James Forrester The Final Sacrament

ISBN 13: 9780755388066

The Final Sacrament

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9780755388066: The Final Sacrament

"Forrester captures the sights, smells, and dangers of Tudor England and tells a gripping story."―Philippa Gregory, bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl

He keeps a secret that could destroy England...and his family

1566. When Catholic rebels―driven by revenge and zealotry―kidnap the family of William Harley, Clarenceux King of arms and herald to her majesty, it will test his love and loyalty.

In exchange for his wife and daughter's release, they demand the one document that has the potential to topple Queen Elizabeth and thrust England into a civil war. Will Clarenceux sacrifice queen and country to save those dearest to him, or will he let them die at the hands of his enemies for the good of the nation?

Clarenceux Trilogy:
Sacred Treason (Book 1)
The Roots of Betrayal (Book 2)
The Final Sacrament (Book 3)

Praise for James Forrester
"A winner for any reader who loves historical action-packed novels."―Kirkus, starred review

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

James Forrester is the pen name of the historian Dr. Ian Mortimer. Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and winner of its Alexander Prize for his work on social history, he is the author of four highly acclaimed medieval biographies and the Sunday Times bestsellers The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England and The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England. He lives with his wife and three children in the Southwest of England. www.jamesforrester.co.uk

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

Wednesday, February 19, 1567

The boy's shoulders were tense with cold as he stood on duty near the King's Gate. Although it was almost dark he could still see the high wall running along the left-hand side of the street. The flickering glow of a torch lit the nearest stretch of brickwork. On his right, the palace rooftops loomed black against the frozen sky. Two servants came out of the shadows, walking into the palace. One caught his eye but did not acknowledge him. Three weeks had passed since he had come to court, supposedly to finish his education, and already he was regretting his father's decision.

He rubbed his hands together, and blew on them. Tucking his fingers under his arms for warmth, he ran the toe of his shoe over the smooth surface of a small patch of ice. The air smelled of frozen earth, with traces of burning pitch from the torch. He felt hungry as well as cold. When he was older he would buy himself some gloves, he vowed, and never have to stand with such chilled fingers again.

He started to walk across the width of the gatehouse, whistling snatches of a tune he remembered his mother singing. He wondered if his parents were well. He thought of them talking about him back home in the village-about how proud they were that he was in the queen's service at Whitehall. That image sweetened him and saddened him at the same time, for he knew how shocked they would be if they could see the way he was treated. Dick Venner regularly shouted at him as if he were his master, even though Dick was only a year older. It was Dick who was responsible for teaching him the ways of the court, and it was Dick who had beaten him with a wooden rod when he did not bow low enough to a Polish nobleman.

The sound of horses approaching at speed broke into his reverie. A moment later he saw their shapes come out of the darkness. There were four of them, their eyes great black beads in the torchlight, their heads glistening with sweat. Two men dismounted, both out of breath; one took the reins of his own horse and those of the other man. The latter was short and thin. The boy noticed the fine cut of his clothes; but even by torchlight he could see that the riding cloak was splattered with mud, the black silk doublet beneath it similarly besmottered. The man had a crease between his eyes so that it seemed like he was permanently frowning. His head was covered by a black skull cap-but he was not that old, only in his midthirties. He seemed distant from his companions. The two who remained mounted bade him farewell and departed; his companion led the two horses away to the stables.

"Boy, take me to Sir William," the man said between short breaths.

Sir William. One of the first things that Dick Venner had taught him was that there was only one "Sir William." Other men might be called "Sir William this" or "Sir William that"-but there was only one plain "Sir William." He was Sir William Cecil, the queen's Principal Secretary, and the most powerful man in the government: in fact, the most powerful man in the whole kingdom. He was also reputed to be the most intelligent. Normally the boy would not have known where Sir William was, but on this occasion he did. Sir William had rushed to court two days ago, when terrible news had arrived from Scotland. The rumor among the other boys was that Lord Henry Stewart was dead. Many messages had been delivered since then-one almost every hour. Sir William had barely left the queen's side in all that time.

The boy bowed politely. "With all respect for your lordship, Sir William has given instructions that he is not to be disturbed, except for messengers coming from Sir William Drury."

The small man with the skull cap looked directly at him. "Do you not know who I am?"

The boy stood firm, though inside he was quaking. "No, my lord."

"My name is Francis Walsingham. Sir William is my patron. I have news for him that will turn his hair gray. Now..." Walsingham reached forward and grabbed the boy's ear in his right hand and twisted it. "Take me to him, without delay."

"Mr. Walsingham, sir, he has already received the news about the Scottish-"

"TAKE ME TO HIM!" shouted Walsingham, pushing him toward the side door that led through into the privy palace.

