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A Sovereign Queen

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"She is our capital demand." Those words sting and you stiffen hearing them. You do not like the idea of someone demanding you, especially your hand in marriage. Your mother has left to straighten out the treaty with the French and English men and you are left with Alice and... him.

King Henry V is nothing but a dirty, stinky, soldier from a backwater country with delusions of grandeur. He wasn't even in line to be king until his father snatched the crown from the king who was once married to your sister. He was just a duke's son until then. You, however, are a princess and were born into the royal house. You are meant to be a queen, but not to a man like this.

Henry doesn't look like a soldier right now in his fine wine-red coat and crown. He actually appears kingly, but you still are not impressed. He babbles something in English at you and you have no idea what he's saying- but you feel insulted. He must know that you barely speak English and he's making fun of you and you tell him as much.

"Oh." His face falls and he looks genuinely disappointed. "Fair Catherine, if you will love me soundly with your French heart, I will be glad to hear you confess it brokenly with your English tongue."

You stare at him. He's said something about love, you understand that. He indicates his face. "Do you like me, Kate?" He asks.

"Pardonnez-moi," you say, turning around. Alice lifts your veil and you turn back to Henry. You smile quickly. "I cannot tell, what is 'like me?'"

He's silent for a moment, then says quietly, "An angel is like you Kate, and you are like an angel."

Did... did he just compare you to an angel? You ask Alice if that's what he said, and she affirms it.

"I said so, dear Catherine," Henry says. "And I must not blush to affirm it." However, he looks like he is about to start blushing. You look his face over- dark complexion and hair framed by a crown, eyes that look like he's about to fall asleep, and along his right cheek a long scar- no doubt a souvenir from one of his many battles. You refuse to be pulled in by his rakish good looks.

"Good lord!" You smile sweetly at him, hoping he catches your snark. "The tongues of men are full of deceit." You begin to walk away. The English king seems to be working out what you said. He asks Alice if he's right and he is. Alice seems surprised, maybe even a little impressed, with him being able to parse your sentence.

You're not looking at him when he continues his suit. "I know no ways to mince it in love," he says, sounding earnest, "but directly to say 'I love you.'" You still stand with your back turned to him. "Then," he says, "if you urge me farther than to say 'Do you in faith?' I wear out my suit."

He asks for your answer and you whip around. "Me understand well," you snap in broken English, glaring at him and ignoring his outstretched hand. He's stopped in his tracks, his hand still held out to you. He stammers for a moment, then turns around to try to continue.

He can't write you poems, and he can't dance, he says. "If I could win a lady at leap-frog, or by vauting into my saddle with my armor on my back, I should quickly leap into a wife." He realizes that last sentence didn't come out right and he covers his face with his hands, embarrassed.

And that's when it hits you. Henry is being completely honest with you. He doesn't know how to win a lady with words. All he knows is a rough soldier's life but he is trying so desperately to win your affection. He nervously takes off his crown and babbles on, something about a good heart and the sun and moon but you understand little and soon you don't hear anything- you just stare at him, this awkward, nervous little boy, and you realize he's beautiful.

"If thou would have such a one, take me," he says, his chest heaving from the exertion of trying to form words. "And take me, take a soldier;" his eyes never leave yours as he speaks with the most humble, honest voice you've ever heard. "Take a soldier, take a king," he says, finally putting the crown back on his lovely head.

He means it, he means all of it, you feel, watching him fall apart in front of you. But despite his speech and his quite frankly stunning good looks, he's still the enemy of your beloved France and he still has the blood of ten thousand of your subjects on his hands.

"Is it possible," you ask, "for me to love the enemy of France?"

He doesn't try to brush off your charge, he doesn't make light of it. He accepts it. "No," he says, breathing hard as he tries to find the right words, "it is not possible you should love the enemy of France, Kate; but in loving me, you should love the friend of France; for I love France so well that I will not part with a village of it; I will have it all mine."

This sets you off again. He seemed to have been doing so well but yet again you are reminded that no matter how handsome he is or how much he seems to really love you, he is still here to take the throne when your father is gone. He is still here to own France. You turn away quickly back to Alice.

"And, Kate," Henry continues, obviously trying to correct his previous awkward statement, "when France is mine and I am yours, then yours is France and you are mine."

"I cannot tell what is that!" You groan, beginning to walk away. He follows you, trying to keep up.

