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2nd February 1536
Anybody who had lived at a royal court, for any length of time, knew that keeping a secret was difficult at the best of times, and nothing short of impossible the rest of the time, especially when that secret involved the King or his family. Charles Brandon, companion to the King since their shared boyhood, was well aware of that fact, just as he was aware that when a story was told often enough, details would inevitably be lost, exaggerated or altered in the retelling but even he was astounded when he returned to court, after an absence of little more than a week, to find tongues wagging about the Queen's mishap and the restrictions under which she was placed in order to ensure the survival of the child.
What made it most unusual was that it seemed as though everybody was talking about it and nothing else, when there would normally be stories of at least several intriguing scandals circulating at once. From the highest-ranking nobles to the lowest of the servants, all anyone seemed to be talking about was how close the Queen had come to losing her unborn child, and what had sparked the near-disaster.
Although it seemed highly unlikely to him that Anne had entered Henry's rooms to catch him and Jane copulating on the table, as one acquaintance solemnly assured him was the case – just before he left the court to deal with business matters on his estate, Brandon was enlisted to help his friend test the newest object of his affections by delivering her a letter and a large purse of gold from him and, knowing Henry as well as any other man could, he knew that his pleasure at hearing of Mistress Seymour's refusal to accept either while she was an unmarried maiden, of having his idealized notions of her confirmed, was genuine and that he wanted more than to simply make her his next mistress – he also knew that there was rarely smoke without fire, and that it was likely that there was some truth to the rumours of Jane's involvement.
He would have dearly liked to be able to ask Henry what the truth of the story was but he knew better than to bring up the matter, knew that even their close and long-lasting friendship was no guarantee that he wouldn't rouse Henry's anger by alluding to Jane. If there had been an indiscretion and it did bear all or even part of the responsibility for Anne's state, then it was likely that Henry wanted to forget about it and he wouldn't thank Brandon for bringing the matter up, even privately, when the two of them were walking alone in the gardens with nobody close enough to overhear them.
When dealing with one's sovereign, friendship had its limits and it was a foolish man who ignored them.
Instead, he contented himself with enquiring after Anne's health, noting the concerned expression on Henry's face as he answered. Was his concern purely for the baby's sake, at the idea that he could have lost the son he had craved for almost as long as Brandon had known him, or was he also worried about Anne?
Henry could be a difficult man to read sometimes, and Brandon had learned years ago that it was better for him to tread cautiously where Anne was concerned. The last time he spoke against her to Henry's face, wanting to warn his friend of her previous relations with Thomas Wyatt in the hopes that he would realize that she was far from worthy to be his wife and consort, even if he did wish to annul his marriage to Katherine and remarry, his concerns were dismissed, with Anne's word accepted over his without question, and his punishment for speaking out was banishment from court. The experience had taught him discretion. He did not like Anne and would have been happy to see the back of her – a sentiment that he was sure that more than a few people at court shared – but Henry's feelings towards his wife could be unpredictable, especially of late, and one could never be certain if he would take offence to a slight made against her, or if he would agree with it.
It was best to wait until he knew Henry's view, and to be guided by it, so he listened in silence as his friend spoke.
"She has had a difficult time, Charles," Henry explained in a low voice, even though they were alone and Anne's condition was no secret. "Dr Linacre told me that she almost lost the baby – that she would have lost him if he was not able to get to her as quickly as he did – and that she might have died too. For both their sakes, she has to stay in bed."
"For how long?"
"Until after the baby is born."
Brandon had heard as much, but wondered if it might be an exaggeration. If Anne was to be confined to bed until her delivery, then Dr Linacre must have grave concerns about her chances of carrying the baby to term. He was half-inclined to joke that there was a silver lining to the cloud; with Anne safely ensconced in her bedchamber, Henry would not need to hide it when another woman caught his eye but he thought better of it and, when he heard the genuine concern in Henry's voice as he went on to describe the further measures that Dr Linacre was taking, he was glad that he had opted for discretion.
Henry clearly did not consider this a laughing matter and he was unlikely to be happy to hear it treated as one.
