This is something of a hump chapter, bridging the gap between last chapter and the next, when there will be a time jump of a bit over a year. It's been something of a struggle to get this done, but hopefully it'll get a bit easier once we move into 1533.

Chapter Nineteen

23rd May 1532

"How dare Lord Norfolk send me this letter!" Mary exclaimed vehemently.

She knew that most of Anne's close relatives were arrogant, believing that as long as Anne had the King's favour, they could think themselves free to do as they pleased, but she could scarcely believe that even the Duke of Norfolk would be so impertinent as to presume to command her, in her father's name, to leave the court and return to Hatfield immediately.

The message was brusque and authoritative in tone rather than deferential, as though its author was entitled to issue orders to her, as though she was not a Princess of England, the only child of the King by the Queen, his true wife and the granddaughter of three sovereigns, as though the royal court was not the place she ought to be by rights.

The man had even had the gall to inform her that she was expected to quit the palace by morning!

That would scarcely give her time to have her belongings packed and to say her farewells, much less for any kind of formal leave-taking to be arranged. Did Norfolk expect her to slip away like a minor courtier who had displeased the King and was banished from court for his transgression?

Even Anne would never have dared to go so far.

She might have tried to keep Mary away from court when the King first fell ill, becoming so carried away with her new powers as Regent that she thought that she could dictate whether or not Mary should be allowed to be by the bedside of her ailing father, but she was quick to realise her mistake and to send a message to ask her to come to court.

Anne was certain to be well aware that she was fortunate that Mary had not only deigned to accept her reluctant invitation to court but that she had also kept her transgression from the King's ears.

Mary was initially inclined not to allow Anne to get away with either her attempt to keep her from court or her cowardice in pretending that it was a mistake rather than a deliberate slight. She had had every intention of paying a visit to her father, as soon as he was strong enough, and letting him know how the woman he insisted on calling his wife had dared to treat his daughter but Lady Salisbury dissuaded her. Mary was certain that, once her father learned what had happened, he would be furious with Anne for daring to behave thus to the pearl of his world, and she would have been pleased to see Anne obliged to beg her pardon for the slight but Lady Salisbury, upon learning of her intentions, reminded her that her father had been very ill, and was still recovering.

Knowing that it would do her father's health no good if, in his anger, he overtaxed his strength, and that it was better to celebrate his survival rather than to dwell on what had happened while he was ill, Mary had grudgingly yielded to her governess' persuasion and agreed not to speak of it.

This time, however, Anne's relatives had gone too far and Mary was not prepared to tolerate it any longer.

It was time that her father learned the true natures of the vipers around him.

She half-expected that Lady Salisbury would be reluctant to have her bring the matter to her father's attention, and that her governess would instead counsel her to ignore Norfolk's impertinent message and carry on as though she had never received it. She was astonished and dismayed when, instead, her governess gave orders to her maids of honour to begin packing.

"I believe that His Grace is merely following the King's commands, Your Highness, and that it is His Majesty's wish that we return to Hatfield," she said gently.

There was no doubt in her mind that the order that Mary was to leave court came from the King, even if the Duke of Norfolk was the one to sign the message that had so angered her charge. She fully expected that she too would receive a message by the end of the day, likely from the King's secretary, instructing her to see to it that Mary was made ready for her return journey to Hatfield. In a way, it was just as well that Norfolk's message to Mary had arrived first, as it would allow her more time to make the necessary preparations for their journey.

While it was true that the Princess Consort's kinsmen would be pleased to see Mary sent away from court, especially when the Prince of Wales was to remain, they would never dare to arrange for her removal without the King's knowledge and consent. Only a fool would ever give such an order, knowing that it could not remain a secret. If it was not the King's wish that his daughter be sent from court, he would want to know why she was leaving and, when the truth emerged, his anger towards the one who sought to arrange his daughter's banishment would be terrible.

In truth, Lady Salisbury was saddened but not surprised by the orders.

The King's behaviour towards his daughter following her recovery was genial enough but most of his time was devoted to the Princess Consort and the little Prince of Wales. He saw Mary only infrequently and, to the best of her knowledge, had never asked to see Queen Katherine, though he must surely know that she would have prayed tirelessly for his recovery. Instead of dining in state in the Great Hall, where the court could see him and where the Queen and Princess Mary could join him, he usually opted to dine with the Princess Consort in her apartment. More often than not, they dined alone but he sometimes invited her family or friends to join them.

Archbishop Cranmer and Master Cromwell were also among those favoured with invitations to dine with the King and the Princess Consort, invitations that were coveted by the courtiers.

Princess Mary was never invited to dine with them, though this was more a relief to her than a disappointment, given her dislike of the Princess Consort. It was, however, a great disappointment to her that her royal father never invited her to dine privately with him, nor did her join her and her mother when they shared their meals.

When the King had recovered his strength enough to be able to walk out and show himself to the people, he walked with the Princess Consort on one arm and the Prince carefully balanced in his other arm. Together, they strolled in the gardens or stood on a balcony overlooking the crowds that gathered to catch a glimpse of their sovereign, acknowledging the acclaim with smiles and waves. The people were always especially pleased to see the little Prince, greeting him joyously. Mary was not asked to join them and Lady Salisbury had taken it as an indication of the King's views about which of his wives and which of his children represented his true wife and heir.

It was his second wife and their son he wished to parade in front of the people, and he had no desire to allow the Queen or the Princess to inspire any demonstration of love and loyalty.

Lady Salisbury was certain that, as much as they might be charmed by Prince Arthur, the people's show of affection and support for Mary would have been equal to his, if not greater.

Whatever the King's behaviour towards his daughter, the Duke of Norfolk was too intelligent to act against Mary of his own accord, and the same would be true of the Duke of Wiltshire.