Tears came to the boy's eyes, but he blinked them back as he led the way along the covered corridor behind the Lord Chamberlain's house. The route took them into a whitewashed corridor, through another door, out into the cold night again, and along a path between the mass of irregular buildings that formed part of the old palace. They passed the busy figures of servants, gentlemen, cooks, and clerks in the near darkness. In some places torches lit the route. Where it was dark, he felt his way, running his hand along the wall. He led Walsingham through to the great court and along one side of it, and under an arch into the stone gallery that ran between the privy palace and the privy garden. Finally, after hearing the heels of Walsingham's nailed boots ringing out behind him against the flagstones of the gallery for about fifty yards, he came to the entrance, lit by a wall-mounted metal lantern. He took the ring of the door handle, turned it, and entered, and after closing it again behind the visitor, went up a flight of stairs to the first of a series of antechambers.

He had expected to see two guards here, men who should have been on duty outside the closed door to the privy palace. But there was no one. He turned to Walsingham to explain that he was not allowed beyond this door.

"Open it," snapped Walsingham before he could speak. The boy turned the handle and pushed the door open.

The chamber had large gilded beams in the high ceiling, with red and blue painted decoration between them. The colors were clearly visible in the light of six burning candles that hung in the center of the room. There were warming tapestries too, the figures on them like mysterious onlookers from the shadows. A fire was burning on a hearth-but there was no one to be seen.

"Lead on," ordered Walsingham, his boots thudding on the floorboards.

At that moment the door at the far end of the chamber opened and a man in purple ecclesiastical vestments entered. He looked surprised to see them.

"Your Grace," said Walsingham, bowing. The boy also bowed low.

"Walsingham, you cannot go in," said the bishop in a deep voice. "The queen and Sir William will not be disturbed. Besides..." He looked down at Walsingham's mud-spattered clothes and filthy shirt, "her majesty will not approve of your apparel."

"I am not looking for her approval. Sir William will not forgive me if I delay."

"But will the queen?" The bishop looked Walsingham in the eye. "Never mind. If it concerns Lord Henry Stewart, you're too late. They've already heard it. Drury has been sending letters at regular intervals, and others have hastened here directly from the north."

"My news is of quite another order. But what is this about Lord Henry? I have been away."

"A sorry tale, but one that I fear was inevitable. He has been murdered-killed in the grounds of his house at Edinburgh. No one knows who is guilty and it seems the Scots queen has not arrested anyone, which leaves the finger of blame pointing at the lady herself."

The boy looked at Walsingham. The crease between his eyes seemed even deeper.

"Then I have all the more reason to speak to Sir William immediately," he said.

"I have already told you-"

"Lead on," commanded Walsingham, putting his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Thank you for your information, my Lord Bishop; thank you."

He pushed the boy toward the oak door, and went through to the next antechamber. This was better lit. More tapestries, another hearth, a servant piling fresh logs on the embers. The beams were similarly gilded, with deep blue azurite decoration and stars in the depicted firmament. Two gentlemen ushers were at the far end. One was doing the rounds, lighting candles; the other was listening at the door. The one at the door turned, alarmed, when he heard Walsingham enter.

"Do you have nothing else to do?" asked Walsingham, his voice self-consciously loud. "Get you hence!"

The usher, astonished at Walsingham's arrogance, moved and Walsingham boldly marched up to the door and opened it. The boy stood back, nervous about intruding on the royal presence. He wanted to return to his cold station at the gate but Walsingham grabbed the scruff of his doublet and steered him through into the queen's great chamber.

It was a huge room, with a high, gilded ceiling and wide, gilded walls, as large as any room the boy had ever seen: as big as the largest great hall known to him. He wanted to look up and gaze at the spectacle, for the whole room seemed to be encased in gold, but his attention was commanded by the sudden lack of noise. More than thirty men were here, standing or sitting, and the talk had died abruptly. They all looked at Walsingham. Some were gentlemen and knights of the royal household; others were lords and courtiers identifiable as such by their lavish silk and satin doublets, fine ruffs, and embroidered hosen. Two or three men were wearing gowns, being men of the law or of the Church.

Walsingham did not stop but kept walking, still pushing the reluctant boy before him. Two men-at-arms looked startled, uncertain whether to stop them.

"Announce me," he said loudly. To a man-at-arms he ordered, "Open the door."

"Do you realize what you are doing?" called a man's voice nearby. Another shouted, "Show some respect!" A third man stepped in front of Walsingham and told him, "You cannot do this, Walsingham. We are all waiting our turn." A fourth man added, "The queen is with Sir William; she does not want to be disturbed."

A tall, exquisitely dressed lord approached; he was wearing a black velvet cape embroidered with gold and silver thread. "Look at the state of you, Walsingham," he chided. "For your own good, I suggest-"

"For your own good, my Lord Chamberlain, be out of my way," retorted Walsingham, pushing past those who stood between him and the next door.

