The Queen is Dead!: Katherine of Aragon dies in 1518

Section CLXI - March 1525
  • France, March 1525
    Louise of Savoy stared down at the crumpled letter the messenger had pressed into her hand earlier that morning, gaping in horror. She blinked, then closed her eyes and stood up. She turned away from the letter, and retreated into her bedchamber, where she knelt before her pre-dieu and slid her rosary blindly from her belt into her hands.

    The cool wooden beads clicked against her fingers as she began to count off Ave Marias and Pater Nosters, a silent prayer coursing through her blood in tandem with the spoken words: “Please God, let it not be true. Let me not have read the letter properly. Please God, let it not be true.”

    Only once she had completed a full rosary of prayer did she stand, her breath calmer, and return to her desk where she had left the letter.

    Pressing her lips together, she picked the single sheet of parchment up again and read it over.

    To her despair, the words were no different on a second reading.

    “Ma chere Maman,

    To inform you of how the rest of my ill-fortune is proceeding, all is lost to me save honour and life, which is safe…”

    Tears sprang to her eyes and she had to push a hand against her mouth to stifle a cry of horror.

    Her boy, her beautiful boy was a prisoner of the Emperor.

    Suddenly, anger coursed through her. Not at Francois, or at the Emperor, but at King Henry of England. If he hadn’t taken Normandy all those years ago; if he hadn’t rubbed salt into the wound by making it abundantly clear that he had plans to gift the very lands he was honour-bound to use as his daughter’s dowry to his second son, Lord Richard, a babe who could scarcely even hold his head up alone, then Francois would never have had anything to prove, to himself, to the Court, to the world. He would never have been stung into crossing the Alps himself. He’d never have been on that battlefield at Pavia and he wouldn’t be languishing in an Imperial prison.

    For an instant, Louise wanted nothing more than to tear the treaty her son had signed with King Henry into a thousand tiny pieces, to repudiate the English Princess as lightly as King Henry had done his side of the agreement. Let him see how he liked to be dishonoured.

    But, as quickly as the impulse had come, it faded. Little though she liked it, she couldn’t afford to alienate the English King now. Not when she needed him to exert influence on the Emperor to get Francois released, or at least to soften the terms of his imprisonment.

    Swallowing hard, Louise reached for quill and ink, intending to craft a missive to London, to appeal for help from the man who would one day be her grandson’s father-in-law.

    She sat at her desk for several long moments, the quill poised in the air.

    Tears welled in her eyes like a fresh wave crashing against the shore, and this time she couldn’t hold it back.

    “Francois! My beautiful Francois!”

    The words escaped her on a guttural howl and she laid her head on her arms and wept as though her heart would break.
    Section CLXII - March 1525
  • Woking Palace, March 1525

    Henry let out a whoop of glee when he heard of Francis’s imprisonment.

    “Sire!” The other men around the council table couldn’t hide their disapproval at his gloating conduct, but he waved them off.

    “Don’t you see? The cockerel will never be able to resist my naming Lord Richard Duke of York and Normandy from an Imperial prison. We must take full advantage of this and present Francis with a fait accompli when he manages to get himself released. Send for the children at once!”

    Then he positively bounded out of the Star Chamber, shouting for Marie, before anyone could say anything against his plans.

    *** *** ***​
    The heralds banged their staves upon the flagstones, hushing the crowd instantly.

    “Their Highnesses the Lord Richard and the Princess Mary!”

    Maria and Dickon, as little Richard had come to be known, advanced down the hall, Maria carefully husbanding her steps to match the faltering ones of her eleven-month-old brother, who clung to her hand to keep himself upright, melting every noblewoman’s heart in the process.

    Henry, beaming with pride, mouthed a thank-you to his eldest daughter as they reached him and then gestured to them to kneel on the velvet cushions before the dais.

    Maria sank down gracefully, her skirts of green damask rustling as they slid into place behind her. She tugged on Dickon’s hand.

    “Do as Papa says, Dickon,” she ordered grandly, all too evidently relishing in being able to play the older sister at an occasion as important as this one.

    There were stifled laughs at her conduct, and even Henry had to fight a smile, as, realising Dickon wasn’t in the mood to kneel just then, he gave up, lifted a hand to still Maria’s protests, and came down to crouch beside his second son.

    Recognising the cue, the Garter King of Arms unrolled the scroll he was holding and announced for all the world to hear, “Lord Richard, it is His Majesty’s very great sovereign pleasure, on this, the 29th day of March in the sixteenth year of his reign, anno domini 1525, to create thee the Duke of York and Normandy.”

    Applause broke out as Henry, having placed the ducal coronet on his son’s golden head, pinned a specially cut-down version of the robes of state around the boy’s shoulders and lifted him up, proclaiming, “Arise, My Lord of York and Normandy!”

    “Papa!” Dickon crowed gleefully, catching at his father’s sleeves and pulling at the bright fabric. He squirmed in his father’s arms, reaching for Henry’s beard, obviously eager to play.

    Hearing the laughter around them, Henry indulged the boy for a few moments, before handing him over to Charles, who stood nearby

    “Hold His Grace for a few minutes, would you, Charles? I have a duty to perform for his sister.”

    “Of course, Your Grace.”

    Charles bowed, settling the wriggling Dickon in his arms as Henry, heedless of the potential slight to his friend’s dignity, turned back to Maria and nodded to the King of Arms.

    “Princess Mary, it is His Majesty’s very great sovereign pleasure, on this, the 29th day of March in the sixteenth year of his reign, anno domini 1525, to create thee the Marchioness of Clarence.”

    Reaching down, Henry took the Countess’s coronet off Maria’s head, and replaced it with a marquisate one, before doing the same with her ermine-trimmed robes.

    “Arise, My Lady Clarence!” He announced, before handing her the scroll proclaiming her new rank and bestowing upon her the kiss of peace.

    Unlike her brother, Maria stood perfectly still throughout, even dipping him a half-curtsy in thanks, before slipping her hand through his arm when he offered it to her.

    Then he took Dickon back from Charles, and the three of them processed out of the hall, preceded by proud trumpeters blowing for all they were worth, proclaiming to all who could hear that Maria and her brothers and sisters were the living embodiment of England’s future.
    Section CLXIII - May 1525
  • Sizergh, May 1525

    Harry paused outside Anne’s lying-in chambers, leaning against the doorjamb to watch her with the children. Two weeks after the birth of their second daughter, Philippa, or Pippa, as little Kitty had christened her, finding the longer version difficult to say, Anne had regained much of her energy, and seemed to thrive on having the children bounce around her.

    It was the hour of Maggie’s morning nap, but even as Harry watched, Anne laid a gurgling Pippa in the cradle at her side and let Kitty clamber on to the bed to nestle against her. She slipped her arm around the little girl, patting her boisterous blonde curls affectionately, before beckoning to Charles.

    “Right, young sir. Time for your French lesson. Bring me Lefèvre’s book and read some to me. We’ll see how you’re getting on.”

    “Yes, Cousin Anne,” Charles said obediently, before crossing to, to Harry’s astonishment, Anne’s clothes press, and retrieving a small leather-bound book.

    “Where had we got to? Acts, wasn’t it?” Anne asked softly, so softly Harry had to strain to hear her.

    Charles nodded quickly, opened the book and began to read in halting French.

    “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability…”

    “Is that Lefèvre’s New Testament?!” Harry sprang forward into the room before he even realised he was doing it. He snatched the book out of Charles’s hand and spun to face his wife, who, though she flushed, met his eye steadily.

    “Is there a better book to teach Charles French out of than the Scriptures?”

    Temper rose in Harry at Anne’s words and he had to fight to control it as he looked back at Charles, who stared up at him wide-eyed,

    “Take Kitty and Pippa and go and find your nurses, please, Charles.”

    “Yes, cousin Henry,” Charles muttered, quickly picking up Pippa, who was suddenly grizzling, as though she could sense the tension blooming between her parents, and shepherding his sister out of the room. Harry shut the door behind him and then stalked back to the bed, staring down at Anne for several long seconds.

    “Have you taken leave of your senses?!”

    “Why do you say that?” Anne blinked up at him and reached out imploringly, “Harry, you know Madame Marguerite gave that book to me…”

    “Yes, and you know the King sees that tome as heretical!” Harry cut her off, almost flinging himself back out of her reach. As much as he hated to upset her when she was still lying-in, he knew he had to impress upon her how dangerous what she was doing was, and he wouldn’t be able to do that if they were close enough for her to be physically affectionate with him. God help him, but he could never be harsh with her when she was being physically affectionate, “You heard him ranting about the spread of Luther’s ideas only the last time we were at Court. If he knew you had that book…”

    “I wouldn’t be so sure. Lord Hastings protects the religious exiles who flee to Normandy. You think the King doesn’t know about that? He doesn’t seem to be doing anything about that, so why would he mind my reading Lefèvre’s…”

    “Protecting the religious exiles who flee Francis’s Court is one thing. It’s about proving his power on the Continent as much as anything. But to know that the heresy – because, yes, Anne, that is what he sees it as, has spread to his own Court, his own inner circle? That would be a whole other kettle of fish and you know it. Christ, Anne, it’s scarcely a year and a half since we were allowed home, and you want to risk that favour already by brazenly showing a forbidden book to a child barely seven years old? In front of his four-year-old sister, no less? If either of them accidentally told the wrong person… I’m not even sure Marie could protect you, if I’m honest!”

