January 6, 2012
I hope this is allowed here, but I would like to post a story I'm writing about Anne as queen. I plan to post a page a day. Anne isn't the main character, but her presence becomes heavily important as the story goes along.
The wind was fierce and threatened to whip the hood off the young lady’s head, but as she rode on, she adjusted the pins and gave a quick prayer that she would not have to send a page on a trip through the bushes to look for the fine velvet and pearl-studded top. Her party was small and expected to be in London right away; delays were unacceptable. The Queen called and when she called, you came.
“My lady,” her steward said, pulling his horse up to match her stride, “We will be stopping soon. There is an inn not far up ahead and it will be our last night before we enter London.”
Pushing back a loose strand of brunette hair that had whipped in her face, the young lady was pleased. She was tired and her face felt chapped, the pain which would follow her for a day or two. “Thank you, Strong. Please make sure the rest of our retinue is tightly bound. I don’t want to wait on any stragglers. I want us all in sync and ready to ride into London at dawn.”
True to his word, it was not long before Lady Faustua de Burgh rode into the courtyard of the roadside inn. “Make way for the Baroness of Marazion!” her steward cried as Faustua dismounted, swirling mud-stained skirts over the cobblestones. “Make way! You there, boy, see to it these horses are taken care of!” Her steward then offered his hand to her and he helped her pick her way across the courtyard to the front door of the inn. There was no point in trying to hold her skirts up high; mud looked the same no matter where it came from.
Finally at the door, Strong held it wide open for Faustua and she entered the quiet establishment. A wench sat by the fire strumming a lute and three men sat near, draining tankards of mead. The bartender had been leaning over his bar equally enthralled until interrupted by the opening of the door and this royal intrusion. “Wat can I do ye for, eh?” he asked, striding down the length of the bar to join them at the rail. “Ain’t got no cook. Jus’ bread an’ mead es all we got.” The bartender gave Faustua a long look up and down, as if she were more thief than lady.
“Bread and mead will be fine for my people. You will find them gathering in the courtyard. We plan to stay the night, if you have room for us. I have my own food and will dine alone in the finest room you have,” Faustua commanded, taking off her riding gloves and cloak, laying them in her lap as she sat on a stool at the bar. “I surely hope you can accommodate all of us.”
“Eh, eh now? Plenty o’ room we ‘ave. Aye, a room for ye, too. Unless an army yous brought with ya,” the bartender responded, counting the coin he would be collecting any moment now.
“No, no. Just 15 guard. They can stay with their horses. My ladies and the rest of my household, however, will need rooms as well as my steward,” Faustua said. The bartender hopped to her demands and within the hour everyone was settled in for the night.
January 9, 2010
January 6, 2012
Faustua sat alone in her room as she dined on fresh cheeses, bread and her own wine. The firelight was low, casting long shadows across unfamiliar furniture. She called her chief lady-in-waiting to her side after she finished dining. “Karen, please request that my tub and linens be brought to my room. I must bathe tonight before meeting the Queen tomorrow. I’m afraid there may only be time to change into a clean gown before she demands my presence and I want to appear fresh as possible. We shall use the rosewater as well. I hear the Queen prefers only the most prettiest of smells in her presence. We must mask the smell of horseflesh as must as possible.”
Faustua really wanted one last comfort before facing the leading lady of the land. She always enjoyed a good soak in the hottest waters possible. Her tub brought to her room and filled with wonderfully scented water, Faustua asked only Karen to remain while she bathed. She sank deeply into the tub, submerging herself for a moment to cleanse any fears she harbored at meeting the Queen. “Karen,” she asked, “Why do you think the Queen called for my presence? I’ve never done a thing to bring attention to myself.”
“I cannot think of a reason, my lady,” she replied, trying to work on her needlepoint in the darkened room while her lady bathed. “But calling someone from as far away as Cornwall must be of some importance to Her Grace.”
Faustua thought for a moment. “I suppose.” She had been widowed for five years now and lived quietly in Greymalkin Manor, overseeing her farm with precision and keeping a throng of happy peasants around her. Never once did an ounce of trouble come from her corner of the country. So why did the Queen want to yank Faustua away from her little, happy world to serve at court?
“I’m finished bathing,” Faustua called, and Karen provided a sheet to dry off with and then Faustua’s luxurious wrapper with which to curl up by the fire in while her hair dried. The tub was removed from the room and returned to the large cart of household items Faustua had brought with her. The cart held furniture, caskets of silver and gold plate, fine clothing (Which Faustua feared was terribly out of style.), her tub of course, chests of bibelots and even more. She may live on a country farm as far flung from the court as one could get, but that did not mean she was not as rich as could be.
