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The Lady Chapel

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Lady Chapel (1994) Candace Robb

The Lady ChapelSet in England in 1365.

Owen Archer and Lucie Wilton are married. She has become master apothecary in her own right–inheriting the business from her previous husband–and Owen remains her apprentice, although he still owes favors to Archbishop Thoresby.

“Mistress Archer is of noble stock, at least on her father’s side.”

“Mistress Wilton, not Archer.”

Ridley frowned. “And why is that?” “The guild. The Archbishop coerced them into allowing Lucie both to continue the work she’d begun as Nicholas Wilton’s apprentice and to marry me. But they insisted she keep the name to remind me that I have no claims to the shop if she dies.”

And Thoresby calls in one of those favors when a prominent member of the Mercer’s guild is murdered and his hand left for his partner.

It was Thoresby’s turn to lean forward. He knew Gilbert Ridley. A representative of Goldbetter and Company in London and Calais, important merchants in the King’s financial dealings. Ridley was also a member of the Mercers’ Guild.

“Who argued?”

“Gilbert Ridley and the dead man, Will Crounce.”

“How do you know the name of the dead man?” Bess shrugged. “Heard it at the bakery this morning. Did you mean to keep it a secret?”

Thoresby often comes off as unlikable. He does, after all, hold two offices that should be in conflict: Archbishop or York and Lord Chancellor. But in this story we get glimpses as to just how complicated his is.

“Why do you keep Michaelo as your secretary?” “On what unsuspecting soul would I thrust him? I have come to see Michaelo as my hair shirt.”

Somehow, I had managed to forget just how complex these stories were, both in this historical accuracy, but also in the tales they weave.

“Our hearts are rarely wise in whom we love, are they?” she said.

Ambrose laughed. “Praise God. What would we sing about otherwise?”

The story here involves revenge (somewhat obvious from the chopping off of the hand) but also politics.

I want to note that although Thoresby despises Alice Perrers, the author’s opinion of her is more interesting.

this powerful, enigmatic, controversial woman left little record of herself, and as surviving descriptions of Alice Perrers were written by her enemies, even those are suspect. There is no record of her relationship with John Thoresby. I based my portrait of Alice on F. George Kay’s Lady of the Sun: the Life and Times of Alice Perrers (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1966), and then seasoned to taste. Alice Perrers’s motives were complex— love and devotion to the King mixed with ambition and the need to secure her future; being mistress to a King, especially one who was quite old by medieval standards, was to walk on quicksand, because the King could die at any moment and leave her defenseless in the midst of her enemies. Being a commoner, she lacked the family connections that might have protected her. It is interesting that what her highborn enemies appear to have disliked most about her was her business savvy.

Just be aware that we are seeing her from Thoresby’s point of view in this story, and he does not like her at all.

All of which makes it a complex tale, and well worth reading.

Publisher: Diversion Books
Rating: 8.5/10

Categories: 8/10, British, Historical, Mystery, Re-Read     Comments (0)    



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