The Virgin's Spy (Tudor Legacy Series #2)

The Virgin's Spy (Tudor Legacy Series #2)

by Laura Andersen
The Virgin's Spy (Tudor Legacy Series #2)

The Virgin's Spy (Tudor Legacy Series #2)

by Laura Andersen


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A mesmerizing historical novel about the next generation of Tudor royals, filled with rich period detail, vividly drawn characters, and all the glamour and seduction of the fabled Tudor court—the second installation of the Tudor Legacy trilogy

“Fantastic . . . [A] dramatic thriller complete with spies, battles, ruthless villains, and twists on historical events.”—RT Book Reviews

Queen Elizabeth I remains sovereign of England and Ireland. For the moment, at least. An Irish rebellion is growing and Catholic Spain, led by the Queen’s former husband, King Philip, plans to seize advantage of the turmoil. Stephen Courtenay, eldest son of Dominic and Minuette, Elizabeth’s most trusted confidantes, has accepted a command in Ireland to quell the unrest. But the task will prove dangerous in more ways than one.

The Princess of Wales, Elizabeth’s daughter, Anabel, looks to play a greater role in her nation, ever mindful that there is only one Queen of England. But how is Anabel to one day rule a country when she cannot even govern her own heart?

Don’t miss any of Laura Andersen’s captivating Tudor Legacy trilogy:

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804179386
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/10/2015
Series: Tudor Legacy Series , #2
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 925,458
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Laura Andersen is married with four children, and possesses a constant sense of having forgotten something important. She has a B.A. in English (with an emphasis in British history), which she puts to use by reading everything she can lay her hands on.

Read an Excerpt


June 1581

Elizabeth loved weddings. At least those weddings in which she could appear the benign good fairy, generously bestowing her favour upon a couple and, as always, claiming the spotlight for herself. Most families fortunate enough to draw the queen’s attention to such an occasion fell over themselves to get out of her way and let her run things in the manner she wanted them.

Not the Courtenay family.

At this wedding, Elizabeth was little more than a guest. For one thing, she had wanted the wedding to take place in London. As the bride was both the eldest daughter of the Duke of Exeter and Elizabeth’s own goddaughter, the queen had graciously offered any number of royal chapels for the ceremony, from private ones such as Hampton Court to more public parishes like St. Margaret’s at Westminster.

But Lucette Courtenay had her mother’s stubbornness when her own wishes were at stake, and so Elizabeth herself had to travel northwest to participate in the wedding of the En­glish lady and her French Catholic spy.

Elizabeth did not stay at Wynfield Mote with the Courtenay family, but in Warwick Castle ten miles northeast. After the castle’s forfeit to the crown upon the Duke of Northumberland’s death, Elizabeth had bestowed it upon one of the duke’s surviving sons, Ambrose Dudley. In gratitude for the queen’s generosity, Ambrose gave her the run of the castle whenever she wished. A queen had no release from ruling, so Elizabeth filled hours of each day with letters and papers and in meeting with the men who rode back and forth between the monarch and Walsingham in London. Though her Lord Secretary (and chief spymaster) had once used both the bride and groom in his intelligence web, Walsingham had not been invited to the wedding.

The ceremony itself went off beautifully. Conducted at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-­upon-­Avon—and in the language of the Prayer Book issued by Elizabeth’s government in the first year of her reign—Lucette Courtenay and Julien LeClerc pledged themselves to love and honour, to worship with their bodies, and remain loyal to their deaths. Elizabeth herself had not been married to quite those words. Indeed, the working out of her marriage more than twenty years ago to Philip of Spain had required nearly a month of exhaustive debates on how precisely to balance their vows as Catholic and Protestant. But as Julien LeClerc had willingly adopted the Protestant faith for his bride, there was no trouble about words today.

They at least allowed the queen to host a banquet for them afterward at Warwick Castle. Elizabeth had rather hoped that Lucette would wear the Tudor rose necklace she had once given her, but the dark-­haired bride was adorned instead with another necklace familiar to the queen: pearls and sapphires, with a single filigree star pendant.

When the bride’s mother joined her, Elizabeth said acerbically, “Don’t tell me you have handed over your prized possession, Minuette. Whatever does Dominic say?”

