Elizabeth has never held any romantic notions about marriage. She has seen her mother and father, people who married for love, strained and hateful towards each other, her father and his string of mistresses, his desire to not even see her mother on his deathbed. She believes that the best thing a woman, especially a princess, could want from a marriage is a cordial relationship. There is no picking and choosing when the fate of a dynasty rests on your shoulders. Your own personal happiness in marriage is irrelevant. This doesn't bother Elizabeth, she is a Plantagenet after all. She’s beautiful and she is in an incredibly important, if not delicate, position. A place of honor and pride that no one else could achieve but that her birthright has given her.
Elizabeth doesn't dream of a husband, she dreams of her children. Sons and daughters, healthy and able, laughing and playing with their mother watching on the sidelines, just in reach if one of them falls and scrapes their knee. Elizabeth longs for children. She wants children to spoil, to love, to mold and teach and that is where she has been told her worth is as a woman. That doesn't bother her either, she loves the thought of continuing her family’s line and having her very own children, seeing them grow up into the people she helped create.
She doesn't know what lies in her future, though. It remains uncertain. Her brothers are gone (dead, the little voice in her head tells her), her father is dead, her uncle is on the throne (murderer, the same voice whispers) and all she knows of the future is that she still holds an uncertain betrothal to Henry, Earl of Richmond, lost and distant somewhere across the sea. He’s almost nothing more than an idea to her, a dream that she isn't sure is a fantasy or a nightmare.
Her mother approaches her from across the silent room and takes her face in her hands. She looks deep into her eyes and tells her, “Henry will win, and you shall be married. We have come this far, yes, yes, you shall be queen.”
Elizabeth will never be used to her mother’s random proclamations and uncanny ability to see what one’s thinking. She thinks there is something almost frightening about her mother when she gets like this. Fervent, but cold with anger and so frighteningly determined that Elizabeth almost wonders for a moment if not even Richard and all his armies could defeat her mother in such a state.
Her mother’s hand is softly brushing through her hair, a comforting weight, Elizabeth finds.
“We wait. Patience, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth almost thinks her mother may be talking to herself, as there is a far off quality to her voice and Elizabeth wonders for a moment if she ever gave the impression of being impatient. She had never felt that she was that way. She was an agreeable enough woman, she knew who she was and what her job would be. She may not be queen of England, but she was raised believing that she would still be a queen. She wonders if that still applies if Henry is defeated and Richard keeps the crown. She prays it isn't, she isn't sure what she could be other than a queen. It was what she was raised for, it was all she was raised for.
It’s almost as if her mother can read her mind once again and she says, “The Earl of Richmond will win. He will, Elizabeth. Margaret Beaufort will not let her son lose this fight.” There was something in her mother’s voice then, something odd when she said the name Margaret Beaufort that Elizabeth was unsure if she ever heard before. She wasn't sure if the tone she heard in her mother's voice was loathing, admiration or smugness. Elizabeth thought that maybe it was all three.
“Well we shall wait and see, mother,” was all she said in reply. Her mother’s hand gripped her shoulder with an always surprising strength and Elizabeth knew her mother meant for her to take it as a promise.
The Battle at Bosworth Field has ended and Elizabeth receives the news of Richard’s death alongside her mother and several of her sisters. She sees the moment, directly after her mother hears the news, when she exhales quietly, almost inconsequentially, but Elizabeth knows that that means that even she was far from certain of the outcome of the battle.
Elizabeth smiles thinly. She’s not sure if this is what she wanted or not. She wants to be queen, yes, but she isn't sure if she wants to be queen ofEngland. She immediately feels guilty for even thinking it, but she has watched her mother on the throne for many years and Elizabeth doesn't want to suffer the way her mother has.
She’s proud though, and she a Plantagenet through and through, which means she meets her mother’s eyes determinedly and tries to convey that she understands the position she is in, and that she will not let her family down under any circumstances. She will do the Plantagenet line and England proud.
Elizabeth finds it odd when she realizes for the first time that she’s never really thought about Henry, Earl of Richmond, before. She has thought of his name, his army, his claim to the throne, his hand in marriage and the children she would have with him were he to defeat Richard, but she has yet to think about him as a man. She never really thought it was relevant during everything that had happened. What did it matter to her if he was handsome? If he was kind? Why even waste time thinking about what you cannot control, she was going to marry him if he won regardless of what kind of man he was.
He is though, handsome, she thinks suddenly. In an odd sort of way.
Henry, King Henry, is finally standing in front of Elizabeth of York and she is at first struck with how unlike her father he appears. She isn't sure why she was expecting someone extroverted and boisterous, nothing she has heard supports that about him, but she realizes that she still holds her father as the image of what an English king should be like, and Henry looks and acts nothing like him.
Henry is a quiet man, but she can immediately tell that he is not shy. This man usurped the king, she thinks to herself with a little humor, that didn't seem like the work of a meek or particularly shy man, regardless of his mother’s power. She immediately feels dread course through her at the thought and a shameful feeling fills her chest. This is her future husband, she reminds herself firmly, she must not think of him in that way. Usurper.
She looks at him again and sees that he's quiet and that he’s confident; he has an obvious presence about him, she thinks, and can see why someone would call him a king. He’s self-possessed and he gives off the impression of an observer; knowing everything about anyone he lays eyes on with nothing more than a simple assessing look.
He’s smart and she’s well aware of it. He survived exile, he survived the war and the politics born from it. He was the one who made it out in the end, no other man. He’s the smartest man left standing, and he is backed by his mother, who Elizabeth knows nothing about expect the tone in which her mother talked about her, and that is enough for Elizabeth. Everything he’s done has been a deliberate act, a political move, and she knows that she is his most important political move yet. This is good, she finds, because he is hers as well. They are on equal footing. He needs her and she needs him.
So she meets his eyes boldly and smiles brightly, smiling the smile that her father had dubbed as “Elizabeth’s source of power”, trying to convey that she’s ready for this, ready for a new dynasty to unite the warring sides, ready for peace, and that she knows what he wants from her and that she wants the same from him. She will be his ally in this. They are on the same side.
He surprises her by briefly breaking out of his carefully constructed façade of the solemn, untouchable king, and smiles back at her.
For the first time Elizabeth finds herself thinking about the man who she will marry in her future scenario. The king, her husband, Henry, and she attaches a face to him for the first time and suddenly he appears next to her in her mental image of their children. Yes, their children. This is the Lancastrian-York dynasty, and it shall rule England with grace and piety.
Henry is still looking at her after they exchange customary greetings and she thinks she can detect a pleased, interested sort of expression on his face. Elizabeth finds herself suddenly clamping down on inappropriate feelings of happiness, ones that she is not quite sure where they came from or why they’re there, and she smiles at him again, nothing deliberate about it this time.
Yes, she thinks, I will do this and I will do this well. As a princess, as the oldest daughter of King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth of England, and as a Plantagenet. But she realizes in the upcoming years that her marriage, the marriage bed, and everything that comes with it quickly stop being a duty in her mind and start becoming some of her greatest joys.