First of all , I am so sorry for taking so long to update, but I have been so busy with work and university that time just got the better of me-I hope this chapter makes up for it. Secondly, I'm afraid I have had to put the wedding back a few chapters-but don't worry, there will be one soon, so make sure you all have your hats (or hoods) ready.
Thanks you so much for all your reviews and for reading this story-I hope everyone enjoys this chapter, despite it being very long. And a super, massive thank you to TudorGirl910489 and Vain X Life Poetess for all your help and advice, plus thank you to Vain X Life Poetess for your support last week, when I thinking of giving up on everything.
Hope your all enjoy. Oh and a Happy 555th Birthday for tomorrow to my favourite Tudor monarch.
The dress was a near perfect fit, with it being only an inch or two too short for Katarin, who did a brief twirl in the most expensive fabric she had ever felt against her skin. With a little laugh, she ran her fingers over the jewel encrusted bodice, but it was not the thought of diamonds which lightened her usual dark mood. No, her mood was still dark, for her giggle was done in cynicism as she thought that Harri's tastes had not altered with the years-even if he did now like his women now to be shorter.
As she finished her little dance, she felt her once warm heart turn as black as her mood, as recalled her their first meeting. Many years had passed since then, but to Katarin, it seemed as if it was only yesterday, for she could still recall every little detail.
It had been in the courtyard of one of the great castles in Nantes, were she and the other servants were celebrating St Pol Aurelian, by dancing in front of a great bonfire. Katarin had been dressed in a special outfit she and her mother had sewn together for the celebration. It had been a red skirt with a black bodice, overlaying her crisp white shift, whilst her starched and intricate bonnet sat pride of place on her head. Both herself and mother had hoped that Katarin would catch young Judoc's eye, for he was training to be a scribe, having him as a husband would have given Katarin a good life as a wife and mother. And their plan had work, for she had been dancing with Judoc at the very moment she had knock into another, who grabbed a strong hold her waist before she slipped and fell.
It had been dark, but in the flickering light from the fire and touches, she could clearly make out the face, which belonged to man, whose arms now held her waist in such a tight grip. He was young and handsome, though his face gave away none of the emotion he was feeling and he possessed the most engaging eyes. Even in the dime light, Katarin found herself hypnotised by the serious blues eyes, which stared back at her, for there seemed to be something hidden behind their no nonsense gaze.
'Trugarez vras,' stuttered Katarin, as the young stranger let go of her waist and for the moment the two of them just stood there, while the music and dancing continued. Desperately, she had tried to think something else to say, but found that the pounding of her heart, block her minds ability to think.
'Degemer mat,' mumbled the stranger, breaking away from her gaze and staring down at the stone courtyard, as he shuffled from one foot to the other, though Katarin could not make out, if he was nervous or simply annoyed with her continued presents. So for a moment, the two of them just stood there, like uneasy statues.
'Come on, Henry,' interrupted the older gentleman, with a mane of bright red hair, who threw an arm around the younger man's neck and pulled him away, 'there'll be a plenty of time for wenching later,'
Katarin watched as the handsome, young stranger was lead away into the castle and saw him turn back, before he disappeared behind a door, and once again their eyes briefly met. There was something in that look, which caused Katarin to once again feel her heartbeat frantically and goose bumps to appear in a tingle over her body.
'Katarin!' called Judoc, grabbing hold of her hand and shaking her slight, in annoyance about seeing her eyes and lips studying the outline of another man, 'don't bother with him. He's tainted and cursed. They say he's meant to be the Earl of Richmond, yet he can never have his inheritance and he's forced to walk around this godforsaken country, until he dies of old age or the King of England has him killed,'
'This is the most beautiful land on God's earth!' cried Katarin, stomping her clogged feet hard on the stone courtyard as her lips screamed her patriotic cry-it was at this moment that she realised her mother would have to forget about marrying her off to Judoc-for Katarin now wanted the exiled Earl of Richmond.
'Mother, in God's name are you doing!' hissed Roland, hurrying into the small room, hoping he had not been followed, and threw his arms around her, 'you swore you would cause no trouble, if I got you into the household,'
'And I haven't, have I, my darling boy,' smiled Katarin, kissing her son on the cheek, before pulling away, 'its just this dress is so beautiful and I have never owned something of such quality...Do you think this is the dress, in which she plans to let your father have her as an honest woman,'
'Mother don't,' muttered Roland, only his mother did not hear him.
'I think it will be,' continued Katarin, as she only again ran her hands over finely made bodice, pulling it down ever so slightly to reveal the roundness of her breasts as she looked back into glass, 'she will look the perfect little virgin bride in this dress. The perfect picture of innocent, only the fabric will be pulled so tight, so she can tease her groom into pulling her straight up to their bedchamber and...,'
'Mother don't!' pleaded Roland, feeling his head start to pound as he once again heard his mother enter her black moods of despair. He hated seeing her like this, a woman, who could be bright and witty at times-it must have been these characteristics, which had caused his father (and his stepfather for that matter), to fall in love with her. But now she was all broken and bitter.
