Having received the letters patent for Edward Seymour’s new title from the King personally, Nicolas Carew approached the new apartments recently given to the Seymour’s by Cromwell. Having such an honour done for them showed how high their little Jane was in the King’s favour and with this new title, their favor seemed to be growing faster. As for himself, as long as he continued his genuine friendship with the Seymour’s, he would prosper also, especially if she became Queen.
Walking with the measured authority of a true noble he strides through the corridors, a scroll of introduction clasped in his fist.
The elegant cut of his robes discretely held fine gold thread at every seam, a powerful muscularity gave a spring to each movement. His slim appearance concealing a powerful muscularity, when this was coupled with his skill and speed, he had become undefeated in the tiltyard. But these refinements began in his youth, now he was to tutor Lady Seymour on how to keep the King’s eyes focused upon her within the rules of the etiquette she must follow whilst she attended court.
He relished this role, a small smile played upon his lips, the etiquette and manners of court were a delicate and intricate skill, he had been judged as proficient in these areas to school Lady Seymour. Yet, he also knew that as a gentleman his duty lay in the assistance to others, especially a lady.
Approaching the door of Lady Seymour’s chambers, he straightened his back and rapped gently upon the wooden door…
I stand amongst the finery of our new apartments, somewhat overwhelmed by the opulence. I run my hands over the rich fabrics that dress the
room dreading the moment the queen casts her eyes upon me and wistfully thinking of the true Queen of England.
I am starting to feel out of my depth, and my brothers can sense it. I am not immune to the growing unease of court, the factions are beginning to shift, The king’s mood swings wildly one way or the other at any given moment. Who knows how long this infatuation with me will last. I could be cast aside as Madge any day. As our family is relatively new at this level of the game, my brothers have enlisted the assistance of friends and cousins who would like to cast their lot in with ours.
As I ponder on what they will advise me, someone seeks our company, I nod for one of my ladies to admit the visitor and in bows Nicolas Carew. My education it seems is to begin.
I sit in front of the fire, wondering at the monumental good favor our family has received. I contemplate the queen. She will not move aside quietly for my sister. Thomas and I stand bewildered at Henry’s affection for Jane. My brother, in his grandiose way, dreams of advantage that can be gained from this. Although I am not unwilling to benefit from Henry’s sudden respect for our family, I remain cautious, lest it all be taken away on the king’s next capricious whim. As the door opens, I rise to greet Sir Nicholas. What a picture he makes, the very image of chivalry. “Sir Nicholas, welcome! Please, come warm yourself!” I glance at Jane, “ Sister, will you pour our guest some wine?”
Nicholas offers a warm smile to Jane as he approaches Edward, realising he must set a precedent with all the Seymours by performing protocol to the letter. Bowing his head slightly, he presents the scroll to Edward. His primary role was to instruct Jane, but where she led the rest of he family must follow. Edward was the head of the family, the introduction must be presented to him.
As Edward took the scroll Nicholas offered a small bow once more, then looking up he said,
“Your servant, Sir.” Turning to Jane he took the goblet offering her a dazzling smile,
“Soon M’Lady you will only present our king with his wine, remember, when you are firmly in his favour many tasks are beneath you”
Moving to the fire,he faces the whole family. Raising the goblet to his nose, closes his eyes and savours the depth and complexity of the aromas,
“French.” He comments, raising his eye brows, closing his eyes again his nostrils flare as he breaths deeply, “The Bordeaux region I believe…..perhaps from a sun soaked valley of the Gironde.” Gently tipping the goblet to his lips he noticeably savours a sip of the ruby nectar.
Swallowing he looks at his fascinated audience,
“No, it is from Gascony further south and it is fit for a king” then smiling at Jane,“Or a queen”, the Seymour’s are bemused by Carews’ seemingly outstanding knowledge. Seeing the admiration in their faces, he sets the goblet on the table,
“I am no connoisseur” he smiles,
“This wine is His Majesty’s favourite, it is imported from Gascony and is known as ‘Reck’, I know that our King is constructing a wine cellar beneath Whitehall to stock this wine and other fine wines. It is the application of this knowledge that allows me to appear as an expert in its taste, aroma and origin. It also shows that our King favours your presence as he has commanded you receive his favourite wine.”
