Spring came to England, Margaret’s very first. After enjoying a sunny day for Easter mass with the king and queen, Margaret found herself surprised by the constantly changing weather that seemed to move effortlessly between rain, sleet, and the occasional light snow flurries. Taking breakfast with her parents, brother, and sister, Margaret looked to God for help adapting to her new surroundings. As beautiful as Winchester was, it still did not yet feel like home. For one, the city streets were all laid out on a grid, a residual from when the English capital was a Roman city. Though Winchester fell in disrepair after the Romans left, House Wessex restored it to make it one of the finest towns in the south. At just 15 miles north of Southampton, the location was well suited to travel by both land and sea—without the marshy bogs of the Thames to deal with out east.
“Margaret, come quick!” yelled Cristina as Margaret knelt at the altar in her room to pray.
“What’s wrong?” asked Margaret as she crossed herself and rose from her kneeling bench.
“Something’s wrong with father,” cried Cristina.
Margaret took her sister’s hand and followed her to the garden outside. Earl Harold Godwinson of Wessex stood over the figure of what seemed to be a man. Reaching them, Margaret looked down to see her father’s face, “What happened?”
Earl Harold met Margaret’s eyes, “We were talking about his responsibilities as the Ætheling when suddenly he fell down dead.”
Margaret crouched down and touched her father’s cooling face. Touching his neck she felt no pulse, “He’s gone! Just like that!” Margaret rose to her feet, shock and half disbelief filling her. “What do we do now?”
“I will send for some servants to lay him out properly. A priest will come and pray for him. Then we will arrange for his funeral and burial. In a few days the king will make the official declaration making your brother Edgar his new heir, though in truth the Witan has the final say in who assumes the throne. Should the king die this year, it is doubtful the Witan would give the throne to Edgar. He’s too young to even hold a sword, let alone lead our armies against a foreign invasion,” explained Harold.
“Who then will the Witan choose if my brother is too young to rule?” asked Margaret nervously.
“That I think only God knows, Margaret. Perhaps you should ask him?” suggested the earl deceitfully.
“That I shall do,” agreed Margaret as she turned and left, her sister Cristina almost running to catch up with her as she returned to her room.
Closing the door, Cristina eyed her coolly, “Our father dies and all you can think of is the succession? What’s wrong with you, Margaret?”
Margaret paced her bedroom pensively, “What’s wrong with me? Did you at all look at the man? He wants to be king, Cristina. I could hear it in his voice. He is absolutely confident Edgar will never rule England as king. I’m betting if the worst were to happen, this Harold Godwinson would be able to persuade the Witan into choosing him. At least that is what he is preparing to do. Harold is gathering his resources so that no matter what our great uncle wants for the future, he will be in charge. It’s what his father Godwin did. You really think our pious great-uncle handled the day to day administration of his realm? You would have to be either ignorant or stupid or both to believe that.”
“And Queen Edith?” asked Cristina.
“She is the earl’s brother, a daughter of Godwin of Wessex. We must expect her alliance to be stronger with her family than with ours.”
“I hope you are wrong, Margaret. I hope people are kinder and more generous than you give them credit for. I do not think I could live in the world you choose to see. Politics is not for me!”
Margaret hugged her sister, “A sign of what God wants for your life, Cristina. But for mine, I expect affairs of state to continue to be front and centre in my daily life. As much as I think I would like the peace and quiet of a convent, I do not think that is God’s calling for me.”