Chapter 3 – Not As It Seems: Cecily wasn't really surprised to find that their first night as a couple set the tone for the next few months. She and Philip were formally polite to each other in public, and at night... Well. The marriage bed was one of the more enjoyable parts of this situation, as it turned out. Not that she'd admit it out loud when it made her cheeks burn even to think about it, but still. At least there was one advantage to it.
Otherwise... In some ways, life continued for her as it had before. Her formal schooling had ended with her marriage, but she'd always enjoyed languages, and she was considering adding Portuguese to her repertoire. After all, her new husband was half Portuguese, and Portuguese nobles were a relatively common sight here. Dutch was another possibility, as Philip would almost certainly inherit the Netherlands, and then it would be good for her to speak the language. And she was learning more about the history of Spain. Of course, she had studied it at home, but there was nothing like being able to study a country's history in that country. She'd spoken to Philip about the palace library, and spending time there. He'd been clearly startled, but told her that she was allowed there whenever she wished, as long as she did not allow it to distract her from doing what was expected as his wife, in bed and in public.
As though she would, as though that wasn't the entire point. The fact of the matter was, she was Princess of Asturias now, the wife of Spain's Regent and future King. She was in the same position as her stepmother, only in reverse. But Katherine's example was a good one to follow, in this regard. Becoming Spanish was the only way to proceed. Or rather, not simply Spanish, since even if he wasn't able to follow his father as Holy Roman Emperor, Philip would inherit more than just Spain. But Cecily knew what she was doing.
She was doing what her mother had done as well, to an extent. Anne Boleyn had faced people who weren't sure she was fit to be the mother of England's heirs, who felt that her position should not be as prominent as it was. Besides all that, she'd been merely the daughter of a knight before catching the King's eye, and had needed to learn how to be royal. Her stepmother and her mother had both won the affections of the English people, and had never lost that love.
There were worse examples than the women in her life to follow.
She was pulled from her musings by Lady Herbert clearing her throat. "Your Highness, Sir Thomas Wyatt is here."
Cecily smiled, thinking of her father's ambassador at Philip's court. She couldn't help but like Wyatt; he was old enough to be her father but his disarming nature endeared her to him. "Send him in, then," she said with a nod. Lady Herbert escorted Wyatt in, and he swept her a bow. Cecily inclined her head gracefully, beckoning for her ladies to leave. Lady Herbert hesitated, but Cecily sent her an imperious look that was a perfect echo of her father's, and the woman retreated.
"Your Highness, it is good to see you."
"And you, Sir Thomas. Tell me, what news from home?" It was such a relief to speak her native tongue. Even with her English ladies she endeavored to speak some Spanish, if for no other reason than to force the more stubborn among them to learn the language.
Wyatt looked up into pale blue eyes so like ones he had once admired in the Princess' mother. He'd loved Anne Boleyn once, and part of him loved her still. But he was married for a second time, to Elizabeth Darrell, and he loved her even more. Still, Cecily's resemblance to her mother, even more pronounced than her younger sister's thanks to her dark coloring, made him want to see her happy.
"Your brother the Prince of Wales is settled in Ludlow, with your uncle George as head of his household. As for your youngest brother, Prince Owen, he has been officially invested with the title of Duke of York. Your sister's marriage to the Duke of Orleans has been finalized, and she will travel to France in a year's time," he reported, knowing that this was not all she would wish to hear. "And also, I have letters for you, from your mother, stepmother, and your elder sister."
"Thank you, Sir Thomas," Cecily said, unable to keep the bright grin from her face as she held out a hand to receive the letters he held out to her. "This is a most welcome surprise. Though I am concerned about Elizabeth's marriage. Does my father mean to choose Francis over Charles?"
Wyatt sighed. "I think, Your Highness, that your father means to play one against the other. It has not been finalized yet, but there is very serious talk of your brother Edmund marrying the young Queen of Scotland, Mary Stewart."
"And so their child would inherit a united Britain, as is my father's not-so-secret dream," Cecily said with a wry smile. "I'm not surprised."
"No, I don't think anyone is," Wyatt admitted. She was, he reflected, entirely too easy to talk to, just like her mother. He told her the rest of the news from England before excusing himself.
Cecily heard her ladies return as the ambassador left, but she wasn't paying them any mind as she cracked open the seal on the first letter. She hadn't really looked at it first, but the entwined rose and ivy vines told her who it was immediately. Cecily didn't know why Mary had chosen that as her new sigil after her marriage to Philip of Bavaria, but Mary had written that there was sentimental meaning to it.