'Why not, my boy!' cried Katarin, looking shocked as she turned to face her son with almost tears on her face, 'its true! I see through her! I see the way she looks at your father with those flirty eyes. Everyone thinks she so sweet, but she's no Holy Madonna. I see her whispering in his ear, teasing him with her hot words. My mother called me whore when I got with you, but I was no whore! I fell in love and all I wanted was your father and the home he promised me! I cared nothing about the pretty jewels he could get me...do you think there's away to put poison into this dress,'
'It will serve them both right, her dying in her lover's arms on their wedding day!'
Roland stared at his mother, her lips all twisted and bent in an expression, which resembled the painted fingers of those dancing in the flames of Hell, that were adored on many a chapel wall. What had his father done to her? When he was a boy, he always thought her so happy, but as he had grown, he had seen the veil fall from his eyes. He saw that the eyes he always thought laughing, were actually sad and constantly trying to suppress tears. He witnessed those tender moments of affection she and his step-father shared, reveal themselves to be nothing more, than one sided kisses from the man, who raised him, desperately wanting the love of his wife.
'Mother,' Roland said carefully, 'did you ever love Loic?'
'A little,' she replied, not flinching at her son's strange question as she continued to run her hands up and down the dress, imaging the dress' true owner gasping for help as poison seeped into her body, '...maybe...at first, but he was such a weak man, no mind to him at all. Do you know, the only time he ever shouted at me was just before he died and even then, it was just a sulky cry of , "Your prince ain't coming for you, Katarin,"'
'And he was right,' thought Roland, as he slowly approached his mother and placed a hand gently across her shoulders. He hated his father, that was true, for he had driven his mother to the brink of madness with his broken promises, but as the months had drift by, he found his hate did not drive him to extract a bloody revenge. He had seen what had happened when the little Princess had accidently drank the poisoned wine. He had seen the poor pale girl, almost robbed of her innocent young life because the bitterness, their father had caused Roland and his mother...but she did not deserve to suffer. Nor did the Spanish Princess. After all, she was not to know. It was clear that the King had block the whole event of his time in Brittany from his mind, so he obviously had not told his sweet young bride-she, like the little Princess did not deserve to die. And, as much as Roland hated to admit it, it was clear that despite all the differences that there was between them, that the beautiful lady from Spain, was deeply in love with Roland's father, 'Mother, perhaps it would be for the best if...'
But Roland did not get a chance to once again persuade his mother that it would be for the best that they returned to their old cottage near Nantes, for as he spoke the door flew open and in strolled Lord Strange, followed by a man, who was clearly in his employ and a third, draped in a black cloak.
'Well, well, Roland,' he smiled, as he noticed the strange woman dressed in a slightly ill-fitting dress, 'whats going on here? Not interrupting anything, I hope?'
'Lord Strange,' said Roland, going into a bow as he signalled for his mother to come forward, 'may I introduce my mother, Madame de Velville,'
'Charmed,' Lord Strange nodded, noticing that the black haired lady was very eye-catching, despite the few laughter lines on her face, 'may I commend you, Madame on raising such a good son, one who, though not of this land, wants to see the Pretender off this country's ancient throne,'
'You should thank his father for that,' replied Katarin, flicking Lord Strange an icily look, for now she had made up her mind to never trust another man, except her son, 'I just washed and clothed him,'
'The two of most important things a mother can do,' he laughed, remembering his own mother, the sweet woman who had been at his father's side for so many years, before he decided to throw his lot in with that plotting harpy and her precious son, who she had tried to make him choose over his oldest son and heir, 'well anyway, back to business. Now as our attempts so far have been fruitless, especially as this traitorous city seems to have taken the incestuous couple to their heart,'
'You would have thought this city would be up in arms,' snarled the other man, in an uncouth way with spit almost flying from his mouth, 'to see its favourite daughter so cruelly replaced with some young foreign stumpet,'
'Only they don't see her that way,' interrupted Katarin, circling them all with a disbelieving eye-why were men always so foolish when it came to women?, 'they see her as the sweet little Virgin maid, who wants to be for her people on Earth, what the Holy Mother is for them in Heaven. The fact that she entertains the King on her back most nights, never once crosses their minds, cause all they see is the sweet girl wanting to easy their pain,'
Lord Strange raised his eyebrow as he laughed out of the corner of his mouth. There was something strangely impressive about this woman, for her logic was perfect, despite him doubting that Henry had taken his little sweetheart to bed-for Henry would never risk getting with child before they got to the altar- but she was right. People hated Henry. They saw him as distant and cold. So to see once again a beautiful, angelic woman by his side gave the people hope that they had an intercessor with their King; with this Princess Catalina de Aragon, they had the mercy and heart, which had been missing since the death of Elizabeth, back alongside Henry's power and authority. But what Lord Strange could not understand, was why this foreign, serving woman, spoke with such bitterness.
