The Fifth Son

I pause to reflect before I scratch the worst of news to my father onto parchment. My father, yes he is a mad man. As I settle here in Lynn, my forces depleting with men deserting in favor of the Princess Mary, who now proclaims herself Queen of England, I resign myself to the inevitable. Jane Dudley, imposed wife of my drunkard brother Guilford, will lose the crown thrust so unwillingly upon her head, and the heretic will reign. I look out at my depleted forces, now scurrying to Farmlingham Castle where Mary presides, disgusted. With no backbone to dispute it, I did my power hungry father’s bidding, leading men to arrest the true heir to the throne. What was I thinking? Did I really believe Northumberland could reign as king through the puppets of Jane and Guilford? Yes, I suppose I did. My father, he is a force in his own right — a brave knight, a master of manipulation, a demigod, I do swear. I thought no one could upend him, especially the sickly virgin old maid daughter of a forsaken Spanish queen. Though my father and brothers do not yet know it, we are all dead men, following my grandfather to the block. Even Princess Elizabeth, also usurped in this folly, will be unable to save us. And even if she could, why should she? After all, we betrayed her – betrayed her birthright, her friendship, her trust.

Until this very day, I was a blessed man. Fifth son of a Duke, favor and prestige is not supposed to follow me, but God looked kindly upon me anyway. Raised among royalty, educated by the masters, friends with the boy king and his beautiful Protestant sister, I wanted for nothing. When not in study, falconing, hunting, and riding horse filled my days. With no heritance coming and right poor future prospects, I lived like a prince, the rightly proud son of a Duke that was soon Lord Protector and king in all but name. Then I was matched to Amy Robsart, daughter of a knight in Syderstone, with no brothers, heiress of his Norfolk lands and estate. Our wedding grand, even King Edward and Princess Elizabeth attended. Love matters not. The marriage match is envious, and I am glad to have it. At 20 years old, I am a member of the Privy Council, member of the House of Commons, and knight with lands in Norfolk, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire – a great fortune bestowed to a 5th son, a great fortune bestowed to any son.

With Princess Mary, or should I say Queen Mary, rallying support far and wide, disaster lies on the horizon. My father will fall hard, and like the deck of cards beneath him, we all will follow. Yet, he knows not. While I watch events unfold around me, the Duke of Northumberland is spinning his web, pushing his agenda, pressuring that poor girl Jane to do his bidding, to rule as he would if the crown were his. As my father struts with his chest puffed full of the power of the moment, along with Henry Grey and Thomas Cranmer who abet him, the petite virgin waif all discounted, all shunned, all mocked, all ignored, all disdained, all denied for these many years, prepares to be England’s first ruling Queen. Norfolk, that bastard, will rejoice as she reunites this blessed realm with the Bishop of Rome. Spain, that heathen land, will rejoice as she reunites with her blood relatives against all English pride. God, I pray you protect and hold this blessed land in your loving hands, and may You see your way to ultimately lay St. Edward’s crown on the woman most able and willing to reign true to you, my beloved Elizabeth.

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Beth von Staats

is the owner and administrator of QueenAnneBoleyn.com. The author of "Thomas Cranmer in a Nutshell", Beth specializes in writing magazine articles, online historical articles, short stories, and flash fiction.

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