"No, Kate? I will tell thee in French," he says. Oh no, he's going to absolutely butcher your language. "Je quand sur le possession de France, et quand vous avez le possession de moi —let me see, what then? Saint Denis be my speed!" He's pacing around and now laughing at his own bad French. "—donc votre est France," he says, "et vous êtes mienne." He gets excited when he finishes the task, and you're both laughing. He's so cute and his relieved joy is infectious. "It is as easy for me, Kate," he continues, "to conquer the kingdom as to speak so much more French. I shall never move thee in French, unless it be to laugh at me."

You lean over to him, sharing the humor of the moment. "Your French is better than my English," you say with a grin.

He says that his French isn't as good as your English, still laughing and his face turned up in an adorable smile. "Dost thou understand this much English," he sounds nervous again, almost... pining. "...can you love me?"

Your face falls. "I cannot tell..." you say. You still don't know how you feel about him and the possibility of spending the rest of your life with him.

He offers to ask your neighbors, whatever he means by that. He begins walking around you again (he can't seem to hold still, it's so adorable) "Come," he says, in a sly, teasing voice, "I know you love me."

Does he now?

"At night, when you come into your closet, you’ll question this gentlewoman about me," he says, gesturing to Alice. "And I know, Kate," he continues, "you will to her dispraise those parts in me that you love with your heart."

...He must be catching onto your mixed emotions. You probably would gossip with Alice about him later, he was right. And you'd say he wasn't cute, that he was stupid and couldn't string together a proper sentence in English, let alone French- but you did find him attractive, and his nervousness and confused attempts at your language made him seem sweet and honest- which you do indeed like.

"But, good Kate, mock me mercifully, for rather, gentle princess, I love thee cruelly." Henry seems to grow more confident. He says something about... you being a good... soldier breeder? That has only registered in your mind by the time he gets excited again, talking about the child the two of you could make, that would reclaim the Holy Land.

You know his father wanted to go on a crusade to wash away what he'd done.

You should be angered by him talking already about having babies with you, but his excitement is infectious- how would he be as a father?

"What says you, my fair flur-de-luce?" He can't pronounce lis but close enough. He calls you the most beautiful Catherine in the world. You still think that your statement that men lie holds.

"Your French is good enough to deceive the wisest girl in France!" You shout back.

"Fie upon my false French," he says, the bravado gone and replaced with the honest boy you like. "In true English, I love you, Kate." That's the most tender, honest way he could ever say it. He goes on to say that he thinks you love him back.

He's right.

"Notwithstanding the poor effect of my visage," he says, "when I come to woo ladies, I fright them." You can't believe what he's just said. He thinks he's ugly. You remember something he said earlier, that he didn't see anything he liked when he looked in the mirror. It must be the scar, because that's the only thing that mars his beautiful face. And that's not too bad, really, it makes him look dashing and brave, and what girl doesn't like a bad boy. He's so handsome to you and you wish he didn't feel so bad about how he looks. He says he'll look better as he gets older, but you're not sure he could get any more attractive. Maybe it's the combination of his nervousness, his truly good looks, and that honesty you feel.

He kneels down in front of you, then scoots slightly closer, holding out his hands to you. "And therefore, dear Catherine, will you have me?" His voice is so sweet and yes, yes you will have him, your heart begins to cry.

You don't know how to respond to the king down on one knee in front of you, and he groans playfully, making you laugh, and he says your voice is music and your English broken, so he'll take your answer in broken music. "Catherine, queen of all," he asks, "will you have me?" You've turned away from him, but you know he's still kneeling. Your mind and heart are in turmoil. This is the moment you're asked to give your life and your heart over to someone and no matter how much you have begun to like Henry, you still aren't sure how to face being with him for the rest of your life. You don't want him to see how your face contorts, how you choke at these thoughts.

"That is as it will please the king," you say, turning back to him, "my father." This is of course to please your father and strike a deal with England. Henry is still kneeling, looking up at you. He holds up his hands in a soothing gesture, like he's trying to calm a horse.

"It- it will please him well, Kate," he says gently, smiling, trying to reassure you. "It shall please him, Kate." His strange nickname for you, Kate sounds so sweet now. You choke back the emotions rising and you kneel down to his level.

"Then..." You say, trying to not sound so pained, "it will also content me."

Henry stands up, excited. You follow, watching his expressive face. "Upon that," he says, "I kiss your hand... and call you my queen!" He reaches for your hand and bends over, bringing it to his lips. You immediately pull back, shouting at him and making him freak out. How dare he. If he has any manners, he should know French girls don't kiss until their marriage. You scream at him as you run away from him.

