Disclaimer: Funnily enough, Cecily actually is mine, along with anyone else who didn't actually exist in history or the show. Everything else… no, not mine.
A/N: If you have not read my fic Handmaid, this story won't make much sense at all.
Derek: So happy you could come
Odette: So happy to be here
Derek/Odette: How I'd like to run…
Derek/Odette: For as long as I remember
We've been told we'd someday wed…
Derek: I can do much better, I am sure
Odette: He's so immature… From 'This is My Idea', The Swan Princess
Prologue – This Is Not My Idea: Princess Cecily Tudor was only a few months shy of her fifteenth birthday, old enough to be a wife and mother. So she was now to be shipped off to Spain to marry the idiot boy she'd been betrothed to at the age of four. Her opinion had remained unchanged where Philip of Spain was concerned, despite the nicely polite letters she had received over the intervening years since their meeting. Her tutors assigned her to write to him – she imagined that everything he wrote was of a similar nature.
She had used the past ten years to her benefit, however. She'd spent a lot of time with her Spanish stepmother, learning everything she could about what it was like to be a stranger in a new country, and about the Spanish language and people. While Katherine's knowledge on the last might be somewhat dated, it was better than nothing. Katherine had also encouraged an acquaintance with Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador, who was able to help Cecily even more. She had done all she could to be ready for her new position, though it didn't make her any happier about her future husband.
"Cecily, Princess of Asturias," she said to her reflection. "I'd rather stay Princess of England, thanks ever so."
"I wish you could too," said a voice. She glanced around to see her six-year-old brother, Owen, in her doorway.
"What are you doing here, Scamp?" she said, walking over to ruffle the boy's dark hair.
"Mama and Papa said we could come down from Hatfield to see you off," he said. "Are you really going?" His eyes, as dark as her own, were bright with unshed tears.
Cecily stared at the little boy, a memory flashing through her mind.
"Do you really have to go?" seven-year-old Cecily asked pleadingly, looking up at her beloved older sister. Mary knelt so that the two girls were at the same eyelevel before pulling the younger girl into a tight hug.
"Yes, I do, Cecily."
"Because I'm going to marry Philip, and I love him." Mary spoke gently, trying not to make the small girl even more upset.
"Don't you love us, Mary? Don't you love me?"
"Of course I do, but this is what happens to princesses. We have to marry and leave our homes, it's part of our duty. You'll understand someday. But I promise, I'll always love you, and I'll write, and maybe you can visit us someday in Bavaria."
Now it was Cecily on her knees, hugging a younger sibling tightly. Bess and Edmund had always had each other, so by default, Owen had attached himself to her from an early age, much like how she had once attached herself to Mary. So she knew what her little brother was going through, and it helped her understand how Mary must have felt. For a moment she forgot all about her own sulkiness to comfort the small boy who would no longer be her shadow.
Palace of Los Pimentel
"Well, I for one can't wait to meet her," Philip's sister Juana teased, smirking widely at her brother's scowl. "Especially if she has you this irritated – it takes a lot to make my stoic brother obviously upset."
"Do be quiet, little sister," Philip snarled, glaring at her. For the most part, he had escaped his sister once becoming Regent of Spain, but she was here now to help welcome his new bride. That thought only made his mood even worse.
He remembered the upstart girl who had yelled at him years ago on his visit to England, acting as though she were his equal when she most certainly was not. He'd never met a female with such audacity before. It had infuriated him even then, and now… Now the thought of being married to the chit had his blood boiling. There had to be some way out of it. But he knew that there was not. He would just have to learn to live with it.
He considered the coolly polite letters he had received from his betrothed over the past five years. They held no hint of the girl he remembered, but he imagined her tutor had made sure of that just as his own had kept his letters to a proper tone. Still, he supposed it was possible that she could have grown up – if he was extremely lucky, anyway. But betrothal to Cecily Tudor had already convinced him that he was not.
He would just have to learn to live with her, as she would with him. He was not a child, he could accept it. But he was not happy about it, and he did not need his sister's teasing. "Juana, if you can do nothing but mock me, please leave me alone."
Juana rolled her eyes but flounced out of the room, leaving Philip alone with a growing headache. He turned his head toward the portrait on his desk. His father and King Henry had decided it would be a nice gesture if he and Cecily sent each other their portraits, so they had done so. He could still see hints of the little girl he'd known in the admittedly attractive young woman in the portrait, but there was a hint of something in the dark eyes that told him she was not going to be easy to deal with, no matter how pretty she was.
Cecily managed to smile at Kitty Culpepper. The older girl was one of her favorites among the ladies assigned to go to Spain with her. Kitty was also her cousin, having been born a Howard – and her husband was also part of Cecily's household, as her master of horse. Kitty, despite being four years Cecily's senior, was a fun-loving girl who could sometimes be a little silly. But she was loyal, and she was someone Cecily had grown up around – Kitty had been pressed into service as a maid of honor to Cecily's mother as soon as she turned twelve, which was the earliest a girl was usually accepted into a royal consort's household. Six years in Anne's service made Kitty one of Cecily's senior ladies, though she didn't always behave as such. But then, if she did, she wouldn't be Kitty.
