We are on progress.
Usually the court looks forward to the summer hiatus from Greenwich, to the endless masques, feasts, hunts and revelry that are provided as we leisurely travel between the King's luxurious properties. On any other year everyone would be reluctant to begin the trip back, would be cajoling my husband to stay one more day, visit one more place, delay until return was essential. This year, however, there is not one person in our retinue who is not anxious to bring this disastrous progress to a premature end. For once the beautiful summer days seem unbearable and endless, we must endure them instead of enjoy them. We, and indeed the whole country, are merely waiting for the autumn to finally arrive when the papal legate will reconvene and deliver their verdict on my marriage. If there had not been yet another outbreak of plague in the city I wonder whether we would have left there at at all.
Everywhere we go the atmosphere is fraught and tense. Henry himself is in the worst humour I have ever witnessed and strikes fear in the hearts of anyone who is unlucky enough to be summoned to his presence. Nothing will make him pleasant it seems, not hunting, not extravagant gifts, not eating, not entertainment. He will not be seen with me at all and it is some unfortunate lackey's job to ensure that our households do not encounter each other. If we happen to pass each other he stalks past me, refusing to even look at me, his face like thunder. Every day another one of his friends tries to excuse himself, fabricating some disaster that demands his immediate presence away from the royal court, but Henry will let no-one leave. If he is miserable then we must all suffer with him. Unsurprisingly it is me that he means to make most miserable of all.
In all the years that I have been married I have been angry with my husband many times. I have been disappointed, heart broken, humiliated. But I have never been afraid of him, until now.
He will not be seen in public with me but that does not stop him from storming into my chambers in a drunken rage when it is dark and I am alone and defenceless. His threats are chilling.
'You have humiliated me! I am the laughing stock of Europe because of you!' He shouted two nights ago. 'How dare you think to defy me! I should have you put in the Tower and flogged. I could have your death warrant drawn up in hours...'
It goes on and on, accusation after accusation, awful insults are thrown at me until he has made himself hoarse. Then, at the height of his childish tantrum, he demands that he has me. His treatment of me is more appropriate to that he would give a whore than his wife. He will not look at me, he grabs me so hard that bruises appear on my skin, the second he has taken his pleasure he pushes me away from him as if I am worthless. Thank God, he is yet to actually strike me. In the morning my ladies and I pretend nothing has happened although, sleeping only in the next room, they surely hear everything. What could they do anyway? He is the King and he will not be denied.
His ranting and rough treatment are not what makes me genuinely afraid though. He is no fool and to take any action against me publicly would be disastrous for him. My husband is not stupid enough to imprison me and risk an uprising. It is the soft words he speaks in his rare moments of calm rationality that genuinely terrify me.
'I will never call you my wife again.'
'You will never see Mary again.'
'You have numerous enemies in this court. I am no longer inclined to protect you.'
He has made me fear the agony of death by poison or an assassin creeping into my chambers at night. Even on the nights that he does not subject me to his wrath I lie awake for hours, unable to sleep for worry. When at last I do succumb to exhaustion I am plagued by a nightmare, always the same one, the death of my daughter at the hands of the Boleyns or their allies, every night I am made to suffer the horror of the funeral of my only child. It is no wonder then that I have been constantly ill this summer, that I am prone to fainting, vomiting, dizziness to name but a few symptoms I have suffered. The physicians try various methods of trying to make me well, none are successful and they grow increasingly confused about the cause of my maladies. Of course, I know very well what is wrong with me- fear. There is no cure.
My only hope comes from Henry's demeanour just before he skulks back to his own chambers in the early hours of the morning. Without fail he looks despondent about what he has done, about his behaviour towards me.
'This is your fault, Katherine,' he tells me every time. 'I tried to be reasonable, you force me to treat you this way. You are the cause of all this misery. Only you can end it.'
At least he feels guilty. At least he deems it necessary to pass responsibility for his actions. When he stops blaming me then I will be truly afraid, both for myself and my husband's soul. This is the devil's work that he is doing.
