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An excerpt from

Ursula & Bandares

J. M. Pascoe

In the years between 1642 and 1651 England was in the grips of a civil war, the country was divided in loyalty between the Royalist army who supported King Charles I and the Parliamentarians led by Oliver Cromwell who questioned the ‘Divine right’ of the King who believed he was chosen by God to rule England.

The West Country, specifically Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire where this story takes place were fiercely contested because of their proximity to Oxford, the capital of England from 1642 – 1646 and the home of King Charles I. Both counties were alive with the movement of troops of both the King’s army and the Parliament forces.

The effect of this war is still alive in England today, in the land and the people and the way the Parliament and the Royal Family came to their current arrangement, that established that the monarch cannot rule without Parliament’s consent.

The conflict tore families apart, their loyalties often undisclosed to each other until the found themselves in battle pitted against each other on the blooded battle fields.

It was in one such household that Ursula the servant girl lived. Her mistress, Lady Eloise, was a distant relative of Charles I and unbeknownst to her husband,supported the Royalist cause.

Her husband, Lord Grey was a supporter of the Parliament cause and had no clue his wife was assisting the Royalists. Her dedication to her distant relative, Charles I took the form of smuggling prominent Royalists at risk of capture and assisting them in their passage to Oxford.

Ursula an innocent to the complications of the political landscape around her was only certain of one thing, her loyalty to Lady Eloise and as such found herself as many others did acting on behalf of, or as a result of the personal allegiances of others more powerful and influential than themselves.

This is the story of Ursula and her wolfhound, Bandares

Often the loyalties of Ursula lived in the lodge of the grand house with the old butler, Mr. Sedgeborough and his large wolfhound, Bandares. She had been sent to stay with the old butler, a distant relative because... Ursula could not really remember, except she thought her parents were in London and there were so many children... She did remember that and there was not much to eat and a lot of noise and smoke and coughing and crying.

Ursula did not know what her name meant or even if it was unusual. She had not met anyone else called Ursula, but she had not met that many people. Her mother's name was Mary and her father's Robert. She herself was five and a half, almost six years of age and old Mr. Sedgeborough was seventy-five. That was a difference of seventy years - old Mr. Sedgeborough had taught her to count.

The old butler was very slow of movement, he took so long to walk anywhere that he didn't any more. He occasionally rose from his chair by the window to go to the small wooden table in the centre of the one room in which they lived.

Ursula was out most of the day so to her it appeared Mr. Sedgeborough did not move because he was always in the same place when she arrived home in the evening as when she left him in the morning. Her assumption was he remained still all day.

Ursula on the other hand did not stop moving. When she woke in the morning on her small cot in the alcove at the rear of the lodge she had to attend to Bandares immediately. He was taller than Ursula by some inches and when she rested her arm on his shoulder and brought his head in closer to hers, she looked up into his eyes. He was a noble dog who waited patiently, except in the morning when he was impatient for Ursula to open the door. At these times he pressed his nose to the gaps at the bottom of the door to smell the world: the rabbits, the pheasants, the fox trails…