|Series:||Carolyn Meyer's Young Royals Series , #3|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||4.18(w) x 6.87(h) x 0.59(d)|
|Lexile:||940L (what's this?)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
CAROLYN MEYER is the acclaimed author of more than forty books for young people, many of which have received awards and honors. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Read an Excerpt
The Grand Rendezvous 1520
Somewhere in that enormous throng was my hateful sister, and I resolved to find her.
It had been three years since Mary went home to England. Now she'd come back to France, and I wished to show her how much I had changed. She would see that I was no longer the ill-favored child she'd once taunted. I was now a fine young lady of the court! But first I had to find her.
Permission to go in search of my sister would never have been granted by the mother of the maids, the squint-eyed Madame Mathilde, and so I determined to go without asking. I dressed in one of my prettiest gowns and restlessly awaited my chance to slip away.
The moment Madame Mathilde was distracted, I gathered my courage and my skirts and hurried out of the French royal encampment. Plunging into the noisy tumult, I was swept up in the colorful jostling of lords and ladies, knights and priests, tradesmen and servants, horses and dogs. Surely, with such a crowd, my absence would not be noticed. Then I saw a one-eyed man watching me. Had he been set to spying by the mother of the maids? His look chilled me, and with racing heart I ran toward the English camp.
I had just passed my thirteenth birthday in June of the year 1520 and was part of the great entourage that accompanied François, king of France, to meet with Henry VIII, king of England. The entire French court had made the five-day journey north from Paris and King Henry and his great entourage — including my sister — had sailed across the English Channel so that the two powerful rulers could pledge their mutual friendship. Their grand rendezvous was to be an event of unrivaled splendor. Thousands of artisans and workmen had labored for months to transform this dusty plain into two royal encampments. Hundreds of tents fashioned of cloth of gold and silk in brilliant colors shimmered in the late afternoon sun. No wonder it was called the Field of Cloth of Gold.
What excitement! Butchers hurried by with hogs suspended from poles; bakers carried great wooden trays stacked high with manchets made of the finest wheaten flour. Musicians played upon their pipes, and I stopped to watch a trained bear dance while his master drummed. But then I thought I saw the one-eyed man again, and I hurried on.
Once I reached the English camp, hardly anyone took notice of me, a small, dark-haired girl, asking for Lady Mary Bullen or Marie Boleyn (our father had changed the spelling of our family name from Bullen to the more fashionably French-sounding Boleyn). Everyone seemed to know who she was. She had once been a blazing star in the French court, and it was no surprise that she had managed to attract the same sort of attention in England as well. I was directed to a sumptuous tent of yellow silk. Suddenly I felt uneasy. How would my sister receive me? What if she laughed at me! Cautiously I pushed aside the curtain and peered inside.
My sister rested upon an embroidered pillow, sipping from a silver goblet. She was full-breasted and narrow-waisted, her hair as thick and rich as honey, her fair complexion touched with pink, her eyes the color of spring violets. Her brows were delicately arched, her rosy lips pleasingly bow shaped. She shone with the special radiance of one well pleased with herself.
The moment I found her, I regretted it. The refinements I had acquired — the elegant wardrobe, the refined manners, the excellent French, the graceful dancing — all meant nothing. My sister had become a great beauty, and I knew at once that I was still the ill-favored child.
At the sight of me, she set down the goblet. "Dear sister!" she cried, and rose gracefully to greet me before I could change my mind and flee. "We embraced, as was expected, although I felt no real affection from her, and I caught a whiff of her scent.
She held me at arm's length and inspected me with a critical eye, taking in my long, dark hair; my dark eyes, nearly black; my skin white as skimmed milk, with no hint of blush; my newly budded breasts. Then she reached out to examine the jewel I wore close around my neck on a bit of ribbon, intended to conceal a large mole that grew at the base of my throat. I thought the disguise effective, but Mary managed to move the jewel in such a way that I was sure called attention to the flaw. "How clever," she said.
Scorched by her critical gaze, I pulled away from her and adjusted the jewel.
"You look much too thin, Nan," my sister said. "Are you well?"
"Quite well," I replied. My sister had always been the first to notice my faults, and that had not changed. And she had forgotten her promise to call me Anne instead of my childhood name of Nan. All of my confidence seemed to drain away, and I did not correct her.
Mary bade me sit down near her. A serving maid brought me a goblet of the spiced wine that poured from one of the many gilded fountains. "Have you heard the gossip?" Mary asked before I could ask after our parents and brother. She pursed her pretty red lips and tossed her curls.
"I hear gossip every day" I replied carefully, wondering what she intended. "One cannot be a member of the royal court and not hear gossip. Of what do you speak, dear sister?"
She called for her servant to bring a tray of sweetmeats, and when we had each selected one and Mary had taken a dainty bite, she leaned toward me with a coy smile. "I am the king's mistress."
I gaped at her. "The king?" I repeated, rather stupidly. "King Henry?"