I say nothing to him. What is there to say?
Fortunately, I manage to gather from my gossiping ladies that he is treating the Boleyn girl none too well either. According to them he spends less and less time with her, often refusing her company. When he is with her she is as prone to his foul temper as everyone else. Supposedly her father and uncle are forcing her to seek his company which she would otherwise avoid. Undoubtedly it was a blow when the King declined to include Hever Castle on the progress and they are probably terrified that his ardour for the girl is fading, that he is debating whether this protracted ordeal is even worth marrying her. Certainly he has not bestowed on Boleyn the earldom that he had hinted at a few months ago. It is all meaningless hearsay though, he is so cruel and unpredictable at the moment that he could shower titles on the Boleyns tomorrow, he could just be waiting until we return to London where he may well become just as infatuated with the girl as before. More, perhaps. I never thought that I would find anything in common with that family but it appears that we are all as desperate for this wretched summer to end.
Another auspicious absence from the summer progress is Hampton Court. Yet Wolsey may yet slither his way back into favour, it would not surprise me in the slightest. I know that he writes almost daily to Henry, most likely begging for forgiveness, he even had the audacity to write to me, offering some kind of alliance! Truly, that brought the only unforced smile to my face of this entire summer. I threw the letter into the fire, where it belongs. As if I could ever trust that man! I was tempted to bring it to the King's attention but I feared I would only bring suspicion upon myself. Pray God, Henry never finds out that I even received it. I expect Henry will relent and free him soon and he may yet be back at court before Christmas. Just as soon as he proves he can be useful again. There is nothing I can do but hope that his next transgression against the King is swift and public. His letters make me nervous, an idiot would realise that the way back into my husband's good graces is to attack me, and Wolsey is intelligent in his immoral, dishonest way. As well as this, Henry is spending more and more days cooped up with his advisers, none of whom are any friend of mine. He is planning something.
When I was young and naive, after Arthur died, when I was living in poverty and my future was uncertain I thought it would be impossible to be any more unhappy than I was then. I thought Henry was saving me, now he is close to destroying me.
After my latest visit from the physicians Henry makes his first public visit to me in months. I am surprised but not overly so. It is common knowledge that my health is poor and most likely Cromwell whispered in his ear that it would make him appear chivalrous and kind if he publicly enquired after my well-being. He will probably stay long enough to ascertain that I am not dying, which is, in all likelihood, his dearest wish and then be on his way.
'I came because I heard you were unwell, and it was necessary for the physicians to have bled you. How are you feeling now?'
'I am very well. Your Majesty is kind to show concern,' I answer tiredly. It is so cruel to see him expressing concern for me when I know all too well how much he despises me.
'How is our daughter?'
My heart lightens a little when he mentions her. He has not forgotten her, he still loves her. She is still his pearl.
'She writes to me in perfect Latin and tells me she dances the galliards every day, and can play the lute much to everyone's satisfaction and joy. You should be proud of her.' God knows, she is my only joy in the world now.
'I am proud of her.' He appears genuine in that, at least.
'You ought to invite her to court. You could watch her dancing and playing. It might please you.'
Silence falls between us and a calculating look comes over his face, he seems to be debating something in his mind. Eventually he says:
I am stunned.
'Mary may come to court when we return from progress. I will send messengers to Ludlow tomorrow morning to invite her.'
'Thankyou,' I manage to say. 'Thankyou, your Majesty. She will be so happy.' Somehow I manage to disguise my overwhelming joy at this concession, lest this is all a malicious joke he is playing on me.
'Not as happy as I will be to see my beloved daughter again. Sit down please, it is Mary that I came to you to talk about anyway.'
He is actually smiling at me, I can hardly believe this is the same man that has been tormenting me for so many months. I do as he says, praying fervently that he remains cordial.
'I have decided to bestow a title upon Mary.'
