|A Stroke of Fate
Author: Diary PM
AU. Edward VI miraculously recovers from his illness, and Frances Grey works to dissolve her daughter's marriage to Guildford Dudley, determined Jane will be the king's bride. WIP. Edited slightly.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Prince Edward - Chapters: 17 - Words: 43,410 - Reviews: 50 - Favs: 15 - Follows: 30 - Updated: 01-31-13 - Published: 08-29-12 - id: 8479487
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I do not own The Tudors.
"You cannot ask this of me."
"Your son is worthless, John, and you have three others," the Duchess of Suffolk says, her words calm and blunt. "My daughter's wrists are black, and any midwife who examined her most private of areas would swear she was badly mishandled on her marriage bed. Help me wed Jane to the King, and you need not fear; everything we've strived for will come to head. If you don't, I will seek an audience with him, and I'll cry and grasp his cloak, begging him to send my poor, poor daughter to some nunnery. He'll demand to see the bruises with his own eyes, he'll summon the best midwives of the kingdom to examine her, and great punishment will befall your son, you, and possibly even your wife. Guildford will see death, for sure, and who knows what horrors you'll be subjected to?"
"The King could still relapse," the Duke of Northumberland hisses. "And then, where will-"
"When I thought Jane was close to Queendom, I accepted her abuse, knowing she would soon be powerful enough to make sure he never laid another vile finger on her," she says, a hint of anger seeping in her voice. "She'll never get the crown if we wait for him to die. He's talking of marrying soon. Children are sure to follow. Now that he has miraculously survived what you said he had no chance of, our only hope is to somehow prove the marriage illegitimate and convince him to wed her."
"What of your youngest daughter?"
"Oh, yes, the King shall take an ugly, little hunchback as his bride," she replies, sarcastically. "No, there is no need to worry about making a decent match for her. Once Jane is Queen, Mary can keep the chambers and be one of her sleeping maids."
Sighing, he puts his face between his hands. "My son, Frances. I confess easily enough that I despise the lad, but he is my blood."
"The blood of Charles Brandon runs through my veins," she says, quietly. "The blood of Queen Mary of France does as well. Do you know that they used to say the former was a son of a whore? He could have had everything, John, if he'd been willing to take it. Oh, but so great was his love for the King that he didn't dare contemplate it. In his eyes as he read to me, in his voice as he addressed King Henry, in his actions before and after my birth, the truth was clear. I hold none of his foolish romanticism. Your son is useless to me, and though I confess easily enough that I despise the lass, I will not see the grandchild of King Henry broken by a vile brat such as yours. Jane will be Queen, if I have to destroy you and everyone else of importance to see it happen."
"What of Katherine? The Earl of Pembroke is trying to get her marriage to his son annulled. You've said yourself she is much more malleable than Jane is. Not to mention, a sight prettier."
"We both know the King has never looked at her with anything other than brotherly affection; it is Jane he dances with, Jane who makes him laugh, and Jane who has been his since they were young children."
"Here's what we do, then," he says, defeated.
"What ails you so, my duke?"
Sighing, John Dudley sets his knife down. "I've always tried to be a good father, your grace. My wife, I'd almost say is a saint, for no mother is as patient and loving as she. Yet, the Lady Frances has been talking to me, and despite my best efforts to raise my boys as solid Christians and good husbands, I have failed terribly."
King Edward VI lowers his goblet. "Your son Guildford's marriage to the Lady Jane is proving to be an unhappy one?"
"Worse," John says, sorrowfully. "Lady Frances has informed me my daughter-in-law's wrists are black and that her daughter has confided much worse injuries to her. There is disciplining of wives, and then, there is outright abuse. How could I have gone so wrong, I wonder?"
For a moment, there is silence, and then, Edward says, distantly, "Just as the sins of the father shan't fall upon his heirs, neither should the sins of the heirs follow upon his ancestor, my duke." Blinking, he comes back to himself. "John, you do realise I must do something with this knowledge? Lady Jane is much too precious to us."
"Yes, your majesty. Though, I beg you for mercy. I know my son is a wretch, but the failure does rest on myself. Please, I beg of you, don't punish him too harshly. Punish me in his place, if you must."
"We need to think on this," Edward says, looking down at his full plate. "Have this put outside the gates."
"Yes, my King," John says, inclining his head.
Jane Grey shivers as the others leave, resisting the urge to beg them to stay.
Her mother moves silently, even more like a vulture than usual. "There will be no more herbs applied to your wrists, daughter."
