I know, I was horrible to leave you with that nasty cliffhanger last time. Please accept this lengthy new chapter as a token of my regret.

To the Guest reviewer who asked that this chapter be Anne's: I'm afraid that Anne's leading a very quiet, secluded life at the moment, so she isn't doing much to fill a chapter. In the earlier chapters, it was her story but, at this point, it's more Elizabeth's story. Anne will feature more later in the story but, for the moment, she's going to be playing a supporting role in the chapters she appears in, and she isn't going to appear in all of them. The bulk of the action will be focused on Elizabeth and the court for the time being.

Chapter Fifteen

24th October 1537

"The Queen's health is rapidly deteriorating. Yesterday evening, she had a loosening of the bowels and we felt sure we could save her. But during the night, her fever grew worse again."

The black-robed physician had to scurry to keep up with Henry as he strode through the corridors. The man babbled his report of Jane's condition, his head bowed and his tone almost apologetic as he delivered the news that a part of Henry had dreaded hearing since the day Jane told him that she carried their child, as though he feared being blamed for the news he had to deliver.

"We have tried everything we know," the physician continued helplessly, desperately, "but Her Majesty continues to weaken."

Henry wished that he could believe that the man was lying.

He wished that he could believe that he was exaggerating the severity of Jane's condition, making it sound as though she was near death in the hope that, when she pulled through, he would be richly rewarded for managing, against all odds, to preserve the life of the beloved Queen who had borne the Prince that the King and country had waited for for so long.

He wished that he could believe that there would be a miracle, that though all hope seemed lost, Jane would rise from the brink of death, resurrected and restored to health, ready to lead a long, happy life with him and their newborn son and, in time, to give him more children.

But he couldn't make himself believe it, much as he wanted to.

There had only been one miracle... if it was a miracle... and that miracle had saved Anne, and doomed Jane.

As delighted as he was when she sweetly admitted to having a particular fondness for quail, knowing that he would understand what she meant, and confirmed that she was indeed with child, and as much as he wanted to convince himself that his troubles were over and that, this time, he would finally have the son he wanted and needed, there was still a part of him that was afraid.

He did his best to fight the feeling, to convince himself that there was nothing to be afraid of, that a woman as sweet and as loving as his Jane was sure to be blessed with a son, that God would see England's need and give them a Prince of Wales, a fine boy who would one day be a fine King.

Surely God would understand the need for the deception and recognise that, although she was the only legitimate child Henry could boast, Elizabeth could not be the ruler the country needed. He knew that she was born in wedlock, as his union with Katherine was an abomination in the sight of God, but the Bishop of Rome still slandered the child as a bastard, refusing to admit that he had allowed the Emperor to bully him into finding for Katherine instead of allowing truth and justice to prevail. Even after Mary acknowledged herself to be illegitimate, the product of an incestuous, unlawful union, the Bishop of Rome continued to peevishly insist that she was the true heir.

Even if Mary respected the truth of her position and did not allow herself to be tempted by the prospect of a crown, there would be other claimants to challenge Elizabeth's rights, like the Poles.

Those members of the family, scions of the Plantagenets, who remained in England were careful to maintain a low profile – Lady Salisbury's visit to the court at Christmas was a rarity – but that did not mean that they would not be happy to accept it if a rebellion was mounted in their name. That wretch, Reginald Pole, was safely in Rome, where he could solidify a support base. He was sure that not one member of that family was properly grateful to him for the generosity with which he treated them. They feigned loyalty but might turn on him in a heartbeat.

In order for England to continue to be safe and prosperous, he needed to give his people a King.

Despite his attempts to convince himself, he was unable to banish the fear from his heart.

Had he acknowledged his fear rather than trying to fight it, had he prepared himself for this dreaded possibility, perhaps the ache would be lessened, if only slightly.

"It's childbed fever. I know because my mother died of it."

He was a boy of eleven when his mother died but despite his youth, he felt anger towards his father. He knew well that his father and his determination to have another son, now that Arthur was dead and Henry was the sole hope for the future of the Tudor line, bore part of the blame. He was so determined to have another living son that he had not cared about the effect that another pregnancy might have on the health of the wife who had already given him many children. Had he had faith in his surviving son, and recognised that his wife was growing too old for childbearing, she might have lived, instead of having to be buried with the frail daughter whose birth had cost her mother's life, and who had died before she finished her second week of life.

Would a day come when Edward was angry with him for Jane's death, or would the boy blame himself, not realising that, given the choice, Jane would gladly have died so he might live?

"Get out. Leave." The words were softly spoken but they carried all the force of a royal command, and every courtier, physician and lady-in-waiting obediently bowed or curtsied, and left the room, moving quickly but silently, only a few of them whispering "Majesty" to him as they passed.

Most of them knew better than to think that he wanted to hear them speak.

Henry reached for Mary as his daughter came near him, taking her hand in both of his and holding it for a moment before kissing it, and letting her go. He had heard that Mary had stayed by Jane's side throughout her ordeal, despite being a maiden for whom the sight of an ordinary childbirth would have been frightening, let alone the nightmarish birthing that Jane had endured to bring their son into the world. As a man, he could not be present but he was grateful that Mary had stayed by Jane's side, supporting her and praying for the health of mother and child.

Mary had proven herself a truly loyal and loving friend and stepdaughter to Jane.

He would not forget it.

Jane was unconscious, her breathing shallow and her face drained of colour and covered in a sheen of sweat. Her ladies changed her nightgowns and bedding frequently, as they wished for her to be as comfortable as possible, but the nightgown she was wearing was already damp with sweat, as were the pillow and sheets on which she lay.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way, not now, when they were so happy.

When Jane's labour dragged on for so long that he was warned that he might have to choose between the life of mother and child, condemning one to death to allow the other a chance at life, and when his prayers seemed to be ignored, his heart was full of fear.

He was afraid that the force protecting Anne was not content with preserving her life, and seeing her permitted to retire to the country, where she would lead a life of luxury and security instead of ending her life on the scaffold. It might not be content with ensuring that Henry would be unable to sever their marital bond and would be left to take Jane as his unwitting mistress, tricking a good lady into living in a state of sin with him and conceiving bastards with her rather than legitimate royal children who would inherit his throne by right. He feared that it intended to see to it that an even heavier penalty was exacted, one that Henry would be unable to bear paying.

He even wondered if it might be a punishment from God, who was displeased to think that they would pass a boy born out of wedlock off as a trueborn heir, thus depriving Elizabeth of her birthright and making an unwitting pretender of the boy, and that instead of celebrating the birth of an heir, he would be left to mourn the deaths of his sweetheart and their unborn child.

