September 1542- Royal hunting lodge at Pyrgo Park: Part 2

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September 1542

Royal Hunting Lodge, Pyrgo Park

"The fact that your mother truly was a whore should not have any bearing on whether you are restored to the succession, Elizabeth. Father has made it clear that he considers all of our mother's whores." Mary gave an unceremonious snort before continuing. "Whores he can dispose of at his royal whim, so it makes sense that he would treat his children similarly."

Her resonant voice filled the small, finely furnished chamber where we lounged, waiting for our father, King Henry VIII of England, and his escort to arrive.

"You are fortunate that he is even willing to see you today after how dreadfully disrespectful you have been in the past." Mary refined her snort to a sniff and smoothed her hair. "I certainly would make you grovel for a few more years."

She paused again and turned to look at me with a tight smile. Flipping her hand nonchalantly, she moved toward the window.

"Never mind. None of this matters. It is only formality. Father's health is such that Edward is going to rule us all soon enough. You will see all this ceremony is a result of Father's pathetic and guilt ridden attitude in his old age—though I know I would not feel bad for chopping your mother's head off." Mary lifted her nose hotly and said in an even yet insultingly pious tone, "She did commit adultery and treason."

At this point Mary stopped trying to be pleasant and said under her breath, but quite loud enough for me to hear, "Besides, Anne Boleyn was a sorceress. If her treachery toward my mother was not reason enough for death, sorcery certainly was."

She ran her hand in the sign of the cross from her forehead down her chest, and then from shoulder to shoulder. Softly she kissed her thumb, closed her eyes, and muttered silently to herself. She was probably reciting a prayer for having said the words "whore" and "sorceress" in the same speech.

I watched her lips stop and her eyes open, but I could not stop glaring at her and was thankful when she turned her tightly knotted black head of hair away from me so I wasn't caught.

She was waiting for me to pounce on her as I did the last time we met, and though anger did fill me I kept my mouth shut and let my eyes say the words she would never hear, for I was resolved to be on my absolute best behavior.

This very day I would see my father for the first time in two years. I shivered as I thought of how at the age of six I had not understood what had happened to my mother and made a horribly foolish comment to my father about his right to kill innocent mothers as he saw fit. I had been paying for those hasty, naive words ever since, so I would let nothing spoil the joy I felt at this gesture of rehabilitation. I secretly hoped that if I pleased him my expulsion would end completely.

Moreover, I could not take offence to what Mary, or anyone else for that matter, said about my mother. I had not known her. I was three when Father had her killed. I would not cling to the remembrance of a woman who I felt almost nothing for, a woman I could never understand. These thoughts brought a tightness to my stomach, but I ignored it. I would not chain myself, as Mary had done, to the memory of someone who had displeased my father. He was the one parent I did know, or rather knew of. He was the greatest man in the whole country. He was the king. He was Henry VIII, the warrior, the diplomat, the conqueror, the beloved sovereign of all he served, and the head of the Church of England. He was a god made into man, was sent to rule and reign on earth for the benefit of all. My heart beat excitedly as the thought of seeing this grand man again filled my imagination.

There was a knock at the door and Kat entered, her homely face flushed with excitement. "Lady Elizabeth, your father is arriving, and if you step to the window you will be able to see him."

I quickly jumped out of my plush chair and raced to the nearest window. The man I saw coming through the trees, seated on an enormous horse, did seem more god than human. From the crown on his full head of strawberry-blond hair to his booted foot so skillfully laced, he epitomized royalty. The sun flashed in strobe through the mighty English wood and gleamed off his seemingly golden hair and beard. It also sent the many jewels and metals adorning him a-sparkling. All of this only added to the gloriousness of the man himself.

I continued to stare as men surrounded my father and began to lift him off his horse. I could see their faces turning red with exertion and it shocked me greatly that a man with such fabled skill on a horse would need help down. However, once he was on the ground and I was able to compare him with the men that stood by his side, it was obvious that my father was massive and his great bulk surprised me. He teetered back and forth as he walked, favoring one leg. I did not want to admit it to myself, but the sight did spoil my impression of him a little.

Mary was by my side and had witnessed the aid rendered to Father, so when she spoke it was with a sneer. "He has become so fat that he cannot dismount without help. It is pathetic! My mother would never have let him endanger his health by eating with no moderation."

I had had enough of her ridicule of my king, and though I was but eight and she sixteen years my senior, I said in a tight voice, "Would it do you harm to keep your opinions to yourself, Sister? He is our king and our father, and we must pay him the respect he deserves, whether in his presence or out of it." I looked at her hotly before moving away from the window to resume my assigned reading of Chaucer.

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