So, I'm told that your marriage to my cousin has finally gone through. Congratulations, though if you're still as displeased with the match as you were before, that might seem inappropriate. But I mean it. I want you to be happy.
I write to you as I write to my mother, so that the two of you are the first to know – excepting Philip, of course. I am with child, and expect the baby to come before the year is out. It's a great joy to us, especially as I have had trouble before. You know about my miscarriages, and I beg for you to pray for me, that all may be well this time.
Write to me, and tell me all about your new life in Spain. I hope that things are better than you feared, and even if they are not now... You should give your husband a chance, you know. If both of you try, surely it can work out for you.
Cecily smiled, lightly trailing her fingertips over the familiar handwriting. Even after years, she still missed her sister so much it hurt, and every letter was like getting a warm embrace from the older girl she had all but idolized as a child. And the news in it... Mary was pregnant again! Cecily just hoped all would go well for Mary this time; her sister deserved it.
Setting Mary's letter aside, she picked up the next one – Katherine's, from the pomegranate seal – but didn't have a chance to open it before her husband was announced and he strode in. Her ladies quickly rose from their seats and curtsied deeply. Cecily rose and made a slight curtsey, as shallow as she could get away with. It was petty, but gave her some small satisfaction. And, now, some guilt as she thought of Mary exhorting her to try harder with Philip, but she pushed that away. Mary had married for love and policy both; she could not truly understand.
Philip said nothing, even though his eyes narrowed. This was how they dealt with each other, both ignoring the petty little offenses the other indulged in when given the chance. In this way, they got to emphasize their continued dislike without causing any sort of uproar unsuited to their rank. Instead he came right to the point. "I wished to inform you, in person, that we will be leaving on progress soon, to tour the Hapsburg lands and meet with my father the Emperor in the Low Countries," he told his wife coolly. "He will wish to see that we are getting on."
Cecily nodded politely. "I see. Well, then we must not disappoint him by appearing to be anything less than pleased with our fate."
"No, we cannot, madam."
"God, she is so infuriating! I would rather that she flare up at me, perhaps then we could have this out and be done with it! I am sick of us both upholding this false politeness, it makes me ill!" Philip fumed, pacing his study.
Luis frowned, not sure why it bothered Philip so much. "Why would you want a scene?" he asked reasonably. "I can't see how that would be preferable – wasn't your grandfather Philip the Fair tormented by your grandmother Juana's passionate scenes?"
"That was different," Philip said briskly. "Grandmother Juana is mad, of course such incidents were horrible." He almost choked on what he was saying, since he knew it to be a lie, but Luis did not know, and never could. "And I don't mean that I want the confrontation to happen in public, merely that I wish it to happen. This forced truce galls me and I would like nothing more than to take her to task for her stubborn disrespect, but she always stops just short of giving me a reason to do so."
The young prince shook his head, turning away from his friend. Luis could not understand, he thought irritably. Of course the older boy could not comprehend what it was like to bed a wife who was as much enemy as anything, to wonder whether her dislike would suddenly explode into a public disaster. He wanted to have it out with her once and for all, to make sure she knew her place and to never defy him again, even in her subtle ways.
He didn't know what it was. But there was something about the distance in those pale eyes, the cold prettiness of his wife, that drove him half-mad. He hated her, but he had also found in himself a deep desire for her, to want to have her be completely his. But she wasn't. He possessed her, had claimed her virginity and her body for the rest of their lives, but she was not his. She slipped through his fingers constantly, as though it were her greatest joy to do so. And perhaps it was.
"She is my wife, but she is not mine," he said finally. "It is not how things should be." His voice was quiet but the intensity of his tone showed just how deeply he felt the frustration of this, and he was so caught in his brooding that he did not see Luis' eyes narrow thoughtfully. He was too lost in contemplating his situation, unable to find a solution for it.
"My father will be meeting us while we are on progress, and he is going to want to see that we are getting on," he said grimly. "And he is an excellent reader of people; he will know that we are not, and he will disapprove." And so two wishes were driving him mad together; the need to please his father, and the desire to fully possess his ice princess of a wife. Neither seemed to be within his grasp.
And there was something else. A promise he had made, long ago, to a woman for whom he could do nothing except keep to his word.
It was surely nearing daybreak now, a sleepless Philip thought. He sat in the window seat of his wife's bedchamber, looking out at his slumbering city. He loved Spain, loved it in a way his father, a Hapsburg to the life, never could. And that love had come to him honestly.
