“Mama, how haps it yesterday only ‘the king’s wife’ and now ‘the queen of England?” Elizabeth asked. I wondered at that child. She and Edward looked so much alike, but Elizabeth, though only a baby, seemed an adult already. Indeed, Mary had told me that even when Elizabeth was born and my life had been feared for, that the babe seemed already to have no need of her mother. I believed Mary had said that to hurt me, but I saw now Mary was likely speaking the truth.
“Elizabeth… your father is dead.” I said. “Do you know what dead means?”
“Dead?” Edward asked.
“Your father jousted in honor of the death of someone in our kingdom who was a great threat. Her name was Katharine and she claimed to have been queen instead of me.”
“Then she was very naughty.” Elizabeth said. Lady Bryan scowled but then quickly changed her expression when she saw I was watching to one of a smile.
“Well…” I knew no child, even one as precocious as Elizabeth, could understand what had occurred in the King’s Great Matter, in which Henry had divorced Katharine, ending the Roman Catholic Church in England, tearing aside a kingdom. So, I explained it as best as I could, but I did not simplify it too much. I had faith my children could understand what I was about to tell them.
“She was… she was naughty, yes. She came from Spain and she wanted to make England like Spain. Spain is a wicked land, Elizabeth. They are bad people and spies. They are not friends to England. So, your papa was jousting in celebration that we got rid of the naughty Spanish spy. But, there was an accident. An accident is when something happens that is not purposeful. Henry Norris, a man of the court, pierced your papa badly. Papa got sick, and he died. Now, your twin brother, Edward, is the King. But Edward is only two, like you. And while he can certainly be king, he needs an adult to govern for him. That is why Mama is now queen regent.”
Elizabeth’s eyes first lit up, then she burst into tears. “Papa! Where’s Papa! I want him!” Edward began to cry too, both of my babies, and their crying woke Henry, the newborn, whom Lady Bryan tried to comfort.
“Papa is dead, my dears.” I said. “He has gone into Heaven.” Actually, I was not certain of that myself. Henry had had his friends killed, and the Bible said a murderer had no eternal life in him. But would Henry truthfully go to Hell? I hoped not, I hoped God would show him mercy. He was at the very least in Purgatory. But the children could not hear of that yet.
“I’m the king!” Edward said.
“Yes, you are. But until you are big enough, Mama is going to rule for you.” I said to Edward. Edward stopped crying, but Elizabeth did not. Henry had been unusually affectionate to her, I knew. Of course, he had given far more attention to Edward, but it had been dear to see him call Elizabeth ‘his Elizabeth.’ She now held a doll in her hands. It had been a gift from Henry, the past Yuletide, before I had gone into confinement. In her tears, she stamped her feet and dropped the doll, and the doll’s head popped off.
“Your Majesty, please pardon me!” Lady Bryan begged. She had calmed Henry, but could not save the doll. She reached down and picked it up.
“You are pardoned. Children are children and they break things. Even royal children. You did no crime, Lady Bryan. And in fact, I do not even think it is permanently broken. Give it to me.” I ordered. It was an easy fix, to be certain. The doll’s head neatly slipped back on. The Seymour idiot could have fixed it! But I could fix my daughter’s doll. I could not, however, bring my children back their father, and that night, when I had thought of it all, I, too, sobbed.
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