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The solar at Watermill House was warm and steamy and fragrant with rosemary and camomile from the bathwater in the tub in front of the fire. James Chapham was finding it too warm, particularly around the neck where the starched and ruffled collar of his shirt prickled his skin, and he squinted down the smooth, stuffed black silk expanse of his doublet and sighed noisily.
'Not so tight, Matthew,' he said. 'I shall lose all feeling in my legs.'
The servant, Matthew, who was kneeling before him tying the garters that held his nether-stocks and canions together, looked up imperturbably.
'You want them tight, Master, for to get them smooth. It won't shew off your fine calves, else.'
There was a crow of laughter from the smaller of the two beds in the room on which James's sixteen-year-old son Jan was sitting, tying his own garters.
'A touch, a touch!' Jan cried. 'He has you there, Father, pricked in your vanity.'
James rotated the upper part of his body carefully so that he could look at the boy. It was not possible simply to turn his head-the high, upstanding Spanish collar kept his neck rigidly in one position. 'It was no touch,' he said, trying to look stern. 'I am the least vain of men, child, you should know that.'
'Yes Papa. Of course Papa. I tremble before your wrath,' Jan said, springing off the bed and dropping on one knee in mock humility. 'May I crave your indulgence to ask a question?'
'What is it?' James said, managing to retain the frown. It was difficult, though, in the face of this lovely laughing boy. Jan, with his mop of black curls, his shining dark blue eyes, and his fine-cut, impish face drew love as surely as the moon drew the tides.
'If you have no vanity, Father, why did you buy a new suit of clothes for this occasion, when you had a new suit at Midsummer, not three months ago?'
James sighed again, and turned the other way, towards the great bed, beside which his wife stood patiently while her maid Audrey slowly and painstakingly tied the points of her sleeves.
'My dear,' he said, 'are you going to allow me to be baited so in my own house?'
Nanette looked across at him and laughed.
'No, of course not. For shame, Jan! Your father vain, indeed! You know he hates to wear new clothes; and he only shaved off his beard out of compliment to the Queen.'
Matthew grinned all the more, and murmured, 'It's no use, Master, you'll get no help there.' James looked frustrated. 'Now, Nan, you know I shaved it off because-'
'Because it was grey and you did not like to appear a greybeard,' Nanette finished for him inexorably. James began to smile sheepishly, and Nanette came across to him, half-sleeved as she was, and cupped his smooth jaw in her hand. 'You are a handsome man, dear heart,' she said, looking, with her blue eyes and mischievous smile, so much like Jan that it was hard to believe she was not his mother, 'so why should you mind who knows it? Being clean-shaven suits you. And this Spanish black suits you. I'm afraid I am like to fall in love with you again.'
Their eyes exchanged the private messages of accustomed lovers. 'If this doublet and collar weren't so stiff,' he said, 'I'd kiss you, Mistress Morland.'
'What, in front of the servants?' Nanette pretended to be shocked and backed off, returning to Audrey's ministrations.
'And in front of the children?' Jan added, looking across at Mary Seymour, Nanette's young protegée, who was sitting as patient as a rock on the clothes chest in the corner, waiting to have her hair dressed. Mary was ten, a fair, pretty child, with quiet, dainty ways, and Jan always felt very protective towards her.
'Quite right, we forget ourselves,' James said. Matthew had finished with the gaiters and was approaching with the short cloak, and James said to him, 'Be sure you hang that so that the lining shews at the fold-'
'And be sure, Matthew,' Jan interrupted sternly, 'that it hangs at exactly the angle of a line drawn from the centre of the earth to the rising sun at the autumn equinox. The master will have it so.'
Everyone, even little Mary, laughed, and James growled, 'Another word, and I shall refuse to come to the dedication ceremony at all!'
'There, Jan, see what you have done with your teasing,' Nanette said. 'But I still have an arrow in my quiver-if the master refuses to come to the dedication of the new chapel at Morland Place, I shall refuse to come to the dedication of his new school at Akcomb. That will do, Audrey. You had better see to Mistress Mary's hair now-time is growing short. And Matthew, when you have hung the master's cloak, do you send for someone to take the bath away, and see that the horses are ready. And find what's come of Master Simon and the child.'
'Yes Madam,' Matthew said, and departed at once on his errands. James made no protest at her ordering of the man, for Matthew was really her servant, brought with her when they had married, along with Audrey and four lower servants. Besides, the atmosphere at Watermill House was informal. They did not live here in a grand way, for it was so small. There was the great hall in the centre, where most of the life of the house went on; at the warmer, southern end there was the winter-parlour on the ground floor, which James also used as his audience-chamber and steward's room, and above it on the upper floor the solar with the two beds, the larger one in which James and Nanette slept, and the smaller in which Jan and Matthew slept. At the other end of the hall were the buttery and pantry and over them the small bedchamber in which Mary slept with Audrey in one bed, and in the other Nanette's chaplain, Simon LeBel with his young charge Alexander.
And that was all, apart from the kitchen which was beyond the buttery and pantry in a separate building. The rest of the servants slept in the Hall, in the old manner; but despite the lack of grandeur and comfort, the atmosphere was always very cheerful at Watermill House. James had a large house in the city, on the Lendal, but they were not often there. Nanette disliked living in York, feeling that it was unhealthy, and she had some evidence for her fears in the successive plagues of illness which had struck their Lendal neighbours, her cousins the Butts.