Though nearly forty-­five, Minuette Courtenay was recognizably still the young woman who had once captured the King of En­gland’s heart. If there were strands of gray in her honey-­gold hair, they did not show, and her gown of leaf-­green damask fit as neatly as when she was young. There were times, looking at her friend, when Elizabeth could almost believe the last twenty-­five years a dream.

Minuette returned her to the subject of the necklace. “It is only lent for now,” she replied with equal tartness. “And Dominic would say that we ourselves are our prized possessions, not any material goods.”

“Do you never tire of your husband’s practical perfection?” Not that there wasn’t a grain of envy in Elizabeth’s soul at her friend’s long-­lived and loving marriage.

Minuette turned the conversation with the ease of a woman who had known her queen since childhood—indeed, still knew her rather better than made Elizabeth comfortable. “Anabel tells us you intend to invest her formally as Princess of Wales. She is very proud—and, to your credit, taking the responsibility seriously. Dominic says her spoken Welsh has become quite good.”

Instinctively, Elizabeth darted a look to where her only child sat in merry companionship with Minuette’s twins. Kit and Pippa Courtenay were on either side of the princess, their matching honey-­gold heads (like their mother’s) bent inward as the three of them talked in no doubt scurrilous terms about the guests. The tableau tugged painfully at long-­ago memories. “The Holy Quartet,” Robert Dudley had called them: Dominic, Minuette, Elizabeth . . . and her brother, William. She could only hope there was less pain in these young ones’ futures.

“The investiture,” Elizabeth acknowledged. “Of course it is only a formality. A ritual I never had. But it will be useful just now to remind the Welsh of our power. That is why I have chosen Ludlow Castle for the investiture, rather than simply doing it before Parliament. Anabel will make a charming figure to the Welsh.”

“She says the council has invited a representative from the Duc d’Anjou to attend the investiture.”

“As well as an envoy from Scotland. France is prepared to give us a large measure of what we want now that Mary Stuart has wed Philip. I will see what I can get from them, but it is Scotland that is most desperate for an alliance.”

“What is Anabel’s preference?”

Elizabeth huffed in exasperation. “You know better than that, Minuette. With my divorce from Philip and his recent marriage to Mary Stuart, all Europe is on edge. Mary wants Scotland back, make no mistake, and if she can persuade my former husband to give her Spanish troops, then our island is in serious danger. If Anabel were at all prone to romance—and I’m not certain that she is—she would have to give over for hard, cold reality. En­gland and Scotland must stand together or we will fall separately to the Catholics.”

Minuette held her silence almost to the point of discomfort, but finally said, “I wasn’t criticizing, Elizabeth. Not intentionally. It is only that you were my friend before you were my queen, and at times I wish you unencumbered by the burdens of ruling. You and Anabel both.”

It was my choice to rule, Elizabeth thought, but would never say. I just didn’t have a clear idea of what it would mean, the years of weariness and care and doubt. And always, the waiting for the next crisis.

She didn’t have long to wait. Before the wedding party had quite broken up, a courier arrived from London with a curt message written in Walsingham’s hand, the message Elizabeth had been fearing since the Scots queen had escaped her En­glish imprisonment last year and then married the King of Spain.

Mary Stuart is four months gone with child.

The morning after his sister’s wedding, Stephen Courtenay woke late and for nearly the first time in his life was reluctant to leave his bed. (His empty bed, at least, and at home it was always empty.) But with Lucie’s wedding out of the way, he couldn’t put off what came next. The queen had offered him a command, and would not long await an answer.

Command was one thing—he had been raised to expect it. Command in Ireland was something else entirely. And convincing his parents to accept it when he himself was ambivalent? No wonder he’d rather stay in bed.

But he was twenty-­one years old and could hardly hide from trouble. So he flung himself out of bed and dressed in record time in the belief that he might as well get unpleasant things done quickly. If he were Kit, he would dawdle his way through, putting it off as long as he could, but irresponsibility was not a trait an eldest son and heir could afford. That was the province of younger brothers.

On this particular morning, Kit was long gone on a ride with Pippa and Anabel. Lucie and her husband had spent the night at their new home, Compton Wynyates, and from there meant to go north and spend the next few weeks in Yorkshire, since the French-­born Julien thought it sounded exotic. From the way Lucie and Julien had been looking at each other last night, Stephen supposed they would hardly notice their surroundings, as long as they had a bed.

