Pluck'd a White Rose
Spring had long since come to England, but the London sky was overcast on this May day. A cold drizzle came down on noble and common alike as they shuffled through the trash-strewn streets, their business known only to themselves. The chill and the rain were reason enough for the scullery girl, up to her elbows in hot water, to be grateful for her current condition. The only reasons, the girl thought, for one look at her unspoilt hands among the filthy pots showed her as no commoner. In fact, her hands were far more accustomed to the gentle arts of embroidery and reading, for this supposed scullion was not only noble, but had ever so briefly been royal.
Not that Daria Anne Neville looked back on her time as Princess of Wales fondly, for the marriage had been no idea of hers. Married at fourteen to a brute of a man-boy only three years her senior, she had discovered neither wit nor grace in his oafish hands, and his death at Tewksbury the previous spring had come as a relief, followed by the even greater relief of her next monthly, which broke the last bond between her and the ill-fated House of Lancaster. No son would emerge from her womb to carry the doomed cause of the Red Rose into the next generation.
Just sixteen, with dark auburn hair uncharacteristic in her family of redheads, Daria Anne had been a pawn in the Wars of the Roses all her life, a fact of which she had been acutely aware since long before her tenth birthday. She was just five when King Edward had taken the throne from Mad King Henry with her father's help. She spent the early days of the new King's reign at Middleham Castle, the only happy days of her life. Her mother, Helen Anne, had made much of her, though more of her sister, and the Queen Mother Cecily had been a frequent guest, bidding the girls to be her friend and call her Kay. She'd even had a playmate in Kay's youngest son, Tom. Tom was actually the Prince Richard Plantagenet, but as the third son and undersized at that, he'd insisted she treat him as just another child and call him by his second name.
She looked up from the water and the pots and sighed. For three years, they'd played together and ignored the taunts of her sister Quinn Isabel and Tom's brother George Geoffrey, but life moved on. Her father, who was Earl of Warwick, had a falling out with the King, and in response, the King brought his brothers to court. It wasn't long before Father was plotting with the old Queen and her retainers to overthrow King Edward. "Alas," she said aloud, "if only Father's wit had matched his pride, and his folly hadn't so far outstripped them both."
True, they had seduced the Prince George to their side and even managed to put old Henry back on the throne. Quinn Isabella had made her place by marrying the man she called Jeffy a scant three years ago, and it was in their house that Daria Anne labored. For her father had made what he thought was an even better match for his youngest, marrying her to Henry's son. And as Henry was aged by the wars and his cares as king, and mad as a hatter to boot, why that would make Daria Anne Queen of England soon. She well remembered the day.
Calais Castle was their home at the time, for it was there that France held a sheltering hand over what was left of the Red Rose and its partisans: Margaret, Henry VI's Queen and the last flower of a formerly great family of France; Edward her son. heir to the broken House of Lancaster; and now George Geoffrey, Duke of Clarence, his duchess, and an unwelcome younger sister.
While her husband and their father were about retaking England, Quinn Isabel had been riding with her lady-in-waiting, a Countess' daughter from Flanders called Alexandra. A gay and cheerful laugh announced their arrival in the ladies bower, but Daria Anne, in the corner with The Book of Margery Kempe, ignored her sister's entry.
Quinn Isabel was not one to pass up a chance to taunt her sister, though. "Look at you," she said. "Dark-haired changeling sitting in the corner with your book instead of embroidery. What lord do you hope to wed when you have not of the graces of a noble woman?"
"Noman is my hoped-for husband, if I must make of myself you to serve so. And I would expect no understanding of my pleasures from you," she added, "as the arts of literacy are not yours and never have been as far as I know."
"Call me not sister, changeling child," Quinn Isabel said, touching her red hair, capped and bound for a sedate ride. "I fail to see how one so pale and sharp as you could have come from parents so gay and lively as mine."
"I know not, sister," Daria Anne had rejoined, "any more than I can see how a father called 'the craftiest man in Europe' could have had a daughter with so empty a head as yours." In her mind, Daria Anne feared this title was inappropriate and likely self-bestowed, but her safety was assured by those who held her father's sly wit in good esteem, so she did not share those suspicions.