Completely dry, Faustua decided upon bedtime and bid Karen goodnight. The lady left the room without a sound and Faustua drifted into a fitful sleep. All night she dreamed of everything that could go wrong the next day. A tear in her dress. A misstep in her curtsey. A fumble of words. A complete denial of her existence. That last dream haunted her the most. What if they had come all this way only to find the Queen no longer desired her presence?
She awoke the next morning with dark circles under her eyes. “Oh my lady, you didn’t sleep well,” Karen said as she dressed Faustua in her traveling gown and cloak. “Dark circles are under your eyes.”
February 24, 2010
January 6, 2012
I'm afraid this is going to be a long, long story. I'm already up to 9 pages (Which means I have 7 more days of posting so far.), and I only have one major plot point planned for Anne so far. Who knows where this story is going to end up??? I'm somewhat writing stream-of-consciousnessly, so Faustua has surprises coming her way that I don't know of yet!
January 6, 2012
“Well there isn’t much I can do,” Faustua lamented as a sleeve was pinned into place. “I couldn’t help but dream the worst, but we all must hope for the best.”
“Yes, that’s the spirit!” Karen cried, tying the laces of Faustua’s cloak tight. “That is one thing we can all do. Everyone is ready for you. We’re ready to ride.”
“Excellent. Just as I had hoped.” Faustua left the room with Karen hot on her heels and descended the stairs, bidding goodbye to the bartender and leaving him with a heaping purse of gold for all his troubles. Once in the courtyard, Strong gave her a lift up into her saddle and Faustua turned her horse around to face her retinue. “My good people,” she began, hoping all could hear. “This is the last leg of our journey. By nightfall we will be within the folds of King Henry’s court. I expect nothing less than the same courteous and loyal behavior you have always given me to be given to the new people you will meet there. Most of you will stay in my employ, but some of you will become servants to the King and Queen. Do your duty well. Now, to London!” Rounding her horse, she cantered out of the courtyard and onto the road, the sound of hooves following her at a matching pace.
The journey into town was short. As they rode through the streets toward Greenwich, they were amazed by the grandeur of the city. No one in Faustua’s party had ever been to London, let alone much further out of Cornwall. Houses three stories high cast dark shadows over their procession as they had to trot single file down the roads, letting other people by. Some persons stopped to stare and one lady offered a nosegay to Faustua, thinking she was clearly royalty in some fashion. Faustua took the pretty flowers and smelled them, inhaling such sweetness. Finally, they came to the gates of the mighty castle.
“And you are?” One guard said, sizing up Faustua’s party as it gathered behind her at the gate.
“I am Faustua de Burgh, Baroness of Marazion. I am here by request of the Queen to join her household as a lady-in-waiting.” Faustua commanded in her most imposing voice. “I have a letter here from the Queen herself requesting my presence. Fetch a page to confirm this if you like, or let us pass,” she said, pulling the letter in question out of her cloak’s pocket and waving it under the guard’s nose.
“Forgive me, my lady, go on right ahead. Servants will be ready to greet you in the castle courtyard,” the guard apologized, bowing low and doffing his helmet. True to his word, a dozen or more servants came running to take care of Faustua and her party as they entered the castle proper. Strong helped her dismount and her horse was whisked away by a groom. Her cart of goods was directed to the rear of the castle to wait for which room to be sent to. Her guards were directed to join King Henry’s men and her ladies-in-waiting were gathered behind her, awe inspired by the efficiency of it all.
January 6, 2012
Faustua, Strong and her ladies waited but for a few moments before a clerk appeared from inside a doorway. “Welcome, Baroness. We have been expecting your arrival most eagerly,” he said, prostrating himself before her. “You will have to forgive meeting Her Majesty right away. She is at prayer. Yet this will give you ample time to settle in, change out of your riding clothes and prepare for a proper audience. Her Majesty truly wishes to see you as soon as possible. Please, follow me to your rooms.”
Faustua’s band of loyal servants followed the clerk as they wound their way around the castle, passing all sorts of characters, from courtiers to cooks. It was a long walk, but at last the clerk stopped at a doorway and threw it open for Faustua to enter. She was utterly amazed. Such luxury! Tapestries colored the walls. A massive fireplace took up nearly one whole side of the room. A massive bed with gorgeous curtains filled the space opposite. Velvet padded chairs sat around a finely carved oak table. Cushions lay gently upon a window seat, perfect for reading or working on her needlepoint. And best of all, there was plenty of room for her tub.
“This is all mine?” Faustua breathed, afraid it was a dream.
“Yes, my lady, and your ladies-in-waiting have the room next door. Your steward has a room with the men on the floor below this one, but do not worry, it is of equal suitability,” the clerk smiled. “A set of pages have been assigned to you to answer your every call. They will stand at your door at all times. As we speak, your household goods are being transferred here to your rooms. I will come for you when it is time to meet the Queen.”
