Okay, so this is my entry to Pandora of Ithilien's Odd Couple Ficathon. The Pairing is Princess Mary/George Boleyn and for this, you need to imagine that George Boleyn was the youngest of the Boleyns, was raised in France as a child and didn't return until after Anne was well and truly ensconced in Henry's heart and also that Princess Mary was at Court at the time of the Blackfriars trial. What? It's AU! Enjoy!
Mary Tudor – The Falcon Princess
"Brother." Anne Boleyn, 20 years old and mistress of the King's heart, dipped down into a slight curtsy as the young man before her sank into a bow.
"Sister Anne." George, 11 months younger than his dark haired sister and just past his nineteenth birthday, rose to kiss her on both cheeks. "You look well."
"As do you, brother. France agreed with you, I think. But tell me, what news from the French Court? How fares my old mistress, Madame Marguerite?"
"She is well, Anne, and sends her greetings." George replied as his sister led him across to the window seat, where they could talk undisturbed.
Later that evening, George accompanied King Henry and his sister to the banquet to welcome the Papal Legates.
Though he was young and handsome and many a young girl turned their heads to watch him as he passed, George was not overly interested in any of them. Anne had told him that evening that he had been brought home from France to be married to Jane Parker, daughter of Baron Morely, so he didn't see the point in leading any young lady a dance when all he could possibly do, being promised to another, was break their heart.
Suddenly, the musicians, noisily tuning up their instruments, broke into his concentration. The crowd around him parted and six or seven young women came into view.
The musicians struck up a stately Spanish dance and the dancers began to move in unison to the beat.
Despite himself, George began to watch them and soon found his interest being caught by one of them, the dark blonde in the centre.
She moved with a fluidity that was lacking in the others, as though she had had better teachers and, although she was clearly the youngest in the group, her poise and self-assurance was something to be envied. George couldn't take his eyes off her.
Impatiently, he awaited the end of the dance so that he could move swiftly across the floor and claim her as his partner for the next.
Bowing low before her, he kissed her hand as he asked "Might I have the honour of this dance, my lady?"
Surprise flickered in her clear blue eyes – God, they were like sapphires – before she consented "Of course, sir."
She gave him her slender hand and allowed him to lead her out on to the floor for a Volta.
George was a fine dancer himself, so he thoroughly enjoyed having such a skilled partner. The girl was as light as a feather and the way she soared into the air as he lifted her gave George real pleasure.
When the dance ended, he bowed over her hand – noting how petite and soft it was – and left her only with a reluctance that surprised him.
He walked off the floor with Anthony Knivert, one of the King's closest friends, who clapped him jovially on the back.
"Well Boleyn, I knew your sister was ambitious, but I didn't realise the rest of the family aspired to royalty." he teased.
"What do you mean?" George asked, longing to turn and watch his lovely partner out of sight, but not quite daring to.
Knivert started and looked down at the younger man. "Do you really not know who you were dancing with?"
"I've been in France for the last few years. Cut me some slack!" George protested.
"That, my friend, was the Princess Mary."
At Knivert's words, George blanched and then gulped, inwardly cursing himself for not putting two and two together. The skill of the girl's movements had indeed hinted at some inborn nobility, and now that he thought about it, she had had the King's colouring.
Of course the Princess Mary was no longer a child! The last time he had seen her had been the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and that was several years ago. Of course she would have grown up!
"Grown up into an attractive young woman." a determined little voice inside him piped up, despite his efforts to quash it. George shook his head fiercely. He was nothing but a lowly Boleyn. Besides he was practically married. No, despite the King's love for his sister, the Princess Mary was out of bounds.
Meanwhile, the Princess Mary was in turmoil. The young man who had just left her was obviously a Boleyn – his resemblance to the harlot Lady Anne was too strong to ignore, but even so, even though she had sworn to loathe each and every Boleyn that God had ever put upon the earth, Mary could not deny that he had been courteous to her. And she had to admit – it had been nice to dance with a man who was as skilled as he was.
But still. He was a Boleyn. She couldn't forget that. He was family to her mother's greatest enemy. She couldn't allow her rapidly developing body to forget that
She couldn't allow herself to be charmed by him.