"Of course, King Henry!" she said, laughing. "Of what other king would I speak? It is quite an honor to be chosen by one's monarch."
"I assume that your King Henry has several mistresses," I replied, annoyed by her boasting and determined not to let her best me. "François certainly does." This was not an exaggeration; everyone knew that the king of France was in love with the comtesse de Châteaubriant, and that he enjoyed the favors of many other women as well.
"The king does as the king wishes," Mary informed me with a shrug. "And I care not with whom he does it when he is not in my company. But I assure you that he has long since tired of Queen Catherine. And he no longer pays the least attention to his former mistress, Bessie Blount. He has given me this gown," she said, flaunting her velvet sleeves and a brocade petticoat.
My sister was gotten up in the English fashion: a gown with too many colors, too much gold lace and brocade, too much of everything. I preferred the refined elegance of the way we dressed in the French court.
"And this ring as well," she added. She waved the bauble under my nose. It was gold, set with rubies and diamonds.
Mary could not stop prating about King Henry. "He had a child by Bessie about a year ago, before he tired of her and sent her away. Henry Fitzroy is the little one's name, and being the king's son, he is treated with all manner of deference, even though he is a bastard. When we are alone, the king talks constantly of how keenly he desires a son to inherit the throne."
"King Henry has a daughter, has he not?" I asked.
"Yes, the princess Mary, poor little snip of a child." Mary sighed and sipped her wine. "The king pays her great attention — when he thinks about her! — but she is of no use to him, for she cannot rule. He must have a son — a legitimate son of a lawful wife, not a bastard like Bessie's Fitzroy."
"Does Queen Catherine know that you are the king's mistress?" I asked my sister.
The question caused her great merriment. "Oh, indeed she does, and she hates me! But there is nothing she can do, because I am a member of her court at the king's bidding — Father saw to that. I think Father knew that the king would come to desire me, and our affair will greatly advance Father's political position."
Had Father really planned it all? I wondered. Does he have plans for me? But I knew the answer: I am the ill-favored daughter. He intends no such future for me.
"Perhaps she will yet provide a son," I said, mainly to provoke my sister.
"Eleven years of marriage, and Queen Catherine has still not produced an heir for the king," Mary said scornfully. "Have you not seen her? She is short and stout, and her gowns are stiff and ugly. After all those years since she left Spain, she still cannot speak our language properly. Everything that comes out of the queen's mouth sounds Spanish! She is not at all happy that her husband takes his pleasure with me. But who could take pleasure with such an old Spanish mule? She is nearly as lacking in beauty as your pious queen Claude!" Mary laughed, and gestured for the serving maid to refill our goblets. "Claude is blessed with virtue, but virtue is a poor substitute for beauty and wit."
"Our pious queen Claude has already borne François two sons as well as a daughter and expects a fourth child in a few weeks," I retorted, still hoping to put my sister in her place. "There is no question of who will inherit the throne of France."
Just then we heard a flourish of trumpets, loud and long. "The kings are coming!" Mary cried, rising quickly from her cushion, her cheeks flushing prettily.
I hurried to follow my comely blond sister out of the silk tent to watch as the splendid royal procession approached. All around us the air seemed to crackle with excitement. I was thrilled to be a part of it, and for a time I forgot my jealousy.
"I believe they are on their way to a joust," said Mary. "Shall we hurry to the tiltyard to watch them?"
"We should be with our retinues, should we not?" I asked, suddenly worried that Madame Mathilde had taken a count of the queen's maids and found one missing.
"We can join them after the kings have passed by," she said. "But first I want to show you something. Come with me. Hurry!"
Seizing my hand, Mary pushed her way through the crowd. I stumbled after her until we reached the very front of the throng. We were close enough to touch the hones of the henchmen riding at the head of the procession, followed by the archers and the knights, all wearing brilliantly colored livery. The horses' hooves raised clouds of dust, and the air smelled strongly of their sweat and dung.
The kings rode side by side; François astride a gray courser and Henry mounted upon a huge white warhorse. The horses were trapped to the ground in crimson damask, their saddles gilded, their tack inlaid with gems. As they drew abreast of us, my sister pressed dangerously close and reached up to King Henry, offering him her handkerchief. He reined in his horse for a brief moment, accepted the bit of lace and linen and touched it to his lips, and then, smiling, plucked a jewel from his doublet and tossed it to her.
As he turned away and rode on, King Henry's gaze passed over me as though I didn't exist. I stared after this dazzling figure, unable to tear my eyes or my thoughts away from him.
"You see?" Mary crowed, showing me the pearl the king had given her. "Look for yourself how His Majesty delights in me!"
I could see, indeed. I will never be beautiful like my sister. No king will ever want me for his lover. I tried not to care, and I tried not to show how much I did care. But I began to wonder if there was a way I might best my sister and achieve more than she had even dreamed of. What a triumph that would be!
