14th February 1542
Anne seldom complained about any of the restrictions or measures taken to preserve her health while she was pregnant, usually accepting that they were necessary and adjusting her lifestyle to conform with Doctor Linacre's advice but, on the very rare occasions when she grumbled about something, it was Mistress Porter more often than not.
Henry humoured her, of course.
In her condition, it would not do to quarrel with her over any matter, whether trivial or serious, and he could appreciate that his lively wife found the restrictions chafing so on the occasions when she complained about Mistress Porter, he expressed his sympathy, praised her for her patience and for the care that she was taking with their unborn child, reminding her that it would not be much longer and that, when she held their son or their daughter in her arms, she would be glad that she had done everything in her power to bring him or her into the world strong and healthy.
Although he did not say so to Anne, he couldn't help but remember what it was like when Katherine carried his children, and to think that she would have done well to have emulated Anne, focusing her energy on protecting the precious unborn babies in her womb, even if it meant withdrawing from the court, forgetting about affairs of state – not that Katherine should have worried about those; as he told her, she was not his chancellor or minister – and placing herself entirely under the care of a physician and midwife until the time came for their child to be born.
Rest and good food would probably have done his children far more good than Katherine's long hours of prayer, days of fasting and of wearing a hair shirt under her finery ever could.
God might have denied him a son by Katherine in order to make it clear that their union was sinful and not one that would ever have found favour with Him, perhaps a little more care on Katherine's part while she was with child might have allowed one of their other daughters to survive... a daughter who would, hopefully, have been more pleasant and more obedient than Mary.
He wondered if Katherine would have borne the restrictions as patiently as Anne was, especially if her hours of devotion were curtailed and fasting was forbidden to her.
It was not until now that he realised that Anne's complaints about Mistress Porter were not exaggerated.
If anything, she had understated the midwife's determination that every aspect of Anne's care was just as she ordered it, with no deviations from the routine or diet she decreed, the domineering nature that allowed her to feel comfortable giving orders to Anne's ladies-in-waiting, the lowest-ranking of whom was far superior to Mistress Porter by birth, and the lack of reverence with which she was capable of treating the Queen of England and, if her behaviour today was any indication, the King too, when she thought it necessary.
As soon as the news of Anne's labour was brought to him, Henry hastened to her apartment.
He knew that it was not fitting for a man to be present during childbirth and, under ordinary circumstances, he would have had no desire to involve himself in a matter that was not only women's business, but also a messy, noisy business that no sensible man should want to witness. Even Doctor Linacre would not enter Anne's chamber unless her labour turned out to be an especially difficult one and his assistance was essential to preserve the lives of mother and child.
However, despite knowing that a birthing chamber was no place for him, and that his impulse to run in to be with Anne was misguided, Henry was still taken aback when Mistress Porter ordered him out of the room in no uncertain terms, making it clear that his presence was unwelcome.
"I'll have enough on my hands with your wife and baby, Your Majesty," despite the respectful mode of address, Mistress Porter's tone could only be described as brusque. "I've no time or energy to spare for a fretting husband."
Henry couldn't remember the last time anybody had spoken to him like that.
Had he not been very aware of the fact that he and Anne owed Mistress Porter a debt of gratitude for helping to ensure that Harry was born safe and healthy, he thought that he might have ordered a short stay in the Tower to remind the woman of the respect she owed her sovereign, or perhaps that he might have ordered a spell in the scold's bridle to cool her tongue.
He had already commissioned Master Holbein to design jewellery for the goldsmiths to make for Anne, in celebration of the birth of England's newest prince or princess, but he thought that he should have the artist design something else, something truly spectacular, to convey his thanks to her for putting up with Mistress Porter for so long for the sake of their child.
He thought that she deserved a special reward for that.
Mistress Porter might have evicted him from his wife's bedchamber but he would not leave her apartment, even though it meant that none of his friends could be present to keep him company as he waited. The Duke of Wiltshire and the Earl of Ormonde, along with Anne's brother-in-law, Sir William Stafford, were the only other men present in her quarters. Even the grooms of Anne's chamber were absent, as they had been since the day she entered her confinement and could no longer receive any male visitors apart from her husband or her relatives.
Anne must have known that he was nearby.
During the first couple of hours, she made a valiant effort to stifle her screams for his sake, not wanting him to know how much she was suffering, how much she must have suffered with Elizabeth and Harry, when he wasn't there to listen to her, but as her labour dragged on, she no longer had the strength to pretend for his sake – not that he wanted her to, she should save every ounce of strength she possessed to bring herself and their child through their ordeal alive and healthy – and her agonized cries tore through the apartment, echoing in his ears.
He longed to be by her side.
He knew that he could be of no real use in a birthing chamber but he could give her his hand to squeeze when the pain became too intense, or perhaps he could help bathe her to cool her.
He hated feeling so useless!
He hated to know that Anne was on the other side of that curtain, in pain, while he was powerless to relieve her suffering.
He didn't know how long he sat in Anne's apartment, deaf to anything the other three men might have said to him and keeping his gaze trained on the heavy velvet curtains that separated the room from Anne's bedchamber. It was probably a matter of hours, but it felt as though he had been there for days, the sound of his wife's screams in his ears. From time to time, one of Anne's ladies, usually her sister or Lady Culpepper, emerged to bring him news, but all they ever said was that it was going as well as it could be expected to, and that Anne was bearing up, and he could only take their word for it, as he had only the vaguest idea what to expect.
They had not needed to summon Doctor Linacre, which he took as a good sign.
After what felt like an eternity, he heard Mistress Porter's authoritative voice demand that clean linen be brought to her and, moments later, a slapping sound and a wailed protest.
Mistress Porter said something else, but he couldn't make it out. He listened intently for Anne, hoping to hear her say something that would indicate to him that she was safe.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the men in Anne's family straighten in response to the sounds from the room, joyful and expectant looks on their faces, but before he could process what was happening, he heard Anne cry out again, more loudly than she had before, a cry of unbearable agony, and then there was a flurry of panicked movement.
He ran into the room, and was by Anne's side in moments, slipping one arm under her shoulders and taking her hand in his, squeezing it encouragingly. Her face was pale and drawn with pain. One of her ladies must have braided her hair when her labour began, in order to keep it out of her eyes, but half of it had fallen free by now, loosened by her exertion, and it clung to her face in sweat-soaked tendrils. "What's wrong?" He demanded of Mistress Porter, without looking at her. He only had eyes and ears for Anne. He winced involuntarily as her grip on his hand tightened painfully but he wouldn't pull away from her. He could see that the muscles in her belly were tight with the effort of pushing their child into the world.
Mistress Porter scarcely spared him a glance, evidently deeming it a waste of time to try to send him out of the room and focusing her attention on Anne.
"You need to push for me, Your Majesty," she instructed briskly, massaging the swell of Anne's belly gently. "I can see the head crowning... the little one has a fine head of dark hair."
Anne didn't respond to Mistress Porter's words, and she barely seemed to notice that Henry was by her side. She instinctively pushed, trying to force her muscles to expel the child in her womb. She gasped for breath, aware that somebody was gently sponging her forehead with a damp cloth. With a final push, one that seemed to take all her strength, her baby was pushed out into the world and into Mistress Porter's waiting hands, and a second, indignant wail filled the room.
