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Book by Penman Sharon Kay
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As the King of England crossed the inner bailey of
Chinon Castle, his brother watched from an upper-story
window and wished fervently that God would smite him dead.
Geoffrey understood perfectly why Cain had slain Abel, the firstborn, the
best-beloved. Harry was the firstborn, too. There were just fifteen months
between them, fifteen miserable months, but because of them, Harry had
gotten it all--England and Anjou and Normandy--and Geoffrey had
naught but regrets and resentments and three wretched castles, castles he
was now about to forfeit.
He'd rebelled again, and again he'd failed. He was here at Chinon to
submit to his brother, but he was not contrite, nor was he cowed. His
heart sore, his spirit still rebellious, he began to stalk the chamber, feeling
more wronged with every stride. Why should Harry have the whole loaf
and he only crumbs? What had Harry ever been denied? Duke of Normandy
at seventeen, Count of Anjou upon their father's sudden death the
following year, King of England at one and twenty, and, as if that were
not more than enough for any mortal man, he was wed to a celebrated
beauty, the Duchess of Aquitaine and former Queen of France.
Had any other woman ever worn the crowns of both England and
France? History had never interested Geoffrey much, but he doubted it.
Eleanor always seemed to be defying the natural boundaries of womanhood,
a royal rebel who was too clever by half and as willful as any man.
But her vast domains and her seductive smile more than made up for any
defects of character, and after her divorce from the French king, Geoffrey
had attempted to claim this glittering prize, laying an ambush for her as
she journeyed back to Aquitaine. It was not uncommon to abduct an
heiress, then force her into marriage, and Geoffrey had been confident of
success, sure, too, that he'd be able to tame her wild nature and make her
into a proper wife, dutiful and submissive.
It was not to be. Eleanor had evaded his ambush, reached safety in her
own lands, and soon thereafter, shocked all of Christendom by marrying
Geoffrey's brother. Geoffrey had been bitterly disappointed by his failure
to capture a queen. But it well nigh drove him crazy to think of her belonging
to his brother, sharing her bed and her wealth with Harry--and
of her own free will. Where was the justice or fairness in that?
Geoffrey was more uneasy about facing his brother than he'd ever admit,
and he spun around at the sound of the opening door. But it was not
Harry. Their younger brother, Will, entered, followed by Thomas Becket,
the king's elegant shadow.
Geoffrey frowned at the sight of them. As far back as he could remember,
Will had been Harry's lapdog, always taking his side. As for
Becket, Geoffrey saw him as an outright enemy, the king's chancellor and
closest confidant. He could expect no support from them, and well he
knew it. "I suppose you're here to gloat, Will, as Harry rubs my nose in it."
"No, I'm here to do you a favor--if you've the wits to heed me." The
most cursory of glances revealed their kinship; all three brothers had the
same high coloring and sturdy, muscular build. Will's hair was redder and
he had far more freckles, but otherwise, he and Geoffrey were mirror images
of each other. Even their scowls were the same. "Harry's nerves are
on the raw these days, and he's in no mood to put up with your blustering.
So for your own sake, Geoff, watch your tongue--"
"Poor Harry, my heart bleeds for his 'raw nerves,' in truth, it does! Do
you never tire of licking his arse, Little Brother? Or have you acquired a
taste for it by now?"
Color seared Will's face. "You're enough to make me believe those
tales of babes switched at birth, for how could we ever have come from
the same womb?"
"Let him be, lad." Thomas Becket was regarding Geoffrey with chill
distaste. "'As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.'"
"You stay out of this, priest! But then," Geoffrey said with a sneer,
"you are not a priest, are you? You hold the chancellorship, yet you balk
at taking your holy vows ...now why is that?"
"I serve both my God and my king," Becket said evenly, "with all my
heart. But you, Geoffrey Fitz Empress, serve only Satan, even if you know
Geoffrey had no chance to retort, for the door was opening again. A
foreigner unfamiliar with England would not have taken the man in the
doorway for the English king, for he scorned the trappings of kingship,
the rich silks and gemstones and furred mantles that set men of rank apart
from their less fortunate brethren. Henry Fitz Empress preferred comfort
to style: simple, unadorned tunics and high cowhide boots and mantles so
short that he'd earned himself the nickname "Curtmantle." Equally indifferent
to fashion's dictates and the opinions of others, Henry dressed to
please himself, and usually looked more like the king's chief huntsman
than the king.
To Geoffrey, who spent huge sums on his clothes, this peculiarity of
his brother's was just further proof of his unfitness to be king. Henry
looked even more rumpled than usual today, his short, copper-colored
hair tousled and windblown, his eyes slate-dark, hollowed and bloodshot.
Mayhap there was something to Will's blathering about Harry's "raw
nerves" after all, Geoffrey conceded. Not that he cared what was weighing
Harry down. A pity it was not an anchor.
What did trouble Geoffrey, though, was his brother's silence. The
young king was notorious for his scorching temper, but those who knew
Henry best knew, too, that these spectacular fits of royal rage were more
calculated than most people suspected, deliberately daunting. His anger
was far more dangerous when it was iced over, cold and controlled and
unforgiving, and Geoffrey was soon squirming under that unblinking, implacable
gaze. When he could stand the suspense no longer, he snapped,
"What are you waiting for? Let's get it over with, Harry!"
"You have no idea what your rebellion has cost me," Henry said,
much too dispassionately, "or you'd be treading with great care."
"Need I remind you that you won, Harry? It seems odd indeed for
you to bemoan your losses when I'm the one who is yielding up my
"You think I care about your accursed castles?" Henry moved forward
into the chamber so swiftly that Geoffrey took an instinctive backward
step. "Had I not been forced to lay siege to them, I'd have been back in
England months ago, long ere Eleanor's lying in was nigh."
