Authors: Nigel Tranter
Tags: #Historical Novel
MARGARET THE QUEEN
'Sixty Scots, Pictish and Dalar kings lie buried on lona, Highness. All of the most ancient line in Christendom. Have you forgot?'
She looked at him, her lovely eyes untroubled. 'No, Maldred, I have not forgot/ she said. 'But there is a time and a tide for all things. For standing still and for moving on. For holding fast and for pointing forward and renewal. I believe that God, in His wisdom, sent that great storm to bring me to this northern land for a purpose.
purpose. In all humility I say it. For myself, I am nothing
Also by the same author,
and available in Coronet Books:
Lords of Misrule
Mac Beth the King
Montrose: The Young Montrose
Montrose: The Captain General
David the Prince
Robert The Bruce Trilogy:
Book 1 - The Steps to the Empty Throne
Book 2 - The Path of the Hero King
Book 3 - The Price of the King's Peace
CORONET BOOKS Hodder and Stoughton
Copyright © 1979 by Nigel Tranter
First published in Great Britain 1979 by Hodder and Stoughton Limited
Coronet edition 1981 Second Impression 1984
Tranter, Nigel Margaret the queen. I. Title
823'.914[F] PR6070.R34 ISBN 0-340-26545-0
The characters and situations in this book are entirely imaginary and bear no relation to any real person or actual happening
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not. by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which this is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Printed and bound in Great Britain for Hodder and Stoughton Paperbacks, a division of Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., Mill Road, Dunton Green, Sevenoaks, Kent (Editorial Office: 47 Bedford Square, London, WC1 3DP) by Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd, Bungay, Suffolk.
In Order of Appearance
Maldred mac Melmore
: Second son of the Mormaor or
Earl of Atholl.
Malcolm the Third (Canmore
): King of Scots.
Gillibride, Earl of Angus
: Great Scots noble, former
Hugh O'Beolain, Hereditary Abbot of Applecross:
: Saxon prince. Grandson of Edmund Ironside and rightful King of England.
Princess Agatha of Hungary
: Mother of above.
: Sister of Edgar.
: Sister of Edgar.
Magdalen of Ethanford
: Saxon attendant on the princesses.
: Queen, wife of Malcolm.
Duncan mac Malcolm
: Prince of Strathclyde, elder son of Malcolm.
Donald Beg mac Malcolm
: Younger son of Malcolm
Duncan MacDuff, Earl of Fife
: Great noble. Hereditary
Inaugurator. Ivo: Celt
ic Church Abbot of Dunfermline.
Madach mac Melmore
: Eldest son of Earl of Atholl.
Brother of Maldred.
cospatrick mac Maldred
: Formerly Earl of Northum
bria, cousin of the King.
Waltheof mac Maldred
: Styled Earl of Cumbria.
Brother of Cospatrick.
Paul Thorfinnson, Earl of Orkney
: Elder son of
Thorfinn Raven Feeder and brother of Queen Ingebiorg.
: Governor of Galloway. Younger brother of above.
Godfrey Crovan of Islay
: Later King of Dublin and Man.
Fothad the Second
: Celtic Church Bishop of St.
: A Cluniac monk, from Durham.
Walchere, Bishop of Durham
: A Lorrainer.
Eldred, Archbishop of York
: Saxon prelate.
Edwin Alfgarson, Earl of Mercia
: Saxon leader.
: Brother of above.
Thurstan, Abbot of Ely
: Saxon leader.
Hereward Leofricson, the Wake
: Lord of Bourne.
Dunchad, Abbot of Iona
: Co-Arb or Chief Abbot of the
William of Normandy, King of England
Donald Ban mac Duncan
: Son of Duncan the First. Half-brother of Malcolm.
Aldwin, Prior of Winchcombe and
Robert, Duke of Normandy
: Eldest son of the Conqueror.
Edward mac Malcolm
: Eldest son of Malcolm and Margaret.
Ethelred mac Malcolm
: Third son of Malcolm and
: Daughter of Cospatrick.
Edgar mac Malcolm
: Fourth son of Malcolm and
t. Later King.
Sir Robert de Moubray, Earl of Northumbria:
William the Second (Rufus), King of England
son of the Conqueror.
Maldred, sickened at
it all, turned away. He was not a particularly squeamish youth, but on this raid he had already seen enough savagery and sheer brutality to last him for many a day. He did not protest, however, not any more. Malcolm the Third, by-named Canmore, King of Scots, was not the sort of monarch who accepted criticism gladly from any man, or woman, in especial from an eighteen-year-old — even though he was a kinsman, in cousinship.