They must know that, learning that one of them had taken it upon themselves to send Mary from court was likely to make the King behave more tenderly to his daughter, and be more protective of her position, while they would be the ones with whom he would be angry and distant, if he did not order them to leave court for a time, to contemplate their error. An attempt to banish Mary would serve to remind the King of how dearly he once cherished her, and he would be appalled to learn that any of his courtiers believed that they could insult his child thus without redress. It would surely have made him see how much he was hurting his daughter by withholding the affection he once showered on her and devoting his time to her half-brother instead.

Lady Salisbury was certain that even the Princess Consort would not be able to go behind the King's back to banish Mary from court without redress. Her orders would be swiftly countermanded and she would be forbidden to ever again presume to command the Princess Mary to leave her father's court. It might even lead the King to command that Princess Mary should have permanent lodgings at court, so that she might be close to her royal father.

"My father would never want to send me away!" Mary was appalled that her governess should suggest such a thing. While she could understand it if her father decided that she and Arthur should return to Hatfield, and their quiet life there now that he was out of danger, she could not believe that he would want to send her away from him but to keep Arthur at court.

It should be the other way around.

Arthur was still just a toddler, and as he was the Prince of Wales, her father was careful about his health, deeming it best for him to spend most of his time in the country rather than at court, where any contagion would spread rapidly among the thousands of people there. She was long past her nursery days and she had heard some of maids in waiting saying that, at her age, it was time for her to leave the nursery household at Hatfield and return to court. They were all longing for the day when she was summoned to live at court as they would accompany her.

She was no longer a child, she was a young lady of marriageable age and her place was at court, with the King and Queen.

Had the message indicated that it was her father's wish that she should leave Hatfield to reside at court, she would willingly have accepted it but he would never send her away like this.

If Lady Salisbury could not see this, she would speak to somebody who would.

Heedless of her manners, she snatched the message from Lady Salisbury's hand and ran from the room, hastening through the corridors to her mother's apartment.

She scarcely waited long enough for one of the grooms to open the door and announce her.

"Mary?" Katherine was astonished to see her usually dignified daughter run into her apartment but, after seeing the expression of distress on Mary's face, she stilled her tongue before she could reproach her for her impulsive behaviour. "What is the matter?"

For answer, Mary thrust the message into her mother's hands.

"Lord Norfolk sent this to me," she explained. "He dares to think that he may order me from court but I will tell Papa and he will see what a snake he is, just like all of her family. Norfolk will be fortunate if he is not the one who is banished from court when Papa learns what he has done..."

"Mary," Katherine spoke her daughter's name in a calm, quiet voice but it was enough to silence her. She glanced up from the message, frowning when she realised that her ladies were still present. They were all busy with needlework, as this was their time to sew shirts for the poor, but she knew that, despite their appearance of industry, there was not one of them who was not listening avidly to every word that was spoken. "You may leave us," she told them firmly. She waited until the last of them curtsied and left the room, shutting the door behind her, before frowning reprovingly at Mary. "You know better than to speak of such things in front of others."

The reprimand calmed Mary a little. Her mother scarcely ever spoke to her so sharply.

She knew that she should not have spoken before her mother had the opportunity to command her ladies to give them some privacy, as royal ladies should never air private matters in the hearing of their attendants. One could never know when a lady-in-waiting might be acting as somebody else's eyes and ears in the apartment of her royal mistress, eavesdropping on conversations that ought to be private so that she might glean from them any information that could be of potential benefit to the one who bribed her.

It wouldn't surprise her to learn that the Duke of Norfolk had a member of her mother's household in his employ, despite the kindness with which her mother always treated her attendants, who had no excuse to be anything but loyal to her. If that was the case, the lady in question might be running to him now, to let him know what Mary said about him.

However, she was certain that, once her mother was made aware of what had happened, she would understand why Mary forgot herself for a moment, and spoke without thinking.

Lady Salisbury was admitted to the room while Katherine was reading the note and, seeing from the governess' slightly flushed face and her rapid breathing that she must have exerted herself beyond her strength to try to catch up with her charge, she frowned at Mary a second time. She was disappointed to see that her daughter had behaved so thoughtlessly towards one who was so devoted to her. She motioned for Lady Salisbury to be seated, so she could catch her breath.

Although Mary considered herself a young woman rather than a child, Katherine thought that there were times when she behaved like a little girl half her age.

When she finished reading the message, her expression was grave.

"If your father wishes for you to return to Hatfield, you must obey," she said steadily.

"But he cannot wish to send me away!" Mary protested, wondering why that was not immediately apparent to her mother. "The Duke of Norfolk wrote that message, not Papa!"

"Lord Norfolk would never presume to send such a message if this was not your father's command," Katherine began. She spoke gently, knowing that it would be a blow to Mary to know that Henry wished to send her away, especially as she knew that he planned to keep Arthur at court longer; Anne had requested it of him, and he was also in no hurry to be parted from their son. However, she knew that she could not allow Mary to deceive herself into believing that this was an attempt by Anne's family to send her away rather than a choice that Henry freely made.

Given Mary's current reaction, she would not have been surprised to learn that she planned to report Norfolk to her father. She could only imagine how Henry would react if Mary barged into his Privy chamber, declaring that Norfolk was trying to banish her from court, especially if she blamed Anne. Like Mary, she too was distressed to learn that Henry had decided not to allow their daughter to remain at court, though the celebrations in honour of his safe recovery were still in progress. He had not even taken the trouble of letting her know his intentions.

If Mary had not told her, would Henry have bothered to let her know that he was sending their daughter back to Hatfield?

Katherine knew that Mary and Lady Salisbury would have come to bid her farewell but that did not absolve Henry of his duty to let the mother of his daughter know that she was leaving.

"They already tried to keep me away," Mary argued, unwilling to believe her mother's words. "When Papa was ill, that woman tried to make me stay away from court, and Lord Norfolk and Lord Wiltshire would have let her. She only asked me to come because she knew that she would be in trouble if she didn't. I shouldn't have come when Sir Francis came to fetch me," she said, imagining how her father would have reacted when he woke up and realised that she wasn't at court. He would have been so angry with Anne once he learned what she was up to while he was ill. "Then she would have had to explain to him why I wasn't there, and he would hate her!"