"You have a fine little daughter, Your Majesty... Your Majesties," Mistress Porter amended, with a glance at Henry. She sighed inwardly, hoping that, if it became known that the King was present when the Queen gave birth to their latest child, it would not inspire other men to follow his example. To her mind, men were nothing but a nuisance in a birthing chamber. She had no desire to deal with a fretting husband in her future deliveries, and she was certain that other women felt the same way. Men were happy to get their wives with child, and especially delighted when they were presented with strong sons, but in her experience, they were all squeamish when it came to childbirth, even those who thought themselves strong and brave.
"A new princess for England." Henry said, awed, as Mistress Porter lifted the crying baby, wrapped in the finest linen, up so that he could see her. He had never before seen one of his children just after their birth, before the women could wash them and make them presentable but, despite the smears of blood and other fluids he could not identify, he thought that he had never seen as awe-inspiring a sight as that of his new daughter in the minute of her birth.
She was the most beautiful baby he had ever seen, and was already so like Anne that the resemblance was unmistakeable. He was thrilled that his new daughter was like her mother.
He leaned forward to kiss Anne, hugging her to him as gently as he could, not wanting to hurt her. She was limp in his arms, exhausted, but she gave him a tired smile.
"You're the bravest person I know." He told her, meaning every word of it.
It took several moments before his mind caught up with him, and he remembered what he heard before Anne's renewed cries prompted him to run to her side.
"I heard a baby cry... before our daughter was born..."
"That you did," Mistress Porter agreed, beckoning Lady Culpepper forward with an imperious finger. Lady Culpepper held another baby in her arms, and she was clearly doing her best to remember that, as a matron, she should behave with dignity and not giggle over the fact that the bundle she cradled had gone unnoticed until now. "Your new daughter has an older brother."
"Two of them." Henry's mouth was agape, and he could only stare at the second baby.
"A boy and a girl." Mistress Porter confirmed, passing the baby girl in her arms off to Lady Mary Stafford and directing her to wash her and wrap her well.
It took Henry a few minutes to recover from the shock and for his head to clear and, when it did, he could see that Lady Culpepper's efforts to keep from giggling had failed, and that several other ladies were struggling to hide smiles, clearly finding his confusion very amusing.
Outside the room, he could hear the sounds of jubilation, which let him know that his wife's family had been told the good news, and that they were celebrating it.
He would have to give orders for bells to be rung in celebration of this miracle.
"Are they laughing at me?" He asked Anne. Although he could see the funny side, he couldn't resist giving the giggling ladies a little scare, and he hoped that he was successful in concealing his amusement and keeping his voice gruff, so that they would think that he was truly offended by the idea of any jesting at his expense. "Are your ladies laughing at their King?"
"Yes," Anne agreed, amusement lighting up her eyes. "And you deserve it."
"True." Henry agreed, pressing kisses to her forehead, cheek and lips, thinking that he must have looked foolish indeed to be so caught up in the flurry of activity around Anne that he couldn't recognise that he had heard a baby cry before he entered. One day, it would be a funny story to tell their new children... their twins. He could scarcely believe that, after over five childless years since Harry's arrival, they were now doubly blessed. "Thank you, sweetheart." He kissed her again. "I don't know how to repay you for this."
"You don't need to repay me." Anne insisted. "I'm as happy about them as you are!"
Mistress Porter bustled forward to address Henry. "If you'll excuse us, Your Majesty, I'm sure that Her Majesty would like to wash, and change into a clean nightgown. We also need to change the bedding." The babies were clean now, and wrapped in fine coverings, so it would not do to allow their mother to hold them and get them dirty. Anne nodded fervently in response to her words, clearly reminded of the fact that she was sticky with sweat and blood, while the bed she was lying in was in a sorry state. The linens would probably need to be thrown away. There was little hope that the laundresses would be able to restore them to their original spotless state.
"Go ahead." Henry invited, helping Anne sit up and then moving her pillows to support her but having no intention of leaving the room. When he saw Mistress Porter hesitate, her lips becoming so thin that her mouth was almost like a line in her face, he gave her an impish smile. "I can assure you, Mistress Porter, that it's nothing I haven't seen before."
She probably would have liked to argue, but she knew better.
Within ten minutes, Anne was washed, her hair rebraided and she was dressed in a clean nightgown. Mistress Porter handed her a tonic for the pain and, for once, Anne downed it without the slightest hesitation or reluctance. The bed coverings were stripped, and bundled up to be washed, and the bed was remade with fine linen sheets and silk coverlets. Henry helped Anne back into bed, arranging the pillows so that she could sit comfortably, ready to receive their children.
The boy was slightly larger than the girl. His eyes were blue, and Henry was sure that the expression in them was intelligent. His hair was very fair, and he already had a lot of it. The ladies had smoothed it down when they washed him but wisps of it still stuck up around his head. His tiny hand wrapped around Henry's finger in a strong grip when it was offered to him, and he didn't seem to have any intention of letting go any time soon. It was with some difficulty that Henry was able to free his finger so that he could pass the baby boy to Anne for her to hold.
The girl was a tiny, perfect little bundle, nestling contentedly in Henry's arms as soon as she was handed to him. Her dark hair was fine and soft, with a silky sheen. She had her mother's eyes. Her skin was petal-soft, with a faint pink flush to her dimpled cheeks.
"She's a perfect Tudor rose." Henry declared, smiling adoringly at her as she dozed off in his arms. "And our son is already a handsome young man."
"What should we call them?" Anne asked.
They had discussed names before and, while Henry was adamant that a daughter was to be named for her, they had not agreed on a name if they had a son. She thought that they were both reluctant to settle on a name for a boy, in case they allowed themselves to create too clear a picture of what their son would be like if they gave him a name, and that they might feel a twinge of disappointment if a daughter came in place of the son they imagined.
"Our little princess is Anne," Henry insisted without hesitation. "Though we may need to come up with a nickname for her," he added, remembering Harry's birth, and Elizabeth's concerns that her father and baby brother might be mixed up if they shared a name. He wasn't sure what nickname could be given to the tiny rosebud in his arms, given that Anne's niece and one of her ladies-in-waiting had already claimed Annie and Nan, but he was sure that they would come up with something. "And as far as our son is concerned, considering the trouble he helped caused you, I think that you should be the one to name him, sweetheart."
Anne bit her lower lip in concentration as she looked down on her son, wondering what name she could give him.
She might have chosen George, in honour of both her brother and the saint, but Henry's words about finding a nickname for baby Anne led her to try to come up with a suitable nickname that would be used to distinguish her son from his uncle, and she couldn't think of anything she liked. Even if George had not already used Thomas for his son, she knew that she would rather not name her new son after her father but if she chose to name him after William Stafford instead, her father would never forgive her for the perceived insult. When she was carrying Elizabeth, she knew that Henry favoured the name Edward, if their son was not to be named after himself, but it would be unfair to little Lord Edward if one of his new siblings usurped his name.
"Geoffrey." She said at last, settling on her great-grandfather's name. It was he who had helped the Boleyn family rise from obscurity to prominence, and his name was not one that was already used within her close family. It was also not a name that was common among English princes.
