On Writing by Wagglestaff the Bard
The works of Londinium-based bard Wagglestaff are myriad, but amongst them are several which are inspired by the lives and deeds of the Kings and Queens of Albion. Amongst them is the play known as “Love & Duty” – which was, allegedly, inspired by the life and times of Matthew Pendragon, a Prince of Albion – the tale behind the play is explained by Wagglestaff in his autobiographical work On Writing:
“The tales of the realm are full of romances and betrothals – often we are regaled with the trials and tribulations of the great lovers of the realm – but rarely do we find anything such as this one.
Matthew Pendragon, born to rule, first child of Edward, had been raised to sit upon the Throne of Kings, yet he had, as he reached his maturity, discovered in himself something that many men seek, and some do not find – he felt a great and powerful love.
In his youth, he would accompany his father on the tours of the kingdom he undertook, and would sit on his father’s knee, and then later at his father’s side, as the King dispensed justice, heard petitions, spoke with ambassadors, and dealt with the day to day running of the realm.
On some occasions he would travel to the countryside with his mother, and it is on these brief holidays that the young boy came to life. His mother the Queen, being a native of the Duchy of York, would take him to her family’s seat near Warwick, and the young Prince would spend hours wandering the moors, playing in the forests with the children of the household, and doing the things that normal young boys did, which were usually denied to the future king.
It was in Warwick that Matthew first spied a young noble lady named Elizabeth, whom he called ‘Bess’ – and the young prince was struck as if by a bolt of lightning. When he had returned to court, he was inattentive to his studies, and wasted the days until he knew he would return to Warwick with his mother. More and more he made excuses to travel with his mother than attend court with his father, and in Warwick he came alive – he would stalk the streets looking for the girl he had seen across the marketplace, rain or shine.
One fateful day he saw her again, and followed her. After a time he saw her enter a walled garden – when he approached, it was locked, so he scaled the wall. As he began to sneak across the garden, he was thrown to the floor with a sharp jab to his midriff. Standing over him was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, brandishing a stave. Here was the future King of Albion, laid low by a maiden, and he felt shocked that there was no rage welling up inside him, only something he could not explain.
We know of course this to be love, but the dear sweet little Prince was not to know this. They spent hours together, each day, for weeks. Eventually the day came when the King came to Warwick to collect the boy, and to chastise him for paying no attention to his studies. On his return to Winchester, the boy became melancholy, until the day that the first letter appeared on his desk – “With all my love, Your Bess” – and thus began a long correspondence and the makings of a great love.
When in Warwick they would walk the streets together and wander the gardens and woods from dawn until dusk. The king’s mother was enamoured with the young noble lady, and in time believed it might be possible that, one day, she could arrange a marriage between them.
Years passed, Matthew grew into a capable advisor to King Edward, and Bess grew into a great beauty.
When the day came that the Queen approached the King about a marital match, he set his heralds into assessing the possibility. It was here that our tale grows dark – for the heralds discovered something that enraged the King, and broke the Queen’s heart – and Matthew was forbade from seeing Bess.
The impetuous princeling of course ignored this, and merely became more stealthy in his endeavours – he and Bess began to meet in secret, in a small hovel in the woods, that they had found, and cleaned, and made their own. When they were younger, they had pretended that this was their safe place, their own home together – as they had grown, they had begun to wish it were so, and now that wish might be granted – Matthew suggested that they run away, and live together in the forest.
Alas, the Prince was not so secretive as he would have liked and in mere days the King’s guards found the hovel, and dragged the boy back to Winchester.
The King was furious – but Matthew was calm – he demanded to know the reason he was being denied his true love – it was in the face of this calm that the King had realised – he had been raising his boy to rule, to be wise and patient, to do what must be done for the realm not because it is easy, but because it is right – and he had completely neglected to merely speak to the boy.
He fetched a folio and began to explain the matter to the Prince – he told him the tale of Arthur the Great, whom the Prince knew of, of course – of Queen Gwehyvar and the great betrayal of her Champion, the King’s very best friend and most famed knight. He spoke about the family of the champion, and how they were, still, to that very day, in disfavour.
Bess, the King told Matthew, was Elizabeth Falco – of that ilk of the Champion, who, the laws stated, could have no place in the Royal Household – be it servitude or betrothal. Matthew, upon hearing this, was torn – he knew he had a duty to the traditions and conventions of the realm – but he could not ignore how he felt.
Time passed, and the Prince mused and seethed over what could be done – he still wrote to Elizabeth, though she now signed her letters in a different manner to avoid suspicion. Matthew consulted quaesitors, spoke with heralds, met with the great lords of the realm, conferred with the faithful, on what might be done to change the way of things – but all to no avail – Arthur Pendragon’s word was law, and no one wished to go against it for the memory of the great betrayal was still fresh in the mind of the people.
The King put such emphasis on the matter – the people would never accept a Queen of that line – Matthew must let her go and choose another bride. But Matthew could not do that – as much as he knew he had to live a certain way as the realm’s greatest servant – its king – he knew in his heart that he could not in all conscience fulfill that duty – for he would grow to detest the Throne and all that he had to do.
Matthew brought together his father, his mother, and his brother Frederick, and told them – if he could not be King with Bess at his side, and he knew now that he could not, then he could not be King at all. He would renounce his claim to the Throne, and be passed over in favour of his brother. At this his mother wept, and his father grew silent.
Frederick was stunned, for who would not be, a second son born to serve but thrust into ruling? The King rose and spoke – he understood why his son felt this way and if he was certain, then he would have his blessing – Matthew moved to embrace his father – but the King held him back – he would have his blessing, but with certain conditions.
Matthew must depart from court, for if he stayed he would forever be a detriment to the rule of his brother – the courtiers would whisper around him, use him for his influence over his brother, and should the worst happen, encourage him to overthrow his brother – Matthew must have no part in the politics of the realm.
To this Matthew agreed. His father went on – a member of the Traitor House could not have a place at court – so Matthew must renounce his claim to the Throne, and that of his heirs, and cease to be a member of the Royal Family. Hearing this, Matthew grew sad, but assented.
The King would grant him the name Fitzdrake, for he would still be the Son of the Dragon, but he would be a private subject of the realm. For this Matthew thanked his father.
And finally, the King spoke, Matthew must leave Albion for other lands – never to set foot upon Albion’s soil once more. At this Matthew protested, as did the Queen and Prince Frederick – but on this the King was resolute – Matthew, in choosing love over duty, however noble his intentions, was betraying his people, his land, and the spirit of Albion – and such a grave insult could not go unpunished.
At the weeping of his family the King allowed Matthew the freedom of the Sundered Isles, but would move no further on the matter. And so a great announcement was made at court, and at a final feast Matthew led a roaring toast to the long life and wise rule of his father the King and his brother, who was now Crown Prince of Albion. At dawn, Matthew set off for Warwick, and asked Bess for her hand in marriage.
They left together that day, by ship, and were not heard from in the public circles of Albion ever again.
Now, there are few records which marry up to this tale, alas – we may assume that this is mere fantasy, not least since the House of Falcon has been a presence at court since the reign of Arthur II. We may assume, one supposes, that if Elizabeth Falco existed, then perhaps the reason for the court being so set against her was that she may have been a direct descendant of the Queen’s Champion. There are indications that, rather than leave for love, Matthew took up holy orders, or left court to study as a mage. We may never know, however, but it was this unfortunate tale, told to me by a noble in Londinium, that inspired me to write the tragedy of ‘Love & Duty’, for never was there a tale of more woe, than this of Prince Matthew and Elizabeth Falco.”