The creation of ‘The Order of the White Boar’

With three days to go till publication, a sneak preview… How the Order begins…. Matthew and his new friends have been given a holiday from the day-to-day routine at the castle to celebrate Duke Richard’s safe return from the Scottish wars and ride together along Wensleydale, in the lea of Pen Hill…

We halted for our dinner in the shade of some straggly hawthorn bushes on the river bank far upstream. As Alys laid out a rug, and I helped her spread upon it our meagre meal of bread and cheese, Roger pulled from his pouch a folded piece of parchment.
‘Look what I received from my mother this morning. She wrote because she’s so proud of my uncle. She says he is to be made a knight of the Order of the Bath. It’s for his service with the Duke in Scotland.’
‘That’s one of the greatest honours anyone can have from the King,’ said Edward, hewing at the slab of crumbly white cheese with his knife. ‘I know because my father told me. He was made a knight of the Order – oh, so many years ago. When he was only a boy.’
‘Really?’ I asked. I knew a little about the ancient chivalric orders. ‘I didn’t think they’d allow boys in.’
‘He was made a Duke at the same time,’ said Edward. ‘But I remember more of what he told me about the Order’s ceremony. I suppose it was because he was bathed by other grown-up knights rather than his nurse. Then he had to stay awake all night to keep vigil with them in the royal chapel.’
‘That doesn’t sound much fun,’ said Roger.
‘He said he could hardly keep his eyes open, but he had to otherwise they wouldn’t have thought him worthy. Then in the morning they dressed him in ceremonial clothes and took him to his brother the King. The King buckled a sword around his waist, kissed him, then struck him on the cheek.’
‘Wasn’t it painful?’ I asked.
‘Not really. He said it was just to remind him of his vow. The King said “Be thou a good knight” as he did it. He says he has always tried to be.’
We were silent for a few moments. Perhaps, like me, they were all imagining the spectacle. But in my mind also was whether I could ever dare hope for the honour myself.
As if echoing my thoughts, Edward said,
‘Do you think my uncle Edward will ever make me a knight of the Bath? Or of the Garter?’
A dimple deepened on Alys’s cheek and Roger’s mouth twitched, but neither of them laughed.
‘I think you may have to wait a few more years, Ed.’
‘But my father was younger than I am when he was knighted – only eight.’
‘But your father’s father had been killed with many of his knights, and his brother had just become King,’ soothed Alys. ‘I think that counts as a special case. The King needed all the knights he could get.’
‘Perhaps,’ said Edward, but the corners of his mouth turned down in disappointment.
On impulse I said, ‘Why don’t we form our own order of chivalry, like the Bath or the Garter?’
Roger laughed.
‘You’ve been reading too many romances!’
But Alys said, ‘Yes, why don’t we?’
Roger opened his mouth again, but Alys nudged him with her foot.
‘Come on, Roger. It would be fun for Edward – for all of us. We could have our own rituals and symbols and everything.’
‘All right, but perhaps we should keep it secret.’
Was he thinking about Hugh and his cronies?
‘Even better,’ I said. ‘That way it’ll be just the four of us, no one else wanting to join and interfering.’
‘I’ll have to tell my mother,’ said Edward.
‘Why not?’ said Alys. ‘We won’t do anything she’ll disapprove of. But what shall we call ourselves? An order has to have a name.’
We all gazed around and above us, casting about for ideas from things that we could see.
‘The Knights of the Thorn?’
‘The Order of the Buzzard?’
‘The Knights of the Dead Sheep?’
‘Roger!’ said Alys sharply, and he and Edward sniggered.
All the talk of chivalry and ceremony brought to my mind the sights and sounds of this morning and the enormous standard that had streamed above the Duke as he left with his knights.
‘What about the Order of the White Boar?’
They all stared at me.
‘In honour of the Duke?’
‘What a good idea.’
‘I think my mother would like that – and my father.’
‘That’s settled then,’ said Alys.
She picked up Edward’s riding crop. Kneeling in front of him, her head bowed, she presented it to him with two hands.
‘My lord, if you are willing, you shall knight us here on the battlefield.’

About alexmarchantblog

A Ricardian since a teenager, and following stints as an archaeologist and in publishing, Alex now lives and works in King Richard’s own country, not far from his beloved York and Middleham
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