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About the Author
Elizabeth ChadwickElizabeth Chadwick lives near Nottingham with her husband and two sons. She is the author of 17 historical novels, including Lords of the White Castle, Shadows and Strongholds, A Place Beyond Courage, The Scarlet Lion, The Winter Mantle, and The Falcons of Montebard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Awards.
“It is difficult to bid farewell, domina,” Drogo said with sympathy.
Still looking around, as if her gaze were caught in a web of invisible threads, Matilda paused at the door. She remembered being eight years old, standing in the great hall at Liège, trembling with exhaustion at the end of her long journey from England. She could still recall the fear she had felt and all the pressure of being sent out of the nest to a foreign land and a betrothal with a grown man. The match had been arranged to suit her father’s political purpose and she had known she must do her duty and not incur his displeasure by failing him, because he was a great king and she was a princess of high and royal blood. It could have been a disaster but, instead, it had been the making of her: the frightened, studious little girl had been moulded into a regal woman and an able consort for the Emperor of Germany.
“I have been happy here.” She touched the carved doorpost in a gesture that clung and bade farewell at the same time. “Your lord father will be pleased to have you home.”
Matilda dropped her hand and straightened her cloak. “I do not need to be cajoled like a skittish horse.”
“That was not my intent, domina.”
“Then what was your intent?” Drogo had been with her since that first long journey to her betrothal. He was her bodyguard and leader of her household knights: strong, dour, dependable. As a child she had thought him ancient because even then his hair had been white, although he had only been thirty years old. He looked little different now, except for a few new lines and the deepening of older ones.
“To say that an open door awaits you.”
“And that I should close this one?”
“No, domina, it has made you who and what you are—and that is also why your father has summoned you.”
“It is but one of his reasons and driven by necessity,” she replied shortly. “I may not have seen my father in many years, but I know him well.” Taking a resolute breath, she left the room, carrying herself as if she were bearing the weight and grace of her crown.
Her entourage awaited her in a semi-circle of servants, retainers, and officials. Most of her baggage had gone ahead by cart three days earlier and only the nucleus of her household remained with a handful of packhorses to carry light provisions and the items she wanted to keep with her. Her chaplain, Burchard, kept looking furtively at the gelding laden with the items from the portable chapel. Matilda followed his glance, her gaze resting but not lingering upon a certain leather casket in one of the panniers, before she turned to her mare. The salmon-red saddle was a sumptuous affair, padded and brocaded almost like her hearth chair, with a support for her spine and a rest for her feet. While not the swiftest way to travel, it was dignified and magnificent. The towns and villages through which they passed would expect nothing less than splendour from the emperor’s recent widow.
Matilda mounted up, settling herself and positioning her feet precisely on the platform. Seated sideways, looking both forward and back. It was appropriate. She raised her slender right hand to Drogo, who acknowledged the signal with a salute and trotted to the head of the troop. The banners unfurled, gold and red and black, the heralds cantered out, and the cavalcade began to unwind along the road like jewels knotted on a string. The dowager empress of Germany was leaving the home of her heart to return to the home of her birth and a new set of duties.
Adeliza gripped the bedclothes and stifled a gasp as Henry withdrew from her body. He was approaching sixty years old, but still hale and vigorous. The force of his thrusts had made her sore inside, and his stolid weight was crushing her into the bed. Mercifully, he gathered himself and flopped over on to his back, panting hard. Biting her lip, Adeliza placed her hand on her flat belly and strove to regain her own breath. Henry was well endowed, and the act of procreation was often awkward and uncomfortable between them but, God willing, this time she would conceive.
She had been Henry’s wife and the consecrated queen of England for over four years, and still each month her flux came at the appointed time in a red cramp of disappointment and failure. Thus far no amount of prayers, gifts, penances, or potions had rectified her barrenness. Henry had a score of bastards by various mistresses, so he was potent with other women, but only had one living legitimate child, his daughter Matilda from his first marriage. His son from that union had died shortly before Henry took Adeliza to wife. He seldom spoke of the tragedy that had robbed him of his heir, drowned in a shipwreck on a bitter November night, but it had driven his policies ever since. Her part in those policies was to bear him a new male heir, but thus far she had failed in her duty. Henry kissed her shoulder and squeezed her breast before parting the curtains and leaving the bed. She watched him scratch the curly silver hair on his broad chest. His stocky frame carried a slight paunch, but he was muscular and in proportion.
Stretching, he made a sound like a contented lion. Their union, she thought, even if it brought forth no other fruit, had released his tension. His sexual appetite was prodigious and in between bedding her, he regularly sported with other women.
