Having visited Osborne house on the Isle of Wight, I knew that when I went there that I had to mention it. Since it wasn't built until 1845-1851, it had to wait until the final chapter. Firstly, thank you to everyone that has waited such a long time for this story to finally conclude, thank you to everyone that has reviewed and favourited and just generally showed this story some love! Now this is not the ending I had originally planned, but it is one that is fitting of Victoria and Albert. Have your tissues ready. Goodbye from me x
Seventeen years later…
East Cowes, Isle of Wight.
Sounds of laughter and waves reached her ears. She smiled as she glanced over at her children. In the years of their marriage, Isabella had gifted her husband with ten children, nine of whom had survived infancy. They had been blessed with four boys and six girls. Her Majesty had thus far endured three more pregnancies than her companion, the Duchess of York, and together their fifteen children filled the little private stretch of beach. Currently, three of her daughters; Alice, aged thirteen, Helena, aged eleven and Charlotte, aged ten, and her niece; Isabella, aged fourteen, sat building castles with the damp sand that ran along the Isle of Wight coast line, while her elder two sons; Edward, aged sixteen, and George, aged fourteen, and her two nephews; William, aged seventeen, and Jasper, aged eleven, swam and played not far from their sisters.
Her Majesty, Queen Isabella could not help but smile as she watched her young family spread out across the beach. Her eyes spied her husband then, His Majesty, King Edward sat beside their younger sons; Albert and Arthur, both only months away from their shared seventh birthday. Her husband was accompanied by his brother, Prince Jasper, Duke of York and his son, Peter, aged eight. The men laughed as the young boys played. This was a time for carefree conversations. They were spending a week away from London and the court at Osborne House, the summer palace her husband had had commissioned for their family. As opposed to merely arranging a visit the sea-side as he had promised her so many years ago, he had built their family a grand palace beside the sea. She remembered the moment he had made his promise, they had stood beside the river Seiont as newlyweds, and he had smiled down at her and vowed.
"One day soon, I will take you to the sea. This is just a river, the true ocean is much more marvellous."
Her husband had not been wrong, the ocean was truly marvellous. This was of course not her first visit here, they had visited many times as their family had grown. It was a haven, an escape from all of the pressures of ruling the leading country in Europe and an ever growing Empire. Isabella had made sure that her children had not been deprived of the experiences that she had been. They spent many days here in the summer months, she truly adored time spent with her family and away from court, and it always pained her to return.
This visit was a rare treat, however, since all their family was present. The dowager Queen Esme, sat on the blanket on their left. In her lap she held Isabella's youngest child, the Princess Louise, who was but eighteen months of age. She was seated beside her daughter, the twice married Princess Rosalie. Her first marriage to the heir of Prussia had ended in tragedy. The young prince had died suddenly within two weeks of their wedding. The Princess had returned home, a widow at nineteen. But by her twenty second birthday, she had remarried. Her Majesty's brother, the Prince Emmett, previous Dauphin of France and by his given title, Duke of Edinburgh had asked for the Princesses hand and both Rosalie and her brother, the King, had agreed.
The Princess Rosalie had eyes only for her niece and her son Henry and paid no mind to the others. It had taken many hardships for the Princess to carry and deliver one healthy child, but God had been kind and granted her brother with an heir less than two years previous. Her brother rose from beside his wife and moved to join her husband and brother in law. Isabella surveyed the scene and her smile grew, it brought her such joy to watch her family enjoying a simple summers day. Her smile continued to grow, until her gazed stumbled upon her eldest daughter, the eighteen year old, Princess Beatrice. She sat almost in reach of the gentle waves of the Solent, in a sorrowful pose, her arms encircling her legs that were pulled up against her chest as she stared out at the sea. Her companion noticed the girl at almost the same moment.
"Is everything alright with Beatrice?" Alice questioned, her youngest daughter, Sophia gurgled and forced her hand into her mouth, from where she sat on her mother's lap. Isabella had an idea as to what may be causing her eldest daughters distress, but she did not wish to share it with her companion in case she was wrong.
"I am unsure," she told her old friend, "I will talk to her."
