30th May 1536
Mary had hoped that she would be invited to attend her father's wedding to Jane Seymour but, to her dismay, no invitation was forthcoming.
As the Imperial ambassador, Chapuys would attend the wedding ceremony as a representative of the Emperor, as one of the honoured guests, and he could not snub the King or the new Queen by refusing to attend but, although she knew that he had contacted Master Cromwell, hinting heavily that the King's daughter would be grateful if she could attend the nuptial celebrations for her beloved father and pay her respects to her new stepmother, Cromwell had told him – apologetically, according to Chapuys – that this was out of the question for the moment.
The King had made it plain that, until Mary took the Oath, proving to her father that she was his loyal, obedient subject and daughter, there could be no question of receiving her at court.
Not even the inducement of having his daughter present for the ceremony, signifying her approval of the union and her acceptance that it was a valid one and that Lady Jane was her new Queen, was enough to tempt her father to release her from the obligation to take the Oath. He still wanted her to say that he was right and that she and her mother were wrong to ever deny that.
It was a disappointment to her on two fronts.
Not only was she dismayed by the fresh confirmation that her father was not inclined to soften towards her where the issue of her parents' marriage and her own legitimacy was concerned, despite the fact that he was now free from Anne's malign influence and was free to show affection to his daughter and to put an end to the persecution she had endured in recent years, she also wanted to meet her new stepmother in person as soon as possible, to thank Lady Jane for her kind efforts on her behalf and to assure her that she welcomed her as Queen and as a stepmother.
With her mother dead, it was no betrayal of her memory to accept that her father was entitled to remarry if it pleased him to do so or to welcome the lady of his choice as her new Queen.
It was no betrayal of her mother, or of herself to honour her stepmother as her Queen, or to accept that any children born of the marriage would be legitimate and, if a son was born, that he would be entitled to be the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, even ahead of Mary. If it was God's will that the King's union with Lady Jane would be blessed with the birth of a healthy son, Mary would never presume to question his will, or to deny her brother's right to the throne.
Mary was certain that her mother would approve of the King's marriage to Lady Jane, pleased to see that this good woman had led him away from Anne and from sin and would guide him back to the right path, saving his soul and helping to repair the damage that Anne had wrought on England, just as she would be pleased to know that Lady Jane intended to do everything in her power to bring about the restoration of Mary's rights, the rights that her mother had suffered so much to defend but died before she could see the matter set to rights.
She wanted to go to court and to assure Lady Jane that she could marry the King with her blessing but, even if she was not to go to court, she was still leaving Hatfield today.
Her household at Hundson was ready for her and, in the future, instead of being a member of Elizabeth's household, a princess forced to act as a servant to her father's bastard, she would preside over her own establishment. The trunks containing her belongings were packed and stowed on top of the carriage that would bring her to Hundson, the two maids in waiting who were assigned to attend her were ready for the journey and waiting to help her into her cloak, a new one of black velvet, lined with the furs her mother had left her.
Mary knew that, when her mother made her will bequeathing the furs to her, she had noted that the furs were old, and somewhat worn but that Mary was unlikely to have any better ones as long as Anne was in power. Her mother had known that while the harlot was allowed to usurp the title of Queen, she would be happy to see her predecessor's daughter shabbily clad while she lavished her own daughter with rich garments, fit for a princess, as though she believed that if she dressed little Elizabeth like a princess and ensured that the toddler's finery would be a sharp contrast with the dark, plain gowns that Mary wore, gowns better suited to a servant than to a noblewoman, she would be able to make those who saw the child believe that she was truly entitled to that title.
Anne was vain enough to think that rich gowns and jewels could make a Queen or a Princess, underestimating the people and their ability to see past such things, to see the truth.
There was little enough that her mother had had to leave when she died, but she bequeathed virtually everything of value she possessed to her, in the hope that she could do something to allow her daughter to maintain her dignity as a princess and dress as her station demanded, knowing that she would receive nothing from her so-called stepmother.
It grieved Mary deeply that her mother was unable to hold on even half a year longer, long enough to see Anne exposed as the traitorous harlot she was and cast aside, as she deserved.
