‘Cool off, cool off,’ he said to himself when he woke next morning, ‘you’re beginning to be partisan. That’s no way to conduct an investigation.’
So, by way of moral discipline, he became prosecutor.
Supposing that the Butler story was a frame-up. A story concocted with Stillington’s help. Supposing that both Lords and Commons were willing to be hoodwinked in the hope of stable Government to come.
Did that bring one any nearer the murder of the two boys?
It didn’t, did it?
If the story was false, the person to be got rid of was Stillington. Lady Eleanor had died in her convent long ago, so was not there to blow Titulus Regius to pieces any time she had a mind. But Stillington could. And Stillington evidently showed no difficulty in going on living. He survived the man he had put on the throne.
The sudden jar in the proceedings, the abrupt break in the pattern of the coronation preparation, was either wonderful stage-managing or just what one would expect if the thunderclap of Stillington’s confession descended on prepared ears. Richard was — what? Eleven? Twelve? — when the Butler contract was signed and witnessed; it was unlikely that he knew anything of it.
If the Butler story was an invention to oblige Richard, then Richard must have rewarded Stillington. But there was no sign of Stillington’s being obliged with a cardinal’s hat, or preferment, or office.
But the surest evidence that the Butler story was true lay in Henry VII’s urgent need to destroy it. If it were false, then all he had to do to discredit Richard was to bring it into the open and make Stillington eat his words. Instead he hushed it up.
At this point Grant realised with disgust that he was back on the Defence side again. He decided to give it up. He would take to Lavinia Fitch, or Rupert Rouge, or some other of the fashionable authors lying in such expensive neglect on his table, and forget Richard Plantagenet until such time as young Carradine appeared to renew the inquisition.
He put the family-tree sketch of Cicely Nevill’s grandchildren into an envelope and addressed it to Carradine, and gave it to The Midget to post. Then he turned-down the portrait that was leaning against the books, so that he should not be seduced by that face which Sergeant Williams had placed, without hesitation, on the bench, and reached for Silas Weekley’s The Sweat and the Furrow. Thereafter he went from Silas’s seamy wrestlings to Lavinia’s tea-cups, and from Lavinia’s tea-cups to Rupert’s cavortings in the coulisses, with a growing dissatisfaction, until Brent Carradine once more turned up in his life.
Carradine regarded him anxiously and said: ‘You don’t look so bright as last time I saw you, Mr Grant. You not doing so well?’
‘Not where Richard is concerned, I’m not,’ Grant said. ‘But I’ve got a new piece of Tonypandy for you.’
And he handed him Laura’s letter about the drowned women who were never drowned.
Carradine read it with a delight that grew on him like slow sunlight coming out, until eventually he glowed.
‘My, but that’s wonderful. That’s very superior, first growth, dyed-in-the-wool Tonypandy, isn’t it. Lovely, lovely. You didn’t know about this before? And you a Scotsman?’
‘I’m only a Scot once removed,’ Grant pointed out. ‘No; I knew that none of these Covenanters died “for their Faith”, of course; but I didn’t know that one of them — or rather, two of them — hadn’t died at all.’
‘They didn’t die for their Faith?’ Carradine repeated, bewildered. ‘D’you mean that the whole thing’s Tonypandy?’
Grant laughed. ‘I suppose it is,’ he said, surprised. ‘I never thought about it before. I’ve known so long that the “martyrs” were no more martyrs than that thug who is going to his death for killing that old shop-keeper in Essex, that I’ve ceased to think about it. No one in Scotland went to his death for anything but civil crime.’
‘But I thought they were very holy people — the Covenanters, I mean.’
‘You’ve been looking at nineteenth-century pictures of coventicles. The reverent little gathering in the heather listening to the preacher; young rapt faces, and white hair blowing in the winds of God. The Covenanters were the exact equivalent of the I.R.A. in Ireland. A small irreconcilable minority, and as bloodthirsty a crowd as ever disgraced a Christian nation. If you went to church on Sunday instead of to a conventicle, you were liable to wake on Monday and find your barn burned or your horses hamstrung. If you were more open in your disapproval you were shot. The men who shot Archbishop Sharp in his daughter’s presence, in broad daylight on a road in Fife, were the heroes of the movement. “Men of courage and zeal for the cause of God”, according to their admiring followers. They lived safe and swaggering among their Covenanting fans in the West for years. It was a “preacher of the gospel” who shot Bishop Honeyman in an Edinburgh street. And they shot the old parish priest of Carsphairn on his own doorstep.’
