Margaret Beaufort is deep in thought, her beloved son, King Henry VII lies in his coffin. She had devoted her entire life to her son and had seen her grand vision of him becoming king come true. The death of his son, Arthur and his wife, Elizabeth took their toil on him and Margaret believed it hastened his death. But Margaret still had to pull herself together, her grandson, Henry would be crowned Henry VIII and her work was not finished. Her grandson, always her delight. Now needed her good council and she had called for him to come see her.
My son is dead. The words stick in my craw like dry, stale bread and offer just about as much satisfaction. I am as wrapped in the grief of his passing as I am in the thick, black mourning veils shrouding my head. I find that I cannot take food, drink wine or sit still as the bells toll daily and the funeral arrangements are made. Everything has been done precisely to his instruction in that he will be buried with all the dignity befitting him and his station but with none of the pomp and outrageous superfluity. Henry always hated a fuss to be made and he would have admonished me also for these bouts of overwhelming emotions that I have succumbed to in my old age.
It is with that thought in mind that I have summoned my grandson to me. He is a fair and boisterous man, too much still a boy and I am at least glad that I am here to help him as he ascends the throne. What tragedy that he has already lost his older brother and his mother, but it is the curse of kings that one must die for another to be crowned. But I fear Henry’s lot for the precarious position he is in. My son will be no easy act to follow but Henry is a Prince of the Blood and it is Tudor!
I have taken the time to prepare a list of the men I wish him to take as his Privy Council and I must discuss this with Henry immediately. As usual, there are those at court and abroad who would most certainly be seeking ways in which to turn his ascension into their own and with his easy manner and jovial personality, it would be a mere cake walk. But surely, not while I draw breath!
Another matter of great concern to me is certainly that of Katherine. He must understand the real need for the production of a royal heir and at her age having not yet borne a child is rather uncommon. When I was her age, his father was already 11 years old and suffering the tribulation of having his titles, lands and liberty taken away and granted to his warden, William Herbert.
I hear the footsteps of my grandson and his retinue approaching and calmly pull myself together. Surely, I must steel myself for the weighty conversation we are about to have and I can only hope that he will heed my council and proceed as I prescribe.
He is announced and steps into my chambers looking much more cheerful that I, but thus is the allure of youth, even in the face of adversity they can remain so charming and calm. He takes my hand and kissed the ring on it even as he kneels for my blessing and as I place the palms of my hands on his head and he rises, my eyes refill with tears.
“Come Henry,” I say, “We have much to discuss.”
I sit before my desk knowing a missive must be written to my dear sweet sister Margaret , Queene of the Scot. How can I vision the words that must fall upon this paper? Let alone bare them from myne own hand. Our father is dead, and Margaret will be devastated. She has been gone for much too long and has missed Arthur, our lady mother and now our lord father before their descent from this earthly plane. I summon my groom for some ale to try to free this knot which consumes my stomach in its hold.
Suddenly, I am interrupted in thought by a groom baring livery embroidered with my beloved lady grandmother’s crest. I am handed a missive stating she wishes to see me. Instantly the knot in my stomach is once more relieved. I wish to partake in any task to postpone this god forsaken letter to Margaret a moment longer. I greedily accept and make haste to ready myself for my grandmother’s presence. My groom fetches me a handsome doublet that is worthy to be seen in her presence.
Standing before my lady grandmother, I reverence, taking a knee. I kiss her ring with words leaving my mouth ” My most noble and virtuous lady grandmother, I humbly crave your blessing on such a sad and woeful day.” She smiles a bit, and I take it as my quo to arise.
Always the most gracious courtier, Henry is. He truly has had the best examples in myself and surprisingly in his mother, God rest her eternal soul. As my grandson rises, I extend my hand towards the hearth and he immediately offers me his arm and guides me to my chair by the fireplace. When we are seated facing each other, I take a long look at my grandson and read the lines that furrow his youthful brow and the forlorn expression which has plastered itself across his angelic face. I know that impending matters of family and state are already weighing upon his mind.
“You were writing to Margaret when you received my message, were you not?” I ask, already well aware of the fact.
He only looks up to meet my eyes and gives me a half of a smile before turning his gaze to the flames of the fireplace.