She was certain that Jane Seymour, a good and virtuous woman by all accounts, would never even contemplate the idea of accepting her father's advances as long as her mother lived. Even if the King pressed her to be his wife once Anne was safely dead, Mary felt that not even the prospect of being called Queen of England would tempt Lady Jane into accepting his offer, and that she would instead urge him to reinstate Queen Katherine as his rightful wife and consort, and to restore his lawful daughter to the succession.
However, that could not be.
Her mother was dead, and Mary could only hope that she was watching from Heaven, and was aware of Anne's fall – though it was likely that, if she knew what was happening, she would pray for the repose of Anne's soul and beseech God to show mercy on her, despite the sins that Anne committed against her and her daughter, and that she would wish to see little Elizabeth safe and well cared for, even if she would never wish to see the child of her rival, of the woman who had enslaved her husband and manipulated him, using his lust to secure herself the Queen's crown, permitted to retain the honours of a Princess of England while her daughter, who was entitled to those honours by rights, was denied them, all through Anne's witchcraft.
That was another reason why she would be very glad to leave Hatfield.
Since little Elizabeth was sent back from court – banished from the King's sight, according to Chapuys, because he could not bear to have a miniature reminder of Anne and of her betrayal around him, especially now that he was beginning a new life with Lady Jane and wanted nothing more than to be able to forget his past with Anne – Lady Bryan seemed to be more determined than ever to highlight the fact that, despite everything, the toddler still had the right to call herself a princess, at the King's express command. Elizabeth dined in state at every meal, not just dinner, eating under her canopy and served on gold plate, while Mary was relegated to the common board, and the governess seemed to be going out of her way to dress her small charge in the finest of the gowns that Anne had ordered for her daughter before her death, and even to adorn her with jewels from the Princess' collection, even though Elizabeth was too young to wear them.
When Lady Bryan came down to the reception hall, holding Elizabeth by the hand so that her charge could bid her sister farewell, Mary saw that Elizabeth was wearing a diamond and emerald pendant, along with a matching diadem that she recognized as belonging to the collection of jewels that her father had commissioned for her when he granted her the title of Princess of Wales, jewels that he had commanded that she should surrender to the infant daughter he called a princess when Elizabeth was born and Mary was commanded to wait on her.
Despite Chapuys' frequent reminders that the best thing she could do, for the present, was to refrain from openly defying her father by refusing to accord Elizabeth the honours that he still demanded on her behalf, and his assurances that if she could pretend to be the dutiful and cooperative daughter that her father expected her to be, it would ensure that he would not wait long before he summoned her to court, welcoming her as his daughter once more, it was difficult, almost impossible for Mary to force herself to curtsey when Lady Bryan brought Elizabeth down.
"Your Highness." The words were bitter in her mouth but she had to speak them.
"My Lady Mary." Lady Bryan's greeting was more respectful than any words she had spoken to Mary since the day she arrived at Hatfield, condemned to a servant's life because her father had set her mother aside in favour of another woman and wished to use Mary's position as an attendant in the child's household to show that he regarded Elizabeth as a princess, while Mary was a bastard. "Princess Elizabeth wanted to say goodbye and, if I may, I would like to wish you a safe and pleasant journey, and I hope that you will be very happy in your new home."
Mary inclined her head coldly, hiding a smile.
Although she was not fooled in the least by Lady Bryan's respectful farewell or by her good wishes, much less warmed by them, she was pleased that the governess saw fit to speak to her thus, viewing Lady Bryan's deferential manner as a further sign of her improving position.
Lady Bryan must be aware of the fact that, far from showing kindness and respect to the King's daughter while Mary lived under Hatfield's roof, as a member of a household presided over by Lady Bryan on Elizabeth's behalf, she had treated her with coldness and indifference at best, and cruelty at worst. Now that it seemed likely that Mary might be restored to her father's favour, the governess was worried that if word of her conduct towards the King's acknowledged daughter was carried to his ears, she would face his anger for it, even though he was the one who had commanded Mary to serve at Hatfield and who had insisted that she was to be treated with no more honour than the other maids, and that defiance and disobedience were not to be tolerated. Mary had even overheard servants whispering that the King had reproached Lady Bryan for showing her too much lenience, although she did not want to believe that this was true.
