day the infant is born the hopes of the parents are the highest and their joy the greatest. While that day begins with worry, it is replaced by love and warmth as the mother and father gaze upon the infant.

You will soon see, however, that when hope is crushed under the weight of fear and sorrow, there is no joy and the love and warmth never follow.

Since the infant has no knowledge he cannot tell the difference between his parents and a stranger. Nor can he interpret their affection when they touch him. Since the parents are barely acquainted with their child he is also a stranger and a guest as well, and they are the gracious host and hostess for the new arrival. Sometimes, however, there is no love or tender contact, and the parents and children are strangers forever.

Following the labor is a sense of calmness as the mother cradles the cherished infant in her arms. It is during moments like this we realize that the mother would survive the loss of all she had providing that you did not take away her blessing. It is sad to say that the woman who doesn't realize that she's been blessed will one day find herself without someone to cherish.

When a son is born the father knows that the family name will continue for another generation. While some sons disgrace themselves and sully their good name, the son who is respected will be praised and his name will be held in high esteem. He will be as a torch, which illuminates the darkness, a light that others will seek. For this reason the father must do more than offer food, clothing and shelter, things that even a stranger can provide. Besides these things the father must also guide and encourage his son, so the child can grow in strength, wisdom and in his conscience.

If the birth of a son means so much to ordinary men, just think of its significance to a king. While all sons, regardless of their status, are responsible for the family name, a prince must also wear a crown and carry a scepter as well. Add to these things wealth and power and we can see the importance of progeny to a monarch.

Now all the reverence and pageantry that is to be lavished upon a prince was not to be for a son born to King Henry III of England, even though he would prove to have the nobility that most kings and queens could not fathom and others could only dream of.

It was in the year 1228 on a late winter's morning before sunrise that he was born. While the torches flickered throughout the halls of Windsor Castle, one could not tell if it was due to the draft or if they were trembling in fear of the howls and groans of young Queen Eglan, which echoed off the cold castle walls.

Eglan was eighteen-year-old with long blonde hair and green eyes. Her nurse and lady's maid attended to her in the solar room, or bedroom, which was adjacent to the great hall of the Round Tower.

The lady's maid's name was Hloefdige. She was short, chubby, dark-haired and nearly forty-years-old. It was the lady's maid's duty to care for the Queen, and Hloefdige was the only person Eglan would confide in.

King Henry was sitting on an ornate chair in the great hall awaiting the birth of his child. Henry was tall, twenty-one-years-old, and had curling locks of golden hair. Like most fair-haired members of his Norman race, he had blue eyes.

With the King was Cedric de Farant, a knight and the commander of the garrison at Windsor. A relative of the King on his mother's side of the family, Cedric was cruel and cunning and would on occasion extort money from the earls and barons. While Cedric was a few years older than Henry, they grew up together and the King trusted him greatly. Although Cedric's loyalty could not be questioned, beneath his dignified manner and handsome appearance lurked a malevolent soul.

Also present were Father Halig, who came from Windsor Castle's chapel, and two stewards, who were members of Henry's Council.

In another one of the solar rooms was Eglan's son Malcolm. He was a few months past his third birthday, and had long, dark-brown hair and hazel eyes. Malcolm, who sat on his bed holding a wool doll in his hands, was as troubled by his mother's shrieking as the castle walls were.

Although Malcolm was not bothered by the distress caused by his half brother, Blyscan, his pretty, thirteen-year-old nursery maid attempted to cover his ears. After pushing her hands away for the third time Malcolm issued a warning.

Stop at once or I'll send you to the gallows! Now go to your corner and stay there until I tell you to come back! he ordered, without turning his head to face her.

Blyscan went to the corner and sat on the stool that was put there for this purpose. There she sat with her left arm propped up on her leg, resting her chin in the palm of her hand. Blyscan looked to the ceiling and sighed, and then stared at the floor and waited for the young tyrant's next order.

Meanwhile, in the great hall, Father Halig offered encouragement to the King.

Remain patient and keep your faith, your Highness, said the thin, dark-haired middle-aged chaplain.

Remember that faith and patience are two of the virtues that you must pass on to this child who will help you rule your kingdom.

This advice from the chaplain brought another matter to Cedric's mind.

