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Queen Anne's Legacy

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January 18, 1562

Scotland

 

Mary, Queen of Scots, and Dowager Queen of France, was a slender red-haired woman, dressed in all white, mourning her husband’s death. After so many years she had finally returned to Scotland after spending her childhood in France.

 

She had come home to find a divided country, torn apart in matters of religion. It did not help that she was nothing more than a stranger, having not been in the land of her birth for nearly two decades.

 

Thankfully, she could count on one person: Lord James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, her bastard half-brother. Despite being a leader of the Protestant faction, he had proven himself to be loyal to her above all. Therefore, when he came to her with a prospective husband, she knew she could not discount his words.

 

“Prince Edward of England,” Mary repeated. He was tall man with a narrow face, dressed grandly in black ensemble with gold embroidery and buttons decorating his doublet. “Is he not engaged to Marguerite?” Her heart clenched at the memory of her beloved François’ sisters. They had been her family since the age of five. Leaving them to live in a land of strangers had hurt just as much as loosing her husband.

 

François should have lived, she lamented. We should have spent many years happy and had many children to rule both France and Scotland.

 

“The Earl of Hertford assures me that the betrothal is not official,” divulged Moray. He then lowered his voice. “My queen, even those of the Lutheran faith believe that Anne Boleyn was never truly married to the English king, and therefore it is only Queen Katherine and Queen Jane’s children who have a right to the throne.”

 

Mary raised an eyebrow, knowing insistently what her brother was getting at. “Are you saying that King Ambrose is no true ruler? I do not think his Spanish wife, nor her relatives will agree.”

 

That had always confused her. If King Henry and Anne Boleyn were not truly married, why would Queen Katherine’s nephew marry his daughter to a bastard, tying his blood to the spawn of the woman who had cost his aunt and cousin everything?

 

Moray shifted uncomfortably, his eyes drifting towards the windows of the private audience chambers, not meeting her gaze. “I cannot speculate the emperor’s motives or how his son will react.”

 

Had she not possessed an ounce of tact, Mary would have snorted. Philip of Spain would not tolerate his Spanish sister being replaced by a half-French woman. Never mind his duty as a brother, he would not want England to side with France over Spain. He would sail his armada in defense of the bastard king, just to keep their alliance.

 

If her brother noticed her disbelief, he said nothing, just pressed on, “However, I am certain that once you marry Prince Edward, we can get the support of the pope who will declare Ambrose a bastard and a usurper, urging the good Catholics of England to revolt against him. They will back you and the Duke of York. With the bishop of Rome’s support, neither the King of Spain nor the Holy Roman Emperor will be able to intervene.”

 

Mary chewed her lip in thought. She also had a claim to the English throne through her paternal grandmother, Margaret Tudor. Her marriage to Edward would combine both claims. Together they could rule the continent of Britain, expelling the infidels just like Isabel and Ferdinand did for Spain. They could become the Catholic monarchs of their time.

 

There was just one problem.

 

“And how will this come to pass?” she inquired. “I highly doubt that King Ambrose will agree to let his brother marry a queen even if he does not know the true reason behind the match, not when our children will have such a strong claim to the throne.”

 

Moray smiled grimly. “He will know nothing about it. If you agree, the Earl of Hertford shall smuggle himself and the Duke of York to Scotland. The marriage will happen shortly afterwards whereupon, Prince Edward will denounce his brother as a heretic and a usurper.”

 

The way he laid it out, it seemed so simple. But nothing in the young queen’s life had been easy. She had lost her father when she was mere days old, shipped off to France to keep her out of the hands of ambitious lords, became a widow as a teenager, returned to a land filled with hostile people who seemed to think she did everything wrong no matter how hard she tried to appease them.

 

“Will my subjects accept a foreign king?” she wondered.

 

“I won’t lie and say they will be pleased,” the earl admitted warily, his expression sympathetic. “Especially not when your marriage will be a prelude to a war. Regardless, I think that they shall come around in time.”

 

Mary nodded, fingering the crucifix around her neck. “Do you truly believe that this is the best course?”

 

“I do,” Moray said firmly. “It would stop the constant fighting between our countries and perhaps bring an end to the unrest that troubles your reign.”

