In the Shadow of the Crown

BOOK: In the Shadow of the Crown
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The Lady in the Tower

The Rose Without a Thorn


The Thistle and the Rose

Mary, Queen of France


In the Shadow of the Crown

Queen of This Realm

The Royal Road to Fotheringhay


The Bastard King

The Lion of Justice

The Passionate Enemies


Plantagenet Prelude

The Revolt of the Eaglets

The Heart of the Lion

The Prince of Darkness

The Battle of the Queens

The Queen from Provence

Edward Longshanks

The Follies of the King

The Vow on the Heron

Passage to Pontefract

The Star of Lancaster

Epitaph for Three Women

Red Rose of Anjou

The Sun in Splendor


Uneasy Lies the Head

Katharine, the Virgin Widow

The Shadow of the Pomegranate

The King's Secret Matter

Murder Most Royal

St. Thomas's Eve

The Sixth Wife

The Spanish Bridegroom

Gay Lord Robert


The Captive Queen of Scots

The Murder in the Tower

The Wandering Prince

The Three Crowns

The Haunted Sisters

The Queen's Favorites


The Princess of Celle

Queen in Waiting

Caroline the Queen

The Prince and the Quakeress

The Third George

Perdita's Prince

Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill

Indiscretions of the Queen

The Regent's Daughter

Goddess of the Green Room

Victoria in the Wings


The Captive of Kensington Palace

The Queen and Lord M

The Queen's Husband

The Widow of Windsor


Castille for Isabella

Spain for the Sovereigns

Daughter of Spain


Madonna of the Seven Hills

Light on Lucrezia


Madame Serpent

The Italian Woman

Queen Jezebel


Louis the Well-Beloved

The Road to Compienge

Flaunting, Extravagant Queen

Evergreen Gallant

Myself, My Enemy

Beyond the Blue Mountains

The Goldsmith's Wife

The Scarlet Cloak

Defenders of the Faith

Daughter of Satan

I HAVE TAKEN FOR MY MOTTO “TIME UNVEILS TRUTH,” AND I believe that is often to be the case. Now that I am sick, weary and soon to die, I have looked back over my life which, on the whole, has been a sad and bitter one, though, like most people, I have had some moments of happiness. Perhaps it was my ill fortune to come into the world under the shadow of the crown, and through all my days that shadow remained with me—my right to it; my ability to capture it; my power to hold it.

No child's arrival could have been more eagerly awaited than mine. It was imperative for my mother to give the country an heir. She had already given birth to a stillborn daughter, a son who had survived his christening only to depart a few weeks later, another son who died at birth, and there had been a premature delivery. The King, my father, was beginning to grow impatient, asking himself why God had decided to punish
thus; my mother was silently frantic, fearing that the fault was hers. None could believe that my handsome father, godlike in his physical perfection, could fail where the humblest beggar in the streets could succeed.

I was unaware at the time, of course, but I heard later of all the excitement and apprehension the hope of my coming brought with it.

Then, at four o'clock on the morning of the 18th of February in that year 1516, I was born in the Palace of Greenwich.

After the first disappointment due to my sex being of the wrong gender, there was general rejoicing—less joyous, of course, than if I had been a boy, but still I was alive and appeared to be healthy and, as I believe my father remarked to my poor mother, who had just emerged from the exhaustion of a difficult labor, the child was well formed, and they could have more…a boy next time, then a quiverful.

Bells rang out. The King and Queen could at least have a child who had a chance of living. Perhaps some remembered that other child, the precious boy who had given rise to even greater rejoicing and a few weeks later had died in the midst of the celebrations for his birth. But I was here, a royal child, the daughter of the King and Queen, and until the longed-for boy arrived to displace me, I was heir to the throne.

