Disclaimer: Downton Abbey, HBO's The Tudors and all characters featured in this story do not belong to me. I can only claim the few original aspects and twists that this story will take.
A note on historical accuracy, characters, society and the craziness that is this fic.
Hey all! So with all the wonderful AU's around, I thought I'd add this one to the bunch. I got the idea for Tudor!Downton a while back but dismissed the idea as I couldn't get it to work. It never really went away however. So, I put a little thought in to it, sketched a plot and decided to go with it. I have an ending planned and know how I am going to get there so it should work. This is going to be a long fic.
It's been fun but difficult to line up the Tudor/Downton characters and merge them into one. Downton personalities over ride Tudor ones though and I hope I have kept good characterization. Thus while the actions of Lord Chancellor Carson are at times extreme, shall we say, I hope you guys find them believable and sprung out of his love for those he cares for. Likewise, Robert won't have six wives. But Coberts, don't get to comfortable... he won't just be having the one...
One of the joys of this fic so far is setting the characters in a society with different values. Thus, the most beautiful Crawley sister is now exquisite princess Edith. A down side of this is that the women are more under the men's control than ever, not that it will keep any of them from doing exactly what they want. The strong Downton women are still strong.
As for historical accuracy, take it with a piece of salt. In order to keep the Crawleys in Downton mode, Queen Cora is from the New World as an example. Obviously, this wouldn't happen in Tudor times... but yeah... pinch of salt. All inaccuracies can be put down to the fact this is AU... at least, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.
Now on with the actual story...
Chapter 1: March 1528.
"I do not why I should marry her mother. The crown is by rights mine."
"Matthew! You will hold your tongue if you know what is good for you!"The Dowager Duchess of Manchester scolded her son and looked about the stone room as if it had ears.
"Well, it is – not that you have ever wanted me to have it, until now. Not that I have ever wanted it," he told her as he wondered over to the window. The sun was struggling to break through the clouds for him that day... well it was hardly surprising, he thought.
He was a man grown and his mother was not going to force him into this. Neither was any king for that matter. But how did one go about rejecting a marriage offer from the king and his eldest daughter?
He had been about to turn away from the windows when he at last found there was a reason to smile in the gardens as well as another cause to say no to this ridiculous marriage. Her name was Lavinia Swire.
Miss Lavinia Swire.
Seeing the expression on his sons face change so, Duchess Isobel knew what he was looking at before she crossed to his side. The political matriarch in her told her to rip her son from the window, box his ears and give him some homes truths. He would marry the princess; he would be King of England as his great grandfather had been before him.
But whenever it came to Matthew it was a very rare thing the political matriarch won out. Too often she was kept in check by the doting mother – who had never managed to box her son's ears.
It was with sympathy that she put a hand on her boy's shoulder. She could see why he had so fallen for Miss Swire. With her soft doe eyes, pale skin and beautiful red hair, she was the greatest beauty her son had ever seen. Not only that, but she was, Isobel knew, devoted to the Duke.
But a duchess? No...
"You know you cannot marry her. If you won't marry the princess, even then, you cannot marry her. Miss Lavinia is no duchess."
"She will be if I raise her high enough. If I wed her today, tonight... Then this nonsense can come to an end," He declared.
Isobel sighed. He was being petulant. They both knew it. And there was only one way to deal with him when he was in such a mood. Isobel curtsied to her son.
"If there is to be a secret marriage tonight, please send me a note. I shall put on my best dress and support you, whatever comes. However, please send a note likewise if you come to your senses. I'd rather enjoy a good night's sleep."
With that, she left the room and her son. But it was a long time before Matthew followed.
X x x
"Are you sure this should happen now, my lord? Should we not be focusing on the marriage of our daughter Mary, with Lord Matthew arriving in not a week's time?"
Queen Cora was as young and beautiful in the eyes of her people as she had ever been, and as she walked around the royal park with her arm linked through her husbands, she felt more than a few approving sets of eyes on her.
After all, she was, for a fourth time large with child and showing at last. The promise of a prince seemed certain though it did make her wonder why they were inviting Lord Matthew Plantagenet to court to marry their eldest daughter at all.