Four years later, George was 23 years old, but, due to the fact that his intended bride, the Lady Jane Parker had died of a mysterious fever just months before their wedding, he was as yet unwed. Because of his affinity to Anne, who had just been crowned Queen, he had been selected to take up the post of Steward of the baby Princess Elizabeth's household at Hatfield House.
As George rode hard for Hatfield, he mused over the rumours he had heard – rumours that said that the King was going to force his daughter the Princess Mary, now bastardised and demoted to Lady Mary, to Hatfield to wait upon her new sister. If those rumours were true… well, George looked upon the matter with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the common people would doubtless blame Anne for this new slight to their beloved Princess Mary and she didn't need another reason to be unpopular with them, but on the other hand, he had never forgotten the young Princess Mary that he had danced a Volta with without realising that she was the Princess Mary. Now that she was just the Lady Mary and as such more attainable, he looked forward to renewing his acquaintance with her.
A few days later, Mary was kneeling in front of the chapel altar, praying fervently for guidance as to how to bear her new station in life.
Not only had she been stripped of her rightful title and forbidden to call herself Princess Mary, or to see her mother, Queen Katherine, but she had also been ordered to wait upon the concubine's daughter and to serve her under what must be the fiercest woman in England, Lady Margaret Bryan.
Tears began to run silently down her cheeks as she prayed on.
The chapel door creaked open, but Mary did not look round, hoping to give the impression that she was intent upon her prayers.
"Father Almighty, look down upon thy obedient daughter; thy faithful servant, I beseech you, and have pity. Send me some help, some solace for the days ahead. Lord God, I beseech you."
All of a sudden, Mary felt a hand brush her cheek and cup her chin, tilting her head to one side. A soft piece of white linen dabbed at her cheeks, drying the moisture of her tears.
"Hush, Lady Mary. Hush."
Mary was so shocked at the voice in her ear being soothing, because it belonged to the Queen's brother, Viscount Rochford, that she closed her eyes and just went still under his ministrations.
She felt him wipe around her eyes and nose before sitting back on his haunches and releasing her.
"Lady Bryan is searching for you, Lady Mary." he said softly. "It seems the Princess has soiled her clothing."
"Again." Mary sighed. It was not that Elizabeth – Mary could not bring herself to call the infant "Princess" unless she could absolutely not avoid it – was not a sweet child; it was just that Lady Bryan seemed to use Mary's new bastard status as an excuse to heap the most menial tasks upon her, King's daughter or no King's daughter.
She started to tuck her rosary back inside her gown and rise to her feet, but George Boleyn laid an unexpected hand on her arm.
"If you wish, Lady Mary, I can tell Lady Bryan that you are at prayer and are not to be disturbed."
Mary stared at him in consternation, unable to believe what she was hearing. Why would he, a Boleyn, offer to help her?
Yet the idea of a quiet hour or two in the darkness of the chapel did sound appealing and so, when he asked her again "Shall I?" she nodded. "Please."
Lord Rochford rose and went to the door. He was halfway out of it before she found her voice again.
"Excuse me, Lady Mary?"
"Why, Lord Rochford? Why are you helping me?"
For a moment, Mary feared that she had pushed her luck too hard, that he would not answer her, but then his voice drifted back to her, echoing quietly in the dark chapel.
"There are three main reasons, Lady Mary. Firstly, you are a very pretty girl and I am fond of you. Secondly, I am a Knight and you are a damsel in distress. And, thirdly, I too know what it is like to be overshadowed by your sibling."
"You speak of the Lady Anne. Your sister." Again, Mary feared she had gone too far, that he would be angry with her for not referring to his sister as the Queen, but instead he simply said, "Yes" and then opened the door of the chapel and slipped away from her.
From that day on, Mary's life in Elizabeth's household grew easier. Lord Rochford seemed to be firmly on her side and as, in their duties of serving the little Howard Princess, they spent more and more time together, they gradually found themselves using first names in addressing each other as opposed to titles.
When, in 1534, her father ordered all of his subjects to sign the Act of Succession and swear the Oath of Supremacy, acknowledging him as Head of the Church and Elizabeth as the only true heiress to the throne of England, Mary knew that she could not sign, but also knew that not to do so would incur her father's wrath, so went to George about it.
