Title: Wrong

Rating: PG-13/T

Summary: Princess Mary's thoughts on her mother's death and her father's remarriage. One-shot.

Disclaimer: I do not own 'The Tudors' and am not responsible for the creation of any of the characters.

Author's Note: This story is based on a request from MonicaOP for a story about what would have happened if Katherine of Aragon had died of the sweating sickness in 1528, before the Blackfriars trial… yes, it's another AU.

Author's Note II: First new fic of the New Year, so I'd like to wish all of my readers a very happy, healthy and safe 2010.

Dedicated to MonicaOP for providing the inspiration, and for helping me thrash out story ideas.

Thank you on both counts, and congratulations on posting the 100th plot bunny for the Tudors FanFic Forum.


Anne should have been the one to die.

Although she knew that it was wicked to wish death on anybody, even somebody who was her enemy, or to question the will of God, Mary, had never doubted that, not for a moment, not since the day when they first brought her the news, the moment she heard what had happened, and she couldn't banish that thought from her mind as she walked through what seemed like miles of corridors in Whitehall Palace, with Lady Salisbury walking a pace behind her, a silent but comforting presence as they made their way through her father's court.

There were fewer people in the palace than was usually the case but that was not surprising; when the sweating sickness struck London, most of the courtiers had returned to their own estates, leaving the city for the countryside in the hope that they could escape the dreaded illness, with only a small handful of people remaining to serve the King and Queen. They could not be left entirely without attendants, no matter how dire the situation was, and they could always be sure that some of the members of their household would wish to remain with them, out of loyalty, braving the danger of sickness rather than leaving their King and Queen unattended.

For some courtiers, their homes were even more dangerous than the court and nearer to the sickness, with the servants who tended to their country houses or their tenants stricken with the sickness, and they had either remained at court or sought refuge with friends rather than take the chance of going home, all of them praying to escape the disease that was ravaging the country, with few of its victims escaping death.

Although the disease had abated, it would be some time longer before everybody returned to court, particularly those who had fallen ill and who might need longer to recuperate, so the palace was quiet now, the corridors nearly empty instead of teeming with people, as they usually were.

Those courtiers Mary encountered on her way to her audience with her father stood back out of her path as soon as they saw her approach, sweeping deep bows and curtseys and murmuring respectful greetings to her, as they ought to, in deference to her rank. She could tell from the expressions on their faces that more than one of the courtiers who stepped back to make way for her, and who made their obeisance to her, felt pity for her and might have liked to say something to her, if not for the fact that they could not presume to speak to the Princess without waiting for her to speak to them first, but she couldn't allow herself to think of that, not now, not if she wanted to greet her father dignified and dry-eyed, as a princess should.

She could not afford to give way to the tears that pricked behind her eyelids, not in public.

Any tears she shed would have to be shed in the privacy of her apartments, with only her loyal attendants as witnesses… though Mary had cried so much since hearing the news, at Ludlow Castle and on her journey to London, where her father awaited her, that she could scarcely imagine how she could have any tears left to shed. Even now, her eyes felt raw and sore and her head ached, even worse than it did when she spent too many hours reading, until her vision was blurred.

Since she was told the terrible news, she felt as though her world was torn apart.

Had it truly been just over a fortnight since Lady Salisbury had come to her, with tears shining in her grey eyes – a shock in itself, as her governess so often impressed on her the importance of a lady controlling her emotions, particularly in front of others, stressing that no lady of noble birth should allow her feelings to master her, no matter how difficult her circumstances might be – and gently explained to her that a message had been sent by the King, and that it was her painful duty to break some very sad news to her?

Time had meant so little to Mary since that moment when Lady Salisbury gently explained to her that her mother had contracted the sweating sickness and died of it; sometimes, she felt as though she had lived years since learning of her mother's terrible fate, other times it was as though it was only hours since she was told the news, or as though she had heard it in a dream.

Mary had not wanted to believe that it was true.

Messengers could make mistakes, and cruel people could send false messages in the hope of distressing people, but the message bore her father's seal, and the rider had come straight from the castle where the court had travelled to escape the sweating sickness, so she couldn't pretend that the message was a false one, no matter how much she wanted it to be a lie.

She was certain that she would be able to forgive somebody who spread such a lie, and to ask her father not to punish them for distressing her, as they deserved, even though it had caused her such pain. As long as they admitted that it wasn't true, as long as they recognized how miserable their words had made her and assured her that her mother was still alive and well, she would have forgiven them but this was no trick, no lie and she couldn't make herself pretend that it was.

Her father even scrawled a note to her, telling her how sorry he was about what had happened to her mother, and promising that, as soon as the disease had abated, he would send for her and bring her to court, so that she could stay with him for the time being, instead of having to stay all alone in her own establishment. He wrote that, at a time like this, their family should be together instead of parted, and Mary was relieved to read it, and to know that even though she had lost her mother, she still had a father who loved her very much and who would love and care for her.

She didn't want to stay at Ludlow Castle any more, even if it was the place where the Princess of Wales was supposed to live, she wanted to go back to court, to her father. Her father had no Queen now, so it would be her job to take her mother's place as the first lady of the court and as the one who took care of her father. Her mother would want them to be together.

Since she was told the news, she had waited impatiently for the day when word would come that it was safe for her to return to London, wanting to go to her father so that she could comfort him for her mother's loss. She had lost her mother but Papa had lost his wife, and she was sure that that must be worse still. She wanted to go to him and to console him and to show him that, even though he had lost his wife, he still had a daughter who loved him very much and who would take care of him now that they were alone and, now that she was at court, she was eager to go to him.

The grooms standing at attention outside her father's door stood up very straight when Mary and Lady Salisbury approached the door to her father's Privy chamber. They bowed to Mary, their eyes lowered respectfully, and then one of them opened the tall, heavy oak door to admit her, speaking to let her father know who his visitor was. "Princess Mary is here, Your Majesty."

She was ready to run to him, taking advantage of the fact that, as they were meeting privately rather than in his presence chamber, in full view of his court, he would surely not expect or want her to observe the formalities with which a subject, even a royal child, should behave towards his or her sovereign. He would want to know that his daughter was here to see him, not just another of his subjects, somebody who would love him as a daughter should, instead of just revering him as her King. She wanted to embrace him and to feel his arms around her and to know that he was as happy to have her there as she was to be with him once more but, when she entered the large, opulently decorated chamber, she saw something that made her freeze.

Her father was not alone.

That woman was with him.

Anne Boleyn.

She stood in the doorway, unmoving, until Lady Salisbury's hand on her shoulder reminded her where she was. She allowed her governess to usher her a few steps forward and, when Lady Salisbury swept a deep curtsey to the King, Mary followed her example automatically, although she was disgruntled to see that Anne Boleyn was sitting so close to her father that, when Mary made her curtsey to him, it must look as though she was curtseying to Anne as well. She certainly didn't want to give the woman that impression, but she had little choice in the matter.