    “And why should it be forbidden?” Anne flashed back, “Why shouldn’t I show it to Charles? Am I not teaching him the Word of God alongside his French, if I use this book for his lessons? We both read the Scriptures in Greek and Latin. Why should reading them in French be any different? Does it not improve our understanding of the Word of God, deepen our relationship with Christ, if we can read the Bible for ourselves, in our own tongues?”

    “Debate the theology all you like, Anne, but that is the law as it stands and I am trying to protect you! From our own tenants as much as anything. Do you realise how conservative the people of Lancashire are? And those of Northumberland? God, my own grandfather was killed by a rioting mob because he betrayed the House of York at Bosworth. Four years after the fact! That’s how long their memories are! Do you really think they’d take kindly to realising that their future Countess has heretical sympathies?”

    Harry exhaled exasperatedly, and ran a frustrated hand through his hair.

    “If it were up to me, we’d burn that book here and now, but God forgive me, I can’t do that to you. Not when I know how much Madame Marguerite means to you and how much you treasure every gift she has ever given you. But showing it to the children stops now. Read it yourself if you must, but never show it to any of the children again, am I clear?”

    Anne’s eyes filled with tears at the harshness in Harry’s voice. He’d never raised his voice to her. Not once. Not in over three years of marriage.

    “Harry, please…”

    “No, Anne. Not this time. If I ever catch you showing that book to anyone again, it is going on the fire. I mean it. What you choose to do is a matter for your own conscience, I know I have no control over the way you think, or what you believe, but don’t, for the love of God, get anyone else embroiled in all this.”

    Trembling with fury, Harry stormed to the door and wrenched it open. He was gone before Anne could say another word.

    All the same, it wasn’t until much later that evening that she realised just how irate he truly was. For the first time, he didn’t stop in her room on the way up to bed to wish her goodnight.
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    Section CLXIV - July 1525
  • Eltham, July 1525
    Rise and shine, Lady Jacquetta,” Lady Bryan called merrily as she entered the little girl’s bedchamber and began to draw the curtains of her four-poster. As she did so, she noted the bedchamber seemed unusually quiet, but dismissed her concerns. Of course the room was quieter than normal. Caitlin and Jackie, as their family called them, usually shared a room, but the younger girl had been unusually sleepy and hot in the last few days, so, given the delicate state of her general health, the two Lady Governesses had deemed it wise to separate her from the other children until they were sure her temperature was nothing serious. Lady Bryan did feel somewhat sorry for Lady Salisbury, as the new arrangements meant that her colleague had more or less sole charge of four royal children, three of whom were under the age of five, and their companions, but then, the other woman had agreed to it, and Lionel was in Sir Henry's charge for much of the day anyway. Besides, Lady Willoughby was a capable assistant whenever the need arose.

    “Rise and shine, Lady Jacquetta,” she repeated, “I’ve got some lovely berries and cream here for you to break your fast.”

    She wouldn’t normally have treated the toddler to such a rich breakfast, but the little girl had also been off her food and complaining that her throat hurt for a day or two, so Lady Bryan was hoping that the unusual sweet breakfast might tempt her to eat something for a change.

    There was soft, sleepy moaning from the bed, and with a chuckle, Lady Bryan laid the bowl and spoon down on the clothes press and turned to bend over Jacquetta and coax her awake. The youngest Tudor had always been the hardest of her siblings, both to settle to sleep in the first place, and to rouse once she was finally asleep.

    She put her hand on the little girl’s cheek, meaning to tap it lightly to get her attention…and started.

    The child was glowing with heat.

    Alarmed, Lady Bryan pulled the blankets back and lifted the girl out of bed on to her knee. She ran her hands over the child’s face and neck, grimacing as she felt the large swellings below Jacquetta’s ears.

    Jacquetta wasn’t keen on her touching them either, flinching away from her governess’s touch and moaning in pain as soon as her fingers so much as brushed against them.

    “Well, Lady Jacquetta,” Lady Bryan said at last, keeping her tone bracing, “It’s a good job we kept you apart from your brothers and sisters, isn’t it? I think you might be in solitary confinement for a while longer yet.”

    Then she tucked Jacquetta back into bed and turned towards the door, opening it only far enough to call out to one of the passing maids, “Blanche? Fetch me some cloths and some cool water. And tell Lady Salisbury she’d better write to the King and Queen. The Lady Jacquetta is sicker than I’d hoped she might be.”

    Blanche’s eyes widened and she went almost as white as her name before bobbing a graceless curtsy, “Yes, Lady Bryan!”

    She scurried off, and was back shortly after, bearing the wished-for items, “Lady Salisbury wishes to know what she should tell Their Majesties of the Lady Jacquetta’s condition and wonders whether we should send for Dr Linacre,” she informed Lady Bryan, as she handed her the cloths.

    “Tell Lady Salisbury I suspect it is mumps. If I’m right, there will be little Dr Linacre can do for Lady Jacquetta that we can’t do ourselves. If I am not…” Lady Bryan trailed off, before being unable to stop the words leaping to her lips, “If I am wrong, then God have Mercy on us all.”
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    Section CLXV - July 1525
  • Castle Rising – July 1525

    Marie felt her heart drop into her boots as she read Lady Salisbury’s message. Mumps. Jackie had mumps.

    Her hand flew to her mouth and she felt tears pricking at her eyelids.

    Oh, she knew what her mother would say, were she here: that she shouldn’t worry, mumps was a common illness, most children got it and lived to tell the tale, that both she and George had had it has children without any lasting damage and that Lady Bryan and Lady Salisbury were consummate nurses, that they’d see Jackie through this without batting an eyelid.

    Marie knew all that, but, still, she couldn’t help but worry. She’d had mumps, yes, but she’d been five, much older and stronger than her darling little daughter. And Jackie had always been delicate. Oh, Lady Bryan and Lady Salisbury had never outright said as much, but Marie could tell, just from how much more slowly her youngest daughter had grown, compared to Lionel, Maria, or even William. Not all of that could be put down to her being a triplet, not when Dickon and Caitlin seemed to outstrip her in terms of growth within weeks.

    A wave of helplessness washed over Marie. She couldn’t go to Eltham. Not now, not from Norfolk. It was too far. By the time she’d arranged for her household to leave and travelled all the way down there, it would most likely be too late.

    She glanced out of the window of her solar, wondering once again why her husband had decided to stop at Castle Rising, of all places. Oh, she knew Henry liked it, because it was close to his sister’s home at Bradgate and because the hunting was good, but right then, the bleakness of its setting in the Norfolk Fens seemed almost too gloomy for words.

    Marie pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes, willing herself not to cry. She was a Queen, Queens didn’t cry, not over something as commonplace as a child’s illness.

    And then, as suddenly as a bolt from God, it came to her. Queens didn’t cry, but they did go on pilgrimage. And the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was no more than twenty miles from Castle Rising. It wouldn’t be more than a day’s ride. Henry would never stop her going there, not when she told him the reason why. Why, perhaps her sister Mary would even come with her, given Anne was still at Sizergh recovering from little Pippa’s birth.

    Spine stiffened with her new-found resolve, Marie tightened her fingers on Lady Salisbury’s letter and went in search of her husband and sister-in-law.

    *** *** ***​
    The Holy House was remarkably empty as Marie and Mary entered, crossed themselves, genuflected, and then knelt before the images of the Holy Family.

    On any other occasion, Marie would have felt awkward about the fact that the brothers had clearly asked other pilgrims to stay away so that she might pray for her daughter in peace, but, just then, she was too focused on Jackie to think anything of it.

    She felt Mary place a gentle hand on her shoulder and heard her begin the Hail Mary.

    “Hail Mary, full of grace…”

    “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…,” Marie melded her voice with that of her sister-in-law, before lapsing off into her own silent prayer,

    “Mother of God, protect my Jacquetta. Please, I beg you. Do not take her to join the other infants in your train, as you have taken so many of her older siblings. As you took my William. Please, only let her live and I swear to you I’ll dedicate her to the Lord myself, as soon as she comes of age. I’ll place her with the nuns at Syon, as her great-aunt Bridget was once placed. She can be your son’s bride for as long as she lives, if you’ll only intercede to spare her life. Please. I beg you. Please.”

    The minutes blended into hours, the words into one great soundless plea for the Virgin’s grace, yet Marie stayed where she was, pinned to the spot by the desperation of her need to save her daughter. At last, just as the sun began to set, a great swell of peace, unlooked for, but no less welcome for all that, washed over her.

    “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”. The promise laid out in Matthew’s gospel rang in her ears, and she rose to her feet, nodding to her sister-in-law to rise with her. She couldn’t explain why, but all of a sudden, she was utterly convinced that the Lord had accepted her bargain – that Jackie would be fine.
    Section CLXVI - July 1525
  • Eltham, July 1525

    Lady Norreys entered Jacquetta’s bedchamber, bowl of water and cloths in hand, expecting to see the toddler tossing and turning feverishly, as she’d been doing for almost a week, far longer than any child of her age normally did, particularly one as frail as Jacquetta. The room, however, was still and silent.

    Her hand flew to her mouth, cloths scattering everywhere. Her heart thumped.