'Well quite,' he grinned, walking away from the group and leaning against the tapestry depicting Rebekah, Isaac, Jacob and Esau as he signalled for the young, skinny man dressed in a black coat, who had so far remained silent, to take the floor, 'that is why Brother Marcus, who has been chosen to perform a sermon for the King in the Minister tomorrow is going to help, is that not right, Brother?'
'Yes!' Brother Marcus replied with as much fiery determination as Katarin, though Roland noted that it was due to a zealous conviction more than bitter heartache of life, 'the people and his Highness need reminding that it is against the holy law of God for a man to take and lie with his son's wife. Alas the Archbishop is too much of a materialist man for him to ever dare remind the King, but I serve no worldly goods and long only to save men's souls!'
Lord Strange... George, continued to smile as he left the four others and closed the door behind him, as he needed to return to the banquet before anyone noticed he was missing. He felt strangely satisfied with this current plan, despite the two previous assassination attempts going wrong. For this plan could not fail, because once the people saw and heard that God had taken away his divine sanction of Henry's Kingship, then Henry would slip even further away from God's grace. An assassination, might then prove more easy, maybe one in public, where the people would quietly turn a blind eye, rather than help their King.
'God save the King!' chuckled George, loudly to himself as he rested against the door, 'yes, God save the King!'
'George!' bellowed Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby as he strolled done the corridor towards his oldest son, 'there you are boy! I have been looking for you everywhere!'
'Father!' exclaimed a startled George, trying to recover his shock at seeing his father, 'I did not think you were arriving until tomorrow evening,'
'Your mother summoned me, telling me I was to come post haste. And you know you can never ignore a command from mother! Christ, she have me hung, drawn and quartered, before I even had a chance to say sorry,' he laughed, as he slapped his son across the back, noticing how flimsy his usually strong son was, before he threw an arm around George's shoulder, 'you are not plotting anything, are you George?,'
'Me, Father,' answered George, trying to perfect that look of innocence and care free laughter, which had always worked as a child, 'of course not. I would never betray the family, the way uncle did,'
'Oh leave the boy be, husband!' interrupted Lady Margaret, appearing in the corridor as if by magic or divine grace, causing George to feel his heart almost collapse for a second time in only a few moment, 'George, believe it or not, is not the reason I have called you here early,'
'Margaret, my dear wife,' grinned Thomas Stanley, turning his attention away from his oldest son to his wife, who despite their marriage being one of connivance, he had found that they worked well together, 'how do it, my dear? How do you always appear at just the right moment?'
'I have been blessed by God, husband,' she said, without a hint of emotion as she offered her cheek for him to ceremonially kiss, which they had rehearsed to perfection over the years, 'besides I knew you would not fail me husband,'
'Never, wife,' he replied, still with a wide grin, as he offered her his arm, 'now what has Thomas been up to now? Not been gambling away my legacy again,'
'No for once, it is not Thomas,' sighed Lady Margaret, shaking her head as she took hold of her husband's arm, before turning her attention to her oldest step-son, 'George you may go. I wish to discuss matters with your father in private,'
Sucking in his bottom lip, Lord Strange bowed briefly, before disappearing down the corridor to the waiting crowds of courtiers. He hated his step-mother due to her dominance and self-importance, especially the way she made others always place their own beliefs and loves behind her own. She had expected his father to sacrifice him-the eldest son and heir-for the sake of her child, a man Lord Strange's father had never laid eyes on and for that George could never forgive her. But it was not just this hate, which caused him to depart as quickly as possible-it was the fear that his step-mother's sixth sense had alerted her to his plotting.
'So if it is not George and its not Thomas,' said Thomas Stanley as he watch his oldest son disappear, 'then it must be Henry,'
'Yes,' sighed Lady Margaret, wearily as she lead the two of them down the corridor, 'I do not know what I am going to do with that boy,'
'Wife, you do know that Henry is not a boy anymore and that he is in fact King,'
'Then he should start behaviour as one,' snapped Lady Margaret, turning on her husband, her anger increasing as he just laughed, 'do not mock me, husband!'
'Oh my poor silly wife!'
'Do not patronise me either, Thomas! Remember what happened to your dear brother, when he said the wrong thing!,'
'Yes I remember,' he muttered, as his suspicious eyes became drawn together, revealing the lines on his forehead that had grown deeper through years of conspiracy, 'but remember Margaret, if you are upset for the reasons I suspect, you were the one who wanted Henry to become sweet on that little Princess in the first place,'
Margaret went to answer, but for a moment, she was silent and just continued to glare at husband, trying to find the words to contradict his argument. Though this was something that was difficult to achieve with the Earl of Derby, because while Lady Margaret Beaufort was certainly the mistress of intrigue, he was undoubtedly the master.