She rose from the blanket then and felt her husband's gaze fall upon her as she approached their daughter. It filled her with great joy that her husband still looked upon her this way, that his eyes still followed her movements and still cherished the sight of her. She turned her attention towards her daughter in that instant, however, as her distress was clear and Isabella could never ignore her children's distress. Her multiple layers of skirt collected sand as she approached her daughter. Beatrice did not turn her gaze from the waves until she heard her mother's footsteps. At the appearance of her Mama, she straightener her posture and willed herself to relax, she was unaware of how long she had sat there thinking over her future, but she had undeniably sat too long if her mother had noticed her.
"Hello, Mama," she spoke then, and watched her mother settle herself on the damp sand beside her. Her mother's eyes held a look of worry.
"Are you alright, mama?" she asked upon noticing her mother's expression.
"Are you?" her mother replied, her gazing enquiring. Isabella was not ignorant of the things that likely plagued her daughter's young mind, but she needed to ask. She hoped her daughter would speak plainly and be open towards her worries, but she should have known better.
"I am fine, mama," her daughter lied easily, but her words could not deny what her mother saw in her. Her gaze fell onto her lap and wrung her hands together as her anxiety heightened due to her mother's questioning.
"You are not fine, ma chérie," she replied, reaching to grasp her daughters hand in her own, "please tell me your worries."
Her daughter raised her gaze from her lap and met her mother's stare. She knew there was no hiding the truth of her feelings from her mother. Her mama was persistent and stubborn, she would continue to question her until she relented. It was with a deep sigh that did so.
"What if he doesn't like me?" Beatrice reminded her mother so much of herself in that instance. Isabella remembered her moment of anxiety that she had shared with her ladies maid over eighteen years previous. She smiled sadly at her daughter, she had not wished this for her, but it was not her choice. Creating alliances with Europe was a vital role for all of her five living daughters. As the eldest, Beatrice would marry first. She was betrothed to Prince Frederick of Germany and they would marry next April. It saddened Isabella to let her daughter go, but she knew she could not keep her by her side forever, just as her own father had been unable to keep her beside him, as he had likely wished too.
"Frederick will be a fool if he does not," she stated.
Her daughter smiled sadly, she would remain anxious until the wedding had taken place, Isabella knew this since she had felt similarly right up until the morning after her wedding. She was comforted by the knowledge that her daughter would take married life into her stride just as she had done, she would grow to love her husband just as she had. There was only one aspect of her married life that Isabella hoped her daughter would not repeat. Enduring eight pregnancies had been the only drawback to her marriage. She loved her children, and she would not change her family for the whole world. She only wished that her daughter would not have quite so many children as she. She knew that only God could decide how many, if any, children her daughter's marriage brought forth, so she tried not to worry on it and instead focused her mind back towards her daughter's worries as opposed to her own.
"I would not worry on it, ma chérie. I have met him, and he does not seem like a fool."
Beatrice found herself smiling at her mother's words. A real smile this time that showed the potential for happiness.
"You truly believe that, mama?" she enquired, smiling beautifully at her mother. Her grandfather had been quite truthful in his assessment of Beatrice all those years ago, she was truly a stunning young woman to behold. She had been blessed with her mother's brunette curls, which were currently styled into a more recent fashion than her mothers, and her father's sparkling emerald eyes. Any Prince would be truly lucky to have her treasured daughter as a bride. She did not doubt for a moment that Beatrice would be as loved by her future husband as Isabella had been by her father.
"I have no doubt that he will love you the moment he sees you," she told her daughter, her words firm with the truth she very much believed.
"Did father love you the moment he saw you?"
She thought back at her daughter's question, to the day they had met. One moment in particular, she would never forget…
"You must not find me to your liking, if being forced to share a dance with me has caused such a scowl." She stated, attempting at a light-hearted tone. His eyes meet hers briefly before replying.
"I am not scowling." He insisted, as he clutched her tight in his in order to control her movements.
"I disagree," she told him, allowing him to guide her through the steps that she knew better than her second language. He glanced down at her again, but this time held her gaze for several noticeable heartbeats before he answered her comment.
"You are very much to my liking."
…"He did indeed," her husband's voice replied from behind where she sat. She had been so lost in her memories of him that she had missed his approach. She scolded herself internally for her distraction, and turned her gaze onto her husband.
"And he has very much loved her every day since."