    “No, God, please, no.” Scarcely daring to breathe, she set the water down carefully, oh, so carefully and then, caution to the winds, hurried to Jacquetta. She reached over, tears already pricking in her eyes, to close the little girl’s eyes… only to realise that the toddler’s chest was still rising and falling rhythmically.

    She blinked. Was desperation making her see things that weren’t there? But no, even after she turned away from the bed and looked again, Lady Jacquetta’s chest was still rising and falling.

    With a trembling hand, she brushed the tiny girl’s forehead. It was cool to the touch, if still damp with sweat. It was cool.

    “Lady Bryan! Lady Bryan!”

    Lady Norreys tumbled from the room, shouting for her superior.

    The other woman met her halfway down the passage, panic flaring in her eyes.

    “What is it? Is Her Highness -”

    “No, no! It’s all right! It’s all right! Her Highness’s fever’s broken, and the swellings have gone down as well. They’re not gone, but they’re better than they were. Lady Jacquetta’s going to live! She’s going to live!”

    “Are you sure? Mary, are you sure?” Lady Bryan gripped her arms fiercely, looking her in the eye.

    “As sure as I’m standing here now!” Lady Norreys nodded, and Lady Bryan fairly thrust her aside as she rushed into Jacquetta’s bedchamber to see for herself.

    Falling to her knees beside the bed, she felt Jacquetta’s forehead, her heart missing a beat as she realised it was indeed cool to the touch.

    “Oh, my little lady. Do you realise what a miracle this is?” she whispered, before crossing herself and rising to look Lady Norreys in the eye.

    “Tell the Chaplain I want a Te Deum sung at once, and tell Lady Salisbury to write to Their Majesties with the happy news. I’ll go and wash and change my gown, and then I’ll tell Princess Mary, Lady Katharine and Lord Richard. Oh, and send someone to find Sir Henry so he can tell Prince Lionel."

    “Yes, Lady Bryan,” Lady Norreys curtsied and scurried off. Lady Bryan paused for a moment to drop a kiss on the sleeping toddler’s forehead, and then followed suit, leaving the door ajar behind her so that the household could hear if Lady Jacquetta woke.

    *** *** ***
    The Grim Reaper might have seen fit to leave Lady Jacquetta behind him this time, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t exacted a price at all. As the days following the joyful realisation that the youngest royal would live passed, Lady Bryan noted that Jacquetta was suddenly a far better sleeper than she’d ever been, much less likely to wake and startle at the slightest noise. She might have put it down to the little girl still shaking off her illness, but one day Maria came to her in tears.

    “Jackie’s ignoring me, Lady Bryan!”

    “What do you mean, Your Highness? Lady Jacquetta’s only little. I’m sure she doesn’t mean to ignore you.”

    “She is! Meg and Kate and I were playing with the babies, helping them walk, and she never answered when I called her. Caitlin and Dickon came running across when I clapped and called them, but Jackie never even looked at me. Not even when I called her name really loudly!”

    A frisson of fear went down Lady Bryan’s spine at that, but she did her best to hide it, fighting to keep her voice calm as she said, “Show me.”

    Maria ran off eagerly and Lady Bryan followed, nodding briefly at Lady Margaret and Mistress Kate, who stood in the solar, each of them holding a toddler by the hand, their eyes wide.

    “Jackie! Jackie!” Maria called her younger sister’s name, but the toddler, engrossed in the poppet she was playing with, never even looked up.

    “She’s probably just busy with her own game, Princess,” Lady Bryan aimed to be reassuring, but Maria shook her head, “It’s not just today, Lady Bryan. She never responds to anyone calling her. She hasn’t since she got ill. Haven’t you noticed? It’s as if she can’t hear us!”

    “What did you just say, Your Highness?” Lady Bryan froze, kneeling beside Maria.

    “I said it’s as if Jackie can’t hear us. Why?”

    Lady Bryan didn’t reply, only held up a hand. “I’m going to try something.”

    Crossing the room, she crouched down in front of Jacquetta and clapped her hands briskly in front of the little girl’s face. Any one of Jacquetta’s siblings would have cried at being startled like that at her age, even the bold Lionel, but Jacquetta didn’t even flinch.

    Lady Bryan looked up at Maria, who was watching keenly, unconsciously worrying her bottom lip as she stood there, her gaze fixed on her baby sister.

    “I need you to go and find Lady Salisbury, Your Highness,” she instructed, fighting to keep her voice steady, “Tell her she needs to write and ask your father to send Dr Linacre as soon as he possibly can.”

    Maria’s face drained of colour, “Dr Linacre? Is Jackie all right?”

    “I think there might be something wrong with her ears, but I’m not sure. Dr Linacre might be able to tell us more. Now, go, please?”

    Maria didn’t need telling a third time. She picked up her skirts and ran.
    Section CLXVII - August 1525
  • Bradgate, August 1525
    To Their Gracious Majesties, King Henry and Queen Marie,

    I write this letter in haste, knowing as I do how eagerly Your Graces will be waiting for news of the Lady Jacquetta and her condition. I am delighted to say that, as Lady Salisbury has no doubt already informed Your Majesties, we need have no more fear for the Lady Jacquetta’s life. Her Highness is strong and fair as I’ve ever seen her.

    It grieves me however, to have to write that while the Grim Reaper stayed his scythe, he extracted the Lady Jacquetta’s hearing as his toll for letting her go. No matter what examination I did, Her Highness was immune to them all. As of this present moment, the Lady Jacquetta cannot hear a thing.

    Of course, nothing is beyond the powers of Almighty God, so it is possible that time and grace will heal the damage that has been wreaked on Her Highness’s ears by her illness. To that end, with Your Majesties’ permission, I will examine the Lady Jacquetta again when the royal children come to Court for Christmas. However, I must admit that I fear that for Her Highness to recover her hearing would be nothing short of a miracle akin to the healing of the deaf man in the Gospel of Mark. As far as my human, professional powers go, it is out of my hands. I send my humblest prayers and apologies for this bitter news and remain, as ever, Your Grace’s most humble servant…

    Marie looked up from the letter her husband had handed her. She felt her lips press together and she swallowed hard, trying to sort through her muddle of emotions. She knew they were lucky to have Jackie at all. The mumps could so easily have taken their frail youngest daughter from them. But to know that it was more than likely that their fifteen-month-old daughter would likely never hear again – and therefore would also likely struggle to learn to speak, given that children learn by copying what they heard around them – well, that was a blow as bitter as any gall.

    “I suppose Jackie’s hearing was a small price to pay, given we had all but given her up for dead,” she managed at last, though her voice cracked and it was only with an effort that she finished her sentence.

    Grim-faced, Henry nodded, squeezing her arm silently.

    “We’ll struggle to find a groom for her. No country is going to want a deaf or dumb Queen.”

    The words would have sounded callous to anyone who didn’t know Henry as well as Marie did. Indeed, had it been earlier in their marriage, she too might have struggled with his cold assessment of the matter. But, with a full five years of marriage behind her, she was able to look past the blunt words to the tension in his shoulders, to the grey cast to his features and see just how much Dr Linacre’s letter had affected him too. Jacquetta was his child too. No doubt he’d sworn the same silent oaths to protect her as she had. But even the greatest King on earth couldn’t protect those he loved from the dread of disease.

    “Then it’s probably just as well I swore an oath to give her to the Bridgettines at Syon.”

    Marie heard her voice ring hollow and knew that, like her husband, she was focusing on the practical, because she couldn’t bear to think of the full implications of Dr Linacre’s letter.

    Henry’s head snapped up, “You did what?”

    “I bargained with the Lord. I said I’d send Jackie to Syon like your aunt Bridget if He let her live. I didn’t actually think He’d listen, but…” Marie trailed off as Henry’s face clouded. She braced herself for an explosion of fury – how dare she decide Jackie’s future without speaking to him, etc, but it never came.

    When she dared to look up at her husband again, he was staring at her, shock written all over his face.

    “Henry…” she began, but he shook his head and opened his arms to her.

    “Not today, sweetheart. Not today.”

    For a moment, Marie feared he was only stifling his anger, but he wrapped his arms around her and bent his head to kiss the crown of hers, she felt herself relax. Henry had never been able to hide his emotions. He wouldn’t embrace her like this if he was truly angry about the fact that she’d sworn to give Jacquetta to the Church without consulting him. At least, she didn’t think he would. Swallowing hard, she let him pull her up against him and the two of them stood together, stealing what solitude and comfort they could as they fought to come to terms with their youngest daughter’s suddenly very different future.
    Section CLXVIII - 1526
  • Right, time for something a little different: 1526 in a series of letters.

    31st January 1526
    “Dearest Margaret,

    As I’m sure you’re already aware, the New Year brought bad news for our dear brother. Dr Linacre examined little Jacquetta again and pronounced the hearing loss she sustained through her illness last summer to be permanent. It is true the news was all but expected – Lady Bryan’s reports had given no hint of any improvement in her condition, but still, to know that our youngest niece will never hear again is a bitter blow. Particularly with her being so young. She hadn’t spoken much more than a word or two before the illness, and now it may be unlikely she ever will, if she can’t hear and copy her brothers and sisters.