Turning to Jane, he smiles, his eyes glowing with warmth,
“You see M’Lady, what a little knowledge applied in the correct manner and circumstance can do to enhance your presence and favour in court and the eyes of our Liege?” Collecting the goblet again, he continues.
“Not only can I impart all the knowledge you will need and the skill to present it, but also the manner and actions you require, causing our Majesty’s eyes to be drawn to you and no other. Though your looks will doubtlessly draw his eye without much prompting.”
He smiles once again, his eyes full of laughter,
“I will steer you and school you in court etiquette and protocol, though I believe you are well versed in this area, M’Lady. I also feel that I must protect you from the intrigues and skullduggery that snake their way through our ‘noble assembly’. Each courtier wishing to enhance their reputation and reputation with the king, while destroying their rival courtiers in any way possible!”
Turning to Edward, the smile had gone, ” I recommend that the tutoring should begin in the morning, perhaps with a brief spell of hunting.”
A grin flashes across his face, “We may bump into our King, he is often found hunting in the morning either in the saddle or perhaps with his hawks” …
“I see you have the knowledge to steer me through this maze and I thank you for taking an interest in me and mine Sir. Of course, I am familiar with court as a Lady in Waiting to the queen, but I have never waded into the intrigues which have surrounded me.” I refill my brothers cup and Carew’s.
“I still wish to retain my good name. I do NOT want the same stain as the Boleyn girls, nor Madge Shelton or any of the king’s paramours.” Carew looks surprised at my instance. “And I do not wish to anger any queen.” Either one. I can see Edward to begin to interject.
“Pray let me finish. I believe the king seeks my company because I am not embroiled in any intrigue nor do I care to be.” I smile wryly. “It is my simple country girl charms and I do not wish to change for any king.”
I sip my own cup and sit and look expectantly at the men who wish to guide me.
Jane has never been a forward maid. She has always been obedient to our Lord Father, and has unfailingly done as she was told. I glance at Sir Nicholas, hoping he has not taken offence at her speech. “Of course, Jane. Your virtue is paramount! But you must know that the queen can not help but be angered by our king’s interest in you! She is a jealous woman, given to unseemly fits of temper.”
I cross the room quickly, and take my sister’s hands in my own. “Have I ever misled you Jane? Have I ever failed in my duty to you as a brother?” I lower my voice, and speak only to her, “Sister, if we are to do this thing, there will be risk. But as long as you have King Henry’s favor, and the help of Cromwell, and Sir Nicholas here, I assure you, we will all do our very best to protect you.”
Turning back to my sister’s most dignified tutor I ask, ” Is there gossip, sir? About Jane? She holds her virtue and good name dear.”
I glance down and notice a few hairs that have collected around my sleeve. Frowning a little, I brush the offending items away, inwardly chastising mysellf for praising my dogs before I called upon the Seymour’s. Looking up, the charming smile has reappeared on my face.
“M’lady, as you will know, every lady of the court has gossip, intrigue and scandal surrounding them. This originates in the kitchens and the corridors, between the scullery maids and cooks! They need such fantasy to distract from their own lives.”
“The only scandal that should concern you, is scandal that has a firm basis or one that may affect the the King’s affections towards you!”
My charming smile becomes a little crooked, almost playful, “But I know that it will take a lot for our Liege to change his opinion of you!”
I reach down for my goblet, looking into the ruby liquid, I swirl it around a little watching the complex drink make its smooth circular movements. The fire is warm upon my back and for a brief moment I stretch my shoulders, easing the muscles with the heat that radiates through my back and up to my shoulders.
Looking back to Jane, my face is a little serious, but my eyes still twinkle.