She could not refuse to curtsey to her father, nor could she position herself so that her back was turned to Anne as she curtseyed. They were sitting too close together to allow that.

Anne didn't curtsey, or even rise from her chair to acknowledge the entrance of the Princess of Wales. Mary was fair-minded enough to acknowledge that Anne probably couldn't rise, since Mary's father held her hand tightly in his, and she couldn't pull away from him to stand and curtsey, even if she wanted to, but she imagined that Anne was probably pleased about that, pleased to know that she could sit in the presence of the Princess of Wales, with the King's blessing, rather than feeling embarrassed about not greeting her as etiquette demanded.

It was all Mary could do to keep the scowl from her face as her father spoke to Lady Salisbury, but his enquiries about their journey and Lady Salisbury's polite assurances that it was smooth and comfortable, gave her time to get her emotions under control and to study the woman sitting by her father's side, as though she was already his wife and Queen and this was her place by rights.

Anne Boleyn was young and Mary supposed that some people would say that she was quite pretty, although she was pale and thin, with faint purple shadows, almost like bruises, under her eyes, which made them look huge in her face. She held her head in the manner that Lady Salisbury taught Mary a princess should, and she was sitting straight in her chair, a smile, meant only for Mary's father, curving her mouth. She was beautifully dressed, in a gown that was even finer than the gowns that Mary owned, and splendid jewels sparkled at her ears, wrists and throat.

Mary couldn't be certain but she thought that the necklace Anne was wearing belonged to the collection of jewellery passed from one Queen of England to the next, the collection that her mother once showed her, when she was younger, telling her that they would be hers one day, when God called her father to Him and Mary became Queen and ruled England in his place.

Other Queens of England inherited the collection when their husbands became King, if they were married to him before then, or else it was given to them on their wedding day. For Mary, her mother said that it would be different because she would be Queen of England in her own right, instead of only holding her title through her husband, and losing it when he died.

If anybody but Mary's mother was to wear those jewels, Mary felt that it should be her.

Her mother had wanted them to be hers, when the time came, not Anne's.

Mary was sure that Anne was the last person her mother would have wanted to see wearing her jewels but she couldn't say anything about it, not in front of her father.

When her father dismissed Lady Salisbury and turned his attention to Mary, his smile was warm and loving. He extended a hand to her, motioning for her to approach. "Mary, my pearl." He greeted her softly, drawing her to him and kissing her on both cheeks, holding her close. "Welcome back to court. We are so pleased to have you here with us."

Did he mean the royal 'we', or the plural, meaning that he was speaking of Anne as well as himself? Mary didn't know but she remained silent, not sure that she wanted to know the answer.

With his arm still around her shoulder, her father turned her slightly, so that she was facing Anne Boleyn. He lifted Anne's hand to his lips and kissed it lightly before making the introductions. "Sweetheart, I would like to present the Lady Anne Boleyn." He smiled at the lady by his side and, young as she was, Mary was not so young that she could not hear the pride and love in her father's voice as he presented that woman to her, or see the way he looked at her. His voice was so reverent that is was as if Anne was royalty, and Mary should count it as an honour to make her acquaintance, instead of the other way around. "She is the loveliest and most gracious lady in this kingdom and it is my dearest wish that you and she should be very good friends."

"I am sure that we will, Your Majesty." Anne answered before Mary could, something that would have annoyed Mary if she herself had not been at a loss for words, unsure how she should respond. She didn't like Anne Boleyn speaking for her, and was quite affronted that she dared to speak for the Princess of Wales like that, but her father would expect an answer, from one of them, and since Mary felt tongue-tied, it was probably a good thing that Anne spoke up, before the silence dragged on so long that her father was irritated by it.

He was clearly pleased with Anne's words. He kissed her hand again. "I am so pleased."

He really did look happy, Mary thought as she watched him with Anne. She had thought that he would be grieving for the loss of his wife – as she believed he should; he would never have a wife as loving or a Queen as fine as her mother – and that they would comfort one another for their shared loss, but her father did not look like a man who needed comforting.

He looked like a man who had just had a heavy weight lifted from his shoulders, a man who was spared an unpleasant burden, and it hurt her to see how little he mourned her mother.

He only spoke to Mary for a few minutes longer before sending for Lady Salisbury so that she could take Mary to the apartment that would be hers now that she was living at court. He said that it was because he didn't want to tire her after her journey, promising that he would see her soon, but Mary was sure that he only wanted to send her away so that he and Anne could be alone, and the thought made her angry. Everybody knew that he always spent a lot of time with Anne Boleyn, far more time than he spent with his Queen, who had a greater claim on his time, but she had just come back to court after being away from her father for months and she should be the one he wanted to spend time with now that she was with him again, not Anne.

Anne had whispered something to him, suggesting that she should leave but Mary was sure that she hadn't meant it and that she was glad when he sent Mary away instead.

She wouldn't want to share the King with anybody, not even his daughter.

Once they were alone in her new apartment, Mary demanded that Lady Salisbury tell her everything, omitting no detail, even if she thought that Mary was too young to hear it.

Lady Salisbury didn't want to tell her the truth about what had happened at first but Mary kept asking her, over and over again, commanding her governess to tell her the truth about what was going on and why that woman was sitting beside her father now, when Mary's mother was so lately dead. She even threatened to go back to her father's Privy chamber to ask the King if she did not, saying that she would ask her father to tell her what had happened while she was away unless Lady Salisbury told her everything right away, without keeping a single thing from her.

She didn't really mean it, she knew that she couldn't go to her father to talk about her mother, not now, not when he had just sent her away and when he clearly wanted to be alone with Anne Boleyn for the time being but her threat scared Lady Salisbury enough to make sure that she would tell her the truth, even though she didn't want to. She would be too afraid of the prospect of Mary carrying out her threat, especially since she would get in trouble with the King if he was angry. He would blame Lady Salisbury for not teaching her that it was rude and wrong for her to interrupt her royal father, or even to come into his presence unless she was invited.

Lady Salisbury would be blamed even though Mary was old enough to know this for herself, and he would probably say some very harsh words to her governess about the subject of Mary's manners.

Her governess looked very sad as she told the story, but she looked angry in some parts as well, as though she too was hurt and offended by what had been happening. Lady Salisbury was a very good friend to her mother, even before she became Queen, so if anything had happened to make Queen Katherine hurt or angry, Lady Salisbury would be angry on her behalf.

It made Mary happy to see that her governess was so loyal to her dear mother, especially under the circumstances.

At a few points, she had to stop to dab her moist eyes with her handkerchief, but there were other points where she had to pause to moderate her tone, because her anger was making her speak harshly, which was something that no lady should ever do, especially in front of royalty. This astonished Mary, as she had never before seen her governess lose control of her emotions.