"For your own good, you are still wearing your sword," snapped back the Lord Chamberlain, his eyes meeting Walsingham's.

Walsingham stopped, unbuckled his sword, and without a word, thrust it at the boy. Then, staring at the Lord Chamberlain, he spoke to the boy. "Go through that door and announce me. Now!" Again he ordered the guards, "Open those doors."

The guards looked at one another. One nodded. Together they opened the doors. The boy, scarcely able to control his nervousness, handed Walsingham's sword to one of them, who accepted it without a word. Then he tiptoed into the queen's chamber, with Walsingham hard behind him.

The room was dark and vast, almost as large as the great chamber, with just two points of light in the far corner. The boy found himself moving as if in a dream, entranced by the strange riches around him and the sense of being in a forbidden place, as if he were in Heaven or the Underworld. He wondered whether it was treason to enter the queen's presence without permission. He feared it was. Maybe he would be sent away in disgrace. A chamber clock chimed the sixth hour and he stopped outside; a great bell also chimed six times.

The two lights were a pair of candles on a standing iron frame beside the glowing fire. He could see two figures: a seated woman in a scarlet-colored gown, and a slightly portly gentleman who moved uneasily across the line of light. The boy was halted in his tracks by the man's voice.

"Who the devil comes here at this time? Who are you who dares come in here?"

The echo of the voice died away.

"Announce me," hissed Walsingham.

"My lord, your Royal Majesty," said the boy, who had never been allowed anywhere near the queen before, and had never been told how to address her or her Secretary. His courage failed him. He faltered, and fell silent. Dick Venner had advised him that, "If you see the queen, bury your forehead in the ground." He now followed that advice, and went down on both knees, and spoke to the floor. "Your Grace," he began, not knowing how to address a man more important than a bishop, "this is Mr. Walsingham, who...who comes on urgent business."

Walsingham stepped forward. "I would speak with you alone, Sir William."

The boy could not believe what he had just heard. Even though he knew little about etiquette, he understood that Walsingham had just shown huge disrespect to the queen. He heard a rustle of silk skirts and slow footsteps. He dared not move but remained pressed to the floor.

"What did you say?" said the queen. Her voice was that of a young woman but more clipped, controlled. The boy sensed Walsingham slowly go down on his knees.

"Your Majesty."

"Tell me, Mr. Walsingham, what business brings you here to speak to our Secretary who is with us in a private audience? We are conscious of your lack of tact, which is sadly habitual. We are all too well aware of your rudeness and your clumsiness of manner, but no matter what you think you are doing, we still expect you to act like a gentleman. Speak, or we will have you whipped out of this room."

The boy did not dare to move. He hoped the queen would overlook his presence. Maybe he could slide away when Walsingham left without her even noticing him?

"Your Majesty," said Walsingham, "given that I must speak, and urgently, would you permit me to tell Sir William the grave news-that Clarenceux is dead."

The queen turned to Cecil. "Clarenceux King of Arms? Is that news sufficient to disturb us?" She turned back to Walsingham. "Do you not realize the gravity of the situation? A prince of the royal blood has been murdered. Lord Henry Stewart might have been a drinker and a philanderer, not to mention a stupid young man, but he was of the royal blood, and now he is dead, killed by whom we know not. What is the death of a herald in comparison? Are you going to interrupt my privy meeting to tell me one of my cooks has died?"

She glared at him. Walsingham met her gaze, then bowed his head. "Ask Sir William, Your Majesty."

Cecil had regained his seat and was sitting, leaning forward, looking down at the infinite space before his mind's eye.

"Sir William?"

Cecil took his time. "Your Majesty, I have something to tell you. Something of even greater gravity than we have been discussing. But the boy should not hear it."

"What disrespect is this?" demanded Elizabeth. "Walsingham blasts in here-a man who is not even a peer of the realm and therefore has no right to demand access to my presence-he marches in here, without so much as a dignified word of greeting and demands to speak in private with you. His excuse, if you can call it that..." She did not finish the sentence but addressed Walsingham directly. "The heralds are members of my household, as well you know. If the death of one of them concerns anyone, it concerns me. Now speak quickly. You will explain this fully, here and now."

"The boy," repeated Sir William.

The boy was staring at the floor, not daring to look up. He heard the queen walk clos...

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James Forrester
Editorial: Headline Review (2012)
ISBN 10: 0755388062 ISBN 13: 9780755388066
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Descripción Headline Review, 2012. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Brand New Hardcover! Pristine unmarked pages, no remainder marks, a great buy straight from book warehouse unread, sealed in plastic, exact artwork as listed, Nº de ref. de la librería 024160514006

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