Right this serves as a spoiler for ATEOTB but not that majorly as you all know I always fix wars and battles in that story and everyone ends up happy. I won't go into detail as I don't want to spoil anything in that story but letting you all know that Francis and Mary are happily ruling their countries at this point in the story where it starts five years into Anne and Oskar's marriage, revealing some problems at what was a fairytale romance and many issues arising in her new home country.
Low down on the characters:
Anne - 20 years of age, the Queen Consort of Sweden to King Oskar II. She is determined, willful and the eldest daughter of France's King and Queen, Francis II and Mary, Queen of Scots. She is looked upon the Swedes with disdain.
John Philip - 21 years of age, the eldest child of Francis II of France and Anne's half-brother and Head of Queensguard as General de Valois. He is serious, determined and loyal, especially to Anne. He is looked upon with disdain by the Swedes.
Oskar II Erik Bernadotte - 20 years of age, King of Sweden and Anne's husband. He finds himself under pressure from the Swedish nobility after his beloved mother's death.
Gustav Karl Bernadotte - 11 years of age, Oskar's younger brother and the Prince of Gothenburg. He takes to Anne, learning French from her in her spare time and he reminds her of her brothers, James, Peter and Joseph and her younger cousins, Alexander and Lawrence.
Sigrid Bernadotte - 19 years of age, Oskar's private sister and the Princess of Gothenburg and Princess Royal of Sweden, also the twin of Birgitta. She makes Anne unwelcomed in Sweden.
Birgitta Bernadotte - 19 years of age, Oskar's second sister, Sigrid's younger twin and the Princess of Gothenburg. She attempts to be cordial to Anne in the hopes of gaining a new life in France with her secret lover.
Lady Elsa Fredrichsson - 22 years of age, Oskar's official mistress after rising into nobility from being a kitchen maid and Anne's love rival.
Hugo Lukas Bernadotte - 24 years of age, Oskar's exiled half-brother and former heir apparent of Sweden following his mother's death and subsequent dismissal after his father's death from Agnes, his stepmother. He is the First Minister of Sweden after returning to Sweden and reconciling with Oskar.
Anne studied herself in her vanity mirror. She ran her fingers through her hair, what used to be hazel was now a bright blonde. If Rose were here, people would think them twins despite the many months between them.
She stood, turning to her page who quickly bowed. "What is it?"
"Uh, General de Valois asks if you've forgotten about your trip..." The page stammered.
Anne blinked before gasping and nodding. "Not today. Tell my brother I will not be travelling to the lake. I must attend to matters from ho-France. But, please, fetch Princess Sigrid for me. I must tell her about the new lip rouge my mother sent me."
"Very well," the page said before leaving the Queen to her peace.
Anne sighed, sinking back down onto her stool as she rearranged her makeup and hairbrushes. Her eyes landed on the purple bruise around her wrist and she stood, retrieved her black dress and headed behind the screen to wear it. It was long-sleeved and had lace gloves which were detachable. One of her favourite dresses, albeit one of mourning. The mourning of her mother-in-law Agnes from gout.
"Your Maje-" Her page tried to say before she cut him off.
"Princess Sigrid, I'll be out in just a mom-"
"Dear wife," a voice said, making her eyes widen as she froze.
Anne cleared her throat. "Your Majesty, forgive me. I am just getting dressed for the day," she said, fixing her laces and collar and appearing before the King of Sweden himself, Oskar.
"I have dismissed your Head of Queensguard for the weekend," Oskar told her, coming over to brush her hair behind her ear. "I thought we could do with some time spent together." His hand pressed against her stomach. "You said your grandmother experienced ten years of barrenness but... we may not have that long to wait. Something must work."
Anne blinked back tears, meeting her husband's eyes. "I am trying."
"Not enough," Oskar said softly. "Aren't those damned fertility swims doing anything? In fact, aren't you meant to be on your way there right this minute?"
"I-I was not feeling well," she explained. "Headaches."
"And here you were, going to entertain my sister's company," Oskar replied, stepping away from her. "She declined, by the way. Said she had better things to do."
Anne bowed her head. "I see," she mumbled.
"What was that?"
"How unfortunate," Anne said clearly. "I was hoping she would take my headache away with her soothing singing."
Oskar scoffed softly, wincing a little. "Her voice drains," he drawled out, heading to the door. "You have letters from your sister. She announces that she and her husband are to be parents by Christmas."
Anne's heart sank. "How wonderful. I will write to her with our sincerest congratulations," she told him.
"Send them something. Healing crystals," he replied. "We had some men retrieve them from the mountains."
"Splendid," Anne replied, heading to her vanity to retrieve her jewellery. "Are we attending Court together this morning then?"
"If you wish," Oskar said quietly. "Anne?"
"Your Majesty?" She replied, turning to face him.
Oskar's gaze shifted to the floor. "Are you happy here?"
"As happy as one can be," Anne replied cryptically, bowing her head curtly and turning. "Will you help me put this on?"
Oskar walked up to her, smoothing her hair to one side of her shoulder before clasping the necklace around her neck. He sighed heavily and rested his forehead against the back of her head, wrapping her arms around her waist.
"I thought you should know first..." He started.
"Elsa is with child," he announced softly.
Anne's eyes landed down on her powder box and she smiled a little, meeting her husband's eyes through the mirror. "You both must be overjoyed. I wish her good health as well as your unborn child's."
"I don't know how you do it," Oskar said, turning her around. "Why don't you hate me?"
Anne tilted her head to the side. "I am here to fulfil my duty as your wife and mother to your children," she said, cupping his cheek. "I will bear your son even if it kills me. My parents taught me how to carry myself with grace. There are far more others in less fortunate situations, I never take things for granted."
"I will walk you downstairs," her husband replied.