Speaking of ruling your kingdom, your Highness, there are still a few of your vassals who consider themselves to be of consequence. If you will allow me, I will pay them a visit and persuade them to be more agreeable to your wishes.

This annoyed Henry.

Must you bother me with these matters now? he replied.

Cedric bowed his head of golden-blond hair in acknowledgement of his transgression. He walked away from Henry and sat down as the irritated Priest looked on. The great hall, in which they waited, was decorated with tapestries, armor and armaments. It was hardly the place for an anxious King.

After the child was born the bedroom was relatively silent, and this brought a feeling of relief to everyone in the Castle. This did not last long, however. Drowning out the infant's crying was the terrifying shrieks of Queen Eglan, as the nurse held the child in his blue woolen blanket.

Take it away! Take it away! the Queen hollered.

The nurse covered the infant with the blanket she held him in and fled from the room, scurrying through the great hall. Henry and Cedric, who were standing since the Queen began shrieking, took off in pursuit of the nurse while Father Halig fell to his knees and prayed.

When Henry, Cedric and the Council members caught up with the nurse they found her pacing back and forth, clutching the blanket tightly.

Has the infant perished? asked the King.

No, but forgive me for saying so, your Grace, but this child, your son, would be better off if it were so! His head is deformed and his left hand is curled like a hoof! When I told this to the Queen she could not bear to look at him!

The Council members positioned themselves between the King and the nurse, as if to keep Henry separated from his son.

Cedric lifted the blanket off of the infant's head. Although he didn't say anything, Henry knew something was wrong by the silence and the look on his face.

Cedric spoke to the King.

It would be better for you to not look, your Highness. This is not the memory you should have of your child.

My poor son. My poor, poor son, uttered Henry.

Forgive me for my insensitivity, your Grace, but this child is sickly and I suppose that in this condition he will not last long. And if he does survive, you cannot take the chance that he becomes heir to your throne. The knowledge of his condition will put your rule in jeopardy since your enemies would love nothing more than to have a deformed prince succeed you as King.

What are you suggesting? asked Henry.

I am suggesting that he be removed from the premises immediately. The sooner he leaves, the sooner you can forget him.

And what if I don't want to forget him? I had a son born and now you are telling me to abandon him!

Your love for your son is great, your Highness, but he is a sickly child. If his mind has been formed like his body, he will either be deranged or an idiot. Would your allies defend your kingdom during a rebellion if they knew that the heir to your throne was mentally deficient? Don't forget that the Queen doesn't want the child. Her mind is troubled enough as it is, and if you keep him, her mind will be in even greater peril.

Henry knew that all this was true, and nodded his head in agreement. Now that Cedric had the King's compliance he announced the details of his plan.

"It would be good for you and the Queen to leave Windsor for a while. A change of scenery would do her some good, and it would also give me the time I need to find a place for your son to live.

"I will go to your most loyal barons and if the child survives this day I'm sure I will find someone willing to take him. I'll tell them that the infant belongs to an earl whom you regard highly, and that you will consider it as a personal favor from whomever takes him. I will also give the baron a large sum of money to buy his silence, and to make sure the child is well taken care of.

After you leave I'll tell everyone the child died after birth, and only you, the nurse, your Council and I will know he is alive. Now go join the Queen and I'll tell the soldiers to ferry you down the Thames and escort you to the manor house at Sheen.

The Councilors led Henry away and they departed with Father Halig.

Cedric spoke to the nurse.

"Now that that's been taken care of I must inform you that there's been a change of plans concerning the child.

Since it will be too great a risk to give him away, I want you to take him to your room and suffocate him.

The nurse was aghast with the change of plans.

You want me to kill the Prince with my own two hands? I can't do that! I thought you were going to find a place for him to live? I'm taking him back to the King.

Cedric grabbed the nurse's arm.

No you won't! This child must not be allowed to live.

But he's a prince!

He's a prince, but not the prince the Council seeks.

If it means so much to you that he dies, why don't you kill him yourself?

I will not have his death on my hands.

And I should?

"If you won't suffocate him, hide him in your room and wait for the King to leave. After he's gone, find a sack large enough to put the infant in and a rope to tie it. Take the horse I'll have outside the Tower for you and ride westward along the River Thames until you find a location where you known you will not be seen. Toss the infant into the Thames and let the River decide for you whether he lives or dies.