 

“And what of his religion?” the queen interrogated. “He has been raised as a Protestant, has he not?”  

 

“I have discussed that with the earl, and he assures me that his nephew shall gladly covert to Catholicism,” Moray affirmed, not even the slightest bit annoyed that his sister’s perspective husband was so willing to recant what he believed to be the true faith. But then again, he always felt politics outweighed all matters of religion. “All has been arranged, sister. We are merely waiting for your answer.”

 

Mary took a few steps towards the window, her mind drifting to François. His health was weak, but his heart had been strong. He had just needed more time to grow, and he would have been a fine king. The loss of him still stung even though it had been a year since that dreadful day.

 

Oh, my François if I could mourn you forever I would, she lamented. But I must move on and do my duty. Please know that I shall always love you.

 

A soft breeze flowed in through the crack in the window gently blowing past Mary like a tender touch of a lover. The queen let out a sigh. It was a sign; François had sent his blessing.

 

“Tell the Earl of Hertford that I await my future husband most eagerly,” she declared. She did not turn as Moray bowed and left her alone in her chambers. Instead, she just lost herself in her memories of happier days.


 

April 9, 1562

England

 

The court was in high spirits for the king’s birthday. And why wouldn’t they be? England had much to be thankful about in the last year. James Boleyn had been wed to the queen’s lady, Isabel after many long years of courtship. Furthermore, a new royal baby had been born in December. Another girl, yes, but as she was healthy, the Princess Anne was celebrated with good cheer.

 

And yet as Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, watched the festivities from his seat, he couldn’t help but notice there was a dark cloud hanging over the merriment, blackening what should be a sunny day.

 

As he has for the past four years, the Duke of York refuses to return to court even for his brother’s birthday, he noted with a frown. Ambrose thought this was just his brother being a baby. Thomas was not so sure.

 

He got up from his seat slowly, trying not to be noticed as he left the banquet hall, ducking into a small antechamber, knowing that he would be followed soon enough. As he waited, his mind drifted to many years ago, when he was a small child reeling from his father and his grandfather’s treason.


 

The Duke of Kent had taken him into his study and sat him down, a gentle expression on his visage. “Thomas, did your father say why he had kept Ambrose hostage?”

 

Thomas fidgeted in his chair, trying to keep himself from bursting into tears at the mention of his father. “He said he and grandfather were being framed and that we had no choice but to flee.”

 

George rubbed his face in frustration. “Well, he wasn’t wrong.”

 

This got the young boy’s attention and his heart soared, praying that this meant his father was not a traitor and would be returned home. But that brief spark of hope was extinguished when his cousin’s grim countenance did not change.

 

“Norfolk and Surrey’s plot was not against Ambrose, but me,” he began with a trace of outrage in his calm voice.

 

“You? Why?” Thomas’ brows knitted together in confusion. His father had always stressed the importance of family. Why would he and grandfather for that matter conspire against the Duke of Kent?

 

The older man sighed. “I cannot speculate their motive, Tom nor will I for that hardly matters now. Your grandfather and your father made a fatal mistake, they conspired with Edward Seymore.”

 

“The Duke of York’s uncle?” Thomas clarified, wondering what the Earl of Hertford had to do with this sordid affair. Then he remembered his father’s rant about trusting the wrong person and being framed.

 

“That’s right,” intoned George. “Edward Seymore baited your grandfather into writing that they could remove Ambrose from the throne and place Prince Edward on it before he brought it to King Henry’s attention. His Majesty might have forgiven them, or at least given them a lighter punishment, for conspiring against me, but not against his heir.”

 

 Thomas’s eyes widened in shock, understanding what his cousin was getting at. “But if you know this, can’t you use it to convince the king to exonerate them?”

 

George shook his head sadly. “I have no proof, other than my own gut instinct and the word of your grandfather, who is a traitor. Not to mention your father’s actions made him look guilty as sin.”

 

“But if it weren’t for Edward Seymore, my father would never have done such a thing in the first place,” Thomas burst out, angry tears springing to his eyes. His father was a good man, who had been so desperate to get himself and his family out of England, he did something very foolish.

