Jewels in the Claw (5)

Jewels Act Two Royal Court smaller2

Continued from Part Four.

Kind hands pass him a hot tea. He sits on the edge of what was the Royal Court, sipping and watching the ghosts… Many kind faces came to life in this, now-unstructured space – but it was heavily structured then… It takes but little effort to re-animate its dancing atoms…

Sir Francis Drake is a clever man. The naval mastermind who out-thought and fought the Spanish Armada detects that things in the Queen’s Royal Court are not exactly as they seem…

To start with, The Queen, herself: undoubtedly physically strong – though she pretends not, perhaps? – She seems vulnerable, even fragile, in the face of the terrible Tilbury vision: ‘The drowned man and the ghost with the white face’. What is he to make of that? Elizabeth, the person, is known to be both clever and resolute; never failing to show courage in the face of adversity. Look how she rallied the land-troops at the Kent Fort, when the clever Spaniards had re-grouped at Calais, ready to invade England with overwhelming force, the day after…

Drake smiles, knowing his and Hawkins’ strategy had rendered the Armada captive within the harbours of Calais, and that the fireships had devastated the frozen fleet, sparing the Sovereign from defeat, humiliation and execution.

Their hopes had all died that day: the King of Spain; the boasting Palma, admiral of the Spanish fleet; even the Pope, who had seen in Philip the perfect executioner of the excommunicated queen. All shattered asunder, like the bits of Spanish wood still being washed up on the shores all around the Isles of Albion and Ireland. Walsingham’s spies reported that King Philip now lived in isolation, his kingdom unable to muster the force, nor the will, to create a restored fleet… and if they did, could they really count on a Catholic God, whose force – sweet nature, herself – had turned on the Iberian forces with such vicious effect?

Much had died, but some things had been born; and Drake knows that this mysterious chamber was linked to that purpose: the refinement of the newly empowered.

Sir Francis smiles. There is no doubt about his place, here, in this strange ‘courtroom’ of the mind… and heart. He knows that he and Sir Walter Raleigh are on a par in terms of trust. He is not so sure about others in the gathering…

But there is no doubt where his duty lies, and he had been quick to suggest a partial remedy to The Queen’s malaise.

But now, ready to speak, on the edge of the chequered court, Essex – all powerful Lord Essex, beats him to it.

“Your Majesty! We seek to lift your heavy heart,” says the Second Earl, smiling at The Queen in way that infers an intimacy that he may or may not possess, yet clearly wants to display.

Drake knows when to play his part, knows when to be passive, when to bite the tongue and polish the small Toledo stiletto, on the inner fabric of his fine tunic. Bowing his head, slightly, to acknowledge Essex’s primacy, here, he adds his weight to the request that they may lift the spirits of The Queen.

 “Your Grace, will you permit us all to enter the Royal Court with a touch of levity?

The Queen smiles.

“Had others asked, I would have refused, Lord Essex,” she says. “But as you and Sir Francis are two of my most trusted subjects, I feel inclined to permit this… You may… but with caution! You may not yet know the rules of this place, but I do…”

The pair, having created it over a jug of ale the previous night, propose a simple entrance of dance movement. Elizabeth loves dancing, though her years have slowed her down, a little. The well-dressed twosome posture, as though a couple, and take three exaggerated steps to the middle of the court. The Queen’s eyes light up with the jollity of the moves: respectful but gay. Her lips smile their approval.

Once at the centre, the pair make a series of quick moves within the middle set of four squares that see them one place forward… and reversed, right to left. They look to the Sovereign; all is well. Four diagonal steps later, they reach their respective corners of The Queen’s fearsome floor and drop into the safe space of the inner court, their goal accomplished.

The Sovereign is pleased. She motions for all who wait in the shadows of the West to follow suit. The heavy spirits of the previous day seem vanquished. Soon, a full complement of players follows the steps and stands ready to be seated, as The Queen wishes.

She wishes.

Sir Francis is a little late in being seated. He has seen the heavy bag of gold coins on the small table by the Sovereign’s throne. Drake has his suspicions, and looks, quickly, as he sits, to the back of the Court – the West. There, another man, also slower in his descent than the rest, has spied the bulging bag of coins. Seated, Drake focusses on the familiar edge of the one visible flash of gold. A Spanish doubloon glitters in the bright sunlight coming from the high windows of the chamber. Drake looks one last time at Dr Dee and, his eyes passing those of the ever watchful Sir Walter Raleigh, at the mysterious and mute Jesuit priest.

What deadly game is this, Your Majesty? the sailor with the fearsome intellect muses. He dare not even think – lest his thoughts and face betray the knowledge – of his own mysterious training at the hands of the now-accused John Dee. What dreadful fate within this day’s remit links the priest, the mysterious former royal astrologer, the burgeoning bag of gold… and, mercifully, excludes, at least so far, himself?

Other parts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three  

Part Four,


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.

©Stephen Tanham

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