Disclaimer: Nope, not mine.
Chapter 22 – Whatever Tomorrow Wants From Me: "I'm sorry, what did you just say?" Jane's voice was incredulous. "You must be joking. Father is going to marry me to Charles Brandon? He can't do that!"
Edward raised an eyebrow. "I suppose it's technically my responsibility and not his, but that's irrelevant. I don't see what the trouble is; Brandon's the best available match in England. You'll be a duchess." Of course, he wasn't being entirely truthful; he could guess at her objections, but didn't she see that there was no point?
"Married to a man who couldn't even be bothered to treat a royal wife with courtesy! Married to a man who hates our family. No, Edward, I can't see any reason why I should object!" Jane's voice was cutting, her eyes blazing. Inwardly, Edward was impressed; it was easy to forget that Jane had a temper.
"That's the point," he said. "Brandon's an enemy, and he needs to be turned into an ally again. We can't afford to have him against us. You're an intelligent woman, I'm sure you already worked that out for yourself."
"And how exactly am I to change his mind?"
"Feminine wiles?" Edward regretted the flippant comment as soon as he made it, even before his sister's hand connected with his cheek. He would have said something about that had he not been so stunned, but before he could regain his control, Jane stood abruptly, storming from the room. She almost ran down Ann in the doorway, but didn't even pause to apologize. Ann, for her part, moved to let her by, shaking her head as the door slammed shut. Then she turned to Edward, raising an eyebrow, her eyes lingering on what he suspected was a red mark on his cheek.
"I take it you told her."
Edward scowled, knowing from the look in her eyes that his wife was amused. "It isn't funny."
"Well, that depends on your perspective," Ann said, crossing the room and moving behind him. She slipped her arms around him and rested her head on his shoulder. "I found it most amusing, especially seeing so-calm Jane in a temper."
"Why does that not surprise me?"
"You know me very well."
Edward sighed, drumming his fingers on his desk. "I just hope she comes around. If she's truly set against it, Anne won't talk to the King about it. And we need Jane to marry Brandon; it's the best chance we have of keeping him from being a truly dangerous enemy and not just an irritating one."
"So, once she calms down, make sure she sees that if she doesn't put it together herself. Jane's loyal to this family; put it like that and she'll understand."
Edward shook his head. "I certainly hope so. Unless she gets Anne to stop it, she isn't going to have a choice. Though I suppose her resentment might help too..." He trailed off, considering that new angle.
Ann moved back a bit, enough to give him a quizzical look. "Usually I know what you're planning, but I admit I'm a bit confused. If she's angry... Oh," she said after a moment, comprehension dawning. "She still isn't about to turn on Anne, and there's a chance that if she and Brandon are equally irritated, they might find common ground in that."
"Exactly," Edward said. "Of course, it still depends on one or both of the girls being practical and cool-headed, which they can't always be relied upon to be."
"They'll come round. And you worry far too much."
"With what we're playing for? Someone has to."
Of course, Edward went and made a botch of it. Men! This was the best thing for the family, but that wasn't the way to put it, that just made it seem awful. He should have said it would be a good match for Jane herself – she got to mother the Brandon children, just as she'd wanted to mother children, and she would be a duchess. Were Jane anyone else, Mary would also consider her fortunate to have such a skilled lover as Charles Brandon in her bed, but Jane had always been... odd, that way.
Admittedly, it did make sense for the family's needs. Even Anne thought so, and would speak to the King about convincing Brandon. She would have been the one going to talk to Jane, too, but she'd been feeling unwell that morning and didn't think leaving her bedchamber was the best idea. Mary had her suspicions about her sister's mild 'illness' but she kept them to herself. Now wasn't the time to speculate, really.
So, here she was, knocking on Jane's door. When she got no answer, she stepped inside, finding her sister lying across her bed in her gown and everything, only her hood tossed to the other side of the room and leaving her blonde hair loose. Jane looked up just a little, and smiled wanly at the sight of Mary. "If you're here to tell me that marrying Brandon is my duty, and what this family needs, I already know, Mary."