'Do not try and protest, Margaret,' smiled Thomas Stanley, reclaiming her arm, 'I heard all about your little stunt in the chapel. Poor Henry never stood a chance,'
'I was just doing what was best for Henry. Do you know how heartbreaking it was to see my poor boy tear himself apart with grief?,' answered the Queen Mother, her voice still in a tone of defiance. It had hurt her deeply to see her only child withdraw from the world after two successive tragedies and there was no denying that Henry now had a smile back on his face. But that was all it was meant to be- a smile-it was not meant to be anything more, 'she was just meant to be a breeder. Give Henry a child to dote on and ease his troubles,'
'Except Henry has grown rather too fond of his little play thing,' said Thomas Stanley with a chuckle as he allowed himself a brief moment to reflect on fairer sex. It must be nice to a young woman, affectionately and loving devoted to you with a passion, who could not wait to give her youthful, unblemished body to you but then, Stanley knew that he had taken that path, he would not be in the privilege position that he was today.
'Oh my boy has grown more than fond of her!,' snorted Margaret as she let her mask of complete religious decorum slip briefly, 'no, she has some sort of spell over my poor Henry. She has him following her around like a love struck stable boy!'
'Are you sure you do not mean lust struck, my dear wife,' laughed Thomas Stanley one last time, before resuming the mask of an experienced plotter, which had made his second marriage so successful, despite its almost complete lack of affection, 'but listen, Margaret. Surely if Henry is in love and lust with her, then that can only be a good thing for us all...because the sooner he gets that ring on her finger, then the sooner he can get her on her back in the bedchamber and get you the much needed grandson you have been converting. Besides, at least with this one you do not have to worry about her loyalties, if another pretender should appear,'
They had reached the door to the great hall by this point and could looking in on where the court and their family were still waiting to eat, as despite Henry's presence, he had ordered them to wait for the Queen Mother and the Princesses Catalina and Mary.
'Oh husband,' laughed Lady Margaret as she forced a rare smile for the court, 'you know, occasionally you have the ability to talk sense and easy my mind,'
But as she and her husband took their places, underneath her forced smile, Lady Margaret could not help but let her mind and heart fill strained. For no matter how much she reminded herself that she had encourage her son to fall for the pretty, well connected Infanta, she could not help but fear for her position both at court and in her son's heart, especially as she saw Henry's eyes light up as his bride entered the room.
'Father,' smiled Mary sweetly, as she leaned across from where she sat between her sister and soon to be step-mother, 'please may I dance?'
'Of course Mary,' said Henry, with nod as he returned his youngest daughter's smiled as he took a sip of wine, 'but who shall we get as your partner?'
As Henry thought, Mary eagerly tugged on Catalina's green silk sleeves, pulling her down to Mary's little height. Brushing Catalina's auburn hair to the side, Mary whispered into her ear, cupping her hand as she did so, so that no one else could hear her 'secret'.
'Please ask him,' pleaded Mary, her bottom lip trembling as she pulled away, 'and ask him nicely, please,'
'I will, my little Maria,' cooed Catalina, kissing the little girl on the forehead before turning back to Henry, 'Your Highness, Princess Mary would like your permission to dance with Charles Brandon,'
'Mmm,' Henry sighed, glancing over at where his former standard bearer's son, who was with a group of other young courtiers on a table near the rear of the room. There was no denying that Henry was fond of the young man, whose father had saved his life at Bosworth but it unsettled him to see little Mary following the lad around with lovesick eyes. For it was not right for her to grow too attach to him, for Mary when she was grown could never be his-she was intended for a Prince or King, 'perhaps...'
'Please, Father, please,' cried Mary, little tears starting swell in her large, round eyes, 'I will never ask you for anything ever again,'
'Oh please, You Highness,' smiled Catalina, placing a hand on top on Henry's, 'what harm could do?'
Henry turned to answer, only to find Catalina's face only inches away his, her blue eyes large and wide, her bright red lips smiling softly. For a moment, he fell under the power of her innocent beauty, in which he found his train of thought completely lost to him.
'Please, father, please!'
'Mary,' answered Henry sternly as came back to his normal self, as the sound of someone dropping a tankard on the floor woke him up, 'I don't think...'
'Let her, Henry,' whispered Catalina, as she gave his hand a gentle squeeze, 'I fail to see what harm it can do?'
'She is just a child,' muttered Henry, moving slightly closer to his bride-to-be, 'and its cruel to encourage such silly things,'
'And she will grow out of it and marry who you wish,'
Henry paused for a moment and look over at little Mary, who was looking up at him with those wide eyes and found his conviction in refusing her, faltering. Why did he always find it so hard to say no to his youngest child? Was it because she was born at a time when it looked as though there could be another fight for the throne of England, thanks to that Flemish little upstart? Was he trying to make amends for the turmoil of the past?