 

To his surprise, arms encircled Thomas, and he found himself being pulled into a warm embrace. “I promise you that one day Edward Seymore will get his just deserts,” George vowed.


 

“Brother.” Henry Howard the Younger entered the antechamber, pulling Thomas out of his reminiscing.

 

The Duke of Norfolk inclined his head in greeting. “Were you followed?”

 

“No.” Unlike his brother, Henry Howard was lanky with a fuller face and smaller eyes. He also wore a smart beard on his chin while Norfolk preferred to be clean shaven. While Thomas had lived with the Kents, Henry had lived with their aunt Mary, widow of the king’s bastard son, Hal Fitzroy. And yet the two brothers had remained close, together they would regain their house’s reputation.

 

“Did it work?” Thomas asked.

 

The Earl of Hertford had made several subtle attempts to sway Thomas to his side, unaware of the younger man’s deep hatred for him. During one of these conversations, he had let slip an incident that only three men knew about, a fight between himself and Guildford where the Marquess of Dorset had insinuated that he was seeking to marry Cathy Tudor, in hopes of claiming the crown for himself.

 

Now Guildford would not have mentioned this to anyone least Ambrose found out, nor had Thomas said anything, least it brought Cathy any unwanted attention. That left only one person: Arthur Pole.

 

Suspicious, Norfolk had recruited his younger brother to help his sniff out Hertford’s spy among Ambrose’s circle of close friends.

 

“Like a charm,” his brother huffed, glowering. “According to the Viscount Beauchamp, who is ignorant to his father’s plotting as far as I can tell, the earl has called his daughter to court, and she is quite eager to meet me.”



Despite the seriousness of the situation, Thomas couldn’t help but chuckle at his brother’s annoyance. “Forgive me, but I needed it simple and innocuous enough that they wouldn’t become suspicious that this was a trap. Seeking a bride for my younger brother who is currently third in line for my dukedom was tempting for the ambitious earl.”

 

“Couldn’t you have said you were looking for a bride for Ambrose?” Henry grumbled, meaning his nephew.

 

Ambrose Howard had been born five years ago to Thomas’ first wife, Mary FitzAlan. Sadly, she died just eight weeks later.

 

“Edward Seymore has no daughters or granddaughters young enough for a match,” Thomas pointed out, his mind drifting to his young son who had lived for five years without a mother to care for him.

 

He had been rather lax in choosing a second wife, but over time he began to grow close to Cathy Tudor. After the death of her mother and the Duchess of Bedford, she had raised her younger sister and brother herself. She was a remarkable woman and Thomas had found himself falling in love with her as she did with him.


All he needed was King Ambrose’s permission and they would be wed.

 

“The plan worked. We know Arthur Pole is Hertford’s spy. What now?” inquired Henry, pulling his brother back into the discussion at hand. “Do we tell the king?”

 

The Duke of Norfolk shook his head. “Ambrose won’t believe it. He refuses to believe that those he thinks are his friends are capable of betraying him. Which is nice when Gilly is accusing me of being a traitor, not so much now. Besides our proof is circumstantial. We need more.”

 

“Just as long as your plan doesn’t involve me getting married, I’m in,” Henry affirmed, reaching out to squeeze his brother’s shoulder.

 

We shall avenge you, Father, Norfolk vowed silently. The man who betrayed you and grandfather will pay.


 

Back in the banquet hall, Ambrose was cheerfully unaware of what the Howard brothers uncovered. Instead, he was teasing his cousin for having waited so long to get married.

 

“Everyone could see the way you were fawning over her,” he boomed, causing James Boleyn to duck his head in embarrassment. “The way you would sometimes find an excuse to accompany me when I visited my queen.”

 

“I don’t mean to contradict you, Your Majesty, but I believe you asked me to accompany you,” reminded the Earl of Wiltshire.

 

Ambrose gave his cousin a disgruntled look. “Because you wouldn’t take the initiative. It was either that or order you to ask for Lady Isabel’s hand. Be glad I went with the first one.”

 

The polite chuckles around the table became guffaws at the king’s last sentence. Even the new Countess of Wiltshire had to hide her smirk behind her goblet.