He had thought that he would lose them both, until Edward Seymour came to him, and spoke the words he had longed to hear since the days when he thought himself Katherine's husband.

"Her Majesty is delivered of a healthy son."

When he first saw his newborn son, he was sure that he was to have the new beginning he longed for, with a beloved wife and a son whose claim to the throne none would think to question.

Edward had arrived a few weeks sooner than he was expected, and he was slightly smaller than a baby born full-term, but he was in perfect health, and surely the most beautiful boy that God had ever made. When he cried, he made it plain to all who heard him that his lungs were healthy, and when he opened milky blue eyes to look up at his father, Henry was sure that he was intelligent.

Jane was pale and tired when he saw her, and weak after her long labour but three days later, she was well enough to sit up in bed, propped by pillows, so that she could receive their son when the Lady Mary brought him to receive his parents' blessings before he was brought to the Chapel Royal to be christened, his first formal appearance before the court as England's new Prince.

Throughout the court and the country, the birth was celebrated and this time, there was no need to cancel the jousts and masques, as they had when Elizabeth was born.

They could celebrate the birth of a fine, healthy boy to the fullest.

Mary was delighted when he told her that he and Jane had decided that she was to be Edward's godmother, and when he saw his older daughter holding her new brother in her arms, cradling him as tenderly as a mother would, he could see that Mary already loved Edward, showing no hint of jealousy towards the baby boy, and that she would always love and protect him.

The christening was a splendid occasion, and although it was traditional that the parents of the royal child being christened should not attend the ceremony, Henry was determined to be present, determined to be part of the glorious moment when his heir entered the Christian flock. Every courtier was in the chapel, with the highest-ranking lords and Jane's brothers standing close to the font while everybody else was ranged in rows behind them in order of precedence, everybody watching as Mary held Edward over the font while he was baptised.

Aside from his coronation, Henry never felt prouder than he did when he heard his son announced as Prince Edward, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester, most dear and entirely beloved son of King Henry the Eighth, and knew that England was rejoicing with him.

It had taken him too many years to provide his country with a Prince.

The task of carrying the chrism was entrusted to little Elizabeth, who carried out her role with a gravity beyond her years, although she had insisted that she wanted Brandon to be the one to carry her, not Edward Seymour, whom Henry had initially wished to honour with the role of escort to the Princess of England. He had thought that the eldest uncle of his new son should have a prominent role in the christening, and one that showed him to be connected with the royal family. He indulged Elizabeth's whim, however, thinking that it was natural that she would prefer Brandon, who she knew and liked, to Edward Seymour, who was a stranger to her.

The newly elevated Earl of Hertford had graciously surrendered his role when Elizabeth made her wishes known, and Charles was happy to take over the task of carrying her into the Chapel Royal.

After the christening, Edward was borne away to the nursery that had been lovingly prepared for them, while the rest of the court celebrated.

They were only given a few days to relish the joy of Edward's birth before Jane's health began to fail in earnest, and it became clear that her life was in danger. Now, although they did not dare to say so, for fear of his reaction, they held out little hope that her life would be spared.

Jane's body would try to fight the fever but, after Edward's birth, she had no strength left to do it.

When he leaned forward to kiss her, she did not stir.

Hands clasped, he knelt by her bed, pleading with her to stay with him.

"Don't go. Please don't go. Just because you have done everything that you promised, please don't leave me." He was uncomfortably aware that, had Anne not miscarried their son and instead carried him to term, only to die in childbirth, he would have regretted that their children lost their mother - even when he was angriest with her, he couldn't deny that Anne was a loving, devoted mother - but, for himself, her death would have come as a relief, as he would have been free to marry his dear Jane without having to set Anne aside, and make a bastard of their son. However, the last thing he wanted was for Jane to be snatched from him. She might have done as she promised, and given him what he desired above all else, but that did not mean that he was ready to let her go. He would never willingly let her go. "You are the milk of human kindness, the light in my dark, dark world. Without you, life is a desert, a whole world of loneliness."

Jane lay there, unmoved by a plea she could not hear.

"Please, God," Dawn was beginning to break but the rising sun was shrouded by clouds, and the light was dull and grey. It seemed fitting that the sun should hide itself, in deference to his fear and grief. It shouldn't presume to shine on a day when the King of England felt such sorrow. "In Your mercy, don't take her away from me. It was my sin, not hers. She never knew about Anne. She never knew that she was not truly my wife. She never knew that we were living in sin and that our boy would be a bastard. Don't punish her for it when she is not the one to blame."

Had he doomed Jane by tricking her into sin, allowing her to believe herself to be his wife in the sight of God when he knew that they could never truly be married?

At the time, it seemed like the best solution.

He had had no intention of taking Anne back, whether she was saved by the Devil or whether her survival truly was a miracle, and divine proof of her innocence, or of being deprived of the opportunity to be with Jane and to see her bear him a son to succeed him.

Anne had spoken truthfully when she pointed out that, if her survival remained a secret, he would never have to worry that anybody would think to question the validity of his marriage to Jane, or the legitimacy of any children born of their union, but she had not showed him the other side of the coin. She allowed him to believe that the arrangement would benefit them both but had not warned him that he and Jane might be forced to pay a heavy price for not only living in sin but for doing so under a cloak of virtue, tricking the world into believing them to be husband and wife.

If it had angered God to see Henry living as man and wife with Katherine, and if He had punished them for their unknowing sin, how much more severe would the punishment be for knowingly entering a sinful union, and for pretending that it was a union blessed in the sight of God?

He had mocked the sacrament of marriage by pretending that Jane was his wife.

Had Anne realised what he had not, and known that, sooner or later, a heavy price would be exacted for all that Henry hoped to gain from the ruse?

Had Anne thought that this would be her revenge?

He knew that, after everything that had happened between them and how their time together had ended, it was absurd to feel thus. Even so, he couldn't help but be hurt that Anne could have allowed him to fall into a trap like that without a word of warning, that she might have stayed silent because she wanted him to suffer for loving another. He wondered if she was as ignorant about how she was saved as she claimed to be, or if her protector had promised her that he would see to it that those she blamed for her downfall would pay the price for threatening her, even somebody like Jane, who would surely have never wished to see any harm befall Anne, no matter how much she loved Henry and no matter how much she wished that she could be his lawful wife.

The only blessing was that Edward was spared, that God could see that an innocent infant should not die for the circumstances of his birth... but Edward needed more than to live.