    Harry and Marie are putting a brave face on it – these things are in the hand of God, after all, and they know they were lucky not to lose her outright, but despite their bold proclamations about Jacquetta’s hearing, and perhaps her speech, being a small price to pay for her life, I know it eats away at them both. The light has gone out of Marie’s eyes when she looks at her youngest, and Harry has barely seen the girl since Linacre’s diagnosis.

    But tomorrow is St Bridget’s Day, and Marie and I are to ride to Syon so that she can swear an oath before the Abbess that she will one day pledge Jacquetta to the house to take the vows of a bride of Christ. I only hope that having the little girl’s future secured, and beginning to fulfil the bargain she made with the Lord in exchange for Jacquetta’s life will begin to ease Marie’s mind and heart, if not our brother’s.

    But enough of such gloomy talk. I went to Eltham to see Maria, Lionel and Meg last week. Meg is shooting up like a weed and growing ever more beautiful. When are you coming south again, sister? If you don’t see your daughter soon, you’ll never recognise her! I swear she’s half a woman already, for all she’s only ten years old. But then she is a Tudor in all but name. Our women have always been precocious, haven’t they?

    In other news, I hear Albany is using all his influence for you in Rome. I can’t say I understand why you should wish to unyoke yourself from Lord Angus. He may be a fool and a war-mongering one at that, but at least you know him. You chose him. If you are to be tied to a man in the divine sacrament of marriage, is not better to be tied to one you have chosen than a stranger? You and I are lucky, sister. We both got to choose our husbands, at least the second time around, and that, for women of royal blood, is a gift not to be thrown away lightly…But you are my sister, my only trueborn sister, and so, for that alone, I will wish you well in your pleas to Rome, though I warn you now Harry may not be so accommodating.

    I am, as ever, your devoted sister,


    25th March 1526


    It is Lady Day, and as such, I do my duty as your wife and enclose the accounts for the Quarter, since they require your signature. But then, I can’t imagine you care for them particularly, do you, my Lord Lovell? Heavens knows you’ve always been happier as a soldier, jumping to do the King’s bidding every time he so much as clicks his fingers, than doing your duty by your wife and your tenants.

    I would ask when you are coming home, but they say the King of France has signed a treaty with the Emperor and negotiated his release at last, so no doubt you’ll stay put in Normandy for a while longer, bolstering defences abroad while your people need you. I’d expect nothing less from an upstart like you, who doesn’t know any better.

    Duty requires that I pray for you, so I trust this letter finds you in good health.

    I remain, as ever,

    Lady Mary Lovell nee Talbot.

    12th June 1526

    To my right beloved brother, King Henry of England,

    I beseech you, brother, despite your reluctance to countenance my wish to divorce Lord Angus, help me. My husband – and how I wish I didn’t have to call him that, will the wheels of Rome never stop grinding? – has control of my son, and therefore of Scotland. By the terms of the agreement struck by the Regency Council, he ought to hand James over to Lord Arran at the beginning of next month, but I fear he will not. He’s too fond of unbridled power for that. I intend to ask the Scotts for help in springing James from Angus’s trap, but I fear that alone, they won’t be able to stand against Lord Angus and the Kerrs.

    Hence, I send Sir Walter to you, pleading for your support. Give us the men we need to stand against Angus and free my son. He is a King of fourteen summers, he should not be a prisoner, particularly not of an arrogant toerag like Angus. Or, if you will not do that, at least write and put pressure on Angus to release my son. I doubt even Angus would be able to withstand international censure for long. I swear to you, in return, the moment my son is free, I shall start working for a match between him and your daughter the Lady Katharine. Wouldn’t you like to see her Queen of Scots one day, as I was before her?

    I remain, as ever,

    Your sister, Queen Margaret of Scots

    30th July 1526

    My dearest brother,

    I shall never be able to thank you enough. James is free!! I write in haste from Stirling, whence we have retreated in order for James and his new councillors to plan what revenge they shall take against Lord Angus and his forces. Again, I send Sir Walter to you, for he was in the thick of the battle and will know more of any details you may wish to hear. I know how much you loved hearing stories of warfare as a boy.

    Rest assured, I will keep my end of the bargain. Your daughter Lady Katharine will be coronated at my son’s side if I have anything to say about it.

    I am, as ever,

    Your devoted sister,
    Margaret, Queen Dowager of Scots

    27th September 1526

    Dearest Maria,

    How strange it seems to be putting pen to paper for you and not simply looking up to say something to you! But then, we always knew that this day would come, and if I had to choose to start my married life anywhere, Lathom seems a wonderful place to do it. The castle is a fine stone building, situated between two brooks, which Edward says can rush quite beautifully in the winter. Oh, it was a hard ride from Court, I’ll not deny that – I might have been born in Kendal, but I always forget how far north England spreads when I’m down south at Court – but Edward wanted to be back in time to see the last of the harvest gathered in and the sheep brought down off the hills for the winter, and who am I to begrudge my new husband such a thing, when he sacrificed marrying in the chapel his father built for my sake, so that you and Meg and Siobhan and Susie and Nannette and Fanny could be present at my wedding? Thank you, by the way, for the beautiful sapphire and diamond collar you gave me as a gift. I can assure you it will be treasured, not just by me, but by generations of Countesses of Derby.

    The hour grows late and I hear Edward shifting about as though he wishes to retire, so I shall end here. But know that you and all the others at Eltham remain in my thoughts and prayers.

    I am, as always,

    Your Katheryn, Countess of Derby (how beautiful that signature looks, I shall never tire of seeing it on the page…)

    11th December 1526

    Dearest, darling Annie,

    Kathy would strangle me if she knew I was writing this letter, but I felt you deserved to know just why you won’t seeing us at Court this Christmastide. Kathy has just confided in me that she is pregnant again. Less than half a year after she lost the last babe. As such, we are staying put at Raglan for the foreseeable future. I am not risking her condition by travelling. Not this time. Not after three miscarriages in as many years.

    Nor, however, do I plan to make an announcement of Kathy’s condition. At least not until we’re through the dangerous early months and the babe has quickened this time. I have only written to you because I couldn’t imagine keeping a secret like this from you, of all people.

    But, I beg you, little sister, don’t tell anyone. Use your initiative to explain away our absence this Christmastide if you must, but don’t breathe a word. Particularly not to Papa. He’ll only put pressure on Kathy to give Edmund a brother and that I could not bear. She’s already desperate enough.

    I enclose gifts for the children with this letter – and of course, for yourself and Harry as well. Enjoy the season, my darling Annie, and pray to St Margaret of Antioch to intercede for us. Gods Above, we’ll need it, if we’re to get through the next six months.

    Kiss Maggie, Kitty and Pippa for me, and tell Charles I look forward to seeing how much better he can ride when I next see him.

    I am, as ever,

    Your George.

    For anyone who wishes to see Kathy's wedding gift, I am attempting to include it here:

    Kate's wedding gift.jpg
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    Section CLXIX - June 1527
  • Raglan, June 1527

    “Lord Pembroke, you have a daughter.”

    George spun round at the words, his heart catching in his throat.

    “A…a daughter?” he croaked, scarcely daring to breathe.

    It wasn’t that he and Kathy hadn’t intended to have a big family, but six years into their marriage, Edmund remained their only child. Kathy had miscarried early in her second pregnancy only a couple of weeks after Marie had given birth to her miracle triplets – indeed, the physicians had told them to blame that miscarriage on the stress of having to tend the fractious Marie in her confinement and then dance attendance at the endless festivities than followed.

    George had never told his older sister that, of course. She’d only have blamed herself, and what was the point in that? She couldn’t have been expected to know. Indeed, Kathy’s miscarriage had been so early that no one had even known Kathy had been carrying at all, save themselves and perhaps Kathy’s maids, who would have noticed the lack of bloody clouts to wash each month.

    The other miscarriages, in September 1525 and May 1526, had been harder to hide, particularly the September one. Kathy had been further along, and the emotional toll of the disappointed hope had been even more crushing than the first one.

    The situation had not been helped, of course, by his father writing ever increasingly pointed notes from Dublin, hinting that a single son might not be enough to secure the Boleyn legacy and when on earth would George see to doing his duty and providing Edmund with a baby brother?

    By the time Kathy confided in him that she was pregnant for a fifth time, George had begun to lose hope that they ever would. He might be naturally optimistic, but three miscarriages in as many years had sapped him of much of that buoyancy. He’d scarcely been able to bear watching as Kathy swelled, yet again, with his child. He’d spent what felt like most of the six months between Kathy whispering the news in his ear and the midwife’s appearance at his door on his knees in the chapel at Raglan, pleading with God to spare them the disappointment this time, to stop being so cruel as to taint their lives with false hope.

    He’d never quite believed that his prayers might actually have an effect. Not until the faint screaming in the halls above had stopped and the midwife had appeared at his door.

    The portly woman nodded, “Aye, Lord Pembroke, a bonny little lassie. And a hungry one she is too. She came out screaming for the breast and never stopped until we let her latch.”

    George felt his jaw drop. Without quite realising what he was going to do before he did it, he caught the midwife in his arms and kissed her full on the mouth.

    “Mistress Owen, you’re as welcome here as the Angel Gabriel!” He bellowed, before releasing her and whirling for the door.

    He galloped up the stairs two at a time and crashed through the door, startling Kathy and the wet-nurse, though not, he was amused to see, his as yet nameless daughter, who seemed to respond to his rude entrance by suckling all the harder as her wet-nurse yelped and scrambled for a wrap to preserve her modesty.

