To Ruin a Queen

To Ruin a Queen
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  • ISBN-13: 9780671032944
  • ISBN: 0671032941
  • Publication Date: 2001
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster


Buckley, Fiona


Chapter One: The Power of Life and Death The journey that took me from the Chateau Blanchepierre, on the banks of the Loire, to Vetch Castle on the Welsh March began, I think, on April 4, 1564, when I snatched up a triple-branched silver candlestick and hurled it the length of the Blanchepierre dinner table at my husband, Matthew de la Roche.I threw it in an outburst of fury and unhappiness, which had had its beginnings three and a half weeks before, in the fetid, overheated lying-in chamber in the west tower of the chateau, where our first child should have come into the world, had God or providence been kinder.I had begged for air but no one would open the shutters for fear of letting in a cold wind. Instead, there was a fire in the hearth, piled too high and giving off a sickly perfume from the herbs which my woman, Fran Dale, had thrown onto it in an effort to please me by sweetening the atmosphere. The lying-in chamber was pervaded too by a continual murmur of prayers from Matthew's uncle Armand, who was a priest and lived in the chateau as its chaplain. It was he who had married us, three and a half years ago, in England. To my fevered mind, the drone of his elderly voice sounded like a prayer for the dying. Possibly, it was. Madame Montaigle had fetched him after using pepper to make me sneeze in the hope that it would shoot the child out, and then attempting in vain to pull him out of me by hand, which had caused me to scream wildly. She told me afterward that she had despaired of my life.Madame Montaigle was my husband's former housekeeper. She had been living in a retirement cottage but she had skill as a midwife and Matthew had fetched her back to the chateau to help me. I wished he hadn't for she didn't like me. To her, I was Matthew's heretic wife, the stranger from England, who had let him down in the past and would probably let him down again if given the ghost of a chance. I did not think she would care if I died. I would have felt the same in her place, but I could have done without either Madame Montaigle or Uncle Armand as I lay sweating and cursing and crying, growing more exhausted and feverish with every passing hour, fighting to bring forth Matthew's child, and failing. During the second day, I drifted toward delirium. Matthew had gone to fetch the physician from the village below the chateau but I kept on forgetting this and asking for him. When at last I heard his voice at the door, telling the physician that this was the room and for the love of God, man, do what you can, it pulled me back into the real world. I cried Matthew's name and stretched out my hand.But Madame Montaigle barred his way, exclaiming in outraged tones that he could not enter, that this was women's business except for priest and doctor, and instead of pushing past her as I wanted him to do, he merely called to me that he had brought help and that he was praying to God that all would soon be well. It was the physician, not Matthew, who came to my side.The physician was out of breath, for he was a plump man and Matthew had no doubt propelled him up the tower steps at speed. "I agree," he puffed to Dale and Madame Montaigle, "that this is rightly women's business. It is not my custom to attend lying-in chambers. However, for you, seigneur," he added over his shoulder, addressing Matthew and changing to a note of respect, "I will do what I can." He turned back to my attendants. "What has been done already?"Madame Montaigle explained, about the pepper and her own manual efforts. Dale spoke little French and her principal task was to lave my forehead with cool water, smooth my straggling hair back from my perspiring face, and offer me milk and broth. The shutters made the room dim and the physician asked for more lights. I heard Matthew shouting for lamps. When they were brought, the physician, without speaking to me, went to the fooBuckley, Fiona is the author of 'To Ruin a Queen', published 2001 under ISBN 9780671032944 and ISBN 0671032941.

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