"My son needs his mother," he pleaded, hoping that God would recognise that his remorse for dragging Jane into sin was sincere, and that He would understand that there could be no question of him revealing the truth about Anne's survival, the invalidity of his union with Jane and the illegitimacy of their son. Once he committed to this course, there was no turning back.

After all that had happened, there was no way that he could announce to his people that he had lived in sin for over a year, allowing them to believe that Jane was their Queen when the true Queen lived in seclusion in Wales, barred from the court and cut off from her only child, nor could he tell them that the boy they believed to be their Prince, and whose birth had caused such rejoicing, was nothing but a bastard who had no claim to the title of Prince and no possible right to one day sit on his father's throne, and should be known as plain Edward Fitzroy.

If he did, there would be an outcry among his people, who would condemn him for his deceit, condemn Jane for being dragged into this mess, consider Anne a saint in everything but name, and reject Edward in favour of Elizabeth. If Mary knew that she was to lose Jane as a stepmother, and that instead of her brother by Jane becoming King, Anne's daughter would be Queen, she might even denounce the oath she swore, recognising that she was a bastard, and if she tried to proclaim herself his heir, he would have no choice but to see her executed, a prospect that it was even more painful now, when he had enjoyed Mary's presence in his life for more than a year, than it was when his eldest daughter was exiled from his life for her disobedience.

It would break Jane's heart if he had to tell her that she was never his Queen, and that their son was no more than a royal bastard.

The cost of the truth would be too high for him to pay.

Even for Jane, he could never tell the world what he had done.

If she knew, he was sure that she would understand.

Even if Jane knew the truth, she would never want him to disinherit their boy. She would never want Edward to be shamed as the bastard son of a woman duped into believing herself a wife.

She would want their son to be King one day.

In the weeks and months and years to come, he would never be able to remember how long he sat by her side, her hand in his, as he prayed desperately for her to be spared.

He prayed for God to remember that he was the one who led her to believe that they were married, and that Anne was the one who had set the condition that forced him to keep her as his wife, the one who had prevented him from marrying Jane as he wanted to, and kept their son from being born a legitimate heir who would surely be blessed by God.

It felt as though he was sitting there for days but it was likely that only hours or perhaps even minutes passed before Jane's breathing became slower and slower, shallower and shallower with each passing breath until, with a soft gurgle, she exhaled for the last time.

Henry soaked her bedcover with his tears.

29th October 1537

The news of the birth had reached Anne before Archbishop Cranmer's letter did, and the same was true of the news of Mistress Seymour's death.

For the most part, Anne's maids and chaplain kept to themselves, with little interaction between them and the rest of the household, but they knew that they could not cut themselves off entirely without provoking unwanted gossip and arousing even more curiousity about the mysterious lady of Pembroke Hall. The last thing they needed was for one brave or reckless soul to try to sneak up to Anne's quarters to catch a glimpse of her. God only knew what Sir Anthony was under orders to do to anybody who threatened their secret. The maids made a point of venturing to the kitchens for some of their meals, and it was there that they heard the news that the King had a son.

None of the maids wished to tell Anne of the birth of the child who was known as Prince Edward, wanting to spare her pain, but Sir Anthony believed himself to be duty-bound to inform her.

"Mistress Seymour has borne the King a son, Your Majesty."

His use of the forbidden honourific for her, and his omission of the title of Queen for Mistress Seymour, could not soften the blow he was obliged to deal her.

She kept her emotions bridled when she was told the news.

She didn't want to give way to temper, railing at poor Sir Anthony when it was no fault of his that it pleased Henry to call Mistress Seymour's bastard a prince, allowing the boy to unknowingly usurp Elizabeth's rightful inheritance, or that Henry would have willingly abandoned her to her death so that he might marry the wench. She also didn't want to let him see her cry, knowing that it would only serve to make both of them feel uncomfortable; him immediately, when he had no idea how he could comfort her or even if he should presume to attempt to do so, and her later, when she was calm and embarrassed by her loss of control in the presence of her guardian.

She thanked him as calmly and as courteously as she could manage, and once he was gone, she made her way to the garden, issuing instructions that she was not to be disturbed.

Only when she was alone did she allow her tears to flow, allowing herself the luxury of giving way to the feelings welling inside her.

She didn't know why it affected her as badly as it did.

She had steeled herself against this day since she made her arrangement with Henry, and the prospect became an even more real one when she was told that Mistress Seymour had Henry's brat in her belly. She had known that there was no way that he would willingly take her back, no way that he would give up Mistress Seymour when he was convinced that he loved the wench and that she would succeed where Anne and Katherine had failed, and bear him a son.

God could have sent a host of angels from Heaven and they wouldn't soften Henry's resolve.

All she could do was protect Elizabeth as much as she could, using every tool at her disposal.

She could ensure that her daughter never had to endure the taint of bastardy, even if she could not spare her the pain it must cause her to hear her mother called whore and traitor.

She could ensure that Elizabeth would never have to lower herself to wait on whatever puling brats Mistress Seymour bore, and that she would always enjoy the honours that were her due as Princess. Even if she was robbed of her rights as heir to the throne, she should have that much.

And, if she was honest with herself, Anne had to admit that it amused her to know that, even if Henry managed to get a son on Mistress Seymour, he would know that the child was illegitimate and that there was nothing he could do to change that.

She knew that Henry would try to convince himself that he was doing nothing wrong by passing the child off as a trueborn prince, to convince himself that it was the right thing for his realm, but his conscience would not remain a tamed beast forever. Sooner or later, he would not be able to avoid acknowledging that he was cheating his only trueborn child, the daughter God gave him to rule England when he was gone, for the sake of a bastard and the knowledge would eat at him.

What must he be thinking now, as he pretended that England had a prince at last?

Was he thinking of the other sons he fathered out of wedlock, and of their fates?

She hoped that he was.

She hoped that he was haunted by the memories of the sons he had lost, and crippled with fear at the thought that his newest son would follow in the footsteps of his half-brothers.

After all he had done to her, and all he would have done to her and to Elizabeth, had he been able to, he deserved to suffer.

Almost a fortnight had passed since she was told of the boy's birth, and Anne's thoughts continued to run along the same lines.

It had seemed that the only consolation she was to have for her rival's success, and the birth of the boy who would rob Elizabeth of her rightful place as Queen of England, was to be her awareness that, thanks to the agreement she and Henry had made, he would be unable to truly rejoice in the birth of his son without thinking about the boy's true status.

It was cold comfort to imagine the chill of fear he must feel as he paraded the boy around his court, showing him off to visiting envoys and to the people, wondering all the while if God would strike him down for his blatant lie, but it was the only solace she had.

