Sunday, March 25, 2012

A (possible) page from the London Gazette: September 1331

by Anne O'Brien

Cheapside Drama

Queen in near-death disaster ...

Today at Cheapside, in the very centre of our fair of London, we expected to celebrate the birth, one year ago, of Edward of Woodstock, the heir to our illustrious King Edward III. Instead we witnessed a drama that could have had fatal results.

Noble Edward
It began with the magnificence of all our King’s celebrations. As we know, Edward enjoys every opportunity to put the royal family on display with extravagant feasts and dressing up. Who can forget his astonishing caperings as a gigantic golden bird to mark the feast of Twelfth Night? He is a master of festivities, warming our hearts with his energy. We wish him long life and every success in his campaigns to subdue the villainous French and bring our lands across the Channel back under our rightful dominion.

England’s Glory
The tournament to celebrate the magnificence of England and England’s King is planned to thrill us over four days. This morning King Edward and his knights, who were intending to participate in the lists and the melee, were arrayed as fierce Tartars from the wild steppes of Muscovy. Clad in sumptuous robes of velvet and damask, lined with rich fur, our brave lads led in procession the most noble and the most beautiful women of the realm, all tricked out in red velvet tunics and white hoods – His Majesty’s own colours. King Edward led his fair sister Eleanor in the procession.

Our Radiant Queen ...
It was planned for our Queen and her damsels, in regal splendour, to watch the display of knightly valour from a wooden gallery constructed for the occasion, all hung about with red and white silk, swagged in banners and pennons. The crowds cheered her and our noble King, as he saluted her in true chivalric manner, and then rode towards the lists. Queen Philippa looked radiant and smiled at her loyal subjects, before seating herself on golden cushions.

Hardly had Chester Herald blown the blast to summon all competitors than a harsh grinding of wood could be heard by all present. The hangings on the Queen’s gallery shivered, the banners dipped and swayed. Before our horrified eyes, without more warning, the whole construction collapsed in a cloud of dust and debris. The cries of the Queen’s damsels made our blood run cold. Knights and servants ran from all sides to rescue our dear Queen. King Edward was the first to be there at Philippa’s side, lifting the wood and canvas from her with his own hands.

The Nation’s Relief
We are delighted to be able to report that Queen Philippa is unharmed, although some of her ladies were seriously injured. The whole country should give thanks in special Masses for her happy restoration to health. King Edward was noticeably overcome at the prospect of his dear wife’s possible injury or even death. An eye-witness reported that he kissed and hugged her when she was capable of standing on her own feet. It was a tender moment and moved our hearts.

Edward’s Fury
Our King was justifiably furious at the shoddy workmanship that caused the gallery to collapse, and demanded to know the workmen involved. His anger was terrible to see. Craftsmanship is not what it used to be! Even the Queen feared for their lives, for we know that our King has a temper when he is roused. If he is challenged, he will face force with force, which we have found to be a good thing in our dealings with the despicable French.

Our Queen’s Bravery
Despite her obvious shock, brave Philippa fell to her knees before her irate husband and begged his mercy for the hapless carpenters since she was not harmed. An eye-witness said she spoke soothing words in his ear. Her tears of compassion melted his anger. Our King lifted her up and promised to have mercy. The crowd cheered at his magnanimity and the Queen’s care for her subjects and for justice. The craftsmen grovelled in the dust in relief, as they should.

The Show goes on!
Reassured of his wife’s escape, in true English character Edward saw to her comfort and then ordered the tournament to proceed as normal. He might be persuaded to spare the carpenters – but a tournament he must have! The French should take note of our King’s determination and mental strength when under pressure.

The nation rejoices at Queen Philippa’s restoration to good health and King Edward’s victory over all comers in the tournament. We give thanks to God.


This may be a fictitious newspaper account, but the events at the Cheapside tournament in 1331 are all true. What an astonishing reign was Edward III's, for colour and for drama.

To read more about the youthful Edward III and Queen Philippa, their struggled to throw off the domination of dowager-queen Isabella and her lover Mortimer, and Edward’s eventual taking power in England, read The Uncrowned Queen, my short story available from Amazon on Kindle on April 9th 2012.
It is a prequel to my novel of Alice Perrers, The King’s Concubine, to be released in May (UK) and June (USA).

Anne O’Brien
Author of Virgin Widow and Devil’s Consort/Queen Defiant.


  1. That was very entertaining. Thank you for sharing! By the way, yesterday I found your book Virgin Widow, translated into Russian (I live in Ukraine) at my local supermarket so now I'm looking forward to reading it :-))

  2. I am delighted that you have discovered Anne Neville in Russian. Happy reading, Farida.


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