Before I can stop myself I feel my hopes rising that he is going to finally invest her as Princess of Wales. Of course, I remind myself a second later, that is now nothing more than a fantasy of mine. Of course it isn't that.
'I mean to make her Princess Royal,' he says, and looks expectantly at me.
I have never heard of it.
'Princess Royal,' I repeat carefully, making myself speak with what is hopefully the correct amount of happiness and curiosity.
'It is a title of my own invention,' he explains, looking absurdly pleased with himself, 'from now on it will be given to the eldest daughter of the King, as his eldest son is Prince of Wales, his eldest daughter will be the Princess Royal. I wouldn't be surprised if Francis didn't steal it for his own daughter!,' he adds, chuckling.
'She will be delighted, I am sure,' I reassure him.
'There will be a magnificent ceremony of course,' he says earnestly, as if I need persauding. 'She will have new gowns, as many as she likes and in whatever fabric she pleases and I will have jewels commissioned for her. All of London will celebrate. She will have the best of everything. No-one will question how much I love my daughter. No-one will question her legitimacy,' he adds, his face darkening.
I don't know what to say, this is such a change in Mary's fortunes. Astronomical. Why? I can't help thinking. Why are you doing this?
'And another thing,' he says abruptly. 'I have decided to change her residence. Sending her to Ludlow was a mistake. Her physician has written to me that he fears the dampness of the castle and the climate is derogatory to her health. I wish to have her household here, at Eltham. It will be more pleasant for her, don't you think?'
'Yes,' I agree automatically. This is far better than I could have hoped for, Eltham is an easy journey from Greenwich, I could see her frequently if I am given permission. I realise what he is telling me of course, by removing her from Ludlow he sends the clear message that she will never be heir apparent, will never be prepared to be Queen. Moreover, he is letting me know that he means for her to remain a legitimate princess in the event of our marriage being annulled. Is he so confident then, of his success? It is impossible to tell what he is thinking. Even so, I cannot help but be cautiously pleased if somewhat confused as to his change of heart.
'It is settled then. We can explain it all to her when she comes to court next month.'
'Yes.' I feel that an extra declaration of gratitude is needed. 'I thank you again, Your Majesty.'
He inclines his head towards me. 'Goodnight, Katherine.'
'Goodnight, Your Majesty.'
Over the next few days the news of Mary's new title spreads and soon it appears to be the sole topic of conversation. Everyone, it seems, has a different theory about the King's intentions. I know nothing of his ultimate plan and I am driven half mad wondering what it is he means to do. Once again, another move has been made in this complicated game we are playing and I have no idea what is the best way to respond.
When Chapuys arrives early one morning the gossips are stirred into a near frenzy of excitement. Nearly a whole agonising day passes before he is free to visit me, my husband demands his prescence first and it is late afternoon before he is released. His arrival could not have been more timely, I am desperate for friendly advice which is becoming more and more impossible to find.
'Madam,' he says when we are both seated in my chambers. 'The Emperor asks Your Majesties to consider a candidate for the hand of your daughter, the Princess Mary.'
'The Emperor proposes your nephew, Infante Luís, the Duke of Beja.'
The son of my sister Maria. Her second son. Truthfully I had once hoped for a better match for Mary. As if Chapuys has access to my thoughts he says gently:
'He is presently heir to the throne of Portugal.'
'Yes. Although I hear the Queen is once again with child.'
'That is true. As you know, there have been...difficulties in the past, however,' he says carefully.
I know only too well, her situation is a parallel of my own miserable position.
'The Emperor is of the opinion that the Infante is the most suitable Imperial match for the Princess. A dispensation would be needed, of course, but the Emperor is confident that the Pope would grant one.'
'What does the King say to my nephew's proposal?'
Chapuys looks uncertain.
'He said he would consider it. He did not seem opposed to the idea. If I may be frank, Your Majesty?'
I nod, impatiently.
'He appears to want to settle the issue of the Princess's marriage with all haste. Now that he has settled the issue of her legitimacy there will be numerous offers of marriage. Thankfully, the King of France is in no position to offer the Dauphin, or indeed even the Duke of Orléans.'