He poured himself wine from the flagon set on a painted coffer under the window, and on his return picked up his cloak and swept it around his shoulders. Silver and blue squirrel furs gleamed in the candlelight. Adeliza sat up and folded her hands around her knees. The soreness between her thighs diminished to a dull throb. He offered her a drink from the cup and she took a dainty sip. “Matilda will be arriving soon,” he said. “Brian FitzCount is due to meet her tomorrow on the road.”
Adeliza could tell from his expression that his thoughts had turned inwards to the weaving of his political web. “All is ready for her,” she replied. “The servants are keeping a good fire in her chamber to make it warm and chase out the damp. I have instructed them to burn incense and put out bowls of rose petals to sweeten the air. They hung new tapestries on the walls this afternoon and the furniture is all assembled. I…”
Henry raised his hand to silence her. “I am sure her chamber will be perfect.”
Adeliza flushed and looked down.
“I think you will be good company for each other, being of a similar age.” Henry gave her a slightly condescending smile.
“It will be strange to call her daughter when she is older than me.”
“I am sure you will both quickly grow accustomed.” He was still smiling, but Adeliza could tell his attention lay elsewhere. Henry’s conversations were never just idle gossip; there was always a purpose. “I want you to cultivate her. She has been a long time absent, and I need to consider her future. Some matters are rightly for the council chamber and for father and daughter, but some things are better discussed between women.” He stroked the side of her face with a powerful, stubby hand. “You have a skill with people; they open themselves to you.”
Adeliza frowned. “You want me to draw confidences from her?”
“I would know her mind. I have seen her once in fifteen years, and then but for a few days. Her letters give me news, but they are couched in the language of scribes and I would know her true character.” A hard glint entered his eyes. “I would know if she is strong enough.”
“Strong enough for what?”
“For what I have in mind for her.”
“The bond between these women is the thread that weaves balanced elements of history and romance into a story that reflects its setting and illuminates the continuing struggle of women t...
“The bond between these women is the thread that weaves balanced elements of history and romance into a story that reflects its setting and illuminates the continuing struggle of women to be accepted as powerful and feminine.” - ForeWord
“Lady of the English is recommended for anyone who wants to open a window to the horrors and glories of England’s royal past.” - The Misadventures of Moppet
“The Lady of the English is an interesting story about this little-known slice of history and the woman who spent so much of her life in truth preparing another and those around her for the role of ruling the formidable Kingdom of England. Fascinating Middle Ages historical fiction!” - Crystal Book Reviews
“No one does medieval historical fiction quite like Elizabeth Chadwick, and her latest novel, Lady of the English is just one more example of her enormous talent for bringing the past to life!” - Passages to the Past
“My only complaint about the story?
I have a new favorite historical fiction author and it is Elizabeth Chadwick.” - Violet’s Muse
“Truly another interesting story from Chadwick. She has the magic and can bring history to life. After finishing this one I sit down and wait for her next book. I can't wait to read whatever she writes about next. So this make this book a historical fiction book that I recommend to everyone.” - Books For Life
“Lady of the English is an excellent read, a novel that will appeal to both historical fiction fans and those who are looking for an entertaining read.” - Mrs. Q Book Addict
“I recommend this one to readers of historical fiction and those who love stories about women's relationships. ” - Debbie’s Book Bag
“Ardent readers of historical fiction will enjoy yet another masterpiece by Elizabeth Chadwick.” - Library of Clean Reads
“This book is already residing on my keeper shelf and I highly recommend it. Plan on being drawn into 12th century England and staying there a while with some magnetic characters that you won't want to leave.” - One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
“A wonderful reprieve from all the Tudor novels that are saturating the market, I urge you to get this book for insight into this fascinating woman’s life.” - History and Women
“Lady of the English was another great bout of storytelling. I learned about two really fantastic women I didn't know much about. Highly recommended” - Readin’ and Dreamin’
“Renowned historical novelist Chadwick tells this battle-of-the-sexes story from a woman’s point of view, channeling Matilda and the wannabe regent’s stepmother as storytellers.” - New York Post
“As always Elizabeth Chadwick offers a detailed and very readable medieval era novel full of political intrigue and fascinating depictions of the people surrounding the throne of England.” - Historical-Fiction.com
““Breathing life into historical personages is hallmark Chadwick... a feast for the senses.” 4 ½ Stars, Top Pick of the Month ” - RT Book Reviews
Length: 8 in
Width: 5.25 in
Weight: 19.52 oz
Page Count: 544 pages