Geoffrey knew Eleanor was pregnant again, for Henry had announced
it at their Christmas court. Divorced by the French king for her
failure to give him a male heir, Eleanor had then borne Henry two sons
in their first three years of marriage. To Geoffrey, her latest pregnancy had
been another drop of poison in an already noxious drink, and he could
muster up no sympathy now for Henry's complaint.
"What of it? You'd not have been allowed in the birthing chamber,
for men never are."
"No...but I'd have been there to bury my son."
Geoffrey's mouth dropped open. "Your son?"
"He died on Whitsunday," Henry said, softly and precisely, the measured
cadence of his tones utterly at variance with what Geoffrey could
read in his eyes. "Eleanor kept vigil by his bedside as the doctors and
priests tried to save him. She stayed with him until he died, and then she
made the funeral arrangements, accompanied his body to Reading for
burial. He was not yet three, Geoff, for his birthday was not till August,
the seventeenth, it would have been--"
"Harry, I ...I am sorry about your son. But it was not my fault!
Blame God if you must, not me!"
"But I do blame you, Geoff. I blame you for your treachery, your betrayals,
your willingness to ally yourself with my enemies . . . again and
again. I blame you for my wife's ordeal, which she need not have faced
alone. And I blame you for denying me the chance to be at my son's
"What do you want me to say? It was not my fault! You cannot blame
me because the boy was sickly--" Geoffrey's breath caught in his throat as
Henry lunged forward. Twisting his fist in the neck of his brother's tunic,
Henry shoved him roughly against the wall.
"The boy has a name, damn you--William! I suppose you'd forgotten,
for blood-kin means nothing to you, does it? Well, you might remember
his name better once you have time and solitude to think upon it!"
Geoffrey blanched. "You ...you cannot mean to imprison me?"
Henry slowly unclenched his fist, stepped back. "There are men waiting
outside the door to escort you to a chamber in the tower."
"Harry, what are you going to do? Tell me!"
Henry turned aside without answering, moved to the door, and
jerked it open. Geoffrey stiffened, eyes darting in disbelief from the men-at-
arms to this stranger in his brother's skin. Clutching at the shreds of his
pride, he stumbled across the chamber, determined not to plead, but betraying
himself, nonetheless, by a panicked, involuntary glance of entreaty
as the door closed.
Will untangled himself from the settle, ambled over to the door, and
slid the bolt into place. "Harry . . . do you truly mean to imprison him?
God knows, he deserves it . . ." He trailed off uncertainly, for his was an
open, affable nature, uncomfortable with shadings or ambiguities, and it
troubled him that his feelings for his brother could not be clear-cut and
Henry crossed to the settle and took the seat Will had vacated. "If I
had my way, I'd cast him into Chinon's deepest dungeon, leave him there
till he rotted."
"But you will not," Becket predicted, smiling faintly as he rose to
pour them all cups of wine.
"No," Henry admitted, accepting his cup with a wry smile of his
own. "There would be two prisoners in that dungeon--Geoff and our
mother. She says he deserves whatever punishment I choose to mete out,
but that is her head talking, not her heart." After two swallows, he set
the cup aside, for he drank as sparingly as he ate; Henry's hungers of the
flesh were not for food or wine. "I'm going to try to scare some sense into
Geoff. But since he has less sense than God gave a sheep, I do not have
high hopes of success."
"Just do not give him his castles back this time," Will chided, in a tact-ess
reminder of Henry's earlier, misplaced leniency. "It would serve him
right if he had to beg his bread by the roadside."
"Sorry, lad, but Scriptures forbid it. Thomas can doubtless cite you
chapter and verse," Henry gibed, "but I am sure it says somewhere that
brothers of kings cannot be beggars."
"I thought it said that brothers of beggars cannot be kings." Becket
tasted the wine, then grimaced. "Are your servants trying to poison you
with this swill, Harry? Someone ought to tell them that hemlock would
be quicker and more merciful."
"This is why men would rather dine with my lord chancellor than
with me," Henry told Will. "He'd drink blood ere he quaffed English
wine. Whereas for me, it is enough if it is wet!" Becket's riposte was cut
off by a sudden knock. Henry, the closest to the door, got to his feet; he
was never one to stand on ceremony. But his amusement faded when a
weary, travel-stained messenger was ushered into the chamber, for the
man's disheveled appearance conveyed a message of its own: that his news
Snatching up the proffered letter, Henry stared at the familiar seal,
then looked over at Will. "It is from our mother," he said, moving toward
the nearest lamp. Will and Becket were both on their feet by now, watching
intently as he read. "I have to go to Rouen," he said, "straightaway."
Will paled. "Not Mama ...?"
"No, lad, no. She is not ailing. She has written to let me know that
Eleanor is in Rouen."
In When Christ and His Saints Slept, acclaimed historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman portrayed all the deceit, danger, and drama of Henry II’s ascension to the throne. Now, in Time and Chance, she continues the ever-more-captivating tale.
It was medieval England’s immortal marriage—Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, bound by passion and ambition, certain to leave a legacy of greatness. But while lust would divide them, it was friendship—and ultimately faith—that brought bloodshed into their midst. It began with Thomas Becket, Henry’s closest confidant, and his elevation to be Archbishop of Canterbury. It ended with a perceived betrayal that made a royal murder seem inevitable. Along the way were enough scheming, seductions, and scandals to topple any kingdom but their own. . . .
Only Sharon Kay Penman can re-create this truly tumultuous time—and capture the couple who loved power as much as each other . . . and a man who loved God most of all.
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