"And if you disobey me your family will never see the light of day again, and as for you I'll cut you open and send the dogs to tear out your bowels while you're still alive.

After you have disposed of the child, go to Sheen and tend to Eglan. There will be soldiers there under orders that you are not allowed to approach the King, so don't think that you will be able to confess later. I'll send a message to Henry tomorrow, telling him that the child died.

The nurse went to her room and Cedric went to the west ward to give the soldiers their instructions.

Since the nurse was going to cast the infant into the Thames, it would make things complicated for Cedric. There would be no body for the funeral and because an empty coffin would be impossible to explain if Henry would ask to see his son Cedric's plan could not end here. Cedric knew there was a chance that he would have to endure the King's wrath, but felt it would be worth it just as long as the child did not live.

As the sun began to rise the first light of the morning clearly revealed that all were busy except Malcolm and poor Blyscan. To fight the boredom Blyscan was either twirling her blonde hair, glancing around the room, or blowing at her hair from the corner of her mouth. Malcolm, who was now sitting on the edge of his bed and bored of tossing his wool doll around, liberated the maid from the corner with another warning.

You can come back now, Blyscan, but if you make me angry you're going right back to your corner!

With the King and Queen ready to depart, Hloefdige left the Queen in the care of two other maids while she tarried behind to gather some of Eglan's belongings. Still at Windsor, Hloefdige was compelled to inquire about the infant and entered the nurses' chamber. The child was on the bed and before the nurse could stop Hlofedige she lifted the blanket. What she saw surprised her.

There is nothing wrong with the Prince! Why the deception?

The nurse informed her.

It has been decided by Henry's Council and the Queen Mother that there is a more suitable consort available for Henry; Eglan must no longer be Queen and this child must not be heir.

Does Henry know?

The King does not suspect a thing.

Then I will tell him.

I cannot allow you to do that, and if you insist I will tell Cedric.

What does he have to do with this?

Cedric has been given the task of seeing this conspiracy come to fulfillment; he has taken my family hostage and will kill them if I do otherwise. That is why I agreed to aid in the deception. They don't want this child to become heir to the throne. What is it to you?

I am loyal to the Queen.

"You are Eglan's lady's maid, but your loyalty must be to Henry and his kingdom.

While Cedric was given permission by the King to find the child a new home, he has ordered me to drown the infant in the Thames; he has a horse wating for me outside the Tower. With my family hostage he has made it impossible for me to deceive him. Now stay here with the child while I go to the kitchen and get a sack large enough to conceal him.

The nurse left her chamber and went downstairs to the kitchen. While the other servants desired to hear some news about the infant, it was the lowly scullery maid who had the courage to ask.

He's not well at all, replied the nurse. I'm afraid he won't be living much longer. Now I am about to depart with the Queen to the manor at Sheen while she recuperates. I must carry some items with me so I need a fairly large sack and a rope to tie it.

The scullery maid instructed one of the young men in the kitchen to fetch the items.

While the nurse waited Hloefdige took the child, still wrapped in the blanket, and went out into the hall, heading for the stairs. It seemed as if she would be able to depart unimpeded, but the Wardrobe met her in the hall and Hloefdige knew he could be a problem.

The Wardrobe was rotund fellow about thirty-five-years-old. He was in charge of the clothing, jewels, wine, food and other items. He was also the keeper of the King's private seal, which Henry used when he wished to go unopposed in his business affairs.

The Wardrobe was a good man and a reliable servant, but he was also a nitpicker and a meddler. He could irritate others with just his presence and Queen Eglan despised him. Hloefdige only needed to glance at his pointy nose, corpulent lips and chubby cheeks to become agitated.

He called out to her.

Hloefie, how is the child?

Not very well and you won't be either if you don't get out of my way!

Hloefdige brushed past the Wardrobe. This did not deter him.

What is in the blanket? he called out.

Something that belongs to the Queen. I'm joining Eglan on her respite at Sheen Manor."

The Wardrobe continued downstairs and entered the kitchen. He met the nurse who had just been given the items she reqested.

The Wardrobe spoke.

Nourice, what can you tell me of the Queen and her child? he inquired.

Eglan will recover, I cannot say the same for the infant, she replied.

How tragic. Will you also be joining the Queen?

What do you mean?

I spoke to Hloefdige not long ago, she said she was departing to Sheen with Eglan.

