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She was a witty girl, only eleven years old but capable of making a pun or turning a jest in English, French, Spanish or Latin. Anne was quick and a scholar, but she had not had the teaching of this little princess and she envied her that too. And the girl had all of her mother’s presence. Whether or not Anne ever became queen she had been born and bred to be a snapper-up of privilege and place. Princess Mary had been born to rights that we could only dream of. She had an assurance that neither of us could ever learn. She had a grace that came from absolute confidence in her position in the world. Of course Anne hated her.
They did not foresee what I would do to protect myself, and my daughter’s inheritance. She is Mary, my Mary, named by Arthur: my beloved daughter, Mary. Would I let her be put aside for some bastard got on a Boleyn?
From The King's Curse
It grows dark outside and her sobs become quieter; she breathes and then she gives a little hiccough of grief, and then she breathes again. I lay my hand on her forehead where she is burning hot, and I think between the two of them they have nearly killed their only child. All through this long night, while Mary sobs herself to sleep and then wakes and cries out again as if she cannot believe that her father has abandoned her mother and they have both left her, I forget that Katherine is in the right, that she is doing the will of God, that she swore to be Queen of England and that God called her to this place just as He calls those that He loves. I forget that my darling Mary is a princess and must never deny her name, that God has called her, and it would be a sin to deny her throne as it would be a sin to deny her life. I just think that this child, this fifteen-year-old girl, is paying a terrible price for her parents’ battle; and it would be better for her, as it was better for me, to walk away from a royal name and a royal claim altogether.
I write also to the Princess Mary. She is much relieved that the question of her marriage to a French prince has been utterly put to one side as Spain and France are to go to war and King Henry will side with Spain. His great fear is of an invasion from France and some of the hated taxation is being well spent on forts all along the south coast. From Princess Mary’s point of view, only one thing matters: if her father is aligned with Spain then she will not be married off to a French prince. She is such a passionate daughter of her Spanish mother that I think she would rather live and die a virgin than be married to a Frenchman. She hopes the king will allow me to visit her before autumn. When he returns from his progress I shall write to the king and ask him if I may invite the Princess Mary to stay with me. I should like to spend time with her. She laughs at me and calls us the royal spinsters, and so we are. Two women who are of no use. Nobody knows whether I am a duchess or a queen or a nothing. Nobody knows if she is a princess or a bastard. The royal spinsters. I wonder what will become of us?
‘I have some very good news for you,’ I say. ‘You will learn it from the Privy Council, but I wanted to tell you before the announcement. The king has decided to name the succession, and you are to be called Princess Mary and inherit the throne after Edward.’
She looks down, veiling her dark eyes with her eyelashes, and I see her lips move in a prayer of thanksgiving. Only her rising blush tells me that she is deeply moved. But it is not for a chance at the throne. She has not Elizabeth’s ambition. ‘So, finally, he accepts my mother’s purity,’ she says. ‘He withdraws his claim that they were not married in the sight of God. My mother was a widow to his brother and then a true wife to him.’
I put my hand on her knee to silence her. ‘He said no word of that, nor do I, nor should you. He names you as princess, and Elizabeth as princess also. Elizabeth comes after you in the succession, Lady Margaret Douglas and her line after her. He said nothing about the old matter of your mother’s marriage and him putting her aside.’
From The Queen's Fool
The women waved and cheered and some of them ran out with flowers for the Lady Mary or threw roses in the road before her horse. The Lady Mary, in her old red riding habit, with her head held high, rode her big horse like a knight going into battle, a queen going to claim her own. She rode like a princess out of a story book to whom everything, at last, is given. She had won the greatest victory of her life by sheer determination and courage and her reward was the adoration of the people that she would rule.
From The Virgin’s Lover
When you are at your most fearful, that is when you have to appear your bravest. Say whatever comes into your head, put up your chin and swear that you have the stomach of a man. Your sister could do it, I saw her turn the City of London around in a moment. You can do it too.’
Elizabeth flared up. ‘Don’t name her to me! She had a husband to rule for her.’
‘Not then,’ he contradicted her. ‘Not when she faced the Wyatt rebels as they came right up to the City and camped at Lambeth. She was a woman alone then, she called herself the Virgin Queen and the London militia swore they would lay down their lives for her.’
From The Other Queen
For many of them Elizabeth is a pretender to the throne, a Protestant bastard who has played on her Tudor-red hair and my absence to put herself where I should be. All of Europe and half of England accept that I am the true heir, descended in a straight and legitimate line from King Henry VII, whereas she is an acknowledged bastard, and worse: a known traitor to the queen who went before her, the sacred Mary Tudor.
Image: Queen Mary I by Master John, 1544, National Portrait Gallery (NPG 428)