"Mary!" It was no secret that Mary's opinion of Anne was a low one but Katherine still found the venom in her daughter's voice as she spoke of her troubling. "You are no longer a child," she scolded her. "You know better than to behave like this. A princess does not run around, shouting, and she does not speak carelessly against others. If you do not yet understand how you should behave at court, perhaps it is wise of your father to send you back to Hatfield until you have learned to behave sensibly, and with proper decorum."

The hurt expression on Mary's face was almost enough to get Katherine to cease her scolding.

It was difficult and painful for Mary to know that, while Henry might praise her as the pearl of his world and while he loved her very much, Arthur was dearer to him.

Mary was a scholar whose tutors delighted in her, knowing that they could expect her to learn all that a prince would learn and more, and who had impressed ambassadors with her erudition since she was a little child but none of her accomplishments could make him forget that she was a girl. The blood of three sovereign grandparents flowed in her veins and she loved England as dearly as her parents did, striving from childhood to prepare herself for the task of governing her country but, as far as Henry was concerned, Arthur was fitter by far to rule by virtue of his sex.

Henry had waited so long for a legitimate son that it was scarcely surprising that he all but worshipped Arthur, especially when he loved the boy's mother so much, but he was so eager to spend time with the toddler that he seemed to have little to spare for his daughter.

Katherine knew that it would distress Mary if she thought that, not only did her father favour her half-brother, her mother was also angry with her but she also knew that she could not relent.

Sparing Mary a scolding now could result in her getting in serious trouble later, if she said the wrong thing to the wrong person, or if she angered Henry by denouncing somebody he esteemed.

She loved Mary too much to allow her to do this.

"Your father loves the Princess Consort very much," she said steadily. Katherine schooled her features to ensure that she showed no outward sign of the distress she felt when speaking of Henry's love for Anne. Four years had passed since she was told of Henry's intention to take Anne as his second wife and the pain of knowing that her husband loved another woman enough to be willing to take such a drastic step – and, worse still, of knowing that, if he had his way, Henry would have set her aside to make Anne his Queen – had not faded. "She is his wife and she is the mother of his son, the heir to his throne. He will not hear a word against her, from anybody."

"He will listen to me if I tell him about her!" Mary protested.

"He will not." Katherine's tone and expression were implacable. "If you speak against the Princess Consort, it will be a long time before you are permitted to return to court – if you ever are. Your father will not ask her to tolerate any insults from you. You will not have many years left in England." She hoped that this was true, much as she hated the thought of being parted from her daughter. She would rather bear her separation from Mary, knowing that her daughter was married to a great prince, than to have Mary live out her days unwed because Henry refused to guarantee that he would always recognise their daughter's legitimacy. "You are a young woman now, and a day will soon come when you are married. I was not much older than you are now when I came to England, and I have not seen Spain since I left it. Once you leave England, you may never return. Do you want to waste the years you have left here by quarrelling with the Princess Consort? I can promise that the years will fly by, faster than you would believe possible."

"No, Mama." Mary shook her head, tears filling her eyes at the thought of having to leave her home and family, perhaps never seeing either of them again.

While it was true that, if she married the Duke of Orleans, her new country would not be very far away from the country of her birth, that was no guarantee that she would be able to visit England. Her new husband might not be willing to allow his wife to travel outside his father's kingdom, especially as the journey would mean great expense, or she might not be strong enough for the journey if she was with child or had just borne a babe. She would have duties as the Duchess of Orleans and would not be able to leave the French court on a whim. And even her marriage was no guarantee that England and France would not be at war in years to come, in which case she would have to remain at a court that viewed her father and her country as their enemies.

If she was not married to the Duke of Orleans, God alone knew where her husband would live.

If her father wed her to a man who lived in Denmark or Norway or Sweden, she was certain that she would never have the chance to set foot in her homeland after her departure unless, like her Aunt Margaret, she was widowed before she could bear her royal husband children.

She wanted to enjoy her last years in England to the fullest... but how could she do that if she was forced to spend them at Hatfield, deprived of the company of her mother and father?

"I want to stay here with you, Mama," she pleaded with her mother, who hated their separation as much as she did. Mary was certain of this, even if her mother would never have spoken against the decision to send her to Hatfield, once her father decreed that it was his wish that she should. "I'm not a little girl anymore. I'll never say another word against Lady Anne... the Princess Consort if I can stay at court, I promise. Please," she reached out to clutch her mother's hand in hers, "tell Papa that I should stay here with you, until it's time for me to get married."

If her mother reminded her father of how short a time was left until her marriage, Mary was certain that he would want to keep her with him.

He had many years left with Arthur, and so few left with her.

Once he was reminded of this, he would want to have her near him, even after her little brother returned to his quiet life at his nursery palace.

"Sweetheart," Katherine began gently, "it was your father's wish that you should live at Hatfield with the Prince. He thought that it was best for you to be together. It is healthier for you in the countryside than here at court, and there is nothing there to distract you from your studies."

"I will study my lessons as well here as I do at Hatfield – no, better," Mary vowed, meaning every word. She enjoyed her lessons and had no intention of shirking, regardless of where she lived. In any case, she would not remain in the schoolroom much longer, and there were things that a princess needed to learn that could not be taught by a tutor. Her mother could teach her all she would need to know as a royal wife, who must preside over a great household. Even Lady Salisbury could not teach her this, despite the Plantagenet blood that flowed in her veins. "There are so many things that I can learn from you," she reminded her mother.

Katherine nodded, conceding this point, though she didn't know if Henry would be convinced by this argument. If anything, she feared that he might prefer not to allow her to spend as much time with Mary as they both wished her to. There were times that he seemed to believe that she was setting out to influence their daughter against him, when nothing could be further from the truth.

He would never believe her if she told him of her efforts to reconcile Mary to his marriage to Anne, and to the fact that little Arthur had supplanted her as heir to the throne.

