A/N The Characters and places mentioned in this book are all real. However, as with most fiction pieces, certain elements will divert slightly from the truth in order to do what most authors aspire to do... tell a good story. However Edward, who later becomes king of England, was in Normandy in 1013 after fleeing the invading Danish force. I understand that for many people who have never studied this period of history keeping up with the multitude of characters is difficult and so I hope i have made it simple to follow. However just to make life easier I have compiled a character list.
Edward - Son of Aethelred, King of England and Emma of Normandy
Aethelred - King of England
Emma - Queen of England and sister of Richard, Duke of Normandy
Athelstan - Prince of England, Aethelred's first born son
Edmund - Aethelred's son
Eadwig - Aethelred's son
Gilbert de Brionne - Nephew of Richard
Richard - Duke of Normandy
'...in the same year, before the month August, came King Sweyne with his fleet to Sandwich... The population of London also... submitted to him, and gave hostages; because they dreaded that he would undo them... And when this nation could neither resist in the south nor in the north, King Ethelred abode some while with the fleet that lay in the Thames; and the lady Emma went afterwards over sea to her brother Richard... Then went the king from the fleet, about midwinter, to the Isle of Wight; and there abode for the season; after which he went over sea to Richard, with whom he abode till the time when Sweyne died.'
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles
For Edward, life had never been entirely black and white but rather several shades of murky grey. His childhood had been confusing enough and his adulthood looked set to be just as bewildering. He had grown up in England for the first ten years of his life, the son of King Aethelred of England and Emma of Normandy, but now he found himself a stranger in a land he neither knew nor liked.
It seemed so unfair to the young boy that he should have been uprooted from his native England by events that he barely understood nor cared about. He had been completely baffled by the sudden flight from the English court last month with his mother, his father, his sister Godgifu, and his brothers Athelstan, Edmund and Alfred. It had been a confusing time, he reflected irritably.
Sitting on the grass outside Rouen Castle, he had managed to piece together that his father had been in danger from a Danish man, Sweyn, but that was all the boy could fathom out. All in all Edward was rather unimpressed by the recent events. He missed his home and his friends and he found this strange land cold and unforgiving.
He found that his time at Rouen was becoming a lonely one and one that he did not particularly like. His father always seemed busy with the Duke of Normandy, Edward's uncle, Richard, and his mother barely had time for him with looking after his younger sister and brother. His brothers from his father's first marriage had never had time for the boy and so Edward often found himself on his own, wandering the grounds of the castle.
He turned as Gilbert, his cousin, ran over to him, flinging himself down onto the grass besides the Prince.
"How do you fare?" Gilbert asked.
Gilbert de Brionne was twelve years old and unlike anybody Edward had ever met before. He was not free with flippancies and often forgot to address Edward by his proper title of Prince or your Highness. He also found his forthcoming behaviour rather disturbing and completely baffling. He was already a loyal friend despite only knowing Edward for near on a month.
"I am fine." Edward replied politely. His father had always told him it manners cost nothing.
Gilbert wrinkled his nose and glanced up at the murky sky. "Your brothers and father are talking to Uncle Richard about your return to England, but frankly I rather wish you didn't have to go." He pulled his cloak further around his trembling frame. "You have been good company."
Edward who was used to this same conversation automatically noticed the change in Gilbert's usually playful tone, and glanced up at his newly professed friend. As well as having to get used to a new country, in Rouen he had discovered a whole new element to his family. Although, due to his mothers teachings, he was aware that his grandfather had been the Duke of Normandy, a title that his uncle now wore, he had found a number of cousins, uncles and aunts that he had never met till a month ago. Gilbert proved to be the best source of information in the castle. He seemed to know everything about everyone and Edward had taken a certain amount of comfort from having someone to explain the intrigues of this strange court to him.
"Is there no one else you can talk to and befriend?"
Gilbert pulled a wry face.
"I do not run in the same circles as you Edward. You are a prince. I…well I am a nobody." Edward frowned at this statement.
"You are the grandson of the Duke of Normandy"
"I am the son of the duke of Normandy's bastard," Gilbert sighed deeply, glancing up at the rampart of the castle with a certain bitterness that Edward was used to during these conversations.
