It is a crisp and bright winter’s day and the King and most of the court are outside in the tiltyard enjoying the winter jousting. I would normally be in the stands to watch my husband take part in his favourite pastime, but today I am content to stay behind in my warm and cosy chambers. Although the weather is pleasant for the time of year, I considered, that in my condition I would be more comfortable inside with my ladies.
My attendants today are Lady Lee, Madge Shelton and Anne Zouche. We occupy ourselves in sewing the layette for my baby, which with God’s blessing I expect to be born around May or June. Even though I admit I am not the most accomplished embroider, it is impressive to see how my ladies can create wonderful colourful patterns on blankets, covers, caps and the most adorable tiny outfits.
I am so content in this moment. My husband and I are merry together; our daughter is growing smarter by the day and I feel sure this pregnancy will produce a strong and healthy prince. I look into the depths of the fire and thank the Lord for my good fortune. Meg breaks me from my spell ‘Your Grace you are with us today? Are you well?’
‘Yes Meg, I was just thanking the Lord for all that I have been blessed with.’ I gently kiss her cheek. ‘I have your friendship, companionship and counsel. All I require for happiness is within these palaces grounds and when my child is born I will make a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Walsingham to give thanks.
‘It warms my heart to see you so happy and might I say glowing with health’
However it seems with the arrival of my father, my brother and the Duke of Norfolk, our idly will not last.
‘Your Grace, Father what brings you away from the joust and to my chambers this afternoon? I hear myself speak in an apprehensive tone, which I desperately try to suppress. I fake a laugh and ask my brother ‘ Why are you here in this state of dress. Good heavens George, you still have the filth of the tiltyard on you.’ The assembled men exchange bemused looks and try as I might to hold back, my anxiety breaks. What? What are you not telling me?
My Uncle, the Duke of Norfolk speaks. ‘Maybe you should sit down to receive this news’
‘Sit down be damned. What has happened? Tell me!’
His next words confirm that my increasing unease is not unfounded. ‘It is the King. He was unseated during the joust and his fully armoured horse fell on top of him’
He hesitates, stutters and so I harry him on. ‘Is he recovered? Can I see him?’
‘No Madam, unfortunately that will not be possible. His physicians are attending him as we speak. He was knocked out and has remained in that state this last hour or so. As I stagger backwards only to be steadied by my brother, I now realise why my uncle wished me to sit.
I grab at my brother’s arm and ask with a pleading and quivering voice ‘George, tell me the truth. Is his life in danger?
My brother walks me to my chair; instructs my ladies to step back and speaks quietly to me. ‘Dearest sister, you must beseech God for the best, but prepare yourself for the worst. The King is alive, but he has had neither speech nor movement for over an hour and a half’.
A solitary tear rolls from my eye and in my stunned silence I place my hand over my stomach and begin to think what this could mean. He cannot leave us now. I seen him yesterday and he was in fine form, joking and reciting riddles for my ladies.
As the world swirls around me in a blur I begin to repeat the same prayer over and over again in my head. ‘Please God. I implore you, please in your mercy spare us this agony. I do not suppose to know your will, but I beg you with all the devotion in my heart to allow my Henry to recover.’
My uncle’s formal court voice snaps me from my wanderings. ‘Your Grace, you and the Lady Princess Elizabeth must remove to the Tower immediately.
With a thousands thoughts spinning through my confused mind I respond in amazement ‘The Tower, why should we need to go to the Tower?
‘It is important that should the worst occur, we secure the infant Princess’ person. As the King’s heir she will become Queen and unfortunately there are still some in England and abroad who would look to take advantage of the vulnerability of having a female child as Queen. We must of course look to your own safety too. If the baby you carry is, as we all pray, a boy then it is my duty to see that the safety of the child is never for a moment compromised.
I am truly frightened now. This talk of my husband’s death and thoughts of my little family in danger is enough to tear my nerves to shreds, but spurred on by every protective instinct within me I start to issue orders.
‘Father, George, Lady Lee go to the Princess’ chambers, I will not trust a page with this task. Take an armed guard with you and accompany my daughter and Lady Bryan back here. Lady Lee inform only Lady Bryan of the situation and bring enough things for a day or two away. My daughter’s other belongings can be brought to us later. Once you arrive post the guard outside my apartments.
My father and brother make haste towards the door only to be abruptly halted in their tracks by Sir Henry Norris who comes rushing into the room without any regard for obsequious and exclaims ‘God be praised the King is awake and England is safe!’
Trembling and in an almost inaudible voice I say ‘God be praised indeed, Sir Henry’ before my strength fails me and I fall to my knees to give thanks for the Lord’s deliverance in our time of danger.
After a few moments I can no longer even remain on my knees and I slide to the floor, before my ladies quickly pick me up and begin to escort me from the room. Recovering briefly, I turn to my uncle and with the last of my strength scold him ‘Your Grace, I know you are not a subtle man, but I thought even you would be able to find a more delicate way to deliver such devastating news to your Queen. You may tell the King I am relieved beyond measure that he has been delivered from harm. I will visit him the moment I have recuperated from the shock and grief you have caused me’