"Do you think that I should ask him?" Mary ventured, when her mother did not voice a promise to petition her father to allow her to remain at court. If she wanted to convince him that she was no longer a little girl, that she was a young woman of an age to leave the schoolroom and the nursery palace of Hatfield behind, perhaps it would be better for him to approach her father directly, instead of relying on her mother to ask on her behalf, as a little girl would.

If she asked him, he would surely deny his pearl nothing.

"No, Mary," Katherine responded quickly. She could imagine, all too easily, how Henry would react if Mary appealed to him directly. He hated to be put on the spot and was likely to be angry with her for approaching him on the matter after he had made his wishes plain to her. It would devastate Mary to hear her father tell her that he did not want to have her with him. She sighed, knowing that there was only one way in which she could keep Mary from asking the question, when the answer would only bring her pain. "I will ask him, sweetheart," she promised.

Mary's answering smile was dazzling, and she caught her mother in an impulsive embrace.

"Thank you, Mama! I know that Papa will say 'yes'. I know it!"

Katherine's heart was heavy as she returned her beloved child's embrace, wishing that she could share Mary's confidence about Henry's reaction.

Arthur squealed with delight as the horse trotted slowly around the enclosure, thrilled to be riding a proper horse for the first time.

His hobby horse was dull and tame next to this!

Henry kept a firm grip of his son with one arm, holding the reins in the other hand as he guided their mount. Arthur's plump fists clutched the reins tightly but the horse was too well-trained to be distracted by the touch of anybody save his master, and ignored the boy's light tugs. Henry felt stronger today than he had in weeks but knew that he was still not ready for a hunt or a gallop. The fever was gone but his illness had sapped his strength and Dr Linacre warned him that it might be several months before he felt like his old self again and cautioned him against over-exertion.

He hated feeling weak and tired but he knew that the wisest thing for him to do would be to listen to his physician's advice. It would do him no good to sap his strength and prolong his recovery.

After his meeting with the Dukes of Norfolk and Wiltshire, and Master Cromwell, he felt that he needed to be with his true wife and child, out in the open air, where that toad Chapuys and his spies could not observe their every move and eavesdrop on every word they spoke, ready to send the Emperor missives filled with poison about Anne and perhaps even little Arthur.

Unable to enjoy his usual sports, he had decided that today would be Arthur's first riding lesson.

Anne, unable to ride until she was safely delivered of their second son, watched from just outside the enclosure, applauding lightly whenever they passed her by. Lady Bryan, together with two of Anne's ladies, Nan Saville and Madge Shelton stood with her. Lady Bryan kept an eagle eye on her little charge while Nan and Madge exclaimed over what a big boy the Prince was getting to be.

Arthur was delighted to have an audience, blowing kisses to his mother and bouncing in the saddle whenever they came near her, despite Henry's gentle admonitions to sit still.

To his credit, he was doing his best to remember everything Henry told him, sitting up straight, keeping his head held high, as his father did, and always holding the reins with at least one hand.

When he was younger, Henry thought that, when he became a father, he would be the one to teach his sons to ride, something his father never did for him. Once he became King, however, he soon learned how great the demands on his time would be and knew that he would not be able to do all the things he wished to do with his sons. With Cardinal Wolsey dead, his time was even less his own than it was before. A riding master would have to be engaged to teach Arthur to ride his first pony and that man would be the one who would be able to watch every step of the little boy's progress. Other men would teach him to fence and shoot and joust, while Henry would have to content himself with watching occasional displays of his son's athletic prowess.

There was no doubt in his mind that his son would be a great athlete one day.

He might have been named for his uncle but he was strong and healthy, like his father. Although less than three months had passed since his second birthday, he was already tall for his age and sturdily built. Henry could remember that, when he was a very small boy, his nurse often complained about how quickly he outgrew his clothes – something that was doubly inconvenient, as the allowance his father supplied for the nursery of his younger children was not particularly generous. Arthur never had that problem, given how often Anne ordered new clothes for him.

Knowing that it would thrill the little boy, Henry guided his horse into a canter, circling the enclosure a couple of times. Arthur squealed in delight, his little fists tightening around the reins.

When the horse slowed to a stop, Henry dismounted, lifting his pouting son down from the saddle.

"I want to go again!" Arthur protested, dismayed that their sport ended so soon. Lady Bryan caught his eye, giving him a reproving frown to remind him to be on his best behaviour around his Mama and Papa, so they would know that he knew how to behave as a Prince should. He subsided but he thought that his governess couldn't understand why he was cross.

Lady Bryan always rode in carriages and litters instead of on a horse because she was an old lady.

He was going to be a man soon and a man needed to be able to ride a horse.

"Tomorrow, my son, if you are a very good boy and do as Lady Bryan tells you," Henry promised. He would have liked to continue the lesson longer but even his short ride with Arthur left him feeling more fatigued than he liked. It was also a little chilly today, even for May, and he told himself that he shouldn't keep Anne standing outdoors too long.

It was for her sake, not for his, that they must go indoors.

"I'll be good," Arthur promised, as gravely as a little judge.

"Good boy," Henry ruffled his son's hair, handing the horse's reins off to a stable hand and leading Arthur out of the enclosure. "If you work hard, and listen carefully to everything that I – and your riding master – teach you, you will be a great horseman. Maybe you can help teach the Duke of York, when he is a big boy like you," he added, thinking that it would be a great day for him when his sons were old enough to accompany him and his friends when they went hunting.

"My bruvver."

Arthur knew all about the Duke of York.

Lady Bryan taught him a prayer to say so God would know to send his Mama another son. Arthur was such a handsome, clever little boy that his Mama and his Papa wanted a second son just like him. Everybody at Hatfield said that prayer every day at Mass, and Arthur said it at bedtime too, just in case God didn't hear him in the morning. Secretly, he hoped that his new brother would be a little less handsome and a little less clever than he was, since the Prince of Wales should be the best Prince of all, but the Duke of York could be second best.

Lady Bryan also said that, when he was a big brother, it would be his job to show the Duke of York how to be a good boy and do everything he was told, as a Prince ought to. Arthur thought that it would be more fun to show him how to be naughty so they could have lots of fun together but he wasn't going to tell Lady Bryan this. She would only scold him and spoil all of his plans.

