This is something that Lady Eleanor Boleyn and I have been discussing for a few weeks. I did, I will admit, use the beginning of the TV series "Victoria and Albert" for the scene in 1603. I have also, with Lady Eleanor Boleyn's agreement, made Robert into the eldest child of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, who were his actual parents in history. I also changed the date of the first appearance of cricket from 1598, to 1547.

12th February 1603: Richmond Palace, England

"The Queen! She's coming! The Queen!"

People in the nearby room bustled about, and one of them, a woman, who was cleaning one of the items, knocked a brush, which was on a platter. The woman left the room and the man remained as the Queen entered the room. She has a dog in her arms.

She sat in the chair, and looked up to the man; he was an old man. "You're new here," she stated, as she moved the brush back to its correct place "My husband's rooms are to be left exactly as they were, when he was taken from us."

"Yes, Your Majesty," he replied.

"I am a little ahead of my usual time today; nevertheless it is always better to complete a task well ahead of time. That was always my husband's maxim,"

"Yes, Your Majesty," he replied. He had never known the King, but he had heard good things about him.

He bowed, and along with the other man, who was stood by the door, left the room, leaving the Queen to her thoughts. The Queen stroked the dog with one hand as she gently stroked the brush with her left hand. She adjusted the things on the platter, and moved the platter slightly, before she continued stroking the dog. She thought to her husband. Beloved Robin… fifty three years since our wedding day… how clearly, and with what astonishment do I remember how stubborn I was to you?

4th January 1550: Greenwich Palace, Kent, England.

"Your brother was seen, at least twice, to yawn, during a play at court," The sixteen year old Princess Elizabeth informed Ambrose Dudley, the younger, sixteen year old brother, of the seventeen year old, Robert Dudley, who was the heir to the Earldom of Warwick and Dukedom of Northumberland. Robert and Ambrose were the oldest two boys and Ambrose was the shorter and chubbier of the two, while Robert was the well-built, tall and slim boy. Ambrose preferred to stay indoors, while Robert preferred being outside with Elizabeth. Being outside, with Elizabeth, meant that he could flirt with her. He knew that in August, Ambrose and Lady Anne Whorwood would be getting married.

"You know that late hours have never been something that I like, Bess," Robert commented from the chair, where he reclined a little. He had never been one for the game of cricket, which had been introduced in 1547, and was what Elizabeth and Ambrose were playing.

"Honestly, Robert," Ambrose scolded "If you're going to yawn, at least do it where no-one can see you. You know that the King doesn't mind, but others, like the Lady Mary, take offence to it. "

Elizabeth gave a noise of displeasure "Edward and I do not get along with Mary anymore. She prefers to stay at Hunsdon, so we never see her anyway, which is a good thing as all three of us have inherited our father's temper."

"Tell me about it," Robert muttered. Elizabeth turned on him "What did you say?"

"Nothing, nothing," he laughed, and she smiled. She had already asked Edward for permission to marry Robert and was just waiting for his reply. Even if the council protested against it, it was Edward who had the last word. Elizabeth was confident that Edward would agree to her request.

She had not noticed Sir Edward Seymour and Kat Ashley watching from the upstairs window.

"She plans to marry one of the Dudley boys?" Edward asked, moving the curtain so that he could see the Princess Elizabeth, Ambrose and Robert.

"The elder, I think," Kat replied, putting her sewing down and joining him at the window "She and Robert have been close since childhood, and Lord Robert is the heir to the Earldom of Warwick and Dukedom of Northumberland. It's a good match,"

"Why not the younger?" Edward Seymour asked "He's only a year younger, and he is, if I'm honest, the nicer of the two boys,"

"She'll take the elder. I know she will," Kat assured him "They both love each other, but neither will admit it. They're both to stubborn."

"What makes you think that the King will agree to this?" Edward Seymour asked.

"He was raised by Howards, My Lord Seymour," Kat replied, taking a seat and returning to her sewing "The King favours them, and The Princess Elizabeth is a Howard, through her grandmother, My Lord, not to mention that, despite being half-siblings, they are also related through Elizabeth Cheney, who is the great-great grandmother of both of them,"

"I still think that Catherine Howard had something to do with the death of King Henry," Edward informed her. Kat scoffed "King Henry died from a surfeit of food on New Year's Day, 1541. The physicians confirmed that."

"Yes, I know," Edward replied "But it was only the King and Queen that night, so I think that Queen Catherine either encouraged it, or at least, did nothing to stop it. She was the one sleeping with him that night,"

Kat nodded in agreement "Indeed, she was. But King Henry decreed that Charles Brandon – followed by Catherine's brother, Charles – was to be regent if he died when King Edward was still in his minority,"

"But why would the King allow his sister to be married before he is?" Seymour asked, confused.

"The King is twelve, Master Seymour;" Kat replied "He's not going to reach marrying age for at least two years, while the Princess Elizabeth is sixteen. She is in the prime years for child bearing. It makes her a much better heir than the Lady Mary. Lady Mary is thirty three, and not likely to have children. If the Princess Elizabeth is married, and has children, then she becomes a more pleasing heir. The King can easily pass an Act of Succession to change the order and place Her Highness ahead of Lady Mary,"

Edward Seymour did not reply. He glanced out of the window and watched Princess Elizabeth.

Outside, Princess Elizabeth looked up as Thomas Seymour strode across the grounds to her "Your Highness, King Edward wishes to see you and Lord Robert,"

Elizabeth nodded. Now, her fate was decided. The decision would come soon enough.

To Be Continued

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