'Very well,' sighed Henry as he pointed a finger at Charles and indicated for him to approach the top table, 'Charles, my daughter Mary would like to dance, would you please accompany her,'
'Of course, Your Highness,' smiled Charles, hiding perfectly his feelings of annoyance at once again having to put up with the little Princess, who would follow him around like a little puppy dog, 'it would be a pleasure,'
'She will grow out of her feelings,' whispered Catalina, tightening her hold on Henry's hand as the two of them watch Mary skip gaily to the dance floor, 'its just a harmless little love,'
'I just don't want her hurt,' replied Henry gruffly, turn away briefly, before he had chance to think, only to quickly return and kissing Catalina on cheek in a guilty after thought, which caused several in the hall to raise an eyebrow.
'If its age differences you are so worried about, Sir,' muttered Harry, taking a gulp of wine, hoping it would ease his churning stomach, which had got worse as he saw his father run a finger down the cheek of the lady, Harry wanted desperately to marry, 'perhaps you should cast an eye in the mirror before lecturing others!,'
'What Harry?' called the King over his shoulder to his son. Things had gotten no better between them since their little chat on the tennis court and when they did talk, Henry would have to put up with his son's 'clever' comments.
'I was wondering, sir,' replied Harry, jumping out of his chair and offering his father a rare bow, 'if you would allow me the honour of a dance with my future mother,'
Henry looked at Catalina, who once again smiled with encouragement to him-for she was relieved that it looked as though Harry was coming around to the idea of their marriage. Not wanting to dishearten her with his fears that his son was playing one of his games or to cause a scene, which would show that the Royal Family as being less than united, he nodded his head in agreement.
The King did not smile, but the Prince of Wales did as he eagerly rushed over to his future step-mother's side and offered her his arm. However, as Catalina got to her feet to accept, the looks of mirth altered, as the Dowager Princess of Wales leaned forward and kissed the King gently on the lips, altering Henry's scowl to a smile and Harry's cheeky grin, to a look of distain.
As they walked to the dance floor, Harry's mood did not improve as he noticed as his father talked with the Earl of Oxford, who had just appeared at his side, his eye were alive and he was unable to take them off of the Infanta. But what made the taste of bile in Harry's mouth grow even stronger, was that his beautiful dance partner's eyes were locked with his father's and her red lips were signally him a secret smile.
'You know father does not dance,' said Harry as the music started, 'even when he was young, mother always had to find others to partner her,'
'I do not mind,' smiled Catalina, as she turned her attention to Harry as she let him place a hand around her hip and the two of them started to move in time with the music, 'its been a long time since we last danced together, Harry. You have grown taller,'
'I am older,' grinned Harry, happy that he finally had her attention, 'you know, my mother always said I was the perfect image of her father and he was a great King,'
Catalina nodded her response as her and Harry briefly broke away to join with another partner, before being reunited. As they danced, Harry let himself once again think that he was still going to marry the pretty Princess from Spain, who was currently dancing gracefully in his arms and whose exotic laughter sound more beautiful than the music in his ears. For a second, Harry still believed that she would be his Princess of Wales and later his Queen.
'But your father is a great King also,' answered Catalina in a rich voice as the music came to a halt, bringing Harry's world of dreams to an end. She was not his, for despite their brief dance, for despite her letting him place an arm round her slender waist, she was still meant for his father-the man, whose eyes studied every grove of her perfect body as she stooped down in a curtsey.
'Well not as great Henry V,' continued Harry, in desperation as he noticed the way the Spanish Princess looked up at the King from under her eyelids as she moved out of her curtsey and that secret smile was once again on her red lips.
'Did she really want that old man,' thought Harry as the two of them went to back to their seats, 'was Margaret right, that Catalina enjoy having their father tongue imbedded deep in her throat and his rough hands groping her prefect firmed breasts. Was it s sign that she longed for the current King to do a lot more to her body.
Of course she did not. That would be a ridiculous notion, why would someone as young and breathtaking as Catalina, lust after a man as old and as cruel as father. She was under a spell, seduced by promises of crowns and pretty things-Harry just had to find away to break his father's magic.
'You know, except for that one moment,' Harry called, as he followed behind Catalina, 'father has never lead his men into battle,'
Catalina stopped as she just reached her seat, noticing how Henry's ears pricked up at his son's words. Why was Harry behaving in such a manner, thought Catalina as she glanced back at her future stepson and saw seriousness in his young face. She thought they were friends. They had always laughed and joke with each other, since she arrived on these shores. He had seen her cry after Arthur's death-surely Harry would be happy for her? But then everything was happening so fast, maybe he thought her trying to replace his mother-after all poor Queen Elizabeth had been lying cold for less a year. Under her breath, Catalina said a prayer for the soul of the woman, who had always been so kind to her, before deciding that she should speak with him, but first, they need to get through the night, without any hint of drama.
'But your father has won everyone of his battles,' replied Catalina, sitting down beside Henry and once again taking hold of his hand, 'there is more to war than death and glory, Harry. What use is a King, who longs to charge to his death on the battlefield?'