If he decided to take umbrage at the way Mary was treated, the King was unlikely to pay any heed to protests that his daughter was treated thus at his orders and nobody else's.
If anything, those who tried to remind him of this were likely to make him even angrier with them, as he would hate to be reminded of how harshly he was bewitched into treating his pearl.
"Thank you, Lady Bryan." Her tone was cool, and she took a malicious satisfaction in seeing the woman wince at her next words, even though she knew that it was her duty as a Christian to forgive those who wronged her rather than bearing grudges against them or seeking to avenge herself. "I will not forget your considerate treatment of me, during a difficult time."
The governess looked uncomfortable but she nodded, bobbing a curtsey, according Mary a degree of respect that she had never accorded her in all the time that Mary had dwelled at Hatfield.
"I obeyed His Majesty's commands, Lady Mary, as we all must," she said with quiet dignity.
"Yes." Mary said quietly, looking down at little Elizabeth. Her father had commanded that this child should be considered the Princess of England and the rightful heir to the throne, until such a time as Lady Jane... Queen Jane... supplied him with the son he longed for. He commanded that Elizabeth should be honoured as a princess by all, including Mary, and that each of his subjects should take an oath, vowing that they recognized the child as heir to the throne and that they would defend her claim with their lives, should they be called upon to do so.
Her path to her father's favour would be a stony one to tread, and he would demand obedience from her before he was willing to even contemplate the idea of welcoming her back into his life, but if he commanded her to swear that she recognized Elizabeth as a princess, essentially admitting that she was a bastard, that her mother had been her father's concubine rather than his wife, and that they both wronged him by claiming otherwise, how could she possibly obey him?
She prayed nightly that this would not be asked of her, that even if he was not prepared to disinherit Elizabeth and restore her, her father would send a message letting her know that it was not necessary for her to take the Oath, that she could return to court regardless as he and his new Queen both longed for her presence and did not want to be parted from her over this matter, or any other, but so far, those prayers were not answered.
"Are you really going away, Lady Mary?" Elizabeth's voice was quiet, and her lower lip trembled as she asked the question, as though she was ready to cry.
Despite her indignation over the fact that, simply by being accorded the title of Princess, the child in front of her was ensuring that she was unlikely to be granted the right to call herself by it, Mary couldn't remain cold when faced with the sight of a distressed child and her tone was kind and gentle when she answered her. "Yes, Your Highness."
"Not for always?" Two fat tears trickled down Elizabeth's cheeks at the thought.
"I am sure that Lady Mary will come back to visit you, Your Highness – won't you, Lady Mary?" Lady Bryan tried to soothe her charge, casting an imploring look at Mary, silently beseeching her to agree in order to calm the distressed child, even if she had no intention of visiting.
Mary nodded, forcing herself to smile. "Of course, sister." She said. Privately, she had her doubts about whether or not Elizabeth was her sister, wondering if there was truth to the allegations that she had been fathered by one of Anne's lovers but, regardless of the identity of her father, it was undeniable that the little girl would need a loving family. She had no mother now and, although Lady Jane was a kind woman, she would not be able to invite Elizabeth to court without the King's leave, even if she wanted to, and so would be unable to be a mother to her, as she had pledged to be to Mary. Anne's father had been allowed to leave the Tower a free man, and was even permitted to retain the earldom and property he had gained through the King's infatuation with his daughter, but he was unlikely to be allowed to see his granddaughter, even if he wanted to take an interest in her for the sake of the daughter he had reportedly repudiated at the end. With nobody else to do it, perhaps it was Mary's duty to show kindness to Elizabeth. It was what her mother would have wanted her to do, even if Elizabeth was Anne's child. "I will come to visit you, and perhaps you might like to come to visit me at Hundson, if the King allows it."