“I have no intelligences to suggest any form of gossips exists, beyond the whisperings of your presence and the reason for the Seymour’s rise is in royal favour. None of this will damage any of your family’s character, in fact it will advertise your elevated position, this can only aid your reception at court. There will be those who will swoon over you, yet plot behind your back…..Smiling assassins, cads and charmers! However, your one enemy at court could be The Duke of Norfolk and his family. You know he is Anne’s Uncle, he sees the Seymour’s rise as an erosion of his power base and influence in the court. The Duke is powerful and intelligent, he has the personality of a Cobra, the cunning of a fox and strength of Lucifer. He will appear as a chilvarous knight from the Arthurian legends! While he charms you with his silver tongue, his spies and informants will be searching for any scrap of information that will benefit his Grace and diminish your standing!”
I pause again to sip my wine.
“It is my position, nay, my duty come to negate any of these scandalous intrigues before they take hold, even monitoring the the Duke’s agents if I believe it’s prudent. It is also my duty, not only as your new confidant, but as a gentleman who sees chivalry as the golden thread of his life,to protect you from the those who would hurt you bodily,spiritually or damage your pride and reputation.”
A wide grin spreads across my face as I tilt my head.
“However, given your character not to mention your beauty, a fair pure beauty at that, you need not worry yourself with any scandal, for it will all be without basis or evidence.” I turn to Seymour, “However, if I might make a small suggestion.”
I pause and then sigh.
“Your brother….Thomas, he is known for frivolity and his ease with ladies of any standing, status or breeding. Might I suggest that whilst he is in the vicinity of court, that he is kept on a tight rein, so his actions do not give anyone, especially Norfolk, a hint of scandal.”
Returning my smile to Jane, I continue with a slightly admonishing tone.
“The Queen at this present time could be described as flamboyant and gregarious to say the least!” I continue with a more serious note in voice.
“The King is tired of decadence in his queen, not to mention an issue with an heir for his thrown, but he realises that the country and his subjects loved Katherine and their Church! His rampant ardour for Anne, caused the segregation of both Church and Katherine from the lives of his people, his subjects. Whilst Henry is powerful and strong, he realises his greatest strength and power lies in the loyalty of his subjects!
Henry has made a lot of enemies, though to speak of it is treason. So in addition for his desire for an heir, I believe he wishes to restore loyalty and religious faith in his subjects for the new church and their king.” I pause allowing all this information to digest, “One possible way to achieve this, along with an heir, is to have a queen they will love.”
The serious note leaves my voice as my eyes sparkle again.
“I am speaking in practical terms milady, he seeks to show the country that the Church of England and political status of the monarchy are pure and virtuous, this could be enhanced by a new queen who typifies the characteristics he seeks to display to the court and the country. ” I pause sipping the wine once more.
“Your beauty, character and elegance may match the King’s machinations, but that is not the only reason for his desire. The radiance and glow of your beauty has captured Henry’s gaze in its own right, it is it is just an added bonus that the political and religious situation favours a beauty such as yours.”
I know that Sir Nicholas speaks courtly words and exaggerates my beauty. None can compare to the beauty of Queen Katherine in her youth, yet a blush spreads across my cheeks. I try to sort through the thoughts barrelling through my mind. Kings, queens, heirs, court intrigues, Dukes, faiths – it is all over my head. Nor am I especially interested. Perhaps that is what appeals to Henry. But if we are to continue down this track, I must have someone who I can trust- Carew is correct in his assessment of my beloved brother Thomas. Edward is the astute brother- but we are new to these games, unlike Carew who is now claiming to be against Anne Boleyn.
“It is an honour Sir Nicholas, to hear you have such confidence in me. I truly love our king and all I wish is for a peaceful country with an heir for our king.” Just like his queen’s before him. Except Anne, who does not believe in anything but herself. I glance at Edward who is watching me carefully, still holding on to my hand reassuringly. “You must truly believe the king’s affections for me must be true to offer your guidance to our family.”
Edward gives me a slight nod. ” My brothers and I will be guided by your advice Sir Nicholas.” I take a deep breath. “Where do we go from here?”