Lady Salisbury explained that when people in London first started to get sick, the court had had to disband, and most of the courtiers had had to leave London, where so many were dying, as soon as they possibly could. It would have been very dangerous for all of the royal family and all of the nobility to stay at Whitehall, so close to the disease, so they had to leave. The nobles who had country estates of their own, far away from the sickness, went to stay there, and it was especially vital that the King and Queen made certain that they were safe from sickness.

Above everybody else, they had to stay alive, for the good of all of England, so Mary's father had shut himself away at Whitehall, with only a few servants around him to take care of him, and he told her mother that she should leave London and travel to Ludlow Castle, to stay with Mary until the sickness in London abated and it was safe for her to return.

Ludlow Castle was far away from London, and nobody nearby was sick, so he thought that they would be safe there until the sickness was gone from the country, and then it would be safe for her mother to rejoin him at court so that they could resume their normal routine. Mary had certainly been safe; not a single member of her large household was unwell at all, and the people in the surrounding villages were well too. There was no case of the sweating sickness for miles and miles and miles around, as though God had decided to bless Wales by making sure that the people would be safe from the terrible sickness. If her mother had come to stay with her, she would have been safe too, but she didn't come... and it was because of that woman that she didn't.

Because of Anne, an important investigation was in progress before Mary's mother died.

Many bishops and lawyers were examining the validity of the King and Queen's marriage, to decide whether or not they were allowed to be married or whether their marriage wasn't a proper one, because her mother was once the wife of her father's brother. Because Mary's mother had died, the investigation had stopped because there was no longer any need for it but her mother had known about it before she died, and she knew that if the bishops and the lawyers told the pope that they thought that the marriage wasn't a proper one, and if the pope thought that they were right and gave orders that it should be dissolved, Mary's mother wouldn't be allowed to be Queen of England any more, and Mary would not be allowed to be Princess of Wales.

She would be a bastard, and a bastard could not be Princess of Wales, or any kind of Princess at all, and a bastard could not inherit the throne. Bastards weren't allowed to rule.

Mary's mother was determined that this would not be allowed to happen, and because she could not trust that the English lawyers and bishops would give her the help she needed, instead of just pretending to help her but really working to make sure that the King had his way, she asked her nephew the Emperor to send her lawyers and bishops of his own to advise her. She was determined to make sure that the pope would not rule that the marriage was invalid and Mary was illegitimate. Even some English people, who knew that the marriage was good and who didn't want to see their true Queen set aside, even if that was the King's wish, sided with her mother and they all gave her advice so that she would know what she was supposed to do.

Those people had warned her to be careful about what she did, and to stay by the King's side.

If there was no investigation, it would have been safe for her mother to come to Ludlow but because there was one, she knew that she couldn't leave the palace where Mary's father lived.

She was afraid that, if she left, Mary's father would say that she had deserted him and that she should not be allowed to be his wife anymore because of this, and that he might even be able to persuade the Holy Father to agree with him and annul his marriage, but she wouldn't have had to be afraid if not for Anne. If not for Anne, it would have been safe for her to leave London.

No matter what Mary's father said, everybody knew that he had wanted to marry Anne for a long time, and that this was why he had had an investigation into his marriage to her mother. He wanted to make her his wife and for her to be his Queen but he knew that he couldn't do that as long as he was married to his first wife, as not even a King was allowed to have more than one wife at the same time, so he wanted to set her aside so that he could marry Anne instead.

Since a marriage could not be broken if it was a proper one, some people had made him believe that it was wrong for him to marry his Queen because she married his brother first, even though they knew very well that the pope had issued a dispensation to allow the marriage, which meant that there could be no sin and no reason to doubt the union. It was difficult for Mary to believe that anybody would ever dare to question a union that the Holy Father had issued a dispensation for, or that her father, who had been given the title of Defender of the Faith when he wrote against the wicked Luther and his heresies, would listen to anybody who tried to say that he was not lawfully married but they had spoken and he had listened. He had told Mary's mother that he thought their marriage wasn't a proper one, but it was only because of Anne that he thought this, and because of Anne that he had asked the Holy Father to set him free from his marriage.

But for that, her mother could have come to Ludlow Castle and if she had come to Ludlow Castle, she would have been safe from the sweating sickness.

She would still be alive now, and she would still be the Queen.

Even if the King wanted to set her aside, she would have fought and she would have won. She would have made sure that he could never say that she wasn't his wife and that Mary was a bastard and the pope would have known that she was right. His Holiness would have told the King that it was wrong for him to want to set aside his good wife and he would have commanded him to send Anne away from court, because she had such a wicked influence over him, so much so that she was even able to make him think that he wasn't married to Mary's mother.

Everything would be so different if her mother had lived, so much better.

The strange thing was that Anne Boleyn was sick with the sweating sickness as well.

Lady Salisbury said that she was so sick that her family and the doctor that the King sent from London thought that she was going to die of it. They had not thought that there was any hope of her recovery, and even sent for a priest, to administer the last rites so that, when Anne died, her soul would be clean and she would be able to go to Heaven instead of purgatory, but she had surprised everybody by getting better. That was why she looked so pale and thin now; she hadn't fully recovered her strength yet, even though she had come back to court.

"Why?" Mary asked, when Lady Salisbury finished her tale and was wiping tears away with her handkerchief. "Why did my mother die and that woman live? Mama should be the one who lived."

"It is not for us to understand God's will, my dear Princess." Lady Salisbury said kindly. She couldn't embrace Mary but she held her hand in hers. "Her Majesty was a good woman, God rest her, and a true and devout Christian, a faithful daughter of the Church and an example to us all. We should not be surprised that God wished to have her living with Him in Heaven."

"He should have waited!" Mary knew that she should not question God's will, and she could understand why He would have wanted her mother in Heaven with Him but she was sure that God could have waited. He was eternal, and could wait for her mother to grow to be a very old woman before she died and went to Him. It was too soon for Mary to lose her mother, much too soon. She needed to have her mother with her, to love her and to teach her all of the things she would need to know when she was a grown lady and Queen of England, and her father needed her mother.

With his true wife gone, who was going to protect her father from that woman?

Who was going to keep him from making Anne Boleyn his Queen, and their son the Prince of Wales, supplanting Mary even though God surely meant for her to rule England one day?

Her mother had told her that she was supposed to be Queen of England. This was why God had not sent her parents a living son who would rule England in her place. She had said so the last time Mary saw her, when Lady Salisbury brought her to the Queen's apartment to say 'goodbye' before they began their journey to Ludlow Castle. No woman was able to rule England in her own right before, not without the throne being taken from her, but Mary was different. She was the granddaughter of Isabella and Ferdinand, so if any woman was going to be able to rule England by herself, it would be she. Her mother knew that, and her mother was very wise.