The nurse ascended the stairs in a panic and returned to her room. Seeing that Hloefdige had left with the infant she ran to alert Cedric.

Cedric sent soldiers to find Hloefdige, instructing them to take the road towards Sheen, fearing she might be headed there to reunite Henry with the child.

Hloefdige traveled about five miles west of Windsor Castle, when she approached a peasant's village located on a fief that was granted to Baron Whitney de Lytel. Hloefdige spied a pond and decided to rest the horse there.

Hloefdige feared that Cedric would be searching for her and was in hurry to be rid of child. Though her spontaneous actions were spurred by concern for the infant, Hloefdige did not know what to do next, and the situation she found herself in was dire. She did not know which baron she could trust the child with, or which baron might inform the Council members that he had him. Worried about what Cedric would do to her, Hloefdige considered either leaving the child at a church door or tossing the child into the pond to spare her own life.

The maid held the infant in his blanket and was so engrossed in her thoughts she didn't notice the young woman approaching her. Her name was Dagian, and she was one of the Anglo-Saxon peasants. Dagian was a seventeen-year-old childless widow, who had long blonde hair and light-blue eyes. She was returning from the manor house where she had brought her embroidery, when she noticed Hloefdige.

Dagian became curious as she watched the strange woman holding a well-concealed object. She was compelled to investigate.

What do you have in the blanket? she asked.

The sound of her voice startled the maid.

Hloefdige was caught unawares.

I'm not supposed to tell, was all she could reply.

Dagian knew that if this woman was not supposed to tell anyone what she was carrying, it meant that it was something worth knowing about.

Oh, please tell me, the lovely Dagian asked once again.

Hloefdige headed for her horse.

Dagian was upset by the maid's rude behavior and was even more determined to find out what she was carrying.

If you won't tell me what you have in the blanket, I'll have to figure it out for myself.

Hloefdige turned around to reply.

You can guess all you want, but you'll never be able to figure out what it is!

Dagian thought about how this woman was nearby a pond, while holding something in a blanket. She had seen this done before by heartless people, who wanted to put a sickly or unwanted young animal to death. How close to the truth she came!

Please don't do this to the poor little thing, pleaded Dagian. If you don't want to keep him, I will, so please don't drown him!

Hloefdige was frightened by what Dagian said.

Drown him? What makes you think I would do that?

Because I've seen this done before.

You have? asked Hloefdige, who was aghast at what she had just heard.

Sure. People do it all the time.

My goodness, what kind of world is this? wondered the maid.

Dagian was puzzled by the stranger's reaction.

If you're going to drown a puppy dog, why are you surprised that other people have done it also?

A puppy dog? said Hloefdige. No, this isn't a dog!

Then what is it? asked Dagian.

While Hloefdige thought upon the situation she was in, she noticed that some of the other peasants were outside doing their chores. She feared that some of them might come over to see what they were doing. She was also worried that Dagian would take the child from her and the whole village would come over to investigate.

After concluding that it would be less of a risk to show Dagian the child than attempting to flee, Hloefdige spoke to her.

Look inside the blanket and see for yourself if you must. But you cannot tell anyone what it is!

After this warning, Dagian was no longer sure that she wanted to look.

I've heard of two-headed snakes and six-legged piglets, but what could this be? she wondered.

Dagian's curiosity got the better of her. She reached out and lifted up the blanket.

It's a baby! she exclaimed.

The infant began to wave his arms, as if he was beckoning for Dagian to hold him. She was filled with compassion.

Hloefdige covered him again, to make sure that no one else would see.

Dagian was confused about what was happening.

Whose child is he? she asked.

That I cannot tell you! replied the maid.

Where are you taking him? Does he have a home?

If I can't find a baron who will accept him I will take him to the River and the bottom of the Thames will be his home!

Dagian was appalled.

Oh, please no! Could you really do such a horrible thing to an innocent child?

The enormity of the task finally set in. This young woman had shown more concern for what she believed was a dog than Hloefdige had for the life of another human being.

The maid was stricken with guilt and on the verge of tears as she spoke.

Forgive me, my child, but out of fear I was persuaded to do this terrible thing. Even though I now see that it is wrong, I still must be rid of this child as I cannot return home with him.

Although Dagian had sympathy for Hloefdige, she still sought to spare the infant.

"You know that you will not