Mary couldn't imagine that her father would wish to hear any suggestions relating to the child of the harlot who had betrayed him and made a fool of him, certainly not in the immediate aftermath of Anne's execution, or that he would give his permission for Elizabeth to be a guest at Mary's new establishment even if Mary asked it of him but she hoped that the idea of future visits would calm Elizabeth, even if they were unlikely to be allowed for a long time, if ever.
Elizabeth sniffled quietly, her blue eyes shining with unshed tears. "My Mama went away for always," she said mournfully. "But I want her to come back to me."
Lady Bryan knelt down to her level, rubbing her back lightly, wishing that she was better able to comfort and distract the little princess.
It was a hard fact of life that many children lost their mothers at a young age and were forced to learn how to cope without them, but Elizabeth's situation was especially difficult.
How many children had to deal with the knowledge that the mother they adored, the mother who loved them fiercely, was dead because their father wished it?
"We have spoken of this, Princess Elizabeth." She reminded the child quietly, uncomfortably conscious of Mary's presence and wondering if the girl was taking note of everything she said, ready to report it if she thought that Lady Bryan was expressing sympathy towards Anne, or that she believed her death to be unjustified and might be saying that to Anne's child, turning her against the King and making her believe that her father was a murderer, a monster willing to see his innocent wife put to death so that he might raise his new love to the throne in her place. "The Queen, your mother, had to go to live in Paradise, with God and his angels."
Mary's lips thinned at this, but she didn't say anything, even though she disapproved of Lady Bryan's choice of words.
After everything Anne had done, she could not possibly be in Paradise and it was wrong to deceive her child by saying that she was. It would be far better for Elizabeth, young as she was, if she could hear the truth about her mother, and know that Anne's wickedness had damned her to Hell and to an eternity of suffering there. At least then, Anne could serve as an example to her little daughter, who would be better off knowing the truth so she could guard against following in her mother's footsteps and ensure that she would grow to be a good and virtuous woman, who would never behave as Anne had. Elizabeth's guardians would need to take great care with her, to ensure that her childish innocence and purity was not contaminated by her mother's sins.
"They cut off my Mama's head." Elizabeth said softly, tears flowing freely as she spoke, confiding the awful truth in Mary. "They shouldn't have done that! Mama didn't do anything naughty!"
Lady Bryan swept her small charge in her arms before she could say any more, cradling Elizabeth and turning to Mary with an apologetic smile, hoping that she would understand that it was only because Elizabeth was so young that they did not tell her the grim details of her mother's conviction – not that Lady Bryan believed a word of the charges; whatever else could be said of her, Queen Anne was a devoted mother and she couldn't believe that she would ever do anything that would risk the position and rights of the child she adored, least of all to indulge in carnal lusts – and that they could not be expected to disillusion a child not yet three by denying that her mother was in Paradise.
"The Princess is tired, Lady Mary," she said, forcing herself to sound calm and confident. "I should bring her back to the nursery, so that she can have a nap. I hope you have a pleasant journey."
"Thank you, Lady Bryan. Goodbye, sister." Mary smiled at Elizabeth, feeling sorry for her. She said no more and watched as Lady Bryan bore the toddler upstairs to the nursery.
It was only a couple of minutes later that a liveried servant approached her, bowing deeply before delivering his message, letting her know that her belongings and her maids were ready to leave, whenever she wished to depart. This time, she was not to be ordered into a carriage, much less carried there by force when she refused to obey. This time, it was for her to decide when to leave.
She didn't hesitate even a moment before going out to the drive, climbing into her carriage so that she could leave Hatfield, and all the indignities she had endured under its roof, behind.
Lady Bryan carried Elizabeth to the lavishly appointed nursery suite, removing her jewellery and setting it aside, so that it would not be damaged, before she unlaced the green satin gown, so that Elizabeth could take her nap without being restricted by the tight stomacher or entangled in the yards of rich cloth. Once Elizabeth was clad in her shift and petticoats, she lifted her into the great carved bed, which was so large that the toddler looked as tiny as a doll lying on it, and tucked her under the quilted satin coverlet.