Daria Anne's shifting to face her sister brought the book where Quinn Isabel could see the title.. "Reading the words of mad peasants again?" she sneered. "Perhaps you shall become one, changeling child, and leave your betters in peace.
Quinn Isabel had no time for peasants or intellect or the life of the mind, but to Daria Anne, Margery Kemp and her writings were as Divine revelation, and she would brook no slurs on them. Before she could deliver a withering retort, however, their mother arrived in the bower in haste unseemly.
"Come," she said, all aflutter. "Quickly, child. You must come quickly. The Queen's grace waits upon our need." That she said this with no irony after long years of friendship with the Queen Mother Kay, whose husband "the Queen's grace" had caused to be beheaded against all usages of war and nobility, said much of her mother to Daria Anne, and little of it good.
Quinn Isabel pouted prettily. "But I've just returned from my ride," she said. "I cannot appear before the court like this! Perhaps the Queen's grace would spare Alexandra and I a moment to freshen ourselves?"
"Not you, vain child," her mother snapped. "Daria Anne, my darling Daria Anne, it is you the Queen's grace summons. She wishes you to wed the Prince. You will be the next Queen of England."
The rest of the day was lost to Daria Anne, though she did remember Quinn Isabel's parting words. "O consternating changeling child! Your very existence is a plague to me, and you bring with you naught but ruin!"
And so she had found herself married to the young Prince. who loved nothing about her but her name. Too busy with martial affairs and sporting activities like the hunt and the joust was he to pay her much mind. It was even said of him that he wore a falconer's gloves at all times and the bird itself when he could, though Daria Anne had never seen him so arrayed in the ladies' bower or in their rooms when she did her duty by him.
And now she was again overshadowed by her sister. For King Henry had been restored, but the White Rose was undimmed, Edward and her Tom having escaped to Burgundy and the Queen having given the King a male heir. And Edward had returned in force, freed the Queen, and secured his son. Henry's adherents had abandoned him one by one, with Clarence and Quinn Isabel being among the first. And then came that fateful day at Tewksbury, where father and husband had died, leaving Edward a free path back to his throne. After King Henry's death (murder, some said), Daria Anne had found herself with no champion at court save her sister's husband, and he a poor one at that.
Quinn Isabel had shown unholy joy at the turn in fortunes. "Now, changeling child, shall you cease to trouble me. In the North, hidden will you remain. If you wish to wed, there a squire may perhaps be found for you."
She was therefore in a rage when Prince Richard had announced his intention to wed her despised younger sister. In truth, Daria Anne did not wish to wed again nor did see she her Tom as aught but brother. She well understood that while such a wedding would provide her with security, for Tom was Duke of Gloucester in his own right, it would also create trouble between the brothers, as Quinn Isabel and Daria Anne were heiresses to vast estates. And so it did.
Clarence wanted Warwick's lands for himself, and Quinn Isabel was of one mind with him. To have it, they had to insure that Daria Anne made no marriage with her station. For wedding a squire she could be disinherited, but a Royal Duke would have his part. So she had been concealed at Ludlow Castle through the long winter and conveyed in secret to London just as spring began to show its first signs in this, the Year of Our Lord 1472.
Quinn Isabel, of course, had decided that a scullery maid would be her guise. "After all," she said, "you have never practiced the gentle skills, so you make a very poor lady. Perhaps labor is your destiny, and a baker may someday have you to wife."
So Daria Anne scrubbed pots. She did it poorly, but the household seemed not to mind, and she was at least spared the strappings the cook freely gave out to the other kitchen drudges. The solitude suited her, as the labor did not, and she vowed not to let her sister's will break hers. But deep in her mind, she could not help but wonder if there were any who would take her part, and if there were, would it be her Tom?
Deep in thought, she missed his entrance. When she turned to find him there, she at first thought him some fancy. "Arroint, shade! Tempt me not to madness!"
"Madness?" he asked and laughed. "Some may call it that, I think, though I think it simply my due and yours."