"Yes, my lady," Jane murmurs, obediently, the pain in them flaring up. She's too tired to fight. Her books have been locked away, her in-laws and their servants have been treating her as if she were dirt, and now, with her mother returning from court, she's back under her harsh thumb. The only thing she has to be grateful for is that her courses have started. As painful as they are, at least, she can try to pretend she hasn't committed adultery in her heart. A child would make that impossible.
"This isn't punishment, child," Frances tells her, picking up a hairbrush and beginning to brush her hair. "I had thought Dudley would be useful; since he has proven himself otherwise, he must be dealt with. In two days, you will go to court. When the King inquires about your marriage, you must let him know what he's done."
"Mother, I can't," Jane gasps out, before she can stop herself. "Edward- The King, he will blame himself."
She remembers his pleading eyes, the way he'd looked at her as a friend, asked her as one, both knowing he could order her. She'd agreed. What else could she do? By request or command, his will would be done, and aside from his valued friendship, he was so sick, barely smiling, death seeming to ominously dog his every breath. Agreeing as a friend rather than a servant had made him smile and look at her with soft, untroubled eyes.
Some horrendous part of her does blame him, as well as everyone else who refused to listen to her, to let her refuse. However, she tries her best to exorcise that part, and despite sometimes feeling it rather sharply, she can't stand the thought of him blaming himself. Her family is greedy and sought advancement; he sincerely believed the marriage would help strengthen the Reformation, a goal they both know must be relentlessly pursued.
Frances sighs, the brush stilling. "This is your one chance, Jane. I had to beat you and confine you to bed with no food to accept this marriage. Now, your freedom to pursue your studies is within grasp. One way or another, the King will be informed. If I do it, you label yourself as weak in his eyes. His kindness towards you will increase, yet, at the same time, his friendship towards you will decrease. Edward holds so much admiration for you, the strong-willed scholar. Do you think you can regain a King's respect once you've lost it? It's neigh impossible for a woman to gain a man's, never mind regaining. Compare your position to his, and you have no chance, Jane."
Jane closes her eyes against the tears, taking a shuddering breath.
In the smooth metal used for a looking glass, Frances looks at her daughter and resumes brushing. Every person has their price, and just as her father's was forbidden love, so too is her firstborn's.
"Damn that fever," Frances declares, two days later, as she tests the makeshift carriage restraints. When Mary was six, a spooked horse had overturned the carriage it was leading, causing Mary to follow against the door, resulting in a nasty spilt across her head and a week of non-responsiveness. Frances had had buttoned leather straps sewn into the plush seating. Now, two straps are over Jane's shoulders, ending at her waist, two more are waist height, and buttoning holds the four together. "I will have words with the hay seller."
"I'll protect your girl, Madam," Adrian Stokes promises.
"See that you do," Frances says, glaring at the temperamental leading horse. "And remember that your life is easily forfeit if you misstep. Lady Jane's chaperone is well-trained with a knife."
"Yes, Madam," he says in no particular tone.
Frances places her hand on Jane's cheek. "Go with God, and remember your family, Jane Grey."
"Yes, my lady," Jane says, trying not to squirm within the restraints. "I pray God keeps you and my lord Father well while I'm away."
Jane curtsies and remembers trying to pull herself into a kneeling position, her bottom and upper legs on fire, and Edwards rushing over, gathering her in his arms. Now, he's much stronger, solid skin hiding his bones, the colour of it nowhere near as pale. "Your Majesty," she greets, accepting his hand.
"Cousin Jane," he says, leaning forward to give her a soft kiss on the cheek. "Come and sit with me."
She follows, gentle warmth persistently present against her cheek.
They sit in a corner, the other courtiers recognising their King's desire to talk to her without interruption. "How goes your marriage, cousin?"
"Not as well as it could, sire," Jane answers, as she fidgets. "For Guildford and I are two different people."
"Has he mistreated you, my lady," Edward asks, voice firm and calm.
Taking a shuddering breath, she adjusts her body so that the others can't see and lifts up her sleeves, revealing her wrists. They are no longer a deep black, but there is still a dark tint to the bruising. "Some would say my husband is passionate," she says, refusing to look him in the face. "I was warned that the nuptial bed was somewhat painful for the virgin bride."
"He had no cause," Edward snaps, causing her to look up in surprise at the intensity in his tone.
Carefully, he reaches over, tracing the bruises. "Is there any possibility you are with child, Cousin Jane?"
"No, Your Majesty," she answers. "My courses arrived shortly after our consummation."