"Sleep well, Princess." She said kindly, stroking the soft golden hair until Elizabeth's eyes began to drift shut. Once Elizabeth looked ready to doze off, she slipped away, not noticing that her small charge's eyes opened as soon as she left her side, or that Elizabeth was listening avidly when she began to speak to Mistress Kat, who was hanging Elizabeth's gown up so that it would not be creased when she woke up and donned it again.
"Has the Lady Mary left?" Mistress Kat asked in a soft voice.
"Yes," Lady Bryan confirmed. "She'll be at Hundson before nightfall. She's pleased about it, though she'd never say so, not to any of us, and very glad to have a household of her own again – though Sir John tells me that the Lady Mary's new establishment is much smaller than Princess Elizabeth's household, not even a third as large, thank God!" In her way, Lady Bryan was very fond of Elizabeth and she wanted to see her restored to her father's favour so it was a relief to see that, even if the King had opted to supply his elder daughter with an establishment of her own, the sizes of the respective households of his two daughters made it plain that, despite everything, Princess Elizabeth was more highly valued than Lady Mary. God willing, it boded well for the King's intentions, and they did not need to fear that their young charge would find herself downgraded in favour of her elder half-sister. "I dare say that the Lady Mary can thank Lady Jane – Queen Jane, I suppose I ought to say; she'll have married the King by now – for her new establishment. She's determined to reconcile Lady Mary with His Majesty, and bring her to court."
"And Princess Elizabeth?" Mistress Kat asked, more concerned for the little child in her charge than for Elizabeth's half-sister. "Do you think that Queen Jane will speak for her too?"
"I don't know, but I've heard nothing to say that she might," Lady Bryan said bluntly. She had heard plenty about how kind the new Queen supposedly was, and plenty about her intentions to see to it that the Lady Mary was welcomed back to court and honoured as the King's daughter, but she hadn't heard so much as a whisper to indicate that Queen Jane was also speaking to the King on behalf of her younger stepchild, reminding him that the crimes of a mother could not be held to the child's account and urging him to welcome the little princess back into his life. To Lady Bryan's mind, while it was commendable that the new Queen was willing to be kind to the Lady Mary, she had more of a duty to be a mother to an innocent little child, deprived of her true mother for her sake, but the new Queen didn't seem to agree. "I doubt that she'd care to have Queen Anne's child at court, before her eyes."
If there was so much as a whisper of truth to the rumours of Seymour involvement in Queen Anne's downfall, then in Jane's shoes, Lady Bryan doubted that she would want to have the child rendered motherless by her family's scheming around her, and if bringing about the Lady Mary's restoration to the King's good graces was her goal, then she would not want to see Elizabeth back at court, for fear that her presence would remind the King of his love for her, and for Queen Anne, and ensure that he would never contemplate the idea of Mary's restoration.
"Perhaps Queen Jane is afraid to speak for the little princess just yet, after what happened." Mistress Kat suggested optimistically. "She might think that it would make the King angry if she spoke up for Princess Elizabeth too soon, and that it would do more harm than good if she did. Perhaps she believes that she will be better able to serve the princess if she waits until the King's anger has softened and he is willing to welcome her back once more before she speaks to him."
She badly wanted to believe that this was true.
Little Elizabeth was just an innocent child, and an innocent child should not be held accountable for the deeds of her parents but, more than that, Mistress Kat enjoyed her service in Hatfield, she adored the little girl she tended to and didn't want to have to leave her. Her parents were delighted when they were able to secure her a place as a maid of honour to the infant princess when her establishment was first set up but she was afraid that, if they believed that Elizabeth was permanently out of her father's good graces and that service in her household would not be beneficial for her attendants, they might write to her commanding her to leave Elizabeth's service rather than remaining tied to the child when the association could do her no good.
If she could tell them that Elizabeth was likely to be received at court soon, honoured as the Princess of England and welcomed as the King's cherished daughter once more, then perhaps she could hope that she would be allowed to stay to serve her little mistress, who had already lost too much without losing one of her favourite ladies as well.
"Perhaps," Lady Bryan allowed, although her tone indicated that she was doubtful about this. "I hope so – Her Highness will need to be restored to His Majesty's good graces, by whatever means. She is certainly not in a position to scorn help, wherever it may come from."