'Exactly, Your Highness,' interrupted the Earl of Oxford, who was now leaning on the back of the King's chair, 'that's what he has me for,'
Harry glanced over at everyone in the great chamber and at that moment, he thought himself the only sane person in the hall. His Father was behaving as if he was a man half his age, drooling over a girl, who by rights should be his daughter-in-law and to get her, his Father had used every trick he knew. Harry glared at his father, trying to figure out what had taken place to cause the beautiful Princess to feel herself in love with an old man. Had he promised to buy her pretty things, thought Harry. Had he used the Queen of England's diamonds, rubies and pearls as a way into Catalina's heart? Had he promised her much more, if she consented to be his wife? And if none of these things, what sweet words had he hissed into her ear, to get him the chance to get between her thighs? And what made all this worse, was the no one was prepared to say anything against this ridiculous match.
Catalina had been married to his brother and then she was meant to be Harry's wife-not his step-mother! Not at one point had Catalina ever expressed a desire to be his father's bride! She had always said she had wanted Harry to be her new husband and champion. So why was she now holding his Father hand? And more importantly, why was no one around them putting a stop to this nonsense?
Margaret was all words, screaming in private that the Spanish harlot was taking their mother's place at their Father's side, but when it came to actual action, she did nothing, just remained tight lipped with a scowl on her face. Then there was his Grandmother, a woman who prided herself on her piety and devotion. Yet when it came to her son seducing his daughter-in-law, something which the church clearly stated was a sin in the eyes of God, she was prepared to turn the other way. And so was the rest of the court, all of them acting as if there was nothing wrong at its centre, even his mother's former servants, who his Father had transferred to Catalina continued to laugh and smile, as if there was nothing wrong with the King dressing up a girl in the former Queen's dresses and jewels.
Harry's eyes once again returned to his father and Catalina, who were both now in deep conversation with the Earl of Oxford, who was still leaning causally over the back of their chairs. Not that Harry noticed this detail, as his eyes were still transfix on to the Royal couples linked hands, especially the way his father's thumb kept stroking the delicate skin of the Infanta's.
'Do you know, Catalina,' Harry continued, throwing himself down in his chair and reaching for a goblet of wine, which he knocked back very quickly, 'that my father is no King Solomon,'
'Harry,' replied Henry coolly, getting to his feet and approaching his son as calmly as possible, 'I think its time you left the wine alone and went to bed,'
'Do you know father can drink when he wants to,' said Harry, ignoring his father, but raising his voice slightly, so that those courtiers, including his Grandmother, who was seated near, heard every word, 'the first time he was in York, him and his men drunk York dry,'
'Harry,' whispered Catalina, coming to stand by Henry's side, 'please, don't,'
'You deserve to know the truth, Catalina,' he pleaded, his voice losing its harshness as he tried to appeal to her, 'Father gambles too. He lost £37 on the eve of the Battle of Stoke, not to mention that him losing money to uncle Thomas last night after you retired to bed,'
'Yet while Father and Uncle were playing cards,' muttered Margaret without any emotion as she stared down at the food on her plate, 'you and your friends were playing dice,'
His mouth hanging open, Harry stared at his older sister, not believing that she appeared to be defending their Father. She had spent such a long time raging at their Father and the Princess, convinced that they had been making the bed creak to breaking point as their mother and new-born sister lay dying. Yet now, as Harry trying to make the world see sense, it seemed his strongest supporter was switching sides.
'Margaret, we are meant to be allies!'
'We are allies, we are brother and sister,' she said coldly, getting to her feet and glancing over at Catalina, who met her gaze without flinching, 'but I will not fight with you on this. Father, I am tired, may I be excused?'
'Yes, Margaret,' nodded Henry in approval, as holding tight onto Catalina's hand, 'in fact Mary and Harry, I think you should join your sister,'
'Yes, Father,' chirped Mary, running over to the little group and taking hold of sister's hand, 'night, Father, Madre, Grandmother, Grandfather and Uncle Thomas and Uncle George . Harry, are you coming?'
'Yes, Mary,' said Harry, rather loudly as he walked over and took hold of her little hand, before calling to his father over his shoulder, 'will our sister Catalina be joining us, Your Highness or do you have other uses for your other daughter tonight?'
As Harry's roar left his mouth, the entire chamber went silent, goblets of wine poised in mid air, dance steps incomplete and conversations unfinished, as everyone turned towards the King and Dowager Princess of Wales.
'I thought you wanted me to go to bed, Your Highness,' smiled Harry, as he flopped himself down in a chair, happy as he seen the look of discomfort run across his father's face as he had hurled Harry out of the hall.
'I think we should have a quiet word,' replied Henry, without any emotion as he shut the chamber door, leaving the court still at supper and fun, and locked himself in the privacy of the Archbishop of York's library with his only living son, 'don't you, boy?'
'I am not a boy,' snapped Harry, finding his buoyant mood quickly altered as he viewed his Father was once again forgetting Harry's royal status, 'I am a man and more importantly, I am the Prince of Wales!'