"Geoffrey." Henry tested the name. "Prince Geoffrey, Duke of York. I think it's got a ring to it."
"So do I." Anne agreed, smiling down at Geoffrey, who burbled in return. "I think he likes it."
"Geoffrey it is, then." Cradling baby Anne carefully in one arm, Henry lay down on the bed next to Anne, so that the babies could be held close to one another.
Anne's male relatives were permitted a brief visit to the room but Henry scarcely heard their congratulations. He gave orders for the bells to be rung, and for appropriate celebrations in honour of the births of England's new prince and princess, but he had no desire to join in the festivities, not if it meant leaving Anne's side.
All he wanted was to be with her and their new babies.
18th February 1542
Although Elizabeth was very excited to have been chosen as her new baby brother's godmother, she knew that the christening was a very solemn occasion and that, as one of the godparents, it was very important for her to behave appropriately. It was a very important, very grown-up job and she needed to let everybody see that she was old enough to take on this special responsibility, even though she was only eight. Kat explained to her that being Geoffrey's godmother meant that she should take special care of him, and make sure that he learned all he needed to know about God and that he said his prayers as he ought to. She was to help him grow up to be a virtuous boy, one who loved God and who followed His commandments as he ought to.
It would be a big job but she was determined to do it properly.
She was a little put-out to learn that she was not to be Geoffrey's most important godparent.
As soon as the twins were born, her Papa sent a messenger riding to Scotland to ask the King of Scots if he would be Geoff's godfather, and the Queen of Scots if she would be the new princess' godmother. They both accepted so the Scottish ambassador carried Geoffrey in the christening procession, and another Scottish lord carried baby Anne, acting as the Queen's proxy.
Kat had told her that her Papa the King wanted the King and Queen of Scots to be godparents to the twins because, when they had a baby, a Scottish princess could be betrothed to Geoff or else a prince might marry Anne one day, so that she could be Queen there.
Uncle George was Geoffrey's other godfather, while the Duke of Norfolk was Anne's godfather and Nan Saville was her other godmother.
Harry was very cross when Lady Bryan told him that he was not to be godfather to one of the babies, even though she tried to explain to him that, because he was not yet seven and had not yet reached the age of reason, he was too young for the job. Instead, Papa and Mama said that he might carry the chrism cloth for one of the babies and he chose their new sister, reasoning that it wouldn't be fair to her if Geoffrey had Elizabeth for his godmother and Harry to carry his chrism. She might think they liked Geoffrey more if neither of them had a special job for her christening.
Their cousin Nell was going to carry Geoffrey's chrism cloth.
Papa and Mama were not to attend the christening.
Kat explained that her Mama was not yet well enough to be out of bed and that it was traditional for the King not to be present for a christening. He had not attended Elizabeth's christening, or even Harry's. At a christening, the godparents were the important ones, and the babies being christened, of course, and the King didn't want to take all the attention away from them.
With two babies being christened, there were a lot of people in the procession.
All of the children from Eltham were to be present for the christening, even those who did not have a special job. Before the babies were born, Mama sent cloth merchants and tailors and seamstresses to Eltham, telling them to make sure that every child there would have a beautiful gown or a fine suit to wear for the christening, and for the celebrations afterwards. Because Elizabeth and Harry were royal children, their new clothes were the finest of all, but she thought that they all looked very grand today.
Even Kat and Lady Bryan and the other nursery attendants were wearing their best clothes.
The Lady Mary was not present.
Although not even Kat, who was usually very good at explaining things when Lady Bryan wouldn't tell her anything, would tell her why her half-sister was absent, Elizabeth had sharp ears and she had heard some of her maidservants whispering that the Lady Mary had had a baby just a few days before the twins were born. The maidservants thought that it was very disgraceful for Mary to have a baby, since she had no husband but Elizabeth was pleased to be an aunt. It was almost as grown-up as being godmother. It was especially funny to think that the twins were aunt and uncle to the Lady Mary's new daughter, as they were even younger than she was.
She reminded herself to have Kat help her embroider a cap for her new niece. She didn't like sewing very much, preferring her other lessons and things like dancing and riding her horse to spending hours practicing her needlework but she thought that an aunt should give gifts to her niece. Aunt Mary often sent little gifts for her and for Harry, and she wanted to be as good and kind an aunt to the Lady Mary's new baby as Aunt Mary was to her.
They were all to line up in the correct order before the procession made its way to the Chapel Royal.
Harry was to walk at the very head of the procession, since he was the Prince of Wales and since he was carrying one of the chrism cloths, both of which meant that he had to lead the way. Elizabeth was to walk by his side, since she wasn't going to be carrying Geoffrey.
Nell would come just behind them, carrying the other chrism, but because she was still very young and because this was her first time wearing a proper court gown with a proper train, she couldn't manage her train when she had her hands full with the chrism, so the Duke of Suffolk was to carry her. Neither of them was very happy about that; Nell didn't want to have to be carried, even though Grandpapa had carried Elizabeth when she carried the chrism cloth for Harry's christening, and even though the Duke of Suffolk didn't complain, Elizabeth saw him frown when he heard that Papa wanted him to carry Nell. Nell stopped complaining when she saw that, carried in the Duke's arms, she would be able to see much more of what was happening than she would if she walked.
After them would come Geoffrey, carried by the Scottish ambassador and with a canopy held above him, carried by four gentlemen, and then Anne, carried by the Scottish lord and under a canopy of her own. The other godparents would walk behind them, then Kat, Lady Bryan and the other children, with the rest of the courtiers following after them.
The christening ceremony was not a very long one.
Elizabeth was word-perfect when she recited the vows and she was relieved to see first Geoffrey and then Anne cry out as Archbishop Cranmer poured the water over their heads, as it meant that the Devil was driven out of them and would not be able to harm or influence them anymore.
The garter king of arms marched in front of the procession as they made their way out of the Chapel Royal, with the babies carried immediately behind him, calling out:
"God, of His Almighty and infinite grace, give and grant good life and long to the right high, right excellent and noble Prince Geoffrey, Duke of York, dear and entirely beloved son of our most dread and gracious lord, King Henry the Eighth, and to the high and mighty Princess of England, Anne!"
Mama and Papa were waiting for them in Mama's bedchamber and, once the babies were handed to Mama, who had to cradle them very carefully to manage holding them both, and the courtiers had made their obeisance and withdrew, Harry ran over to the bed, climbing up next to Mama and beaming down at the babies in her arms. Elizabeth didn't run over to the bed and she didn't climb on it, she was too big for that now. Instead, she walked over in a dignified manner, as a princess ought to, and curtsied gracefully before taking her place to stand by Papa's side.
"They're very pretty babies, Mama." He told her, thinking that, if he had to share his Mama and his Papa with two new babies instead of just one, it was good that they seemed like such nice babies. Lady Bryan had warned him that they might seem red and wrinkled and ugly at first, and that they wouldn't be do much apart from sleep and cry until they were bigger, but they were plump and pretty and they gurgled when they saw him instead of crying. He was also quite pleased to have a new brother and a new sister, instead of two brothers or two sisters, since it meant that he didn't have to decide which one he would rather have, and feel sad if he didn't get the one he wanted. It also meant that there were now two princes in England, and two princesses.