Anne couldn't believe what she was hearing. The nobles on Oskar's council were advising him to convert to Protestantism. Her heart sank, her fears for her Catholic religion and the many French people who live in Sweden under the same religion increasing.
They could revolt against her. If their king and people were Protestant, they could damn her and kill her for being the barren Catholic French Queen. They all hated her for reasons that soon became clear to her. Her father and mother ruled over many countries, won many battles and wars and if Sweden stepped out of line, they could easily have her in their grips. Because of who her parents were, two Catholic powerful monarchs in their own rights, the Swedes were wary of her. She could be a French-Scots spy for all they knew.
It didn't help that five years of marriage had not resulted in a child either.
"...so we must turn our backs against the Vatican," Lord Ericsson finished.
"We would be better for it," Lord Johansson added. "Our people no longer need to fear believing what they do without the Vatican's backlash. We must convert, Your Majesty. You will then be free to leave Her Majesty for Lady Elsa. The woman who will give you your son."
Oskar turned to Anne who kept her face neutral as if she was anywhere but here but he knew she listened. His eyes landed on her tight grip on the armrest and even her bastard brother had inched a few steps to her.
"What if Queen Marie converted?" Oskar suggested, taking his wife's hand for good measure. "She is my wife, she is loyal to me and in turn, loyal to my decisions and choices for her."
Anne turned to him. My parents will forbid it. I will forbid it. I will be Catholic to the day I die, let them kill me for it and feel the wraths of my parents.
"And I will have no more talk of Lady Elsa's situation," Oskar added for good measure. Anne's hand loosened its grip on his and he cleared his throat. "The Queen is tired, we will finish this at a later time." He turned to her as he stood, offering his hands for her to take. "My love?"
"Sire," Anne mumbled, taking his hands and standing up. He linked his arm with hers and she nodded at John who fell into step with her two other Queensguard behind the couple, the Kingsguard following ahead or at their sides.
Back in France, Anne did not need to worry about such precautions. Fontainebleau was safe but whenever they travelled elsewhere, she'd be surrounded right, back, left and right. With tensions simmering in Sweden, Oskar took no chances.
Anne recalled how free she was back in France, enjoying strolls and horse rides with her siblings and cousins. She'd run the halls down, take everything in her stride. She missed home so much, being in Sweden was as if she was trapped. What started as a wonderful fairytale soon began to be a nightmare, her husband leaving her bed for his own or Lady Elsa's... The same mistress he promised to leave when they were engaged to be married. The minute they stepped in Sweden following their honeymoon tour, he'd made Elsa his official mistress much to his sister's amusement for Anne.
Anne stopped beside her husband, sending his sister a warm smile. "Princess Birgitta. How do you fare?"
Birgitta opened her mouth to speak before closing it, shaking her head a little. "I am well. And you, Your Grace?"
"I am wonderful," Anne lied, sensing that there was something not quite right. "Shall we have tea?"
"But you must rest, dear," Oskar said firmly, making her swallow deeply as he turned to Birgitta. "Tomorrow, you will attend tea with the Queen."
Birgitta curtseyed. "Yes, Your Majesty. Rest well, Queen Marie."
"I will, thank you," Anne mumbled before Oskar dragged her off towards her rooms. When they arrived, he dismissed the guards, John's worried eyes meeting Anne's and she shook her head as he left, his hands clenched into fists. "You lied to me."
Oskar paced the room, hands on his hips. "Marie Anne-"
"Before we wedded, the summer I spent here, you promised me with your portrait that you'd get your heart back and lay it in my hands," she cried out as she clenched her hands before her at his way, tears running down her cheeks. She gestured around. "This isn't a marriage! This is me as your breeding mare! You don't even allow me to go home to France!"
"This is your home!" Oskar yelled back. "And I worry about you. I fear my people will want your head. Now more so that we are converting faiths and... I see your eyes... You have no intension of converting. They can kill you at any time and force my hand to make Elsa my wife. It isn't unheard of in Sweden nor opposed to make mistresses wives."
Anne sank onto her chaise. "The day I stop being Catholic is the day I die." She met his eyes. "Make Elsa your queen then. I dare you."
"I can't," Oskar replied. "An alliance with France... Well, it is beneficial. Lady Elsa is just a nobleman's daughter, she can't offer any more than a mediocre dowry compared to yours."
"I love you, Oskar," Anne said warily. "I would do anything for you but giving my faith up is not something I can do. I also can't disappoint my family, France needs this alliance to work just as much as you need this to work. Let me return to France, my parents will foot the bill for guards and protection."
Oskar shook his head. "I can't let you go..."
"It's been four years since I've seen them!" Anne cried out, coming to stand in front of him. "And Rose visiting for Christmas was not enough! I need to see my family, I will go insane."
"You are a queen," her husband reminded her. "Not a child. Your grandmother, do you think she cried to return home when she had to remain married to King Henry? Or your beloved mother, Queen Mary of Scots when she chose France as her seat? I am trying to be so patient but my patience is running thin when it comes to you."
Anne scoffed, rolling her eyes. "Damn you, Oskar," she snapped, turning away but he gripped her wrist, making her wince and take a sharp intake of breath as her back hit his chest. "You are hurting-"
"You need to know your place, Marie," Oskar said into her ear. "You're on thin ice here in Sweden and there are sharks."
Anne nodded shakily and sighed in relief when he let go and headed to the door. "I love you," she whispered. But maybe you don't love me, she thought. "I will try."
"Good. Now, rest up. We are expecting my brother for supper this evening," Oskar announced. "It will be his first time back at the palace since my mother exiled him. You are to welcome him with open arms. Failure to do so... Well, we will see if I have time for your bed this night."
He left and Anne sank to the ottoman at the foot of her bed, feeling lonelier than she had ever felt in her life.