 

“Arthur, what about you?” Ambrose directed his words to his next target.

 

“Me?” Arthur Pole affected a scandalized expression. “Lady Isabel is quite fair, but I think it would be ungentlemanly to ask for her hand in front of her husband.”

 

This caused everyone even James to chuckle.

 

Ambrose grinned at his friend. “Not her, you silly lout. When are you getting married?”

 

“I am afraid I have not met the right woman yet,” admitted Arthur with a shrug. “But I will keep searching, I assure you.” 

 

“What a pity. I was very much hoping for another godson named Ambrose,” Ambrose grumbled.

 

“I promise you that when I have a son, he shall be named after the King of England,” Arthur declared, rising his goblet to toast Ambrose. Had anyone been watching him carefully, they would have noticed his hand trembled so much that the wine almost spilled.


 

July 30, 1562

 

Joanna was pacing. That was Ambrose’s clue that something was terribly wrong. His wife did not pace. They had been married for a decade, and while he liked to think he defrosted her somewhat, she still kept her emotions concealed behind a stoic veneer. For her to be anxious over something was a clear sign that something bad had happened.

 

She did not speak, she merely thrust a piece of parchment at him, her fingers shaking as she did so. He had never seen her so overcome with emotions before. It was unsettling to say the least.

 

Ambrose’s blue orbs scanned the words. He blinked, not quite making sense of what he was seeing. Horror began to churn in his belly as he read it again and then again. It couldn’t be, could it?

 

Queen Joanna of England, greetings.

 

I hope this letter finds you well. I received your congratulations on the birth of Infante Denis with great joy. Maria and I are thrilled to have welcome our son into the world. Carlos has behaved himself thus far, but I will still be keeping an eye on him, least another incident happens.

 

Joanna, I write to you, not just to exchange pleasantries. My spies in the Vatican have reported a visit by the Scottish ambassador who asked an audience with Pope Pius IV. Unfortunately, the meeting was done privately, away from listening ears. However, Cardinal Borromeo has learned the reason for it.

 

The Scottish queen is due to marry again. Her chosen husband is Prince Edward, the Duke of York.  They are, with the pope’s blessing, going to press his claim to the English throne, declaring your husband a heretic and a bastard.

 

Make no mistake, Joanna, I may not care for your husband, but I refuse to allow anyone to say that you married beneath your station nor take away the birthright of your daughters. The Spanish armada will sail to protect England.

 

Yours, Felipe the Second Rex

 

“This is not true,” Ambrose declared after his ninth time reading the explosive missive. “This cannot be true.” No. Edward would not do this to him.  


“What reason would my brother have for lying?” Joanna demanded.

 

“I can’t speculate on his motives,” Ambrose snapped, walking over to the fireplace, tearing the letter into bits and then throwing them into it. “Clearly, this is some sort of trick. Ned would not betray me. No matter how angry he is at me, he will come around eventually. He always does.”

 

“It has been four years since he has even been to court.” Joanna was not sure if she should feel outraged that Ambrose was calling her brother a liar or pity that the king was so willfully blind to what was in front of him. “Every letter, every invitation, you have sent him as been ignored.” She decided not to add that if Edward was not the king’s brother, he would be punished for being so blatantly rude towards his sovereigns.

 

Ambrose’s expression became baleful, his shoulders slumping. “That is still a long way from trying to usurp my throne.” 

 

Joanna softened a fraction, sympathy flooding her. “Felipe would not have written to us if this was not the truth. He has nothing to gain from this.”

 

The king let out a sigh, a wave of nausea rushing through him. “I will order Ned to come to court. If he refuses, I will instruct my men to bring him by force. But I know this has to be a misunderstanding. It must be. Not Ned.”

 

His wife was always so good at keeping her expression guarded. But this time her countenance faltered, allowing the doubt and anxiety he felt to flicker across her face.


 

August 7, 1562

 

It was sweltering outside. The summer heat seemed to have intensified early, causing everyone to desperately seek out a cool spot in the palace to escape from the suffocating weather.

 

There was no escape in the privy chambers where the king and his councilors waited for news. There were two members missing, the Earl of Hertford and the Earl of Salisbury. Coincidentally, no one had seen Arthur Pole either.