I enjoyed hearing of my splendid baptism from both Lady Bryan, who was the lady mistress of the Household, and the Countess of Salisbury, who became my state governess. It had taken place on the third day after my birth, for according to custom christenings must take place as soon as possible
ble in case the child did not survive. It took place in Greyfriar's Church close to Greenwich Palace, and the silver font had been brought from Christ Church in Canterbury, for all the children of my grandparents, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, had had this silver font at their baptisms, and it was fitting that it should be the same for me. Carpets had been laid from the Palace to the font, and the Countess of Salisbury had the great honor of carrying me in her arms.

My father had decreed that I should be named after his sister Mary. She had always been a favorite of his, even after her exploits in France the previous year which had infuriated him. It showed the depth of his affection for her that he could have given me her name when she had so recently displeased him by marrying the Duke of Suffolk almost immediately after the death of her husband, Louis XII of France. She was more or less in exile at the time of my christening, in disgrace and rather poor, for she and Suffolk had to pay back to my father the dowry which he had paid to the French. In the years to come I liked to remind myself of that unexpected softness in his nature, and I drew a little comfort from it.

My godfather was Cardinal Wolsey who, under the King, was the most important man in the country at that time. He gave me a gold cup; from my Aunt Mary, the wayward Tudor after whom I was named, I received a pomander. I loved it. It was a golden ball into which was inserted a paste of exquisite perfumes. I used to take it to bed with me and later I wore it at my girdle.

The best time of my life was my early childhood before I had an inkling of the storms which were to beset me. Innocence is a beautiful state when one believes that people are all good and one is prepared to love them all and expect that love to be returned. One is unaware that evil exists, so one does not look for it. But, alas, there comes the awakening.

A royal child has no secret life. He or she is watched constantly, and it is particularly so if that child is important to the state. I say this as no conceit. I was important because I was the only child of the King, and if my parents produced the desired boy, my importance would dwindle away. I should not have been watched over, inspected by ambassadors and received their homage due to the heir to the throne. It is difficult to understand when one is young that the adulation and respect are not for oneself but for the Crown.

There are vague memories in my mind, prompted no doubt by accounts I heard from members of my household; but I see myself at the age of two being taken up by my father, held high while he threw me up and caught me in his strong arms and held me firmly against his jewel-encrusted surcoat. I had felt no qualms that he would drop me. I never knew anyone exude power as my father did. As a child I believed him to be different from all
others, a being apart. Of course, I had always seen him as the most powerful person in the kingdom—which undoubtedly he was—and my childish mind endowed him with divine qualities. He was not only a king; he was a god. My mother and Sir Henry Rowte, my priest, chaplain and Clerk of the Closet, might instruct me in my duties to One who was above us all, but in my early days that one was my father.

I was so happy to be held in his arms and to see my beloved mother standing beside me, laughing, happy, beautiful and contented with me.

I remember my father's carrying me to a man in red robes who reverently took my hand and kissed it. My father regarded this man with great affection, and it seemed wonderful to me that he should kiss my hand. It meant something. It pleased my father. I knew by that time that he was my godfather, the great Cardinal Wolsey.

That had been when I was exactly two years old. I think the ceremony must have been in recognition of that fact. It was not only the great Cardinal who kissed my hand. I was taken to the Venetian ambassador and he was presented to me. I had been told I had to extend my hand for him to kiss, which I did in the manner which had been taught me, and I knew this caused my father's mouth to turn up at the corners with approval. Several people were presented to me afterward and I believe I remember something of this. While I was in my father's arms, I saw a man in dark robes among the assembly. I knew him for a priest. Priests, I had been told, were holy men, good men. I was drawn to them all throughout my life. I wanted to see this one more closely, so I called out, “Priest, Priest. Come here, Priest.”

There was astonishment among the company, and my father beckoned to the man to come forward. He did and stood before me. He took my hand and kissed it. I touched his dark robes and said: “Stay here, Priest.” The man smiled at me and, basking in my approval, he overcame his awe of the King and stammered out that the Princess Mary was a child of many gifts and the most bright and intelligent of her age he had ever seen.

BOOK: In the Shadow of the Crown
7.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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