“Oh, but wait, I never caught your name,” Faustua said, just before the clerk closed her door. “I am Avery. You may count on me to attend to your needs as well.” He then shut the door gently, as if sealing in a most precious jewel in its box.
Faustua’s other ladies-in-waiting fawned over the sumptuousness of the room. Sylvia and Julia both flopped onto the bed, testing its comfort. “Oh, my lady, you shall sleep well tonight!” Julia cried, falling backwards onto the bed.
“I would but take half of all of this,” Sylvia replied to that, eager to see her room next.
Karen grabbed Sylvia and Julia’s arms and yanked them off the bed. “We have more important things to do than think of our own room at the moment,” she commanded, though a tiny bit of her mind wandered next door. Faustua’s belongings were beginning to flow through the door and finally the chests with her dresses and jewels arrived. “We must dress our lady and make her fit for a queen.”
The next half hour was spent fussing over which dress was most perfect. Stripped of her riding clothes and down to her shift, Faustua sighed as each dress was pulled from one chest or another and displayed by one of her ladies. “Well I know one thing for sure,” Faustua mused. “I will definitely not outshine the Queen with this outdated, country wardrobe. Let’s use the cornflower blue velvet. It matches my eyes and the matching hood is in the French style. The Queen prefers the French style, or so I’m told. Sapphires. I’ll wear sapphire ear bobs and the matching necklace Christopher gave me as a wedding gift long ago.” She paused to remember her late husband and kissed the wedding ring she still wore. The gown was slipped over her head and the jewels bedecking her body, Faustua was ready as ever for her audience.
January 6, 2012
Until Avery returned, the women decided to devote themselves to a game of cards. Not before Faustua let her ladies examine their own room, of course. She could hear the squeals of excitement as they absorbed their own luxurious accommodations. “Silly geese,” Faustua laughed as they returned to her room, each lady’s head filled with excitement of the courtly life.
Faustua was just about to play a spade when a knock came at the door. “Enter,” she called, half ignoring the interruption. She was used to such at her own manor, and never gave a thought to what was to come next. In came Avery, dressed finer than when they met before, and Faustua dropped her cards, suddenly remembering her task at hand.
“Baroness, the Queen calls for you,” he said, bowing low.
Faustua swallowed hard and rose from the table. Her ladies rose also, mostly in fear for their mistress, and offered words of comfort and “good lucks.” Faustua strode to the doorway and turned one last time to look at her ladies. “Well, the worst that could happen is that we’ll be on our way back home by the end of my interview, I suppose. Or the Tower.” She added a little laugh to relieve her nerves.
Avery led the way to the Queen’s presence chamber, more winding hallways through the palace and passing more servants. Faustua’s heart beat faster and faster as she wondered what the Queen would look like, act like, sound like, and simply be like. She prayed her audience would go over well and that the Queen would not regret pulling this country farmer from the far reaches of the kingdom to meet her. Finally, they stopped before a large wooden door. “This is as far as I go, my lady. The rest is up to you.”
“Thank you, Avery.” Faustua reached for his hand and squeezed it in an unusual gesture. “You have been most kind.”
The guards at the door opened them and Faustua stepped inside, grasping her skirts and dipping low into a curtsey, keeping her eyes on the ground. She heard her name called out loud, booming from somewhere behind her. “Faustua de Burgh, Baroness of Marazion.”
“Ah, welcome to court, Baroness. Please, come forward,” said a voice clear and ringing like a dainty bell.
Faustua rose and slowly looked up toward the dais, letting her eyes drink in all that was Queen Anne Boleyn.
Faustua was mightily shocked, but hoped her face did not show it. Queen Anne had a calm and pleasing countenance, brunette hair tucked under a French hood, a long and slender nose, rosebud lips and dark, mysterious eyes. But what shocked Faustua was the monstrous size of her belly; clearly Queen Anne was well, well into the late months of a pregnancy.
January 6, 2012
“I hope you have found your accommodations and the servants ordered to attend you satisfying so far,” Queen Anne said, proffering her hand for a kiss.
Faustua approached the Queen and kissed her bejeweled hand, lightly pressing her lips to an emerald ring. She brushed up against her belly and hoped the Queen did not notice or did not care. It was nearly impossible not to miss touching it with the way the Queen’s short arm could not extend beyond her stomach. “I am most happy with all that has been given to me, Your Grace. It is beyond anything I could have wished for.”
“Excellent,” Queen Anne replied, smiling sweetly. Faustua could see how the King could fall easily for such a smile. “Now, I know you must have a burning question in your mind.” She paused for effect. “Why did I call you to court?”
“Yes, Your Grace, I am but a lowly country farmer, a widow Baroness with no heir. I hope I have caused no trouble to your person, no reason to call attention.”