"What do I do, George? I cannot sign – not without betraying my mother. But my father – he is so adamant -"
"Mary, listen to me. My sister is with child again. I shouldn't be telling you this, not if Lady Bryan hasn't, but the Court knows and I – I think it is only fair for you, the King's daughter, to know too." George paused to take a breath before continuing "All of this means that Boleyn blood is highly valued at Court. I could protect you. If your father thought that you were safely allied with the Boleyns, then he might not pressure you to take the Oath."
"What are you saying, George?" Mary asked, so shocked she scarcely dared to breathe.
"I'm saying – Oh God, Mary, I'm saying that I care for you and would be willing to protect you. I'm saying that I am my father's only son and heir to two Earldoms. I'm saying – no, I'm asking – that you marry me."
Mary started in surprise. George had fallen to his knees in front of her and, having taken her hands in his, was kissing them passionately. He was kissing them like a lover.
And, as she looked down on his handsome dark head, Mary realised that she could find it in her heart to love him. It didn't matter that he was six years older than her. It didn't matter that he was a Boleyn. It didn't matter that he was only a Viscount, due to be an Earl on his father's death, and she had always been assured that she would one day marry a Prince who would rise to become a King. He was to be an Earl twice over, he was kind-hearted and charming and determined to do right by her. He could provide her with the security that she had been lacking.
It was enough. Stretching out a hand, she raised him up and, whispering her assent, pressed her lips to his in their very first kiss.
George rode to Court with a singing heart. He had done it. He had won the Lady Mary over. His Lady Mary now. His Falcon Princess. True, he still had to gain the King's consent for their union, but, in his doublet, he carried a letter written in the Lady Mary's own hand, stating that, although she could not swear the Oath, she longed to show her father that she was still his loyal daughter and that, to that end, was dutifully willing to accept George's proposal and become Lady Mary Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford, if he deemed it a suitable match.
Mary, meanwhile was wearing a ring of his on a piece of ribbon around her neck as a way of showing that they were promised to one another and would marry as soon as regal consent could be obtained.
His train of thought making George impatient, he flung himself off his horse and went straight up to the King's chambers. Anne was there too, seated beside the King on an ornate golden throne and as George threw himself down into a bow in front of the pair of them, she almost started out of her seat out of worry for her daughter, before remembering that a Queen could not act like that and sinking back into her seat.
King Henry flashed a glance at her, but then turned to George, arranging his features into a smile.
"Well, Lord Rochford? What brings you here to Court? Is all well at Hatfield?"
"Aye, Sire, all is well – or as well as things can be without Your Majesty's golden presence." George replied swiftly, hoping to flatter the King into granting him his marriage.
Henry's smile widened "Well said, Lord Rochford. What brings you here?"
"I come on behalf of the Lady Mary, Sire."
The moment George had spoken, the King leaned forward. "On behalf of the Lady Mary? Has she agreed to sign?"
George bit his lip. Now came the tricky bit. He had to admit to the King that Mary would not sign, but still keep him in a good enough mood that he would agree to bless their union.
"Alas, Sire, she has not." The King's face darkened, and George hastily continued. "However, she knows that her refusal will pain you, Your Majesty, and it pains her just as much to disappoint you. however, there may yet be another solution. As you know the Lady Mary does not regard my sister as the rightful Queen of England and the Imperial Ambassador constantly works to restore her as a Princess, but if the Lady Mary was to be allied with the Boleyns, then anyone working against the Queen or Princess Elizabeth would also be working against her. It would neutralise her as a threat."
"What do you mean? What kind of alliance, brother?" Anne broke in before the King could respond. Her face was white; white with the fear that her own brother was deserting her, deserting her in favour of the Lady Mary. Looking at her, George longed to take Anne – Anne, his highly-strung older sister, not Anne the Queen – into his arms and soothe her, but of course he couldn't, not the Queen, not in public, so he merely smiled reassuringly at her and said "During my stay at Hatfield, I have come to know the Lady Mary very well, Your Majesties. Very well indeed. In fact, you might even say that we are fond of each other. I believe that, were we to marry, we could make it work. Therefore, I have come to beg Your Majesty's permission, My Lord, to take your fair daughter, the Lady Mary, as my wife."