Then Maggie brought her the news of Mistress Seymour's death, news that she hadn't wanted to allow herself to believe until it was confirmed when Archbishop Cranmer's letter arrived today… and her first thought was that it was a pity that the wench's brat had not followed her to the grave.

It horrified her that such a thought could cross her mind, even for an instant.

It broke her heart to know that her enemies transferred their hatred from her to her sweet child.

It frightened her when she heard remarks like those Chapuys made when Elizabeth was christened, and he claimed that, while Archbishop Cranmer warmed the water so that Elizabeth would not become chilled, the water he used should have been boiling. She was terrified that, despite the precautions taken to safeguard Elizabeth, that odious man would find a way to harm her, believing that if Elizabeth was dead, Henry would welcome Mary back into his life as a princess. She warned Lady Bryan to be always on her guard, for fear that somebody might seek to harm her baby. She knew that there were many who resented it when Mary was discovered to be illegitimate, and who hated Elizabeth for being born to rights her half-sister was denied. The possibility that one of Katherine and Mary's supporters might seek to harm her precious child was a horrifyingly real one.

Now she was the one to ill-wish an innocent child, resenting him for living to steal her daughter's throne.

If Archbishop Cranmer, Maggie, Edith and Sarah could know what was in her mind, they would cease to think of her as a saint and see her as a monster.

Father Parker's expression was sympathetic as he listened patiently to her confession.

"What is the matter with me?" Anne asked after her almoner had listened to all that she had to say and absolved her for her evil thoughts. The penance he set was a very light one, and she wondered if he truly understood how deeply she had sinned. Ill-wishing Henry was bad enough but there was no excuse for turning her anger and hatred on a newborn child just because he had not obliged her by being born female. "He's just a baby! He's an innocent little baby and I wanted him dead!"

Were her enemies right all along?

Was there something evil in her, waiting for the opportunity to be unleashed?

She didn't realise that she spoke aloud until Father Parker reached out to clasp one of her hands in both of his. His face was full of compassion, without a hint of the disgust she expected to see.

"You are not evil, Your Majesty." In the privacy of the chapel, far from prying ears, Father Parker refused to treat her with anything less than the honours that were her due as Queen. His voice was firm and steady and he held her gaze as he spoke. "You have been badly hurt by one in whom you placed your love and trust, and that pain will not soon fade. You have been robbed of your daughter, and you lost your son, and this has wounded your heart and soul. Your pain is the gateway through which a wicked thought entered your mind, and you must guard against that in the future, but you are not evil. If you were, you would not have tried to cast these feelings from your heart and you would feel no remorse for your thoughts."

He didn't say so but he was certain that none of Anne's enemies felt such remorse when they ill-wished her or the little Princess.

"I can't stop feeling angry," Anne confessed. "I know that I should forgive those who trespass against me, and I pray for the strength to do this but where is it written that I must forgive those who trespass against the people I love?"

Her brother, George, murdered on the evidence of his spiteful wife, so that Henry and Cromwell could further blacken her name with an allegation of incest to crown the charges of adultery.

Mark Smeaton, Henry Norris and William Brereton, three men who met a bloody end through no fault of their own.

Had she not called on Mark to play for her so often, on the evenings when she was sad and lonely and the hours dragged on, he might have been spared.

Had Sir Henry not been one of the few men who, in the later months of her marriage, when everybody at court surely knew that her hold on Henry's heart was fragile and failing, was prepared to express his admiration for her, nobody would have thought to accuse him.

She had no idea why Brereton was singled out as one of the men who was to die to allow Henry to free himself of her. She never said a word to him during his three years in Henry's household but somebody had decided that the poor man should be dragged down with her.

There was nothing she could do for any of them apart from remembering them in her prayers.

And, worst of all, there was Elizabeth.

Her innocent, clever, beautiful, perfect little girl was robbed of her inheritance, cut out of her father's life for over a year before Henry deigned to see her again, and taught to think of her mother as a whore and a traitor and to feel shame over the blood that ran in her veins. Had Henry had his way, he would have branded Elizabeth a bastard so that she would be forced to think of herself as inferior to the half-Seymour brats he planned to honour as the true royal children. He wouldn't even have cared if he looked ridiculous when he announced that he had managed to stumble into a second unlawful union, not if he could hurt Elizabeth and, in so doing, hurt her.

How could anybody, even God, possibly expect her to forgive Henry for all he had done to Elizabeth, and for all that he would have done had she not prevented him?

Father Parker had no answer to give her. His hand was warm and strong as it clasped hers and, although he was nothing like George, she was reminded of the comfort she derived from her brother's presence when he tried to comfort her with reassurances that nothing was going to happen to her, and that he would take care of her.

"My daughter would have been a great Queen for England. The best ruler it could have had."

She believed this with all her heart.

Elizabeth was cleverer than Anne would have believed a child could be, had she not witnessed her daughter's startling intelligence and precocity for herself. Mistress Seymour's boy would never be her equal, no matter how many tutors Henry engaged to cram knowledge into his brain. Elizabeth had no tie to a foreign monarch to cloud her loyalty to her country and her people, as the Lady Mary did. She would not blindly tie England to Spain, ruining the nation by involving it in the Emperor's wars. Anne hoped that those who had charge of her child would teach her of the reformed faith, even if they could only do so in secret. Even if they didn't, she couldn't imagine that Elizabeth would persecute those who followed the new religion, as Mary surely would if she ever had the power to try to force her papist beliefs on the English people, whether they wished it or not. Elizabeth would know that, as Queen, her duty was to her subjects.

Once, Anne thought that the son she carried would bring about a golden world but now she was certain that Elizabeth was the one destined to usher in a golden age for England.

She couldn't believe that Elizabeth was to be robbed of her birthright, and England robbed of the greatest ruler it could ever have known, for the sake of a half-Seymour bastard.

"Do you believe that it is God's will that the Princess Elizabeth should be Queen of England?" Father Parker asked her quietly, holding her hand in his and meeting his gaze.

"I do," Anne vowed.

God had not sent a girl as remarkable as Elizabeth into the world so that she might grow up to be married off to whatever prince her father – or her half-brother – chose for her, to be valued only as the breeder of royal sons and to be humiliated when her husband openly favoured another woman.

Elizabeth was not born to answer to a man, as her mother had.

She was born to rule.

"Then why can you not have faith that He will see it done?" He asked. His tone was gentle but pointed. "If it is God's will that the Princess will be Queen one day, do you believe that His will can be thwarted by something as insignificant as the birth of one little boy begotten by your husband?"