“Oh, but you do call attention. For you see, the King wants me to broaden my circle of ladies-in-waiting and I have none from so far west. I heard of you from a courtier who lived once in Cornwall and said you were kind and fair to your tenants, a success on your estate, and most beautiful to behold with many talents. I took interest in this and wanted such a lady in my household. I am bored with many of my ladies-in-waiting. I desire a fresh face to entertain me as I enter my confinement.”
Faustua stood before the Queen speechless. She was to entertain the Queen while the country waited for a prince to be born? “Why Your Grace, I am honored to offer my talents to you,” Faustua finally said. “I only hope they meet your expectations.”
“I’m quite sure they will, if this courtier is honest in his opinion. Now, the first thing I ask of you is to update your court dress. I don’t mean to insult you, but you are quite out of fashion and I do not want the court to look down upon one of my newest and closest ladies-in-waiting. I shall give you a hefty allowance to purchase new gowns with and do so with haste.” The Queen offered her hand again and Faustua kissed it again, this time careful not to touch her stomach. “I hope to see you tomorrow morning.”
With that, the audience with Queen Anne was over, and Faustua was whisked away back to her apartments. Upon entering, she was attacked with questions from her own ladies-in-waiting. “What is she like?” Sylvia asked eagerly, the first to get a question in.
Faustua paused, recalling the Queen’s face in her mind. She recounted her features, but then shared the most important of the Queen’s appearance. Her ladies all gasped in unison. “Entertain a pregnant woman?” Karen asked, aghast. “What will you do?”
“Do what I always do to entertain guests, I suppose,” Faustua said, shrugging her shoulders. “Sing, dance, play the lute, play chess and cards, hold conversations, read to her. I just want to find out who this courtier is who thinks I am so talented.”
January 6, 2012
The next day was outrageously busy in the Queen’s household. Confinement time had come and the Queen’s room had to be prepared. Windows were shuttered and covered with tapestries displaying fertile woodland scenes darkening the room, the finest of draperies were hung from a bed the size of a small boat, a roaring fire was lit and well stoked, wines and small beers were laid out on tables next to sumptuous breads and fruits, and most important of all, the Queen’s ladies who were to attend her gathered in a corner of the room, standing at attention. This included Faustua, who was impressed by the grandeur of the entire set-up, but was quite overheated from the roaring fire. She felt sweat running down her back and upon her forehead, but dared not to move.
After all the preparations were finished, Queen Anne entered the room on the arm of King Henry. Everyone bowed as low as they could, and Faustua snuck a glance at the King. Never before had she seen a man so handsome, so beautifully attired, so totally commanding in presence. She almost forgot to rise, she was so besotted with the King’s appearance.
“My love, I leave you here. When I see you again, may it be with a healthy and lusty son in your arms,” his voice boomed, as he kissed the Queen full on the lips.
“And a son you shall have,” she replied, bowing her head ever so slightly. Henry then laid his hand on his wife’s belly one last time for luck and then exited the room, the doors closing behind him.
“So this is my prison,” the Queen frowned, waddling over to the bed. She stood there and stared at her ladies-in-waiting. “Well? I cannot get in this thing by myself.” Three of the six women jumped to her aid, pulling back covers and helping her up the small set of stairs and into the bed. The covers were tucked tightly around her, and she exhaled loudly, pulling her green, ermine-trimmed wrapper around her tightly.
“How on earth could she do that?” Faustua wondered, starting to feel faint from the heat of the room. She wanted desperately to remove her brand-new hood, purchased just that morning from a seamstress who would be designing her new wardrobe and who just happened to have a few extra dresses and accessories with her. Yet Faustua was afraid of insulting the Queen and so the rose damask hood stayed on her head and the fine matching gown of velvet continued to absorb her sweat.
“Ladies, ladies,” the Queen announced from her perch (If one could so call it that.), “Amuse yourselves. I feel I shall take a nap. The prince is restless inside and leaves me tired.”
Faustua thought it an opportune time to introduce herself to the five other women she would be working alongside with for the next month by starting up a game of cards. “A game of cards?” She suggested to those around her, and all agreed. Faustua was always lucky at starting up a healthy card game, and lucky when a wager was proposed. However, this game would be simple and gamble-free.
January 6, 2012
“So, my ladies, who all are we?” Faustua asked, shuffling the cards expertly. “Let’s go around the table.” Faustua looked to the lady at her right.
“I am Nan Gainsford, Lady Zouche,” the first lady said, raising her nose in the air.
The next lady spoke with even more airs. “Margery Horsman, if you please.”
“I am surprised you have not heard of me,” the next lady said, picking up her cards as Faustua dealt them. “I am after all the Queen’s sister-in-law. Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford.”
“My apologies,” Faustua said, nodding at the lady. “This is but my second day at court. And you?” Faustua asked the next lady, who looked hardy and strong.
The woman, who was plainly dressed, pushed her hood back and replied. “Retha Warnicke. I am the Queen’s midwife.”