Mary sat on the edge of the bed, brushing a bit of hair out of Jane's eyes. "Then why are you here alone, without even a candle lit?" There was still enough light coming in from the windows to see by, but it was late afternoon so that wouldn't be the case for much longer. Jane closed her eyes.
"I'm just thinking," she said. "Reconciling myself to this. I wanted to get married, but... Not to a man who will hate me even before I have his ring on my finger. I'm not like Anne, or even you; I'm not the sort who can charm a man. I don't even want to, but now I'll have to."
Mary looked at her sympathetically. "Well, it won't be impossible. You're a pretty woman, Brandon loves women."
"And hates our entire family," Jane pointed out. And then her expression changed, turning thoughtful as she absently nibbled on her thumbnail. Mary watched in growing concern. The look in Jane's eyes was unsettlingly like Edward's when he was scheming – it was easy to forget that the two of them had things in common, sometimes. "That could be useful, though," she said. "If he resents me, and I convince him that I resent Father and possibly Edward for the marriage as well... It gives us common ground."
"Because you're both trapped in a marriage you don't want, and so it helps you both to cooperate? Would you even be pretending?"
"Not entirely," Jane said frankly. "Exaggerating, certainly. I may not like this marriage but even I didn't want to marry an old man nearly on his deathbed, or someone who would beat me. Brandon's negligent as a husband, but he doesn't really seem like the type to hit his wife, any more than he seems likely to force himself on a woman. Which is another relief for me."
"I'm not sure... Brandon is a lusty man, he might..." Mary said doubtfully. Jane shook her head as she sat up, pushing blonde hair out of her eyes.
"No, I don't think so – I think he's too proud, too convinced that his charm and his looks can get any woman to open her legs eventually, so forcing the issue wouldn't be to his taste. But in any case, I'm going to have to marry him. I may as well use the marriage as it's intended to be used."
"Do you think it will really work?"
"I hate to say it, but is there a better option?"
Brandon called his children and his ward together to tell them the news, clenching his jaw as they filed into his study. He didn't want to make this announcement – didn't want to do what he was announcing – but it wasn't as though he had a choice. "The King has declared that I have been unmarried long enough," he said, striving to keep his voice even. "And since I've been remiss in finding a new wife, he has chosen one for me. I am to marry Lady Jane Seymour – she is the sister of Lady Anne Boleyn, our King's betrothed." Our King's mistress, he thought, but didn't say. Ella and Ned glanced at each other and up at Sarah; they were still so young, and barely remembered Margaret. So Jane, for good or ill, would be the closest thing to a mother they would know. Margaret would have been furious.
And she wasn't the only one. Oh, it was there only for a moment, but he saw that moment of fury in Catherine Willoughby's eyes. Those rumors... Back when Margaret had died, there had been whispers that he would marry her; even Anthony had heard them, and asked him about it. But Charles had never meant to marry Catherine, and he'd told her so.
"You're a lovely girl, Catherine, so I don't want you to think I'm rejecting you. In all honesty, I do not intend to marry again."
"I understand, Your Grace. I never thought anything of it."
Charles had wondered then if she'd meant that – now he knew she hadn't, not entirely. Once that would have made him smug; now he just hoped it wasn't going to make this already-unpleasant situation worse. The truth was, he was very fond of Catherine, perhaps too fond. Had he wanted to remarry, he likely would have chosen her. But he didn't, and the choice was taken away from him.
He dismissed them, and leaned back in his chair. It did occur to him, briefly, to feel a moment's pity for Jane Seymour; she was likely just as unhappy about this as he was. Or perhaps not; perhaps she was happy to do anything she could for that sister of hers. How was he supposed to know? His future wife was a pale blonde shadow behind Anne Boleyn, the quiet one who never seemed all that interested in the men of the court.