If you counted Edward and the Lady Mary, Papa now had three sons and three daughters.
That was a nice big family.
"They are, indeed." Papa said heartily, reaching out to ruffle his hair and to pat Elizabeth's cheek before he lifted the baby girl out of Mama's arms, and cuddled her close. "Geoffrey will be as handsome as Harry one day, and our little Tudor rose will be as beautiful as Elizabeth – won't you, my rose?" He smiled down at the baby, who gurgled her assent.
"Rose would be a good name for her, Papa." Harry piped up. Although his new sister was christened Anne for Mama, there were already so many Annes that he thought she needed a nickname of her own, like Harry was his nickname so people didn't get him and Papa muddled. She was beautiful and pink, like a rose, and he didn't know of any other lady at court who was named Rose, so the name would be all her own. When she was bigger, she would know that her big brother had chosen her nickname for her, and he hoped that she would like it very much.
Papa's smile was as wide as Harry had ever seen it.
"What a clever idea, Harry," he said. "Our Princess Rose."
The children stayed with them until it was time for the noon meal.
When Lady Bryan and Mistress Champernowne arrived to escort Harry and Elizabeth to the nursery, where they could wash and change their clothes, and then to the Great Hall for the feast in honour of the christening, where they would act as hosts in their parents' absence, they left readily enough, a little reluctant to leave their parents and the babies but excited by the thought of presiding over the feast. It was good practice for them to grow accustomed to dining in state before the court without their parents.
The twins' cradles were to be kept in Anne's bedchamber until she emerged from confinement in just under six weeks time, and their nurses settled them for their naps before withdrawing.
"As soon as you're feeling better, we'll stage the greatest celebrations England has seen since your coronation." Henry promised.
When Elizabeth was born, the joust and masques he had intended to stage to mark the birth of his first legitimate son were cancelled in favour of the more subdued celebrations appropriate for the birth of a princess – though he had seen to it that nobody could possibly claim that Elizabeth's arrival was celebrated with less pomp than the Lady Mary's, in case they tried to claim that he loved Anne's daughter less – and, while the celebrations in honour of Harry's arrival were lavish, as befitted the arrival of a future King of England, he intended that those in honour of the twins would be equally grand. It was very rare for twins to be born into a royal family, and he wanted to make sure that nobody would be able to forget the festivities that marked their arrival.
"Will we have a joust?" Anne asked, thinking that, if there was, Elizabeth and Harry would be overjoyed... though Harry's joy might be tempered with disappointment over the fact that he was not yet old enough to be allowed to joust. The riding master engaged to teach the children at Eltham reported that Harry was a very eager equestrian, longing for the day when he would be old enough to ride in jousts and hunts with the grown lords but she knew that she certainly wasn't ready to see her young son take part in dangerous pastimes.
"Of course, sweetheart," Henry promised, "and I thought that I should knight a few of the gentlemen of the court, and maybe raise somebody to the peerage... two people." He amended, thinking that it was appropriate to create two new lords to mark the births of two new royal children. He kissed Anne. "Your choice, my darling. Name the men, and they will have titles."
"Me?" Anne was startled by this.
Her father was created Duke of Wiltshire in honour of Harry's birth, and while she knew that Henry had hoped to please her by doing so, he had not consulted her before deciding to further ennoble her father. The decision to grant his young nephew, Edward Brandon, an earldom in his own right was also not one he discussed with her. She had anticipated that, if she gave him another son, he would mark the new prince's arrival by dispensing honours to favoured courtiers but she didn't expect that it would be left to her to decide who was to be honoured.
"You," Henry confirmed. "You're the one who brought our children into the world, after all."
The first choice was an easy one.
"My sister's husband, Will." She knew that Mary had not cared that William was a man of low standing and little fortune when she married him. She loved him, and chose love over riches and a title. However, that didn't mean that Anne didn't want her sister to have it all and, now that she was presented with the opportunity to secure it for her, she didn't hesitate to take it.
"Of course," Henry agreed, thinking that, even if he hadn't decided to leave the choice in Anne's hands, her brother-in-law would have been among those he chose to honour. Will Stafford was a good man, a man who loved his wife and daughter and who, despite his connection with the royal family, and with two of the most powerful noble families in England, was refreshingly humble. He would not be sorry to see such a good man raised to the peerage, or to see little Annie Stafford enjoy the benefits of being the daughter of a peer of the realm rather than a knight. "Who else?"
If she could, she would have loved to name Charles Howard but she knew that, however pleased he might be over the birth of the twins, Henry would not be prepared to go so far. If she could persuade him to allow him to return to England safely, to marry Mary and to be a father to little Katherine, it would have to be enough, at least for now, until Henry could be persuaded to soften.
"Lord Edward Fitzroy." She said instead, thinking that, if she couldn't help her stepdaughter, she at least had the power to do something for her stepson. "Your son."
"Anne..." For a couple of minutes, Henry could only say her name and stare at her, half-thinking that his ears might be deceiving him.
Although Katherine had never complained to him about his decision to raise young Henry Fitzroy to the peerage, it was no secret that she was dismayed and angered when she learned of the toddler's elevation as Duke of Richmond and Somerset, fearing for Mary's position as heir to the throne and thinking such titles too grand for a bastard by far. Even if Anne had not been so distressed when she learned of Edward's birth, he knew that he could never have hurt her by treating his son by Mistress Seymour with the same degree of honour that he had his son by Lady Blount. Now Anne was the one advocating that little Edward should be honoured, choosing him rather than asking that her little nephew be made a peer in his own right, or one of her cousins.
Every time he thought that she couldn't make him love her any more than he already did, she found a way to prove him wrong.
"Are you certain, sweetheart?" He asked. "You don't need to choose Edward to please me, I promise." He hoped that Anne didn't think that he had left the choice in her hands as a test of sorts, expecting her to choose his son to please him. If she didn't truly want the boy to be made a peer, the courtesy title of Lord would be good enough for him. He wouldn't be sorry to grant the child a minor peerage, if Anne was pleased for him to do so, but she had already been more accepting of the child than any woman could reasonably be expected to be about her husband's bastard and he could never ask any more from her.
"I'm certain. He's your son."
"What about his mother? Are you certain that you can bear to have her at court?"
Jane's presence at her son's ennoblement was not essential but Henry knew that, if young Edward's Seymour kin, his mother in particular, were not permitted to be present at the ceremony, it would undoubtedly lead to gossip that Anne still had cause to feel threatened, and he didn't want anybody to come to such a false conclusion, any more than he wanted Anne to worry that Jane might catch his eye again, that the sight of her might lead him to regret that he had banished her from his life all those years ago or that he might even be such a fool as to want to have her for his mistress. As well as that, Edward would surely want his mother to be present for his special day, and would be upset if she was barred from the ceremony.
Anne nodded firmly. "It will only be for a day or two." She pointed out. "Then she'll be gone again, back to wherever it is she lives now." She knew that a husband had been found for Mistress Seymour, and that Henry had contributed a dowry so that the mother of his son could make a respectable match, but she had no idea where she was living now, or what manner of man she married. "I'm sure that Edward would like to see her there."