Her attention turned to the sorting out of the chests full of tiny garments next, and she said no more, focusing her energy on going through the gowns, petticoats and kirtles, most of which Queen Anne had personally chosen for her little daughter. Elizabeth was growing so quickly now that quite a few of the dainty garments in the chest were too small for her but, while this time last year, Lady Bryan would have thrown or given her charge's outgrown gowns away, even though they were of expensive material and fine tailoring, she was reluctant to throw anything away now.
They might no longer be in a position where they could afford to be so extravagant or so careless of what they had and she didn't want to take any chances.
Master Cromwell had indicated that he would make arrangements with her for an allowance to see to the maintenance of Princess Elizabeth's household, but he had not named a figure, and perhaps the King had not yet settled on one, for all that he intended for his younger daughter to continue to enjoy all of the privileges and comforts of her status.
Until she knew that the allowance that was to be provided for Elizabeth's household was sufficiently generous to ensure that it could be smoothly run, while its little mistress enjoyed every luxury that her rank as princess demanded, and could be sure that it would be paid regularly, instead of them being obliged to remind Master Cromwell, Lady Bryan felt that it would be wiser if she kept the outgrown gowns safe. If the need arose, the tiny gowns could be unpicked and the silks, satins, damasks and velvets could be crafted into new gowns, fit for a princess.
She and Mistress Kat became absorbed in their task, little realizing that Elizabeth was wide awake, mulling over the conversation she had overheard.
She couldn't understand why Lady Bryan would think that her Papa would not want to see her, even if he had done a horrible thing to her Mama – Elizabeth thought that she was the one who should be angry with him for what he had done; she and her Mama had not done anything bad to her Papa, after all – and it made her angry to hear them talking about Queen Jane.
Her Mama was the Queen, the loveliest Queen in the whole world.
She didn't like to hear Lady Bryan and Mistress Kat talking about this other lady, this Jane, as though she was the Queen now.
That was her Mama's title, just like Princess was Elizabeth's.
Lady Bryan told her that when the Lady Mary said that she was the real Princess, she was telling wicked fibs and being very, very naughty to claim a title that wasn't really hers so Elizabeth couldn't understand why Lady Bryan wouldn't say that Jane, whoever she was, was being wicked by pretending to be the Queen and why she wasn't being punished for it.
Surely it was even naughtier to pretend to be the Queen than it was to pretend to be the Princess!
Lady Bryan scolded the Lady Mary when she said that she was a princess, so why would her Papa allow this Jane to call herself Queen without scolding her for it, and sending her away?
She couldn't understand any of this, and it frightened her.
Lady Bryan told her that her Mama was in Paradise now, living with God and all of his angels so Elizabeth shut her eyes tightly and silently prayed to her Mama, imagining how pretty she must look in her beautiful white gown and her wings and halo – somebody as beautiful and as good and as kind as her Mama had to be an angel now – and asking her to talk to God for Elizabeth, so that God could make sure that her Papa would bring her back to court and say that he was sorry for cutting Mama's head off and taking her away from Elizabeth.
When she finally dozed off, her lips were curved in a small smile.
Even if her Mama was in Paradise instead of here with her, Elizabeth was sure that she was still watching over her and loving her, and that made her feel safe and happy.
If Mama was watching over her, she didn't need to be frightened any more.
Mary had hoped that she would be a sent a message from her father, that even if he could not yet bring himself to welcome her back to court as his daughter, he would still send her a letter asking how she was faring, and how she was settling into her new home, perhaps asking her if there was anything that she needed to make Hundson a more comfortable home for her and pledging that, if there was anything she needed from him, anything at all, she needed only to ask and it would be his great pleasure to see to it that she had all she could possibly need or want.
She would have liked to see further proof that restoration to her father's favour was not just an impossible dream for her, that it could easily become a reality.