Isabella felt her cheeks flush at his words. Their daughter was present, and she would never have expected such a declaration of love with so many people surrounding them.
"Do not allow yourself to worry after Prince Frederick, my beautiful daughter," her father reassured her, "besides, if he does not treat you the way he should, you must only say. Wars have been started over less."
Beatrice's eyes widened at his suggestion.
"Father, I very much doubt that will be necessary."
"Well then, my dear child, you have answered your own worries," her father told her then, "now, I am afraid I must steal your mother away."
Beatrice smiled at her parents as her father aided her mother in rising up from the damp sand that she had settled herself on only moments before. Her hand was held in his and their eyes met once she had returned to full height. The love his gaze held made her feel complete. She was a very fortunate woman to have been blessed with such a wonderful husband, who cared so deeply for her. They had spent the last seventeen years as husband and wife, and had been through so much in that time. For all his faults and all her own, together they had endured tragedy, grief and pain, but their love and devotion to one another kept them strong and allowed them to be the couple that not only their family needed, but also their country.
"Will you walk with me?"
"Of course," she replied instantly, she could never refuse him.
He took her arm and tucked it into the crook of his elbow. Together they walked in companionable silence further along the beach away from the prying eyes of their assembled family.
"Was there a reason that you stole me away from our daughter so hastily?" she enquired as he lead her further along the stretch of sand.
"Does a husband require a reason to seek his wife's company?" Edward replied turned to gaze at his wife.
She smirked at his question and stated, "There is always a reason."
"Whether it be for physical or mental companionship, there is always a reason."
"That is true," he responded before coming to a halt. Isabella looked about her and noticed that they were now completely out of their families view.
"If you were thinking of seeking the former, dear husband," she told him, eyebrows raised, "I would have to inform you that I must decline. This is not the place for it, and if you should force anymore children upon me, I shall refuse to share your bed again until my courses cease."
"Surely, you would not deny your husband," he enquired, a grin slowly spreading across his features. He bent down then, moving towards her until his lips reached hers. She sighed in relief at the feeling. They had not been permitted to share a bed for many nights due to her course making an inconvenient appearance. However, that time was almost over and soon they would be united again. That thought combined with his company and his touch, caused feelings to stir within her. She had once thought that such feelings would fade with time, but she was delighted to have been wrong. She craved her husband as much if not more now than when they had married and from the situation developing in his trousers at their proximity, she was made aware that it hadn't change for him either. Their kiss deepened and for a moment, Isabella was actually concerned that they would give in to their urges, right then and there on their little private beach.
Thankfully, for their morals and dignity, their eldest son called for them.
"Papa! Mama!" his voice reached them.
They sharply broke apart and were the picture of dignity as their sixteen year old son laid eyes on them. Isabella gave her husband a moment to collect himself and address their son.
"What's wrong sweetheart?"
"Nothing is wrong, Mama," he told them both as if this should be obvious, "Grandmamma says she wishes to retire and she cannot do so without your permission."
Isabella rolled her eyes at the formality of the situation, "You will be king one day, Edward, you can grant her permission as equally as myself or your father. You know this, now off you go."
The Prince of Wales smirked at his mother's comment before turning on his heel and heading back towards his grandmother. She turned to her husband once their son had departed.
"So many children, so little time," she stated with a breathy laugh. His responding laughter made her shiver with pleasure.
"Surely, one more wouldn't be such a bad thing," he suggested then.
She rolled her eyes once more at his statement, and questioned, "You have no more need of more children. Is your dynasty not already firmly secured?"
His smirk grew, "my dynasty is very much secure, but it is not solely the child I seek but the joy in making it."
Her cheeks flushed and she giggled.
"Husband, you are insatiable."
He took her in his arms once again then and held her tight to his person.
"I am always insatiable when it comes to you, my love."
She giggled at her words and allowed him to kiss her again. She drew herself away from him after a few moments.
"We had best return before they come searching for us once again," she told him regrettably, "but if it pleases you, you may visit me tonight."
His grin was huge as he followed his wife back towards their family, only to fall from his face at the sight of his dejected daughter. Despite the cheer she had shown prior to their departure, it appeared she was still not as happy as he desired her to be. He reassured himself with the thinking that Beatrice would not be happy until she was sure of her future and he was glad to know that she did not have long to wait for that security.