‘It does sound like Ireland, doesn’t it,’ Carradine said.
‘They were actually worse than the I.R.A. because there was a fifth column element in it. They were financed from Holland, and their arms came from Holland. There was nothing forlorn about their movement, you know. They expected to take over the Government any day, and rule Scotland. All their preaching was pure sedition. The most violent incitement to crime you could imagine. No modern Government could afford to be so patient with such a menace as the Government of the time were. The Covenanters were continually being offered amnesties.’
‘Well, well. And I thought they were fighting for freedom to worship God their own way.’
‘No one ever stopped them from worshipping God any way they pleased. What they were out to do was to impose their method of church government not only on Scotland but on England, believe it or not. You should read the Covenant some day. Freedom of worship was not to be allowed to anyone according to the Covenanting creed — except the Covenanters, of course.’
‘And all those gravestones and monuments that tourists go to see —’
‘All Tonypandy. If you ever read on a gravestone that John Whosit “suffered death for his adherence to the Word of God and Scotland’s Covenanted work of Reformation”, with a touching little verse underneath about “dust sacrificed to tyranny”, you can be sure that the said John Whosit was found guilty before a properly constituted court, of a civil crime punishable by death and that his death had nothing whatever to do with the Word of God.’ He laughed a little under his breath. ‘It’s the final irony, you know, that a group whose name was anathema to the rest of Scotland in their own time should have been elevated into the position of saints and martyrs.’
‘I wouldn’t wonder if it wasn’t onomatopoeic,’ Carradine said thoughtfully.
‘Like the Cat and the Rat, you know.’
‘What are you talking about?’
”Member you said, about that Cat and Rat lampoon, that rhyme, that the sound of it made it an offence?’
‘Yes; made it venomous.’
‘Well, the word dragoon does the same thing. I take it that the dragoons were just the policemen of the time.’
‘Yes. Mounted infantry.’
‘Well, to me — and I suspect to every other person reading about it — dragoons sound dreadful. They’ve come to mean something that they never were.’
‘Yes, I see. Force majeure in being. Actually the Government had only a tiny handful of men to police an enormous area, so the odds were all on the Covenanters’ side. In more ways than one. A dragoon (read policeman) couldn’t arrest anyone without a warrant (he couldn’t stable his horse without the owner’s permission, if it comes to that), but there was nothing to hinder a Covenanter lying snug in the heather and picking off dragoons at his leisure. Which they did, of course. And now there’s a whole literature about the poor ill-used saint in the heather with his pistol; and the dragoon who died in the course of his duty is a Monster.’
‘Like Richard. How have you been getting on with our own particular Tonypandy?’
‘Well, I still haven’t managed to find out why Henry was so anxious to hush up that Act as well as repeal it. The thing was hushed-up and for years it was forgotten, until the original draft turned up, just by chance, in the Tower records. It was printed in 1611. Speed printed the full text of it in his History of Great Britain.’
‘Oh. So there’s no question at all about Titulus Regius. Richard succeeded as the Act says, and the sainted More’s account is nonsense. There never was an Elizabeth Lucy in the matter.’
‘Lucy? Who’s Elizabeth Lucy?’
‘Oh, I forgot. You weren’t on in that act. According to the sainted More, Richard claimed that Edward was married to one of his mistresses, one Elizabeth Lucy.’
The disgusted look that the mention of the sainted More always caused on young Carradine’s mild face made him look almost nauseated.
‘So the sainted More smugly pointed out.’
‘Why did they want to hide Eleanor Butler?’ Carradine said, seeing the point.
‘Because she really had married Edward, and the children really were illegitimate. And if the children really were illegitimate, by the way, then no one would rise in their favour and they were no danger to Richard. Have you noticed that the Woodville–Lancastrian invasion was in Henry’s favour, and not in the boys’— although Dorset was their half-brother? And that was before any rumours of their non-existence could have reached him. As far as the leaders of the Dorset–Morton rebellion were concerned the boys were of no account. They were backing Henry. That way, Dorset would have a brother-in-law on the throne of England, and the Queen would be his half-sister. Which would be a nice reversal of form for a penniless fugitive.’
