Queen of This Realm, стр. 3

Because of my youth and the length of the proceedings I was carried in the arms of Edward Seymour, brother of Queen Jane. This was my first encounter with the family who later on were to play an important part in my life. Their elevation through the King's marriage to their sister had been swift. A few days after the christening Edward Seymour was created Earl of Hertford.

My sister Mary, who was godmother to the little Prince, gave me an encouraging smile when Edward Seymour set me down at the font. I returned it gratefully and eagerly watched while the little boy was wrapped in the christening robe and his state proclaimed.

“God, in His almighty and infinite grace, grant long life to the right high, right excellent and noble Prince, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester, most dear and entirely beloved son of our most dread and gracious lord, Henry VIII.”

In spite of all the excitement I was feeling a little sleepy as the ceremony had lasted three hours and it was nearly midnight. My sister Mary must have seen this; as Lady Herbert picked up the train of my magnificent gown, Mary took my hand so that I did not stumble. I noticed how happy she looked. It was because she was at least back at Court and had the high honor of being godmother to this important Prince, our brother. I loved him already. He was the reason for my being here. His coming had so pleased my father that he was even ready to smile on my sister Mary and me who had committed the unpardonable error of being born girls.

Queen Jane lay in her bed, propped up by cushions, in a beautiful bedgown, but her pallor and sunken eyes proclaimed how exhausted she was.

As we entered the bedchamber the trumpets sounded so loudly that I who must have been half asleep started with terror, which made Mary smile.

Our father was there. He looked splendid, glittering with jewels, and he seemed a head taller than other men. How genial he looked, a great beneficent god—very different from the man I had seen in the courtyard! My father, I thought, is the greatest man in the world. His eyes were very small and so was his mouth, but perhaps they seemed so because his face was so large; and as I looked at him I could not help thinking of my mother, and fascinated as I was, admiring him as I did, I was afraid of him.

The Prince was placed in his mother's arms and she gave him her blessing.

The ceremony was over and we went back to Hunsdon.

THERE WAS GREAT CHANGE in the next few years.

The King, having got his son, was more benign. He rejoiced in Edward even though he had cost Queen Jane her life, for, poor pale creature, she died about a week after that ceremony in her bedroom.

To me the event of great importance was the coming of Katharine Champernowne.

Lady Bryan had become Lady Mistress of my little brother's household because she was considered to have proved her abilities in bringing up my sister Mary and me; and of course this position in the household of the heir to the throne was a great honor. She was in the royal nurseries at Hampton Court for a while and afterward was removed temporarily to Ashridge and later to Hatfield. To my great joy, when I was there, I shared my brother's nursery and even though he was so young he showed an immediate fondness for me.

But the big change in my life was wrought by Katharine—my Kat as I called her. She must have been in her mid teens at that time and from the moment I saw her I knew I was going to love her dearly. She was well educated—otherwise she would not have been appointed as my governess—but certainly she bore her scholarship lightly; she was inclined to be frivolous, but it was her gaiety and warmheartedness which endeared her to me. She supplied something which up to that time I had sadly missed without realizing the lack.

So Kat came, dear indiscreet Kat, who told me so much that had been kept from me and to whom I should be grateful all the days of my life.

Life became interesting, less restricted than it had been under Lady Bryan's sterner rule. We moved frequently from house to house which was necessary for the sweetening of the place. The privies would smell foul after a while and the rushes seemed to harbor horrible insects which irritated even the dogs. So when a house became intolerable we went to another while the privies were emptied and the rushes removed and the abode generally sweetened.

Kat used to tell me all sorts of things which were happening in the outside world and this delighted me for there was nothing I disliked more than to be kept in ignorance.

For one thing I learned that my father, for all his professed grief at the loss of Queen Jane, was desperately trying to replace her.

“Heirs, heirs, heirs!” said Kat. “That is a king's great need. Though why he should feel so desperate now, I cannot see. He has the longed-for boy and then there is my Lady Mary to say nothing of my own sweet Elizabeth— daughters of the King, both of you, and he has never denied that despite the fact that he got rid of your mothers—one in the law courts, one on the block—but rid himself nevertheless.”

That was how Kat talked—not so much when I was very young, but afterward when I was getting older. She was the most intriguing person I knew in those days, and if she had not been so indiscreet she could not have been so exciting.

When my father was on the point of marrying the Princess Anne of Cleves, Kat was full of information. “Who knows,” she declared, “this could mean a new way of life for you, my Princess.”

“How so?” I asked. “What if the new Queen wants to meet her stepdaughters? She is sure to be curious to see them.”

I was not yet seven years old when that disastrous marriage took place and I was very different from the child who had taken part in her brother's christening at Hampton Court. I grew up very quickly and life was full of interest, especially when Edward and I were in the same household, which quite frequently happened. We shared tutors and we had a great deal in common for we both loved learning. I found no difficulty at all in mastering languages—nor did Edward; and I think even our tutors were a little astonished at the speed with which I gained a mastery over French, Latin and Italian. I could converse fluently in all three. Edward was determined to surprise our teachers too. He was amazingly precocious and at the age of four was quite a scholar. I loved to be with him, to treat him as a little brother, and he loved that too for he was lonely, surrounded as he was by so much ceremony. No one could ever forget that he was the heir to the throne and so very precious that if he as much as sneezed, those about him were thrown into a panic.

“They guess,” said Kat to me, “that if aught befell my lord Prince, the heads of those whose duty it is to serve him would become somewhat insecure on their sturdy shoulders.”

“You do talk wildly, Kat,” I reproved her.

She fell onto her knees and half mocking, half serious, cried: “You would never betray your poor Kat, would you, mistress?”

It was strange that one as learned as Kat could also be so frivolous. But that was Kat and my life had become considerably more agreeable since she came to me.

We soon learned that my father deplored his marriage to Princess Anne of Cleves. She lacked the beauty of her predecessors, and after receiving Holbein's picture of her and the accounts of her perfections which had forestalled her arrival, he was bitterly disappointed. He found her quite repulsive.

She was my friend for many years and I often wondered why he had disliked her so much. She was wise and kind and by no means uncomely. I can only believe that he had a particular taste in women, however variable, and she did not fit any of his predilections, and so poor Anne of Cleves was discarded as two of my father's queens had been. She was lucky; she did not suffer as my mother or Mary's had; and according to Kat was as happy to be relieved of the King as he was of her. Their marriage was declared null and void. Thomas Cromwell who had arranged the match lost his head. He had once been my mother's enemy and helped those who cost her that lovely head and so I gained some satisfaction from that.