"That's right," Henry said, bending down to kiss his son's cheek before handing him off to Lady Bryan. After a kiss from Anne, and a promise that she would come to the nursery later to read him a story, Arthur allowed his governess to lead him away. Once Arthur was gone, Henry offered his arm to Anne. "Let's get you inside, sweetheart, before it gets too cool for you." She tucked her arm through his, and they walked towards the palace, with her ladies trailing at a discreet distance. "I believe that our son is the most beautiful boy God ever made," he said quietly as they walked.

Anne nodded her assent. She never doubted this, not since the moment he was first placed in her waiting arms and she saw what a perfect child she and Henry had created through their love.

It was difficult for Henry not to think of his other sons when he spent time with Arthur.

Three of the five stillborn children Katherine bore him were boys. None of them could be christened but, before they were brought into the world, before it became clear that their hope of a strong Prince for England was doomed to be unfulfilled, he and Katherine spoke of the names they wished to give them. He favoured Edward, for his mother's father, or Henry for himself. Katherine would probably have liked to name their son for one of her kinsmen but she knew that England's future King could not have a Spanish name, and contented herself with suggesting good English names.

If he thought that it would mean that one of their boys could have lived, he would have allowed her to name him Ferdinand, if it pleased her.

Had their first son lived, he would be older than Mary now.

It seemed so cruel that they should be allowed to believe that they had been blessed with a healthy son, and allowed to celebrate his birth for almost a full month before he was snatched away from them. Perhaps God hoped that such a painful warning would not go unheeded. Had he recognised little Prince Henry's death for the divine warning it was, and known that he must separate from Katherine, he would have been spared the pain of the losses of their other children. It might even have been easier to set her aside back then, as her nephew was no more than a boy in those days, and had not yet been elected Holy Roman Emperor.

King Ferdinand of Aragon had allowed his daughter to live as a near-pauper in the English court for years after the death of her true husband, in the hope that Henry would take her as his wife and Queen, rather than bringing her back to Spain and finding a new husband for her.

Would he have bothered to intercede on her behalf if he knew that her marriage was to be annulled?

He saw very little of Henry Fitzroy during his brief life.

He knew that he would acknowledge the child as soon as he was told that he had a son. He named him for himself and his father, and gave him a surname traditionally borne by the sons of Kings so that there could be no doubt in anybody's mind that this beautiful, healthy boy was his child. He wanted every man, woman and child in England to know that it was no fault of his that they had no Prince of Wales to look to as their future sovereign. He was more than capable of fathering a boy.

The celebrations in honour of Fitzroy's birth were almost as lavish as those that marked the birth of a Prince and he gave orders that a household should be formed for his son at Durham House. Even as a tiny baby, his son presided over an establishment that any lord would be proud of. He received regular reports of Fitzroy's health and progress but visited him only once or twice during his infancy. As soon as the little boy was old enough to be trusted to behave himself during the ennoblement ceremony, he invested him with the title of Duke of Richmond and Somerset.

He intended that the ceremony that served as his son's court debut would be the first of many visits to court, whether Katherine liked it or not.

He knew from Wolsey that she took it as an affront that he should lavish such honours on an illegitimate son but he had no intention of abandoning his plan to ensure that his son would have an honoured place at his court in deference to her feelings. At the time, he was confident that it would not be long before his marriage was annulled and Katherine left his court. He was certain that Anne would have made Fitzroy welcome, loving him for his sake.

His son's death devastated him but his loss made him more determined than ever to be happy with Anne and to have a family with her.

Now, after little over three years of marriage, they had a fine healthy son and another on the way. Their union was clearly blessed by God, and other children would follow, lovely little princesses as well as strong, handsome young princes. In time, their daughters would be the wives of some of the greatest princes in Christendom, and their grandsons might sit on other thrones.

Henry knew that he would love every child Anne gave him as much as he loved Arthur.

Instead of taking Anne back to her apartment, Henry decided to dismiss her ladies for the rest of the afternoon and take her to his quarters instead. Most of the time they spent together was spent either outdoors or in her apartment, so it seemed only fair that he should be her host today.

He gave orders that their meal should be brought to them and, while they waited, he sat down on the window seat, tugging Anne into his lap rather than letting her sit by his side.

"You're showing now, sweetheart," he murmured, awed, as he laid a gentle hand on the curve of her belly. They would be able to make the announcement any day now. "What shall we call him?"

"Henry?" Anne was surprised that he hadn't already decided to give their second son his name, especially as she had half-expected that this would be Arthur's name, before she was told that Henry had decided that their firstborn son should be christened after his late uncle instead.

"No." The response was immediate, brooking no argument. "Not Henry. That's what Katherine's son was called, and my other son," he elaborated when he saw the puzzled expression on Anne's face at his reaction. "I won't use it for our son, not when we already have Arthur."

"Of course," Anne nodded comprehension, inwardly berating herself for her foolishness in not considering the implications of the name. He was right; when their Prince of Wales was named Arthur, it would surely tempt Fate to christen the Duke of York Henry. She ruled out her other idea, as calling their son Edward would surely invoke memories of the lost young King Edward, Henry's uncle. The name of his other dead uncle, Richard, was completely out of the question. "What about Charles?" She suggested, thinking that he might like to name their son for his dear friend, though she suspected that Brandon's opinion of her was none too high.

"For the Emperor or for my Lord of Suffolk?" Henry grinned wryly as he imagined the Emperor's likely reaction if Chapuys was obliged to report to him that England's newest Prince bore his name. He was bound to be dismayed to hear that a second son was born of the union he had tried to prevent, another Prince to stand between his cousin and the throne he coveted on Mary's behalf. He would be justly served if Henry offered him the honour of being godfather, knowing that he would not wish to either accept the role or insult a fellow monarch by refusing. "It's worth considering, either way. There's also George." The name of Anne's brother, and England's patron saint would be a fitting choice for an English Prince with Boleyn blood in his veins.