    George paid the buxom woman no heed, tumbling to his knees beside Kathy’s bed and snatching up her hand to kiss it fervently.

    He couldn’t speak. He didn’t need to speak. The way Kathy’s free hand gripped his dark curls as she ran her fingers through his hair told him well enough that she knew what he was thinking, because she was thinking it too.

    “Matilda,” she whispered huskily, and he glanced up at her, a silent question in his eyes.

    “Matilda,” she repeated, “Our daughter’s a warrior. She’s proved that by living where her siblings have died in the womb. So, let’s name her for a warrior’s Queen. Let’s name her Matilda.”

    No sooner had George understood what Kathy meant than the name seemed so perfect for their little girl that he couldn’t think of any other. He glanced over to where the wet-nurse still perched on the window seat, seeming to sway slightly with the force of their daughter’s hunger, before looking back at Kathy, nodding.

    “Lady Matilda Boleyn. Lady Matilda of Pembroke. It’s perfect, love.”

    Then he rose and kissed her properly, holding her silently in his arms until, exhausted from the birth, she had drifted off to sleep.
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    Section CLXX - June 1527
  • Kenilworth, June 1527

    Henry was alarmed to find Marie crying when he entered her rooms.

    “Darling! What is it?” In two strides, he was at her side, cupping her chin in his hand so that she had no choice but to lift a tear-stained face to his.

    “I – I…” she started, before giving up and simply burying her face in his shoulder, sobbing.

    “Tom told me you’d had Dr Linacre come to look at you. And Mrs Tufnell. You’re not ill, are you? Do I need to have all the churches in England pray for your recovery?”

    Despite herself, Marie sniffled with laughter at Henry’s characteristically grand gesture, “No, no. Nothing like that.”

    “Then what is it?”

    “I – I’ll never have another child, Henry!”

    Suddenly, the dreaded words came easily, borne on a torrent of grief and pain. Henry stiffened.

    “Who told you that? I’ll have them hanged for ill-wishing their Queen!”

    “It’s not ill-wishing if it’s true,” Marie sighed, putting aside her own grief to lay a calming hand on her husband’s shoulder, “You’re right, I did have Dr Linacre come to look at me. I quickened so easily before the triplets were born, and yet I haven’t fallen with child since. I was beginning to worry that something was wrong anyway, but George’s delightful news of Lady Matilda’s safe arrival just made it worse. I couldn’t bear it any longer, so I asked him to examine me this morning, just to put my own mind at rest. Sir Thomas said….he said…,” Marie’s voice broke and she had to grit her teeth against a fresh wave of tears, making a visible effort to control herself, before she could continue, “He said the triplets’ birth had damaged me, that I’ll likely never fall with child again, and even if I do, I’ll never carry the child to term.”

    The admission, aired in the room like that, sounded so bleak, so final, that Marie couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. For a few moments, she wept, her soft tears the only sound in the room. Henry cradled her in his arms, rocking her gently until she stilled and looked up at him, blushing.

    “I’m sorry.”

    “Sorry? What have you got to be sorry for? You’ve done all I could have asked you for and more. You’ve given me a Prince of Wales, you’ve given me a Duke of York, and two bonny girls into the bargain. England is safe thanks to you. It’s safe, do you hear me? And anyway, Linacre’s been wrong before. He told me, when – when William was born - that it was taking so long, I should prepare myself to have to choose between you and the child. I refused. I couldn’t believe that God would be so cruel as to take two Queens from me in childbirth, as well as my mother. And I was right, was I not? You both came through it safe and well. He’ll be wrong about this too, you’ll see. We’ll keep trying. We’ll keep trying and, the Lord willing, we’ll have a Duke of Somerset yet. Don’t lose hope. Don’t lose hope.”

    He squeezed her lightly and Marie forced a smile to her lips. She wasn’t quite as convinced of the falseness of Linacre’s unwelcome tidings, but she wasn’t going to be the one to tell Henry that. Not when he’d already taken the news far better than he might have done.

    She nodded, "God Willing."

    Then she leaned up and captured Henry's lips softly with her own, silencing any other argument her husband might make as the salt of her tears mingled with the unspoken nuances of their desire for one another.
    Section CLXXI - Ireland, 1528-1529 (Part I)
  • A short burst this time - I'm trying out the history book style, so let me know what you think! More to come on Ireland next chapter!

    "1528 and 1529 are often referred to as the ‘forgotten’ years of Henry VIII’s reign. After all, for historians who focus on the King himself, on his close family, or even the lands he garnered in his conquest of Normandy, not a great deal seems to happen, other than the death of Lord Ormonde of the sweat in June 1528 and the marriage of the thirteen-year-old Lady Margaret Douglas to the fourteen-year-old Francis, Lord Hastings, son and heir of George, 3rd Baron (and 1st Earl) Hastings in November 1528.

    I will limit myself to only a line on Lady Margaret here, since I cover her marriage (and her father-in-law’s subsequent elevation to 1st Earl Hastings) in great depth in both Volume I, ‘Wales and England’ and Volume III, ‘Normandy and France’. Instead, I shall focus on the aftermath of the death of the Earl of Ormonde, which happened at Dublin Castle in June 1528.

    Estranged though Thomas Boleyn might have been from his family and the centres of power, he was a formidable politician, more than able to steer a delicate balance between his loyalty to his son-in-law in London and the practical considerations of having to collude with the Gaelic lords and petty Kings on the ground in the area surrounding the Pale of Dublin. His sudden death of the Sweat, therefore, not only left the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland open for the taking, but also created a power vacuum, one the Gaelic Lords were only too quick to fill. Within six months of his death, Ireland was aflame in open rebellion against its Anglo-French overlords."

    _______ Connor FitzSutton “Taking Root: The first Century of the Tudor dynasty: 1485-1575, Vol II ‘Ireland’”​
    Section CLXXII - Ireland 1528-1531 (II)
  • "Henry VIII lost no time in making moves to suppress what he referred to in a letter to Charles Brandon as the ‘Christmas Rising’. His first move was to write to Pope Clement VII, seeking confirmation of the fact that England held Ireland as a Papal fief. This, he received in the spring of 1529, by which time he had already dispatched Brandon and a force of 5000 men to Dublin, with orders to combine with the supplementary force that Anthony Knivert, Viscount Lovell, was bringing from Normandy, and drive north into Gaelic Ireland to suppress the ‘rebel earls’ as he called Brian Og of Osraige, Conn O’Neil of Tir Eoghain, and Hugh O’Donnell of Tyrconnell.

    Brandon used the same technique of chevauchee that had served the English so well in taking Normandy, sweeping through the country fast and burning what his troops could not use. He knew that the Gaelic were not trained to fight a pitched battle the way his soldiers were, and decided that the best chance he had of forcing the Gaelic Lords into submission was to deny them the fruits of the land they knew and loved so well.

    It was not an easy task. The few dispatches we still have from the era suggest that Brandon and Lord Lovell were barely out of the saddle for two years, harrying the rebels and/or riding through the Pale soliciting support from loyal dynasties such as the Fitzgeralds of Kildare, the Butlers and the Boleyns of Ormonde and Pembroke. Indeed, the new Lord Ormonde himself seems to have fought at the battle of Tawnybrack in County Antrim in 1530, for Lord Lovell’s report declares him to be both ‘valiant’ and ‘grievously wounded’. Unusually, there is no description of the wound, which has led historians to speculate that the Queen’s brother may have been damaged in the more private nether regions, especially when the injury is coupled with the fact that, despite having had five pregnancies in the first six years of her marriage, so far as we know, the Countess of Ormonde and Pembroke failed to fall pregnant after the birth of her daughter Lady Matilda in June 1527.

    By the spring of 1531, King Henry was losing patience. Ireland was becoming a dangerous drain on his resources, especially when he always had to keep one eye on Normandy, for fear King Francis would try to seize the lands he had once lost. Having tried vinegar, he now tried to catch his flies with honey. He sent envoys to O’Donnell and O’Neill, promising them that, if they would only surrender to him, he would grant them back their lands as Earldoms under his sovereignty, sovereignty he had gained a few months earlier by paying the Pope a princely sum equivalent to more than ten years' worth of tithes from the English Church.

    It was a bold gamble, but, as many of Henry VIII’s gambles seem to have done, it paid off. O’Donnell and O’Neill submitted to Brandon, Lovell and Lord Ormonde – as Lord Pembroke was always known in Ireland - in March 1531, before sailing for Westminster and swearing allegiance to Henry VIII, King of England and Ireland, as newly-created Earls at the Easter Court of 1531.

    Without the support of more powerful Gaelic lords, Brian Og’s own rebellion, stoked by his wish to reclaim his ancestral lands from the King’s natural daughter, Lady Grace Fitzroy, fizzled out. He seems to have faded into obscurity after the end of the uprising, for we see him in the records only once more, when he appears at Lord Pembroke’s Michaelmas feast at Raglan in 1533, handing his new-born son, Barnaby, over to Lord Pembroke’s custody as a guarantee of his good behaviour."