The last lady, who appeared to fade into the background easily, quietly announced her name. “I am Jane Seymour.”
“A motley crew we are, I suppose. How we were all thrown together to take care of Her Grace I do not know, but here we are,” Faustua said as the first cards were laid upon the table. The six women played for two hours, conversing politely, each suspicious of the other and wondering about their connection to the Queen. At least no one wondered about Retha’s connection.
At last a stirring came from the bed. “Wine, please,” came a meek voice, and Nan rose to fetch the Queen a cup of wine from the sideboard. “Will someone read? I feel dreadfully bored. Faustua, you have a pleasant voice. Please, read one of the books on the table there.” The Queen sounded pitiful and whiney, as if she had been confined for a month already.
“Yes, Your Grace,” Faustua quickly responded, jumping to the table of books across the room. She scanned the volumes for something entertaining and found a book of poetry. “Poetry, Your Grace?”
The Queen turned to face Faustua and smiled at her. “Yes, that would be quite lovely.”
Faustua settled into a chair next to the bed, quite far from the fire so as to be as comfortable as possible. The other ladies continued the card game. She opened the book to the first page and began to read in a clear, beautiful voice that echoed around the room. Each line of each verse sprang into life in Faustua’s Cornish lilt, and the Queen was lulled into a sweet disposition.
“My courtier did not lie. You do have a talent,” the Queen interrupted her.
January 9, 2010
January 6, 2012
Well I believe I read it here under Nan Cobham as one of Anne's ladies that Retha was her midwife. I had an extreme amount of trouble picking who was to serve as Anne's five other ladies and used that page as a guide. (Of course I had no trouble not having to use the ones assigned to her after her imprisonment!) Jane Seymour and Lady Rochford appeared to be obvious choices, but since I couldn't really find any information on Anne's confinement and no one answered my question on the Fellowship forum, I just picked whomever for the story's sake.
I'm not going for 100% historical accuracy here. The main focus is Faustua anyway. Anne is just her flirty tormentor. LOL
January 6, 2012
Faustua dared to be bold. “Your Grace, may I ask whom this noble courtier is that sings my praises so highly?”
The Queen put a finger to her nose and smiled wickedly. “Oh ho, interested in one of my men?” She asked with a naughty tone in her voice. “I think, my dear, I shall keep his identity a secret a few more days longer.”
Faustua was frustrated, but dared not show it. She picked up the book of poetry again and turned back to the page she was last upon. “Shall I read on, Your Grace?”
“No, I think I shall bed for the night,” the Queen yawned, spurning a flurry of activity from her ladies. Pillows were fluffed, the curtains around the bed were closed, and the fire set to roaring as much as possible. Retha was to stay to make sure the fire did not die during the night and to attend to any needs the Queen may have overnight. She watched longingly as the rest of the ladies-in-waiting excused themselves to the rooms next door.
“More luxury,” Faustua thought as she observed the five sumptuous beds in the room. Clearly there were only five, for one lady would always be in attendance upon the Queen at night. Each lady raced to claim a bed, and Faustua simply took the one that was last, unfortunately next to the drafty window. Yet she did not care; Cornish nights could be just as cold as London nights she was sure. The ladies undressed and prepared for bed, each secretly examining the exquisiteness of the other’s shifts. Who was the richest among the five of them?
Apparently it was Faustua with her new allowance from the Queen, as her shift was trimmed in fine blackwork. She secretly thanked her seamstress for providing all the new accessories she had needed for the day, but most important, was glad to be out of her sweaty gown and into a cool bed. This room certainly would not be heated like it was the mouth of hell.
The candles extinguished, there was an eerie silence in the room as each lady slowly fell into slumber, but it was broken by a voice out of the darkness. “Do you think Queen Anne will truly have a son?” Margery asked the others.
“Hush!” Lady Rochford hissed. “You might as well commit treason doubting the Queen and she might hear you.”
“She doesn’t carry like a boy,” Lady Zouche whispered, adding her opinion. “Jane, what do you think?”
“I don’t know,” she hesitated, pulling her covers over her head to block out the conversation. “I don’t want to know until the birth.”
“I don’t know, either,” Faustua admitted. “I’ve never had a child and cannot compare pregnancies.”
January 6, 2012
Faustua turned in her bed to face the window, glowing slightly from the moon outside. “All I know is that it is bad luck to be talking of Queen Anne and the future prince such a way. You will curse the pregnancy.”
“Hmph,” Lady Zouche loudly replied, pulling her own covers up to her neck and feeling the grasp of sleep upon her. “They say their whole marriage is cursed.” Fortunately, by the time she had uttered those words all the ladies were asleep and could not argue.
