The King’s Retribution: Book 2 of The Plantagenet Legacy Mercedes Rochelle

Mercedes Rochelle Blog Tour

I’d liked to welcome a guest post from Mercedes Rochelle who is touring with Mary Anne Yarde’s Coffee Pot Blog Tours for the release of her latest novel.
Today Mercedes offers us a glimpse of her second novel in The Plantagenet Legacy with an excerpt from The King’s Retribution

#HistoricalFiction #Medieval

Publication date: 4/1/2020

Publisher: Sergeant Press

If you read A KING UNDER SIEGE, you might remember that we left off just as Richard declared his majority at age 22. He was able to rise above the humiliation inflicted on him during the Merciless Parliament, but the fear that it could happen again haunted him the rest of his life. Ten years was a long time to wait before taking revenge on your enemies, but King Richard II was a patient man. Hiding his antagonism toward the Lords Appellant, once he felt strong enough to wreak his revenge he was swift and merciless. Alas for Richard, he went too far, and in his eagerness to protect his crown Richard underestimated the very man who would take it from him: Henry Bolingbroke.

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Mercedes Book cover

EXCERPT: The Queen’s funeral

Fortunately, the next day dawned warm and sunny and once they had broken their fast the attendees lined up for the procession. The men were to ride on horseback and the women in covered wagons behind the vehicle carrying Queen Anne’s coffin with its black canopy. The meticulously carved wooden effigy, draped in velvet robes, looked so realistic you could almost see it breathing. Every time Richard passed it, he looked aside, blinking back his tears.

On his way to the front of the cortège, the king paused next to John of Gaunt. “Where is the Earl of Arundel?” he asked angrily, looking around. He hated the man, but that didn’t excuse the earl from attending. It was a matter of respect.

“Perhaps my brother knows,” said John, gesturing to Gloucester. “They are friends.”

Richard grimaced. He had no love for Thomas, Duke of Gloucester either. Although six years had passed since the terrible Merciless Parliament—six years while he pretended to forgive and forget in an effort to disarm his mortal enemies—the rancor he felt had not diminished. Gloucester was as arrogant as ever, and just as antagonistic. Kicking his horse forward, Richard decided to wait; Arundel might still join them en route.

Londoners lined the roads as the somber cavalcade walked the fourteen miles to St. Paul’s. The king rode by himself, looking neither to the right nor the left. His priests, walking behind the funeral wagon, handed out alms, a customary safeguard to protect the dead against eternal unrest.

It was a tradition for medieval royalty to lay in state at St. Paul’s Cathedral before moving on to their funeral at Westminster. This cathedral was the pride of England—one of the longest in Europe, famous for its impressive spire. The soaring nave was so huge it was named Paul’s Walk and became a favorite meeting place to discuss business or catch up on the most recent news. Walking up and down, up and down, people strutted their latest fashions, gossiped, and even sought out prostitutes while pickpockets and petty thieves practiced their trade. Booksellers set up shop in the cathedral and outside in the churchyard, using St. Paul’s as their permanent address.

But all this came to a temporary stop while the king’s men cleared the space for Queen Anne’s vigil. Once the funeral party reached the cathedral, Richard watched as six of his knights carried the queen inside. Placing her casket into the center of the nave, they stood guard for five days while large crowds of grieving subjects paid their last respects.

On the last day, Thomas Arundel, the Archbishop of York waited for the king to finish his prayers before the altar. He was preparing to preach the funeral sermon and wanted to discuss his choice of biblical passages. Richard had been kneeling for more than an hour, and when he finally rose to his feet, the tears were still running down his face. The archbishop felt a rare pang of sympathy for the king, but it didn’t last. As soon as Richard saw him, he strode over in anger.

“Where is he? Where is your brother?”

Taken aback, Thomas almost put up his hands to ward off the king’s temper.

“Sire, I haven’t heard from him.”

“How can he be so disrespectful?” Frowning, Richard waited for an answer.

“I can only assume he was delayed by urgent matters.”

“This is unforgivable. He must be found.”

Thomas bowed his head, forgetting about his mission. It was more important to get away from the king until he recovered his composure. For now, Richard must be forgiven his immoderate grief. Hopefully, it wouldn’t last too long.

On Monday the third of August, the same cortège of important mourners made its way to Westminster. The monks and abbot met them halfway and led the procession to the abbey. Draped with the queen’s coat of arms, Anne’s coffin was brought through the great west door and placed before the altar. It seemed so tiny under the vaulted ceiling, flanked by huge pillars and gothic arches reaching to the heavens. The vast nave was soon crowded with standing attendees, and the roof echoed with De Profundis, chanted by a choir of young boys.

Halfway through the ceremony, Richard of Arundel entered with his immediate retinue, jostling their way through the congregation. At first, the king tried to ignore him, but couldn’t concentrate on the services. He kept looking at Arundel, who spent much of his time whispering into his wife’s ear.

