Author's Notes: Well, what can I say? I have no good "excuses" for not updating sooner. I mean life gets in the way as does writers' block but time mainly got away from me. I am very sorry that it has been so long since I last updated and I understand your frustrations as readers. Likewise, I understand if any of you choose not to continue to follow this as I cannot guarantee when the next chapter will be written. However, for those that continue on with this journey, I thank you. Thank you all for your wonderful reviews, you are the best!
On another note, can you believe that next Sunday the final season of The Tudors begins?
By the conclusion of Mary's first returned week at Court, the royal family fell into a familiar pattern: they ate at least one meal together as a family of three (sometimes with guests), Henry tended to the affairs of the country and Katharine tended to their daughter, giving her much missed nurturing and sharing secrets that had been passed down from her mother to her. Mary also attended mass daily with her mother and a few of their ladies; the princess continually impressed by her mother's devoted faith. She had never met one as pious and she prayed that she was a good example as the Queen's only daughter. There were a few other sporting matches and even a play put on for the princess' benefit, all to her delight.
Things were less strained between the King and Queen than they had been heretofore and this delighted many who held onto hope that Henry would be dissuaded to give up his Great Matter and remain with his true wife, their beloved Queen. However, there were those whom were not pleased by the cooling off of hostility between Katharine and Henry, namely the Boleyns.
Anne's patience was wearing thin. She realized that it had only been a week's time since Mary was at Court, but that did not matter as it felt as a month had passed. She longed to be with Henry freely, to see him, to hold him, to kiss him, show him her passion—to a point. Yet because of that illegitimate child, she could do none of these things. She was told to stay away from Court, even though she was a Lady of the Court. This was not just. All of Henry's devotion was to Katharine's bastard daughter. It did not matter to Anne that Mary was still the Princess in the eyes of the law and the Lord. Mary Tudor was a nuisance. Right now she was a distraction for Henry and Henry needs not any distractions from his plight to dissolve his marriage to that Spanish woman. Instead, the child's presence was uniting her parents and this did not sit well with Anne Boleyn. She had heard the whispers that the King was dining with the Queen every day. The first time, she accepted this as he dined with that…Duke of Suffolk (whom she didn't trust one speck) and his wife, the King's sister. But to continually dine with her was ridiculous.
Then there was the matter of his jousting match. Anne had been going to most of Henry's sporting matches heretofore and was not pleased when she found out (via messenger) that her presence was not requested. As much as she wanted to pout, she wanted to prove that she was supportive of his decisions and therefore did not put up a fuss (publicly, at least). However, just because Mary was there with her mother did not mean that Henry had to put on a show of asking for Katharine's favors. The only ribbons that he should be wearing were Anne's ribbons. Anne did not appreciate that she was made a fool of by Henry's actions and in front of her father and uncle. The Duke of Norfolk was extremely troubled with the situation and had berated her and although her father tried to allay his fears, he too was growing nervous. The Boleyns could not allow anyone to usurp what will be their rightful position in Court—never mind the fact that they are the usurpers and Queen Katharine and Princess Mary were not just "anyone." Why was Anne staying out of Court?
Anne told her father and her uncle that Henry was very insistent that she not meet Mary, not yet at least. She stressed that he promised that as soon as holidays were over, the child would return to Ludlow Castle until he decided what to do with her upon stripping her of her title. Although Anne yearned to be with the King, she must abide by his rules and she must show her devotion to him by being obedient. Neither Norfolk nor Thomas Boleyn was satisfied with this explanation, but they both agreed that for now, Anne would have to keep her distance from Court. Of course that did not mean that she would no longer send him letters and tokens of her affections, indeed she continued to do so. Meanwhile, the two men would keep a watchful eye upon things—namely the Queen and Princess—whenever they were at Court. They were not yet certain if actions needed to be taken against either one, but were preparing if they must.
There was too much fuss being made over this child and even over the unborn child. Shaking her head, Anne still could not comprehend the fact that Henry—her Henry—had…been with that aged woman. How could he have been pleasured by her? It was impossible to think that her passionate king could be fulfilled by the old Spaniard. Likewise, it infuriated Anne to know that he would bed her worst enemy when he had promises of night upon night of passion with her as well as the promise of sons. She would not believe that the child would survive infancy, if it would even survive the pregnancy, what with Katharine's advanced age and poor health. Only one child had survived of the royal marriage and she was a female! Anne knew that after Mary was born, there had been one more pregnancy which resulted in another girl who did not survive. All of this led her to not fret that the queen could possibly give Henry the male heir he so desired.
She did not know how she would endure this pregnancy, just waiting silently. She could not tell either her father or her uncle as they would blame Anne. Neither could she share with her beloved brother George, for George was a Boleyn male after all and his allegiance was to their father and their uncle above all else nor her mother who would go straight to her husband. She even yearned to confide in her sister Mary, but Mary was grieving the loss of her husband, Sir William Carey and had two young children to tend to as well as massive debt to overcome. Anne did not envy her sister's plight and she was grateful that Henry's fancy of Mary had not lasted long—no, he had chosen the right Boleyn woman to love. For now, she would remain silent, but she made no promises to herself.