Robert's face creased in annoyance. "We cannot know if he will arrive yet. Our Lord Duke is keeping us waiting. The King of France desires a wife quickly. This is a good match for Edith. She has been brought up as a princess and should be a queen. Sweetheart, I understand your reservations."
"But will send my daughter away regardless."
He sighed. "You were sent away from the New World when you came to marry me. Have we two not been happy these past nineteen years?"
His plan had been to distract her. And it worked. "We have. Of course, we have." She stroked his arm affectionately.
"And so will our princess. Edith will be Queen of the May everyday from now on, the greatest poets in France will write odes to her beauty so sweet that in five hundred years they will still be sung," he reassured her. The two of them smile at one another, but she knew he was unsettled. Not on Edith's behavealf however.
Nearly two decades as his queen meant Cora knew every shade in her husband's attitudes.
"Of course, the Duke will come," she returned to their earlier conversation.
"He will if he knows what is good for him. Mary is seventeen. It is time she was wed."
"And so she will be. She will be."
X x x
Sir Anthony Strallan held his feathered cap with in his hands. He would have to put it back on before he went in to the Princess' apartment but he felt too hot and nervous for some reason. His hands were ridiculously clammy. It was utterly foolish. Why should he be nervous of this young girl? But then he was just a knight... who had been away from court for the best part of a decade... and she was a princess of the realm, born and bred at Greenwich.
His mind strayed to the last time he was at court. When he had been courting the thoroughly adorable Lady Maud and when he had won her hand and her heart. Every time he recalled her face, the wound to his heart was as fresh as the day he sobbed goodbye at her bed side. He had lost a child and a wife that day. The only mercy was he would never have to go through that again.
For he would never love another. Not the way he had loved her.
"Sir Anthony Strallan!" he was announced. And then he was strolling into the apartment of the princess.
When he walked in, he saw the princess was not on her own. Instead she was surrounded by her ladies and one of them had been playing soft music for her on the virginals before he entered. But the moment that he walked in, it stopped and they all watched him save the young girl sitting by the window looking out of it. He felt terribly conscious of himself, of his attitude, even of the way he breathed...
How was he meant to address the Princess if she would not address him?
After a wait of what could not have been more than twenty seconds but what felt a life time, he knew he had to break protocol.
"Your Royal Highness, if I might present myself to you? My name is Sir Anthony Strallan-"
"I know very well who you are," she said, her tongue clearly sharp that day. But for the first time since he had entered the room, she turned to face him and he saw what everyone said was true.
The second daughter of the king was indeed the most exquisite beauty with her fair hair, pale skin and brown eyes. How his majesty could bare to send her from his side, he did not know.
"I remember you from when I was a child," Edith said more softly.
A soft smile appeared on Anthony's already gentle features. He was not like the other creatures of her fathers. As much as she wanted to send the man who was to be her jailer away without so much as hearing him out, she found she was unable to do so.
"You were no more than five years of age when I left."
"I have a good memory," she said to him and he nodded.
"So I see. Princess Edith, I do not mean to distress you, in anyway," he said wishing to soothe her obvious agitation.
"There is nothing you can do about that. Your being here does distress me, the reason you have come distresses me. My ladies playing soothes me, as do my devotions. I will pray for strength this afternoon."
"And the meek shall inherit the earth," he murmured to her before looking downwards. Did one quote proverbs at royals, even one considerably younger than themselves?
"So I have heard it said, my lord." The two of them lapsed into an uneasy silence.
"I will meet with your father this afternoon, to make the necessary arrangements for our voyage, your household and such. I think that many of your ladies will be able to stay with you."
"For the first month, perhaps. But not indefinitely. Sir Anthony, I beg you speak of such matters to my father, write them down and allow me to read them at my leisure but do not talk of my departure to me before I have summoned the courage to face it," she was intensely aware that time was running out. She had to find it with in herself soon or she was going to make quite the spectacular of herself when that day came.
She dreaded it all. Leaving her friends and family, the court, England. France was not her choice.
For the first time she met his eyes and was almost surprised by how blue they were – how deep they were and the sorrow and wisdom she found there.
"If you would allow, Princess, I think you have found your courage and that over half your father's knights don't half the courage in their little finger as you do in your heart."