The next morning, the sun shone brightly through the window, a spotlight on Faustua’s face. She rose and stretched luxuriously, forgetting for a moment where she was or what her daily tasks were to be for the next month. It was only until she looked around at the other sleeping women that she felt crestfallen, missing her own ladies-in-waiting. Suddenly there was a knock at the door and the three sleeping heads popped up in unison, curious at who was at the door.
Faustua, already standing and washing her face at the basin, rushed to the door to open it. There stood two pages with large trunks. “Deliveries for the Baroness,” one said, shifting on his feet. “From her seamstress.” Faustua was overjoyed. More clothes! More jewels! She would show these other ninnies who were most in fashion at court. She blessed her seamstress for having so many dresses on hand and for having more coming her way.
“I am the Baroness. Please, place those trunks by the bed by the window. Many thanks to you,” Faustua could not help but gush, watching the trunks pass by and watching each woman’s face turn pea green with envy. After the men left, Faustua casually strode over to one trunk and opened it as if it were but nothing to her. Inside were dresses of fine damask, cloth of gold, jeweled tones she had never seen before and all the appropriate accessories to make each gown stand out amongst any crowd. Inside this trunk was her jewel box and Faustua was happy to have her ancient baubles with her.
“We best start dressing and stop gawking,” Lady Rochford commanded, turning up her nose at Faustua’s finery. “Choose a gown and lace the other up.”
Fortunately Jane seemed unaffected by Faustua’s windfall, so they helped dress each other. Jane’s clothes were comely but plain, muted colors but still in fashion. She chose to wear gabled hoods which reminded Faustua of Catherine of Aragon, the most taboo subject at court, but she dared not mention the similarities.
Faustua, however, took a long time picking through her new gowns in order to impress the Queen. She finally settled on a rose gown slashed with gold sleeves and a gold kirtle. The French hood was trimmed in fine gold buttons and ribbon. After Jane had laced her up and pinned the sleeves in place, Faustua couldn’t help but turn in circles and watch as her skirts belled out around her. Margery gave her a cutthroat glance, but Faustua did not care. “Thank you, my dear Jane,” Faustua said, giving her a light hug. “I think we are all ready to relieve Retha of her nightly duties and attend Her Grace. Are we not?”
January 6, 2012
The four women filed into the Queen’s room next door, careful to be quiet as the Queen’s curtains were still drawn. The room was not as hot as it was yesterday, as Retha had let the fire die somewhat and she had fallen asleep in her padded chair. The room was as dark as ever and one could not tell if the sun was high in the sky or if it was midnight outside. The ladies stood for a moment, not sure what to do. Jane then gently shook Retha awake and mentioned it was sunrise. “You have attended queens in confinement before,” she whispered. “What are we to do now?”
“First you awaken the Queen, feed her and then feed yourselves. Silly ninnies. Think that would come naturally to your high and mighty brains.” Retha said, standing and stretching her bones. I’m off to bed. Give good Queen Anne my regards.”
“Ah, thank you,” Jane said, trying not to offend Retha any further. “Good day, madam.”
“To it, then,” Lady Zouche remarked, leaving the group and grabbing the curtains of the Queen’s bed. With a sharp snap, she opened them, revealing a gently snoring and sweaty woman who had thrown her covers aside in the night. She slept on her side, fortunately facing outward so the ladies could more easily attend to her. “Water. Someone request water to cool the Queen’s face. And stoke the fire, too.”
Faustua was nearest the door to the privy chamber, so she stuck her head out and was surprised to find a throng of courtiers and servants wandering around outside. Apparently all were waiting for news of a prince to be born. The courtiers stared at Faustua as if she had news to share. “The Queen needs cool water,” Faustua commanded a waiting woman near the door. “And we require more wood.” The courtiers looked away in disappointment.
“Your Grace,” Lady Zouche was saying to the Queen, “’Tis morning. Time to rise.” The Queen opened her eyes and stirred, pulling her covers over her body in an act of decency and adjusted herself on the pillows Lady Zouche had just fluffed for her.
A knock at the door revealed the water and wood, impressing Faustua with its speed in arrival, and she let the servants into the room. A hearty breakfast came along with the delivery and the Queen eyed the tray of apples hungrily. “I want an apple,” the Queen demanded, reaching out to the trays sitting on the table near her. Faustua proffered one to her, bowing slightly as she did so. The Queen smiled, probably happier to have what she wanted rather than at Faustua’s gesture, but Faustua still was determined to follow the old traditions of fealty.
As the Queen ate, Jane wrung out a cloth and bathed the Queen as best she could; removing the sticky sweat from the night before, and Lady Rochford carefully brushed the Queen’s fine dark hair. Faustua, annoyed by the fire of course, was set with the task of throwing logs onto it and stoking it back into a roaring hell mouth. Lady Zouche took the opportunity to lord it over all the women and delegate tasks to each woman as the morning preparations to freshen and feed the Queen were happening.