'Then maybe you should start acting like one,' said Henry, still with no emotion as he sat down opposite his son at the reading desk. He left it a moment, before he continued. Instead for a moment, he let his hands study a map, which had been left out by Mary earlier in the day, wondering if there was a ruler somewhere else on God's earth, who had the same problems with his son as he, 'tell me, Harry, what is wrong?'
'You took what is rightfully mine, father,' answered Harry, without an inch of shame or fear as he looked his father in the eyes, 'and not only that, you flaunt it as though it was natural, as though you were still a young man and King,'
'I am still alive, Harry!'
'But you are not a young King, are you father, yet you kiss that poor young girl as though you are the same age as her. I saw the way you were kissing her in the garden. Your old body pinning her up against the tree as you stuck your tongue her throat and let your hands grope her breasts,'
Henry looked his son straight in the eyes as he wondered what had gone so badly wrong, for him and Harry to have such a strained relationship. True, he had been closer to poor Arthur and Harry had spent much more time with Elizabeth, but he had never neglected the boy. Perhaps, he should have made more of an effort to included Harry in the activities he shared with Arthur, but it had never been because Henry preferred one son over the other. No, it had been because he had believed the his first born child-the boy, whose birth signalled to Henry the his exile was truly over-would be the one to carry on the legacy. How was Henry to know that as they said goodbye to the turbulent old century, it was all to go horrible and tragically wrong. Besides, they had been a family...a family that Henry had loved with all his supposed black heart, and who on those dark days when it looked like the throne of England might once again be decided on the battlefield, it was the thought of their loving embrace, that had driven the battle weary Henry, to once again fight for the crown. So to hear his son speak so bitterly to him, had Henry bewildered.
'You are still a boy, Harry,' he sighed, though he did not show even Harry any sign of weakness, 'and my son and I deserve some respect,'
'Respect is something that works both ways, father. I would have though after all your years in power, you would understand such things,' snarled Harry, sitting up in his chair, trying to emphasis his height, despite the fact his Father still towered over him, 'besides, you do not show Catalina any?'
'And you do, do you Harry?' replied Henry, deciding that the only way to deal with his child, was to handle him as though he was a member of government, 'back there you basically implied she was an incestuous whore. Hardly a sign of respect,'
'No I did not,' Harry answered back, forgetting that he was trying to prove he was a man, 'what I said...'
'What you said, was that I would send my daughter, Catalina to bed with the rest of my children or did I have other duties for her,' continued the King of England, speaking still as though he was dealing with a foreign ambassador or a troublesome Member of Parliament, 'that my other plans for her was to bribe her with sweetmeats to get her onto my knee and her tongue in my mouth,'
'I did not say that!' snapped Harry, jumping to his feet and banging his fist impatiently on the desk, 'I just said that you might want her to stay up for the reasons why you wanted us all to go to bed. And if I called her your daughter, its because she is,'
'In that case, Harry, Catalina is your sister,' said Henry, glancing down at his son balled fists with a raised eyebrow as he watched them slowly unravel, 'yet, I don't think that was your reason for disguise,'
Harry swallowed hard as he tried to forget, that all through his attempts to persuade Catalina to cease with her plans to marry his Father, he had pictured himself marrying her. It would be a lie, not just to himself and to his Father, but also to God, if Harry denied that his sole aim in stopping his Father's new marriage, was so that his Father, feeling a sense of shame over his behaviour or that Catalina, would wake up from the spell placed on her and demand to marry Harry.
'You said I could marry her and she said she wanted to marry me,' answered Harry, trying to find his voice as he slouched back down in his chair, 'then suddenly, poor mother is dead and you are behaving as though you are a young swain, pulling a girl, who is young enough to be your child, into secret corners for kisses and fumbles,'
'Is this what it is all about, Harry,' replied Henry, in a softer tone at the mention of his first wife, 'your Mother?'
'Mother,' Harry started but then stopped as he felt a brief sense of shame wash over him as his father mention the only person Harry had loved more than life itself, for she should be the reason he felt hurt by all this; that his father, within a few months of her tragic death, was replacing her with a girl almost half her age. It was the reason for Margaret's anguish, until she had suddenly gone quiet on the matter, but for Harry it had been the furthest from his mind...except for the fact that father had ruined his mother. Yes, yes he had. Everyone had said she was not strong enough to carry another child, but Father had moaned so much about Arthur dying and how Harry would not survive on his own, that he had forced her by guilt to get with child again, only for it to kill her, 'you ruined Mother!'
'Harry, show me some respect,' muttered Henry coolly, trying to hide his hurt at his son's word, 'you know nothing of what past between your Mother and me, like you know nothing about me and Catalina,'
'My Mother was a young, beautiful princess, daughter of a great King, until you took all that away from her!'