"…Linacre is monitoring Anne's condition, as well as her diet and he's given instructions to her ladies-in-waiting about how to care for her and they know to inform him straight away if there's the slightest change." Henry explained, repeating Dr Linacre's instructions, not noticing that Brandon was not half as interested in the topic as he was. "He thinks that, with rest and careful tending, there is a chance that the baby will be born healthy." He brightened a little, grinning wryly. "At least I can be sure that it's a son this time," he remarked. "Only a boy, a strong boy, could hang on against the odds like that."
Brandon nodded, murmuring his assent and remembering that Henry was equally certain that Elizabeth would be a boy before she was born and proved him wrong, even going so far as to select names for his 'son' and to ask that the French ambassador hold him at the christening, as proxy for King Francis. When the baby turned out to be a daughter, she had had to settle for having an archbishop as her godfather rather than a king.
Unlike most people, Brandon put no faith in astrologers, soothsayers or their ilk when it came to predicting the sex of a baby; if the self-styled prophets predicted a son for everyone who sought their advice, their answer would please virtually all of their patrons and they were bound to be right as often as not.
"Is she allowed to have visitors?" He asked, curious about whether or not Henry was taking advantage of the fact that he was as close to a bachelor as he had been for two decades and indulging his affections for Mistress Seymour or whether he was devoting his time to Anne.
Henry nodded confirmation, squinting up at the sun to estimate the time. "It's almost noon – forgive me, Charles, I can't stay. Anne will be expecting me. It's dull for her to have to stay confined and it cheers her up to have company."
Brandon bowed slightly as Henry moved away, hastening back to the palace for a visit with his wife.
While Henry did not look as eager to see Anne as he had before their marriage, when word of her recovery from the sweating sickness first reached him, there was something in his demeanour that reminded Brandon of those days, of a time when Henry's adoration of Anne bordered on worship and when he could scarcely bear to be away from her a moment longer than he absolutely had to.
That her state of health aroused his sympathy and concern was undeniable but had she won him back, made him forget that he blamed her for Thomas More's execution and about the many problems she had brought to England since the day she first entered his life? Was she, once again, the only woman in his world?
Brandon considered the possibility for a few moments before dismissing it. Henry might feel pity towards Anne now, and if she managed to give him the son he craved, he would be delighted with her, but he was not a man who would be content to dance attendance on his sick wife and forsake the company of other women, not for four months.
He would be surprised if his friend continued to be this attentive for another week, and it would be a miracle if he kept it up for a full month, let alone for the remainder of Anne's pregnancy.
"As long as the Queen is with child, the King will never entertain the idea of discarding her," Edward Seymour stated the fact in measured tones. To somebody who had just met him, he might appear to be completely emotionless about the issue, as though he had never cared in the least whether Anne Boleyn remained Queen of England until the day she died or whether she was to be discarded the next morning. Only those who knew him well would have been able to detect the slightest of frowns creasing his brow, a tightening of his mouth and a faint edge to his tone as he spoke, subtle signs that betrayed his disappointment and anger at the situation.
"Yes," Sir John Seymour nodded at this assessment. "He will not set her aside if there is hope that she will give him a son."
"And with Queen Katherine dead, the other rulers of Europe may think it politic to acknowledge the marriage, and Anne as Queen, especially if they are hoping for England's friendship." Edward observed shrewdly, his keen mind combing over the possibilities. "But her position is not assured, not yet. There is still a chance that she will miscarry or that the child will not live, and if that happens, her position will be as bad as it would have been if she had lost the baby four days ago – worse," he corrected himself. "After all the trouble and care being taken to ensure the child's survival, it is likely that the King will be even angrier if it should come to nothing." He regarded his sister thoughtfully before turning his attention to his father. "A living son would be an end to all hope that Jane might become Queen in Anne's place, and if that's the case, I think that it would be best for her to withdraw from court rather than risk her reputation by remaining here. However if the baby does not live, then there is a good chance that she might become his wife, as long as she can hold his attentions long enough without yielding to his advances."
