Less than half an hour until it began.
Less than half an hours, and yet she had been dressed an hour before that. Arrayed in rich, heavy velvet; tight bodice, lengthy skirts, and a small matching hat tilted jauntily on her mop of red curls.
The bishops. Men, decked in black, all old and stubborn and not at all swayed by her youthfulness or femininity; more likely to listen to the word of God over the word of their monarch. She bit her lip for a brief moment before realising the effect such an action could have on her carefully constructed shield of makeup, checking her face a little fearfully in the polished metal before her.
What if they didn't listen? It wasn't simply a tiny niggling doubt in the back of her mind – it was a herd of horses galloping through her head, and flock of birds furiously fluttering about in her stomach. They were likely to take advantage of any sign of weakness she showed to them, pounce on it like a lion with a deer.
Her hands nervously plucked at and smoothed out her gown continuously, and she frowned at them in her reflection, willing them to stop and knowing they would have to once she had entered that high vaulted chamber. She could only send thanks to the heavens that none of those terrifying men could have seen her earlier that morning, vomiting into a basin, as Kat kept her hair back from her face with soothing strokes of her cool hands. She needed more composure than this!
A deep breath, and a tremulous smile towards her reflection that quickly firmed. "My lords," she murmured throatily, sneering at herself inside. It sounded so coquettish, so flirtatious. Perhaps playing the role of the subservient young girl would hold her in good stead today. She tried again, clearing her throat. "My lords," she began once more, twisting her lips into the faintest hint of a pout. "Surely you do not mean to–" She halted. What could she say? What manner of plea were they inclined to hear and heed? She had already composed that speech that made her sound like a wise monarch defending her people, but it needed something more. There had to be a way she could deliver it, some weapon within her attitude or vocabulary that could sway their minds. Presenting herself as a sort of mother over her subjects was simply not enough.
She decided to switch track. "What of the proposed marriages, my lords?" She asked her reflection, smiling coyly. At least her hands weren't moving any more. "Which option do you intend for me to take?" That was a topic that was sure to come up; now, if she could just phrase it the right way it could become a powerful tool in her arsenal. Her playful nature of earlier felt as though it would be to her advantage; even bishops were men, after all, many of them married and likely even more with young, bubbly mistresses of their own. Surely there would be some benefit in assuming the role of someone they were familiar with.
"Perhaps you believe I should pick France; but then what of Spain?"
Another frown. No, that didn't sound right. She grinned a bit as an idea struck her and adopted a still lighter tone, saying jovially "Some say France, some Spain, and some none at all! Perhaps you wish for me to marry both, and keep everyone happy?" She laughed inside; that was sure to induce an expression of shock on many an old man's visage, and if she said it just so, it would help to lighten what was sure to be an oppressive atmosphere considerably.
For minutes, she just stood there, repeating phrases over and over again, a term here, injecting a word here and changing her tone there. Then a knock came at the door – "My lady, Sir William is here to see you" – and the horses and birds were back, but she quashed them, replying in as steady a voice as she could and asking Kat to "usher him in."
Queen Elizabeth squared her shoulders and took a deep, deep breath; turning to see Sir William standing, her ladies on either side, she inclined her head, keeping her face smooth and expressionless. "Shall we go?" She inquired politely, extending one gloved hand which he took.
Now was not the time to act like a silly little girl; frightened, naïve. This was her first foray into the world of politics and she was determined to do it right.
It was time to show them what a queen was made of.
Basically writing a scene from Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth. Amazing movie, that one. I still need to go see the Golden Age. Yaaay for schoolwork. And yay for my eighteenth. Yippee.