“Henry,” I continue, “All this business will come to you quickly enough. It is in your blood to rule and you know exactly what to do. When the time is right, the course of action will become clear to you and then you will act swiftly and with clarity. But today does not need to be the day on which you start.”
From the table beside me I take the two letters which I have written to ease Henry’s worry.
“Take these.” I say, “Read them and sign and seal them. Then have them sent out. Once that is done then you should go hawking or hunting and return yourself to a disposition more befitting a young prince about to become King of England. I do hate it when you pout and worry.”
He takes the folded papers from my hand and opens them. As he reads the first, a cheeky smile appears across his face. It must be that intended for his beloved sister. It makes me smile to see his demeanour change so quickly from that of strife to his more familiar cheerfulness. But I hold my breath as he unfolds the second one.
Henry looks up from the paper at me with a quizzical expression on his face and I know he is wondering why I have written the names of these influential men of the Realm down for him.
“Your Privy Council, my Lord,” I say, answering the unasked question, “I have made there the suggestions of those that I believe are worthy of your trust and whom I think will defend the throne of Tudor England to the very last breath.”
He smiles at me and nods as he folds the paper and places it securely inside the breast of his doublet.
The roaring fire crackles and hisses as it radiates heat upon us. I sit across from my lady grandmother looking into her stern yet kind eyes. My eyes then lightly inspect the fine lines that time have engraved upon her face. My eyes then take in her modest dress. She is the most shrewd businessman of our time yet the fragile grace of her sex hath given her a sixth sense, she is that of a soothsayer. She knows how to play every card handed to her just right. Using her intuition, she reads me as if I were book bound of leather. I slightly smile, unwilling to illustrate any ounce of weakness I turn my gaze to the fire.
She continues to speak words which bring comfort to my being. I heed carefully her words of inspiration and manage to feel a flicker of hope. Two missives are bestowed upon me. Both I unfold hesitantly for I wish not to be saddled with responsibilities and politics this day. As I unfold the second missive a list of familiar names are listed. I look up to her unsure of what she wishes for me to do. Her choices of councilors lay before me. I grasp the letter with both hands knowing the whole of England rests upon theses names.
My grandmother’s love for my father is purest of all the love in England. Thus, her guidance is the epitome of truth and virtue. I humbly take the list and thank her for her wisdom. “My Lady Grandmother , I value your wise judgment above all in England.”
When my grandson rose, kissed the ring on my hand and left me this afternoon, I collapsed within the folds of my chair in relief. It wasn’t long before the chills and cough were upon me again and I was glad that he was not there to witness it. Henry is such a young, vibrant soul. He would not bear the sight of my infirmary well. Though he would not be able to accept it, the truth is that I am old, oh so very old ad for the first time I am feeling that age. I strain to rise from my prie-deux, so much so that I dare not try and pray well into the mornings or until my ladies come and carry me into bed. I often pray that having lived to lose my Lord Husband Edmund and now my dear son and King, my boy Henry, that I will never live to see the summer rose of Tudor fail on the branch.
The truth of the matter is that this is Henry’s time, he must usher in an era of certainty and stability for England built on the security that his father so well established. He is a light hearted boy full of merriment and jovial tendencies and his court loves him for it. Strange that some of this has not rubbed off on Catherine. Ha! What a stern young woman she is but one with whom I can concur. I know she has been in a state of uncertainty since Arthur’s death and it has already been almost six full years since it was agreed that she would marry Henry. Not being certain of one’s true place in life can be an unbearable burden to carry. She doesn’t know it yet but another month will not pass before they are wed and the coronation is already being planned as a joint one. England must continue to love her now as Henry’s queen as they did then when she were to be Arthur’s queen. With God’s blessing an heir will be forthcoming as well.
My ladies begin to close the windows against the evening chill and I am happy for it. A warm blanket is draped over my shoulders and hot mulled wine is poured. With just a few sips the cough subsides and I am righted again.
“The velvet stomacher will do for supper tonight,” I say to my ladies as they move around the room preparing to dress me for the evening, “And the black fox fur as well. There’s bound to be a chill in the room with the weather we’ve been having.’
“Yes, mi’lady,” they answer in unison and I smile.
