Happy World Book Day! And a snowy day from 1482…

Happy World Book Day!
And as the UK experiences some very snowy weather, it seems appropriate to share with you a taster of a #snowday in 1482, when our hero Matthew is on a boar hunt with Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and his friends, Alys, Roger and Richard’s little son Ed.
“As we wound our way through the trees, the early sunshine was blotted out by gathering cloud and a biting wind arose, rustling the last shrivelled leaves clinging to the branches. From my vantage point on Bess, I could see the pale ghosts of the hounds as they cast about for scent, sometimes hear one baying as it found a trail. The hunt was spread in a great fan, rippling like waves to follow first one hound, then another, as Master Gygges’s horn directed. To steer us through the woods, we tracked the deep blue of the Duke’s hunting costume, standing out against the black trunks. But all too often it would disappear into dense brush.
After an age of this creeping, a double note floated to us on the rising breeze. Hugh pointed to our right and spurred his horse in that direction, drawing us along with him at a trot.
Roger flashed me a gleeful glance and Alys’s face was tinged pink beneath her riding cap. Ed’s brow was furrowed, tense with concentration.
We soon caught up with the bulk of the hunt.
Hefting their spears, gentlemen were striding in silence to left or to right, to surround an impenetrable copse. Houndsmen and dogs vanished after them until only a handful remained in view. Faithful Florette as ever was at her master’s side. Spotting us, the Duke waved us further away across a small clearing.
Another double note of the horn. All the men dropped to one knee, planting the butt of their spear on the frosted ground, lowering the point towards the copse. Then two flushing dogs, straining at their leashes, were let slip into the undergrowth.
The first crashings of the dogs’ entry faded, leaving only the whimpering of the alaunts and sight-hounds keen to join them. Long minutes passed. No one spoke and the air was as leaden as the sky above.
As the tension mounted, Hugh’s horse danced skittishly and he wheeled it in a tight circle to quieten it. Then nothing moved bar Bess’s mane lifting in the breeze.
Florette stood alert beside the Duke, stark against the midnight blue. To one side loomed the black fur-clad bulk of Lord Scrope, to the other Master Gygges in his usual russet. One hand held fast the leash of a quivering alaunt.
White flakes drifted down from the glowering clouds. As I brushed them away, all around faces turned skyward. Alys held out a hand. In an instant her glove was frosted white. Roger laughed and leaned back with open mouth to catch the snow on his tongue. Hugh checked his horse as it started to shift uneasily again.
Only Ed remained focused on the hunt. And it was from Ed that the cry went up.
‘’Ware, boar!’
A sudden flurry amid the undergrowth and a huge dark shape burst forth. Pale shadows of dogs were at its heels. It rushed straight at Lord Scrope and for a shattered second the two black forms blended into one. Then with an eerie muffled sound, it tore into two again, and I realized in horror that the man had not had time to swing his spear round. As the beast thundered away, his lordship keeled over on to the gathering snow.
Florette stood her ground, letting out a sharp bark, but Master Gygges launched his alaunt after the speeding bulk. Two sight-hounds also joined the chasing pack as it whisked out of the clearing, on into more woodland.
From all around the copse now streamed the huntsmen, attracted by the commotion. More sight-hounds were unleashed and many of the men ran headlong to follow, their boots crunching on the snowy ground. Others stopped and clustered round the fallen mound that was Lord Scrope, their voices raised in concern. Before they closed around him, I glimpsed the Duke on his knees, hands pressed against his lordship’s side, where red was flowing out on to the fresh snow.
As I watched, frozen with horror, horses were kicked into movement. Roger and Giles Pynson dashed back the way we had come, calling ‘Bring horses, bring horses, man injured’. But Hugh and Lionel whipped their mounts the other way, after the disappearing hunters.
Alys was twisting her chestnut this way and that, unsure of where to go. That was when it struck me that we two were alone.
Ed was nowhere to be seen.
He hadn’t followed Roger, he hadn’t ridden towards the knot of men around his father.
I grabbed Alys’s rein and yelled.
‘Ed! He’s gone after the boar!’”

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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