"If you're sure that's what you want..."
"It is," Anne said firmly, her tone leaving him in no doubt that she meant what she said. She slipped her hand into his, squeezing it lightly. "There's one more favour I would ask of you."
"Name it, sweetheart." Henry didn't think that he would be able to deny her anything after this.
"Let Charles Howard to return to England, let him marry Mary and let them leave court to live quietly together in the country. She and her child need him, and they're no threat to us now." By now, all of Christendom must know that Mary's child was born out of wedlock. Whatever support Mary might have had, if she wished to make a bid for the throne, was gone, and there was no way that anybody would champion baby Katherine as heiress to the throne ahead of Harry, and their other children. "The baby is your granddaughter, Henry, your first grandchild."
"She's a bastard, and so is her mother." Henry stated gruffly. He had no desire to quarrel with Anne on this matter, or any other but he wished that she could have chosen something else, something that he could grant her with a happy heart, instead of asking this of him.
"But she still has your blood in her veins, as much of your blood as Harry's children will." When Harry grew to manhood, married and fathered children, those children would be princes and princesses of England, and one of them would rule over the country one day. Little Katherine Fitzhoward might be destined to a life of obscurity, and marriage to an English lord if she was fortunate and they could dower her well enough to make a good match, but that didn't make her any less Henry's grandchild than the cousin who would one day be King. "Any child with your blood in their veins deserves to be honoured for it, whatever the circumstances of their birth."
Her words appealed to his pride, she could see that much.
Royal blood, Tudor blood was sacred to him and it was undeniable that it flowed through baby Katherine's tiny veins. She was the granddaughter of one King, and the niece of a future King and, although it would be unwise to stress the fact too much to Henry, she could count three sovereigns among her great-grandparents. That had to be worth something to him.
"Just visit her, Henry, for my sake if not for hers and Mary's," Anne pleaded, seeing his resolve against his granddaughter waver slightly, and pressing her advantage. "I've seen her, and she's such a beautiful baby. She looks like your mother, she's fair like her, and like Geoffrey."
"Not like Katherine?" He didn't think that he could bear to look at a baby who resembled Katherine. It was no surprise that Mary, who loved her mother dearly and who was so devoted to her memory, would choose to name her daughter after her, and he didn't condemn her for it. If anything, he thought that he would have taken it as an insult if Mary had chosen to give her child the name of his wife, his mother or his sister, and hated her for her presumption.
"Not at all," Anne insisted, hoping that, if he saw the child, Henry wouldn't be able to discern some likeness that she might have missed. He had known Katherine in her youth, after all, whereas she had only known her in her later years, after her looks had faded. "Will you see her? Just once?" She was certain that once would be enough. "I'll make arrangements for Mary and the baby, I promise." She added, thinking that it would touch Henry's pride if he had to discuss suitable provisions for his daughter and illegitimate grandchild with others. "Just visit them, please."
Henry badly wanted to say 'no' but the sight of the pleading expression in Anne's eyes would not allow him to.
"One short visit." He said, not wanting to meet her eyes in case she coaxed him into making further concessions, against his better judgement, when she had him ready to do her bidding. Before she could ask anything else of him, he rose to his feet, kissed her and left the room, thinking that, if he must do this, he wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.
As a lady-in-waiting in Anne's service, Mary's apartment was not far from hers and, despite her disgrace, she was not required to surrender the comfortable accommodation Anne had arranged for her when she first joined her service so that she could move to humbler lodgings.
There were few servants in the corridor as he approached Mary's apartment, and when he knocked on the door, her maid opened it, curtseying deeply at the sight of him before stepping back to usher him into the room.
"Your Majesty." She greeted him politely. "Shall I tell the Lady Mary that you are here."
"Don't bother." Henry told her brusquely, pushing past her to cross through the large, well-appointed room that Mary used as a sitting room and dining chamber and entering the bedchamber.
Mary was sitting up in bed, propped by pillows, and cradling her daughter in her arms. She instinctively clutched the baby closer to her when he entered, as though she thought that he had come to snatch the brat away, and, while she couldn't rise from her bed to curtsey to him, she bowed her head respectfully as she murmured a greeted, addressing him by the formal 'Your Majesty' rather than as 'Father', not daring to be informal with him after all that had transpired.
"Daughter." Henry's greeting was cool but not unkind. "I trust that you are recovering well?"
"Yes, Your Majesty." Mary nodded, wondering if he was about to command her to resume her duties in Anne's household as soon as she was strong enough, or if he had something else in mind for her. Whatever it was, she could bear it, as long as she could have Katherine with her. As long as he had not come to tell her that it was his wish that her baby should be turned over to the care of strangers to be reared, she could accept whatever he had planned for her. "I thank Your Majesty for your kind concern for my health."
As far as he was concerned, it was more than she had a right to expect from him but he refrained from saying so. Instead, he merely nodded by way of response, and then moved closer to the bed, leaning forward slightly to inspect the baby in his daughter's arms.
"The Queen told me that your daughter was beautiful. I see that she did not exaggerate." Despite himself, Henry couldn't keep from smiling slightly when baby Katherine gazed up at him with curious light blue eyes, his mother's eyes. How could he be expected to harden his heart against a child with the eyes of Elizabeth of York, the lady he had so revered as mother and Queen?
"Thank you, Your Majesty." The tension Mary felt eased slightly but she didn't lower her guard.
"When the Queen, your kind stepmother, has recovered from childbirth, and is churched, we will be holding celebrations in honour of England's new prince and princess," Henry told her. "As part of those celebrations, the Queen's brother-in-law, Sir William Stafford, and my son will be granted titles of nobility, at the Queen's request. It is my wish that you be present for the occasion."
He waited to hear if Mary would protest, if she would plead to be spared the shame of appearing before the court when they all knew that she was the mother of a bastard child and would surely look down on her for it but she didn't try to avoid it, and simply nodded her assent. He respected her more for it, glad to see that she recognized that she had erred but didn't seek to pretend that she was not shamed. Perhaps she had learned her lesson and, if that was the case, he decided that there could be no real harm in showing her a little mercy.
Anne would want him to be kind to Mary now and, for her, he would do it.
"The Queen has asked that the Howard boy be permitted to return to England and it is her wish and mine that he marry you, and make an honest woman of you. As he took your maidenhead, it is no more than his duty to stand by you, and by your child. The Queen has offered to make arrangements to see to it that you are provided for. I hope that you are grateful for her kindness."
Mary nodded fervently. "I am, Your Majesty. Queen Anne has been very kind to me." Kinder than Mary would ever have believed possible a few years ago and, though she hated to admit it, kinder than her mother was likely to have been to Elizabeth, had she been the one in this position. She didn't take such kindness for granted.
"As for your daughter..." He hesitated, unsure what he wanted to do next. He knew that Anne wanted him to be kind to the child, and to honour her for the royal blood in her veins but he also knew that he could not shame himself or his royal house by welcoming a bastard granddaughter, particularly one born of his daughter rather than his son, too warmly. Baby Katherine was watching him curiously, as though she knew that her fate was being decided and wanted to know what plans he had for her. "The child is illegitimate, as you are, but she has my blood in her veins, and the Queen reminded me that she deserves to be honoured for that fact. She may be known as the Lady Katherine Fitzhoward, since she is the granddaughter of a King."