She would never understand that, Philip told himself, glancing at his sleeping wife. Like that, he could see why the young men of the court admired her, and were already beginning to make her the target of the loveplay that most royal courts engaged in. When she was awake, even when he was bedding her, the ice in her eyes was too strong for him to think her beautiful. But whatever he thought of her looks, he was sure she could not understand the love of a ruler for his country.
Looking out the window again, he berated himself for brooding. It wasn't like him, but he'd been doing more and more of it lately. He couldn't even blame it on Cecily; this trait was starting before she came. Unfortunately.
He didn't even notice when Cecily stirred. "Is something wrong?" she asked, frowning at his silhouette.
He turned to look at her, seeing the light of the one candle he'd lit flickering in her eyes. "I am simply thinking about a trip we must take before leaving on progress," he said stiffly.
Cecily tilted her head and raised an eyebrow, though she knew the light was too dim for him to see the gesture. "Where will we be going?"
"Tordesillas," he told her, voice clipped.
Cecily sat bolt upright. She knew that name. Katherine had told her about that place once, and the woman who lived there, closeted away from the world. "Your grandmother lives there," she said. It wasn't a question. "But she..." Katherine had always denied it, blamed her brother-in-law for spreading those lies and convincing the world of them, but how could the story have been so convincing if Juana of Castile was sane after all?
"Is mad?" Philip snapped. "Is that what you are thinking?"
"It's what everyone says," Cecily replied slowly, wondering just what she was getting into with this conversation.
"It's a lie," Philip snarled, and then he seemed to remember himself. He looked away from her again, staring out as the sun began to rise. "It was a lie, begun by my grandfather and continued by my great-grandfather, to take my grandmother's crown from her. My father, well... He chooses to continue it, because it causes less scandal this way than the other. He's not enough his mother's son, not Spanish enough to care anyway."
Cecily couldn't imagine a family like that, not when she'd grown up in the middle of a royal family that, while unusual, had never lacked for love. She also couldn't imagine why Philip would be telling her this. They hated each other, so... "Then why are you telling me?"
Philip smiled bitterly. "Because you can't tell anyone, it would be a risk for you now that you're my wife. And in any case, I promised her years ago she could meet my wife, the woman who would eventually be Queen of Spain instead of her, so you need to know." His eyes flickered, and then he added, "And you're close to her sister, Katherine. I hear she never believed her sister was mad, only in pain. I thought you might want to know your beloved stepmother was right."
Cecily just stared at him. What on earth was she supposed to say to that?
Tordesillas was... forbidding. That was the only word Cecily could think of to describe it. Perhaps it was because she knew that the place was a prison, but it gave her the same chill that the sight of the Tower always did. She couldn't imagine being forced to spend all her days here, as Philip's grandmother did.
And speaking of her husband... There was a grim anger in his face as he rode beside her looking up at the approaching castle, and it was an expression she'd never seen from him before. It told her how serious this was, and how much it mattered to him. Cecily didn't know how she felt about that. It had been comforting to think of Philip as a spoiled prince who didn't really care about anyone but himself, but here she was, faced with proof that he was not.
Someone reined in their horse by her other side, and Cecily turned to meet the eyes of her sister-in-law, Juana. Cecily liked Juana; she was much easier to get along with than her brother, with a sense of mischief that made Cecily wonder what would happen if Juana and Elizabeth ever met. But at the moment there was no tricksy gleam in Juana's dark eyes; just a quiet sadness.
"I was named for her, you know," she said quietly. "Philip took it worse than I did, when we met her and realized that she wasn't... He feels he has his crown by thievery, and it bothers him. Even though our grandmother has given him her blessing – more than she ever gave to Father, I suspect – he feels like it should be her running Spain, not him."
Cecily bit her lip. She didn't want to sympathize with Philip, but... That was terrible, and for a moment she had an urge to tell him that he was foolish, and he was a good Regent – she didn't like her husband but a blind man could see how seriously he took his duty to his country. She would acknowledge that one good trait in him. And she would even admit that he didn't deserve the guilt that he was carrying over this. His father did it, not him.
She just didn't want to have to tell Philip that. It wasn't her place to do it.
They reached the castle and timid servants led their horses away and trailed them as they went inside. Philip waved everyone, even Juana, away and beckoned to Cecily. For once she went without any irritation. She was too nervous for that.
He led her up a long flight of stairs, to what she thought had to be the highest floor in the entire building, until they stood before a heavy wooden door. Philip pushed it open, and Cecily held her breath, not at all sure what she would find inside.
A/N: Er, no, that's not a cliffhanger after all this time, why would you think that... The good news is, I actually have some idea of how the next chapter's supposed to go, if it helps.