"Then I will kiss your lips!" He's nothing if not persistent. You don't let yourself think about what kissing him will be like.

"It's not the fashion for ladies to kiss before they're married!" You shout in French.

Henry asks Alice for a translation and he repeats it, as if he's learning.

"Ah, Kate," he says, "nice customs curtsey to great kings." He once again grows bold and charming. "Dear Kate, you and I cannot be confined in the weak list of a country's fashion." The sly Henry is back, and you like it. "We are the makers of manners, Kate."

You both laugh. You like his gravely, earthy laugh.

"Therefore," he says, growing earnest but playful, "patiently, and... yielding." He has that helpless, slightly goofy smile on his face.

He wants you to accept. He respects you.

Something in you snaps. You walk over to him and he watches you. His eyes widen as he realizes what's about to happen and he tries to move forward but he can't, once you reach him you grab his head and pull him to you. You press a deep, passionate kiss on his lips, closing your eyes and working hard on it. He puts one big hand on your back, holding you to him. You hear the squishy sound of your lips and you break apart for breath. Once you let go of him he stumbles back, nearly tripping backward, his brown eyes fully awake and locked on you in wonder and shock. You know you're grinning- that was so much fun and he felt wonderful.

Finally he can form words. "You have witchcraft in your lips, Kate!" He says, grinning. Then the two of you throw yourselves at each other for an even longer kiss. Kissing is messy, noisy business, and you're not quite sure where to put your arms- Henry isn't either.

Suddenly Henry's aware of someone entering the hall- interrupting your moment. You break apart.

"Here comes your father!" He says as the two of you split up and run to opposite sides of the hall- two children caught.

You straighten your dress. You have to look perfect and presentable and you feel very much the opposite.

Your mother- oh good Lord, she hadn't seen you, had she?- asks if Henry's been teaching you English. You at first think he's been teaching you a lot more, but then you realize later that he's learning too. You are only just beginning to understand each other.

Henry replies to your mother- his future mother-in-law. "I would have her know how perfectly I love her." This is the first time he's said it to someone else, and your heart aches with warmth. You now understand the English phrase "I love you" and you get the feeling you're going to hear it many more times.

"We have consented to all terms of reason," your father says, going back to business. You no longer feel like a contract, though, and those words don't sting and buffet at your honor. You have been in Henry's arms and you can tell he's probably thinking more of that than the peace talks.

As Henry asks his lords something, your father walks over to you and takes your hands. For all his madness and all the times he's forgotten you and your siblings and thought he was made of glass, he is your father, and he loves you dearly. You love him too, and for a moment you hope that your love for Henry won't take the place in your heart that holds your father. This will be hard for the both of you, as you realize you are no longer a child and you will have to leave all you've ever known. You realize in his hand you're both clasping his rosary.

After a long moment, he turns to Henry, still holding your hand. "Take her, fair son," he says. "And from her blood, raise up issue to me," Henry begins walking towards you and your father lets go of your hand. "That the contending kingdoms of France and England, whose very shores look pale may cease their hatred."

This deal- this marriage- can stop the wars his great-grandfather began. This love, and the future it holds. You reach out and Henry takes your hand, as lovingly as your father did just now. You keep your eyes on each other as your father goes on. You barely hear him, though, until the end. "...that never war advance his bleeding sword 'twixt England and fair France."

Henry and his lords say amen.

The two of you turn away, facing the long hall of Westminster.

"Now, welcome, Kate," Henry says, "and bear me witness, all." You turn your heads to look at each other, him still delicately holding your hand. "That here I kiss her as my sovereign queen." The distance between you shortens and Henry rests his hands on your waist and you gently take his arms. This kiss is softer than the last two, sweet and heart-melting. He has melted your heart, certainly, as you'd been so cold in the beginning. You no longer care that someone is watching you-even your parents. You are Henry's. As the kiss ends, you're both reluctant to pull away and his forehead rests on yours for a fraction of a second.

He's still got his head bent down when you look at him, once again taking in how beautiful he is. You gaze at him in wonder and love. He is the king of your heart and you finally realize what he had said before you'd shared your third kiss.

My sovereign queen.

Not just the kind of Queen that has a throne and a crown. Those things were hollow. What he had said when he tried to say he loved France comes back- you are his.

And he is yours.