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Authors: Joanna Hickson

Tags: #Fiction, #Historical

The Tudor Bride

BOOK: The Tudor Bride
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JOANNA HICKSON
The Tudor Bride

 

 

For Katie and young Hugo
who are my Catherine and young King Henry.

Table of Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Family Trees

Map

Narrator’s Note

Part One: Queen of England (1421–1422)

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Part Two: The Secret Years (1427–1435)

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Part Three: Journey into Jeopardy (1435–1437)

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Author’s Note: Fact and Fiction

Acknowledgements

About the Author

By the same author

Copyright

About the Publisher

NARRATOR’S NOTE
The House of the Vine, London, Summer 1440

Respected Reader,

My name is Guillaumette, known to my friends as Mette. Some of you may already know that and yes, I am French but I write this at my house in London, where I live very quietly now. You will understand that the French are not much liked in England today, so I think it best to speak and write in English.

It is not my own story I write; this is the story of my mistress, Catherine de Valois, youngest daughter of the French king Charles the Sixth, whom I suckled as a baby, nursed as a child and tried to console through the troubled years of her girlhood, during which she was offered by various of her male relatives to the invading enemy, King Henry the Fifth of England, as his bride. This she eventually became, not entirely without her consent, in June 1420. By the end of that year, as a result of his extraordinary military success, an alliance with the Duke of Burgundy and a very favourable (to him) peace treaty, King Henry and his new bride were able to enter Paris in triumph, he as the new Regent and Heir of France and she as his queen. Afterwards they sailed for England as a golden royal couple, ready to be féted and celebrated, not least at Catherine’s coronation in London. And I sailed with them.

Since France lay devastated by years of constant warfare, you may think it was a relief for me to follow in the new queen’s train, but I left France with a heavy heart. I had always been close to my daughter Alys, who with her husband and baby girl lived in Paris, which was now under English rule. My son Luc, meanwhile, had sworn his allegiance to Catherine’s seventeen-year-old brother Charles, the former Dauphin, who had been disinherited and declared illegitimate by his sister’s marriage treaty and forced to retreat to his loyal territories south of the Loire. Charles would have to fight the combined armies of England and Burgundy if he was to win back his name and his claim to the French throne. Catherine and the Dauphin’s father, King Charles, was subject to devilish fits and often confined to a padded room, believing he was made of glass and terrified of being shattered; a living metaphor for the shattered state of his kingdom and, I fear, the splintered state of my family. Regrettably we were typical of French people at the time, the divided victims of violence and political upheaval. I did not depart with a light heart.

Nevertheless, when we embarked at Calais, part of me was glad to be leaving the chaos behind but, I realise now, twenty years later, how little notion I had of what we were sailing into. Catherine had no choice, she was by law the Queen of England, whether the English liked her or not; but for me it was different. I followed her out of loyalty and love, but there were times later, I assure you, when I wondered whether I had done the right thing in boarding that ship …

PART ONE
Queen of England
  
  
(1421–1422)
  
1

T
he grey-green sea looked hungry as it lapped and chewed on the English shore, voracious, like the monsters mapmakers paint at the edge of the world. With her sails flapping, the
Trinity Royal
idled nose to the wind under the walls of Dover Castle, a vast stronghold sprawled atop high chalk cliffs which gleamed in the flat winter sunlight. Visible against this great white wall were the flags and banners of an official welcoming party and a large crowd of onlookers gathered along the beach. Unfamiliar music from an unseen band drifted past us on a dying breeze.

Having almost completed my first sea voyage, I could not say that I was an enthusiastic sailor. I felt salt-stained and wind-blown, my only consolation being that the sea-swell which had plagued my stomach all the way from France had now eased and the ship’s movement had dwindled to a gentle rocking motion. Queen Catherine, by contrast, looked radiant and unruffled after the crossing, even when faced with the prospect of being carried ashore in a chair by a bunch of braggart barons, bizarrely known as the Wardens of the Cinq Ports; bizarrely because there were seven towns involved, not five as the title suggested, and some of them were not even ports. Apparently this chair-lift was an English tradition, but personally I considered it barbaric that a king and queen should be expected to risk their lives being carried shoulder high over treacherous waters to a stony beach when they could have made a dignified arrival walking down a gangway onto the Dover dockside. Besides, as Keeper of the Queen’s Robes, I, Guillaumette Lanière, was the one who would have to restore the costly fur and fabric of the queen’s garments from the ravages of sand and salt-water.

King Henry discussed this singular English honour with his brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, when the duke boarded the Trinity Royal from his galley, half a league off the white cliffs. That his grace of Gloucester thought himself a fine fellow was amply evident in the swashbuckling way he climbed the rope-ladder, vaulted the ship’s rail one-handed and sprang up the stair to the aftcastle deck, where the king and Queen Catherine stood waiting. Gloucester sported thigh-high polished leather boots and his short green doublet clung tightly to his muscular physique, admirably displaying the heavy gold collar and trencher-sized medallion of office which hung around his broad shoulders. His bend of the knee was practised and perfect, accompanied by a flourish of his right hand as he grasped his brother’s with the left.

‘A hearty welcome to both your graces!’ He pressed his lips to the king’s ring, but raised his eyes not to his brother’s face but to Catherine’s. ‘England waits with bated breath to greet its beautiful French queen.’

A faint flush stained Catherine’s cheeks, but she remained straight-faced under the impact of Gloucester’s dazzling smile. If the duke’s youth had been in any way misspent, it did not show. I believe few men of thirty could boast such a fine, full set of white teeth as that smile revealed. His face was clean-shaven, smooth and unblemished, in striking contrast with the scarred and care-lined visage of the king, only five years his senior.

‘We hear you have a ceremonial welcome planned for us, brother.’ King Henry raised a quizzical eyebrow. ‘We are to be carried shoulder high through the surf.’

Gloucester appeared reluctant to drag his gaze from Catherine’s face. ‘Indeed, sire, as is customary for people of great rank and honour. You will be pleased to hear that the surf has dwindled to friendly ripples now though. You may remember that we welcomed Emperor Sigismund to these shores with the Wardens’ lift. We can do no less to honour the return of the glorious and victorious King of England and France – and the advent of his beauteous queen – than was appropriate for a visiting Holy Roman Emperor.’

King Henry frowned. ‘It is ill-judged, Humphrey, to place the crown of France on my head while the father of my queen still lives.’ He made an irritable upward movement with his hand. ‘But rise, brother, if only to explain how we are to enter these chairs of yours without getting wet. As you know, I have always avoided such mummery in the past.’

When he rose, Gloucester stood almost as tall as the king and a head taller than Catherine. ‘A simple matter, sire!’ he declared, gesturing over the side of the ship. ‘The litters are fastened ready, there on my galley. The captain will bring the ship as near to the shore as he may, the gangway will be lowered onto the galley and you and Madame, the queen, will walk regally down it. Once safely seated, you will be rowed towards the shore until the water is shallow enough for your Wardens to wade in, take the litters on their shoulders and bear them ceremoniously up the beach. The trumpets will sound, the musicians will play and the crowds will cheer. When he can make himself heard, the Lord Warden – my humble self – will make a speech of welcome, then your litters will be lifted shoulder high once more for the short journey to the castle.’

BOOK: The Tudor Bride
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