January 6, 2012
“Oh, ladies, I am full,” the Queen said, finishing a biscuit covered in orange marmalade. “Dine for yourselves.”
The four women gratefully pulled chairs up to the table and picked at the sumptuous feast before them. Faustua tore a large piece of bread off for herself and cut off a piece of cheese to go with it. Buttering her bread and biting into it, she had never tasted anything so sweet. After devouring that, she grabbed the last orange on the table for herself and sliced into it, enjoying peeling it delicately. Its flavor exploded in her mouth and the juices swirled over her tongue. Lastly, she poured a mug of small beer for herself and sweetened it with honey. Slipping it down her throat was like drinking pure gold. “And this is only breakfast,” she told herself, thinking about the warm meats and beautiful sweets to come at dinner time.
After a servant was called to clear the breakfast platters, it was time for the ladies to do their job and entertain the Queen. This time Jane was called upon to play the lute and the rest of the ladies produced their needlepoint samplers to work on. It was a lazy morning and the ladies chatted away about nothing of particular importance. The Queen looked perpetually bored, despite whatever activity she called for, and the ladies grew anxious at the fact that this could be the longest month of their lives.
Dinner time came and after the Queen ate enough for two, the ladies were invited to dine. The Queen piped up, ready to play a devious game. “Oh, Baroness, your courtier wrote me a letter today about your beauty. I think you have an admirer! A shame I must keep his identity a secret another day.”
So Queen Anne was going to play coy with Faustua. “Your Grace, I care not a fig for a man who praises my beauty above yours.”
“Oh, but this man is so gallant. Almost as handsome and divine as the King. Why, he could almost be the King’s brother, he is such a fine man,” the Queen teased.
“And could you tell me from whence this courtier came?”
“Hmm, I suppose. Cornwall!”
Faustua, whose back was to the Queen as she sat eating, rolled her eyes. She might as well have said “England,” for Cornwall was a huge county. “Perhaps you could narrow it to a city, Your Grace?”
“Oh ho, not yet. I shan’t have you guessing and winning yet. I enjoy this young man’s letters professing his love for you. I wouldn’t receive any letters from him anymore if you knew who he was and you two were thrust together.” She emphasized the word, “thrust.” “I think I shall keep this secret just a little while longer. I need all the entertainment I can find at this time,” the Queen grinned broadly.
January 6, 2012
“Yes, Your Grace,” Faustua responded through clenched teeth. She stuffed a piece of sweet bread in her mouth and chewed furiously. She was tired of this courtier already. She did not prefer to play love games. Faustua was practical, methodical, rational, level-headed, honest, and when it came to her virtue, chaste. She was not about to succumb to some “such fine man” who could “almost be the King’s brother.” Even after five years after the death of her husband, Christopher, she still felt herself to be in mourning for him, though their marriage was brief. No, the Queen would have to entertain herself with this game.
Suddenly, Queen Anne clutched at her belly and cried out in pain. The six women all turned in unison, panicked to the core. Surely the babe could not be coming so soon. Retha rushed to the Queen’s side first and felt at her stomach, pressing her practiced hands all over the royal person. Lady Zouche yanked open the privy chamber doors and yelled for water and Jane threw another log on the fire. Faustua smoothed back the Queen’s hair, offering what little comfort she could while Lady Rochford and Margery threw back all the curtains and coverlets to expose the Queen completely for Retha to perform her midwifery work.
The Queen screamed again and as fresh water and linens were brought into the chamber, courtiers packed the doorway, straining for a peek at the Queen. Lady Zouche promptly responded by slamming the door in their nosey faces. “Oh, Heavenly Lord, ‘tis too soon,” the Queen started to cry, fearing the worst. “What have I done to forsake thee?” Hot tears streamed down her face, and Margery wet a towel, mopping them up as fast as they came.
“Oh, my Lady,” Retha said, smiling broadly after a few terse moments. “You have nothing to fear for but a few early contractions. Many ladies experience them in the last month of their pregnancies. ‘Tis a good sign and a healthy one. The prince is ready to come and to come soon. You will probably feel more as the month progresses. Your water has not broken, so you are safe and well. Lay back, my Lady, and rest. Let us attend to you.”
It appeared as if the five others exhaled relief in unison. No baby would be coming today. No chances of stillbirths, or even worse, death of the Queen in childbirth. Lady Rochford made an ultimate decision and opened the doors of the chamber, whispering to a page at the doorway. “Inform the King that the Queen experienced labor pains today but is of good health. All is well with her person.”
Shortly thereafter, a letter came for the Queen. “My dearest Anne,” it read in fine script. “Upon hearing of your scare today my heart feared the worst for you. I am glad you and the babe are of good health. I pray you continue to rest comfortably and are well entertained. I think of you daily and of our son to come. My love for you never wanes.” It was signed, with a flourish, HR.