It could do no harm to allow the infant to bear the courtesy title of Lady during her childhood and, when the time came, there would surely be some nobleman who would be prepared to accept her as a bride in exchange for a generous dowry. She was a girl, and would one day take her status from her husband. It would have been more complicated if Mary had borne a son.
Even for Anne, he couldn't bring himself to grant a peerage to a bastard grandson by Mary.
Mary felt tears well up in her eyes.
When Thomas Boleyn, then an earl rather than a duke, visited her at Ludlow Castle to inform her that Archbishop Cranmer had taken it upon himself to pronounce her parents' marriage null and void, usurping authority that belonged to the Holy Father, she was angry and devastated to be told that, as far as her father was concerned, she had no right to the title of Princess and was to be known to all as Lady Mary. At Hatfield, she refused to answer to the hated title and insisted that she was the true Princess of England, not Elizabeth, and she tried to do the same at the More. When she finally took the Oath, swearing that she accepted that she was not the Princess of Wales, not the true legitimate heiress to the throne, but merely the Lady Mary, the King's bastard daughter, fortunate to be recognized by her father and allowed some small degree of honour, she felt as though she was betraying both her mother and herself.
Now, she was truly grateful to her father for allowing her daughter the title of Lady, and grateful to Anne for being the one to prompt him to soften towards them.
Too overcome to speak, she could only smile her gratitude at her father. He said little more to her, save to wish her a speedy recovery, before he hastily withdrew from the room, leaving Mary alone with her baby daughter, who nestled into her arms, lulled by the sound of her heartbeat.
"Your papa will be home soon," Mary whispered, hoping that it wouldn't take long for her father's messenger to reach Charles, and to arrange for his passage back to England. "He's a good man and he's going to love you so much, I promise you that. We're going to be a family, together."
If baby Katherine's gurgles were any indication, the prospect pleased her very much.
27th March 1542
"Sir William Stafford!"
As soon as the garter king at arms called his name, Will Stafford entered the King's presence chamber, resplendent in a new suit of black velvet embroidered in gold thread. He wore a heavy mantle of crimson velvet, trimmed with ermine around his shoulders. He met his wife's eyes as he made his way through the assembled courtiers, who cleared a path to the dais and to the thrones on which the King and Queen sat, with smaller thrones by their parents' sides for Prince Harry and Princess Elizabeth. The pride in Mary's eyes as she watched him was unmistakeable. He was sure that even his father-in-law, who was still not reconciled to his inclusion in the Boleyn family and preferred to ignore him whenever possible, was not displeased to see him raised to the peerage.
Maybe now he would be more willing to acknowledge that Will was his son by marriage.
Little Tommy – or Viscount Rochford, to give the child his proper title – was the only member of the family who was not present today. Even the infant prince and princess in whose honour today's festivities were being staged were present, cradled in the arms of nursemaids who stood to one side of the dais with their precious charges. He could see that, as usual, Nell had commanded George to lift her up so that she could see properly, and George had complied with her wishes, either not noticing or not caring about the attention he attracted as he stood there, in his ceremonial robes and coronet, balancing his little daughter in his arms. Annie stood next to Mary, clutching her mother's hand and beaming up at her father.
Once he reached the foot of the dais, he knelt in front of it, as he had when he was knighted five years ago, in honour of Prince Harry's birth. That had been an unlooked-for honour in itself, and he had not dreamed that a day would come when he would be granted a higher title.
"Sir William Stafford, you are, by order and permission of His Majesty King Henry the Eighth, today created Earl of Essex." Sir Thomas Audley announced solemnly.
Henry rose from his throne, standing in front of Will. He accepted the earl's coronet from a page and set it on Will's head, and handed him the finely wrought sword commissioned in honour of the occasion. Once Will had accepted the sword, Henry took the patent of nobility from Audley and presented it to him, and a second patent granting the new Earl of Essex lands worth a thousand pounds a year, to maintain the dignity of his new rank. As Annie – now the Lady Anne Stafford – looked likely to be her parents' only child, a special clause was included in the patent of nobility at his command, directing that, in the absence of a legitimate male heir, Annie and her male heirs would inherit the earldom and estates, so the title would not become extinct in one generation.
"Arise, Lord Essex." He commanded, kissing Will on each cheek.
"Thank you, Your Majesty," Will bowed deeply, scarcely able to believe that he, who was nothing but a common soldier a few short years ago, could now call himself an earl. He was delighted that, through his ennoblement, Mary was now a countess. Although she never complained about it, his one regret about marrying her was that she had suffered a loss of standing through their union.
He stepped to the side, joining the assembled peers to watch the second ceremony.
"Lord Edward Fitzroy!" The garter king at arms called out.
The little boy was clearly awed by the situation, though Lady Bryan had taken pains to ensure that he was familiar with every step of the ritual, so that he didn't make any mistakes, which would be unlucky. A fine new suit had been made for him in honour of the occasion, and like Will, he wore a mantle trimmed with ermine, though his train was much shorter and more manageable.
Both Lady Bryan and Mistress Jones stressed that it was a very great honour and a sign of the love the King bore him that he was to be given a special title, and that he must behave very, very well, so that all of the lords and ladies who were present for the ceremony could see that he was worthy of such a great honour, and so that his Mama would be proud of him.
His Mama was here today, with her husband Sir William, and with Sir William's three children.
After the ceremony, he wanted to introduce Sir William's children to Harry and Elizabeth, since they were his brother and sisters by marriage. The twins were probably too little.
Jane, Lady Herbert watched with pride as her young son walked past her. Edward didn't smile at her but she didn't mind, knowing that he must have been instructed to behave with the dignity appropriate to such a solemn occasion, and not to allow himself to become distracted. For today, he had to behave like a courtier rather than like a small boy of five years. He had grown since she last saw him, and his pale blonde hair had darkened somewhat, and begun to grow curly. He was going to be a very handsome man one day, she was sure of that.
She glanced up at Anne, wondering what the woman she once counted as her rival must be thinking as she watched the King honour his son by another woman, knowing that she had been unable to keep a father's love for his son from winning out, even if that son was born out of wedlock to another woman, while the son she gave him was called Prince of Wales. The King had ignored Edward for too long for Anne's sake, just as he had not contacted Jane for fear of exciting Anne's jealousy. Even when Edward came to live at Eltham Palace with his half-siblings, the King must have felt that he needed to tread carefully rather than lavishing Edward with all of the affection that he must surely have felt for the son born of the love he and Jane shared.
Now, at last, he knew that he could no longer allow himself to be persuaded to neglect Edward for Anne's sake, and he was ready to honour his son before the whole court, as he ought to.
Edward knelt in front of his father, looking up at him with wide blue eyes.
"Edward Fitzroy, you are, by order and permission of His Majesty King Henry the Eighth, today created Viscount Beauchamp of Hache." Audley intoned.
Only a great effort on her part, coupled with her awareness that this was a special day for Edward and that she shouldn't spoil it, allowed Jane to maintain her self control when she heard this.