When he put it in such plain terms, Anne's concerns seemed rather foolish.

Henry might like to think that his will was the will of God but, if God intended that Elizabeth should be Queen, it surely wouldn't matter if Henry fathered a hundred bastard sons by a hundred different women, and tried to call every one of them a Prince. If God had called Elizabeth to sit on the throne, there was nothing Henry could do to keep her from becoming Queen.

She shook her head in response to the question. "No."

"Have faith, Your Majesty," Father Parker urged her. "And trust in God. He knows His business better than any of us ever could." He waited for Anne's earnest nod before he released her hand and rose, bowing deeply. "I will leave you to your prayers, Your Majesty," he told her, knowing that she needed some time alone.

"Thank you, Father," Anne said, feeling a renewed sense of gratitude towards the man who chose to join her in her exile, so that she might have the benefit of his compassionate support and his spiritual guidance.

Once he was gone, she remained in the chapel for over an hour, praying to God to keep Elizabeth safe and to ensure that, even though Anne could not be with her, she would always be loved.

She believed that God had chosen her daughter to be Queen of England, just as she believed that, instead of being weakened or destroyed by the trials she would face in her life, Elizabeth would not only survive anything life could throw at her but that she would be strengthened by it.

Father Parker was right.

She had to trust that, if God intended for Elizabeth to be Queen, nothing and nobody could keep her from achieving her destiny.

7th November 1537

No expense was spared for Jane's funeral.

As King, Henry could not attend but he gave orders that Jane was to be buried with all the honours appropriate to a Queen of England, and that his court should go into mourning for the lovely, gentle lady who lay down her life to give him their beautiful son. The celebrations in honour of Edward's safe arrival were abandoned, and the palace was shrouded in black.

Although Jane's death left Elizabeth as the highest-ranking royal lady, her youth made it impossible for her to act as chief mourner. Even if it had not, Henry thought that he wouldn't want her to fulfil that role; it would be obscene to have Anne's daughter acting as chief mourner at Jane's funeral when he knew that news of Jane's death would cause Anne no sorrow.

The Lady Mary was appointed to that position, and had said that she would count in an honour to lead the procession in honour of the stepmother who treated her with such kindness. Although his elder daughter tried to control her tears when he spoke to her, so that she did not add to his distress, her eyes were red and her cheeks streaked with the evidence of her grief.

He thought it would please Jane to know that Mary was honoured with the role of chief mourner.

She had always loved Mary dearly, and wished to see her take her place in their family.

Jane's body was laid out on a bier in the Chapel Royal, there to lie in state until it could be removed to Windsor, the burial place he had chosen, tomorrow. A grand monument was to be built in Jane's honour, and he had already approved the design of it.

One day, he would be buried by her side.

One day, he prayed that God would forgive them, and allow them to be reunited in Heaven.

He spent a great deal of his time in the chapel with Jane, both before and after her funeral, standing vigil next to her cold, still body.

After her death, the embalmers had worked to preserve her body but, despite their skill and the great care they took with their art, knowing how important it was, they could not keep the ravages of death from touching her. Even the flowers strewn over her body and the heady scent of incense wafting through the chapel could not completely disguise the smell of decay.

Today, Jane looked much as she had in life.

He could almost make himself believe that she was sleeping, if he ignored the smell, if he ignored the fact that her skin was grey rather than simply pale, and if he made sure not to touch her and allow the chill of her flesh and the unyielding rigidity of her body to shatter the illusion.

Before long, however, she would be buried and the flesh would rot from her bones.

Before long, she would be unrecognisable and only her name on her tomb would allow anybody to know who she was in life... and that name would be a lie.

There was no such person as Jane, Queen Consort to King Henry the Eighth.

His true Queen was in Wales, and must have heard the news of her one-time rival's death by now.

Anne was a clever woman, and would never delude herself into believing that, now that Jane was dead, he would come to her and ask her to return to court with him, telling her that he knew that it was a mistake on his part to set her aside and vowing to make the truth known to the world.

He knew that Katherine believed that, when the Bishop of Rome finally yielded to the pressure of her wretched nephew and pronounced their union valid, pretending that its issue was legitimate rather than obliging the Emperor to accept that his cousin was no more than a royal bastard, he would defer to Rome's judgement, and that he would set Anne aside, disinheriting the child she was carrying, so that he might reinstate her and Mary to what she stubbornly insisted were their rightful places. He had even heard accounts that, when she was told of the verdict, Katherine gave orders that her belongings should be packed, so that she would be ready to begin her journey to court as soon as the messenger came to let her know that Henry wanted her back by his side.

He wondered if Katherine's servants - those few who remained with her when she rejected the generous allowance provided to her as Princess Dowager, and therefore could not pay their wages - had humoured their mistress and packed her trunks for her, or if they had had the good sense to see that they were wasting their time, and creating unnecessary work for themselves later on, once Katherine realised that nobody was coming to conduct her back to London with royal honours, as she expected, and her belongings had to be unpacked again.

He had never thought to ask.

Anne was not such a fool that she would make the same mistake.

Anne knew better than to believe that he would announce to the world that his only living son was nothing but a bastard if it meant that he would be able to have her as his wife again, even if there was a part of him that couldn't help but miss her. Anne knew better than to think that he would ever consent to dishonour Jane's memory by revealing that she was never more than his mistress, and the mother of his bastard. Anne knew better than to believe that he would ever say that four blameless men died for no other reason than to let him rid himself of his wife to marry the lady of his choice, and that he would have seen his wife dead and their child called a bastard if it meant that he could take another woman as wife and call their children his legitimate heirs.

Would it give her pleasure to hear of Jane's death?

Would it amuse her to learn that, though Jane gave him a son, she was not allowed to live to enjoy the honour that should have been hers as mother of the Prince?

Would she resent the fact that, despite Jane's death, Edward was still accepted as the heir to the throne ahead of Elizabeth? Or would she put her trust in her protector, relying on the power that had kept her from dying as she should have to see to it that Elizabeth became Queen?

He had to visit the nursery when that thought struck him, to reassure himself that Edward still lived, that his life was not snatched away by Death, as little Prince Henry was.

Baby Henry's death was so sudden.

One moment, he was celebrating the safe arrival of the future King Henry the Ninth, and making plans for the household and education of his little son, and the next, a messenger came from Richmond Palace, bearing the sorrowful news that the infant had died in his sleep.

Death could strike without warning, particularly when he sought to claim the fragile life of a baby.