Margaret, I think to myself, your work is not yet done. Be still and see the Tudors through. This has been your life’s work.
I nod to myself and stand up. Taking a deep breath, I take my place before the mirror in my privy chamber and extend my arms so that I can be undressed and made ready to take supper with Henry’s court.
After leaving my lady grandmother’s chambers I walk with hast back to my own chamber. I summon my grooms and utter the words “ This eve must be prefect. Our lady grandmother expects nothing less than perfection.” while my grooms ready my chamber and the mini feast to be had my main man readies me in my finest doublet of sapphire blue velvet . I return back to the table to ensure all the preparations are followed perfectly. My lady grandmother is announced ,I bow to her and help her to her seat . “ how of some wine my dear lady grandmother? “ I nod to my groom who brings over two gilded goblets of wine. “ I am most assured this eve shall be to your liking. I have had my groom prepare your favorites including coffin with minced meat .”
“Henry,” I say, not planning to waste any time. “What of Catherine? I have not heard you speak of her in a long time. I would be extremely pleased if you would take my advice to marry her as soon as you feel sufficient time after your father’s funeral has passed. Certainly, it would make the people feel as if the horse has not been stabled, only changed riders.”
Henry makes a face of indifference on the matter and lifts his goblet to taste the wine. I do not press him, but leave the thought in the air that it may ease into his mind. Instead, I also taste the wine in my cup. It is Malmsey wine. I smile at the warmth that spreads through my chest almost immediately and the rich, solid taste of it. Perhaps my grandson knows more of my medical status than I thought. He asks if it pleases me and I nod to him.
“It is very soothing, grandson,” I reply, “It warms my chest which has been ailing me in the damp weather.”
The food was excellent as always, though I did not eat much, these days I preferred to taste the various dishes rather than indulge too much in any particular one. I have certainly been feeling my age recently and though it seems that Henry has become aware of it, I have no plans at all to worry him further. I’m all he has left in the world now his mother and father are gone. If I were to expire before he married, was coronated as King of England and held his heir in his arms; then I would have left God’s world before my work was completed.
After our supper, Henry walks me back to my chambers and gently hands me over to my ladies. He bids me goodnight and scurries away down the castle halls. I can imagine the mischief he will get up to tonight but I do not envy him his youth or his vigor. It is the time of the young; Henry and Catherine, to take the torch and be a beacon for England. I don’t know how I know it, but it is true that England has entered into a time of great renaissance and it will be up to this young King to keep the path true.
”Dear Henry,” I pray at the prie-deux solemnly that night, ”Keep the vision for England true, keep my vision for England true.”
We sit as grooms bring plate after plate of lavish eateries. Focusing upon the dishes to ensure they are perfection I become a bit quiet and lost in though. I am brought back to the company of my Lady Grandmother by her question of Katherine. Feathers overtake my stomach while joy overcomes my being at the thought of my beloved Katherine. Alas, I reign in my joy and excitement exchanging them for a coy demeanor. My plan to marry Katherine is to remain secret from all, save my sister and dear Charles Brandon. The last time this wish was squandered and rendered hipless by that of my father, this time I shall ensure nothing gets in our way. I play my face as to not read my true intentions and take a hearty sip of wine to procrastinate the moment.
My dearest Lady Grandmother has been ailed for quite some time I wish not to think of such troubling thoughts and allow her worlds of aliment to pass.” I am pleased all is to your linking my beloved Lady Grandmother. “She delicately picks at her food attempting to eat as little as possible and I worry of her. Alas, I think not of such concerns, for I know my Lady Grandmother shall remain here with me for sometime. More than any other in all of Christendom god has shed his grace upon her and created her stronger than any element in nature. She shall live long than me I am sure of such a fact. I try hard not to laugh aloud as such truth passes through my mental chatter. After we sup I accompany her back to her chamber. We pass though chamber upon chamber of courtier awaking our keen awareness that we are never alone. As we reach her chamber I kiss her hand and take a knee to once again receive her most enchanting blessing. “I shall rule as god has intended and restore as much glory to England as humanly possible. “ Her ladies whisk her away into her chamber and I go to find my dearest friend Charles Brandon.