And that was a disturbing image of one’s sister. Stephen shook it off as he swiped bread and cheese from the Wynfield Mote kitchens and headed for the fount of all certain knowledge where his family was concerned—Carrie Harrington.

Just turned sixty, Carrie had been in his mother’s service for twenty-­five years, and in Minuette’s mother’s service before that. After she’d lost her first husband and both their children to illness early in life, she had remarried the large, silent Edward Harrington, who’d served Dominic Courtenay since before he was the Duke of Exeter. Carrie had personally delivered Stephen and each of his siblings and could always be counted on for good advice.

And also a certain amount of mind reading.

“Looking for your parents?” she asked, squinting up at him from her comfortable chair in the sunlit solar. “Or looking to avoid them?”

Stephen smiled. “Which should it be?”

Her hair was a soft grey-­brown and her face lined, but her hands were steady on her needlework. “Don’t look to me to sort your problems. Go to Ireland or not—it is your decision. And that, for what it’s worth, is what your parents will tell you.”

“I know. Sometimes I wish they were more autocratic.”

“No, you don’t. You only appear submissive in comparison to your brother. If ever you are commanded against your wishes, Stephen, you will balk authority as surely as Kit does.”

“Then let us hope I am never commanded against my wishes. There can only be one Kit.”

“Your parents walked in the direction of the old church,” Carrie said, dismissing him and returning to her sewing.

Stephen met them coming back toward the house, halfway between Wynfield Mote and the Norman church that had stood empty since Henry VIII’s reformation. Dominic and Minuette Courtenay had been married in that empty chapel—married in a Catholic ceremony, surprisingly. Every now and then Stephen remembered that his parents had not only had a life before their children, but a rather complicated and dangerous life. They were so very . . . stable. But today, remembering that his father had once been enough of a rebel to land in the Tower gave Stephen courage to speak the whole of his conflicted mind.

As ever, his mother went right to the heart of the matter. “The queen is demanding an answer to Ireland, is she not? I could feel the weight of her attention on you yesterday.”

“I’ve put her off as long as possible. If I’m taking a force to Ireland, it must be before summer’s end.”

“Are you seeking counsel, or approval?” his father asked.

“I’m always seeking both.” Stephen smiled briefly. “Partly I feel I don’t want anything to do with the mess in Ireland—and partly I feel that very reluctance means I should go.”

His mother laughed. “So like your father, making everything ten times more difficult than it need be. Go to Ireland or don’t, Stephen, but stop flaying yourself alive over the decision.”

But Dominic Courtenay knew his son as he knew himself, and so he added what the young man craved—an opinion. “If it were myself, I would go. I was your age when I commanded men along the March of Wales, and it was a critical experience in my life. You are a good leader with good men from your Somerset lands who will follow you. Let them. What they learn of you in Ireland will shape their lives and yours. Besides,” and here he cast a rueful glance at his wife, “military service is the least demanding request a monarch can make. Be glad if that is all the queen wants of you, son.”

Stephen laughed as he was meant to, and he did feel lighter when he wrote to the queen later that day to accept her offer of command in Ireland.

But beneath the lightness of a decision made was a brittle unease. Because military service was not the only thing wanted of him. His second letter was addressed to Francis Walsingham. Though officially the queen’s principal secretary, Walsingham had never given over his role as her chief intelligencer. Last year, Stephen had served him from within the imprisoned household of the exiled Scots queen, Mary Stuart. Walsingham was a man to exploit what advantages he could, and having a spy he trusted in Ireland would be a definite advantage.

I will be in Ireland by mid-­August, Stephen wrote.

He expected Walsingham would have requests of his own to add to the queen’s orders.

Anne Isabella, Princess of Wales, had learned from her earliest years that she could nearly always get her way. Not many people had the power to say no to the daughter of two reigning monarchs, and so nineteen-­year-­old Anabel, when she was being particularly honest with herself, admitted that she was a bit spoiled.

The trouble was, one only tended to realize that when one didn’t get one’s way. As now, with Kit Courtenay staring her down in refusal.

“What do you mean, ‘No’?” she demanded. “I have appointed you my Master of Horse. It wasn’t a request.”

