Constance of York, a cousin of King Richard II, is inducted into the Order of the Garter aged 10. High in the favour of the King and Queen, she is soon summoned to the court to attend Anne of Bohemia. However, not only is England in danger of a French invasion. but vicious civil strife is about to break out. Constance is at hand to witness to it all.
For any of those who have already read Within the Fetterlock, here is the story about a young and sweet Constance—before life gave her a few hard knocks. Written in first person, we see a favored daughter who is very attached to King Richard and Queen Anne. This novel takes place during Richard’s minority, as his enemies are gathering steam and preparing to confront him. They aim to eliminate all the king’s close friends and advisors who they see as usurping the place of his proper counselors: i.e. themselves. These treacherous lords are led by the unscrupulous and hateful Duke of Gloucester, Richard’s uncle. In one particular scene, Constance blocks his way to the king (in a private moment), and is rudely accosted for her trouble. Fortunately, she is saved by the timely entrance of her brother Edward:
‘There is one more small matter, honoured uncle,’ Edward said, as if it had just come to mind. He gestured in my direction. ‘This is my sister, the Lady Constance of York, Dame la Despenser, a Lady of the Garter. Not one of your lady’s washerwomen. I shall inform my lord father that you have seen fit to offer her violence. I swear, as God sees me, it would have been an evil day for you if that blow had landed. No man alive strikes my sister with impunity. I beg you to remember it, and remember it well.’
My uncle turned on him, red-faced with choler. ‘I shall speak to your father myself,’ he snarled. ‘Tell him he has bred two impudent, ill-mannered pups with no respect for their betters.’
‘Betters? Sir, we are at least your equals.”
Yay, Edward! I was proud of him. In reality, he’s not always so reliable, but he does have his moments. So did her father, the Duke of York. Though overall, Constance seems pretty ambivalent about her family—and her husband. But there’s no question that she adores the king and queen and must sit back uncomfortably as they are subjected to the most painful humiliation during the Merciless Parliament. Constance is a very interesting character and we are able to see the unhappy court through her eyes.