An Easter Friday, cold and bright. Edward storms in, trailing clerks and advisers, even a dwarf. Mortimer is there, and old Hugh le Despenser, Lincoln as well.
He has still not given her the dower she was promised and as she cannot afford to keep her own household she now lives in his. She is witness now to all of his moods and travails.
Edward paces relentlessly. He is holding a petition, bunched in his fist. “ “A higher duty is owed to the Crown over the person of the king?” What do they mean by this? I am the Crown.”
“They refer to the institution of kingship,” Mortimer says, refusing to join in the general air of exasperation.
“The institution? There is no institution. I am their king, they should do as I say.”
“What has happened my lord?” she asks him.
For the first time he notices her there. He waves a hand airily at her. “Explain it to her, Mortimer.”
“The barons have demanded my lord Gaveston’s banishment. They say he has misappropriated funds and has turned the king against his own advisers.”
“What funds has he misappropriated?” Edward shouts. “Everything he has I have given him openly. If a king may not give gifts to those who serve him best, what are jewels and land for? They are mine to give, are they not? And yes I listen to him before I listen to any of that crowd. He has my best interests at heart, they don’t.”
“Have all the barons signed this petition?”
“Of those not here tonight only Lancaster still stands with us.”
Isabella is surprised at this. That gargoyle is no friend of Gaveston, if his remarks about barrels and whores is to be believed.
“What does it mean?”
“It means the king should prepare for war,” Lincoln says. He is vast, the Lord Lincoln, the fattest man she has ever seen.
“It means these upstarts will defy their anointed king!” Edward shouts.”
Mortimer is still; old Hugh says I am sure it will not come to that. Edward sees his dwarf and kicks him by way of venting his frustration. The jester hurries to the door and flees.
“Would it not be wise to listen to your barons?” she asks him.
The king stares at her in shock. “What are you doing here?”
“Your grace, I was here when you walked in.”
He looks confused. He puts out a hand as if to block her from his vision.
Mortimer stares at her in surprise, she can see him thinking: look at this slip of a girl, she has an opinion! He turns back to the king. “Perhaps if you just give them what they wish for now,” Mortimer says. “Let this blow over.”
“He’s right,” Old Hugh says. “It would not harm our cause to appear conciliatory.”
“They would not argue with my father, they will not argue with me.”
Mortimer and Lincoln exchange a look; yes, but you are no Longshanks, they are thinking.
“What is it that so offends them? If I love Gaveston, so should they.”
This is too much for Lincoln. “Your grace, who a man loves is a private matter. I have nothing against wives or whores but I should not like to see them at council meetings.”
“Are you calling Perro a whore?”
A man clears his throat. Gaveston is sitting in a window seat, playing himself at chess. The sun comes out and for a moment he glitters with gold. There are jewels on all his fingers. He gives them a slow smile. “I am still here, you know.”
Lincoln waddles towards the king, lowers his voice. “This is what they mean. This conversation should best be kept private. Whenever we have things to discuss, he is always here.”
“I can still hear you,” Gaveston says and checks his own black king with his white knight.
“Can this rebellion stand?” Edward asks old Hugh.
“What makes up a king’s power, your grace? The loyalty of his barons, for they each bring their armies to every cause he fights. But if they are on the other side, then what armies does the king have?”
“Do you know how to bring down a wall?” Mortimer says.
“Fifty men and a battering ram,” Edward says.
“There are subtler ways. Work a chisel into the mortar and work at it until you release one brick. When one brick is out the wall is weakened. Soon you have a large hole. Then you do not even have to bring the wall down, you just walk through it.”
“For now we should stop running full tilt at the wall. Instead you should sidle up to it, examine each brick and find the weakest. Then work at it, until you have it loose.”