His son by Katherine was not allowed to live to cut his first tooth because God knew, even if Henry did not yet know in those days, that his union with Katherine was no true marriage and the son she bore him was no true Prince but a bastard born of an incestuous, accursed union, unfit to rule a country. Their son's death was a warning that they had not heeded, a sign that God would not allow a boy who was a bastard in all but name to live to sit on the throne.

If one of his sons died because he was born out of wedlock but was called a prince, the same fate might befall Edward.

Lady Bryan and the nursemaids who attended Edward withdrew from the nursery at his command, curtseying deeply as they left but knowing better than to speak to him.

Edward slept peacefully in his cradle. His cheeks were pink and growing plump, and his tiny hands clenched in fists and unclenched in his sleep. His breathing was soft and even.

Just as he was unable to tear himself away from Jane's side as she lay dying, and as he had spent long hours standing by her body in the chapel, he could not bring himself to leave Edward.

He watched as his precious son breathed in and out, watched his tiny hands move, praying that his little boy would continue to breathe, that he would continue to grow strong and healthy. After all of this, Edward had to live to be the fine Prince that England needed, had to grow to be the man who would be able to be the third King of the Tudor dynasty, inheriting the crown that Henry's father had won and serving the country that they had created and preserved from pretenders. Everything that happened to him, to Anne and to Jane couldn't be for nothing.

When he heard a tentative knock on the door, he could guess who it was before the visitor was announced.

There were very few men at court who would not be barred entry to the room when it was clear that the King would rather be alone, and of those men, Charles Brandon was the only one whose concern for his well being would outweigh any misgivings he had about the likely reception from a grieving King who wished to be alone with his son. Other men would be too afraid to approach.

Henry waited until the groom had closed the door behind Brandon before he spoke.

"Have you come to pay your respects to my new bastard, my Lord of Suffolk?" His voice was almost too low for Brandon to make out his bitter, resentful words. Nobody outside the room would be able to hear what he said and Brandon was thankful that, even in Henry's current state, he retained enough sense to know that he could not broadcast the truth about his infant son's true status. Henry tore his gaze away from Edward's sleeping form to meet Brandon's eyes, his gaze challenging. "He is a bastard, after all, isn't he, Charles?"

For a moment, he wished that Jane could have borne him a daughter instead.

Surely it would cause God less offence to know that he was honouring a daughter he knew to be illegitimate as a princess than to know that he intended to knowingly raise his bastard son to the throne. Jane's life might have been spared, and he could rest easily, knowing that their daughter would not be a threat to Elizabeth's lawful succession and would not be struck down for it. He would have another little princess with whom he could make a valuable marital alliance, finding an ally who would support the rightful claim of his trueborn daughter.

He determinedly banished the thought from his mind.

For better or worse, he had a son now and his son would be King one day… if he was allowed to live long enough to be crowned.

"Your Majesty..." Brandon couldn't think what he should say, not knowing if Henry wanted to be contradicted or reassured or if he was supposed to speak at all. Silence seemed safest.

"I was never married to his mother, was I?" Henry continued bitterly, hot, angry tears pricking the back of his eyelids. "I knew that he was going to be a bastard before he was born. I knew that he was going to be a bastard when Anne and I came to our agreement."

At the time, it seemed like the only solution to the problem that Anne's survival presented, the only way that he could hope to be free of her, but now that Edward was here, now that he had a living son asleep in his cradle, a son he had condemned to bastardy, he was angry with himself for agreeing to a course of action that condemned any sons he had in the future to be born bastards, angry with Anne for making the demands she had, and angry with everybody who was there when they made their bargain but who had not presented him with another option, an option that would have allowed him to satisfy Anne without sacrificing his son's rights... if such an option existed.

Would Anne have contented herself with anything less than the continuation of their marriage when she knew that he had no power to harm her?

He doubted it.

She was not a woman who would easily surrender if she had the advantage. He should probably be thankful that she was prepared to agree on terms with him at all.

"I could annul my marriage to her now, couldn't I? In secret? Elizabeth could keep her title, that would keep Anne from finding out, wouldn't it?" He knew without Brandon saying so that this was impossible, that Anne would have to be notified of the annulment for it to be finalised. Even if that was not the case, he couldn't do it, and he knew why he couldn't do it. "Something is protecting Anne. We know that. What would it do to me if I tried to cheat her of her rights?"

"I don't know, Your Majesty."

As much as he sympathised with Henry, Brandon couldn't bring himself to hope for his friend to find a way to render Elizabeth a bastard, even if nobody ever learned of it and Elizabeth's status was unaltered in the eyes of the world. He also thought that it would be unwise to court the anger of Anne's protector, who could well be able to see and know things that his charge did not.

To his mind, anyone powerful enough to protect somebody from death as well as Anne was protected was somebody whose anger no sensible man should want to court.

Even the King of England should tread warily in the face of such a powerful force.

"Neither do I." Edward woke, and began to whimper. Henry bent down to pick his son up in his arms, rocking him to soothe his whimpers before they could become full-fledged wails of protest. "But bastard or not, Edward will be King one day." His tone was fierce, as though he expected Brandon to argue, to advocate that he make Edward's illegitimacy known, that he reveal that Anne still lived and that she was still the rightful Queen of England, while her daughter was the King's only legitimate child. "Anne knew when we made our agreement that if Jane gave me a son, he would be Prince of Wales and would rule England after me. She wouldn't let me annul our marriage or declare Elizabeth a bastard and I haven't. I've kept my word. Elizabeth is still a Princess, and one day, I will make a royal marriage for her. Maybe she will be Queen of another country one day, if I can manage to arrange the match. I never agreed that Elizabeth would be Queen of England and Anne knows it. She can't say that I have broken my word to her, can she?"

"No, Your Majesty," Brandon knew that there was only one answer that Henry wanted to hear but it seemed to give his friend no comfort to hear it.

Anne was not the one Henry feared.

She was not the one who had the power to punish him, and he didn't believe that she would be able to choose to call on that power if she thought herself cheated. She was not God, who might be angry to think of Henry setting his illegitimate son on the throne that was the birthright of his legitimate daughter, and who might snatch that son's life away as a punishment.

But she was the one who put him in this position, and who put Edward in this position, even though she was intelligent enough to know the price that might have to be paid.

How could she do this to him?