That is fortunate indeed, I would rather my daughter marry a peasant than anyone of the Valois line.
'The Princess is eleven years of age, yes?' He continues. 'That means that once a betrothal is confirmed it would not be unreasonable to expect her to travel to the country of her new husband. Your daughter could be sent away within the year.'
It is true what he says, Mary might well have to leave this country sooner than I would have hoped. It will cause me great suffering for her to be so far away from me of course but I will bear it, it is the fate of all royal daughters to live far away from their family.
'At the moment,' Chapuys muses, 'the King fears an invasion by the Emperor on your behalf.'
'Is he right to do so?'
'Yes,' Chapuys says bluntly. 'However, I will be honest, Madam, if the King accepts Infante Luís for the Princess Mary then the Emperor would be far more reluctant to break such an alliance. It is almost certain that he would not. And in any case, even if the King decides on a different husband for the Princess she will still be living abroad. Once she is gone...' He trails off, clearly uncomfortable.
'Sympathy for my cause will wane,' I finish for him, matter of factly.
'Yes, I am afraid so,' he says apologetically. 'I would counsel that you make your approval known for the Emperor's choice, it would encourage the King to be generous to you in the event of...the worst.'
'He would not want to provoke the Emperor by ill-treating me,' I say, softly.
'No,' he agrees. 'He would not. Marriage of the Princess to Infante Luís will also ensure your own protection in the event that the annulment is granted.'
'Do you know of the King's plans for me, if...' I cannot bear to speak of defeat, even now when it is looming larger than ever.
'It is likely you will be given properties and land, unless you decide to take Holy Orders. I believe you would live comfortably. He will marry the Lady Anne, although he seems less enraptured with her than before. It is too late to retreat from that promise.'
'And if our marriage is declared valid?'
Worryingly, he looks more disturbed by that possibility than the other.
'Madam, I do not know,' he says, after a short silence. 'Truthfully, I am concerned that he will banish you from court, regardless. There is disturbing evidence that he has been consulting with Reformists and means to break with Rome if he is not granted the annulment.'
I am horrified. In my worst moments of doubt I have never feared something so grave.
'He would go so far?' I gasp.
'We all pray that he will not,' he says, attempting to sound reassuring but failing, 'I do not believe that he wants to. If Wolsey is reinstated then certainly, the likelihood of that happening will lessen. No-one can be sure what the King truly intends, he is too changeable to predict his actions. We must wait. Wait and pray.'
It is only the next day that the waiting finally ends. The next day when, ten minutes after a rider is spotted in the courtyard wearing my daughter's livery, Henry bursts into the chapel where I am hearing Mass and commands that I prepare myself to leave at once. Mary is gravely ill and we must go to her immediately.
A/N Okay, so I've obviously taken a lot of historical liberties in this chapter. I've moved up the timeline of the Great Matter a bit so the year is 1527. With regards to Infante Luís, I think he is the 'Dom Luís' that Chapuys mentions in S3E04, I researched a bit about who would have been available for Mary to marry on the Emperor's side (on the internet, I'll admit) and he seems to be the only one in any way suitable. He was the second son of Manuel I of Portugal and Maria of Aragon so he and Mary would have been first cousins. At the time John III was King of Portugal and was childless as his first child, Infante Afonso, had died as an infant in 1526. His brother, Infante Luís, would therefore have been heir presumptive. However, his wife, Catherine of Austria, did eventually give birth to two children who survived to adulthood- (after a string of stillbirths and children who died young-sound familiar?) Maria Manuela in 1527 and John Manuel in 1537 so, as far as I can gather, Infante Luís would no longer have been heir to the throne after Maria Manuela's birth. So, when Chapuys tells Henry VIII and Jane Seymour 'Dom Luís' is heir to the throne of Portugal in the show, that is incorrect. Unless 'Don Luís' is just a completely fictional character which is entirely possible.