    _______Connor FitzSutton “Taking Root: The first Century of the Tudor dynasty: 1485-1575, Vol II ‘Ireland’”​
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    Section CLXXIII - May 1530
  • Windsor, May 1530
    It was a warm May morning and Henry and Marie were revelling in it, lying together in the great bed of state, luxuriating in the warmth of the rays that were spilling through the window of Henry’s chamber. Marie had her head on Henry’s chest, and he was playing with her hair, marvelling at the fact that, even after nine years of marriage, he could still be so entranced by the way her curls moved under his fingers.

    “I had a letter from Sir Henry last night. It seems Lionel is doing marvellously well in his studies, particularly of Latin and Greek. We must have him correspond with the scholars at Cambridge. I hear there’s a new Fellow there who knows the language fluently. A man named Cheke. I’ll write and tell him it would please me mightily if he’d exchange letters with our son to help him improve his knowledge of the classical languages.”

    “That sounds like a wonderful idea,” Marie hummed sleepily, her eyes flickering open as she forced herself to concentrate on what her husband was saying, “My father always insisted that a good education would be of great help to us in whatever the future threw at us. I don’t agree with everything he did in raising George, Anne and myself, but I think he was right in that. I may not have benefited from it as much as my siblings did, but I still think he was right to try. And I agree we should give it to our children too.”

    “Well, I’m sure the Bridgettines will see to giving Jackie an excellent schooling,” Henry smiled down at his wife, alarmed when she grimaced involuntarily.

    “You want to give her to the nuns? Already? Henry, she’s only just turned six. She’s far too young!”

    “Too young? Lionel has been preparing to rule since he was her age!” Henry exclaimed, but when he saw the tears pooling in Marie’s eyes, as she flipped herself over to look up at him, he softened his voice, “Come now, darling, I know you’ve always been protective of her, but we promised her to the church if God saved her and she’s well old enough to start preparing for her future. You know that. It’s not as if she’ll take her full vows for years yet. We can still visit her. She can still come to Court, occasionally.”

    “Not Jackie, please,” Marie begged, catching at Henry’s hand, “Lionel, I understood. He’s our Prince of Wales, he was always going to be more England’s than mine. Dickon, too, needs to go to Normandy as soon as he’s old enough. His people need to get to know him and he needs to know them. I understand that. But not Jackie, please. Let me have her till she’s old enough to marry, at least.”

    When Henry hesitated, she squeezed his hand and locked her gaze with his pleadingly, “I’m not saying I won’t give her to the church. I will. I swore an oath before the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. You know I’ll hold to that. But I’m going to lose Maria to Paris within two years. Don’t make me lose Jackie as well. Not before she’s a woman. Please.”

    Her voice cracked on the last word. The tears swimming in her green-blue eyes threatened to spill over. Henry felt his heart clench. He’d never been able to resist her anything when she felt strongly enough about it to cry; not since the triplets’ birth.

    “You’ll take Jackie to Syon,” he said at last, “You’ll take her to Syon and you’ll both swear an oath that she will return to take the veil as soon as she turns 12, do you hear me?”

    “Yes, Henry! Thank you! Thank you!” Marie fell on top of him, embracing him and kissing him rapturously.

    He chuckled softly and extricated himself from her death grip gently, pushing her away so he could look at her.

    “I’ve been thinking. Marrying Lionel to Beatrice of Portugal is an excellent match, but Dickon needs a good match too. I’ll not have him resenting his brother because one of them gets a Princess and the other simply gets an English girl of good blood. King Christian of Denmark is in exile in the Spanish Netherlands with his son and two daughters. The girls are both only a few years older than Dickon. If we were to make one of them Duchess of York and Normandy and managed to reinstate King Christian on his throne, well, we’d have a very grateful trading partner in the Baltic, wouldn’t we?”

    Marie couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at her husband’s words, “You’d marry our son off to a girl who’s been raised in exile? Who are you and what have you done with my proud husband?”

    “It’s a gamble, I grant you,” Henry said carelessly, “But then, which major gamble of mine hasn’t come off in the last ten years?”

    He winked at her, and she couldn’t help but laugh at his nonchalant confidence. Taking advantage of her distraction, he pulled her down into a kiss. Their lips met, silently sealing the unspoken pact between them: that they were in accord in terms of what they hoped to achieve for each of their children’s futures.
    Section CLXXIV - October 1530
  • Greenwich, October 1530
    “The Marchioness of Lancaster to see you, Your Grace.”

    “Ah, Annie, come in,” Glancing up from sheaves of parchment, Marie waved her younger sister up from her curtsy and over to the table, “I could do with your advice.”

    “What are you trying to do?”

    “Find someone to be Dickon’s tutor in Normandy,” Marie sighed.

    “To be Dickon’s tutor?!” Anne gaped at Marie’s words, “But isn’t that Henry’s job? You know what he always says, sister. You worry about raising Maria, Caitlin and Jackie, and leave Lionel and Dickon to him. Are you not worried he’ll think you’re meddling?”

    “He might, but he seems to think that Lord Hastings can juggle the duties of being Governor of Normandy and my son’s tutor. I’m not quite so sanguine about the matter. I’m sure Lord Hastings is an admirable man and that Dickon will learn a lot from him, but I’m not prepared to leave it entirely up to him. So I want someone else to help with the day-to-day of lessons and such. But of course, the moment there were even whispers that I was looking for someone, I was inundated with begging letters and now I haven’t a clue who to choose, or at least, who to suggest to Henry. Any thoughts?”

    Anne shrugged, “You know Harry would do it in a heartbeat.”

    Marie chuckled, “Loyal though your husband is, we can’t have the Marquis of Lancaster leaving the North to fend for itself for years on end. And you know we have to throw a sop or two to the other families, what with George practically running Wales and Ireland and you and Harry in the North. We can’t be seen to be working off too narrow a power base,” She raised a delicately plucked eyebrow as she spoke and Anne scoffed.

    “You’ve given this country both a Prince of Wales and a Duke of York. I’d say you could get away with anything, Marie. Besides which, George isn’t running Ireland. Young Lord Richmond is Lord Lieutenant there.”

    “Oh yes, because a ten-year-old sharing the school room with my son at Tickhill can really be ruling Ireland,” Marie rolled her eyes at Anne and gestured for her to take a seat.

    Knowing better than to push her luck any further, Anne pulled up a stool opposite her sister and began to shuffle through the sheaves of parchment.

    There was silence for a few moments, before Anne broke it tentatively.

    “What about Sir Edward Seymour?”

    “A Seymour?” Now it was Marie’s turn to look shocked. “When I said I wanted to reach out to another family, I wasn’t necessarily thinking of our greatest rivals! You don’t do things by halves, do you, Annie?!”

    “Old rivalry aside, Sir Edward is clever and able, Marie. And he’s served the King in France before. He was with me in Queen Mary’s household as a boy and then he went over with Lord Suffolk in the war and has been an emissary there numerous times since. He’d be the perfect candidate to help Dickon get used to ruling Normandy, which, despite Lord Hastings’ best efforts, is going to take at least another generation to be thoroughly English.”

    “Well, yes, but… Annie, there are rumours that Sir Edward is a reformer, that he attends clandestine meetings of banned preachers in the city. I’m not saying they’re true, but you know Henry. He’s not going to want anyone whose piety he can’t trust around his sons.”

    “Ned’s pious!” The words had sprung to Anne’s lips before she could stop herself, “Ned only attends those meetings because he truly believes what they’re saying! It’s Thomas who goes because he wants to stir up trouble!”

    “Ned?” Marie was brought up short by her sister’s reaction, “Since when were you on first name terms with Sir Edward Seymour?”

    Anne flushed scarlet and darted her gaze away from her sister’s, but Marie knew Anne well enough to read into her body language. She closed her eyes in horror.

    “Oh no. You don’t! Please. Please don’t tell me you attend these meetings too.”

    “What if I do?” Anne attempted to sound casual, but there was a defiant light in her eyes as she dared to look at Marie again.

    “You’re my sister! What you do reflects on me and therefore on the King! The people you’re mixing with could be seen as heretics, Annie, or as traitors! Do you not think -”

    “Traitors?! How can we be traitors when all we want is the good of England, of all of England’s people?” Anne cut her sister off, dark eyes blazing, “We want to bring Tyndale’s Bible into England, so that every man, woman and child can learn to read the Scriptures for themselves and learn what the faith they profess to follow is really about. Yes, all right, we do think we should break the monopoly of the clergy on salvation, to allow the scriptures to speak for themselves and bring faith back to being a matter of a person’s own belief and works rather than being mediated through others, as God intended it to be, but that does not mean we are traitors! Not a single one of us has ever said a word against the King, and I’d swear that on my soul. My soul, Marie, do you hear me?!”

    The final words rang through the room. Stunned, Marie couldn’t think how to respond. Anne’s chest heaved as she fought to control her temper. Several long seconds passed before she managed to press her lips together and say tightly, “Besides, whatever you may think of the faith I believe, sister, it is a fact that part of the reason Lord Hastings is managing to turn Normandy away from the French sphere so successfully is because he is offering sanctuary to men like Lefevre and his followers.”

    Marie flinched back as Anne spoke. Seeing her sister’s disbelief, the younger woman hissed sourly, “You heard me. The Governor of Normandy is sheltering the very same men you just called heretics. Oh, I doubt he follows their beliefs, but he’s protecting them all the same. And the King is letting him, if only to annoy King Francis. Which means that, whether you and the King like it or not, if Dickon is to be successful as Normandy’s Duke, he is going to have to learn to deal with the reformers. And to do that, he’s got to understand them.”