Her cousin's sunny nature was the only thing that kept Cecily smiling. She'd left her family behind forever three days ago, and she was finding it hard to display that serenely smiling mask that she had always known was appropriate to a princess. It was times like these when she wished she was more like Bess, who, while she was as good as either of their parents at pouring on the charm, often refused to bother hiding when she was unhappy. But Cecily had spent too much of her early childhood with her stepmother and elder sister, and both of them always showed quietly happy faces to the public, no matter what their true feelings.
It was a talent her mother also did her best to emulate, and as a rule the Princess Consort did rather well with it, but she herself said she would never quite manage it as well as the Queen did. But Cecily loved her mother more in some ways because she'd never fully lost that part of her that had been born a knight's daughter. It made her more approachable sometimes. And then there was her father, who'd never totally lost his boyishness. Edmund, who tried so hard to be the perfect Prince of Wales, their father's ideal heir, focusing only on that until Cecily just wanted to shake him and tell him that he was fantastic as he was, and didn't need to try to be anything else. Bess, as fiery as her hair, who went her own way and dared anyone to stop her. Little Owen, who followed Cecily around the same way she had followed Mary. And even poor Edward, her father's son by another woman, who watched them with longing in the eyes that looked just like their father's.
She'd been so lost without her older sister; would Owen be the same without her? Who would step in on the handful of occasions when Edmund and Bess actually flared up at each other? Would Edward ever be a true part of the family? And how could she keep smiling when she didn't have her father to tease her out of her bad moods? How would she handle the responsibilities of being a princess without Katherine's advice to fall back on? How would she ever feel totally safe when she might never be with her mother again? The thoughts rushed through her, emotion closing her throat, as she thought of all that she was leaving behind. It wasn't fair!
But she was a princess, and no one would ever know that she wanted to cry, or scream. She would not shame her family that way. And she would never allow herself to appear homesick when she arrived in Spain, giving her future husband an excuse to belittle her. So she lifted her chin and walked onto the ship, knowing that there was a chance she may never return to English soil.
Cecily got her first glimpse of Spain when her ship, Tudor Rose, sailed into Coruna. Coruna was very like Southampton, she noticed, a busy seaport city. But it was so hot! Katherine had warned her that it was much warmer in Spain, that it would make English summers seem almost cold in comparison. Cecily hadn't believed her. She did now. How could she possibly live here without burning up? How did anyone live here?
Her party set off from Coruna on horseback the next morning, having spent the night with a local noble as their host. Cecily was glad at first that she was to ride in a litter, hoping that it would block the sun, but she soon found that it was unbearably hot when the curtains were closed. So she opened them, exposing herself to the stares of curious passersby. She was used to the eyes of the public, but not so focused on her. When she appeared with the adults of her family, the focus was on them, and when she was out with her siblings, everyone's attention was immediately drawn to Edmund as the heir, and then to Elizabeth, whose fiery red hair always caught the eye. Now all eyes were on her, and it was a little unsettling.
They'd watched her in England, when she traveled from London to Southampton, but it had been different. The people knew her there, and while they enjoyed seeing her, they didn't watch with the same hungry curiosity that the Spanish people did. It was unsettling, though she smiled and waved just as she had in England. They were watching her for a show, so she would give them one.
When they reached Valladolid, Cecily's own curiosity rose. She was relatively familiar with London, her own country's capital city, but this was a new place. She hoped there would be something familiar in it. Thankfully, there was, in the crowds and the noise, the market stalls and the children running around underfoot. But the way they stopped what they were doing, or at least slowed down, to get a look at her, took some of that comfort away. She wanted to go home.
She was surprised to see a royal party riding toward her own, with a young man at its head. She recognized Philip from his portrait, and even without it, she would still have known him, as there was some hints of the small boy he had been still lingering in his face. He had fulfilled the promise of his child self, growing into a handsome young man. But she saw the arrogant lift of his chin and knew he had not changed. So she would have to marry a cocky, entitled little boy. She had expected that, but it was still annoying.
Holding her own head high, she waited while he dismounted and offered a hand to help her out of the litter. She didn't need it, really, but she knew quite well that it was the proper thing to do, so she took the hand with a polite smile. When she was out of the litter, she swept him a deep curtsey. "It is a pleasure to see you again, my lord husband," she said, in a clear, carrying voice. They were performing for an audience, after all. And calling him 'husband' was not inaccurate; they had been married by proxy already, after all.
"The pleasure is mine," Philip said as he raised her up, kissing her formally on both cheeks. "You are welcome to Spain."
His words met with approval, clearly, since the gathered people were cheering. Cecily kept her polite smile on her face, thinking cynically that Philip certainly knew how to put on a show for his people. But she'd seen the disdain in his eyes and knew his feelings had changed as much as hers had – which meant not one jot. And she was fine with that. At least they agreed on something.