Author's Notes - A nice, long chapter to make up for the incredible dely. I apologize for making you all wait. In the past month, I've moved and have had little to no access to a computer or internet. Hopefully this makes up for it. Also, little Elizabeth will be in the next chapter and then it'll jump forward to bring Anne and Charles together. Any suggestions on the name for the prince? I don't want to do Henry, as in rl they had bad luck with naming their princes Henry and I don't think they'd name another boy Henry if the others all died.
On their way back to the small house Henry had allowed them to use whilst at court, Anne had been completely silent. Her normally expressive eyes stared blankly out the carriage window while George tried in vain to think of something to rouse his sister from her present state. The announcement of the Queen's pregnancy had stunned them both, but it was clearly affecting Anne more-so than ever. Thank God father is not alive to see this, George thought half-hysterically. Thomas Boleyn would no doubt have thrown a fit the likes of which had never been seen, knowing that the queen had not only succeeding in keeping their family from the throne but also that she was likely to give the king a living, legitimate heir. No sooner had the carriage stopped, than Anne was out in a flash. Ignoring the startled groom, she jumped down and with a look of fierce determination, almost sprinted inside.
George gaped after her, startled, before he too jumped down and rushed after her. The instant he was inside, maids were rushing to and fro in a frantic attempt to pack. Why are they packing? He thought blankly, even as he made his way to where he could hear his sister ordering her ladies about. "Anna-Maria, what on earth-," he began, stepping into the open door of his sister's chambers only to duck when a vase was thrown at his head.
"I will not stay here another moment!" Her eyes were wild and her hair, so neatly done before hand was now in a wild tangle about her face. "You will not make me! God himself will not make me!"
Several of the ladies gasped in shock, one nearly dropping her burden as they all stopped and stared at the siblings. Feeling eyes upon her, Anne whirled around at once. "What are you staring at?" she demanded, her fury rising. Almost as one, the ladies all averted their eyes with mumbled apologies and went back to their frenzied packing.
"But the king-, "George squeaked, only to blanch as his sister turned on him once more.
"To hell with the king," she hissed between clenched teeth, advancing on him like a hungry wolf. He backed up until his back hit the wall, even as she got closer. "We are going back to Hever and if I have my way, I will never come back here."
Mary had been unusually quiet since the commencement of the banquet, going about her nightly routine almost as if in a trance. The whole castle was abuzz with the news of the impending birth of a prince but she was oblivious to it all. For years, she had been the heiress presumptive to the throne, being the only living child of her parent's marriage. Even when Bessie Blount gave birth to Henry Fitzroy, everyone still assumed she would one day become queen. The thought of a bastard becoming king over a legitimate heir was ludicrous. Her father could ennoble the young boy all he wanted, making him the Duke of Somerset and Richmond, but that did not change the fact that the child was first and foremost nothing more than a royal bastard.
Part of her wanted to scream and cry that it wasn't fair. Why should an infant, even a boy infant, be put ahead of her in the line of succession? She was the granddaughter of Isabella of Castile, who'd been a queen in her own right. Her mama had told her so and thus neither of them saw any reason why she could not eventually be queen. In the back of her mind, she'd always known if a son was born to her parents that he would become king before she would even be considered to be queen. Just like if she had a brother, who in turn had a son, that boy would become king and so on and so on. It just wasn't fair! All these years, being called the Princess of Wales and treated as heiress presumptive, were slowly coming to an end. Soon, the little prince growing in her mother's stomach would be the Prince of Wales and heir presumptive, leaving her as plain Princess Mary.
"Her Majesty, the Queen!"
Spinning around at the announcement, she instantly dropped into a curtsy as her mother swept into her chambers. The ladies who attended the princess did the same, all of them muttering greetings and keeping their eyes carefully averted. "Leave us," Katherine commanded, making her way to a chair and settling herself in it comfortably as the women curtsied and made their way out. "Come here, Mary," she said softly, motioning for her daughter.
The dam holding back her emotions broke and with a sob, Mary launched herself at her mother, falling to her knees before her and burying her face into her mother's swollen stomach. Tears flowed freely as her thin frame was racked with the force of her crying. Gentle hands petting her hair made her cry even harder. Would her mother love her infant son more than Mary? The thought ran wildly through her head and she hadn't even realized she spoke it aloud until the other woman spoke.
"Calm yourself, Mary, it's alright," Katherine told her soothingly, stroking her daughter's hair. Tears soaked through her outer robe, but she hardly noticed it. The thought of Mary believing that a prince would replace the love she held for her daughter nearly broke her heart. "No, Mary, no child. I could never love one of my children more than the other. Even if I bear a son, nothing could ever take away my love for you."
"You promise?" Mary knew she sounded like a child again, but couldn't bring herself to care. The thought of losing the love of her parent's was gut-wrenching. "What about papa?"
"I promise, mi pequena nina," Katherine assured her, gently lifting her daughter's head to meet her gaze. "You will always be your father's pearl, Mary. His love for you will never go away, just like mine."
Impatient and a little worried, Henry paced the length of his wife's presence chamber. The last few weeks he'd scandalized many of her ladies by visiting her whilst in confinement, sitting with her for a few hours each day as they both waited for the birth of their son. Please, God, give us this blessing, he prayed silently as he turned on his heel and made his way back across the room. Please, give us a son.
Her birth pains had started early this morning and he'd given orders to be roused the moment it happened. Now, once again, he was waiting. Always waiting, he mused, a rueful smile appearing and just as quickly disappearing. He'd gotten so tired of waiting that he'd nearly lost Katherine and for what? Another girl! He loved Mary, he did, but he saw it as his duty to not let the Tudor line end. For all of Anne's talk about being the one to give him a son, it had been all for nothing. He'd almost broke with the church, declared his Mary a bastard and lost Katherine whom he'd loved since he was a boy only to end up with another girl.
More had pointed out in his own way that maybe God gave them this chance to show he forgave Henry for his mistakes with Anne and approved of him going back to Katherine. The whole of England had celebrated when it became known that its king and queen had reconciled, so maybe God was at last favoring him? He certainly hoped that was true, praying that the final sign was the birth of a healthy prince.
How much longer was this going to take? He wondered, glancing at the door to where his wife had spent the last few weeks of her pregnancy. Dr. Linacre didn't seem worried and he hadn't been called in for assistance so he guessed everything was going smoothly. Had it taken this long when she gave birth to Mary? He wondered, cursing himself for not being there when she was born. Maybe if he had, he'd have a better idea of just how long this was supposed to take. The door opened and Henry stopped mid-pace to look over eagerly. One of the maids beckoned the doctor inside, carefully closing the door behind them.
Was everything alright? Was it Katherine? What about the baby? The sudden urge to bite his nails caused him to cross his arms. He was the king, damn it, not some commoner. Minutes passed and he fought the urge to fidget impatiently. Would they ever come out? After what seemed a small eternity, Dr. Linacre emerged and began approaching. "What is it? Is Katherine alright? What about the child?" He asked the questions in a rapid fire manner, worry for both mother and child gnawing at his gut.
"Peace, your Majesty," the older man replied, making a calming gesture with his hands. "Your Majesty is to be congratulated, as the queen has given birth to a healthy prince. Her majesty seems to be doing well."
At last, a prince. A prince! Henry stared at the man in complete shock before he felt his knees go weak. Lowering himself to the floor, he began to chuckle lightly at first then a full-out belly laugh. "Praise be to God," he whispered, clasping his hands and bowing his head.