Lady Salisbury sighed, clearly unhappy to see that Mary was unwilling to accept God's will, but she did not reprove her for it any further. She could understand that Mary was upset about losing her mother, and about seeing that woman sitting next to her father when she was brought to see him, so her voice was gentle as she recommended that Mary should pray for her mother's soul, and she made no further mention of Mary's father, and did not allude to Anne Boleyn at all.

She didn't suggest that Mary should pray for her father too, praying for him to realize that Anne was bad for him and send her away, but Mary was resolved to do that anyway.

If Anne Boleyn had bewitched her father to the point where he had been willing to set aside his wife to make her Queen, and where he wasn't grieving for his wife, he would need her prayers.

When her father came to see her later on, when she and Lady Salisbury had had a chance to settle in and when Mary's attendants had unpacked her things, Mary was delighted to see that her father had not brought Anne with him this time. It was bad enough that she was there when Mary came to see her father upon her arrival. If he had brought Anne with him for this visit as well, Mary was certain that Lady Salisbury's teachings about proper courtesy towards others, even people she disliked, would have deserted her in an instant and she would have told Anne exactly what she thought of her, ordering her to leave her apartment at once and never show her face there again, not unless she wanted Mary to summon soldiers who would throw her out.

If she had the authority to issue such an order, she would have commanded her to leave court altogether, and stay away from the King.

While it would have been a relief to be able to express her feelings instead of pretending that she did not know that her father cared about Anne, or that she resented Anne for it, Mary knew that it would make her father angry with her if she was openly rude to Anne. He might even countermand Mary's order that Anne should leave, and scold his daughter for behaving thus towards somebody he wished to see honoured by all, even his only child. Mary didn't think that she would be able to bear it if her father scolded her in front of Anne, showing that woman that he cared more about her than he did about his own daughter, and she didn't want him to be angry with her.

He was all she had left now.

To her relief, he was in a good mood when he entered the room, and he embraced her lovingly before holding her at an arm's length to scrutinize her properly.

Mary knew that she probably had not grown as much as her father would have wanted her to. She knew that she was short for her age, and thin – something that she had heard her maids whispering about before, saying that it would mean that she wouldn't be ready for marriage as soon as a princess should be – but she also knew that she was pretty. Her gown might be of plain black silk, and of a simple cut, as was suitable for a mourning gown, and her hood was also black, trimmed with jet beads and black pearls, but her skin was glowing with health and her long hair was shining. The Welsh air had agreed with her and she felt stronger now than she had before she left London. She was sure that there was no longer a need to worry that she was sickly.

"How is my pearl?" Her father asked, smiling at her and touching her cheek. "Is my Mary still the most beautiful girl in the world?" His voice was teasing, recalling the game they played when Mary was younger, when she would pretend not to know that she was the most beautiful girl in the world and he would assure her that she was. Mary couldn't help but wonder if her father still considered her the most beautiful girl in the world, or if he now considered that title to belong to Anne, even if he pretended to still think that Mary was the prettiest when they were together.

She didn't mind sharing her father with her mother, but Anne was different.

"I don't know." She wanted to sound playful, as he did, but she couldn't. It made her too sad to think that her mother would never see her husband and daughter playing together again. Even though her mother never joined in their games – though she played with Mary herself, when they were alone, she always stayed in the background, watching, when Mary and her father spent time together – she was always happy to see them and to know that her husband loved their child.

Her father seemed to understand that she was upset, so he changed the subject. "Do you like your new rooms, sweetheart?" He asked, eager to hear her assure him that she did. "Lady Anne thought that, since you're getting to be such a big girl, you would need more space, so this apartment is bigger than the one you had before, when you were small, and it has a beautiful view of the gardens – see!" He caught Mary around the waist, lifting her over to the window seat and setting her on it, so that she could stand next to the window and look out over the gardens, where the late summer flowers were still blooming. "We're going to put in a new fountain there," he said, standing behind her and pointing at the spot. "So you'll be able to see that too."

Mary tried to smile but she knew that it did not reach her eyes.

She didn't like to think of her father discussing her impending arrival with Anne, and the two of them discussing which rooms should be hers, and how they should be furnished. This was something that her father should be discussing with her mother and, since she was dead, it was for him to make the decisions himself, instead of asking Anne. What would Anne know about what Mary would like and what she wouldn't like? Even if her father wanted to marry Anne, she wasn't Mary's mother, and Mary hated to think about the two of them pretending that she was.

She had had a mother already, a loving and wonderful woman who was beyond peer. She didn't want anybody, least of all Anne Boleyn, trying to take her place.

She shut her eyes as she listened to her father describe the pieces of furniture, the tapestries and the carpets that Anne had helped choose for her. What made it all the worse was that, until she knew who had chosen them, many of the pieces he named were particularly pleasing to her, and she had delighted in the splendour of her rooms. How was she supposed to like them now, when she knew that Anne was the one who had wanted her to have them? Were the pieces in her room the second-best ones available, with the very best of them being reserved for Anne's use?

Did her father already feel that it was more important for him to please Anne than his daughter?

"When is Mama's funeral to take place?" Lady Salisbury had told her once that the King could not attend funerals. Nobody was allowed to imagine the death of the King, so when somebody important, a member of the royal family, or a high-ranking noble or court official, was buried, another man would be chosen to act as his proxy. Surely an exception could be made this time, however, for his wife's funeral. If not, Mary would have to attend alone and she wasn't sure if she would be able to keep from weeping publicly without her father there to comfort her.

Her father hesitated for a long time before he answered, looking uncomfortable. When he finally answered, he avoided Mary's gaze at first. "Your mother was already buried, Mary." He said. When she didn't say anything, he looked up at her, his eyes pleading with her not to press the issue. "You have to understand, sweetheart – when somebody dies of an illness like the sweating sickness, it's very important to bury them straight away. If not, the disease spreads more, and your mother wouldn't have wanted people to be sick because of her."

This was true but it still hurt to think of her mother being hastily interred, without any of the ceremony that usually accompanied a Queen's burial. She deserved better than that.

"I understand." Her voice was hoarse with unshed tears. She saw her father take a half-step towards her, as though he wanted to take her in his arms and console her, but he held back. "Do you plan to marry Lady Anne, Papa?" She hadn't intended to ask the question, had been afraid of the answer she might hear, but Mary blurted the question without being able to stop herself. She could see from the expression on her father's face that he was taken aback by her enquiry but, to her dismay, he didn't look repulsed by the idea, or ashamed of it.

"Why do you ask, Mary?" It took him a moment to recover the use of his tongue, and when he did, his voice was cool, and he spoke with the air of a man choosing his words carefully. She couldn't tell if he was glad that somebody else had spoken of the matter to her, so that he would not face the unpleasant task of telling his daughter that, although her mother's body was not yet cold, he had already chosen her successor, or if he was angry to think that one of her attendants might have spoken of it without his leave, telling Mary before he intended her to know.