‘Yes. Yes, that’s a point, all right; that about Dorset not fighting to restore his half-brother. If there had been a chance at all that England would have accepted the boy, he surely would have backed the boy. I’ll tell you another interesting thing I found. The Queen and her daughters came out of sanctuary quite soon. It’s your talking about her son Dorset that reminded me. She not only came out of sanctuary but settled down as if nothing had happened. Her daughters went to festivities at the Palace. And do you know what the pay-off is?’
‘That was after the Princes had been “murdered“. Yes, and I’ll tell you something else. With her two boys done to death by their wicked uncle, she writes to her other son, in France — Dorset — and asks him to come home and make his peace with Richard, who will treat him well.’
There was silence.
There were no sparrows to talk today. Only the soft sound of the rain against the window.
‘No comment?’ Carradine said at last.
‘You know,’ Grant said, ‘from the police point of view there is no case against Richard at all. And I mean that literally. It isn’t that the case isn’t good enough. Good enough to bring into court, I mean. There, quite literally, isn’t any case against him at all.’
‘I’ll say there isn’t. Especially when I tell you that every single one of those people whose names you sent me were alive and prosperous, and free, when Richard was killed at Bosworth. They were not only free, they were very well cared for. Edward’s children not only danced at the Palace, they had pensions. He appointed one of the crowd his heir when his own boy died.’
‘So he meant to reverse the attainder on his brother’s children.’
‘Yes. He had protested about his being condemned, if you remember.’
‘According to even the sainted More, he did. So all the heirs to the throne of England were going about their business, free and unfettered, during the reign of Richard III, the Monster.’
‘They were more. They were part of the general scheme of things. I mean, part of the family and the general economy of the realm. I’ve been reading a collection of York records by a man Davies. Records of the town of York, I mean; not the family. Both young Warwick — George’s son — and his cousin, young Lincoln, were members of the Council. The town addressed a letter to them. In 1485, that was. What’s more, Richard knighted young Warwick at the same time as he knighted his own son, at a splendid “do” at York.’ He paused a long moment, and then blurted out: ‘Mr Grant, do you want to write a book about this?’
‘A book!’ Grant said, astonished. ‘God forbid. Why?’
‘Because I should like to write one. It would make a much better book than the Peasants.’
‘You see, I’d like to have something to show my father. Pop thinks I’m no good because I can’t take an interest in furniture, and marketing, and graphs of sales. If he could actually handle a book that I had written he might believe that I wasn’t so hopeless a bet after all. In fact, I wouldn’t put it past him to begin to boast about me for a change.’
Grant looked at him with benevolence.
‘I forgot to ask you what you thought of Crosby Place,’ he said.
‘Oh, fine, fine. If Carradine the Third ever sees it he’ll want to take it back with him and rebuild it in the Adirondacks somewhere.’
‘If you write that book about Richard, he most certainly will. He’ll feel like a part-owner. What are you going to call it?’
‘I’m going to borrow a phrase from Henry Ford, and call it History is the Bunk.’
‘However, I’ll have a lot more reading to do and a lot more research, before I can start writing.’
‘Most assuredly you have. You haven’t arrived yet at the real question.’
‘What is that?’
‘Who did murder the boys.’
‘Yes, of course.’
‘If the boys were alive when Henry took over the Tower what happened to them?’
‘Yes. I’ll get on to that. I still want to know why it was so important to Henry to hush up the contents of Titulus Regius.’
He got up to go, and then noticed the portrait that was lying on its face on the table. He reached over and restored the photograph to its original place, propping it with a concerned care against the pile of books.
‘You stay there,’ he said to the painted Richard. ‘I’m going to put you back where you belong.’
As he went out of the door, Grant said:
‘I’ve just thought of a piece of history which is not Tonypandy.’
‘Yes?’ said Carradine, lingering.
‘The massacre of Glencoe.’
‘That really did happen?’
‘That really did happen. And — Brent!’ Brent put his head back inside the door. ‘Yes?’
‘The man who gave the order for it was an ardent Covenanter.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01