The months between that moment and April flew by so fast that she wasn't really granted much free time to fret. She stood before the looking glass with her mother appraising her from across the room. Only her mother had been permitted to accompany her across Europe to Germany. Despite his reservations about separating himself from his wife, her father had simply not been able to get away.
"I am sorry to say it, but that gown is not to my liking," Isabella commented, a grimace present on her face as she did so, "It's so German."
Beatrice giggled, "Well, I will be German soon."
Her mother did not seem satisfied, "the gown we had commissioned is much more flattering."
Beatrice rolled eyes, "that it is, but I will not disrespect my mother in law by refusing her choice."
"Of course," her mother agreed softly, "that would not be a good way to begin your married life. Doesn't make it any less of a hideous dress though."
Beatrice stared at her reflection for a moment, "It's not that bad."
Isabella smiled gently at her daughter and came up from behind her to pull her into an embrace. With her arms wrapped around her daughter's middle, she whispered.
"No," her mother agreed once again, "but that is only because the woman wearing it is exceptionally beautiful."
Beatrice frowned at their reflection, "I'm not as beautiful as you."
Her mother scoffed at the idea.
"I haven't been beautiful in a long time," Isabella replied, knowing she had aged and had gained weight after so many pregnancies.
"Papa thinks you are," her daughter told her kindly, "to him you are the most beautiful woman in the world and I see why. Mama, I don't think he even sees other woman when you are around."
Isabella smiled at the thought of her husband but avoided broaching the topic. She was far from home and far from him, the furthest that they had even been from the other and it was difficult to bare it. She had never been separated from her husband for such a long period of time before, it was a difficult situation for them all.
"And soon Prince Frederick will think the same of you."
Beatrice looked concerned for a moment before releasing herself from her mother's grip.
"Do you really think so?"
"How could he not, ma Cherie?"
Isabella certainty was confirmed when she witnessed the Prince's expression as his eyes met her daughters for the first time. The Prince scarcely left her daughter's side throughout their stay and after they were married, Isabella was absolutely assured that her daughter would be exceedingly well looked after. It was with that thought in mind that she began her journey back towards her home and her husband. She missed him terribly and longed to be beside him once again.
However, God had other plans for the Queen of England.
At the young age of thirty-five, Isabella contracted typhoid fever and was taken swiftly from this world. When the news reached her husband, all formality was lost. His grief was terrible and all consuming. He screamed and cursed at his nobles and lost all sense of reason for a time. A week had passed since her funeral and he was sat in the ballroom, alone and deeply mourning her loss. It was then that he heard it, a voice at his ear.
"You are scowling," her faraway voice accused, with a hint of amusement.
"I am not scowling," he grumbled in reply.
"I disagree," her beautiful voice replied.
"You always do," he told her, tears forming in his eyes. He looked up from scowling at the floor to be greeted with the sight of her. Or rather the memory of her.
The ballroom was alive with people and there she was, full of youth and carefree smiles. Dressed in gold, she turned her head from the people around her and smiled lovingly across the room at him. He gazed towards her with longing, wishing for nothing more than for this apparition of his late wife to be real.
"Why did you leave me?" he questioned, his tone accusing.
One moment her image was stood across the room and the next she was kneeling in front of him. Her golden dress splayed around her knees as she reached to lay her hand atop his. Her eyes appraised him then.
Her smile was as radiant as ever, "I will never leave you."
"But you have," he cried, unable to contain his emotion any longer, "you have left me."
She shook her head gently, "No, Edward, I haven't. I may not stand beside you, but I am with you in our children, in your heart. I am always with you in your memories."
"This is not goodbye, my love," she stated, "I will see you again."
She pressed her lips to his forehead and his eyes closed at the sensation. A coldness swept over him as he opened his eyes a few moments later. The ballroom was empty and she was gone, but now he knew. He knew that she was waiting and that he would one day be reunited with her in God's kingdom. For the first time in a long while, he smiled just slightly. He would live for her and for their children and when the time was right, he would return to her.
In 1881, at the respectable age of sixty-five, the King of England died and she was there to greet him when that time came. Hand in hand, they watched with pride as their son and his Spanish wife took their rightful place as King and Queen. Their time on this earth was over, but their legacy would live on in.