"It seemed like you liked her a lot, when she was with you earlier today." Mary said, evading the question. Let him think that she had worked matters out for herself, based on his demeanour. She was still angry with him for having Anne by his side when his daughter came to see him, and maybe this would teach him not to flaunt Anne in front of her like that.

"I do like her." Her father was trying to sound casual about this but Mary could see from the shine of his eyes and the smile that tugged at the corners of his mouth at the mere thought of her that his feelings for Anne went beyond merely liking her. The thought made her want to cry. "And I hope – no, I'm sure – that when you get to know her, you will love her too. She is the most wonderful woman in the world, and she has made me very happy, even in a short time. I hope that she will make me happier still, in time, and that I will make her happy and we both want you to be happy too." He stroked her hair. "I have told her all about how good and clever and pretty my daughter is, and I know that she has been looking forward to getting to know you."

Mary could imagine that Anne was very good at pretending that it was her dearest wish to meet her and to be kind to her, even though she probably didn't want her around at all and would be quite happy if Mary's father sent her away from court to live elsewhere, probably in a manor that was very far away from court, so that she would not be able to visit him often, so that they might be alone together, able to pretend that he was never married before and that he had no daughter at all. If she thought it would please the King to think that she wanted to meet Mary and to be kind to her, she would be able to make him think it, whatever her true feelings might be, but Mary didn't trust her and wouldn't believe that she was being sincere, about anything.

"But do you want to marry her? She's a commoner, isn't she?" She asked innocently. Anne's father was Viscount Rochford but a viscount wasn't a very important nobleman, certainly not important enough for his daughter to be worthy of marrying a King, especially one who was once married to a great Princess like Mary's mother. "I thought that Kings had to marry princesses."

"A King can please himself in his choice of a bride, especially when he has already married a wife chosen for him for the sake of policy." Her father told her gruffly. He didn't even seem to notice the way Mary flinched at his words, and at the implication that he was pushed into marrying her mother against his will. Fortunately, Lady Salisbury had already told her the story of how, when her father became King, one of the first things he did was to marry her mother, whom he loved dearly and whom he was determined to marry, even though some of the men on his Privy Council wanted him to consider other princesses. If she had not already known that, it would have hurt to think that her father had had to be forced to marry her mother, because that would mean that he might never have loved her in the first place. "Lady Anne's birth is immaterial next to her exemplary qualities – and in any case, her mother was a Howard, the sister of the Duke of Norfolk, and her father is one of my most loyal servants, a man who is certain to advance thanks to the excellent service he has given me."

Had Mary dared, she would have snorted in derision at this.

Her father could load Anne's father with titles, so that she would be an earl's daughter or a marquess' daughter or even a duke's daughter instead of a viscount's daughter but that didn't mean that the Boleyns were noble, and there was nothing he could do that would make them royal. It just meant that her father wanted to pretend that Anne was worthy of him by giving them titles, and that the only reason Anne's father could call himself a great lord was because the King wished to please his daughter, not because he was worthy of his elevation.

"When did you decide that you wanted to marry Lady Anne?" Mary asked, a frown creasing her brow. She knew the answer already but it made her angry to think that, when he was married to a woman as wise and loving as her mother, who was the best wife that he could ever hope to have, he was already thinking about ways in which he could set her aside for Anne's sake. He was even willing to let people call Mary a bastard if it meant that he could be free. Now that her mother was dead, instead of keeping the court in mourning for as long as he ought to, and focusing his energy on praying for the woman who had always been so good to them, he was probably planning his wedding to Anne. "My mother – your Queen – died only a short time ago!"

"I am the King, Mary. I have a duty to remarry, for the sake of the succession. This country needs a Prince of Wales, to rule England when I am gone."

It was as though he had completely discounted the possibility that she might succeed him, Mary realized with dismay. Her mother might have believed that it was God's will that she should rule England one day, as her grandmother Isabella had ruled Castile, and that God had decided against sending her a brother because He wished that, when Mary grew up and married a Spanish prince, as her mother wished, England and Spain would be joined forever, but her father had never wanted that, even though he accepted the need to proclaim her heir when there was no prince.

First, he tried to make people think that his illegitimate son, the half-brother Mary had never met, could be his heir, even though he was a bastard, and he had tried to make it seem as though Fitzroy was a prince by giving him many titles and honours, the better to convince the people to accept him as heir to the throne. When that didn't work, he tried to set her mother aside so that he could marry Anne and have sons with her. Now that Mary's mother was dead, her father was not going to carry out her mother's wishes by seeing to it that their daughter would succeed him, as she had hoped she would. He intended to marry Anne as soon as possible, so that they would have a son who would come between Mary and the throne, just because he was a boy.

"The people would want you to wait." Mary said stubbornly, trying to find something that would persuade her father to change his mind. If he would only wait, she was sure that she could help him see that, even if he had to marry another woman, somebody good and gentle and kind. He should not marry Anne, not even if she was the only woman in England. If he married her now, before he had a chance to see her as she truly was, it would be too late. "The people loved Mama and they wouldn't like it if they saw you marrying somebody else so soon after she died."

She didn't add that the people would be even angrier if they knew – as they surely must – that their future Queen was the woman for whom their King was willing to set Queen Katherine aside.

"The people will want me to be happy." Her father told her sharply. "I had hoped that my daughter would feel the same way but it seems that I was gravely mistaken in her nature. It grieves me to see that she begrudges her father and her King the happiness he could find in a new marriage. Perhaps she wishes for me to remain a perpetual widower instead, is that it?"

He had never spoken so coldly to her before, and Mary shivered inwardly at his words. For a moment, she wanted nothing more than to take back what she had said, to assure her father that she wanted nothing more than to see him happy with a new Queen, and to promise him that she would give Anne a chance, if it pleased him that she should. Anything to see the cold, angry expression on his face replaced by a kind, loving smile, and to hear his tone become warm and approving as he thanked his dearest daughter, his pearl for her understanding.

She couldn't say it, however, not even to see her father smile at her again.

She couldn't betray her mother by pretending that she approved of her father's plans for a hasty remarriage, much less of the woman with whom he planned to replace her.

"Mama didn't like her." She protested, though her words sounded half-hearted to her own ears. She wasn't going to be able to convince him, no matter what she said. His mind was made up.

"Your mother did not know Lady Anne well, or she would have seen, as I see, that she is, of all the women in England, the worthiest of a crown by far. She had the beauty and the wit of an angel. She is exactly what I need, and what this country needs – and, if you let her, she will be very kind to you and teach you all that she can. If you give her a chance, if you don't insist on being stubborn and refusing to see her goodness, you will like her. She is a gifted dancer, with a great talent for music." He added temptingly, knowing that Mary, like him, adored music.

"You wanted to marry her before Mama died, didn't you?" Mary accused him, unable to keep herself from speaking the words a moment longer. Her mother must have been so hurt when she learned that her husband loved another woman and wanted to be rid of her in order to marry her, and she hated her father for causing her mother such pain over the final months of her life, almost as much as she hated Anne for trying to get the King to marry her, when she should have told him that he had a wife already and that he should be a loving husband to her.