He watched her swallow. She appeared quite taken back and he would if she had ever been told she was brave before. But she was. And he could see it.
"I will, of course, do as you command and deliver our plans to you no later than this time tomorrow."
"I thank you."
Bowing, he smile once more at her.
"Your Royal Highness."
"Good day to you, Sir Anthony," she replied, dismissing him. But somehow it wasn't quite enough, and as he backed away from her, she found her voice once more. "And welcome back to court!"
X x x
As the young women made her way down the hall with her two ladies maid behind her, in the middle of the corridor an opening appeared as servants, lords and ladies alike made room for her.
It was like the parting of the red sea.
"Wait here," she commanded the ladies as she knocked on the door of the Lord Chancellor.
"Enter," a deep voice called and the dark haired beauty did so.
The relationship between the two had been remarked upon by the courtiers for years. It was not every minister who had the respect of the princess to the point she knocked on his door before she entered their rooms.
"I do hope I have not come to call at a bad time."
"There is no such thing as a bad time for you to call on me, Your Royal Highness. It is an honour to receive you night or day."
"That does sound rather more risqué than I think you intended it to but I never the less thank you for the sentiment," Princess Mary said in her clear cut voice with a warm, affectionate smile on her face.
Carson rose, took her hand and kissed it before bowing.
"Your Royal Highness, what can I do for you?"
"You can give me what I always seek from you. An honest opinion," she said crossing to the fire place and warming herself by it. March was drawing to a close but they were still a long way off from high summer and she had felt the cold that year particularly.
"As you wish."
"The Plantagenet marriage. Will it go? Should it go?"
Carson's brow furrowed and Mary did not know if that was a good sign or not. He was deep in thought – but he did not like the idea. That was plain to see already.
"May I?" he said looking to his chair and she nodded.
Once he was sitting comfortably, he sighed. "Beloved Princess, I watched you grow up and you know I want the very best for you and I cannot pretend to you I believe this upstart duke is the best."
"Carson, his great grandfather was king and there are many who would argue the Crawley's are the upstarts. We've reigned for not twenty years yet."
Carson waved that aside. "As long as the crown of England is on your fathers head, and he says Lord Matthew is the upstart, then that is the truth. If I had my way then you would marry a prince, of France or Spain even, a good catholic prince for my princess. But... as you say, we are not twenty years into your fathers reign. And no one wants to return to the evil days of civil war, Your Royal Highness. For England, I desire that the houses of Plantagenet and Crawley join. As king and queen together, your rule would be unassailable. You'd be safe. But for yourself, I cannot desire this. You deserve more."
"My feelings exactly," she muttered as she looked into the embers of the fire place. "Still, I suppose I should at least meet him. And then, if I do not... desire him?"
"There are always ways of dealings with such unpleasant situations...if you cannot abide the thought of marrying him, we'll simply find a way to be rid of the Duke of Manchester."
Princess Mary smiled. "And people wonder why the king holds you in such high regard."
"I hope he does, my lady."
"Of course. As long as we're talking about people who hold you in high regard, you might take a trip to the nursery today or tomorrow. I heard Lady Hughes and Princess Sybil discussing this summer's progress and my sister has grown again. If you were to increase Lady Hughes' allowance, for my sister's clothes, you might find you have made two women very happy today."
"Your Royal Highness, I do not know what you mean."
"Of course, you don't. Another reason my father trusts you so."
X x x
The meek widow of about twenty five went in to the apartments of the queen. She had never thought she was going to find herself back here. When she had wed her lord she had supposed she would leave court forever to be his lady... but life did not always work out the way you wanted it to.
That was something she knew well enough.
"Lady Jane," she heard herself being addressed and was shaken out of her thoughts. She had hoped against hope that the Mistress of the Robes would have changed when she had been gone.
She bowed to Lady O'Brien.
"Her majesty is just rising and will be out presently. You will not address her until she speaks to you. When you did speak you will do so quietly, and cause no distress to the queen, for she is in a delicate condition."
"Yes, Lady O'Brien."
It was at that moment that the queen arrived, coming out of her chambers in a lilac gown and a French hood on. She looked quite well to the eyes of Lady Jane Moorsum who had had a child herself.