"What if it's a girl – a healthy girl?" Jane asked, inwardly wondering why that was a possibility that nobody seemed to be considering. Whenever she heard people talking about Anne's pregnancy, they speculated about whether the child would be a living son or if it would be stillborn, as though those were the only two options available.
Edward considered the question thoughtfully before responding. "I don't know," he admitted at last. "A great deal depends on how the King would view the matter. He may see the birth of any healthy child as a good omen, even if it is just another daughter. It would show that the Queen is still capable of bearing healthy children and that there is still hope that she will give him a son but he may not have the patience to wait any longer. He is not as young as he once was, and after his fall at the joust, he is aware of how vital it is that he has a male heir."
"Yes," Jane agreed softly, remembering how relieved she was when he told her that he viewed the ribbon she had given him to wear as her favour as a lucky charm, one that saved him from death when he fell. When he first asked to see her after the joust, she feared that he would be angry with her, and that he would think that her favour had brought him bad luck and caused his fall.
"Has he blamed you for what happened with the Queen?" Sir John asked gently.
Jane shook her head. "No. He… he has only spoken with me privately on one occasion since then," she reported, remembering the King's earlier insistence that he would only ever speak to her when her relatives were present to act as chaperones and wondering if she should worry that he had already broken the self-imposed condition. "There are others who do, though." She added, frowning at the memory of some of the things that she had heard whispered about her. If people would speak thus in her earshot, she did not want to think what they might be saying about her behind her back.
It was so unfair! The way some people spoke of her, anyone would think that she had deliberately set out to make the Queen miscarry, and nobody would have believed her if she said that all she and the King had been doing was exchanging a chaste kiss when they were interrupted.
"You should not concern yourself with that, my dear," Sir John advised her kindly. "It is just foolish gossip and it will die down in time, especially when people see that the King is still fond of you."
"And you should remember that any concern or sympathy would not be for the Queen herself," Edward remarked. "She is not well-loved at court but after what almost happened to the King, people were frightened. If he had died leaving only the Princess Elizabeth as his heir…" He trailed off, unwilling to continue along that vein. It was treason to imagine the death of the King and at court, one could never be certain that the walls did not have ears. "They are hoping for the birth of a prince and it is for his health that they are concerned, not his mother's. When they see that the King does not blame you, they will not blame you either and if you have his love, you have his protection. He will not allow anybody to speak ill of you."
"They will be doing that already," Jane said sullenly, "especially now that I am dismissed from my position as lady-in-waiting to the Queen. Sir James, her chamberlain, told me that my service in the Queen's household was no longer required, not an hour ago." She elaborated. Both Edward and Sir John looked serious when they heard that piece of news.
"Who wanted your dismissal, do you know?" Sir John asked urgently. "Was it the King or the Queen?"
"It does not matter which of them wanted it." Edward cut in before Jane could respond. "The Queen would never dare to dismiss Jane from her household without the King's approval, regardless of the circumstances, not when it was he who first invited her to come to court for the position. He has given his permission for Jane's removal – if it was not his order in the first place."
Seeing the doleful expression on his daughter's face, Sir John tried to console her. "I am sure that it is nothing but a simple act of kindness to the Queen, for the sake of the child. Her physician has ordered that she should not be upset." He said. "Or perhaps this is a blessing," he said, brightening as an optimistic thought struck him. "After all, the Queen's ladies will be kept very close to quarters over the coming months. Perhaps the King did not wish you to be kept occupied with tending to the Queen and freed you from your duties so that he might enjoy your company himself." Having found an explanation that suited him well, he was loath to let it go. "I am sure that this is the case."
"Perhaps," Edward agreed, although he did not share his father's confidence.
"What should I do?" Jane looked from her father to her brother expectantly, unsure how she should proceed and wanting their advice. "If the King asks to speak with me privately again, should I go to him, or should I remind him that he promised that we would only speak if you were present?"
Sir John was unsure how to respond and looked to Edward for an answer, knowing his eldest son well enough to trust his judgement in this matter.