"My brother would be honoured." Anne didn't add that her father and uncle were both likely to take it as an insult if their new son was named for George rather than for them. They would not dare to raise the issue with Henry – to his face, they would call it a great honour to the Boleyn family – but she was certain to have to listen to their complaints. However, after the trouble they caused her when they tried to keep Mary from court, she was not minded to spare their feelings.

Henry was thinking over his family tree to select another potential name when Sir Henry Norris, one of the gentlemen of his Privy Chamber approached, bowing. Norris clearly knew that his interruption would be unwelcome. His reluctance to intrude on their privacy was evident in every step he took. Heaving a sigh, Henry motioned for him to come closer.

"What is it?" He made an effort to keep the impatience from his voice. Norris was a good man who served him well. He would not wish to interrupt him if it could be avoided and, if there was good cause for it, Henry didn't want to snap at him for something that could not be helped.

"The Queen has come asking to speak to Your Majesty." Norris' gaze flickered in Anne's direction as he delivered his message. He hated to think that he was the cause of any discomfort for her, however small. She was a good lady, one known for her interest in the true religion, and he thought it a great injustice that so many people should deride her.

"Has she?" Henry scowled, knowing exactly what Katherine must wish to speak to him about.

He might have known that Mary and Lady Salisbury would go straight to Katherine with the news that he wished Mary to return to Hatfield, where she belonged. It was also no surprise to him that Katherine would presume to complain about his decision to send Mary away. When he first commanded that the girl should accompany Arthur to Hatfield, Katherine tried to persuade him to allow Mary to remain at court, as though he was not honouring their daughter by permitting her to share the household of the Prince of Wales.

Anne shifted in his lap, half-rising but he held her to him.

"No, sweetheart," he said firmly, drawing her back down on his knee and keeping his arm around her. "You stay where you are. You don't need to move for her." If Katherine was going to presume to interrupt them, she should not expect them to feign distance in deference to her feelings. Anne's rightful place was by his side and he had no intention of hiding his love for her. He nodded permission for Norris to admit his visitor. "Tell the Lady Katherine that she may enter."

Henry hoped that Katherine would be taken aback when she entered to find Anne sitting on his knee but she did not allow a flicker of emotion to show. He had to give her some credit for that, however begrudging. She was a mistress at concealing her feelings when she needed to.

Katherine's curtsey was deep and grateful. If it offended her that Anne was sitting so close to Henry that she was effectively curtseying to her as well, she did not show it.

"Your Majesty, I have come to speak to you about our daughter, Princess Mary."

Katherine saw Henry stiffen slightly at her pointed use of their daughter's title and, although she sighed inwardly at the sight of his frown, she knew that she was right to use it.

However much it might anger Henry to know that his attempt to annul their marriage and strip their daughter of her royal title had failed, obliging him to content himself with the compromise the Holy Father had allowed, he had to accept it. Mary was a Princess of England, the eldest daughter of the King, and Henry should not try to compromise their child's position because he had not been allowed to render her illegitimate. As a Princess of England, her place was at court and it was Henry's duty to find her a royal husband who would be worthy of her. He could not allow himself to ignore Mary's rights because he was angry with Katherine for not surrendering her rightful place.

"I trust that Lady Salisbury is seeing to it that Mary is made ready for her journey to Hatfield?"

"Lady Salisbury is overseeing Mary's packing, and will send a rider on to Hatfield to let Sir John know that the household should prepare for her arrival." Katherine had not needed to give any instructions on the matter, nor had Lady Salisbury needed to confirm to her that she would make the necessary arrangements. Mary's governess knew her duty well, and would be carrying it out as they spoke, despite Mary's belief that her father would relent and allow her to remain at court. If Henry could be persuaded to grant their daughter's wish, her trunks could be unpacked and a message sent to Sir John Shelton, Anne's uncle and steward of the children's household, to let him know that Mary would not be returning after all. It would be worse if Henry remained adamant and arrangements were not made. "However, our daughter has asked me to intercede on her behalf."

Henry snorted in derision, thinking that Mary chose her spokeswoman poorly.

What possible right had Katherine to expect that he would allow her any favours, when she and Chapuys and perhaps even Mary took advantage of his illness to plot against his true family, trusting that the Emperor would help them usurp Arthur's birthright on Mary's behalf?

If Katherine was not the aunt of the most powerful monarch in Christendom, she would be sitting in the Tower now. Chapuys would be on his way back to Spain, even if Henry had to drag him to the dock and force him aboard the ship. Perhaps even Mary would benefit from a spell in the Tower, to cure her of any ambition she might have to sit on her half-brother's throne.

"Has she?" His tone was mocking. "And what does your daughter ask of me?"

"Our daughter, husband," Katherine corrected him quietly. His frown turned to a scowl at the fresh reminder that, despite his wishes to the contrary, she was still his wife. Her errand was a lost cause. Henry's mocking voice and the spiteful gleam in his eyes made it clear that he would refuse her request, and take pleasure in doing so. She had given her word to Mary that she would ask, and she had no intention of breaking that promise but it would do them no good. If anything, it might even prolong the time that would pass before Henry deigned to allow their daughter to visit the court. "Mary is no longer a little girl in the nursery. She is a young lady now, of an age to marry. She thinks, and I agree, that it is time for her to leave Hatfield and live at court."

"Princess Mary is growing older," Anne spoke up from her perch on Henry's knee. The exchange between Henry and Katherine was an uncomfortable one to witness and she hoped that she would never see Henry glare at her the way he was glaring at Katherine. She also wanted to make Katherine understand that it had not been her wish to keep Mary from court when Henry fell ill. It would not be long before Mary was married and, until then, Anne was sure that she could tolerate a little sullenness from her stepdaughter. As difficult and painful as it was for her to be parted from Arthur, it must be worse for Katherine when she knew that England would not be Mary's home much longer. "Perhaps it is time for her to live at court."

For answer, Henry moved her so that they were sitting almost face to face, turned away from Katherine as though she was not present.