When she had been speaking with the queen's first lady, she had been quite nervous about what was to come – but as soon as the queen saw her, her expression show sympathy.
"Lady Moorsum, welcome back," she said as she crossed the room and took her hands. "The King and I were so very sad to learn of your husband's death in service of the crown. He was a good man and we all must love and cherish his memory."
Jane nodded. "It is kind of you to say my lady," she blinked.
"You are, of course, to come straight back in to my service. I will not patronize you by asking that you conduct yourself in a manner that reflects the dignity of his majesty's court for I know I have no need. I only ask that you swear once more on the holy bible to serve us both as you should and change."
Crossing to the Latin text that stood in the queen's present chamber, she bowed her head, repeated the oath she had taken as a teen and then looked back to the queen. The two of them shared a smile.
"Perhaps Lady O'Brien might arrange some new dresses for you."
"I have them right here, your majesty."
"What would I do without you?" she said as she bestowed a smile on her favourite lady.
Lady O'Brien curtsied and bowed her head.
"His Majesty," was the announcement as the door to Queen Cora's door opened.
Robert strolled in to his wife's chambers with all the confidence of a man who had been king for twenty years. Not a day had gone passed when he had not come here at one stage or another, but he was rarely as taken aback as he was then.
"Ahh, Lady Moorsum, you are back with us already," he said to her after offering his queen a smile.
"I arrived just this hour, your majesty."
"She has, however, already rejoined my household, Robin," Cora explained.
"I am glad. And how is your son? Frederick, was it?"
"He is staying in the country with Lord Moorsums parents. He is a comfort to them."
"I'm glad," Robert nodded. A silence fell and Cora nodded. Her ladies left the room.
The king watched them as they did.
She sat down. "What is it?" she asked.
"A letter. The Duchess of Manchester pays homage to her queen and king and reassures us she is doing all she can to bring her son about to the union of our two houses. The fact she has to bring her brat about is preposterous. There are kings, princes and dukes all over Europe who would come today to marry Mary."
"Yes, but all of them knew they were to be king from the day they were born. Our Duke of Manchester is facing everything he has ever known changing. His delay is no slur on our Mary, but it is a sign of a careful and cautious man. I have to say as one who married into the royal life I think I rather like those traits," she said to him, looking him straight in the eye. So many people feared him. Not Cora though.
His rage which had been quite tangible when he came into the room softened.
"Darling, if you do not like him, trump up some charges and be done with it," Cora suggested as she shook her head. "Whatever, Mary must be settled and soon, especially with Edith leaving for France now. Your excuse to send Edith in Mary's place was she was to be engaged, that she had been promised already. She must marry, Robert."
"The poor fellow has done nothing wrong but be born of the wrong blood line, I know it in my heart. But... yes. Darling, you are right. Whether by Mary or Matthew's will or against both of them, this marriage will go. It is right."
"So stop looking for faults. And do not give up hope," she said as she put her hand over her bulging gown. "For here is where your true heir lies."
Cupping her face, he kissed her deeply.
X x x
"Here are your gowns, as well as your hoods. At all times you will wear these when you are waiting on her majesty," Lady O'Brien told the widow as she settled her into the chambers she would be sleeping in from now on.
Not once since they had left the king and queen had the chief lady in waiting of the queen's bed chamber looked at the new arrival.
"Of course, I remember much of the protocol here. I am sure it will not take too long for me to catch up once more," she said to her. "Is there something the matter? Lady O'Brien, have I done something to offend you?"
"Yes. Yes, you have. I can't believe you would have forgotten. Or did you think no one knew who comforted the king during Her Majesty's confinement with Princess Sybil?"
Jane looked down and took a deep breath.
"See, now you remember," Sarah smirked before her expression turned slightly sinister. "I have devoted my life to her majesty. I won't see her hurt and won't allow anyone else to hurt her neither. You play meek so well, don't you, Lady Jane... but hear this. You will be watched every moment. If you should reignite your friendship with his majesty, you will find yourself on the way back to the country sooner than you wish to be. Do you understand?"
Without meeting Lady O'Brien eyes, Jane nodded.