"Uncle Richard does not hold it against you," Edward said, still uncomfortable with this newly found family that had suddenly been thrust upon him, "He treats your father as if he were his true brother and not his half brother."
Edward wished his own brothers were as forgiving as Richard was to Godfrey, Gilbert's father. Athelstan and Edmund treated Edward with a contempt that was only reserved for him. Edward may have been young but he realised this hatred of him arose from the love his father had for him. Even so, he did not understand the bitter resentment they had for him. Aethelred loved them too. "Richard treats you well also, Gilbert."
"He treats me with respect, that is true," Gilbert paused for a dramatic sigh. "But our relationship is tenuous at its best."
Edward shrugged uncomfortably. He did not want to divulge too much to this stranger about his feelings. He had seen meaningless gossip get out of hand and be used against people before. He would not fall into that trap.
"It's getting late." Gilbert glanced up at the sky which was beginning to darken. Edward's stomach lurched.
"Jesu wept! I was supposed to be at dinner! Mama will kill me." Gilbert stood with him, suddenly alarmed by his friends fear.
"Will it be that bad? Surely naught will be said if you are late for dinner. I am never on time for anything, cousin." Edward frowned.
"You do not know my mother, Gilbert. Come, let's get to the hall."
Edward ran across the courtyard, followed by Gilbert, who trailed after him, muttering under his breath. As the entered the main hall, to Edward's relief, it was filled to the rafters with men, women and children alike. The Christmas court at Rouen was still on going and luckily for Edward half of Normandy had come to the centre of the Duchy to pay homage to their overlord.
Edward slid onto a seat at the main table, hoping his father would not notice his tardiness for dinner. Luckily for the boy, Aethelred did not. He was in deep conversation with Richard, who Gilbert had told him was the fourth duke of Normandy. It was a fact that Edward had been aware of due to his mothers Norman heritage but he was finding it odd being able to put faces to the titles he had been informed about back in England. It was as if he was coming face to face with all his lessons in politics.
Despite being only two years younger than Aethelred, Richard seemed to carry his age better than the King of England. He seemed more youthful in appearance. Unlike Aethelred, he did not have grey in his hair or lines around his face and his dark hair and beard made Richard seem youthful. Edward's father seemed old beyond his years.
As the lad glanced around the table he realised his late arrival had not be unnoticed by everyone and that his mother was glaring at him. After a moment Emma looked away but she had held his attention long enough for him to see the disdain on her face.
Emma of Normandy was, by most standards, a beautiful woman. Her long auburn hair fell down her back in long tresses and her strong Norman features only accentuated her good looks. In many respects the resemblance between Edward's mother and uncle was so astounding that there could be no denying they were related, despite Richard's dark hair. Edward felt colour rising in his face under Emma's gaze and it took him a few minutes to realise his uncle was speaking directly to him.
"Edward?" Edward's eyes snapped to Richard's face. "I was planning on taking some of my other nephew's hunting on the morrow. I wondered if you would care to join us – and you as well Gilbert, if your father plans to stay tomorrow?" Richard looked to his half brother.
Gilbert glanced to his father, imploringly. Godfrey shrugged, pushing his dark hair from his face.
"I have no plans to leave Rouen tomorrow, Your Grace. I would be honoured if you took my son out with you."
"Excellent. Edward, will you join us?"
Edward's eyes sought out his mother, not to implore her as his cousin had done, but more because he realised whatever he said she would contradict. It was easier just to let her answer in the first place. She did not disappoint him and jumped in to answer before he had even had a chance to think of a fitting response.
"Richard, he is only ten years old." Emma complained. "If you wish to spend time with my son can you not do something less…dangerous?"
Edward opened his mouth to protest, knowing that hunting was a past time that was expected of him, rather than from a will to actually go but it was his father who spoke.
"For god's sake, Emma, let the lad go. Have not English men ridden since they could climb a horse?" Aethelred told her.
"He can go." Aethelred interrupted her and gained a malicious glare from Emma. Which he either did not notice or chose to ignore. Edward was not sure which but decided it was probably the latter.
"Good. Now that's settled, you boys had better get something to eat." Richard smiled. It was the smile of victory but Edward could not see what he had to be victorious about.