Jane could scarcely believe her ears.
The King's son by Lady Blount was made a duke twice over, and an earl besides, becoming the first lord in England, second only to the King. William Stafford, a man of low birth whose only claim to royal favour was that he was married to Anne's sister, was granted the more prestigious title of Earl of Essex. Surely Edward deserved more than to be created Viscount Beauchamp of Hache.
She could only think of one reason why, when he had the opportunity to show how much he honoured their son, and the power to bestow any title of nobility, the King would only allow him the title of viscount instead of making him a duke or a marquess, or an earl at the very least.
How could she have been so foolish as to allow herself to believe that Anne's influence had waned?
Of course the King wasn't going to deliberately antagonise her, not when she had just borne him two children in a single birth, one of them a second son. He must be delighted to be a father again, and he must think that Anne needed to be treated especially gently, as she was past thirty and had endured a doubly difficult labour. She should probably be thankful that the King was prepared to brave Anne's wrath by giving Edward a title at all, even if he felt that he needed to ensure that Anne's brother-in-law was granted a greater honour, to reassure her that she didn't need to worry that his love for Edward could ever be a threat to the positions of their children.
Because of Anne, Edward was denied the opportunity to be born in wedlock.
If she had not enticed the King away from Queen Katherine years ago, or if she had consented to be his mistress, rather than refusing to yield to him until he offered her marriage in order to satisfy her ambition and that of her family, he would have stayed married to Queen Katherine until the end of her days, sparing a noble lady the suffering she endured because of Anne.
When he met Jane, and fell in love with her, he would have been a widower and free to make her his wife and Queen. When Edward was born, he would have been Prince of Wales, and welcomed as such by the English people. Jane was sure that even Princess Mary would have been happy to welcome Edward, never resenting him for becoming heir to the throne by virtue of his sex.
Instead, Anne had to spoil everything for them.
Instead, Anne's children were feted as England's princes and princesses, their places as heirs to the throne secured by oath, while Jane's son was regarded as a bastard, allowed only the title of Viscount because Anne couldn't bear for him to be allowed greater honours, while poor Princess Mary was neglected, and forced to act as a lady-in-waiting in Anne's household instead of having an establishment of her own, as she ought to, and a splendid marriage arranged for her.
Had the King married Jane, shewould have seen to it that a suitable match was arranged for Mary, and made her stepdaughter her concern instead of worrying about the marital prospects of a daughter who was so much younger that her marriage was a matter for future consideration rather than immediate concern. Poor Mary would not be in the position she was now if Anne had had a care for her interests, as a stepmother should, and made it her business to remind the King that it was long past time for his eldest daughter to have a husband and a family of her own.
Shewould have told him that she didn't want Mary to have to serve her, and that while she would be delighted to have Mary at court, she wanted to welcome her there as a friend.
Even the King's bastards by Anne would never have cause to say that she treated them unkindly. She would be willing to allow them to visit the court, so that they might see their father, and she would teach her own children to treat them kindly, without being arrogant about their royal status. If it pleased their father to honour the boys with titles, she would not complain and she would never try to persuade the King to be less generous with them than he was inclined to be.
Anne had no right to be so selfish!
The spite that still clearly existed in Anne's nature was apparent, as Jane was sure that only she would be cruel enough to demand that Princess Mary be present for today's ceremony, despite the fact that the courtiers were whispering about the poor girl's fall from grace behind her back.
While Jane didn't condone Mary's actions, she told herself that it was understandable that she was unhappy and misguided enough to be led into sin – by a cousin of Anne's, if rumours were true – as she had been deprived of the company and guidance of her mother at such a young and vulnerable age, and as the stepmother her father gave her was not a woman who was fit to provide her with sound moral guidance. She was pleased to see that Mary stood with her head held high, refusing to allow herself to crumble in response to Anne's petty gesture or to let people see that she was distressed. Looking at Mary, who wore a rich gown of tawny velvet, anybody who didn't know the story would swear that her position was an honoured one.
After Edward rose, and was kissed by his father, the royal family and the new peers led the way into the banquet but, although places were reserved for her, Sir William and the children at one of the tables immediately below the dais, Jane hung back, hoping for a word with Mary.
She curtseyed to Mary as soon as she came close to her, bowing her head respectfully, and waited until the other courtiers had gone into the Great Hall for the banquet before she spoke to her. "Your Grace." It was not permissible to address Mary as 'Highness' but Jane wanted her to know that she still held her in high esteem. "I was very sorry to hear of your troubles."
"You are very kind, Mistress..." Mary didn't recognize the woman curtseying before her, though there was something vaguely familiar about her. A couple of courtiers had approached her already, offering honeyed words of sympathy or offers to pray for her in her trouble that did a poor job of disguising either their scorn for her or their satisfaction over her fall from grace. She had responded civilly but coldly to their comments, refusing to allow herself to lose her temper and allow them to say that she had the manners of a fishwife, but she was heartily sick of it by now.
"I am Lady Herbert, Your Grace – I was Lady Jane Seymour, before my marriage." Jane said, chiding herself for not making introductions, and for assuming that Princess Mary would know who she was. She felt a bond of kinship with the younger woman, as the half-sister of her precious Edward, as the girl she once hoped to have the privilege of calling her stepdaughter and to see restored to her proper place, and as a fellow victim of Anne's malice, but Princess Mary had never laid eyes on her, and couldn't possibly be expected to know her on sight.
"You are my half-brother's mother."
Mary knew the name well, having heard Chapuys speak of the woman standing before her, all those years ago when the ambassador who was then her most devoted ally sought to hearten her with assurances that Anne's hold on her father's heart was failing, and that it would not be long before he set her aside. Back then, she had looked on Jane as a potential saviour, as the woman whose pure, kind heart would act as an antidote to Anne's poison and allow him to see the truth clearly, at last. She allowed herself to imagine that the Lady Jane Seymour would open her father's eyes and make him see that he had wronged her, and her sainted mother, by setting them aside and that, although her mother's soul was at rest and he couldn't make amends with her, he could reverse the wrongs he committed against Mary by welcoming her back to court as the rightful Princess of England, and into his heart as his most beloved daughter.
It was nothing but a dream, one that could never have come true.
Looking at Lady Herbert now, Mary could see that she was pretty, and that she was probably prettier still in her younger days, but she would never have been able to hold the King's love.
Her father might once have thought that Lady Herbert was a beauty, a gentle lady he could have loved for the rest of his days, but Mary knew better.
The woman before her had had no chance of holding even a small measure of the King's love and attention after Harry was born. Even if Anne had failed to bear a son, and was set aside so that the King might give the English people a Queen Jane, she would never have been able to influence him as Anne did, or to fulfil the promises Chapuys made on her behalf. She might have been sincere in her desire to welcome Mary to court but she would never have been able to persuade the King to spare her the ordeal of taking the Oath, much less to allow her the title of Princess.
