Disclaimer: Not mine.
This is a response to ReganX's Royal Or Not Challenge.
Chapter 1 – The Ambassador's Daughter: Catalina de Puebla leaned against the ship's rail, studying the green land growing ever larger in front of her. Inglaterra. England. Her father had been King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella's ambassador in England for the past ten years, and now Catalina and her older brother, Miguel, were to join their father in the island nation. It was because Maria de Puebla, their mother, was dead, and their mother's family, who had disapproved of Maria's marriage to a converso, refused to take them in.
The thought of her mother's relatives made Catalina's mouth tighten in anger. It was unfair. Just because her father's family had been misguided in their faith, she and her brother should not be despised. Her father had seen the truth when the King and Queen had come to their thrones and chased out recalcitrant Jews and Moslems, and he should not be blamed for having been raised incorrectly. Certainly she and her brother had not been taught to have sympathy for the Jewish religion. But there was nothing she could do to change people's prejudices, so she pushed the thought away. Perhaps in England she would not be looked down upon for being half a converso.
"Daydreaming again, Lina?" Miguel's light voice teased her. Catalina rolled her eyes at her brother. Once they landed in England, she would accompany their father to court while Miguel went off to school to study law, so he was taking advantage of their limited time together to engage in their familiar banter. He said he would have to make up for all the time he would be missing in the future.
It was a good thing that both of them had long since become fluent in English – their mother had always hoped that the three of them would eventually come to England, and so she had insisted. After all, neither of them would be able to survive in England if they couldn't even speak the language. But part of her wished he wouldn't speak to her in English. Not yet. So when she shot off her reply, as she always did, she spoke in Spanish. "Si yo fuera, le diría a usted?" (If I was, would I tell you?)
Miguel laughed. "No, supongo que no. Pero quién sabe, quizás algún caballero Inglés barrerá de sus pies y no tendrá necesidad de sueño." (No, I suppose not. But who knows, perhaps some English knight will sweep you off your feet and you won't need to dream.)
"Tendría que ser un hombre más notable de hacer eso." (It would have to be a most remarkable man to do that.)
"And I would want nothing less for my sister," Miguel said, switching to English as the ship docked in Southampton. The two young Spaniards exchanged a look, both of them knowing why he had changed languages again. They both understood that it was always best to behave like the natives, and that meant no Spanish in public. Catalina missed it already. But she knew that it was for the best, especially if they wanted to be accepted here as they never had been in Spain.
"Papa!" Although she was fifteen, and a young woman, Catalina ran into her father's embrace as though she were still the child of five she had been when he had left. For his part, Rodrigo de Puebla was thrilled to see both of his children again, but Catalina had always been his favorite. Not that he'd ever let anyone know that, of course. Releasing his daughter, he clapped his son on the shoulder.
"Father," Miguel said with a smile. "It's good to see you again."
"As it is for me to see you both," the ambassador said warmly. He studied his children, for the first time regretting his position. As a converso, there was little he could do for advancement in Spain, so he had jumped at the chance to serve Ferdinand and Isabella in England. But it had forced him to miss so much of his children's lives. The tall, confident young man before him was not the tousle-haired nine-year-old he had left behind, and no matter how eagerly she greeted him, Catalina was no longer his little girl.
Still, there was nothing to be done about the past, and now his son and daughter were in England with him. Catalina would live at court with him, and Miguel would go to school and study law. With any luck, his daughter would make a good match and his son would advance in the world. The fact was, they would be more likely to make out well here than in Spain, thanks to his family history. And he wanted only the best for them.
"How was your journey?" he asked.
"Uneventful," Miguel said. "We were lucky; no storms or anything. The winds were strong, but that only made the journey quicker."
"Good, good," Rodrigo said with a nod. "Well, for the next three days, we can spend time together, but after that, Miguel, you are to leave for school. Catalina, I will present you at court. You've arrived in time for the great celebrations – Arthur, the Prince of Wales, is to marry Marguerite of Angouleme in three weeks' time."
Catalina smiled. She knew what her father was thinking – such celebrations would give her ample opportunities to show herself off. Part of her rebelled at the thought of being little more than an object, but such was the lot of women in this world, and she knew that. Besides, it was a banquet, a happy occasion. It couldn't be that bad.