    Anne turned her back on Marie and stalked to the window. She stood in the embrasure for a moment or two before spinning around.

    She crossed back to the table in a stride and fell to her knees beside Marie, snatching up the older woman’s hand.

    “I am begging you, Marie, for the love you bear me as your sister, get Henry to name Ned as Dickon’s tutor. Give your son a chance. Put the right men at his side and give him a chance.”
    Section CLXXV - April 1531
  • Raglan, April 1531
    “No, not the scarlet, the blue! The blue, you fool! Or no, forget that, the green. The green brings out my eyes and I must look my best when we ride out with my royal aunt and uncle this morning! And where’s my breakfast? I asked for it ages ago!”

    “Your porridge is on its way, Lady Bridget.”

    “Porridge? I don’t want porridge! I want eggs! Eggs, wheat cakes and berries!”

    “But Lady Bridget. You asked for porridge and cream when you woke up this morning.”

    “No, I didn’t, you idiot! Have you gone completely witless? I’d never ask for porridge. I hate porridge!”

    “But Lady Bridget...”

    “Urgh! Mama! The servants are being stupid again! Mama!”

    Bridget slammed out of her bedroom and ran down the hall, shouting for her mother. George heard her go and groaned inwardly. Kathy had never learnt not to indulge the children and Bridget had grown up fractious and irritable. The slightest thing going against her wishes would precipitate a flood of bad temper and insults which culminated in a flight into Kathy’s arms, where she would inevitably be soothed and petted...and bribed into compliance if need be.

    George knew the servants lived in fear of her and wished he’d taken a greater role in her upbringing, one that had started early enough to control her. But he hadn’t. He’d done what his father had done and more or less left the children to Kathy and their nurses until they were old enough to be of some use to him. Unlike his father, however, he hadn’t done it because he saw his children as political bargaining chips more than he saw them as people. Rather, he’d done it because he’d wanted to give Kathy a chance to indulge her more maternal side, a side that had gone almost unassuaged for so long, in those three dark years when every pregnancy had ended in a bed of blood and an aching heart. Edmund and little Bridget had been about the only thing that had made Kathy smile whenever she’d been recovering from one of her miscarriages. How could he have taken that away from her? He’d only wanted to ease her pain, in whatever way he could. He’d never realised what would come of it. He just thanked his lucky stars that Edmund and Siobhan were growing up with their royal cousins. At least their heir wouldn’t turn out so wilful, even if the younger girls did.

    Though George was trying to curb Tilly before she copied Bridget too much. It was difficult, though, because, now, being four, she was becoming old enough to realise that her thirteen-year-old surrogate sister was so much more pampered than she was. She was starting to find it unfair. And Kathy was never any good at saying no to her either, so it made George’s life an uphill battle.

    Sighing, he hurried after Bridget, only to find her nestled in Kathy’s arms, weeping passionately into her shoulder.

    “I hate them! They always do what Tilly wants. They just don’t like me because I’m not your real daughter!”

    “That’s not true, darling. You know it isn’t. Mama will talk to them, Mama will. Just hush now, there’s a sweet girl.”

    Kathy was patting Bridget’s back as though she was a tiny child again. She glanced at George over her head.

    “Go and get my diamond necklace and coronet. Bridget can wear them today.”

    “Really?” Bridget’s eyes lit up. Kathy nodded, “Maybe if we dress you as befits your rank, they’ll have no choice but to remember who they’re talking to.”

    “Thank you, Mama!”

    “My pleasure, sweetheart.” Kathy kissed her wayward daughter’s brow and rose. George, who hadn’t moved, caught her arm as she passed him in the doorway.

    “This has got to stop,” he said lowly, “You can’t keep indulging her like this. If nothing else, she’s setting a bad example for Tilly.”

    “I know, I know. This is the last time, George, I swear.”

    “You always say that and it never is.”

    “This time I mean it. On England, Harry and St George.”

    Knowing that her words were hollow, but having no way of proving it, George merely harrumphed and let her past.

    “Honestly,” He thought to himself, “I’m the Earl of Ormonde and Pembroke, the brother of the most beloved Queen England’s ever had and one of the most powerful men in the Marches, yet I can’t keep my own household in order. Where did I go wrong?”

    He exhaled slowly, “Well, let’s just hope Lady Honour is better at controlling little Lady Ossory, or else Edmund is going to have an extremely wilful wife as well as two capricious sisters. I wouldn’t wish that on him.”

    Then he went down the steps to the courtyard to check that all was ready for the next stage of the progress.
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    Section CLXXVI - April 1531
  • Middleham, April 1531
    George was not the only one with family troubles in the spring and early summer of 1531, however. In Middleham, too, another man and wife were arguing. Not about their children, for they had none, but arguing nonetheless.

    “For God’s sake, wife, must you be so disagreeable?! If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. The King had already planned his progress before I returned from Normandy. Of course I told him we’d be more than happy to have him to stay, but he prefers to spend time with Lord and Lady Lancaster at Sizergh, and who can blame him? They are his brother and sister by marriage after all. And Sizergh is closer to Chester than Middleham.”
    “You’ve served the King loyally these past seven years! You’d think that would at least merit a visit. Any true gentleman would insist that it did. But no! We have been summoned to York, to watch as that mewling infant of a boy that the parvenu Queen birthed is invested as the greatest magnate in the North, and his spoilt sister is raised to be the future Queen of Scots. Without even the honour of a royal visit to cushion the humiliation! I say again, no true gentleman would stand for such a slight. But then, you’re no true gentleman, are you?”

    “Zounds! Are you still throwing that in my face? It’s been over nine years, Lady Mary!”

    “I don’t care! You’re still beneath me, because you’re too spineless to push yourself forward at Court!”

    “I’m happy to take whatever His Majesty sees fit to give me! As you should be!”

    “I should have had so much more! I should have been Lady Northumberland! Lady Lancaster! But no, I get shunted aside and fobbed off with a mere Viscount while those jumped-up Knight’s daughters swan around, play-acting at being the greatest ladies in the land. Well, I won’t do it, I tell you! I won’t bend the knee to them, no matter where we are!”

    “What you’re saying is treason! I should divorce you and see you arrested this instant!”

    “Why don’t you then? Do it! Do it! Or are you too much of a coward even for that?”

    “Don’t push me,” Anthony warned, his voice uncharacteristically cold. But Mary simply glared at him.

    “Do it. Or I shall regard you as the greatest coward that ever lived.”

    Then she turned on her heel and stalked out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
    Section CLXXVII- May 1531
  • Sizergh Castle, May 1531
    Five children stood clustered around the upper window of Sizergh Castle, the Marquis of Lancaster’s family seat. The second of the girls, a raven-haired lass of almost eight, shook her curly hair out over her shoulders as she answered something her younger sister had said.

    “Don’t be silly, Pippa. I’m not going to Court. None of us are. Kitty and I are joining Caitlin’s household because it’s getting bigger now that she’s going to be Queen of Scotland. We’re not going to see any more of Aunt Marie and Uncle Henry than you will.”

    “Yes you will,” Pippa pouted, “I don’t understand why you get to go and I don’t. I’m only a year and a half younger than you are. I’m closer in age to Caitlin than you and Kitty are.”

    “That’s true, Pippa, but if you went with them, you wouldn’t be able to be part of Jacquetta’s household when she married and I thought you liked Jackie better?” The older of the two boys at the window raised his eyebrows and Pippa scowled. [1]

    “I suppose so. I just don’t think it’s fair that Maggie and Kitty get to go and I don’t.”

    “Well, I’m older than you and I’m not going either,” Charles Howard, Kitty’s older brother and the other ward of Lord and Lady Lancaster, who had been taken in when Anne realised that the then three-year-old Kitty was too attached to her older brother ever to settle at Sizergh without him, pointed out.

    At twelve, he was the oldest of the children, but, because he had his heart set on a career as an Ambassador, his foster father had agreed to let him go to one of the minor Ducal Courts as a page to improve his languages rather than taking up his expected place in the Prince of Wales’s household. He was due to leave for Florence in the autumn. He would be sorely missed, if only because he often played the peacekeeper between Maggie and the ever-sulky Pippa, who much resented her place as the second daughter, the middle child in the schoolroom.

    “But you’re getting to go abroad. That’s exciting!” Pippa whined. Before Charles could reply, the youngest child at the window, the four-year-old Percy heir, Algernon, piped up, “I see banners!”

    Instantly, all five children remembered why they were standing by the window in the first place. Maggie snapped her head round, squinting into the sunlight with the blue-green eyes that were so like her father’s.

    “It’s the royal standard. They’re here! Maman, Jamie, they’re here! Aunt Marie’s here!” She ran off, shouting for her mother and youngest brother, three-year-old James. The other children followed far more sedately, Charles bowing and offering Pippa his hand like a gentleman to make her smile. She accepted his escort gratefully and they headed out into the courtyard to greet their royal uncle, aunt and cousins.