After the sermon was over, there was a pause while the monks prepared the body for burial in Edward the Confessor’s chapel behind the high altar. Richard was watching their efforts, dabbing his eyes with his handkerchief, when the Earl of Arundel stepped up beside him. The king turned, annoyed. Arundel didn’t take notice. “Sire,” he said, “I have urgent private business to attend and request that you excuse me from the rest of the ceremony.”

For a moment the king stared at the earl in disbelief, his hand still. Even Arundel’s stance was disrespectful, his arms crossed while those bulging pale blue eyes looked around the crowd as if searching for someone. Richard’s handkerchief fell to the floor and he turned around, snatching a rod from one of the vergers who was trying to direct the participants. “How dare you!” Richard cried, and dealt the earl such a blow he fell to the floor, stunned. Blood flowed from his head spreading over the tiles like spilled red wine.

Gasps rent the air as people stepped back, startled by the king’s rage. Trembling, Richard pointed at the prone earl. “Take this man to the Tower,” he growled, and two of his knights stepped forward, dragging Arundel off the floor. Archbishop Thomas, drawn by the commotion, pursed his lips as he watched his brother get hauled away. He didn’t dare object. Turning to the king, he said, “We will have to purify and reconsecrate the Abbey before we can continue.”

Richard nodded. “Proceed at once.”

This was a terrible inconvenience. The cathedral was crammed with people, the religious ceremony was finished and they had nothing more to do but entomb the body. Everyone was going to have to wait; there was nothing else to be done.


Mercedes Rochelle 

Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.


Connect with Mercedes: Website • Blog • Facebook • Twitter

Twitter Handles: @authorrochelle @maryanneyarde

Ælfgyva: The Mystery Woman of the Bayeux Tapestry – Part III

So, to reflect on what we have this far, there were several Ælfgifus or Ælfgyvas which was a popular noble name for women in the 11thc. The name itself means noble gift, and therefore likely to be a high-status name. We have the story of Ælfgifu of Northampton who was involved in some mystery around the paternity and even the maternity of her sons by Cnut, Harold Harefoot and Swein. Then we have the tale of Emma/Ælfgifu, Edward the Confessor’s mother who supposedly committed adultery with the Bishop of Winchester. Were there any other contenders for this woman’s identity?

Yes, it seems to be so. Æthelred the Unready also had a wife called Ælfgifu of York, who was the mother of possibly all of the king’s sons apart from the two youngest, Edward and Alfred, who were born to his second wife, Emma of Normandy. Do you feel that headache coming on? (Please let me know if you need to lie down.) But to complicate things even more, it is possible that there were two wives called, Ælfgifu, as some historians have believed, for there are two named contenders for her father, however, seeing as there is as little evidence for there being two wives as for the one, we may as well discount this fact. And so, seeing as we do not know of any scandal attributed to her, and her existence is as far away from the events of the mid 11thc as the moon, it is not beneficial to think that this lady is being represented on the Tapestry.

So, is there any more Ælfgifus not mentioned as yet? There may be one other. Some historians have, in an effort to solve the riddle, gone for the simpler, but unlikely option, that Harold had a sister called Ælfgyva whom he’d promised to one of Duke William’s barons in return for his own alliance with one of the duke’s daughters. The lurid depiction of this woman called Ælfgyva and the cleric is said to explain a scandal of some sort that would have been common knowledge at the time. There are other stories that run along similar lines, but these also prove very dissatisfying, for they do not answer the riddle of the purpose of their appearance on the tapestry.


Paula Bayeux 1 (1)
EnterSegment of the Bayeux Tapestry, showing William and Harold
arriving at the duke’s palace, in a conference with each other,
and the Alfgyva and the monk scene a caption



Here now I think, would be a good time to objectively examine the scene and the ones preceding it. If we go back two scenes, we are looking at four horsemen riding toward a tower-like building with a man in the lookout pointing at the men as they approach. The words in Latin along the top of the tapestry read, Here comes Duke William with Earl Harold to his palace. The next scene has no written explanation but simply shows an image of Duke William sitting on his throne in his great hall, and a man standing behind him whose fore-finger is pointing toward the figure of Harold stood before the duke. Harold’s right hand gesticulates, open palmed the way someone might when he is explaining something. His left-hand points behind him and appears to be almost touching the hand of a bearded guard that is standing a little way from the rest of his companions. Obviously, the bearded man represents someone important to the story of the tapestry. Curiously, this guard has not dressed his hair in the Norman fashion of shaving the back of his head to the crown, as do the other men in the image, Harold being the other exception. The guard also has a beard, which the others do not, having shaven faces. The artist seems to have gone to great lengths to distinguish this man from the others.


Finally, the next segment shows the mysterious Ælfgyva standing in a doorway, presumably to convey a scene in a house, with a priest or monk reaching out to her, his hand touching her face and his other hand firmly on his waist. He looks as if he has taken a step toward her. He could be touching her face endearingly, or he could be slapping her face. It is open to conjecture. We will never know. Additionally, the scene in the border below show some very lewd figures. Underneath Ælfgyva, a naked man with a large appendage appears to be squatting, as though pointing under her skirt. In the scene with Harold and William, another naked, faceless man is bending over a work bench with a hatchet. The meaning of these images are obviously of a sexual nature, but what connection it has to the mystery scene is really not clear, but possibly would have been to those who had lived around the time the Tapestry was crafted, and most likely refers to a known scandal of the time.