She was sure that everything would be so much better if Anne had known her place, and kept it.

"You are too young to understand such a matter, Mary." Her father told her sternly. "If you did, you might be thankful that God chose this moment to call your mother to Him."

He didn't explain his meaning but he didn't need to, Mary already understood.

Because her mother was dead, her father was a free man now, without needing to petition the pope to annul his marriage. He could have Anne now, with the blessing of the Church and with nobody able to deny their marriage, and he would not need to say that Mary's mother was never his wife in order to make Anne his Queen. Because of this, Mary would continue to be the Princess of England. Even if she was supplanted as heir once Anne bore a son, she would never be called a bastard and would marry a prince or King one day, instead of being married off to whatever minor noble her father decided to bestow the hand of his natural daughter on, as a mark of favour, a husband who would be unworthy of Mary's royal rank and who could not make her a Queen.

But this was no consolation for the loss of her mother.

If her mother had lived, she would have been able to keep her husband from setting her aside and calling their child a bastard. No matter how desperate Anne was to call herself Queen of England, she would have met her match in Queen Katherine, who would have shown the world that she was her husband's true wife and England's true Queen. Mary's title as Princess was in no danger, nor were her rights as her father's sole legitimate child and the true heir to the throne, and even if they were, she would rather have her mother with her, even if it meant the loss of her title.

"It's wrong." She said, so softly that she was almost whispering, though her father could still hear her words. "Can't you see that this is wrong, Papa?"

Her father said no more, throwing up his hands in exasperation and storming out of the apartment, slamming the door behind him and leaving his daughter alone, hurt and shaken.

When Anne came to see Mary, she knocked first, and one of the grooms of the chamber announced her formally before she entered.

"The Lady Anne Boleyn asks to be allowed to see you, Your Highness." He said, bowing to Mary.

Mary could see from the way Lady Salisbury pursed her lips that she too was not happy to hear that Anne had come but she also knew that neither of them could dare to instruct the groom to return to Anne with a message telling her that Mary could not receive her. Instead, Lady Salisbury issued instructions to the maids to put away their sewing and embroidery, and to tidy away Mary's books. Once she had set the maids to ensuring that the room would be presentable, she turned her attention to Mary, brushing her gown to remove the creases and examining it for marks.

"I don't want to see that woman." Mary grumbled in a hushed voice, tolerating Lady Salisbury's ministrations but feeling disgruntled to think of all of the fuss being made preparing to receive Anne, when she would have much preferred to send the woman packing and never see her again.

Wasn't Anne satisfied with usurping her father's attention, even during Mary's homecoming, when she and her father should have been sharing their grief over her mother? Why did she have to push herself on Mary too? Didn't she realize that she wouldn't want to see her? Or did she realize it and want to flaunt her awareness that even Princess Mary did not dare to offend her by sending her away? When she returned to her own apartment, would she tell the ladies who waited on her that not even the King's daughter could send her away if she chose to call on her?

Maybe Mary was lucky that Anne had not decided to send a message to her, asking that she come to Anne's apartments instead of Anne coming to hers.

If she had, Lady Salisbury might have been too afraid of offending Anne to refuse.

"I know." Lady Salisbury's voice was soft, and her hand was gentle as she smoothed Mary's hair back into her hood. "But you're a princess, dear child, and it is your duty to be gracious."

She knew that Lady Salisbury was right, and that her mother would have been the first to tell her that she should be polite to all of her father's subjects, high and low, and to anybody who sought an audience with her. No matter how angry or how upset or how tired a princess might be, it was still her duty to receive any guests graciously, smiling no matter how she felt inside, and making them welcome. Knowing this didn't make it any easier, however, and it was with a heavy heart that she finally motioned to the groom to usher Anne into the apartment.

Anne curtsied as soon as she entered the apartment, a movement so graceful that she might have been dancing in a masque. She kept her head high and did not wait for Mary to tell her to rise.

"Princess Mary, thank you for allowing me to visit you. I am honoured."

Her words were respectful but Mary didn't trust Anne's outward politeness. She didn't think that Anne truly felt honoured to be allowed to visit her – and since she had come without waiting for Mary to be the one to ask her to visit, she probably knew that, whether Mary liked it or not, she was obliged to pretend that this visit was a welcome surprise. She didn't doubt that Anne was sure that she would soon be Queen, and when that time came, Mary would be the one who was obliged to curtsey to her whenever they met. If Anne sent a message requesting Mary's presence in her apartment, Mary would have no alternative but to make haste to answer the summons, hastening to Anne's apartment as quickly as she would rush to her father's presence if he summoned her.

She acknowledged Anne's greeting with a very slight inclination of her head. "Lady Anne."

"You may leave us, Lady Salisbury. Princess Mary and I will speak alone."

Lady Salisbury, a countess in her own right, with royal Plantagenet blood flowing in her veins, stiffened at this dismissal. Mary half-hoped that her governess would refuse to leave but, instead, Lady Salisbury nodded, making a deep curtsey to Mary and waiting for her to nod permission, then she made the shallowest of curtseys in Anne's direction, and obediently departed. She knew, as Mary did, that one rude word spoken to Anne would be enough to ensure her dismissal once Anne became Queen – perhaps even before, if she complained to the King – and she wouldn't take the chance. She was too devoted to Mary to do anything that might lead to her dismissal.

Once they were alone, Anne smiled at Mary. "Perhaps we should sit down, Your Highness?" She suggested. She waited for Mary to take a seat before she sat down next to her, her smile never leaving her face. Mary noticed that Anne had changed her gown, and she was wearing a different necklace now, with sapphires the same colour as the silk of her gown.

"You're not wearing black." Mary observed. She wondered if she would be happier to see Anne wearing a sombre black gown, out of respect for her late Queen, or if she would have hated her even more if she had pretended to be in mourning for the Queen, when virtually everybody knew that she had wanted to be Queen herself, even if that meant that the true Queen had to be banished from her husband's side for her sake. Anne Boleyn and her family were probably the only people in England who were glad to see good Queen Katherine die, because they knew that they would benefit from her death. "I thought that everybody at court would be wearing mourning, out of respect for my late mother, the Queen." She said, trying to sound innocent and motioning to her own black gown for emphasis. She was watching Anne's movements closely, so she was able to see the way her smile faltered before she recovered herself.

At least she had the grace to look embarrassed, Mary allowed grudgingly.

"His Majesty tells me that you know that he and I are to be married." Anne said gently, avoiding the issue of mourning. Mary nodded involuntarily, biting her lower lip so that she could keep herself from shedding tears in front of Anne. "He also tells me that this news has upset you – I understand, Your Highness, of course." She said, not giving Mary a chance to point out that she could hardly be expected to greet the news that, with her mother so lately dead, her father had already decided to remarry, with joy. Nobody could possibly expect her to be happy about such a hasty marriage, much less about the fact that the marriage had been intended before her mother died. "Your mother's death must have come as a great shock to you, as it did to so many people. We had hoped that we could wait a while before telling you..."

