FAITH FOR DUTY
2nd July Anno. Dom. 1537
The Princess Mary, Duchess of Cambridge peered through the lead casement windows of her lying-in chamber in Greenwich Palace, watching the rain trickle down the windows. Outside, crowds of common folk and minor gentry gathered outside the gates, their caps on their heads attempting to stay dry, cheering any movement they saw from the palace. Among the sea of soggy bouquets of flowers, handmade St. George's Cross flags and religious statues, Mary could make out the comings and goings of several ambassadors and their retinues eager to obtain the king's permission to see his first grandchild.
Very soon all eyes would be on the royal baby sleeping peacefully in his royal cradle oblivious to the fact that he was the cause of so much joy and rejoicing. The succession, if the king willed it, was secure for another generation.
Wrapped in swaddling clothes, the possible future king of England, Ireland and France had already been assigned his own nurse and chaplain. He was only a day old, but the baby's life was mapped out , his destiny shaped by a thousand years of royal history.
Outside, the mood was one of anticipation and growing excitement. The king, jubilant and immaculate in a purple brocaded doublet, had come from Whitehall with several courtiers, via royal barge to visit that morning. They had not always seen eye to eye over the last several years but over the last year, since her restoration to favor and marriage, Mary was once again in her father's good graces. Today she could do no wrong in the eyes of her mercurial father. She was his "Priceless Pearl of Christendom" once more. She had produced a healthy male heir to the House of Tudor, and in keeping with tradition the news was being proclaimed across the country announcing the happy event. Church Bells were ringing all over the country, from one end to the other, proclamations were being read in every city and town square. The only time Henry anticipated more joyful celebrations would be in the autumn when his own queen, Jane, would deliver.
The duchess and duke had yet to decide on a name, Franco, her part Moorish husband, a bastard son of Philip the Fair, preferred Philip but Mary preferred Henry-Philip to honour both of their fathers and would get her way. It had been a long labour, after the christening and her Churching forty days later she would be ready to get home to Hunsdon, her favourite country estate where more well wishes awaited the couple's arrival.
Chapter I: The Four Courtiers
Early Fall 1539
"Her Grace the Dowager Duchess of Cambridge is still overcome with the loss of the duke this past winter but that does not weigh on the fact that our two grandsons are in need of a guardian, a trusted courtier of our choosing who would bring them up as right and proper English princes of the Blood Royal." Henry announced to his Privy Councilors. His keen blue eyes scanned the chamber like a hawk, his mind's eye mentally discerning each man's attributes. Several he dismissed without giving them a thought. He focused on four men: Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, his life-long friend and Mary's favorite uncle was getting on in years, he also had a young wife and family to consider. "Your Grace of Suffolk..." He mused aloud.
"Your Majesty?" Charles Brandon looked up from his place at the council table. Thomas Seymour, one of the late queen's brothers, shot him an envious look.
"No...No...We know Your Grace has asked permission to visit his estates." The king was also aware of His Grace's sympathies to the Old Religion. "Sir Thomas..." Henry began but seeing his rakish brother-in-law's slow smile he stopped abruptly. He would not trust that charming rogue near his precious daughter. He sensed Tom's intentions were not honorable, he also did not wish to place too much power into the hands of the Seymours who were both uncles to his son and heir, Prince Edward at least not in Tom's reckless hands. "Nay... Nay... We must send you on another mission to France, the Italian States and the Levant. Aye, Master Culpepper..." His eyes alighted on the exceedingly attractive Gentleman of the Privy Chamber who was standing attendance at his right.
"I will do whatever Your Majesty wishes" Culpepper stated, reverently. The guardianship of the Duchess of Cambridge's children was a great honor, their mother, The Princess Mary, a beauty.
The King looked at the young body servant. He was a distant relation of the Howard family. He knew of the Tudor attraction to members of that clan. Nan Boleyn, the witch, had been a member as had his niece, Margaret Douglas' ill-fated lover, Thomas. The affair had landed his sister's daughter and the young man in the Tower of London for their presumption, where young Howard had later died. He was fond of Culpepper, however. But not now... "Ah lad, we wish that ye stay with us for now." He smiled indulgently at Culpepper. Then turned his attention to the back to the gentlemen at the table and one gentleman in particular. My Lord Hertford. Serious, incredibly clever, and capable, though a bit cold, Edward Seymour, older brother of Thomas. Henry watched the earl twirl his quill pen between his long, elegant fingers. "My Lord Hertford." His voice was commanding and direct.
"Your Majesty?" Edward Seymour asked, waiting for what was to come.
"How quickly can you be ready to leave for Hertfordshire?" The king asked.
"As quickly as Your Majesty requires of me." Edward answered. So he was the king's choice? He did not relish the idea of being away from court but as a loyal servant of the king it was his duty to do whatever the king commanded.
"At first light on the morrow, my lord. We wish you to travel to Hunsdon to see how our beloved daughter, the Dowager Duchess and our grandchildren fare. If you ride hard you should be there within three days, four at the latest."
"Yes, Majesty." Edward replied.
"You have our leave to prepare for your journey and to say farewell to your lady wife." Henry stated dismissing the earl.
Edward rose to take his leave.
"Give our warmest regards to Her Grace and tell her, we praise Almighty God that she and our heirs continue to enjoy the best of health by his Infinite Grace. Be prepared to deliver some gifts of our choosing, my lord. You may go and Godspeed."
Edward Seymour was truly dismissed. He would take his time preparing for his journey knowing his whore of a wife was otherwise occupied. She had placed the horns of the cuckold upon his head once again. This time with the Vicar of Hell himself, Sir Francis Bryan. The trip to Hertfordshire may prove a pleasant diversion. He would be seeing her again. At least it would take him away from the gossip of the court. God was smiling upon him once again- no matter what the gossip was, he was still the elder uncle to the Heir to the Throne and one of the most powerful men at court. The king also trusted him above all other men on the Privy Council save Secretary Cromwell. To pay a call on the Dowager Duchess of Cambridge and report on the health and well-being of the king's other heirs, Henry-Philip, Philip and Catherine was quite an honor and one the earl did not view lightly. Maybe a guardianship was in the offing? It could prove to keep him away from his lady wife for several weeks. A smile crossed his classically handsome face. The Dowager Duchess was a very beautiful young widow.