If Mary noticed my darkening mood, she gave no sign as we hurried toward the lists. We should have been with our retinues to make a formal entrance: Mary with Queen Catherine and I with Queen Claude. We would surely be chastised for our tardiness. But Mary didn't seem concerned, and suddenly neither was I. It was worth whatever punishment I would receive to have been so close to the king of England.
I still remember the first time I set eyes upon King Henry VIII. When I was four years old, my parents left my little brother, George, behind at our castle at Hever, in Kent, and journeyed with my sister and me to the royal palace in Greenwich for the Yuletide celebration. Mary, who was then nine, had visited court before. Naturally, she had a pretty new gown, pale green silk over a yellow petticoat, and I was given one of her outgrown gowns, but I was too excited to mind very much. For weeks our governess, Lady Guildford, had rehearsed me in court behavior.
"Whenever the king and queen enter the hall or leave it, everyone must rise. The gentlemen bow low, and the ladies drop into a deep curtsy. Like this." She demonstrated, holding out her skirts, inclining her head, and gracefully bending her knees. I copied her until she was satisfied.
At last we stood in the crowd that had gathered at Greenwich to greet the arrival of the king and queen from London. Trumpets heralded their approach, and I strained for a glimpse of the royal couple. Queen Catherine rode in a fine litter all covered in velvet and cloth of gold, and at her side, mounted on a great black stallion, was the most magnificent man I had ever seen. He was young and handsome with red-gold hair, and he wore a dazzling cloak trimmed in ermine and covered with sparkling jewels. The crowd cheered wildly, men tossed their caps into the air, and the king and queen acknowledged our greetings with waves and smiles. The procession passed by, and the splendid king was gone long before I'd had my fill of gazing at him.
"When shall I see the king again, Father?" I asked, tugging at his sleeve. "Will he speak to me then?"
"You will see King Henry at the banquet tonight, Nan," he said. "But he will not speak to you. Hundreds will be present."
I was disappointed, but I consoled myself with the notion that I would be able to stare at him as much as I pleased.
Hours later, the hundreds of whom my father spoke assembled in the Great Hall of Greenwich Palace. There was much noise and hubbub until, from the balcony above us, a resounding trumpet fanfare hushed the crowd. As my governess had promised, the gentlemen bowed low and the ladies dropped into deep curtsies — all of the ladies, that is, but me. I was too awestruck to remember what I was to do; moreover, if I had gone down in a curtsy, I would not have been able to see the king. And so I alone remained bolt upright as King Henry and Queen Catherine entered the hall. Wanting him to notice me, I raised my hand and waved as the king's keen blue eyes swept over the crowd. The king, laughing, waved in return.
My father observed my behavior and immediately pulled me down. Later, I was birched for it — Lady Guildford administered a half dozen whacks to the backs of my legs — but I never forgot that moment when the king's eyes met mine in the midst of the crowd.
"I shall no doubt be betrothed before Michaelmas," Mary was saying now in a matter-of-fact way that caught me off guard. We spoke French, so as not to be understood by the English ladies all around us. She was still admiring her pretty new jewel. "The king has chosen a husband for me." She said this as though it were the most common of occurrences.
"You are to be wed? To whom?" I asked, forgetting the need for haste.
"Will Carey, one of the king's courtiers. I know him well. It should be a decent match. I have no complaints about it. One husband is just as good, or bad, as the next, in my opinion."
"So that puts an end to your career as king's mistress," I said rather coldly, for I felt then that she did not deserve the special attention of "the greatest king England has ever known," as my father referred to him, adding, "or indeed shall ever know."
"Not at all!" Mary replied with spirit. "I shall continue to be the king's pleasure, if he wishes it."
"But what of your husband?" I asked, thinking, My sister is shameless! "Will he not object?"
She laughed. "One does not object to the desires of one's king! Of course, if I beget a child, that will put an end to it."
"Then the king will be in search of someone to take your place, will he not?" I couldn't help asking. We had arrived at the lists where the tournaments were held, and we prepared to hurry off to join our queens, hoping to slip unnoticed among their ladies.
Mary shrugged. "No doubt. King Henry always finds his pleasure among the queen's ladies. It does put Her Majesty in a temper." My sister winked at me knowingly. "Come home to England when you tire of those overrefined Frenchmen," she said archly. "Perhaps, when you are grown up, King Henry's fancy will alight upon you. Would you not like to be the king's mistress?"
"No, I would not," I said haughtily. "Anyone can be the king's mistress. I should much prefer to be his queen."
Mary laughed, showing her perfect white teeth. "What an amusing child you have become!" she cried.
"I am not a child, and I am quite serious," I declared firmly. "Wait and see — someday I shall be queen of England, and you will kneel at my feet!" And I flounced proudly away from my well-favored, detestable sister.
Excerpted from "Doomed Queen Anne"
Copyright © 2002 Carolyn Meyer.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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