"It's better that I should know now." Mary said, barely managing to keep her voice steady. She studied Anne's profile, wondering why her father wanted this woman so badly, so much so that he had even been willing to send away his wife for her sake. She was pretty, but there were prettier women at court, so what made Anne so special that her father wanted to make her Queen?

What was it about her that had made her father willing to set her mother aside?

"Perhaps you're right." Anne allowed, though she sounded doubtful. "I know that your father didn't want to hurt you with this news, Princess. He hoped – as I did – that you and I would have a chance to get to know each other, properly, before we told you of our plans."

Mary shrugged but she didn't say a word, not knowing what she should say in response to Anne's words. She didn't think that spending a few weeks, or even months in ignorance of her father's true intentions would have made it any easier for her to know that he intended to take another wife, allowing another woman to step into the place that belonged to her mother by rights.

Even if he had not told her straight away, she would have known that something was amiss if her father kept pressing her to spend time with Anne after she returned to court and made her home there, including that woman in the party whenever they spent time together, and acting as though she was already part of the family.

It would have been worse to have to pretend that she didn't know, playing her father's game and acting as though it was normal that he should want her to spend time with one of the ladies of the court, normal that Anne should always be there instead of father and daughter spending time alone, without the intrusive presence of a person who, by rights, should not be there.

"I would like to be your friend, Princess Mary, and I know that it would please your father if he knew that you and I understand one another." Anne was saying, her tone soft and persuasive, as though she was trying to coax a little child. Mary bristled inwardly, wondering if Anne thought of her as little more than a baby, a child who could be coaxed into forgetting how much her mother meant to her with a few honeyed words. If that was what Anne thought of her, she would soon learn that she was gravely mistaken. There was nothing that she or anybody else could do that would make Mary forget her sainted mother. "I lost my mother too, when I was very young, so I understand how difficult it is, and I don't want to try to take your mother's place..."

"You couldn't, even if you wanted to!" Mary's retort was sharper than she had intended, and she held her breath for a moment after she said it, wondering if Anne would take offence and speak to her father about it. Part of her wanted Anne to do this, so that her father would know that, even if he wanted to replace his wife, Mary would not allow her mother to be replaced in her heart.

However, Anne didn't shout at her, or even scowl. She nodded, as though she understood. "Nobody can take your mother's place in your life, Princess, and I don't plan to try."

"Good." Mary was at a loss for what else to say, but she had to say something rather than leaving an uncomfortable silence between them. Tears were stinging her eyelids, and it took all of her energy to keep them at bay, so she couldn't really focus on what Anne was saying to her.

She heard Anne assure her that the wedding would not take place straight away, that they would wait until a few months had passed, at least, but she could take no consolation from that. The delay wasn't because her father had too much respect for her mother's memory to replace her before she was cold, it was because he feared his people's reaction if he remarried too soon.

He would wait for them, in the hope that this would lead them to welcome Anne as their new Queen, but not for the sake of his late wife, or even for the sake of their daughter. Mary hated him for it, for his hypocrisy in pretending to be respectful of his late wife's memory when he was eager to take a new wife, and for the fact that he wanted to remarry so badly. She wanted him to grieve for her mother, as she did, and instead, he was already moving on, and happy to do so.

How could he be so callous when her mother had loved him so deeply?

She scarcely heard Anne excuse herself, or Lady Salisbury return as she huddled into a ball on her chair, tears scalding her cheeks as she finally allowed them to flow.

That was almost two years ago.

It was now March for the second time since Katherine of Aragon, Queen of England, had perished of the sweating sickness and her daughter was more convinced than ever that God had made a grave mistake when He called her mother to Him, letting her die while Anne was allowed to live, certain that England and her family would be better off if He had taken Anne instead.

She scarcely recognized the court in which she had grown up, the court that her mother had governed with quiet, gentle authority, ensuring that everything went smoothly and that both the royal family and their courtiers would enjoy a dignified and gracious environment. There were masques and celebrations far more often these days than in her mother's time, and instead of spending their time at their prayers, working on their needlework or doing good works for the poor, Anne's ladies devoted more and more hours were devoted to music, dancing and pleasure.

Anne liked to have a happy household – though she was careful that her ladies did not behave too licentiously, as she did not want to be accused of laxity, or of not governing her household as carefully and as diligently as her predecessor had – and her ladies were happy with that state of affairs, delighting in the dancing lessons Anne insisted on, determined that the ladies of her household should all be accomplished dancers, enjoying the longer leisure hours she allowed them and spending more time than was proper flirting with the young gentlemen of the court, hoping to catch husbands. Through her charm, their mistress won herself no less a man than the King of England, and they all hoped to profit by her example.

It was also whispered that Anne had taken an interest in Lutheranism, that she smuggled forbidden books into her apartment for her perusal and that she had even dared to encourage Mary's father, the man on whom the Holy Father had bestowed the title of Defender of the Faith, to read them too, in the hope that she might lead him away from the true Church.

Mary knew that her mother would weep if she knew what had become of her husband. She feared for her father's soul, and couldn't feel at home at court, as she once had.

It wasn't that Anne treated her unkindly. She seemed to have recognized that Mary was never going to like her, and was never going to be happy about the fact that her father had remarried instead of contenting himself with remaining a widower for the rest of his days, forgetting about marriage and focusing his energy on grooming his daughter as his heir and preparing England for her rule, as her mother would have wished him to. The best that Anne could hope for from Mary was civility, and if she wanted more, she knew that she wasn't ever going to get it, no matter what she tried to do to win her over. She respected Mary's preference not to spend additional time with her, and made a concerted effort to treat her with kindness and respect but they were not close.

In her weaker moments, Mary almost wished that they could be but it wasn't possible, not when she could not forget that Anne had helped bring about her mother's death.

Thankfully, she was not forced to attend her father's wedding to Anne. They did not wait as long as she would have wanted them to wait, opting to marry within six months of her mother being laid to rest, but because the death of Queen Katherine was still fresh in the minds of the people, her father and Anne had decided that a quiet, private wedding would be most appropriate. Cardinal Wolsey had presided over the ceremony, leading them in the vows that would unite them as man and wife, until death parted them, the same vows Mary's father once exchanged with her mother, years before he met Anne, when her mother was still the only woman in his world. Only Anne's family, and a few chosen courtiers were present to witness the marriage.

Mary's father asked her to attend but, when she refused, he did not force her. She could see that he was disappointed by her refusal but he had not mentioned the issue again.

She was not given the option of absenting herself from Anne's coronation.