Anthony would tell him more, if he asked. He remembered back before the Sweat, some had thought there was a romance between Anthony and Jane, himself included. But when he'd asked his friend about it, all he'd gotten was a laugh and a decisive answer that no, there was nothing but friendship there.
Not that he'd care if he had an unfaithful wife – in fact, that would be a boon to him, as an excuse to annul it and end this. Although... There were other ways to get an annulment, even if it had to wait.
"I am sorry. You do know that, don't you?" Jane had to keep herself from either snapping or rolling her eyes – Anne was saying that entirely too much these days. If you were truly sorry, you wouldn't have spoken to the King. But that wasn't fair, since even Jane had accepted the necessity of marrying Brandon.
That had been a much easier thing to do in her bedchamber, with Mary trying to comfort her, than it was now, sitting in front of a mirror as her maid brushed out her long blonde hair. Her dress was a bright blue that made her eyes a slightly darker shade of blue than they usually were, and her jewelry matched – sapphires in silver. She liked how she looked, but at the same time... This made it all real.
I don't want to marry him, she thought grimly, and wondered what her mother had thought during her two marriages. She couldn't ask, because Margery was dying. Oh, no one would say so, but the coughing had gotten worse, and she was at Hever 'resting'. Why didn't I ask before? When I still could? She knew the answer. Because Mary had been half in love with Hal before they married, because Anne's situation had never been normal, and Jane hadn't stopped to consider that her marriage would be so very typical.
And, really, she didn't want to know that her mother had never loved Thomas Boleyn, had only married him to secure her children. She didn't want to know that her father by blood, so jolly with his children from what little she recalled, was not nearly so pleasant a husband. She knew some of it anyway, from things she'd heard over the years. She didn't need it confirmed, by her mother's words or the look in her eyes.
"Jane?" Anne sounded worried.
"You are still angry."
"No," Jane said, turning to face her sister. "I'm just... not so cold as to cheerfully go to bed with an enemy. That's all."
"Anne, don't. Honestly, I don't want to hear that again. It's all right. Brandon and I will learn to deal with each other, and I'll have his children to raise." Turning back to the mirror, even she could see that her eyes were a little brighter at that thought. She'd wanted a family; she would still have that even if the circumstances were less than ideal.
The wedding and the feast afterwards seemed to go by in a blur. Jane remembered only snatches of it – Brandon's quick kiss at the end of the ceremony, surprisingly cool for a man of his known appetites, being spun around by Tom in a dance as he tried to make her smile, the King laughing and offering his congratulations...
But the night was over all too soon, and she found herself alone in the Duke's chambers, standing at the window in her nightgown, waiting for him. The door opened and Brandon stepped in, stripped down to nightclothes as well. "Go to sleep," he told her gruffly.
"You don't want me, I don't like to force women, and I've no interest in seducing you tonight. I'm angry and half-drunk and just go to sleep, my lady wife, because tomorrow we have to be a married couple and I'm sure you are no happier about that than I am." He climbed into the bed and rolled away from her, seeming as though he were sleeping.
Jane narrowed her eyes, tapping her bare foot lightly on the floor. Now, this she hadn't expected. Why in the world would he...? Oh. A marriage could be set aside for non-consummation. Well. Jane couldn't say she was sorry to put the bedding off, but Brandon's motivation was singularly inconvenient.
But there was nothing she could do about it, so she went to bed. When she woke, she was alone, but, tellingly, there were no signs of servants having come in yet. There was also no sign of her new husband. It didn't take her long to find a small dagger in Brandon's chambers, and she clenched her jaw to keep silent as she cut her foot. It was a small cut, but enough to leave a smear of blood on the sheets.
She might not have wanted this, but it had happened, her family needed this, and Charles Brandon was not going to trick his way out of it. Perhaps she had learned more from her more ruthless siblings than even she had realized.
It was only a week after Charles married Anne's sister Jane that Henry stood next to Anne in a chilly room deep within the bowels of the palace. As it happened, they were waiting for Charles, who was to be the last of the witnesses for his and Anne's wedding. "Where is he?" Henry snapped. "Where's Suffolk?" He looked over at Anne's sister Jane, Charles' new wife, but she only looked back apologetically.