"You must be careful not to anger him or quarrel with him," Edward said at last. "Under the present circumstances, his temper will be uncertain and, should he become angry with you, there will be many other women at court who would wish to seize the opportunity to win his affections. It would not surprise me if Lord Wiltshire, or even the Queen herself, tried to encourage the King to turn his attention to another lady, one of their choosing," he remarked, remembering the rumours that once circulated around the court during the King's dalliance with Madge Shelton, the whispers that it had been the Boleyns who encouraged the young woman to become his mistress in the hopes of distracting him from other women, who might work against them.
"I will." Jane promised. "Maybe I could persuade him to bring Princess Mary back to court," she suggested hopefully. "She has no love for the Queen – and she is in need of friendship." She added, imagining the lonely, unhappy existence of the girl who had gone from being the King's cherished daughter, his princess and the heir to the throne, to being declared a bastard and being forced to wait on her young half-sister, the child who had usurped her position, and now she had lost her mother, without even being permitted to say goodbye.
Even if she truly was a bastard, it would be cruel to treat her like that.
"If you speak of Mary, be very careful." Edward warned her. "Speak in her favour, by all means – it could win us the friendship of the Imperial ambassador and his master – but you must never suggest that he was wrong to name her a bastard or to send her to wait on the Princess Elizabeth. He will not tolerate that – and he certainly will not agree to restore her as a princess at your request," he added, guessing that his sister would dearly love to be able to do just that. "Above all, you must not yield to his advances and become his mistress, even if he presses you, not when affairs are so uncertain. Wait until we know more, then we will know what to do."
"The Emperor is seeking to form an alliance with the King, and the King of France is also making overtures of friendship." Like the few others who were allowed to visit Anne, Thomas Boleyn had been well warned about the dangers of upsetting or exciting her and he therefore kept his tone light and cheerful as he related news of the latest diplomatic developments, putting it in the most optimistic light possible. "Now that Katherine is dead, the Ambassador Chapuys has said that the Emperor is willing to convince the pope not to excommunicate the King, to pledge his support to your marriage and to acknowledge you as Queen of England. I don't need to tell you that this could help to secure your position in the eyes of Europe." He prompted, frowning when Anne didn't respond.
"If he is sincere." She said at last, gazing into the fire behind him rather than meeting his eyes.
"Perhaps he is." He said, as cheerfully as if he had never had any doubts about the matter. "Under the circumstances, it is not an offer that he would make lightly, and the fact that he has considered it in the first place can certainly do you no harm."
"Unless he wants something in return," Anne pointed out, tearing her gaze away from the blazing logs in the fireplace and looking up at him. "Like Mary's restoration as princess..."
"That will not happen." Her father assured her immediately. "Elizabeth is the King's heir, and she will remain his heir until her brother is born." Anne merely shrugged by way of response, slumping back against the pillows.
Dr Linacre had warned them about the possibility of Anne becoming melancholic, stressing that it was important that she be kept in cheerful spirits, as much as possible, for the sake of the child she carried, so Thomas dropped the subject of the Emperor.
He considered making mention of the fact that Mistress Seymour had been dismissed from her position as lady-in-waiting, something Anne had wanted since she was first told that the other woman was to join her household but he decided against it, not wanting to be the one to bring up the woman if Anne did not and risk provoking her.
He felt a flash of irritation towards his daughter; he warned her not to allow herself to be upset by a trifle, reminded her that she should concern herself with making sure that she gave the King the healthy son he craved and that once she accomplished that, she would be able to deal with Mistress Seymour as she saw fit, for there would be little that he would deny her if she gave him a prince. She was very lucky that she hadn't lost the baby and she wouldn't be confined to bed now if she had only listened to him instead of seeking out trouble.
The sounds of footsteps and the clatter of dishes heralded the arrival of the servers bearing Anne's dinner and Madge Shelton entered the bedchamber, dropping a deep, respectful curtsey and waiting for Anne to nod permission before she lifted a low, folding table and carefully placed it over Anne's knees, checking to ensure that it was secure before curtseying a second time and withdrawing.
As a rule, meals for Henry and Anne and even for little Elizabeth were very formal occasions, with an elaborate serving ceremony involving a large group of servers but since Anne was now confined to her bed, no men were permitted to visit, apart from her family and physician, and that restriction extended to servants, which meant that her meals were laid out in the outer chamber before her ladies-in-waiting brought the plates in to her.