Nanette's mother had been Belle Butts before she married, and had been born and brought up in the great Butts house which occupied a fine site at the end of the Lendal, its many ramifications and outbuildings running down to the River Ouse just below the Lendal Bridge. Belle's brother John was the master of the Butts family, and his two sons had married Nanette's younger sisters, Catherine and Jane. Jane's husband Bartholomew and their three daughters had all been struck down by one of these plagues eight years ago, and only the youngest daughter, Charity, had survived. Jane had said afterwards that it was a pity Charity had not died too, for the illness had bent and warped her body as if it were soft clay, and had left her permanently crippled; and now Jane too was dead, killed by the pox only that summer. No, York was not a healthy city; it was beautiful, but noisome and stalked by plague and pest.
Posted September 20, 2010
Originally posted at: www.longandshortreviews.blogspot.com ***** Generations, wars, kings, and seasons come and go; but Morland Place survives, sparkling and vibrant in prosperous times, dull and enduring in droughty and oppressive times. Politics and religion influence but never totally control life at this grand old estate or the people connected with it. Many of the new generation roam far and wide but Morland Place is their touchstone.
The senior John Morland sends his eldest son, John to woo the daughter of Black Will Percy in an effort to gain an alliance with the mighty Lord Percy of Northumberland. He will do whatever it takes to insure Morland Place's future in the English aristocracy. Young John and his entourage are met by the Princeling's pack of dogs and forbidding-looking men. Mary Percy is truly a princeling in her father's eyes since she is his only heir. She's been reared to rule. Unbending, aloof, and beautiful, she enchants John and she, in spite of all her posturing, is in love with John, but only after she realizes he will never expect her to give up her honor, pride, and control does she agree to marry. They ride and rule their wild Scottish estate as one. Theirs is a love unique to that time in history. From their union, only Thomas survives. His role in at Morland Place is unusual.
Lettice, young John's sister, also ends up in Scotland married to a barbaric laird. Her story grabs the attention. She treads a perilous path as her husband works to put Mary, queen of Scots, on the throne of England. The brutality, debauchery, and underhanded dealing keep her life in breathtaking circumstances much of the time.
The other Morland children do not abide by the old ways, much to their father's despair. The changing social mores, religion upheaval, and volatile political activities influence many of their choices. Nanette, the elder John's kinswoman, helps him maneuver through the minefields of politics, religion, and social changes that seem to overwhelm him. Her years at court and her innate intelligence serve Morland Place well. Her adopted son's wife proves to be a challenge in relation to Morland Place, which makes for prime reading.
Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' impeccable historical setting and her incredible descriptions make The Princeling seem so real. Her weaving together so many diverse characters and subplots creates an exquisite, compelling novel about a time in history when change had people forever scrambling to maintain their balance in a world that seemed to tilt at times.
The Princeling, book three of the Morland Dynasty series throbs with life. Courage and love resonant all through the novel just as they do in book one The Foundling and book two The Dark Rose of this series.
Posted September 7, 2010
This is the third book in the Morland Dynasty series that I have read - and I have to admit that I am still smitten with both the series and with the writing style of Ms. Harrod-Eagles You can find my reviews of the first two books in the series "The Founding" and "The Dark Rose"on my book blog htp://booksbythewillowtree.blogspot.com under historical fiction. "The Princeling" takes place during the reign of Elizabeth I when the tensions between Protestants and Catholics (the Morland clan) are at their peak. The religious tension of the times does not escape the Morland family where some members have come to embrace the 'new' religion while other family members cling to the faith of their forbears. Ms. Harrod-Eagles keeps the sub-plots intricately and adeptly woven and the fabric of the lives of the Morlands is revealed - replete with a real 'feel' for what life would have been like during this period of spiritual tumult. There are many characters in this book and their lives, through births and deaths, are strongly interwoven - but I did not find it all difficult to follow each family member as they moved through their lives and affected the lives of their family. Some chose to leave the family whilst others remained. One son, William, leaves to pursue a career as an actor in the seedier parts of London. Another son, John, who is the Morland heir, heads North to the Borderlands where he meets and marries Mary, the bold, challenging daughter of cattle lord 'Black' Will Percy. One of the Morland sisters, Lettice - the gentle one of the clan- is married to a pitiless Scots Baron, Lord Hamilton ,who life revolves around the treachery within the Court of Mary, Queen of Scots. Each time I finish a book in this series I am ready to read the next one. In fact I think it would be best if I was, indeed, able to have the whole series on hand - ready to read one after the other. I don't believe that I would become bored with the reading and I know that I could maintain the relationship continuity more easily if I had multiple volumes ready to read on my bedside table. Sourcebooks has done a wonderful job in re-releasing this excellent series. Better covers, nice paper and a good font choice all make the reading even easier. You can see the entire series-to-be on Cynthia Harrod Eagle's website along with more information about the Morland lands and Yahoo discussion group. I am, as you can tell, a real fan of this excellent series. Whilst the characters may be fictitious the history and the 'feel' of these books are based on real happenings, buildings and history, all of which Ms.Harrod-Eagles explains quite well on her website. She also has a handy page that places the volumes of the series in order. I am ready for the next couple of books "The Oak Apple" and "The Black Pearl". Obviously, I highly recommend this series. It's highly addictive!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 1, 2013
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