"There is something that I have been meaning to speak to you about, my lady," his tone was not harsh or unkind but there was a chilly formality to it. "I understand that, during my illness, you initially sent for the Prince of Wales to come to court, you did not send for my daughter, who remained at Hatfield, and was brought to court later, on your orders."

"Your Majesty…" Anne didn't know how to respond to this, especially in front of Katherine, and when she had no way of knowing which of our foes brought the news to Katherine.

She was angry with the men in her family for the position they had put her in but that did not mean that she wished to expose them to Henry's anger by telling him that her father and uncle had countermanded her orders, and that her brother obeyed them, even though he knew her wishes. If nothing else, he would be furious with them for undermining her authority as Regent. She also didn't want to reveal to Katherine that her relatives routinely ignored her wishes when they did not conform to their own. She couldn't reveal that kind of weakness to her.

If Henry had to take her to task for this, why did it have to be in front of Katherine?

"Your father tells me that he and your uncle believed that it would be for the best if our son was brought to court, and Mary remained at Hatfield but that you insisted that she be sent for," Henry said, apparently not actually expecting any kind of explanation from her. "I hope that nobody tried to make you feel as though you had to send for Mary." He didn't even wait for Anne to shake her head before turning to meet Katherine's gaze, in case she was in any doubt that his remarks were at least as much for her benefit as for Anne's, if not more so. "I know that you thought that you were doing the right thing but you should have left the girl where she was. Only Prince Arthur should have come to court. Mary belonged at Hatfield."

Henry could feel Anne stiffen in his arms and saw that her cheeks became flushed with embarrassment for a moment before her face grew pale again.

Anne's father had confided in him that he had thought that it would be for the best if Arthur was the only royal child brought to court, under the circumstances. Boleyn didn't allude to the fact that they had had just cause to fear for Henry's life, as he could not speak of the death of the King, but he didn't need to. Henry could easily imagine what his father-in-law must be thinking, knowing that, Boleyn would have known that, if the worst came to the worst, he had a duty to defend his grandson's rightful claim to the throne and his daughter's rights as Regent.

Now that he knew what Katherine and Chapuys were plotting, Henry believed that it was wise for Boleyn to recognize the potential harm to Arthur if Mary was brought to court, and was in a position where she could court support, or where her mother could have Chapuys smuggle her out of the country so that the Emperor could lead an invasion to place her on the throne.

Anne was trying to maintain a cordial relationship with Katherine, not realizing that the woman would stab her in the back if she thought that, in so doing, she could make Mary Queen of England. She must have thought that, for the sake of peace within the royal family, she should permit Mary to come to court – and, if he was truthful with himself, Henry had to admit that he was pleased to see his daughter after he woke. However, now that he knew that Katherine could not be trusted, he knew that, should anything happen to him, God forbid, it was imperative that Mary should be kept away from court and under guard until Arthur was safely enthroned as King.

"You should listen to your father next time, my dear. He has your interests, and the interests of our son, at heart." Henry kissed Anne's cheek, to show her that he was not angry with her, before returning his attention to Katherine, and studying her expressionless face. He thought that, if he could see some sign of contrition or fear, his anger towards her would be lessened slightly. At least then, he could know that she knew that she was caught out, and recognized her mistake.

Did Katherine think that he was unaware that she had plotted against his heir?

Did she believe that he was fooled into believing that, whatever quarrel they might have, she was loyal to him and to England and would not allow her ambition for Mary to overrule this?

Or was she so confident in the power of her nephew that she thought that it didn't matter that he knew of her treasonous intentions, as he would not dare to punish her?

"Though perhaps you are right, madam," he said thoughtfully, amused to see the hope that lit up Katherine's face at his words. "Perhaps it is time for Mary to leave Hatfield. The Prince of Wales is getting to be a big boy, and should not be sharing his household with his sister. Before he returns, Mary should leave Hatfield." He paused, just long enough to allow Katherine to hope that he would yield to her pleas and allow Mary to live at court, where her mother could poison her against his true wife and son, encouraging her to covet Arthur's inheritance. "I will give orders for a new household to be established for Mary, at Hunsdon House."

Hunsdon was a fine manor, one where Mary would be comfortable, but it would not be as grand as Arthur's establishment. More importantly, it was also further from London. Katherine would not be able to make regular visits, would not be able to poison Mary's mind any more than she already had. Any letters exchanged between them must be intercepted and read, so he could be certain that Katherine was not taking advantage of Mary's love for her mother to turn her against her father. Katherine might be a traitor but he would not allow her to turn Mary into one.

It pleased him to see Katherine's face fall as she registered what he said, knowing that she must be calculating the distance from to Hunsdon and realizing how infrequent her visits would be.

"Henry, I don't think that…"

He squeezed Anne's hand to signal that she should be silent. However well-meant her intervention might be, he had no intention of allowing her, or anybody else to sway him.

"You may tell Mary that she need not take her leave of the Princess Consort and myself," he told Katherine, thinking that the last thing he needed or wanted was to allow Katherine the opportunity to parade Mary before him, especially in front of the court, hoping that she could embarrass him into letting her have her way and keeping Mary at court. He also had no wish to be faced with his daughter's tears, knowing that, if he wanted to protect Arthur's rights as his heir and guard against the possibility of civil war, he must harden his heart against Mary.

It took all of Katherine's self-control not to rail at Henry for his callousness.

Even Anne had no quarrel with the idea of Mary remaining at court, so the only reason Henry could have for refusing her request was spite. He was so determined to show his contempt for her that he was willing to hurt Mary to hurt her, knowing that it would break her heart to know that her father did not want her with him.

She remained calm, dipping a perfect curtsey. "If that is Your Majesty's wish, I will inform our daughter of your decision," she said steadily.

"Do so." Henry waved her away as dismissively as if she was a servant. He watched Katherine leave, feeling a mixture of satisfaction at showing her that he was master in his own court and would not be dictated to by her, and regret at the thought that it was necessary for Mary to be hurt. Once his daughter was settled at Hunsdon House, he would send her a gift of a painting or a tapestry or something of the sort, so that she might know that he still cared for her.