Catalina felt sorry for the French princess who was marrying Arthur, Prince of Wales. Her new husband, while not an ugly boy, was pale and drawn. Something made her think that the boy wouldn't last much longer, though she was not enough of a fool to ever voice such a thought. But her prayers went out to the new couple, because for some reason she thought that any happiness they might have would be short-lived.
The other Tudor prince, Henry, Duke of York, was a different matter entirely. He was only ten, but he was like a bonfire next to his brother's faint candle, vibrant and full of life. She imagined that in a few years, he would have all the young women of the court falling at his feet. He seemed like the type, especially with the way he seemed to be so friendly with the young gentleman Charles Brandon. Catalina had already been 'treated' to Brandon's charm; she really had little interest in young men who were convinced that no female could resist them.
He had been a good partner for a dance, though, Catalina had to admit that. And perhaps Brandon's confidence was not merely ego; many of the young women at Court did seem rather smitten with him. Including Princess Margaret, the younger Tudor princess, though since she was only five, it was more hero-worship than anything. Princess Mary, the elder princess, was twelve, old enough for a crush, but she seemed disinterested in the young men of the court. Catalina's father had mentioned that Mary was likely to be betrothed to the Scottish king, James, so perhaps that explained her haughty expression. She knew that she was soon to be a Queen, above even her brothers, the equal of her parents, and that was enough to turn any girl's head.
Catalina shook her head. Perhaps it was because she was just a simple gentleman's daughter, lucky if she became a minor noble through marriage, but it seemed to her that the idea of setting up such a great marriage so early was a bad idea if it allowed girls to give themselves airs. But then, she had been raised to never display arrogance. It only bred trouble with a bloodline like hers.
Her musings were interrupted when a boy came to stand in front of her. She stood immediately and curtsied, because he was Henry, Duke of York. "Your Highness," she murmured politely.
"You can rise," the boy said carelessly. She did so, looking at him directly, deciding that, even if he was royal, he was too young for her to peep at him through her eyelashes. He was in his shirtsleeves, having cast aside his coat so as to dance rambunctiously with his older sister, Mary. She wondered what he wanted.
"You're Spanish, right? De Puebla's daughter?"
"Yes, Your Highness."
"They say you're to have a place in my mother's household."
She hadn't known that, though it came as no surprise. Her father would do all he could to secure her a place where she could do well, and there was no better place for a girl to rise than as part of a queen's retinue. So it made sense to her. But what didn't make sense was why the young prince cared.
"That may be, Your Highness, and if it is so, I will be quite pleased. From what I have seen, the Queen appears to be a wonderful woman."
"When you are one of my mother's ladies, my sisters and I want you to teach us Spanish. We want to know something that Arthur won't. He'll be far away in Wales, and he won't be able to learn it."
Catalina wanted to raise an eyebrow at that last comment. Young Prince Henry seemed to relish the idea of knowing something his brother didn't. She supposed it was the natural attitude of a younger son, especially when the older boy was going to be King, but at the same time, it seemed rather spoiled. But she only smiled and nodded. "I would be happy to do that, Your Highness."
He treated her to a sunny smile that only reaffirmed her earlier ideas. When he got older and learned how to use that smile, he really would have girls doing almost anything to earn it. Now, though, on that child's face, it was just sweet. "Wonderful," he said happily, before walking away. Catalina smiled in amusement. Perhaps he was a little spoiled, but he seemed to have a pleasant enough nature. It wouldn't be good if he was to be King, but since he was only a second son, there was likely little harm in it.
Elizabeth of York watched her son speak with the Spanish ambassador's daughter, smiling at Henry's irrepressible confidence. Her younger son was so like her beloved father that sometimes it hurt her to watch him as much as it delighted her. It was very like when she looked in the mirror and saw her own mother's face looking back. She had loved her mother, though they had had their differences. She often thought about the stories her mother had told her and her siblings when they were young, stories of the legends the surrounded her grandmother Jacquetta's family. She'd never really known how much of it was true and how much was just fairy stories, but…
She felt an odd chill when she saw Henry speaking with the girl – Catalina, Elizabeth thought her name was. It wasn't a bad feeling, just strange. As if the brief conversation was the start of something more momentous. But that didn't make any sense, and the stories of a water goddess for an ancestress, a bloodline that carried magic and foresight, were just pretty tales. She should not regard it. Should she?
A/N: All Spanish translations are based on Google Translator. If anyone reading this sees a glaring error, feel free to point it out. All I speak is English and a bit of Italian, so I wouldn't know what was right and wrong in Spanish if you paid me.