"Tom?" she breathed, unwilling for a moment to believe he was there. He was slim and well built, though shorter by far than his brother the King, who was a giant of a man. Nor was he ruddy of face and hair like his brother of Clarence. His hair was dark and his eyes green, with a twinkle of humor, though she recognized the sober boy he had been in the gravity of his mien.
"Indeed," he said. "Though the King my brother would prefer such pet names be forgotten for the Constable of England." With a smile that was barely visible, he added, "For someone so devoted to his own pleasures, King Ned can be most unforgiving about the small laughters of others."
A blend of irritation, relief, and something she took a moment to recognize as joy rose in her. She let the irritation take her and made him a curtsy. "My deepest apologies your Grace. It is not meet for one such as me to address you."
He laughed again. "O come, dearest Daria, you wound me. For I have sought you lo, these many months, and for my troubles I now receive a frigid greeting worthy of the coldest convent in this green land."
"Seek you me?" she asked, the joy again rising in her, though something bade her press him more. "Not Warwickshire and Salisbury?"
"Nay," he said. "I have lands and title enow, though I will take it if offered. But I would wed with you, as I said. If you will have me, that is. Even with your dower, I offer no realm as fine as this." He raised his arms in a mocking gesture.
She froze at the word wed, suddenly realizing that she could see him as much more than brother, but she told herself she would not collapse like a silly child, or worse Quinn Isabel. "Marry? If I must," she said. "Though my dearest goal will be to free you of your overweening pride." She had a measure of pride herself, but he would learn that soon enough. "I say this only as a good Christian and good wife, for your soul would do better without it."
With a genuine smile, he extended a hand. "Come, then," he said. "I will make of you a happy wife, and you will make of me a most humble and gracious husband." As she took his hand, their eyes met. "Shall will live happily ever after, then?"
"Nay," she said, though she smiled as she spoke. "Let us say that we will live happily while chance allows. For surely there will be battle anew someday to threaten you, or consumption or childbed fever to call me away."
"Then let as live as you say," he said. "Though I will hope for long years of joy together if you think it not unseemly."
"Fairly spoken, your Grace," she said, and together they walked unchallenged from the scullery and the house, and into history.
This story was inspired by a couple of Iron Chef challenges at the PPMB. One involved putting the Daria characters and basic plot in the past and the other was to tell a story mostly in retrospect. I combined the two and went all the way back to the Wars of the Roses. For anyone interested, here's the history the story is based on:
Daria and Quinn take the roles of Isabel and Anne Neville. They were the daughters of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who helped Edward IV take the throne of England and then turned against him. Edward had taken the throne from King Henry VI, who was mad, and his wife Margaret, who was ambitious. They had one son, also called Edward.
Isabel, who was the older, married Edward IV's brother, George Duke of Clarence in 1469 (here played by Jeffy), after he joined Warwick and Queen Margaret. Anne married Prince Edward (played by Kevin) in 1470 as part of the agreement between Warwick and Queen Margaret.
King Edward IV was forced from the throne in 1470, and Henry VI was restored, but Edward took back his throne in early 1471. Warwick and Prince Edward were both killed in battle.
Isabel and Anne were Warwick's only heirs, so Clarence took over Anne's governance after her husband was killed. His brother Richard (Tom Sloane here) wished to marry Anne, so legend has it that Clarence hid her in a London house as a serving girl. I've taken the liberty of making it Clarence's house and making Daria a scullion.
There's evidence that the marriages of both the Neville women were love matches, or at least borne of affection, as George and Isabel and Anne and Richard did spend a lot of time together as children.
As far as what happened to them, well, Isabel died in or shortly after childbirth in 1476. George of Clarence was executed by King Edward for treason in 1478. (Legend has it he was drowned in a butt of wine.) Anne died of consumption in 1485 shortly after the death of her only son from the same illness. Richard, who became Richard III, died in battle at Bosworth Field, where he lost the crown to Henry Tudor, who become Henry VII.
Disclaimer: Daria and all characters are copyright MTV 1997–2002. I own nothing and am merely along for the ride.