"I think that it's time for the Princess to return to her own household at Hatfield." Henry tried to tell himself that he wanted Elizabeth to leave because a court in mourning was no place for a young child, and because it would be healthier for her to live in the countryside, but he knew his true reason for wanting his younger daughter far away from him. He knew that, if he saw the face of Anne's child, if he had to see a living reminder of the bargain he had made, the bargain that robbed Edward of the position that should have been his and that might even endanger his life if God could not see that the only way to keep England safe and at peace was for Edward to rule one day, he would never be allowed to forget his bargain with Anne, even for a moment. Fear for Edward, and perhaps even for himself, would rule his days. "You know who to give instructions to."

"Yes, Your Majesty." Although Lady Bryan had transferred to Edward's service, Brandon knew that Mistress Catherine Champernowne had taken charge of Elizabeth's attendants for the present, until a governess of more exalted standing could be found for the child. She was now the one to whom he should speak about a move to Hatfield. He would also have to write to Sir John Shelton to let the man know to expect the return of his royal charge within the next few days, so that her household might be made ready to receive her. "May I bring the Princess to bid you farewell?" He asked tentatively, knowing that Elizabeth was bound to want to see her father before she left, especially since she was now old enough to realise that it might be months, if not more, before she was summoned to court again, or before Henry decided to pay a visit to her at Hatfield.

"No!" The vehemence of Henry's response seemed to catch him by surprise but he did not relent. "I don't want to see her... I don't want to see anybody," he amended, finding the idea of being pestered by courtiers, and even his own daughters, unbearable.

Jane was hardly cold but it wouldn't be long before he was encouraged to take a new wife, rather than leaving the succession vested in one infant boy and one little girl of four. He couldn't listen to their attempts to convince him that it was in England's interests that he move past his grief for his sweet Jane, and seek a third wife. How could he bring himself to trick another woman into a mockery of marriage and father another bastard son to be called the Duke of York? How could he make it clear to his Privy Council - those who did not know about Anne - that he would no contemplate the idea of remarriage and ensure that they would not continue to cajole him?

All he wanted was to shut himself away from the world, and forget.

He was the King, and he would have what he wanted.

"See to it that the Princess Elizabeth is gone within the week," he ordered Brandon. "And tell the court that I will grieve for Jane in seclusion."

"Your Majesty..." Brandon was alarmed. The country needed its King, despite his grief.

"I will see nobody, Charles," Henry cut him off before he could say anything else. "Not even you. I want to be alone."

12th November 1537

During the later months of Jane's pregnancy, in addition to preparing a lavish layette for her coming child, she and her ladies had busied themselves with preparations for the nursery, with Jane choosing the furnishings and decorations and, with the help of her most trusted ladies, selecting the women in whose care her child would be placed after his birth.

Each potential member of the nursery household was carefully vetted, to ensure that there was no history of madness or criminal behaviour in their family, and that they were of good character.

They could not be too careful where the health and welfare of a royal child was concerned, especially if that child was the Prince they all hoped for.

The nursery at Whitehall Palace was only ever intended to be a temporary home for the royal infant, one to be used during his first few months of life, before a proper household was prepared for him in a royal residence of his own. After that, the nursery would only be used to house him and his attendants when he came to court to visit his parents, and those visits would be very infrequent during his earliest years, when he was so vulnerable to disease that he was safer away from court. However, that did not mean that every effort was not made to ensure that the apartment would be prepared in a manner befitting the status of its small occupant, or that any expense would be spared when it came to ensuring that the baby would enjoy every comfort.

There was nothing that would be too good for the future Prince of Wales.

The rooms set apart for baby Edward were large and luxuriously furnished but the atmosphere was sombre, as befitted a court in mourning. The women who had charge of the royal infant wore black gowns, with hoods trimmed in white to signify that his mother had died in childbed, as the ladies who had served Jane did, with many of the other ladies at court following their lead.

Edward slept in his ornately carved cradle, oblivious to the grief surrounding him, while Lady Bryan and the Lady Mary watched over him.

"Poor lamb, never to know his own mother." Her opinion of Jane had not been a high one, and she had been indignant when the new Queen had not had more of a care for her predecessor's child, favouring the King's illegitimate daughter over the trueborn Princess of England, but Lady Bryan had nothing but sympathy for the motherless infant Jane had left behind. It was no fault of his that his half-sister's mother was killed so that his mother might take her place, and Queen Anne's fate did not make it any less of a tragedy that another innocent child was deprived of his mother.

It seemed that all the King's children were to have the misfortune to lose their mothers too soon.

The Lady Mary looked up at her words, determination in her eyes.

"No," she contradicted, her voice soft but firm, "he will know her. Through me. Through others who knew her gentle kindness. We shall all keep her memory so green that he will think it always spring, and she still so young and fair when he first hears talk of her."

After all that Jane had done for her, and all the loving kindness she had shown her, Mary felt that the least she could do to repay her stepmother was to ensure that her son did not forget her.

In a few years time, she would tell him about the sweet, gentle woman who had borne him, making sure that he knew how much Jane had loved him, even before he was born. She would not be able to speak to him of the past, of the time before Anne had poisoned their father's mind and seen to it that Mary and her mother were robbed of their rightful places until he was much older and could understand both the magnitude of what had happened and the need for discretion around their father. He would be very angry if he knew that she had spoken of the past he wished to forget to her little brother. Nonetheless, she would still be able to tell him how kind Jane was to her, how indebted to her she was for that kindness, and how much she loved and missed her.

Had it not been for Jane's intercession on her behalf, and her constant efforts to ensure that Mary was honoured at court, even if she was denied her rightful title and place in the succession, Mary imagined that she might still be living at Hunsdon, invited to court infrequently at best, seeing very little of her father and having few opportunities to remind him how much he loved her.

Elizabeth might be his most beloved daughter now, effortlessly winning his love away from Mary and ensuring that he did not regret his estrangement from the pearl of his world.

Thanks to Jane, the King was not able to forget how much he loved Mary.

Lady Bryan smiled at her words, before moving away from the cradle, for fear that the sound of their voices might disturb the sleeping child.

"My lady's household is now to be dissolved. The King himself seems very grieved by her death but he has commanded that no effort be spared to protect this precious jewel, his only son. A new household is to be established for him at Hampton Court and I am to head it, responsible altogether for his nurture and education."

Lady Bryan had not expected to be offered such a position, an offer that was truly a royal command. She was surprised when Master Cromwell had informed her that it was the King's wish that she be appointed Lady Governess to the Prince, and that she should begin her duties immediately by taking charge of the Prince's first nursery.

Although it was a great honour to be entrusted with the upbringing of the future King of England, as well as a sign of the King's esteem for her and satisfaction with how well she had carried out her duties as Princess Elizabeth's governess, the pleasure and honour she felt in her new position – her promotion, to put it plainly – was tempered by her concern about what this change would mean for Elizabeth. She had had the care of the Princess since she was a little baby and, after the tragic loss of her mother, it would be doubly difficult for the child to endure any further loss.