    [1] Yes, I know Marie and Henry already have plans to dedicate their youngest daughter to the Church. The children haven't been told and they're just assuming that Jackie will get married, like every other high-born girl they know...
    Section CLXXVIII - June 1531
  • “Though he was to reign for another twenty years, in many ways the summer of 1531 was the high point of Henry’s reign. Not only had Conn O’Neill and Hugh O’Donnell, two of the ringleaders of the ‘Christmas Rising’ of 1528 come before him and submitted to him in exchange for the titles of Earl of Tyrone and Earl of Tyrconnell, but it was the last one the whole Tudor family spent together before the children began to fly the nest; fifteen-year-old Maria to Paris to get to know her new country before she married the Dauphin in 1533, ten-year-old Lionel to Ludlow to head the Council of the Welsh Marches, at least in name, and seven-year-old Richard to Rouen, to be raised as the Duke of Normandy under the careful tutelage of Lord Hastings and Sir Edward Seymour. Knowing things would never be the same again, Henry, in his typical flamboyant style, turned the summer progress into something longer and grander than it had ever been before. He and Queen Marie set out from Westminster on Easter Monday, stopping at Eltham to collect the children, who had been spending Easter together. From there, the whole family went to Raglan to spend some time with Lord and Lady Pembroke, and then to Chester to watch Lionel swear allegiance to his father and be officially invested as Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, which he was on May 1st. From there, they turned north, through Cheshire and Lancashire, stopping to visit the Marquis and Marchioness of Lancaster at Sizergh, before crossing the Pennines to York, where they met the young King James V of Scotland. James played an honoured part in Henry’s birthday celebrations, even managing to unseat the Earl of Pembroke in a joust, before pledging to take Lady Caitlin as his wife in the summer of 1538 in a glittering spectacle of a ceremony in York Minister in early July.

    Then, honour satisfied on both sides, the Tudors came south along the east coast, before turning inland through Peterborough, Cambridge and Canterbury, where Queen Marie, the new Queen of Scotland, Princess Maria, and Lady Jacquetta all left offerings at the shrine of St Thomas Becket. Presumably, they were praying for Maria and Dickon’s safe journey across the Channel, for by early September, the two had embarked from Dover, marking the end of a truly sumptuous progress…”

    _______ Amelia Morris, “England’s Second Conqueror: A Life of King Henry VIII, 1491-1551​

    Lancashire, June 1531

    Caitlin rode her dapple-grey pony between Mama and Papa, head held high. She was trying not to show how scared she was. After all, she was going to meet her future husband in York. She was going to be the Queen of Scots, just like her aunt Margaret. She had to act like a Queen, not like a scared little baby. Besides, she had to be the strong one. For Jackie, if not for herself. Maria was leaving for France at the end of the summer and Jackie was already so upset at the very thought. Jackie loved Maria best of all their brothers and sisters, so the prospect of her leaving was really hard for her. Caitlin had to be extra nice to Jackie to make her feel better, especially given her own betrothal would remind Jackie of how things would change after the summer. She couldn’t show Jackie how scared she was, either.

    “All right, angel?”

    Papa looked over at her and she nodded, “Yes, Papa.”

    “Good girl. You’re so brave, you know that? A true Princess.”

    He leaned over from his saddle and squeezed her shoulder. She forced her lips up into a smile.

    “Thank you, Papa.”

    When he let her go, however, she dropped back to ride alongside her older brother Lionel. He smiled at her.

    “You’ll be fine, Caitlin. You’re doing really well as it is.”

    “Thank you,” she whispered. And it did mean a lot to hear. Lionel didn’t often spend time with her. He was usually at Tickhill with Hal and the rest of his household, and even when he wasn't, he tended to focus his attention on Hal and Maria, while she was closer to Dickon. To hear Lionel praising her for once was a pleasant surprise. They rode along in silence for a while, before she, emboldened by the sudden trust that seemed to be blossoming between them, blurted, “He just sounds so old! What if he thinks I’m just a silly little girl?”

    “You are a silly little girl,” Lionel retorted with brotherly candour. At the look on her face, however, he softened, “You’ll grow up. You’ll grow up into a woman as beautiful as Mama and King James will have no choice but to fall in love with you.”

    “Do you think so?”

    “If he doesn’t, I’ll simply have to declare war on Scotland, won’t I?”

    Caitlin laughed at her older brother’s flippancy and he chuckled with her.

    “That’s better. Now, tell you what. I bet you half an angel you can’t beat me to Aunt Anne’s.”

    “Lionel! We can’t!”

    She might have protested, but when her older brother spurred his horse away from her, shouting 'Race you!' over his shoulder, she couldn’t resist. She gave her pony its head and fled after him, hurtling lengths ahead of the procession.

    “Papa’s going to be so angry! We’re not behaving properly!” She panted.

    “Nonsense!” Lionel shouted gleefully, “He knows as well as anyone we have to please the people. And they love it. Listen!”

    And indeed, when Caitlin cocked her head to listen, she heard them roaring her name and Lionel’s.

    “God Bless the Lion Prince! England’s young lion!”

    “God Save the Young Lion!”

    “Princess Caitlin!”

    “The Angel Princess!”

    “The Thornless Rose!”

    “The Lion and the Rose!”

    “The Lion and the Rose!”

    Breathless, Caitlin urged her pony on through the cheering crowd, only dimly aware of the even more raucous shouts building behind her, where her parents were passing.

    “Bluff King Hal! Huzzah for Bluff King Hal!

    “Queen Marie! God Bless Good Queen Marie!”

    “The Golden Queen!”

    “The Golden Queen and the Dragon King!”

    “Beatrix! Beatrix!”

    **** **** ****​

    “And then Lionel and I raced each other here and he let me win, so he owes me half an angel, and the crowd were cheering us and they were shouting for Mama and Papa too and....”

    Now safe and sound in the arms of her favourite aunt, Caitlin was much happier and back to her usual bubbly self.

    Anne laughed, “Slow down, ma miel, catch your breath. You can tell me all about it later, when you’ve washed up and changed.”

    “Yes, Aunt Anne,” Caitlin murmured, catching Maggie’s eye over her aunt’s shoulder and quickly letting her older cousin take charge of her and begin to pull her away.

    However, on the threshold of Sizergh Castle, she turned, pert little nose scrunched in confusion.

    “The common people called Mama something odd.”

    Aunt Anne turned, smiling down at her, “What was it, ma miel?”

    “They shouted ‘Beatrix!’ as Mama went past. Why would they shout that? It’s not her name.”

    Papa, who had just dismounted and was helping Mama off her horse, overheard her question.

    “You know your Latin, Caitlin. You tell me.”

    “ means she who makes happy. I know that. But why would they shout it for Mama?”

    “Because that’s who she is,” Papa explained, kissing Mama as she slid down into his arms, “She made me happy after Maria’s mother died and she made me happy by bringing me all of you. She’s also made England happy by making her safe by birthing your brothers. So of course they’re going to shout ‘Beatrix’ for Mama. No name suits her better. She truly is my Beatrix.”

    “And mine,” Caitlin replied, running over to slip her hand into Mama’s, not caring that it broke every rule Lady Salisbury and Lady Willoughby had ever drilled into her. In that instant, with her family gathered around her, she could almost forget the future. She could almost forget that, within weeks, she would be promised to be the Queen of Scots and addressed as such.

    In that moment, she was no one but her father’s little angel.

    She was no one but Caitlin and all was right with the world.
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    Interlude: Time of Grace Cast (2009) (I)
  • Right. Before we dive into epilogues, here is the cast list for 'Time of Grace', one of the two major period dramas TTL. Released in 2009 to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession to the throne, it is something of a staple of English period drama. Split over 26 1-hour episodes, Time of Grace opens at the funeral of Katherine of Aragon and carries the viewers through Henry's widowerhood and the first decade of his marriage to Queen Marie, ending on a high note with the progress of 1531.

    Henry VIII - Sam Heughan

    Henry VIII.jpg

    Marie, Queen of England - Carey Mulligan

    Queen Marie.jpg

    Princess Maria - Emma Bolger

    Young Maria.jpg

    Mary, Dowager Queen of France - Sophie Skelton

    Mary, Duchess of Suffolk.jpg

    Charles Brandon - Henry Cavill

    Charles Brandon 2.jpg

    Young Anne Boleyn - Bailee Madison

    Young Anne.jpg

    Older Anne - Natalie Dormer

    Anne, Marchioness of Lancaster.jpg

    Harry Percy - Jack Gleeson

    Harry Percy.jpg

    George Boleyn - Skandar Keynes

    George Boleyn.jpg

    Kathy Stafford - Rachael Henley

    Kathy Stafford.jpg
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    Interlude: Time of Grace Cast (2009) (II)
  • Bessie Blount - Nell Hudson

    Bessie Blount.jpg

    Mark Blount - Andrew Gower

    Mark Blount.jpg

    Cardinal Wolsey - Sam Neill


    Thomas Boleyn - Nick Dunning

    Papa Boleyn II.jpg

    Elizabeth Boleyn - Kristin Scott Thomas

    Elizabeth Howard.jpg

    Honour Fitzgerald - Rachel Hurd-Wood

    Honour Fitzgerald.jpg

    Meg Douglas - Julia Winter

    Young Meg.jpg

    Kate Parr - Georgie Henley

    Kate Parr.jpg

    Marguerite de Valois - Cate Blanchett

    Marguerite de Valois.jpg

    Francis I - Kit Harington

    Francis I 2.jpg
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