Book Title: A King Under Siege
Series: (The Plantagenet Legacy, Book 1)
Author: Mercedes Rochelle
Publication Date: 5th January 2019
Publisher: Sergeant Press
Page Length: 313 Pages
Richard II found himself under siege not once, but twice in his minority. Crowned king at age ten, he was only fourteen when the Peasants' Revolt terrorized London. But he proved himself every bit the Plantagenet successor, facing Wat Tyler and the rebels when all seemed lost. Alas, his triumph was short-lived, and for the next ten years he struggled to assert himself against his uncles and increasingly hostile nobles. Just like in the days of his great-grandfather Edward II, vengeful magnates strove to separate him from his friends and advisors, and even threatened to depose him if he refused to do their bidding. The Lords Appellant, as they came to be known, purged the royal household with the help of the Merciless Parliament. They murdered his closest allies, leaving the King alone and defenseless. He would never forget his humiliation at the hands of his subjects. Richard's inability to protect his adherents would haunt him for the rest of his life, and he vowed that next time, retribution would be his.
Wat Tyler pulled on the reins as he saw the crowd gathered before the gatehouse—the only access into the Tower aside from the water gate. A short stone barbican was the first barrier they must pass; beyond it, a walkway crossed into the battlemented half-circle Lion Tower—a huge structure crowded with soldiers who casually regarded the intruders on Tower Hill. Wat wondered why they didn't just scatter the mob with their arrows; the rebels were an easy target from that vantage point. But the guards' apparent lack of interest was good for the cause.
He needed to get up to the gatehouse and nudged his mount forward. "Clear the way," Wat shouted. "Clear the way for your leader!" Some of the laggards glared at him, but once they saw his determined band of yeoman they drew aside. Wat kicked at a couple of idlers as he squeezed past; they barely ceded enough room for him to move. Once he saw who was haranguing the crowd, he became even more insistent. "Farringdon," Tyler growled. "That bastard. This is my territory."
Ignoring complaints, Wat forced his way up to Farringdon. The big man turned with a scowl. "What do you want?"
"How do you plan to get in there?" Wat said scornfully. "Do you expect them to roll over and play dead?"
The grumbling grew louder. Apparently that was what they had just been arguing about.
"As you can see, they haven't raised the drawbridge," Farringdon said, pointing.
Wat had been too busy fighting the crush to observe the long causeway over the moat. But he wasn't about to admit his ignorance. "And you see that as an invitation? How kind of the king."
"The king was too busy getting his arse wiped to worry about the drawbridge. We should have no trouble getting in."
"Pah! You can defend this castle with a handful of men. Any child could see that!"
If a man could bristle, Farringdon would have done so; he resembled a boar more than a goldsmith. "You can just stay right there and watch us bring out the traitors!" he growled.
"Foolish chatter!" Wat stood up in his stirrups, turning around. "No need to expose ourselves to unnecessary violence. I have a man coming with the king's own banner. And a pardon, too, stamped with the Great Seal!"
Farringdon frowned but held his tongue; even he couldn't contain his curiosity. Wat settled back into his saddle. There, that was better, he thought. "I just came from Mile End. King Richard has agreed to all our demands!" That came out as a shout. Wat smiled, looking back and forth benevolently as the rebels cheered. "At this very moment his clerks are writing pardons for every county in Kent. He wants your Essex men to go home, too," he sneered at Farringdon before turning back to the crowd. "But don't worry, boys," he yelled. "We won't be bought off so easily. There are twenty thousand of us and only a few of them. There will be no laws in England saving those we declare! With my own mouth I will declare them!" This is what the rebels wanted to hear, and another great cheer followed his words. Wat Tyler had retaken his place at the head of the revolt.
Farringdon crossed his arms. "Say what you will. The traitor Hales is mine."
Wat dismounted, handing off his horse to one of his captains. "You may have your treasurer. I want the archbishop. But we must wait for the royal banner."
The delay was difficult for the leaders. The noise was so loud you couldn't hear yourself think. Wat and Farringdon glared at each other, walking back and forth all puffed up with their own importance. Wat called for ale to be brought forward; his thirst could not be quenched that day. The crowd cheerfully passed around what victuals they had appropriated along the way. They amused themselves by jeering at the Tower guards, who shifted around nervously. Wat started singing his battle songs and they joined in enthusiastically. But they were growing restless; Wat insisted that his messenger would be back soon, slapping men on the shoulder and promising a good time. Finally, from the back of the crowd, a new cheer announced the return of his long-awaited captain. Rising above their heads, a banner with the Royal arms bobbed up and down, and this time the crowd parted willingly.
The proud message-bearer handed over the pardon with a flourish and Wat unrolled it. He raised his arm in the air, turning around; you couldn't miss the six-inch Great Seal. Even Farringdon was impressed. "And now, my good man," said Wat, showing the warrant to the first guard blocking the entrance, "as you see, we bear the king's authorization to seize the traitors residing in the Tower." The man had been watching their behavior for some time and was not convinced. However, it wasn't his place to disobey the king.