Harold is seized

Going back to the first segment, the story of the tapestry so far, is that Harold, having sailed to across the sea from Bosham, has been brought to meet William by Guy of Ponthieu. The Count of Ponthieu had captured Harold and his crew after their ship had washed up far off his destination of Normandy. William essentially rescues the English earl from the clutches of his rebellious vassal, who was hoping, perhaps, to ransom the great English earl for a large sum of silver. These two great men, Harold and William are destined to become the fiercest of enemies. At this time, however, they are friends – of a sort – and they ride toward the duke’s palace, probably Rouen, with a following escort. William is carrying the hunting bird that Harold may have bought as a gift for the duke; a sweetener for what he might wish to request of him. William may have thought of doing a spot of hunting on the way to meet his guest.

Harold sets out to Normandy

Kings and nobles were often wont to take their hunting animals with them wherever they went and further back in the tapestry, we see Harold embarking the vessel that takes him to Normandy, with his own hunting hounds and birds. One of the most remarkable things about the embroidery is that if you look closely there are plenty of hidden meanings portrayed in the story as it unfolds. One of these, if you look carefully, appears in this scene. Assuming that where the names appear, they are consistently sewn above of the image of the person portrayed, Harold is in the forefront of the riders, and appears to be signalling to the man leaning out of the tower to keep quiet by touching his lips with his fingers. Andrew Bridgeford states in his book, 1066 The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry, that this is one of Harold’s kinsmen that William had kept as hostage since 1052, excitedly waving to him, almost as if he is saying, “Brother, it is me, Wulfnoth! At last you have come for me!”

Paula Bayeux Wulf


According to the Canterbury monk Eadmer, in his account (Historia Novorium in Anglia c 1095) of Harold’s mysterious visit to Normandy has the earl embarking on a mission to free his brother Wulfnoth and his nephew Hakon from the duke of Normandy’s clutches. A very different account to that given by the Norman propaganda machine, which has Harold travelling gaily overseas to meet with the duke, after being commissioned by King Edward, offering him his loyalty and promising to use his powers of persuasion with the Witan to have him as their king upon Edward’s death. The younger Godwin boys, were allegedly whisked away as hostages in some scheme possibly cooked up by Robert Champart, Archbishop of Canterbury, an arch enemy of Earl Godwin, sometime in 1052 when the family returned from exile. Champart may have used the hostages as a shield to help him escape without molestation, from Godwin’s revenge. Champart, being Norman, was sympathetic to the Norman cause. He may have schemed to persuade Edward to name Duke William as his heir. When the archbishop’s plot went awry, and Godwin returned to favour, the earl was gunning for those who had played a part in his exile, especially the major player, Champart.

The hostages were taken to the duke on Champart’s escape to Normandy, supposedly, as according to Norman Sources, as surety of Edward’s and possibly Godwin’s word (though the latter would have been doubtful) that he would succeed to the throne of England. Even having to flee from England with a charge of treason over his head, did not deter Champart to stir up trouble and continue with his plan to see William as Edward’s heir. It’s also possible that Edward had secretly given his blessing to Champart to take the boys, hoping that one day the tide would again turn against Godwin, that veritable boil on his bottom.

In the autumn of 1064, at the time when Harold’s visit to Normandy was most likely to have taken place, Wulfnoth would have been a man in his late twenties and Hakon, a teenager. The former was Godwin’s youngest son, and Hakon, the son of Godwin’s eldest, son, Swegn. How they would have fared all those years in Normandy away from their country of birth and family, one might wonder. There are no records of their progress during their stay, however one can perhaps surmise that by the time Harold appears on the scene, they have got used to being hostages, well treated in respect of their nobility and having found positions among the duke’s household. Eadmer’s version of Harold’s trip to Normandy takes a very different slant to that of the Normans, with the main purpose being to negotiate the release of Harold’s kin from the duke’s custody. In the Norman version, we are told that Harold arrived with gifts for William, gifts that it was said were for the duke from Edward, to confirm his promise of the ascendancy. Or were they boons of a different nature? Bribes perhaps for the release of Hakon and Wulfnoth, and not from Edward, but from Harold?

So, the segments of the Bayeux Tapestry that we have seen above can be interpreted in as Harold and William discussing the purpose of his visit, which could be to discuss Edward’s wish that William become his heir – or – it can be interpreted as Harold explaining that his visit is to talk about his kinsmen: brother, Wulfnoth, the bearded chap amongst William’s household guard, and Hakon, his nephew. Whatever the case, both men, it would seem, had different agendas…. and how does the curious picture of the noble lady and the monk fit into all this?

We have more to discover in the next Part.

Bridgeford A, 2004 1066: The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry Fourth Estate; First Edition

Eadmer c1095 Historia Novorium in Anglia
Walker I, Harold: The Last Anglo-Saxon King The History Press; new edition, 2010.