Anne accepted the plate of food without enthusiasm, nibbling at a slice of chicken before setting it aside and using her fork to spear a piece of asparagus – included in every meal prepared for her, as they were known to make a boy – but she didn't touch it, putting her fork down as quickly as she had picked it up.
The temptation to snap at her, to order her to eat for the sake of the child, was strong and it was with difficulty that he reined in his tongue. He was thankful for that a moment later, when a familiar voice spoke from the doorway.
"Sweetheart, you need to eat." Henry's voice was lightly chiding as he entered the room, acknowledging his father-in-law and his deep bow of greeting with a nod and moving to stand next to Anne, bending down to brush a kiss against her cheek before sitting down in the chair that Thomas had hastily vacated for him. "If there's something else you'd like instead, we can send for it." He offered.
"No, this is fine." She shook her head, lifting her fork to her lips and eating the asparagus, as if to prove the truth of her words.
"Good." He smiled, scarcely noticing when Thomas asked for leave to withdraw and nodding permission automatically, without sparing him a glance, his attention focused entirely on his wife, although he did not say anything for a few moments. "Are they taking good care of you?" He said at last, breaking the silence that was becoming uncomfortable.
"Yes," Anne nodded, slightly amused by the unnecessary question; Henry made sure to be kept fully informed of everything that was happening as far as her health was concerned, and Dr Linacre had explained his restrictions and the regimen of care he was implementing to him in great detail. Nobody was going to take any chances with this pregnancy, and nobody would have dared to offer her anything other than exemplary care.
"Good." He said again. At a loss for something to do, Henry reached for the empty glass goblet on her tray and the silver carafe beside it, filling the goblet with clear ruby-red liquid; Linacre had prescribed red wine daily, to help build up the blood Anne had lost, but directed that it should be watered to ensure that the child she carried was not overpowered by it. He passed Anne the goblet, watching as she slowly sipped it and then took it from her hand when she was finished with it.
He wasn't sure what he should say to her but, at the same time, he felt that he had to say something so he chatted lightly about various matters; the cradle that was being built for their son, the fact that he and his council were discussing the idea of reopening negotiations with King Francis over the possibility of a betrothal between Elizabeth and his youngest son, something Anne often advocated, the puppy he had ordered to be brought to her as soon as it was weaned, anything to fill the silence.
From the doorway, Thomas Boleyn watched with keen, appraising eyes, missing nothing. He had made a habit of observing the King's interactions with his daughter for years, ever since he and his brother-in-law had first planned to push her forward as his mistress, and while he could see plainly that he was not as in love with Anne as he once was, his manner was still friendly, considerate and gentle towards her.
It was a good beginning.
Hatfield was not one of the largest royal residences, or the most luxurious but it was still a pleasant dwelling, with extensive grounds, an ideal place for a little princess and her household, far enough away from London to ensure that it was as safe from contagion as any other place in England could be, yet close enough to allow for frequent visits.
The King may have been disappointed in the sex of his first child by his Concubine, but that did not keep him from providing for the little bastard royally, Chapuys thought sourly as he waited in the large, high-ceilinged room with his small retinue.
Had the Princess Mary been sent to live here with a household of her own, it would not have been an unfitting dwelling for her but instead she was here as a maid-in-waiting to her young half-sister, obliged to care for the child and attend to her needs and wishes. Even if she was illegitimate and Elizabeth a princess in truth instead of in name alone, Chapuys would not think that it was fitting for a cousin of the Holy Roman Emperor and the granddaughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to be forced to wait on the child of Anne Boleyn, daughter of a mere knight who had only climbed to the rank of earl through the King's infatuation with his daughter.
This was the first time that he had been allowed to visit Hatfield, as he had not been allowed to meet with the Princess since she was sent here, condemned to a servant's existence as punishment for refusing to yield to her father's wishes and acknowledge that his marriage to her mother was invalid. The letters she had been able to get to him spoke of the ill-treatment meted out to her, of the fact that she was given the worst room in the house, scarcely fit for a menial and of the disrespect she was shown every day by the ladies who tended to little Elizabeth.