"I'm sorry, Your Majesty, I don't know where..." Just then, Charles came in, and Henry smacked him in the stomach for his lateness before turning his attention back to the priest. This, a quiet wedding in the bowels of the palace, was far from what he'd wanted for his and Anne's marriage. He had dreamed of a brilliant spectacle in Westminster Abbey, one that would put the long-ago marriage of Arthur and Katherine to shame – his own false marriage to Katherine had begun with a quiet ceremony, because of his father's recent death.
But with Katherine having turned out so recalcitrant, and the Pope in thrall to the Emperor – even if Henry could understand the Pope's position in some ways; if he found for the truth, for Henry, another sack of Rome might be the least he could expect – this was their only option. Subterfuge, and then a quick annulment of his 'marriage' to Katherine by Cranmer now that the Church of England was independent of Rome. They would announce that first, and then his new marriage to Anne during Holy Week; she would make her first public appearance as Queen for the Midnight Mass.
Henry pushed those thoughts aside to speak his vows, looking into Anne's eyes as he said the words. He might be unhappy with the surroundings, but he could never be unhappy with what he was doing – with what they were doing. And when he slipped his ring on her finger, when Anne said the words back to him and gave him her ring...
Anne's new motto was 'The Most Happy', but at this moment, drawing Anne in for their first kiss as man and wife, Henry thought that could easily be his motto.
"My Lord Beauchamp, may we speak?" Edward turned at the sound of the accented voice to see the Portuguese ambassador. Cristovao Almeida was about Edward's age, remarkably young to be the primary ambassador in a foreign court, but he was the King of Portugal's cousin on his mother's side. That likely had a great deal to do with it, as did the fact that Almeida was good at it. He was a canny sort, not unlike his Imperial counterpart, but unlike Chapuys, he wasn't a known enemy of their family. But none of that explained what he wanted.
"Of course, Excellency," Edward said briskly. "What can I do for you?"
"I simply wished for you to pass on my cousin and King's congratulations to your sister, who I understand will soon be crowned."
"I will do so gladly," Edward said politely, but he waited for Almeida to continue. There wasn't the slightest chance that the ambassador only wanted to say that. Luckily, he didn't need to wait for long.
"It is a pity that so soon after the successful visit to Calais, the French King should prove so unfaithful to his promises," Almeida began. "I am sure His Majesty – and your sister – must be grieved by Francis'... duplicity."
"On the contrary, we English know to expect such behavior from the French. It's hardly the first time they've done it. Now, if you'll forgive my rudeness, what does King Manuel care about this?" Normally, Edward might have played mind games for longer, but he wanted to get to the heart of this matter.
"He cares because he feels that King Henry deserves better treatment. After all, our two countries have an ancient alliance," Almeida said silkily.
Ah. So that was his game. Edward was actually a bit surprised; the Anglo-Portuguese alliance had been nearly defunct for some time now. Admittedly, there were rumors that the Portuguese king was trying to break off the Imperial ties that his predecessors had left him with. He was recently married to Anna of Cleves, whose ruling duke of a brother was allied with the Protestant League – though if Edward remembered correctly, the people of Cleves were still Catholic. This was... interesting.
"Our alliance has faded to almost nothing," Edward pointed out, noting the ambassador's faint smile.
"Sadly true, my lord. My king would like to change that. Your support would be quite valuable... and worth rewarding you for."
"A yearly pension of one hundred crowns. And, of course, my master's firm and unwavering support of your sister's marriage to the King."
"That is certainly a generous offer, Excellency, and I will give it due consideration." Edward couldn't accept or refuse outright and they both knew it, so Almeida left him with a courteous nod. Edward continued on his way, calm face hiding his turbulent thoughts.