However, although she was initially disappointed to realize that the letter the royal messenger handed her was not marked with the King's seal but with that of the Queen, she recovered from her disappointment very quickly, reminding herself that she should be pleased by the fact that her new stepmother was writing to her, to know that, unlike the harlot, who had done everything in her power to ensure that Mary would be exiled from her father's life and from his love, so that she might encourage him to lavish all of his love and attention on her child, Lady Jane was sincere in her desire to bring about a reconciliation between Mary and her father, to welcome Mary back to court, and to see to it that she would be treated with all honour.
The letter was written in the neat hand of a clerk, though Jane had signed it in her own hand, with large, slightly awkward capitals spelling out her new title: Jane the Quene.
Mary was not surprised that Jane should have to rely on the assistance of a clerk, as few women were fortunate enough to be afforded more than the most basic education, able to do more than read and write their own names unless they were the daughters of royalty or of high-ranking nobles, but she felt a pang of concern at the thought that her new stepmother might know so little of the machinations of court life that she would be able to trust her private correspondence to a mere clerk, little realizing that he could be in the employ of somebody who might seek to work against her, and who would be willing to pay handsomely to learn the secrets of the new Queen's correspondence. If she couldn't write her own letters, she needed a secretary she could trust.
The letter in Mary's hands was one that might anger her father if he saw it.
In it, Queen Jane greeted her stepdaughter affectionately and respectfully, promising that she would act as a mother and a friend to her, and that it was her dearest hope to see Mary reconciled with the King but, although there would be nothing to cause any real offence in that, she continued, apologizing for the fact that she was unable to persuade the King to restore her as Princess of Wales and promising that, if it ever lay in her power to convince the King to change his mind, she would do so, as it was her fondest wish to see Mary restored.
As fond as her father might be of his new wife, Mary couldn't imagine that he would be happy if he learned of this letter, if he knew that his new bride disputed his decision to declare his daughter a bastard. It also grieved her to see that, even though her new stepmother was speaking for her, her good will was not enough to persuade her father to change his mind about her status.
She continued reading, a frown creasing her brow as she read her stepmother's plea that she should obey her father and take the Oath as he commanded, a plea softened by her assurance that she knew how difficult that it must be for Mary to contemplate taking this step, and that it would be painful for her to repudiate her late mother, and her promise that she would not ask it of her if she did not think that it would be for the best, both for the King and for Mary herself, adding that she also hoped that she would agree for the sake of peace in the kingdom.
She also vowed that, if Mary came to court, she would see to it that she was honoured by all, and that she would be second among the ladies of the court after Jane herself.
Though the King had not said anything to her, Jane wrote that she was sure that he missed Mary badly, and that he was longing to have her by his side once more, even if he could not bring himself to tell her that or to be the one to make the first move. She did not add that it was likely to be His Majesty's stubborn pride that kept him from going back on his determination not to allow Mary to return to court until she took the Oath but it was the first thing that came to Mary's mind when she read that sentence, and she wondered if Jane had thought that too, even if she would never say such a thing about her new husband, especially when that husband was also her King.
She closed her letter by expressing her belief that, for the good of the whole country, it was not good for there to be divisions within the royal house, to whom the country should be able to look as an example. They should be a family, together at court instead of separated. Mary could imagine that, although Jane was sincere about wishing her well, she must also be thinking about what would happen when she bore children of her own and would not want divisions within the royal family to threaten the future of her sons, or to see civil war in England after the King's death.
Mary's father would want to see his son by Jane as his first rightful heir and, unless he opted to disinherit little Elizabeth, she would be nominated as his heir in the absence of a son from Jane – and, much as she would have liked to think that her father knew what was right and just and that he would want to see her restored as his first rightful heir if he and Jane had no sons, Mary had to admit that he was more likely to disinherit Elizabeth in favour of a daughter of Jane's, not for her.
She had hoped that Jane would be able to persuade her father to welcome her back without taking the Oath but the fact that Jane was writing to her now, beseeching her to give in, suggested that this was not going to happen, certainly not any time soon. She believed Chapuys when he told her that the new Queen hoped to see her restored to the succession, which meant that Jane would not make the suggestion that she should declare herself a bastard, essentially admitting that she had no right to a place in the line of succession, lightly.