The Queen blanched at the love letter and put it upon the table beside her, clearly open for all her ladies to read. “The King wishes me good health and that I am well entertained. Let us do such and think of more pleasant things.”
January 6, 2012
The next three weeks were filled with the same activities and boredom for Faustua. She ached to be home at Greymalkin Manor, riding out in the autumn sunshine on her mare, Intrepid, across the downs and observing the management of her farm. Instead she had to be content with the woodland scenes of the tapestries that turned the Queen’s room into a cave. No amount of candles could brighten them and all she could see were dark shadows of deer being hunted by pikemen, rabbits living beneath ten-foot trees concealing black owls with glowing eyes, and the occasional creek with fish jumping forth. At least the tapestries let her mind wander while the other ladies gossiped and babbled on.
Faustua became known as “the quiet one,” even beating the typical Jane Seymour for the title, despite Faustua’s known talents. When the Queen was not requesting entertainment from her, she merely observed the scene or daydreamed of home. It was this behavior that finally irritated the Queen and made her spring into action one day.
“Baroness,” the Queen called, interrupting Faustua, who was reading the Queen’s Bible by the fireside, to which she had become accustomed to its unbearable heat. “I think today I shall reveal your courtier.”
Faustua whipped her head around to face the Queen in her massive bed, her ruby earrings tickling her neck. The Queen was perched perfectly in bed, wrapped in yellow satin trimmed with fox fur, one arm on a pillow each, as if she were sitting in a linen throne. Faustua slowly closed the Bible, set it on the mantle of the fireplace and stood, her bright cardinal red skirts spilling out around her. Both women glowed in the dim candlelight, bedecked in jewels and their colored satins.
“Your Grace, what has changed your mind?” Faustua asked, coming to the Queen’s bedside. She picked up one of the folds of the Queen’s blanket and felt the velvet between her fingers. It was as soft as peach skin. “I am bored,” she declared, cocking her head and staring Faustua in the eyes. The Queen’s eyes were so dark that Faustua could see her reflection in them. “I shall allow your courtier to woo your heart.”
“I doubt anyone could do so,” Faustua blurted out before she could think, realizing she had made a mistake. “I mean, Your Grace, I am still in mourning for my dearly departed husband.”
“Five years too long,” the Queen waved away with her hand, her rings winking defiance at her. “You will accept his letters if I have to read them to you myself.”
“Yes, Your Grace,” Faustua mumbled, dropping into a curtsey.
“In fact, I have your first one here,” the Queen said mischievously, pulling a missive out of her sleeve. “He is quite handsome as I have said. How you will be able to remain chaste in my care I do not know! Of course I require such behavior. Yet you are free to love this rogue from Falmouth as much as I love my dear King.”
January 6, 2012
Faustua accepted the letter begrudgingly and returned to the fireside to read it. She broke the wax seal and prepared herself for who knew what was to come.
“My loveliest Baroness,
“I have adored you from afar, first in our dear Cornwall and now here that we have been called to court. I am so pleased that our gracious Queen Anne has finally given me permission to write to you. I will not write you promises of false love or my eyes struck dumb by your beauty. No, I will only write truth, for it is what you deserve. You may not know me, but I have known you well.
“I write to you now in the twilight of the day and I see your face before me. I see honesty, grace, learnedness, power, fealty, and a true heart. I see what you try to hide from others under your pretty gowns and family jewels. Yet you cannot hide from me, a woman so kind as to leave a farmer’s life as to serve her Queen. Your bravery cries out in every step you take.
“Faustua, if I may so be bold as to call you that, I feel a connection to you that has been between us for many a year. Only now am I able to be worthy to pursue your heart. All I ask is that you listen to my words and know them as true.
A blank? Why would this man not sign his name? Faustua read the letter twice more, furious this man would keep his identity a secret. Yet she was so moved by the honesty she felt this man put to paper. She could not be mad at him for long. She folded the letter up and turned to face the Queen. “Your Grace?” she asked. “Do you know the name of the man from whence this letter came?”
The Queen huffed. “Why of course, but I told him to keep you guessing. ‘T’wouldn’t be fair or fun for me to have you two together so soon.”
Faustua clenched a fist to hold her temper. “But to whom am I to reply? I have no name to send my letter to.”
Laughing gaily, the Queen replied, “You will give your letters to me. I will see they go where they are supposed to. Of course I am privy to what both of you write. My little love game will keep me quite entertained until the prince decides to make his appearance, which I believe will be soon.” She rubbed her belly affectionately, already keen to be a mother.
Faustua looked away, staring into the fire and feeling the letter’s weight in her hand. So it was a game of hearts the Queen wished to play and Faustua was to be the primary pawn. She stood and stalked over to the writing desk, feeling the Queen’s eyes on her. What on earth would Faustua say to this mystery Lord?
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