So, King Manuel wanted to renew the Anglo-Portuguese alliance. He obviously didn't care about offending the Pope or the Emperor – as far as the latter was concerned, he might even consider insulting the Emperor to be a good thing. It was a new twist in the diplomatic situation, especially welcome as it was likely that the Pope would soon be using the threat of excommunication. It would be interesting, if nothing else, to see how it would play out.
For the moment Edward intended to do nothing; caution was called for at a time like this. If the ambassador was seeking active support, then it was likely that King Manuel was planning to make a move that would require that. So until that happened, Edward would wait and see what developed.
Anne almost couldn't believe she was about to be crowned. She had entered the city by barge three days before, sailing to the Tower of London. There had been a water pageant, and the people of London had crowded the banks of the Thames to watch. They had been enthralled by the magnificence, if not thrilled by what it was for. Anne had hoped there would be loud cheering as she arrived, but there hadn't been, just as there hadn't been yesterday, during the procession from the Tower to Westminster Hall.
At least it was not outright hostility, and there were some cries of encouragement as Anne rode by. Mostly she thought they looked curious, which was much better than the outright hostility that she had feared and experienced on occasion – she still remembered that sometimes, when she and Henry had ridden out, the people who saw them had shouted against her, telling Henry to return to Katherine. But he had not, he had stood firm, and here they were at last. When she had made her first appearance as Queen at the Easter Mass, there had been mutterings and whispers – she had seen a few people leave and she'd heard that some who remained refused to say 'Amen' when she was prayed for as Queen. It had bothered her, but now...
Now she would take the blatant, curious stares if that was the closest she could get to being welcomed, after that. London had always adored Katherine, but she'd been told that they loved the tales of her forefather as well, the Boleyn who'd made their name and had begun as a Londoner, just like the men, women, and children around them. So Anne smiled at the people even when they didn't smile back, trying to look kind and like the descendant of one of their local heroes. She wasn't entirely sure how well it worked, but she thought that as she approached Westminster, the crowd warmed to her just a little bit.
Maybe it was wishful thinking – Edward would likely say it was, just in case it actually was so that she didn't get her hopes up, though George would say of course they were warming to her and Tom would just shrug and tell her not to worry because the King's love is all she needs – but Anne didn't think so. She glanced behind her as she got down from the litter to enter Westminster, and there was a hint of hope in Jane's eyes, in Mary's, Cat's, and Ann's as they came in behind her, so that seemed to suggest that she wasn't imagining it.
The coronation itself felt more like a dream than anything else, after all the time she'd spent trying to imagine what this moment would be like. The heady scent of the holy oil was strong as Cranmer pronounced the benediction, though the discomfort of prostrating herself before the altar had added a bit of solid reality to the moment before she'd returned to St. Edward's Chair. Now she sat there, gripping the rod and scepter like her anchors, watching Cranmer as he prepared to place St. Edward's Crown on her head.
"Wait." Henry, seated on a throne to the side, held out a hand, beckoning for the crown. Cranmer handed it to him with a bit of uncertainty in his dark eyes, and Anne didn't blame the archbishop for that when Henry turned to her and placed the crown on her head. There was a possessiveness in Henry's eyes that she'd never seen before, almost a darkness, almost a threat, and for a moment she wanted to be nervous, as she hadn't allowed herself to be during any of the festivities.
That was when she felt it; a kick, as though her baby was trying to say "I'm here, it will all come right because I'm here." Strange, in that moment to be so soothed by a child not yet born, but Anne felt a calming warmth steal over her, one that kept her head high and her face calm as Henry stepped back to let the congregation see her with the crown resting on her brow.
A/N: Can't recall if I've mentioned it yet, but the King of Portugal is an OC, since his father certainly was – an expy of a caricature of Louis XII of France, yes, but still technically an OC. Fittingly, his name was Luis. But anyway, his son King Manuel will be important later in the story, and I wanted to give Anne of Cleves a better ending. At some point there will be a oneshot in this universe that focuses on them, though I've no idea when I'll get that done.