So This Is How It Ends

Copyright © Isabella Dalzell 2017. All RIghts Reserved.

Blade falling swiftly as the sun glints on its sharp edge; the halberd falls, crashing through my helmet to my skull and yet it seems to me to be moving oh, so very slowly, second by second. From the corner of my eye I see my nemesis, that turncoat Rhys ap Thomas, swinging his poll axe in the throng. I am surrounded, almost within touch of the Tudor flag, those few of my household knights brave enough to join me now amongst the scattered dead.

 

Last night I dreamt I saw my golden circlet of state, not upon my head, but strung dangling from a hawthorn bush. The blood dripped, tear by tear, spiraling down and pooling upon the marshland meadow and flowing pink throughout the watermead. I had the dread feeling when I woke up this morning in the cold, damp chamber of the Blue Boar Inn that today would be different; I would either win this battle as a king or die as one.

 

Seeing Stanley join with that pretender Henry on the battleground today, and my allies Norfolk and Northumberland desert the field, I decide upon a desperate gamble. I spur my horse to charge across the broad sweep of the battlefield to confront the upstart one-to-one, hand-to-hand. I make that lonesome journey galloping over the lumpy, springy, tussocks in full view of my enemies, - chivalric warrior, last of the Plantagenets. What I do not expect is for Henry to lead from behind and for his band of Welshmen and mercenaries to surround me, pull me from my saddle as my horse falls stumbling in the marsh, each blow cutting me down as I stand unhorsed, so that I cannot rise, and yet I fight to the end, fight still to the end. I, victor of so many battles, slayer of so many vanquished souls, face my only defeat on the battlefield. The three suns today have merged into one and sink behind the horizon as I sink now to my knees, watching ever the shining disc of the blade move through the air and the sun glinting upon it. I retreat not one step.

 

Yes, three golden suns were we, valiant sons of York; Edward, George and Richard. Clearing the path to power by removing Holy Henry, that simple, sincere but ultimately weak, deluded and dominated man not fit to be king. We cleared him away and made short work of his Prince and Queen, slaughtering the White Swan and driving off the She- wolf to France's shores.

 

My beloved Edward; brother, liege and Lord. And what a King he was, that outstanding warrior for whom I fought and won battle after battle. I ruled the North, loyal as a hound and with justice, too. Ever at his right-hand, I wielded my formidable sword in his service and even my enemies acknowledged my courage and skill. His marriage to the Woodville woman, Elizabeth, was his downfall and undid us all. I watched as she placed her relatives throughout the realm above us all, causing all our former allies to turn against us, grumbling and with blades hidden, ready to withdraw them from their sheaths when the right person rallied them.

 

And George betrayed us all with his ambition and foolish pride. And, though mourning his death I have to say, yes, I had a hand in that.

 

And Warwick dead, but upon the battlefield. And, yes, I had a hand in that, too.

 

The death of Warwick marked Edward’s fall from grace.  I watched his path as he degenerated from outstanding warrior to run to fat and fornication. With his untimely death, she, the Woodville woman, would have made herself Regent and ruled instead of her sons. I, made Lord Protector, stepped in as was my duty. All the factions were out; first the Lord Rivers leading Edward's boy towards London and his mother's grace, but intercepting the retinue, I had him executed and the boy safely lodged within the Tower. But then what to do? The Archbishop revealed his claim illegitimate and so that of Edward and all the Woodville line. I had to act, or be driven like the stag at bay. Buckingham turned his coat to join the Beaufort's and Hastings too. Now he is dead upon a log, his head severed, and thus should die all traitors.

 

And now my doom is sealed as that path has led ultimately to this battlefield and Henry Tudor, ever in the shadows with his mother Margaret Beaufort, steps out into the sunlight. Henry, charging out of the Celtic West with his pennant of the Red Dragon streaming, legacy of Uther Pendragon and of Arthur. At least that is what his uncle Jasper Tudor would have us believe.

 

Those once dear, now departed, decaying dead ones gather about me once more as the shadows enfold me. Our three suns have set indeed.

 

I watch still as the silver disc of the halberd falls and feel again the blade crash against my forehead and split my spine. Fleeting thoughts of my beloved boy, gone before me, and my loving, fragile wife Anne, ever faithful.

 

What will they say of me? That I was unkind? Evil? Hunchback? Villain? Murderer? How reconcile these barbs, when even my enemies hold me in good opinion, saying that I am just, valiant and noble, a formidable warrior and courageous swordsman?

 

It was the fate of those golden, albeit bastard, boys repining in the Tower which besmirched my reputation. Yes, it was I who put them there, I who held them there, I who slowly withdrew them from the public view, no more to be seen playing archery in the grassy moat but locked away behind high, slitted, stone walls. But I have not killed them. No, not I. I made sure they went fast away to Flanders. How could I kill those princes my beloved brother charged me to protect? Why else now would their mother and sister reside at my court? I only sought for justice and the safety of the kingdom.

 

Is that my blood I see spilling down my face and tumbling down my sleeves? No new dynasty to arise from me through marriage to Edward’s daughter, Elizabeth; she is Tudor's now.

 

God save England.