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Philippa Gregory

The White Princess

Philippa Gregory The White Princess
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Excerpt from book:

Sheriff Hutton Castle, Yorkshire,

Autumn 1485

I wish I could stop dreaming. I wish to God I could stop dreaming.

I am so tired; all I want to do is sleep. I want to sleep all the

day, from dawn until twilight that every evening comes a little

earlier and a little more drearily. In the daytime, all I think about

is sleeping. But in the night all I do is try to stay awake.

I go to his quiet shuttered rooms to look at the candle as it

gutters in the golden candlestick, burning slowly through the

marked hours, though he will never see light again. The servants

take a taper to a fresh candle every day at noon; each hour burns

slowly away, although time means nothing to him now. Time is

quite lost to him in his eternal darkness, in his eternal timelessness,

though it leans so heavily on me. All day long I wait for the

slow rolling in of the gray evening and the mournful tolling of

the Compline bell, when I can go to the chapel and pray for his

soul, though he will never again hear my whispers, nor the quiet

chanting of the priests.

Then I can go to bed. But when I get to bed I dare not sleep

because I cannot bear the dreams that come. I dream of him.

Over and over again I dream of him.

All day I keep my face smiling like a mask, smiling, smiling,

my teeth bared, my eyes bright, my skin like strained parch-

ment, paper-thin. I keep my voice clear and mellow, I speak

words that have no meaning, and sometimes, when required,

I even sing. At night I fall into my bed as if I were drowning

in deep water, as if I were sinking below the depths, as if the

water were possessing me, taking me like a mermaid, and for a

moment I feel a deep relief as if, submerged in water, my grief

can drain away, as if it were the river Lethe and the currents

can bring forgetfulness and wash me into the cave of sleep; but

then the dreams come.

I don’t dream of his death—it would be the worst of nightmares

to see him go down fighting. But I never dream of the

battle, I don’t see his final charge into the very heart of Henry

Tudor’s guard. I don’t see him hacking his way through. I don’t

see Thomas Stanley’s army sweep down and bury him under

their hooves, as he is thrown from his horse, his sword arm failing,

going down under a merciless cavalry charge, shouting:

“Treason! Treason! Treason!” I don’t see William Stanley raise

his crown and put it on another man’s head.

I don’t dream any of this, and I thank God for that mercy at

least. These are my constant daytime thoughts that I cannot escape.

These are bloody daytime reveries that fill my mind while I

walk and talk lightly of the unseasonal heat, of the dryness of the

ground, of the poor harvest this year. But my dreams at night are

more painful, far more painful than this, for then I dream that

I am in his arms and he is waking me with a kiss. I dream that

we are walking in a garden, planning our future. I dream that I

am pregnant with his child, my rounded belly under his warm

hand, and he is smiling, delighted, and I am promising him that

we will have a son, the son that he needs, a son for York, a son

for England, a son for the two of us. “We’ll call him Arthur,” he

says. “We’ll call him Arthur, like Arthur of Camelot, we’ll call

him Arthur for England.”

The pain, when I wake to find that I have been dreaming

again, seems to get worse every day. I wish to God I could stop

dreaming.

My dearest daughter Elizabeth,

My heart and prayers are with you,

“Wielding magic again in her latest War of the Roses novel … Gregory demonstrates the passion and skill that has made her the queen of English historical fiction.…Gregory portrays spirited women at odds with powerful men, endowing distant historical events with drama, and figures long dead or invented with real-life flaws and grand emotions. She makes history … come alive for readers.”


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