Although they might have settled for a simple wedding ceremony, in deference to public feeling, Anne's coronation, just three months later, was a spectacular affair, and the King spared no expense. Lady Salisbury had reluctantly admitted to Mary that Anne's coronation was even grander than the one in which her mother was crowned after her wedding, even though her father was crowned in the same ceremony. For Anne, her father was determined that nothing but the best would serve, so that no man could doubt his love for his new Queen.

He knew that the people loved royal celebrations, the more splendid, the better, and he wanted to use Anne's coronation to win her a place in their hearts and minds. Even if she would never be able to drive the memory of Queen Katherine from their hearts, he wanted them to love Queen Anne too, and to revere her as the woman who, with God's help, would be mother of a Prince.

Mary was obliged to attend, for fear that her absence would make people wonder if their Princess Mary was being deliberately excluded, cut off from the royal family instead of being allowed to take her proper place at the heart of the celebrations now that she had a stepmother. Her father did not want the people to accuse him of neglecting his daughter now that he had remarried and had hope of other children with his new wife, and he was even more worried about the prospect of Anne being blamed if it was thought that Mary was being cut out of her father's life for her sake, so he commanded Mary to be present, and he ensured that her role in the ceremony was a prominent one, so that nobody who witnessed the procession could fail to see that she was there.

He had told her that he wanted her to be there to share their special day with him and Anne, but Mary knew that he also wanted her there for the sake of appearance – perhaps only for the sake of appearance – and it hurt to know that he would oblige her to be present to witness Anne's triumph rather than allow her to absent herself, and spare herself some of the pain she endured.

Wearing a new gown of soft green and white silk, the Tudor colours, her hair hanging loose and a slender coronet of diamonds and emeralds gleaming on her head, Mary rode to the church in the carriage immediately after Anne, a carriage she shared with her Aunt Margaret, the only other Princess of England and, after Anne and Mary, the third lady in the land. Like her, Margaret did not think highly of Anne and was not happy to have to follow her for her coronation, knowing that once she was anointed with the holy oil, Anne would be Queen of England in the sight of God.

No man, or woman, would be able to deny her right to that title, even if she was unworthy of it.

Her Aunt Margaret understood how Mary felt, and she held her hand in hers throughout the ceremony, squeezing it gently to let her know that she was not alone, not when her aunt was there to support her. It helped a little to know that Aunt Margaret was by her side, and that she shared her sentiments about Anne, and thanks to her support, Mary was able to keep the tears at bay throughout the ceremony, holding her head high, as a Princess of England should, and even managed to force a small smile to her face for the sake of the people watching.

The people would not want to see her weeping, and she did not forget her duty to them.

As painful as Anne's coronation was, however, it could not compare to this moment, when they were all gathered in the lavishly decorated presence chamber of Anne's opulent apartment – the Queen's apartment, newly refurbished before its newest occupant took possession of it, with virtually every trace of Mary's mother banished as though she had never lived there – listening to the cries from the bedchamber as Anne's child entered the world, coaxed out of her womb by the best midwives and physicians in the kingdom, summoned to deliver the future Prince.

Because the midwives insisted that the room should be kept warm, for fear that Anne might become chilled, huge log fires burned in each fireplace, and Mary was sweating in her heavy damask gown. She was thankful for the heat, however, because in the dim light of the presence chamber, the tears trickling down her cheeks might be taken for beads of sweat.

She didn't want anybody to see her weeping, least of all her father.

They would say that she was weeping for thwarted ambition, weeping because she knew that, if Anne bore a Prince, he would become heir to the throne and she would have to forget any hope she ever cherished of becoming Queen of England. Instead, she would be just another Princess, to be married off to whichever prospective husband suited her father's purposes best, and when she left England to join her husband in his kingdom, she might never again see her homeland. However she was disappointed to think that she would not be Queen if Anne's child was the son that she and the King prayed for, Mary was not weeping for herself, she wept for her mother, and for the fact that what she had wanted for England would never happen now.

Her mother had known since she was a little girl that it was her destiny to be Queen of England, and to be the mother of its future sovereign but once Anne bore a son, her dream would die.

Anne's son would be Prince of Wales, and there was nothing that Mary could do about it.

If the child was a girl, her father would be disappointed not to have a son but he was still likely to welcome a new daughter, and she might even push Mary out of her place in his heart, becoming the new pearl of his world. Even so, Mary thought that a girl would be better. A girl would not supplant her as her father's heir, even if she won his love and attention, but a boy would.

"If it's a girl this time, the next one will be a boy, or the one after that." Lady Salisbury said quietly. "Their Majesties will keep trying until a Prince is born, make no mistake of that, Princess." Mary glanced up at her governess, wondering if she had spoken her thoughts aloud without realizing it, but Lady Salisbury didn't say anything else, and nobody else seemed to have heard anything. Her expression was sombre as she, like everybody else, watched the velvet curtains that led into Anne's bedchamber, and listened to the sounds within.

When Anne's screams of pain stopped, everybody waited with bated breath, listening avidly. Mary heard the sound of a slap, followed by an indignant cry, and her father took that as his cue to push past her, hastening into the room to his wife's side, to meet their child for the first time.

The next thing they heard was his triumphant, delighted bellow of laughter, a sound that announced the sex of the child as eloquently as bells and cannon fire could.

"Mary!" Her father's voice was full of joy as he called her name, and Lady Salisbury gave Mary a slight push, urging her forward. "Come and meet your baby brother, sweetheart!"

It was a command as well as an invitation, and everybody in the room was waiting for her to obey but Mary's feet felt as heavy as if they were encased in large stones, and each step was an effort. She badly wanted to turn and run out of the room but she knew that she couldn't. When she entered Anne's bedchamber, she would see her father and that woman delighting in their triumph, showering love on their new son, debating the question of what name he should be given and enthusing over what a pretty baby he was. Her father would be giving orders about the celebrations in honour of the birth of England's future King and probably deciding to make Anne's father a duke as a reward for his daughter's fertility. Like Anne's coronation, this was Anne's time, and Mary's father's, and Mary did not want to share it with them, not when she couldn't summon up any of the joy they would expect from her, but she was not given the option of refusing.

Her father had summoned her, so she was obliged to go into Anne's bedchamber, the last place she wished to be, to see her baby brother and her stepmother and to pretend to be happy that Anne had borne a son. Anything less, and her father would be angry with her, and not even his pleasure in the fact that he was the father of a healthy son, at last, would soften his anger.

Before she entered Anne's bedchamber, she forced a smile to her face, praying that there was no trace of tears on her face, but in her heart, she couldn't feel any joy over this.

All she could think was how much better it would be if this moment had never arrived, if her mother had lived to prevent it and if Anne was the one to die instead, freeing her father and showing him that there was only one woman in the world who was fit to be his Queen, and that it was God's will that she should rule with him until the time came for their daughter to be Queen.

Instead, her mother died and Anne lived.

Everything had gone wrong.