"Good." Withdrawing his hands, he locks eyes with her. "I am sorry, Lady Jane. Kings are not infallible, and I made a mistake in not listening to your objections. However, I assure you that I will find a way to dissolve this marriage. Until then, the youngest Dudley boy will not be welcome at court."
"Edward, please, I beg you not to blame yourself. You did what you thought was best for the Reformation, and though I confess to wanting nothing more than to be free of him, I don't wish any of our souls risked. I made a vow to be a good wife, and as with everything, I shall try to honour my word."
"You can't," he says. Before she can respond, he continues, "No woman can be a good wife if the man she married is an unsuitable husband. Husbands may discipline their wives, Lady Jane, but they are also commanded to cherish and protect them as God cherishes and protects His children."
Thomas Cranmer looks at the portrait of his old friend. "Fear not, Lord Secretary," he says, quietly, nursing his drink. "Soon enough, England shall have both a Reformist King and Queen. And God willing, a child will soon follow. Unlike his father, King Edward will accept a female successor if need be."
"I've heard gossip, you see," he continues, "from a most trusted source. His Majesty's cousin is a comely creature, full of a lust for knowledge. Unfortunately, her parents consented to have her marry a brute of a boy, and though not as possessive as his father, the young King does not take kindly to this state of things. Already, an emergency meeting of his religious advisors has been called. It shall be easy enough to convince the public to accept Lady Jane's extradition from Dudley and binding to the King."
"Hush, child," Eleanor says, leading her charge by the wrist.
"But Nurse," Mary Grey insists, "why have you brought me out into public? Mother and Father will be furious if they find out."
More than that, she herself doesn't want to be in public where people can jeer at her. Once, when she was younger, some children even threw fruit at her, encouraged by their parents. At home, so long as she stays out of the way of her parents, she is safe and treated kindly. Eleanor is kind, encouraging her love of embroidery, and Kat often comes, bringing her sweets. Jane rarely comes, but when she does, she'll read softly.
"Your lord father and lady mother have made a right muckery of things," Eleanor says, voice a bit sharp. "One gel unhappily married to a drunkard, the other about to be annulled. Well, they shan't be alive forever, and nor shall I. If you've got to settle for a butcher or a small-village lawyer, then, by God, at least, you'll have a warm home and plenty of food. If you become a ward of the crown, they'll send you to a harsh nunnery, make no doubt about it."
"You mean to find me a husband," Mary says, disbelief tinging her tone. "Nurse, this is madness!"
"Has't thee a better idea," Eleanor inquires, moving stealthily down the streets. "Your reading and writing is solely lacking, never mind your number skills, and you can't dance, sing, or play the instruments well. Doing well at cards is nice but not much of a bargaining chip. When it was thought your eldest sister might be Queen, there was always a place for thee in her sleeping chambers, but now, that plan is gone. If Miss Kat is lucky enough to find another decent husband, she won't press her luck by bringing thee."
"No, I've held you since you were three days old, chased away your nightmares, and always done my best to make sure you were a good Christian while keeping a happy smile on thine face. My duty is far from done. We'll find thee a good man to wed."
"If I was plain-looking or pretty, that wouldn't be a problem," Mary points out. "But now, that's the same problem that will keep me from finding any husband."
"God graces those who do His works with inner beauty. A beautiful soul is far more valuable than a pleasing Earthly body," Eleanor says, sharply. "There are always blind men, men with motherless children, and men who wish nothing more than a docile helpmeet."
Mary appreciates the words but doubts they apply to her. She knows common prayers and the stories of The Bible, but unlike Jane, who is brilliant on matters of religion, she knows very little than that. God loves His children, and His children should return that love. Christians should be kind to others, give charity if they are able, obey their King as they obey God and their parents, and say their prayers. Catholics have Mass, confession, and other rituals, and Reformists have their own ideas.
For her part, Mary simply does as she's bade, whether that be to attend Mass and accept communion or to read the books Jane's tutors provided. She thinks she prefers Catholicism, simply because all the rituals are easy to perform without thought. The books and the lectures by Reformists require thought, and she often finds herself mentally stumbling, confused and bored.
They stop, and Eleanor adjusts Mary's veil and headdress. "We'll start with the bakeries, my dear. Your sweet tooth might well catch us a husband."
"I have reason to believe our cousin, Lady Jane Grey, is illegitimately married to Guildford Dudley," Edward announces, studying the reactions of the other men. "If this is so, I require the cause be found as quickly as possible. Lady Jane is a valuable supporter of the Reformation, and if she agrees, I have a mind to make her a bride to the Spanish throne. She would largely sway them away from Popery."