'Harry, may I remind you that you claim to the throne comes from no one but me,' answered the King, still hiding the hurt his son had inflicted on him with his cruel words, 'and I loved your Mother,'
'Like you love Catalina,' replied Harry quickly, twisting his lips into a taunting grin as he spotted a weakness in his father, 'you only love for your own selfish gain Father and you fool them into loving you. I'm too young to know how you did it with Mother, but I see what you do with Catalina. You buy her pretty things, you dress her up in the Queen of England's jewels and tell her how beautiful she is and how she would she make a great Queen. You pull her into corners or on to your knee, stroking her breasts and thighs as you whisper she will have a lot more pretty things if she is a good girl and does exactly what you say,'
Slowly Henry got to his feet and without saying a word, walked a few paces to the front of the desk, his boots making the only noise in the darken chamber, before coming to rest by his son.
'If you think that, Harry, then you don't know women at all,' sighed Henry, leaning cross armed against the desk, 'was your Grandmother just a silly girl, when she helped put this family on the throne of England?'
'You are never comparing Catalina with Grandmother, are you father?' cried Harry, with a shout of disbelief at the notion of comparing the sweet Spanish Princess with the stone cold faced Countess of Richmond, 'that is ridicules!'
'The only thing thats ridicules is you, Harry,' muttered Henry, hating being cruel to his child, as he return to his seat, but his wedding to Catalina was only days away and he wanted nothing to ruin what he wanted to be a perfect day, not just to show that the Tudor regime was once again stable, but so his bride could finally have the wedding day she deserved, 'what is all this truly about?'
'You think yourself Solomon,' replied Harry, his face still slightly chubby with puppy fat, trying to mirror his Father, 'but you are a fool if you cannot see what this is about. You are too old! Too old to be looking starry eyed at such a young girl. Too old to be stealing kissing from her and certainly too old to groping her duckies. You are selfish Father, forcing yourself on a young girl, who does not truly want you and who should be someone else's,'
'You mean, you, Harry?'
'Yes me Father, you said I could marry her...no more than that you, promised! Then what happens, you catch a glimpse of her chest and imagine her warm arse in your hands, then you are willing to break every rule, despite the world laughing at you. And they do laugh. Mocking you behind closed doors, laughing at their King, who thinks a girl young enough to be his daughter is in love with him! And she is not in love with you, Father. No matter how many presents you buy her, you will never have her heart! Oh, she may look at you all sweetly, but that is because- and I think we will both agree- Catalina is too sweet a maid, that she cannot bring herself to hurt your feelings,'
'Is that all, Harry?' asked Henry, solemnly as he leaned forward on the desk and placing his hands together in prayer as he saw his son nodded his head, 'good. Now I suggest, Harry that you go to bed and remember that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,'
'Is that a threat, Father!' roared Harry, even more disgusted with his Father, as to Harry this unlocked the true meaning of his Father's wooing of sweet Catalina-he wanted a son off of her, who he could mould him into another Arthur and replace Harry as Prince of Wales.
'No, Harry, its a fact, especially true in the world we live in and especially true for Kings who are still founders and not the heirs with a hundred years of history behind them,' replied Henry, not letting the hurt his son caused him show as he reached for his Book of Hours, which had been unpacked and left on the library desk with all the rest of his books, 'now go to bed, sleep off the wine and tomorrow you will join the rest of us at the Minister, where you will be the perfect Prince of Wales and more importantly, the perfect son to me and the perfect stepson-to-be to Catalina. Now off to bed!'
Harry wanted to roar and argue, to lash out and hurt his Father with all the pain he could inflict, but Harry knew there was no point. His Father was right, they could not afford to show turmoil within the family, for it would mean weakness and perhaps, God forbid, another Bosworth, were this time the Tudors might not be on the winning side. Therefore, not wanting to risk his inheritance, Harry stormed out of the library without a bow, slamming the door hard behind him.
As the noise of the door echoed through Henry's mind, he thumbed the pages of the book, trying, despite the loneliness of the chamber, not to show the grief his son had caused him. He had always thought he was a good father, maybe he was not always been there and maybe he was not always openly affectionate, but he thought himself good nevertheless. After all, he knew what it was like to have no father. True, he had had Jasper, who would rather have died, than let anyone harm a hair on Henry's head, but despite the love he had for his dear uncle, it never truly made up for part of Henry's heart that was constantly missing.
Finally, he found the page he was looking for and the lose piece of well worn paper feel out. Henry smiled as he saw it flutter down on to the desk and eagerly picked it up, as he knew this letter from long ago, always held the key to easing some of his pain.
'My dear, sweet husband,' Henry read and suddenly he was back in another world. A world in which for the first time, Henry had truly felt he had found a place to belong. It was a world, in which not only did he have his mother permanently by his side, but he had a family. A family full of happy, smiling children, who would excitedly rush to greet their father with hugs and kisses and a devoted wife, who he loved so much, that it never crossed his mind, that God may one day take her away from him.
He wanted all of that again with Catalina and he would admit the love he bore her was different than the love he bore Elizabeth, but it did not stop his yearning for a time, when peace and love had been the centre of his family and not the bitterness of Harry and the coldness of Margaret. So much so was Henry wrapped up in dreams of times gone by, that he failed to hear the creak of the door and the gentle footsteps of Catalina.