As soon as Katherine left the room, Anne stood, moving several paces away from Henry and looking at him with reproachful blue eyes.

"How could you do that?" She demanded, offended on Katherine's behalf as well as her own. Henry had no right to use her against Katherine like that, embarrassing them both with his staged reproach. His determination to send Mary away was also troubling. What had she and Katherine done that he should be so determined to separate them without delay? She moved her hand away when Henry reached for it to draw her towards him. "Why did you do it?"

"Sweetheart," Henry's tone was soothing, "you do know that I'm not actually angry with you for what happened with Mary while I was ill, don't you?" He asked, thinking that Anne might believe that his mock-reproach was genuinely directed at her rather than being the means by which he made his point to Katherine.

"Maybe you should be." What kind of Regent was she if she couldn't get her own family to obey her on such a simple matter? She should have known better than to trust her father and uncle. "You were very ill and Mary was worried about you. She deserved to be here to see you."

"No, sweetheart, she didn't." Henry sighed, rising and moving to take his wife in his arms, holding her firmly to still her protests. He had hoped to spare her but he couldn't allow her to think that he was angry with her, or that he was being overly harsh with Mary. "I have had disturbing reports from your father and uncle, and from Master Cromwell, my love. Some of Ambassador Chapuys' letters to the Emperor were intercepted, and there is reason to believe that he and Katherine were plotting to see to it that, if I died, Mary would be Queen. They dared to plot against our son!"

He would strangle Katherine and Chapuys with his bare hands, and marry Mary off to the humblest country squire in England, before he allowed his son to follow in the footsteps of his mother's little brothers, becoming the third Prince in living memory to lose his life in the Tower.

God alone knew what would become of Anne if Katherine succeeded in her plot to turn their bastard daughter into a pretender to the throne.

No matter what happened, he would protect his true family.

Anne's face became ghost-pale as she listened to his words, knowing the danger this plot represented as well as he did. "Why didn't they tell me?" She was Regent and, more importantly, she was Arthur's mother. If there was a plot against her son, she had a right to know.

"They didn't want to worry you, sweetheart."

"I'm not a child!" If she was ever again called upon to act as Regent, Anne intended to be Regent in fact, not just in name. She would not be a puppet for her father and uncle.

"No, but you're carrying our child," Henry reminded her. "They didn't want you to be troubled by this, for the sake of the Duke of York. They meant well, sweetheart."

Anne didn't share his certainty but didn't argue. "What will you do?"

"I'm going to see to it that you and our son – our sons – are safe, and that Katherine's daughter doesn't threaten their rights as my heirs," Henry vowed.

He wanted to tell her that he was going to see to it that, before the Duke of York was toddling, she would be Queen of England. He wanted to promise her that she would not have to endure the status of second wife much longer, and that Katherine would soon be banished from court. He wanted to be able to guarantee that Mary would be officially recognized as illegitimate and unfit to be included in the line of succession, so that she and Katherine would know that she would never be Queen. He wanted to tell her that he would, at last, be able to fulfill the promises he made when he first asked her to be his wife, not realizing the obstacles that would be set in their path.

He decided against telling her.

He hoped that the situation would be resolved within a year, or perhaps a little more than that but he believed the same thing about the annulment of his marriage to Katherine.

He would not raise Anne's hopes as long as there was a chance that they would be dashed.

"Do you trust me?" He asked instead. Anne didn't hesitate before nodding, and he smiled to see it. "Then trust me when I tell you that I will find a way to make everything alright for you, for me, for our sons and for England. You don't need to worry. I will take care of everything."

Thomas Boleyn, Duke of Wiltshire, occupied a large, opulent suite of rooms overlooking the courtyard.

He watched from his window, a goblet of wine in one hand, as Lady Salisbury gave directions for her young charge's belongings to be carried to the carts, while the carriage waited to take them back to Hatfield. Madam Mary stood to one side as her governess made the final arrangements for their journey, a sullen expression on her face. He would have liked it if she looked up, if she could see him watching and know that he rejoiced to see her sent away from court.

He had had his doubts about whether or not he should tell the King that he was the one to command that the girl should be kept away from court but decided that, as he was likely to hear of it sooner or later, from Chapuys if not from Katherine, it would be as well for him to tell the story. That way, he could ensure that the King heard the version he wished him to hear.

The King was not angry with him.

Instead, he praised him for his good sense and foresight, commending him for keeping the welfare of the Prince uppermost in his thoughts – something Anne would do well to remember when he next sought to advise her. She was fortunate that the King had recovered or her misguided sympathy for her stepdaughter could have given the girl the opportunity to seize the throne.

He knew that it would not be as easy as the King might hope to secure an annulment of his union with Katherine. The Emperor was certain to protest against this fresh insult to his aunt, and the Bishop of Rome was unlikely to be willing to revisit the issue. It was also likely that the people would be unhappy, perhaps even angry, to learn that Katherine and her daughter were, once more, in danger of losing the titles by which they had been known for so long, though Arthur's birth meant that they were unlikely to respond as vehemently as they had the first time.

He estimated that it would take several years, at minimum, for them to accomplish the King's desire but he was certain that it would happen, in time.

In time, Katherine would be told that she was never the King's lawful wife and that she must yield her title to Anne, the true Queen of England.

In time, Madam Mary would learn that she was a bastard with no right to the title of Princess and that, instead of anticipating marriage to a great Prince or monarch, she must think herself fortunate if the King supplied her with a dowry sufficient to convince an English lord to deign to wed a bastard.

He smiled broadly at the thought of the ladies' reactions to the news, knowing that they must believe that their blood tie to the Emperor kept them safe in their pretended positions.

When the time came, he prayed that the King would allow him the pleasure of being the one to tell them that they were wrong.


And the winner of the Biggest Git contest is… You decide.

Next chapter (hopefully) coming soon. It'll be Summer 1533, so guess who's in the oven!