When she asked if the King wished for Princess Elizabeth to share the Prince's household, and that she should act as governess to both children, Master Cromwell made it plain that the King intended his son to enjoy a household of his own. The Prince's health must be carefully guarded and it was imperative that his well-being should be the sole focus of his attendants, who would have little time to spare to care for another child. Lady Bryan could not dispute that, knowing as she did that the future stability and prosperity of the realm depended on it having a healthy Prince to succeed his royal father, when the time came. They would be able to take no chances with the baby boy.

When asked who the Princess' new governess was to be, all Cromwell could tell her was that the King had not yet given him any instructions on the matter.

For the immediate future, she was certain that Mistress Champernowne would be able to take charge of Elizabeth's care, and to supervise the running of the household, with Sir John's help. However, it would be better for Elizabeth to have a lady of higher-rank and of more mature years presiding over her household, especially now that she was growing older, and Lady Bryan was concerned that, in his present state of mind, it could be a long time before the King considered the question of which noble lady should act as Lady Governess to the Princess... if he remembered that his daughter had lost her governess, and needed another.

"I can think of no one who could be trusted more, Lady Bryan."

They may have clashed during Mary's time in Elizabeth's household, when Lady Bryan was commanded to ensure that she was kept from contacting anybody outside the household and that she was never allowed to enjoy any privilege that could be thought unfitting for an illegitimate royal child, and expected to treat her harshly in order to bully her into admitting that she was a bastard, but Mary knew that the older woman would be conscientious in her duty towards any royal infant placed in her charge.

If little Edward could not have the love of his mother, he could do worse than to have the devoted care of Lady Bryan.

"Perhaps someday soon, God willing, Lady Mary, you yourself will have a child. I hear some rumour of a Spanish prince."

"Yes, but there is nothing definite." In her heart, Mary knew that the proposed match with Don Luis was not to be. It would be many months before her father's grief abated and he was in a frame of mind to consider the question of his daughter's marriage. The future King of Portugal could not remain unwed for too much longer, and it was certain that he would be offered the hands of other princesses, princesses whose fathers did not call them bastards. "And in the meantime, I shall return to Hunsdon and live quietly in the countryside like an English gentlewoman."

She thought that she could live happily in the countryside.

Hunsdon House was a fine manor, and the household the King provided her with would ensure that she would be honourably served. The members of her household wore the King's livery rather than hers, and they addressed her as Lady Mary rather than as Princess but there was no fault to be found with their work or their devotion to their mistress. Since she first set foot in her new household, they had been diligent in their efforts to ensure that she was comfortable and that her every need was cared for. Not one member of her household had ever showed her a hint of disrespect. It would also be a relief to be away from the court, and the atmosphere of grief that pervaded it, a relief to be able to mourn Jane privately and pray for her.

For now, it was better for her to be away.

"Perhaps the King may allow Princess Elizabeth to visit me there."

It hurt to apply the title of Princess to her younger sister but it was a necessary habit to cultivate, as she could never know which ears might be unfriendly to her. Lady Bryan might treat her respectfully and kindly now but Mary was sure she was loyal to Elizabeth and that she would report her if she failed to accord her little sister the honours their father demanded on her behalf.

Mary didn't know if she would ever ask her father if she might have Elizabeth pay a visit to her at Hunsdon, especially as a visit from Elizabeth would oblige her to receive her younger sister with the honours due to a princess, and to watch the household that was forbidden to address her by by the title that was her birthright bend the knee to the little girl who had usurped her rightful place. As Elizabeth's older sister, she had a duty to take an interest in the child, who lacked the guidance of a good, loving mother, but she wondered if it might be easier for her to undertake this duty from afar, corresponding with those who would have charge of the little girl and giving them instructions about what the child should be taught.

God be praised that Anne had not lived to infect her innocent little daughter with her heresy!

"And knowing that young lady, you shall have no quiet at all," Lady Bryan opined, thinking that her spirited young charge would find life in the Lady Mary's household quieter than she liked. Elizabeth was wise beyond her years but she was still a child, one who loved to run and play and who had yet to develop the patience needed to sit through Mass without fidgeting. As much as Princess Elizabeth loved her half-sister, she would not wish to share her devotions.

"I don't mind. She and my brother Edward are, excepting the King, my only family, and I shall love them all." She was sure that Jane would want her to take her place, and keep the family united by loving bonds. Lady Bryan curtsied, and turned to walk away, before Mary spoke again. "Oh, I had forgotten. How is your son, Sir Francis? Has he not gone away for the King?"

"He has, my lady, but alas, I have no news of him."

Mary nodded acknowledgement but made no further comment.

She prayed that there was no truth the rumours that Sir Francis Bryan was on a mission to assassinate Cardinal Pole but she couldn't pretend that it was impossible.

It was yet another sign of the lasting damage that Anne had done to her father, and how far away from God she had led him. The husband her mother loved would never have contemplated ordering the murder of a Prince of the Church, and would have utterly condemned any man who committed such a grave sin, knowing that such wickedness would damn a man. Anne had urged her father to reject the authority of the Holy Father and of the Church in Rome, and now he had caused the death of one cardinal and could be plotting against the life of a second.

Master Aske told her that he believed that she would be Queen, and that only she would be able to preserve the true faith in England but Master Aske was dead now, executed for his part in the rebellion against the new order Master Cromwell had forced on England.

How could she hope to be Queen when she was forced to renounce her claim to legitimacy, and forced to defer to her little half-sister as Princess?

Edward was first in line, in any case, and few Englishmen would prefer a Queen to a King, even if the King was but a child.

Mary knew that, after the great kindness Jane showed her, she could never seek to challenge the right of Jane's son to sit on the throne but, if she could not be Queen, she could teach England's future King about the true religion, so that Edward could be guided by her and could one day restore England's allegiance to Rome.

Perhaps this was what her father truly wanted, even if his pride would never allow him to admit it.

He had chosen Mary as Edward's godmother, after all, chosen her to help ensure that her half-brother was brought up a devout Christian. He must know that she would teach Edward the truth about God and the Church, the truth that he once defended so vehemently when it was threatened by Luther's lies, instead of allowing him to be corrupted by the teachings of heretics.

It was her duty and her destiny to restore the true faith to England, she had no doubt about that.

But perhaps, if she was not to be Queen, her destiny would be achieved through Edward.