 

Thomas glowered at Guildford when he remembered having gone to the king to suggest searching the Pole residence.


 

“What are you saying, Thomas?” Ambrose demanded. He and the Marquess of Dorset were alone in the room with the Duke of Norfolk.

 

“Your Majesty, some months ago, I discovered that Arthur was spying on you for the Earl of Hertford,” Thomas explained, going on to narrate the ploy he had cooked up with his brother to test the other man.

 

“And why do you not come to me with this before?” interrogated Ambrose, his fists clenched. It seemed that every passing day that his brother did not arrive, he was becoming less sure of his innocence. 

 

“It was circumstantial. I doubted you’d believe me, not without hard proof,” divulged Thomas, wishing very dearly that he had done so. Cathy would have some very choice words for him when she heard about this.

 

“You could have told me!” Guildford shouted, his face becoming red. “I would have beaten the answers out of that traitor. God dammit, Thomas, you are useless!”

 

Thomas laughed mirthlessly, his expression incredulous. “You? You would have become convinced that I was trying to frame Arthur.  I was a child and you insisted that was just as guilty as my father and you haven’t stopped in the past decade!”

 

Guildford’s mouth snapped open and shut like a carp, unable to come up with a retort, something Norfolk had seen as a victory.


 

The memory of Dorset’s biting words made Thomas’s glare harden. Although Guildford had his back towards him, he could tell by the way Dorset was sitting stiffly and yet determinedly not turning his head, that he could feel it.

 

A kick to his shin caused Thomas to look away, his head snapping towards the man on the other side. George kept his gaze on his nephew, but slowly shook his head, silently telling Norfolk to cut it out.


Sir Francis Knollys, the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, entered the chambers, nervously tugging at his chain of office that he wore over his black attire with a white ruff around his neck. His pale complexion was tinged with pink from the heat, his dark eyes were downcast.

 

His voice came out as a whisper, but it seemed to reverberate off the walls. “Your Majesty, I have received the reports. The Duke of York, the Earl of Hertford, and the Earl of Salisbury have fled. Their servants do not know where they have gone. We shall continue to question them and search every part of the estates----”

 

Fists hitting the table caused him to fall silent. All eyes darted to the king, expecting a violent outburst. Ambrose had both of his parents’ fiery tempers. The confirmation of his brother’s betrayal would unleash an inferno.

 

Instead, the king’s expression was blank, his tone deathly cold. “I want every associate, and relative of the Seymores and the Poles questioned and searched.”

 

Suddenly the conversation he had with his father resounded in his mind.

 

Queen Jane believes that Edward is your true heir because Elizabeth and I were born when Mary’s mother was still alive.

 

And that’s why I cannot let Edward go see her. She might make him think the same thing and then when I die you and your brother might start fighting.”

 

“I want my stepmother arrested on the charges of high treason,” he ordered, his voice still deceptively calm.

 

“Ambrose, let’s not be too hasty,” George began. It wasn’t that he objected to Jane Seymore being arrested, in fact there was a part of him that felt she should have been jailed for the slander she spewed.

 

However, questioning so many people would take up time they did not have. It was better just to round by those they knew were close to the Duke of York and the Earl of Salisbury, question and arrest them.

 

Ambrose scowled blackly, gritting his teeth as he barked at the Duke of Kent. “Four years, uncle. For four years my brother has seethed and apparently conspired with his uncle the entire time. And yet somehow, you were unaware, despite having people watching them both. How the hell did you not know!” 

 

The Duke of Kent stared down at his hands, shamefaced. “I was getting bad intel. Hertford must have somehow known about the servants you were paying.”

 

“Or Arthur Pole told him,” Norfolk spoke up from his seat. “He would have been privy to at least the conversations about the Earl of Herford.” George had never mentioned who he was hiring to watch Edward mostly because Ambrose would not hear of it.

 

“Does it matter?” Guildford asked, finally breaking his silence. He still deliberately avoided Thomas’s gaze. “The fact is we were ignorant of the Duke of York’s plans and now we have a fight on our hands. It is time to prepare for war, my lords.”