Chapuys knew that the only reason he was being permitted to see Mary now was that the King was eager to embrace an alliance with the Emperor, but despite the importance of the alliance, he was not prepared to give permission for this visit without imposing certain conditions of his own, conditions that he surely knew the Imperial ambassador would find difficult to stomach. Unpleasant as the conditions were, however, they would have to be borne. The Emperor had no desire to see the King of England opt for an alliance with France instead and he had ordered his ambassador to comply with the demands.
"Make way for the Princess Elizabeth, make way!"
The call preceded the arrival of a small procession, with two servants flanking a fair haired toddler, whose governess held her by the hand and who was followed by a group of about half a dozen ladies, including the one Chapuys had come to see.
Stopping in front of Chapuys, Lady Bryan turned slightly to address her small charge. "Your Highness, this is the Imperial ambassador. Your Excellency," she addressed her next words to Chapuys, a slight glint of humour in her eyes betraying that she knew just how displeasing this was for him. "Allow me to present Her Highness, the Princess Elizabeth."
"Your Highness." He greeted her stiffly, the words leaving a bitter taste in his mouth as he looked down on the face of the little girl in front of him. Although the child's hair was fair, unlike her dark-haired parents, and her resemblance to her father was undeniable, all Chapuys could see when he looked at her was a miniature of Anne Boleyn, the woman who had set England and Europe on its ears, destroyed the true Church in England, depriving the people of their faith, and caused such pain and heartbreak for Queen Katherine, a woman he admired and respected from the day he met her, and to her daughter.
If he had hoped that this greeting would satisfy his obligation to pay his respects to the child, he was doomed to be disappointed.
Young as she was, Elizabeth could sense that there was something amiss and that was not a state of affairs that she was prepared to tolerate.
She extended a chubby hand to him for a kiss, a near-perfect imitation of a gesture she had seen her mother perform. "Bow." She prompted him seriously, as though she thought that he might not be aware of the proper protocol for an audience with her and needed to be reminded how to behave.
But for the knowledge that refusal to comply would result in future visits with Mary being forbidden, Chapuys would not have been able to heed this instruction but he was an intelligent man and knew that he could help the young girl more by ensuring that he could continue to keep in contact with her than he would with a refusal to acknowledge her little rival.
He took the tiny hand in his and bowed low, brushing his lips against it for a heartbeat before releasing it and turning his attention to Mary, steeling himself for his next unpleasant duty. "Lady Mary." His bow to her was far shallower than the one he made to little Elizabeth and although he knew that she was aware of the reason why he was not addressing her by her rightful title, it did not make it any easier for him to omit it in favour of the title her father decreed would be hers or to pretend that the Concubine's little bastard was a rightful princess.
"Your Excellency." Mary curtsied slightly in response, giving him a small smile to reassure him that she understood why he was addressing her thus and that she didn't blame him for it.
Lady Bryan, satisfied that the formalities had been respected, that the Imperial ambassador had acknowledged the toddler princess before he greeted her half-sister, given her her dues as a Princess of England, and that he had done so before witnesses, gave him a curt nod of approval, indicating that he might speak with the Lady Mary. However, while she escorted her little charge out of the room, with the two servants preceding them and three of the ladies following, two ladies remained behind as witnesses to the meeting between the ambassador and the former princess.
As soon as Elizabeth departed with her retinue, Chapuys extended his hand to take Mary's, bowing deeply before kissing it. "Forgive me, Your Highness," he said in Spanish. He didn't need to elaborate. She knew what he was apologizing for.
"I understand, Your Excellency." Mary assured him, also in Spanish. She was glad that her mother had taught her the language as a child, and that they had often spoken it together when they were alone. But for that, every word of their conversation would be overheard by prying, unfriendly ears.
Their two witnesses, chosen for their task because of their devotion to Elizabeth and their families' known loyalty to the King and to Anne, were clearly irritated by this deliberate use of a tongue that neither of them spoke and Mary did not doubt that word of this act of defiance would be passed on to her father but she reasoned that his instructions regarding the behaviour expected of her during this meeting, relayed through Master Cromwell, made no mention of which language she was expected to speak in, so she was not disobeying any command.
