The year is 1455, following the battle of St Albans in May, John 9th Lord Clifford inherited Skipton at the age of twenty. His wife, Margaret gave birth to their son William a few months ago, but sadly died due to complications. She was eighteen. John had invited her eldest friend Seignueress de Fillope in Burgundy to the Castle, to fulfil Margaret’s dying wish that their children be betrothed.
Before the Siegnueress and her Husband, Phillip arrived; on the 1st of July, John was found floating in the River Ave that runs alongside the town. He’d been on a hunting expedition with his guardsmen. Some consider his death to be a tragic accident of drowning, some are deeply suspicious. The guardsmen who accompanied John vehemently deny that they saw what happened, claiming that their Lord had ridden far ahead of then and been lost from sight for a substantial period of time. Although no marks of foul play were found on the body, bandits are roaming the woods – men who have returned home from the French wars, with no lands and no allegiances.
John’s Sisters Lady Margaret and Lady Anne Clifford, mourn the loss of their brother. Lady Anne is particularly protective of the baby William, and is a fierce defender of the family honour. Lady Margaret is a far more pious sister and far more restrained in her affection to the young heir.
Sir Andy of Bewcastle, and a local Bishop have been sent to the Castle to represent the King’s justice and investigate the death of John Clifford. They will also enact the last will and testament of the Lords Clifford and ensure that a peaceful transition of the lands and titles is accorded to Lord Clifford’s rightful heir.
Lord Bewcastle is a retainer of Thomas Neville and has bought his wife with him. A woman famed for her ambition.
The Bishop has been accompanied by a group of pilgrims and a newly found holy relic found in Yorkshire. The relic is already gaining a reputation for it's miraculous powers.
The sisters Clifford are holding a feast to welcome all those guests and their servants to Skipton on the 20th of July.
Sir Andrew of Bewcastle began rounding up the day’s events. Although the baby William was suspected to be illegitimate, there was no evidence other than idle gossip to prove this. Despite protestation from Lady Emma of Bewcastle, it was agreed that the Castle would be put into trust and the matter decided by the King. If this had happened, Sir Andrew was aware that Custodianship of the Castle would then be given to himself and Lady Emma.
However, Lady Anne Clifford created a surprising turn of events. The castle steward had been seen giving papers to Sir Andrew. Lady Anne had received these in turn. The papers had been found in the rooms of Signuer Philippe de Fillopp and included a coded message from the Duke of Burgandy, a crudely drawn map of England a list of names. Lady Anne revealed that the list of names, were those of Yorkist supporters. At this point, the household steward stepped forward. The list in Lady Anne’s possession, was shorter than the list he had given Sir Andrew! Lady Anne revealed that Sir Andrew was also a Yorkist supporter, and Signuer Philippe de Filloppe a Burgundinan spy. As his life was threatened, Signuer Philippe revealed that Sir Andrew had given him the list of names. Lady Anne demanded that both Yorkist supporters were escorted to the dungeons.
Lady Margaret, a pious woman, had wrongly assumed she would inherit Skipton and its Lands if William be proved illegitimate, had pre-emptively bequeathed some of them to the Church, had settled her differences with her sister Lady Anne. As the family name is most important, Lady Anne had agreed that the lands would be given to the Church and Lady Margaret would take vows to become a Sister. As William was suspected to be illegitimate, Lady Anne would have him raised in the Castle, before he too, would take holy vows and go to the church as a young man. Lady Anne intended to marry and have children of her own, preserving the Clifford name and so took control of the Castle.
So, how did the Bishop die? As revealed by the assistant Cooks earlier in the day, the Bishop had popped down to the Kitchens late at night and taken a few snacks with him to bed. This included a handful of Pistachio nuts. Pistachio nuts were new to the British Isles, and the Bishop would not have known he was allergic to them, until it was too late. The shells had fallen from the table and through cracks in the floor.
Other points of interest:
Lady Anne was well aware that baby William was illegitimate, as she had covered up the late Lady Margaret Clifford’s affair! Of course, she would never reveal such things, as it would disgrace the family name.
Guardsman Ferret and both Assistant Cooks were secretly the leaders of a group of bandits. They had infiltrated the Castle a few weeks before, their followers, disguised as Pilgrims and carrying a ridiculous and freshly made holy relic, were to join them later. Their aim, was to rob the castle blind throughout the day. They were pleased that so many members of nobility were present on the day they had chosen to carry out their rouse.
The bishop had been found dead, poisoned by belladonna, a substance found in the belongings of Guardsman Ferret and the castle Scribe. Sir Andrew of Bewcastle had protested from the outset that this had been far too convenient and his commitment to finding justice for the murdered bishop paid dividends. At the close of the day, the steward revealed that the baby William, was no son of the late Lady Margaret. The Captain of the Guard was also aware, that Lady Margaret had passed from sweating sickness, and not from childbirth. Lord John Clifford had arranged for a son of his, borne of another woman, to be passed off as the child of Margaret. The Castle steward revealed that he had told the Bishop this news, in the presence of Lady Anne. With motive to preserve the family name, Lady Anne had taken the Bishop wine upon his retiring to bed. The cup, laced with belladonna had finished him. Lady Anne had then commanded the nursemaid to plant the deadly poison in the belongings of both the Scribe and Guardsman Ferrett. She was escorted from the main hall and to the dungeons for her crimes.
The murder of John Clifford was also revealed. Guardsman Cook had learnt of his wife’s affair with the young lord. He had abandoned his post and waited for John to follow his usual hunting path. He had pulled Lord Clifford from his horse and drowned him in the river. Guardsman Cook was also lead away to be punished for his crimes