dedication: to ginger-snaps. Best. Cookie. Ever.
notes: interesting fact: i have huge girl-crushes on pretty much all historical women. also, this may become a series.
summary: It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. — England/Elizabeth I.
Arthur met Princess Elizabeth for the first time when she was two-and-a-half years old. He'd seen her before, but introductions to a baby girl were never very interesting. At two and a half, she might speak, even if only a little.
She looked up at him with solemn eyes, hidden behind her father's knee.
Arthur bowed to his King. "Your Majesty. How is the little princess?"
Henry laughed his full belly-ache laugh and hoisted the little girl up. Arthur watched her cling to him with tiny hands and tinier fingers. She had red hair. It fell around her little face in a curtain of fire.
The fey whispered around her.
There was magic in this child—fate wove a blanket around her in a way that her elder sister did not have. Princess Mary was an angry child. Princess Elizabeth would not be—despite the fact that Arthur knew that her mother would likely not be allowed to live for much longer, this two-year-old child gave off a feeling of calm.
Perhaps she would not even remember Anne Boleyn.
Princess Elizabeth stared at Arthur. She paused, seemed to think for a very long moment, and then tugged on her father's beard. She pointed at Arthur once, twice and then tugged on the red-gold beard again.
King Henry laughed and laughed. "Well, Sir Kirkland, I think Her Highness would like to be held!"
He held the girl forward and Arthur took her. She squirmed uncomfortably in his arms—Arthur was oddly afraid of dropping her. She was fragile. Small.
But she stared up at him with clear eyes and flame-hair, and Arthur knew, then. He knew that one day, she would be his Queen.
He smiled at her, eyes crinkling up into his brows.
Her laughter, high-pitched and bell-like, was the most beautiful thing he had ever heard.
/ / /
Arthur watched her grow. From cherub at two to laughing at five to vibrant at eight to tearstained at thirteen at her father's funeral. She was just a girl, Arthur thought distantly as he watched as her brother was crowned King of England.
He had a new King.
Vaguely he thought it was a little bit disappointing. Henry had been mad as a hatter, but he'd been entertaining. And Edward was frail—he was not fit to rule for very long.
"My father is dead," she said. She stared at the ground with eyes hard like diamond.
"Are you alright, M'Lady?" Arthur asked.
She glanced at him sharply. "You're not supposed to call me that, anymore."
Arthur almost smiled.
"Ah," he said, "but you are my Lady. A very small Lady to be sure, but still a Lady."
The girl swiped at her eyes
/ / /
Arthur found her shaking in the Arms room, fourteen and terrified.
She looked at him with wide eyes. "Don't touch me."
Arthur knelt down and looked at her. "Elizabeth. Elizabeth. It's just me. It's just Arthur. I'm not going to hurt you."
"Don't—I said don't touch me!" she screamed and backed away.
The fear in her was so strong that Arthur felt a little dizzy from it. The faeries murmured softly, pressing close to the girl and whispered sympathies. She was scared. She was so scared.
Arthur reached for her again to calm her down.
She collapsed against the wall, sobbing nonsense about Thomas Seymour and marriage and horror. The words bubbled out of her like she couldn't control them; his little warrior-princess, reduced to a puddle of whimpering little girl.
Arthur didn't know what to do. He went to fetch a nursemaid.
He'd hoped to keep the incident quiet.
But they sent her away, after that.
/ / /
Arthur did not measure her age in years but in wisdom, but if he had, she would have been nineteen when her brother passed away.
"He'd always been frail."
Elizabeth's lips pressed tightly together. "Do you think I do not know that?"
Arthur looked at the girl-who'd-grown-up with the flame hair, almost fond. "No," he said. "I know you knew that."
She shook her head. "A father and a brother dead, with my weak-minded fool of a cousin on the throne… it's revolting."
Arthur looked towards the ceiling and asked "How long do you think it will be before she's killed?"
"Before the week's out," Elizabeth replied.
"Give the girl some credit. A fortnight," Arthur said.
She made a funny little sound in the back of her throat that might have been disgust. "Six days."
Elizabeth paused, and thought about it. "Fine. Nine days."
Nine days later, Lady Jane Grey was dethroned.
Arthur grinned at nothing in particular.
/ / /
"Make her stop, Elizabeth! She's burning me alive! Make her stop!"
It hurt. Oh, God, it hurt—the flames licked his insides and he burned as his people did; burned alive in the shrieking—shrieking—pain—pain—
She pressed her forehead to his cheek, trying to stem the flow of tears.
"I'm sorry, Arthur, I'm so sorry. I can't, I can't, she'll have me killed if I say anything, I'm so sorry, I'm so, so sorry."
He clutched at her dress; it was simple and white. Woodstock had been good to her and would continue to be so, but Arthur needed—he needed—
The burnings raged.
Elizabeth held him to her chest with her hair in his face and all Arthur could see was red-gold, the same colour as the flames—the flames—they burned—
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Oh Arthur, I'm so sorry…" she whispered, biting back sobs and their cries mixed against skin and cloth. They stayed close together because Arthur had lost his mind to the pain and she—she was the only real thing, anymore.
Her tears were cool against his skin, God's Mercy against the fire. Her tears were calming as the English people cried out for a younger queen. Her tears felt real and honest and Arthur mourned along with her; for the burned and for the burning.
Her tears on his face felt like Salvation.
/ / /
Three years was nothing to Arthur.
Three years was all it took for her to sit on the throne.
At twenty-five, Princess Elizabeth because Queen Elizabeth I, second Queen of the English throne.
She was still the most pragmatic person Arthur had ever met.
"Arthur, be realistic. I will not be my sister. I will not kill for God. I will not kill in the name of God," she said. Her attention was trained on the piece of paper in front of her. She was signing something, and Arthur was bored.
"But will you kill?" he asked.
"If need be, yes."
"You are a Queen, m'Lady."
"Yes, Arthur," she said. "I am aware."
For a moment, Arthur fell silent and watched the candlelight flicker off her hair. The fire made him wary, but then, fire would always make him wary. It was still too soon for it to bring anything but pain.
Elizabeth raised her head. "Arthur, quit staring at me. We have things to do."
"Yes, M'Lady," he paused, and then "When will you marry?"
Her head jerked up.
For a very brief second, Arthur thought he saw fear shine in her eyes. "Pardon?"
"They wish you to marry. To produce an heir," because truly, that was all that anyone expected of her. Marry, hand over the reigns of the country, and birth a child or two. Arthur did not want to voice his distaste, but it was there.
She bit her lip. She looked him up and down twice and opened and closed her mouth. And then she asked "May I share a secret?"
Arthur nodded slowly.
"I will never marry."
Arthur stared at her, gobsmacked. "You cannot mean that, M'Lady."
"But I do. I am married to England; how on earth could any man ever compare? No, I will not marry. My disposition would be better suited to beggar and single than to Queen and married. I will never marry a man, Arthur. I will not." There was a determined tilt to her jaw, cold eye in her gaze. Arthur had seen that look before, when stood at her dying sister's bedside and waited to be named Heir.
Arthur chose not to argue this point. He could see that it was futile.
He would have chuckled to himself had it not been so serious. "Yes, M'Lady."
Queen Elizabeth smiled.
"Thank you, Arthur."
notes2: she never did get married. there we go, more random historical anecdotes. they didn't call her The Virgin Queen for nothing, you know.
noes3: please do not favourite without leaving a review. :)