She would only do it if she truly believed that there was no other way.
Mary felt an icy chill run down her back and neck as she thought of Anne, the woman her father had loved but whom he had sent to the block without a second thought when she betrayed him.
From her father's perspective, by refusing to take the Oath, Mary was committing treason, as surely as Anne did when she took lovers to her bed, cramming a cuckold's horns on his head. In law, it was an act of treason punishable by death to refuse to accept Elizabeth as the rightful heiress to the throne or to deny the validity of his marriage to Anne, and any subsequent remarriage. He demanded to be acknowledged as Supreme Head of the English Church by all of his subjects, including his daughter, just as he demanded that all of his subjects agree that he was entirely justified when he sought to set his devoted, loving wife aside in favour of another woman.
Nobody could be allowed to allege that he was wrong to do so, even with Anne gone.
As far as her father was concerned, Anne proving unworthy of being England's Queen would not mean that his union with Mary's mother was not invalid and accursed, as he alleged. Even when anybody with eyes could see that, no matter what he said to the contrary, his desire for Anne was his true motive for dissolving his marriage to his wife of many years, he continued to insist that he had only sought to set Mary's mother aside because his conscience would not allow him to continue to regard her as his wife because she was once married to his brother.
He would not take kindly to being called a liar.
He might understand that it would pain Mary to say that her mother was never her father's lawful wife and that it was wrong of her to claim that she was once Archbishop Cranmer's verdict was made known to her, and might understand how humiliating it would be for a girl brought up a princess to declare that she was a bastard born of an incestuous union but he would not accept her pain or humiliation as an excuse for her continued refusal to do as he commanded.
If she did not take the Oath, he might kill her for it and, even if he did not, he would refuse to receive her at court, even if his new Queen beseeched him to welcome her back, for her sake and for the sake of family unity... and if Mary was unable to come to court, there was a very real risk that, in time, when his anger towards the harlot died down, he might summon Elizabeth to court instead, and Elizabeth was just a little girl, a sweet, charming child who was bound to forget her mother very quickly and who would bear no grudge towards her father for Anne's fate.
If Elizabeth went back to court before she did, if Elizabeth was allowed the opportunity to enchant their father and to make him want to honour her as his princess and favourite daughter once more, or even to enchant the new Queen, who was kind and unlikely to be able to resist the charm of a small child, then what hope did Mary have of regaining the King's favour or her rightful place?
She could not allow Elizabeth to rob her of her chance of restoration to the King's good graces, even unwittingly. If Elizabeth captured his heart, she would hold it tightly in her tiny hands, never letting go, enslaving him with her innocence and childish charms as easily as her mother had enslaved him with her beauty and promise but without losing him, as Anne had.
If Mary wished to be restored to her father's favour, then she needed to be near him.
The only way that she would ever be allowed near him was if she took the Oath.
An oath taken under duress was not binding, Chapuys had assured her of that, promising that His Holiness the pope would understand why she had had to take the Oath, and that he would absolve her of responsibility for swearing, understanding that she would not do it if she did not fear for her life and if she did not know that it was vital, for all their sakes, that she was restored to her father's favour and welcomed back to court, where she might hope to have a positive influence on him, guiding him back to the true path and reminding him, with her presence, that she was a worthier heir than little Elizabeth by far, an heir more likely to be welcomed by his people.
Her life could well depend on her taking the Oath, and England's future as well.
If she could return to court and win her father's love again, then she might be the only person who would be able to persuade him of the error of his ways, convincing him that it was not too late for him to rebuild England's ties to Rome, restoring the true faith to the country. If he would only acknowledge papal authority, the same authority that he had once written a pamphlet in defence of, and acknowledge that it was wrong for him to claim the title of Supreme Head of the Church of England, the pope would forgive him and welcome him back into the fold, as the prodigal son was welcomed when he swallowed his pride and returned to his home and to his father.
It was not too late to save her father's soul, or to save England from the heresy Anne had imposed on the country in order to serve her ambition.
If she took the Oath, Mary had a chance to make things right.
The pope would forgive her if she did it.
She prayed that her mother would as well.