"Katharine," Henry greeted as he entered a sitting room where the Queen was seated, her arm around her waist. It was unnoticeable that she was carrying another child inside her, but the small move was noticed by the King. He had not inquired as to how she was feeling or how the pregnancy was progressing. One might say that he was ignoring the situation. That was not entirely untrue. By not acknowledging her condition, it was not real. She was at least two months' along, so there would be another seven months, if it progressed.
His thoughts were interrupted by the Queen's soft voice calling him. "Hello 'enry. I trust that this day finds his majesty in good health and spirits?"
Although his health was fine, his spirits were not. "My health and my spirits are well. And yours, Madam?"
"They are well, My Lord." Katharine folded her hands over her lap and once again, things were tense between them, neither knowing how to fill the awkward silence.
Finally, Henry spoke. "Do you know why our daughter summoned us here?"
"I do not. Only that it was of utmost importance that we both are here. I cannot imagine what is wrong."
"Perhaps it has to do with her lessons with More," Henry offered and Katharine raised a brow in surprise for she could not imagine Mary having any troubles under Sir Thomas More's tutelage. She also could not imagine why her husband would suggest otherwise.
There was a knock on the door and then Lady Salisbury entered, bowing to her majesties.
"Your Majesties, may I present to you your daughter, Princess Mary."
Mary entered the room with two of Henry's personal staff members flanking her side.
"Good afternoon, Mother and Father," Mary greeted with a curtsy.
"Good afternoon, Sweetheart, what is this?" her mother asked in curiosity.
"It is a surprise. I have written a song for you, for both of you," she added with a glance toward her surprised father whose eyes grew wide.
Mary walked over to the virginals that her father had newly purchased for her and sat down. "If it pleases my parents, I wish to perform the song."
Nodding, Henry told his daughter that she may proceed and then he sat there entranced as Mary sat demurely at the virginals, playing and singing a song that she had composed, entitled "An Ode to the King and Queen, My Parents." It was a truly beautiful song and her voice had grown strong since last they heard her sing and her playing was captivating.
When she finished, she looked up and took a curtsy. "That is all. Thank you," she told Henry's staffers who exited.
Neither Katharine nor Henry said anything at first and Mary was on edge, worrying that she displeased them, which would surely break her heart as she had worked very hard on this, practicing for weeks back at Ludlow Castle and then practicing in secret since she had been at Court. Mary glanced at Lady Salisbury who merely nodded at her.
No longer being able to bear the silence, she swallowed before bursting, "I hope the song and my performance were not displeasing to your majesties."
"Dear Child, do not be upset," Katharine began, tears forming in her eyes. The tears only caused further worry to her daughter who ran over to her mother and said, "Oh Mama, I did not mean to make you sad, please do not cry." She knew that such behavior was not ladylike, befitting of a princess, but she did not care.
"Shhh," Katharine soothed, brushing a tendril over her daughter's forehead. "I am not saddened, these tears are of happiness, my love. I am so pleased by your performance, you did us proud. Your voice is beautiful and you have such a talent at the…it was lovely," she assured Mary, standing up to embrace her daughter.
"Gracias Mamà, I am grateful to have pleased you." She composed herself and stood up tall and straight, looking at her father.
Standing up, Henry walked over to his daughter and cupped her face. "Oh Mary, that was simply delightful. Your mother is right, we are very proud of you and overjoyed that you shared your talent with us. Do not fret," he added, kissing her gently on the cheek.
"Oh Papà!" Mary cried, overwhelmed with happiness. She leaned into her father who embraced her while Katharine looked on.
Katharine gave a glance towards Lady Salisbury who spoke up. "Princess Mary, we must go now for you need to ready yourself for your lessons with Sir Thomas More."
"Yes, of course. I shall leave then."
"Mary, we shall see you at supper," Katharine told her with a smile which was returned. Mary and Salisbury gave their salutations and then exited the room.
When they were gone, Henry turned his focus on his wife who was hastily wiping away tears from her eyes. Sighing, he said, "I thought you were not saddened, why are you crying woman?"
"Because I love our daughter ever so and what she did today touched me."
Henry could not deny that he thought the same. It was extraordinary that their child was so talented.
"And at the same time," she added, "it saddens me because I cannot fathom how you could turn your back on her."
Henry's expression darkened. "Do not start with me, Katharine."
His wife, however, was stubborn. It was a quality which could both endear and infuriate him.
Ignoring his remark, she continued. "That child, that dear sweet one loves you, she adores you and the song that she composed said as much. She is your child, born to us in holy, legal matrimony, how can you say that she was borne out of incest and is a bastard? You will break her heart as you have surely broken mine. But I am older than she, I can handle heartbreak, I have done so before."
"When you lost your first husband, my brother Prince Arthur? The same one you have repeatedly told me was never truly your husband in every way that counts?"
"I did not lay beside him in our marital bed."
Rolling his eyes, Henry scoffed. "Yes, I have heard that many times how you never lie with my brother, how you were so innocent when we were united."
"It is true and you know so. Just as you know that Mary, and this unborn child are your true heirs, not some bastard you would have with Boleyn."
"Get out!" he demanded at her in fury. She did not cower but instead gracefully departed.
"Boy!" Henry yelled at a page he spotted from the corner of his eyes. "Fetch me some ale."
The boy hastily did as he pleased and Henry downed one drink after another.