"Your Majesty," Archbishop Cranmer says, tentatively.
"Yes, your grace?"
"If I may, there are rumours Lady Jane Grey most vehemently objected to the match and only consented after harsh punishment from her parents. If she can and will swear this, that her only reason for consent was due to fear of further harm to herself, the marriage is invalid. Marriage requires both man and woman willingly enter it."
"Yes," Lord Thomason interjects. "The law makes a distinction between a person who gives alms to beggars in charity and one who hands over his purse after being threatened with a sword. I imagine, theologically, there is an equivalent."
"There is," the archbishop confirms.
Edward nods, knowing his next words require him to speak carefully. "If an illegitimate marriage is consummated, what does that make the woman? Monarchs are wary, rightfully, of non-virgins who don't have the excuse of a previous marriage."
"Your Majesty, I believe several saints, though Catholic, were right in declaring raped women still virgins. If a woman is tricked into bed, that is a form of rape. If Lady Jane laid next to Dudley, erroneously believing she was consummating a valid marriage or through him physically forcing himself upon her, she would still be a virgin. And if she were to have children, I believe the case could be made that her children, while technically bastards, deserve a special acknowledgement of legitimacy, since it was obviously God's will and not hers that she should have them without a proper father."
"Then," Edward says, "this invalid marriage must be made known and dispensed of immediately."
He stands, and the others follow suit.
"By damn, you've done it now, Frances," Henry roars.
Frances ignores him, looking out at the window at the misshapen brat who ruined her chances of bearing more children. The child is incredibly short for her age, fat, and with a splotchy, pockmarked face. She's playing a game of cards with one of the servants while her nurse sits nearby, working on her sketching.
Though she doesn't know why, Frances does know that, earlier, the nurse took her youngest daughter out into public.
"She will drag our characters through the mud, you know she will," Henry continues. "She'll happily declare we used the most heinous of methods to force her into the marriage!"
Jane wasn't the son she wanted. Katherine, she forgave, due to her being the second born and a sight prettier than Jane. Mary was a disgrace to them all; one she preferred to pretend didn't exist.
There are rare times when a person is granted sudden realisation.
For all her haughtiness, the King's miraculous survival, her eldest daughter's hatred of her, her youngest beginning to rebel, Frances is struck, as with ice, that God is not on her side. No matter, though, she once promised baby Jane the throne, and even if it harms her and Henry, she'll see it happen.
"Enough, Henry," she says, sharply. "You were hesitant for Jane to marry Guildford, and unlike me, you have an actual fondness for the girl. At worst, you'll be cast as the bumbling father. I will be cast as the evil one. We'll have to make do. The only way to provide a good marriage for Katherine and ensure Mary isn't left to a dingy nunnery is to make sure Jane, whatever harms she does against us, is married to Edward. God granted us no son, and our riches and titles are lost to the family name. All we have left to recommend us is the well-being of those three."
"Now," she says, as he begins to open his mouth, "I shall go talk to our youngest, Mary."
"But why would a cat curl up inside a hat," Mary inquires, dealing the cards.
The servant is about to answer, but a shadow falls, and his mouth briefly snaps shut. "Marchioness," he says, slipping from his chair onto to his knees.
Bewildered, Mary looks to Eleanor, who looks over and hastily motions for her to stand and turn. When she does, Mary kneels, muttering, "My lady mother," her head bowed.
"Rise," the marchioness orders them all. "You're dismissed," she says, to the servant, taking his place. "Sit down, daughter, and show me how skilled you are at cards. If you can beat me for three games, I shall give you a modest purse for you to spend at your own pleasure."
"Yes, my lady," Mary says, voice making clear her incomprehension.
"You must be prepared," Edward says that night as they sit in his chambers, several courtiers of both sexes sitting across the room. "I've been informed Bishop Gardiner is subtly showing signs of resistance to your annulment. If he makes his views explicit, the Catholic faction of the court will strongly contest it."
"Of course," Jane says, looking down at her cards. Laying them facedown, she takes a breath. "Edward- Thank you. Aside from my nurse, you are one of my truest friends."
Nodding, he hesitates for a moment, and then, reaches over to touch her hand. "If you ever marry, Lady Jane, you must receive my approval beforehand. However, I promise you I will never again force you into a marriage against your will. You have my solemn vow that you are free to remain unmarried for as long as you wish. And if the man you choose is a good man of the Reformist religion, deserving of your love, I will happily consent to the marriage."
Picking her cards back up, she gives him a shy smile, which he returns.