Gytha rose from her place beside the brazier and, using her eagle-headed stick, tapped her way to the window. ‘Do not say that to your father, my girl. You will guard your tongue. Remember, you cannot change what is. Fetch me my cloak, Margaret, I’ll greet them both.’
‘How could he marry that woman?’ Thea cried passionately.
Before her grandmother could stop her, she flew from the chamber and down into the yard to greet her father; all efforts at decorum forgotten. Once she had pushed her way through the crowd of retainers and the fawning Bishop Erwald, she ignored the lady standing by his side and threw herself at her father who had just dismounted and hugged him. ‘Father!’ she said. ‘You are here.’
‘Thea; so you are here too. Where is your grandmother?’
‘She is coming, Father.’
Harold glanced at the lady by his side, a woman who was no longer a plain noble widow but now regally dressed in rich ruby colours, her sleeves embroidered with tiny gold dragons. ‘My daughter, Theodora Gytha,’ he said.
‘I know who she is,’ the woman said quietly. ‘But, should a royal princess be greeting her father before such a great company as if she were a common serving girl?’
Thea drew back. She clenched her fists by her side. ‘My lady, I am no common servant. I am a daughter who loves her father and who wishes to speak with him alone.’
‘Come now, Thea, at dinner we shall have much conversation. Your stepmother is correct. You must behave like a princess. Go to your grandmother and tell her I look forward to greeting her. For now, Theodora, my wife and I must rest.’
Feeling her face redden to the colour of her hair, Thea bowed her head and turned back to the abbey palace’s carved open doorway. The bishop was hurrying towards her father with a complete retinue of dark-gowned monks, followed by the countess, cloaked and stretching her arms towards her son. Thea realised that no one would remark the disappearance of one angry girl. Everyone was busy fussing around the king and his new wife – Thea could not bear to name her as queen because, after all, the usurper, Aldgyth, was not anointed and crowned as Aunt Edith had been when she married Uncle Edward. She watched as her father was ushered by the bishop and her grandmother towards the apartments that he would use that night. She heard the bishop’s fawning voice say, ‘My Lord King, may we send you refreshments? Supper will follow Compline.’