The guard made a show of studying the document, though judging from the blank expression on his face it was apparent he couldn't read. He straightened up and thumped his spear on the ground. "You must wait here while I summon my sergeant," he said before gesturing for someone to take his place. Two men stepped forward, crossing their spears before the opening.
Wat knew they were going to get through. He stepped up to one of the soldiers. "You are one of us," he reminded him. "We are brothers. We are not here to fight with you. We just want to slay the traitors!" He laughed unpleasantly. "It's time we stood up for our rights!" He turned, grabbing a cudgel from one of his followers. "Come, join us." He poked the stick into the guard's chest. "We are moving forward!"
The man-at-arms hesitated, looking at his mate who shrugged his shoulders, stepping back. The way was clear! Encouraged, the rebels shoved forward in their eagerness to get through.
"Wait!" Wat shouted, holding the others back with a grand wave of his arms. This was his moment; Wat took his time strutting under the archway. Then Farringdon squeezed past him and he started to run. Shouting in glee, the first knot of rebels charged over the moat, their feet booming across the hollow drawbridge which lay flat, chains slack. Two guard towers flanked the next archway and soldiers stood on the battlements, holding their bows halfway drawn. A line of troops blocked the entranceway.
The half-crazed rebels stopped so suddenly that those behind them collided into their backs. They raised their weapons threateningly. "Let us in. Stand back! Kill the traitors!" Imprecations resounded one on top of the other. Wat stepped forward, brandishing his pardon. He gestured for his followers to calm down, then faced the soldiers.
"Who is your captain?" he shouted.
The line of guards parted and their leader stepped forth. "What right do you have to disturb the king's peace?"
Those within hearing guffawed. "What peace?" someone bellowed.
Wat ignored them. "I have the right. Do you not recognize the king's Great Seal?"
The man glanced briefly at the parchment. "Why would the king give his seal to the likes of you?" he said with a sneer. Wat was shocked into silence.
But not for long. Farringdon stepped forward. "We are not all ceorls. I am the king's goldsmith." He was exaggerating his importance, but a common soldier would never know. "King Richard gives his command." His voice rose in volume, loaded with authority. "The king has authorized us to seize the traitors in the Tower. Let us pass." Farringdon stood a head taller than the captain of the guards, and he pushed the man's spear with a hand the size of a wooden mallet. Wat wondered once again how this artisan could master such delicate work; then again, he probably let someone else do the finer stuff. Regardless, his dominance served to intimidate the captain who involuntarily stepped back.
"Do you dare reject the king's orders?" Farringdon pursued. For a moment the man seemed to be arguing with himself, but of a sudden he shuddered when a distant building in the city crashed to the ground, throwing up a huge plume of smoke.
That was enough. "Let them pass," the captain yelled. Clicking their heels together and thumping their spears, the other soldiers retreated. Finally! Cheering, Wat and Farringdon led their followers through the archway; few bothered to look up at the sharp points of the portcullis, suspended above their heads. However, there's no doubt that the castle builders knew their defensive techniques; once through the barbican the rebels found themselves in the outer ward, facing a blank wall. White Tower rose majestically inside the bailey, though it wasn't easy to see how to get there. "This way!" Wat called, pretending he knew where to go. And luck was with him; after a short run they turned left and passed under an arch that connected with the inner ward. The White Keep was before them!
4 out of 5 (very good)
A KING UNDER SIEGE is the first book in The Plantagenet Legacy and details Richard II and the circumstances around the beginning of his reign. Crowned at ten, he was reliant upon his advisors for a time, although the frustration he felt was clear when their advice was less than helpful. We also get to meet Anne of Bohemia, his first wife and great love. Together with those of Richard's inner court, we see how it could have been (and probably was) for people at that time.
Told as an amalgamation of fact and fiction, you get the story and history with comments and questions raised by an observer. It is clear that a lot of research has gone into this book.
Richard was the last of Plantagenet kings in the direct line and you see his relationship with Henry Bolingbroke -- the most direct descendant in the male line, as opposed to the then-heir presumptive -- as a fraught affair, with Henry not involving himself too deeply in the politics of the time, but having great impact upon Richard when he did.
This part of the story takes us through to 1388, ending with a hint of Richard regaining control in 1389.
An interesting story that will definitely intrigue and interest lovers of both the Plantagenet era and the Tudor, as this shows the build-up to future events. Definitely recommended by me.
** same worded review will appear elsewhere **
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history, and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. Her first four books cover eleventh-century Britain and events surrounding the Norman Conquest of England. The next series is called The Plantagenet Legacy about the struggles and abdication of Richard II, leading to the troubled reigns of the Lancastrian Kings. She also writes a blog:
HistoricalBritainBlog.com to explore the history behind the story. Born in St. Louis, MO, she received by BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St.Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world”. The search hasn’t ended! Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.
Social Media Links:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mercedes-Rochelle/e/B001KMG5P6?