The distraught woman's screams would have drowned out any protests, anyway. No sound came from either of the children any more, at least — one, a tiny naked baby which had been still at breast, now lying crumpled some forty feet below the cliff; the other, a yellow-haired two-year-old already beginning to be carried away by the river's current, where it curved round the cliff-foot — the Wear it was called, apparently. No sounds either now emanated from the two men of the little household back there, lying in their own blood, presumably the woman's husband and father. They sprawled at the door of their cot-house, the reed-thatched roof of which was blazing fiercely and sending up great murky clouds of smoke, carried on the gusty and chill east wind off the sea to join the vast pall which lay over all that Northumbrian land northwards and westwards, whence the army had come, the product of scores, hundreds of other burning homesteads in their path, all with their quota of slain.
The King was not looking at the hysterical woman, any more than at her late family. He stared seawards, into the south-east wind, pale-blue eyes narrowed, watching the three ships which had just been spotted and pointed out to him, far from clear as they were in the poor visibility and clouds of spindrift of the storm's aftermath. That they were making, limpingly, for the river-mouth was clear enough however, whatever else was not. There might be more behind, as yet not visible.
King Malcolm turned to the group of his thanes and captains who sat their shaggy garrons behind his own — lords, rather; Malcolm, who had been reared here in Northumbrian England, did not like the old Scots terms, and thanes were now lords, mormaors now earls, after the Saxon-Danish custom.
"What think you?" He spoke jerkily, and in the English tongue, not in his native Gaelic — which for a dozen years now the others all had had to practise. "These ships? Are they in trouble? Are there more?" His eyesight was not of the best. "I can see three only . . ." An explosive curse burst from his lips, and he swung in his saddle to stab a blunt finger towards the screaming woman whose cries were preventing the others from hearing him properly. "Silence me that trull, fools!" he shouted.
One of the dismounted soldiers raised a fist and struck the woman full on the mouth, a great blow which flung her headlong to the ground, there at the edge of the little cliff, her outcry reduced to a snuffling, strangled sobbing.
Malcolm Canmore repeated his questions. He was a stocky, thick-set man of forty-seven, with a head strangely over-large for the rest of him — hence the by-name of
or Big Head — a shock of dark, curling unruly hair only partially restrained by the gold circlet around his brows, his down-turning moustaches cruel, to join a beard forked in the Danish style. The gold circlet alone distinguished him as monarch, for he was dressed no more finely than many of his men, and some of his nobles were considerably more grand. His whole appearance indeed seemed to relate him to his mother's blood rather than his father's. For, although he was the first-born but illegitimate son of Duncan the First, whom MacBeth had slain, boasting the blood of possibly the oldest line of monarchs in all Christendom, reaching far back into pagan times, his mother had been no more than the miller's daughter of Forteviot, not Duncan's queen. Be all that as it might, Malcolm the Third was one of the most successful warriors and shrewd manipulators of his day, even though the notion of mercy, as of gentleness, was not in him.
The consensus of the Scots lords was that the three ships were damaged by the storm and heading into Wearmouth's bay for shelter. One, a long low galley, Danish by the look of her, of the longship breed, was in front, being rowed in, her great single square sail, tattered in ribbons, streaming in the wind. The two other vessels were larger, but more clumsy, traders, cargo-carriers by the look of them, one with a mast gone. If any had borne the usual markings of flags or painted identities on the sails, these 'had not survived the storm. The general opinion was that they were not war-inclined.
"There is a fourth ship, Highness," Maldred mac Melmore of Atholl said, his young eyes keenest. "Some way to the south. See, rounding the headland. The spray hides it somewhat. . ."
"If four, how many more? What is it, boy? A warship or another merchanter?"
"Not a longship or galley. One like these other two. . ."
"Good. Better pickings from traders than from soldiers, I say! We will down to this haven and receive them, I think! Suitably. Bide you here, lad. You have good eyes, at least! If not much else. Watch you for other ships. Bring me word if there are more. And if any are war-galleys."
The King reined his horse round to move off, and his eyes lighted on the fallen woman again. She lay unmoving, but whether she was conscious or not could not be seen, for her clothing was now thrown up over her head and shoulders, her white lower half laid bare. The man who had struck her was now kneeling over her, busy, another dragging her ragged clothes higher.
"Animals!" Malcolm roared, heels kicking his mount forward at the same time as he whipped out his great two-handed sword from its sheath at his back. Over woman and active, grinning men he rode, slashing downwards with the edge of his blade as he went, beating both the soldiers to the ground in red ruin. "Curs! I said silence her, not breed on her! Colbain — if these two are not dead, hang them. I will be obeyed, to the word." And he rode on without pause.
This forward section of the Scots punitive force, some twelve hundred mounted men, streamed after him, down towards the harbour and village of Wearmouth in St. Cuthbert's Land, taking the savaged would-be rapists with them. Rape was no offence in Malcolm's eyes; indeed it was so commonplace on that expedition as to be wholly unremarkable. But disobedience and undisciplined behaviour in the royal presence were altogether another matter.
Maldred of Atholl was left on the cliff-top beside the burning hovel, with a twitching, moaning woman and two dead cottagers.