"I want you to know that I don't blame you for what happened, Your Grace," Jane continued earnestly. "It was a terrible sin but it would never have happened if you were not so cruelly treated. Lady Anne should have pressed the King to make a splendid match for you, to a worthy prince, instead of keeping you as a lady in her household, and unwed. It was no more than her duty to do so, to my mind, but she's a selfish woman, and very jealous of His Majesty's affections. She cares nothing for anybody but herself and her kin, and if she had her way, she would have the King give all of his love to the children she gave him. I am sure that the King, your father, loves you very much, Your Grace, just as he loves our son, Edward, but that woman has had him under her spell for so long that he is not free to show the love he feels for you."
In a way, it was a relief to be able to openly express her feelings about Anne without having to pretend to respect the woman as her Queen. She spoke quickly and in a hushed tone, so caught up in what she was saying that she didn't notice Mary's face freezing into a hard mask.
"But you must take heart. He'll break free of her one day, mark my words. He's already given my Edward a peerage, though he doesn't dare to give him a title grander than that of viscount yet, for fear of her jealousy. I'm sure that he would have wished to raise him higher, as he did the Duke of Richmond, but he must tread slowly for now and..."
"Be silent." Mary's voice was low but there was a hard edge to it that even Jane could not miss. "You are a fool, Lady Herbert. You have no idea what you are talking about, so it would be wise for you to keep silent until you have better acquainted yourself with the truth of the matter."
"Your Grace..." Jane protested, aghast to hear Princess Mary speak to her thus. She had always heard that the Princess was a gentle, kindly soul, and she was sure that only the harsh treatment Mary had endured at Anne's hand for years had changed her. She was sure that Queen Katherine would weep to know what had become of her beloved daughter.
"Do you know why the King gave your son a peerage today?" Mary asked, not waiting for an answer. "It's because the Queen asked him to. His Majesty wished to celebrate the birth of their twins, and he asked her who she would have him honour. She chose her brother-in-law and your son. Nobody made her do it, and the King would never have asked it of her. The King would never make your child a duke as he did the Duke of Richmond because he doesn't plan to advance him as his heir, not when he has Harry. If you ask Edward, he can tell you that she has always been very kind to him, and she has been kind to me, in my trouble, when those I thought of as my friends avoided me." Although she knew why, it still hurt to know that the Emperor had abandoned her. "She isn't a bad woman."
Jane stared at her, mouth agape as she processed what Mary had said.
She didn't want to believe that Edward owed his new title to Anne but a small, nagging voice in her head insisted on reminding her that, had the King wished to honour their son as she would have liked to see him honoured, he had no need to wait for Anne to bear him another child. He could grant anybody a peerage whenever he wished, but hadn't done so for Edward until now.
She wanted to say something, to refute Mary's words, but she couldn't make a sound.
"If I were you, Lady Herbert, I would be thankful for the recognition your son has been given. This is a special day for Edward, and he must want to see you at the banquet. You may want more for him but he is happy with his new title, and you don't have the right to spoil that for him."
Without saying another word, Mary walked away, in the direction of the banquet.
She didn't need to look back to know that Lady Herbert was following her.
12th May 1542
The royal manor of Hanworth was a palace in miniature, surrounded by beautifully kept gardens.
When Anne promised to see to it that Mary and baby Katherine were provided for, Mary expected that a small, remote manor would be found for them, where they could be kept hidden away. It was a very pleasant surprise when the carriage brought them to Hanworth over a month ago, particularly when she learned that a household of servants had been engaged to see to the upkeep of the house and the grounds, and to tend to her and to baby Katherine. The allowance supplied for their needs was undeniably generous, and would keep them very comfortable.
They were not far from London, so it would be possible for people to visit her.
Joan had accompanied her, retaining her position as lady's maid and also acting as a go-between to relay her instructions to the rest of the household.
It was a sunny day, and Mary was taking advantage of the fine weather by walking outside with Katherine in her arms. One of the nursery maids followed at a discreet distance, ready to take Katherine back inside and up to her nursery if Mary indicated that this was her wish but leaving them alone until then, so that Mary could enjoy her time with her daughter.
Late spring flowers bloomed around them, giving the air a delicate fragrance.
Katherine cooed happily, her chubby legs kicking in glee when Mary found a shaded spot for them to sit, and spread the embroidered shawl on the grass for the baby to lie on. Mary could scarcely believe how much her daughter had grown in the three short months of her life. The nurse, wetnurse and nursery maids Anne had engaged all agreed that it would not be much longer before she began to roll over, and it would only be a few short months before she began to sit up.
Mary didn't know if she couldn't wait to see her daughter grow up, or if she wanted Katherine to stay as tiny and as sweet as she was now forever.
"Madam, a rider approaches." The nursery maid, whose eyes were sharper than Mary's, piped up, pointing to the road that led to the manor.
Thinking that it might be a messenger from Whitehall, sent by either Anne or her father to ask how they were faring, Mary rose to her feet, lifting Katherine up and wrapping her in her shawl. She cradled Katherine in one arm, using her free hand to shield her eyes from the sun, in the hope that she would be able to make out the livery, to discern who had sent him.
Instead of seeing a messenger, she saw a sight that made her heart swell with joy.
Charles was as handsome as she remembered.
When he saw them, he leapt down from his horse, handing the reins to a stable lad without even looking at the boy, and ran towards them. As he drew closer, Mary could see from the expression on his face that his time away, coupled with his awareness that their tryst could have cost them both their lives, had matured him. He was a man now, rather than a boy.
He kissed her, though slightly tentatively, as though he was unsure whether or not the gesture would be a welcome one.
"Forgive me, my lady... forgive me, Mary." He apologized. "My uncle saw us, and sent me away. He thought that it would be better for the Howards. If I had known about the baby, I would never have let him, I promise. I would have married you. I want to marry you... if you'll have me." He finished, abashed, hoping against hope that she would be willing to take him as her husband. As the King commanded that he was to marry Mary and be a father to their child, they would have to be married, even if Mary was so angry with him for leaving her alone that she no longer wished to be his wife, but he hoped that she could forgive him so that they could build a happy marriage.
"Of course I will." Mary said. Even if Kitty had not told her that her uncle had sent Charles to Padua, she would not have been able to doubt that he spoke truthfully once she saw the sincerity in his eyes. "There's somebody that you should meet." She shifted Katherine into a more comfortable position in her arms, tilting her so that Charles could get a better look at the beautiful baby they had made. "This is our daughter, Katherine."
"She's beautiful." Charles breathed in awe. He reached out to touch the chubby, rosy cheek but withdrew his finger in haste, afraid that the touch of a stranger might make her cry.
"You can touch her." Mary told him. Tears of joy welled in her eyes and overflowed as she watched Charles stroke Katherine's cheek, and Katherine favour her father with a gummy smile. "Katherine, this is Charles, your Papa... and my husband to be." She placed Katherine in his arms.
Seeing the adoration in Charles' eyes for Katherine as well as for her, Mary couldn't regret the fact that the birth of her daughter had put an end to any slim hope that she might one day be Queen.
She had a family of her own now, a family she had waited so long for, and she loved them.
She was happy, at last.
Author's Note: Not as long as wait for this chapter as the last one, at least. I hope that you've enjoyed it.
Now that Geoffrey and Rose have joined the family, and Mary, Charles and Katherine are in a better position, next up is a time jump to 1545.