“Unless you mean me to operate in chains, then I am telling you that I very kindly decline the appointment.”

“What is wrong with you, Kit? You’ve been irritable and difficult for months.”

“Because I have a mind of my own and a wish to do more with my life than follow you around and offer you compliments? ‘How lovely you are today, Your Highness,’ ” he said in deadly mimicry of court sycophants. “ ‘The very image of your royal mother, but is that a touch of Spanish flair in your dress?’ ”

Anabel’s temper went from raging to white-­hot in a moment. In a chilly tone reminiscent of her father’s Spanish hauteur, she said, “Long acquaintance does not give you the right to insult me to my face.”

Most unusually, Kit did not immediately respond. Anabel was used to his ready tongue and the quick wits, which could spin any conversation a dozen dizzying directions without warning. But in the last months, his irritability had been accompanied by these bouts of reflection before speech.

Kit did not apologize; she had not expected him to. But he offered something of an explanation. “I am growing older, just as you are. I do not have a throne waiting for me, nor even a title. Stephen inherits my father’s riches. I must make my own path. And I would prefer to do it without undue favoritism.”

“And what of due favoritism? Do you expect me to appoint strangers to serve in my household?”

Reading Group Guide

31 December 1582
Hampton Court Palace

My dear Robert,

How often I have longed for your presence these many years! And yet, I do hesitate to write so much for fear of seeming but a weak and sentimental woman. Almost I can hear your teasing words, warm in my ear: “Since when do you care what others think?”

The answer, of course, is since I became queen. A ruling queen of a divided country cannot afford even the appearance of weakness. Which is why I do not speak of you, not even to those nearest to me. And hardly do I even allow myself to think of you.

Occasionally, though, I cannot control my thoughts. And I find myself wondering how my years of ruling might have been different with you at my side. Perhaps even literally so, for your Amy died less than two years after I came to my throne. Had you lived, my sweet Robin, what temptations might have assailed me then! To have a husband not only of my choosing, but of my heart? I look now at my Anabel, at her instinctive resistance to a marriage of state, and I both understand and wonder what might have been.

It would have been most difficult, for you were hardly a good prospect even for a princess royal, let alone a ruling queen. A fifth son, a father and a brother executed for treason, already married . . . but I am remarkably stubborn. Almost, I can envision the fight I might have made. For a rarity, I suspect Walsingham and Burghley would have been on the same side in opposing me. Though I do wonder what possible marital choice I might have made that could have pleased Walsingham? Lord Burghley, naturally, supported the Spanish marriage. He was nearly alone in doing so. Not that Walsingham or my other councilors had anyone realistic in mind to replace Philip. An Austrian archduke? A Swedish prince? An Italian count? A Scottish noble? Hardly appropriate, any of them.

It was not so much that Philip was a foreigner that informed their objections—-for they could never agree, either, on an En-glish candidate—-but that Philip was King of Spain. They feared his power and influence. Not that such considerations had ever been a difficulty where queen consorts were concerned. But a queen regnant? I found it insulting how quickly even those who knew me well assumed I would be putty in a husband’s hands.

That is one grudge I continue to hold against my cousin, Mary Stuart: that she set such a poor precedent for a woman ruler. True, her French husband died before he could bind Scotland to him, and Darnley was a disaster from beginning to end. But by the time she tried to reclaim power as queen, it was too late. She had squandered her chances with her impulsive and emotional choice of Darnley. At least Mary had the good sense not to give him any real power . . . but was that not also the downfall of their marriage? Few men are ever content to be second to their wives.

I like to think you might have proven an exception to that rule.

I knew that Philip and his countrymen would desire power in En-gland. But I gambled that a ruling king would never have quite the desperate, hungry edge of a Henry Darnley or an extraneous prince of a faraway state. At the least, I could be certain that Philip would have many other claims on his attention than me.

Why did I marry Philip? Certainly not for the reasons you married Amy Robsart! It was not due to our mutual attraction—-though that was certainly part of our marriage, a strong and most pleasant part. Does that bother you? Good. You deserve that discomfort for all the times you sought out your wife and your other women behind my back. How many women did you sleep with in your relatively short life? Far more, certainly, than I care to count.

