A New Era
The summer warmth was almost stifling in the Court. It was late July, but still no one could ever remember a time that it had been this hot. Charles Brandon stood at head of the church beside Henry. The air was so heavy that it was hard not to fan at least one of tunics. The temperature would not improve even when the bride came in. The heat was no better outside. It was probably worse.
Henry looked back at Charles giving him a look of happiness tinged with impatience. He wanted his wedding night to begin. Charles almost couldn't blame him. His bride was beautiful, pure, and very young. She would hopefully bear him a son quickly. Charles really no longer cared. Since the Pilgrimage of Grace, things had changed for him. Yes, he was older, and he could accept that with little regrets. It was the other things. His wife, Katherine, would barely look at him much less touch him. It killed him when he thought about that. She would not even share his bed. He thought long ago that his early womanizing days would be what caused that. However, it was his poor choice on how to stay loyal to his king.
Suddenly, the doors to the church opened. He looked up to see the very pretty blonde child coming up the aisle. Her dress was quite lovely with a long veil and train. She was smiling almost stupidly as she got closer. He took a deep breath. This girl would be the death of the King. She was too young to understand what it really took to be queen. He had gotten her to be a play thing for the King not a wife. He watched them as the ceremony began. He was glad the King was happy. Perhaps, that really meant that this time the whole of England would be happy.
The ceremony was faster than Charles remembered. The celebration was a different story. Everyone seemed to be full of the spirit of merrymaking despite the fact that Hell was cooler than all of them. He watched as Henry and Catherine danced. He knew that his oldest friend would be the first to collapse in that party. He also noticed something else; every man in the room had their eyes glued to the new queen.
"My Lord, Suffolk," a voice behind Charles said. He turned to see Edward Seymour walking toward him. "You do not seem to be enjoying yourself."
Charles shrugged. "It is too hot to really enjoy any of this."
Edward smiled and turned his attention to a loud giggle. Charles looked around to see that Katherine was laughing and almost spilling her wine. Edward rolled his eyes. He turned to Charles and moved him away from the crowd.
"She is naught but a little fool," Edward said.
Charles nodded. His eyes had found one of the new attendants. His name was Thomas Culpepper. He too was young and very eager to please. He seemed eager about other things too. But worried Charles more was where his eyes seemed to go. He couldn't really blame the man. Everyone's eyes were there.
"I hear the Lady Mary is coming to Court soon," Edward said, brining Charles back to the moment.
"I don't know," Charles said. "I hope so."
"She would bring life back to this place."
Charles made a stupid gesture and nodded again. He really was not listening to what Edward was saying. He really wanted to go home and not stay at court. The place was no longer his second home. He hated it here. The bright dresses and fancy tunics did nothing to brighten the mood of the place.
"How is Prince Edward?" Charles asked.
Edward smiled. His smile sometimes made Charles nervous. He knew that Edward would never do anything to harm his own nephew, but that didn't mean he wouldn't try to usurp the throne if he had the chance. When Edward didn't answer, Charles turned to him. A hush had fallen over the room. Catherine was still dancing with Henry, but everyone else had turned their attention to something new.
Charles followed the gazes. There in entrance to the room stood the strangest but most beautiful thing he had seen in a long time. It was a woman in a dark red gown. The material was fine silk with French lace of three different colors. Gold, white, and black. The pieces accented the arm, bodice, and hem of the dress. The black sash that was around her waist had small gold specks all over. He thought at first it was diamonds. He looked closer and found it was small god pieces. Her dark brown hair was pulled up behind her face with some strands hanging down on her face and neck. She had gold and ruby earrings in that almost touched the tips of her shoulder. Her small crown matched the earrings except there were some small pearls in it. She moved with fluid steps and didn't seem to notice that everyone was staring at her.
"Who is that?" Edward suddenly breathed.
Charles shook his head. He had never seen this woman near Court. The make of her dress was French so perhaps she was French. But her features, which were quite fetching to look upon suggested she could be from somewhere else. Her skin pallor was darker than any other woman's in the room. It was a deep tan that is only gotten from sailing. She was definitely exotic. She made a low bow as she moved to the center of the room.
The King was now looking upon this perfect creature. It was the first time that Charles actually envied him. Henry moved forward with Catherine in tow. He looked down at the woman and pulled her up.
"Dear Lady, I do not believe any of us have ever seen you here before," Henry said as he gently kissed the woman's hand.
"Forgive me your majesty," she said with English accent tainted with a little French. "I have come in a time of celebration."
Henry shook his head. "It is the perfect time. It is a time for new faces and celebration. Tell me what is your name."
Henry recoiled a little at hearing the French surname. She might have been here to help keep the peace between France and England. It was starting to become fragile and even threatened. He nodded to her and then looked around the room.
"Charles!" he called. "Come. Bring Lady DeWinter wine."
Charles grabbed a goblet and walked toward the woman. It had been a long time since he felt awe or nervousness around a woman, but his hand had become sweaty. He walked closer and felt his heart crash into his throat. Olivia DeWinter was beautiful. She had bright, brown eyes that seemed so full of life. Her lips were a natural red color that were full and slightly parted. She gave Charles a low bow.
"Lady DeWinter, this is Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk," Henry said.
Olivia rose to her feet looking at Charles the whole time. "Your Grace," she said softly.
Charles handed her the goblet of wine. She took it with a smile that almost took the airs from his lungs. He offered her his arm. Olivia hesitated for a second and then took it. He walked over to the edge of the crowd and quickly removed his arm. She didn't seem to notice. She was looking around the room and watching the King. He took a step back from here, feeling that the room was suddenly too hot. He walked out of the room onto the balcony. The hot air really didn't seem to help to cool him off. However, being away from that woman helped his breath come in normal intervals. It had been a long time since any woman had stolen his breath like that. He was not even sure his wife had been able to do it. He knew that he should be worried about what this woman was doing here. She could be dangerous and here he was acting like a foolish boy. He took a deep breath trying to clear his mind. He got ready to take a long walk when a page came out.
"Your Grace," the boy called. "The King has asked that you have a chambered prepared for Lady DeWinter."
Charles sighed. Things had not changed. Henry had not even made it to the marriage bed, and he was lining up a mistress. He walked back inside. That may not be what it was. He may be thinking the same way that Charles was. This DeWinter woman could be very dangerous. And the best thing for that was to keep her close. In that Charles thought of the perfect chamber. He would keep a close watch on Olivia DeWinter. He better than to trust anyone that beautiful.