"How are you feeling, Your Highness?" Chapuys asked solicitously. "I heard that you were unwell. I hope that you are recovered now."
"Yes, thank you." She told him, indicating her surroundings with a wave of her hand and giving him a wry look. "Well enough to return to my duties, as you can see." Although her father had given his permission for her to leave Elizabeth's household while she was ill – an act of kindness that had angered his Concubine to no end, if rumour could be trusted – the respite was a temporary one, much to Mary's disappointment, and once his physician pronounced her recovered, she was immediately sent back to her ignoble position as one of her little sister's attendants. "How is my cousin, the Emperor?"
"He is well, Your Highness, and hopes to be able to enter into a friendship with your father, the King."
"And do you think that my father will agree to it?"
"That is my hope, yes."
"But what about the harlot?" Mary asked, knowing as well as Chapuys did that her father would never consent to an alliance with any ruler who refused to acknowledge that Anne was his legitimate wife and Queen. It was a point of principle for him, one from which he was unlikely to be moved.
Chapuys hesitated, reluctant to give her news that would come as a blow, perhaps even as a betrayal from the cousin who had been her staunchest ally, and her mother's. "The Emperor is prepared, for the sake of the alliance, to support the continuation of the King's marriage to the Lady Anne, if that is what it takes to secure a lasting friendship with England." He said, grimacing slightly at the thought and seeing from the expression on Mary's face that the news was just as much of a blow to her as he had feared.
An acknowledgement of Anne as Queen, coming from Queen Katherine's own nephew would, in some eyes, be tantamount to an admission that the King's first marriage had truly been invalid and that, by extension, the girl standing before him was truly a bastard.
When it came to diplomacy, sacrifices of principle were not uncommon, but while Chapuys was shrewd enough and experience enough to know this, it still went against the grain for him to go along with it, not when he witnessed Queen Katherine's brave struggle to fight for her position and that of her daughter for so long, despite all the hardships she was forced to endure as a result.
"If he agrees to acknowledge the Concubine as Queen, it will only be on condition that Your Highness is restored to the succession as the King's legitimate heir, as you ought to be by right." He hastened to assure her. "I have made that plain to Master Cromwell."
"Ahead of Elizabeth?" She asked.
"That is what he hopes. However," his innate honesty forced him to continue, "he has accepted that it may be possible that we will have to settle for your restoration behind the Concubine's children, male and female – but that too would be a victory rather than a loss for us," he hastened to assure her. "As long as we can force the King to admit your right to succeed, in principle, we will have made a good beginning and from there, we can work towards improving your position. As you know," although they were speaking in Spanish and would not be understood, he still lowered his voice before continuing, "there are many people in England who would rather see you as their next ruler than the brat, Elizabeth."
"And ahead of a son?" Mary pointed out bleakly. There were very few people in the country who truly believed that a woman, regardless of how intelligent or well-educated she was, could be capable of ruling as well as a man, so while she might be preferred as the next Queen of England ahead of Elizabeth, especially when Elizabeth was so young, she suspected that for most, their clear preference would be for a male heir and they would accept Anne's son ahead of her.
If they wanted to, most of the English people would be able to convince themselves that Anne's son was born in wedlock, especially now that Mary's mother was dead, no longer able to lay claim to the titles of wife or Queen.
Chapuys did not answer.
"My father will not agree to restore me to the succession, before or after her children, not if he has hope for a son." Much as she loved her father, much as she wished to believe that he still loved and cared for her and that he would want to restore her rights, if only he could do so without loss of face, Mary couldn't deceive herself on that score. "If she gives him a living boy, he will not allow any question over his right to succeed." She stated flatly, knowing that Chapuys could not reassure her that she was mistaken.
He knew that she was right.
If Anne carried her child to term, and the child was a healthy boy, then Mary's father would never consent to her being named in the line of succession.
So much depended on that and, until she was delivered, everything was uncertain, for all of them.