So, attraction. That was one point in Philip’s advantage column. But I could not afford for that to be the defining factor. Politics, then. It was certainly logical to ally ourselves with Spain at a time when En-gland had been weakened by my brother’s vendettas.
In the end, can you guess the deciding factor? Probably you can, knowing me as you do.
You know how deeply ran the scar of losing Calais to the French. Held for so long by so many En-glish kings . . . how could I bear the thought of having lost it due to William’s reckless affections and careless diplomacy? But we had not the strength then to take it back. And the longer it remained French, the less likely we could ever wrest it free again.

Philip did it for me. And I do mean for me—-he might have been glad of the chance to discompose the French, but Calais was meant as a betrothal gift for En-gland’s queen. And it worked. The day the Spanish ambassador brought us word that Calais had been liberated by Spanish troops and then promptly handed back into En-glish control was the day I told Lord Burghley to draw up a treaty of marriage.
It took many months and much suspicion and wrangling of specific language, but finally it was sealed and the marriage date set. Only then did I panic. Just a little, but enough for me to beg the only friend I had left for help.

Minuette and Dominic would not come to me, in those first years of my reign. At least not to London. But every now and then I could persuade Minuette to meet me elsewhere. For advice, for comfort, for the purest friendship left to me. Even when she made me furious. No one has ever been able to irritate me as quickly and thoroughly as Minuette—-except you, of course.
And no one, not even you, has ever been quicker to restore my confidence.

She did not tell me what to do. She did not offer an opinion on either politics or personalities. What she said was simple: “Do what you think is right, Elizabeth. You are at your best when you are sure of yourself to the point of arrogance.”

Philip was not, could never have been, the husband of my heart. But I did love him. And for all the enmity we now throw at each other, I cannot wish it undone. It brought me Anabel, whom I love more than I will ever let her know. Unlike me, she is being raised to rule in her own right. You would like her, Robert. Of that, I am sure.

Do you know what I remember most often about you? It is not your eyes or your charm, not your grace or the strength of your hands. It is not even your impudence, though I do miss that more than I could have guessed.

What I remember are the last words you ever spoke to me. When I asked you to take Minuette out of En-gland, far from my brother’s reach, you kissed my hand. And you said, “I am your man, Elizabeth. To the last day of my life.”

It is the one thing for which I have never forgiven Will—-that the last day of your life came far too soon.

Because of that, my heart breaks a little when I see my daughter’s eyes following the man she loves—-and cannot have. But you, who knew me best, will know that sentiment will always come second to duty. My daughter will do what she must, as I did before her.
And one day, perhaps she will write just such a letter to the man who claimed her heart. As you claimed mine, so early that by the time I realized it, it was already too late.

Good night, my sweet Robin. I trust your eyes are watching me from heaven as always they did on earth.

Elizabeth R.

1. Discuss the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth. Do you agree with Elizabeth’s actions? How would you have handled the situation, in Elizabeth’s position? How do you feel about Mary’s relationship with Philip, compared to Elizabeth’s?

2. As Anabel gets older, the dynamics between the princess and the queen become increasingly complex. Compare and contrast the two women. In what ways are they similar? How are they different?

3. How does the parenting style of Minuette and Dominic compare to that of Elizabeth and Philip? Is one technique more or less effective? Would Elizabeth be a different sort of mother if she weren’t also a queen?

4. What do you think of the dynamic between Anabel and Kit? Do you see any parallels to Elizabeth’s relationships?

5. Responsibility and honor are reigning principles in the Courtenay household. How do the Courtenay children embody these principles? Discuss the sacrifices each member of the family makes to uphold their sense of honor. Does each define honor in the same way? Do any of them fall short of their high moral standards?

6. The political and the personal are intimately entangled for Elizabeth, Philip, Mary, and Anabel. How—-if at all—-do these characters separate themselves from the offices they hold? Is there room for a monarch to have a personal life outside of the throne?

7. Discuss Stephen’s experiences in Ireland. What surprised you the most? In what ways is he similar to his father? In what ways is he different? If you read The Boleyn King trilogy, do you see any parallels between Stephen’s experiences and those of his father?

8. Discuss the importance of military training and experience for young men during this time period.

9. How do the events of this novel compare to the actual historical record? Did anything strike you as particularly plausible or implausible?

10. Do you have any predictions for the next novel in the series?

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