George held his breath to see Henry's reaction. With Anne with child, the Boleyns were reasonably safe, but even so, the boon he was asking was a huge one. If the King thought he didn't really care for Mary – if he thought he was being impertinent –
"And my daughter, Lord Rochford? Have you spoken to her on this matter? What does she say?"
"I have, Sire, and she is agreeable. Mary is ready and willing to become Lady Rochford if it will please Your Majesty and assure you of her loyalty to the Crown. In fact, she has written to tell you so herself."
George retrieved Mary's letter from his doublet and held it out to the King, who took it from him, broke the seal and read it before passing it to Anne, so that she too could read it.
She glanced at the King over the top of it and gave an elegant half-shrug, completely, entrancingly, French in every inch of her manner. King Henry looked at her and then back at George before giving a great bellow of laughter. "Marry? Marry Mary? Aye, why not? It'll teach my daughter her place in life."
"Thank you, Sire. I will treasure her." George kissed first the King's hand, then his sister's, before bowing his way out of the room.
Tired though he was, he called for a fresh horse immediately and pointed its head for Hatfield. He couldn't wait to get back and tell Mary the good news.
Upon arriving at Hatfield, George went up to his rooms and changed his clothes before summoning Lady Bryan to his presence.
"Send the Lady Mary to me immediately."
"Lord Rochford, the Lady Mary is changing the Princess, by the Queen's orders." Lady Bryan protested. George's face hardened.
"The Lady Mary's days as Elizabeth's humblest servant are over, Lady Bryan. Send her to me."
Fierce as Lady Bryan could be towards the maidservants, she would never dare cross the Queen's brother. She dipped a silent curtsy and vanished.
A few moments later, Mary stood in the doorway. George caught his breath at the sight of her. Clad in dark blue damask, with her golden hair escaping the confines of her hood to frame her face, she was breathtaking. The comely girl he had noticed upon his return home from France was gone; in her place was an utterly stunning young woman.
He rose from his desk and went across to her. "Mary." he breathed.
"George." She leaned over to kiss him quickly on the cheek. "What news from Court?"
"I have the King's blessing for our union. We are to be married in Richmond Chapel at Michelmas." George told her and had the satisfaction of seeing her blue eyes light up with delight. The next thing he knew, she had thrown herself into his arms, blinking back tears of happiness.
He closed his arms around her slender waist and breathed in her scent. She was his. His Princess Mary. His Falcon Princess. Forever.
"Come. Let's take a walk in the gardens." he suggested and, joy of joys, she smiled and nodded into his chest.
Several months later, Mary met her father outside Richmond's Chapel Royal. She was gowned in cream satin trimmed with silver ribbon and, with her dark blonde hair tumbling loose over her shoulders, she looked every inch the pearl that he used to say she was.
"Father." Mary curtsied to him deeply.
"Mary. My daughter. You look -"
Her father broke off, but Mary knew what he had been about to say. Even though she and Lady Bryan did not get on, the elder woman, who had witnessed her parents' marriage, had grudgingly admitted that Mary looked every bit as beautiful as her mother had been in her youth.
Thoughts of her mother brought tears to Mary's eyes, but at that exact moment, the royal musicians struck up the bridal march, so forcing herself to ignore the fact that her mother wasn't there and indeed, would probably die of shock when she heard that her beloved daughter had married a Boleyn, Mary curved her lips up into a smile, laid her hand on her father's arm and proceeded to make her way to the altar.
The ceremony passed in a flash and, before Mary knew where she was, she and George were sharing their first kiss as man and wife and leading the guests, her father and George's sister Anne at the head of the line, into their wedding breakfast.
As they left the chapel, the herald proclaimed them "Lord George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford and Lady Mary Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford." but, as George seated her beside him, smiling, and pressed her hand, Mary knew she was more than that. She was a Princess - his Princess.
She was a Boleyn Princess and, as the Boleyn emblem was the falcon, she was a Falcon Princess.