“Lady Mother,” I exclaimed in shock. How much had my Mother heard, I knew she was both fluent in the language of myself and the language of the Queen, I dreaded her knowledge that she may know I was still in contact with the man who betrayed my family and our throne.
“My good sister the Duchess of Bourbon,” the Queen said joyfully, she stood up from her throne and came to stand before my Mother. She clasped her hands with glee in front of her chest and smiled brightly. She was far better at handling shock than I could ever be. I wondered what would have happened would the Queen not have been here, I would have stuttered and would have great trouble pronouncing my words let alone thinking up an excuse for us talking of loyalty.
“Your Majesty,” my Mother said dryly, she clearly did not possess the same joy the Queen did.
“What bring you to my court without invitation or warning?” asked the Queen calmly.
“I had not seen my daughter for a month, our palace was feeling rather lonely without either my daughters being in residence,” she said. “Now I come to Paris only to hear my daughter’s loyalty is being questioned by you, Majesty,”
“Questioned?” she Queen said lightly. She returned to sit back upon her throne, I was now standing in between my sitting Aunt and my furious Mother, and it was not a good place to find oneself, sandwiched between the two most powerful women in France.
“No,” the Queen exclaimed. “Not questioned at all,”
“But,” my Mother went to interrupt but the Queen held up her hand silencing my Mother, she closed her mouth quickly.
“I will not discuss this matter further,” she said shutting down the conversation. She clapped her hands and a manservant came rushing into the room.
“Have a chair brought for the Duchess of Bourbon, please good sir,” she said.
“No, thank you,” Mother said. “I shan’t be staying,”
“Oh but of course, you cannot think I would ever let you ride all this way to Paris and then not invite you to dine with me tonight. The King shall dine with us as well, and the Duke of Bourbon too. Tell me sister, does he know of your unannounced arrival?” she asked.
“My husband does not know I am in Paris,” said she. “It was going to be a surprise,”
The servant returned carrying a large chair; he placed it in front of the Queen’s throne, by her feet.
“Thank you gentleman,” the Queen smiled her beautiful and elegant smiling brightening the room in an instant. The man bowed before hurrying back out of the room.
“A surprise,” she exclaimed. “How most wonderful, Henriette, have my ladies assemble, I must organise this feast at once. I do believe both men are dining at the palace tonight.”
I stood and curtseyed to the Queen before leaving the room and opening the door to the adjoining room where the Queen’s ladies were sitting, most of them were sewing and engaging in catching up on the gossip from Paris, as they saw me they stopped talking. They stood and curtseyed to me.
At first they would not have dreamt of doing such a thing but when the Queen saw that her ladies did not curtsey to me she was rather furious. “Do you know who this is?” she asked them. “This is Lady Henriette of Bourbon,” Just the mention of Bourbon had the ladies curtseying low to the ground. My Father, Duke of Bourbon was a most respected man in Paris, many of the ladies, I had been informed were in love with him and his kind heart and generous nature.
“You are looking most radiant and beautiful this fine morning, my Lady,” one of the ladies said to me once she had returned to the standing position.
“Quite,” the other ladies agreed.
I did not like being at the centre these ladies affection, I knew the only reason they were so polite to me was because
I was niece to the King, had I been anyone else these ladies would not have complimented me so.
“Ladies, the Queen has asked you to accompany and attend on her at once, she is in her throne room presently in the company of her Highness the Duchess of Bourbon,” I announced.
It felt strange to say the least calling my Mother by her official title, but not as strange as I am sure it will fell when I am alone with my Mother in a few moments when the Queen and her ladies have vanished off to organise this feast in honour of the House of Bourbon.
The ladies thanked me for passing them the message and then hurried into the other room where the Queen was with my Mother, I knew I should follow them but I decided to wait until they had all left before returning to the throne room.
I waited until the last light sound of chatter had descended into silence; I knew my Mother would be waiting for me inside the throne room. I pushed the door open slowly and crept inside, I saw my Lady Mother sat upon the stool meant for me. She was facing away from the open windows, looking towards the back doors, the doors she had crept in from to sneak up on me.
I coughed; she did not turn her head, or do or say anything to acknowledge me, she stayed staring into the distance.
“Lady Mother,” I said walking towards her.
“I hear you speak with her in her mother tongue,” she said suddenly making me jump.
“Your Grace,” I said trying to avert the subject of conversation.
“Do you, or do you not?” she asked sharply. She turned around to face me and looked me dead in the eye. I felt a chill run down my spine, I knew the more time I spent alone with my Mother the more likely I was to crack under her pressure and spill all of my secrets, all of them. I needed to get out of there and fast.
“Tis a simple question is it not?” she snarled. Standing up, the Duchess took a few steps towards me, her dress sliding along the floor as she moved closer to me, her heeled shoes clicking as she made each step, they sounded like the firing of a pistol as she walked.
“No, indeed, of course it is a simple question,” I replied sheepishly longing to turn and run from her, though I knew I had to stand and defend my honour, I needed to keep my own reputation untarnished, let alone the Queen’s. “The Queen does like it when we speak English to one another.” I say. “Her Majesty says it keeps her native tongue hot.”
“And what does she say to you when speak English together?” she asked.
“Nothing really,” I say.
The Duchess looked at me and frowned, the lines on her forehead screamed age and stress louder than ever.
“Then why try and disguise what she is saying then, it is as though you two were speaking in code,” she said turning her back on me, she walked up the steps to the Queen’s throne, she kicked my stool from her path and sat in the throne.
I gasped; it was unheard of for someone to sit in the Queen’s throne, excluding the Queen herself, though by law my Mother was able to sit there, being not only a peer, but the Dauphine, the next in line to the French throne.
The King and Queen had not had children yet, though my Father feared they had left it too late to ever have the chance of raising a family. My Father, the King’s younger brother was the Dauphin, the next King of France, another reason the wedding between myself and Richard was desirable.
“Some may call it conspiring,”
“Mother!” I exclaimed. “The Queen and I were not conspiring,”
“Some may see it as that, I am sure the Duke of Bourbon will interoperate it as such.”
“The Duke, my Father, knows of my loyalty to him and to his Majesty, the King, I would not dare make a conspiracy with the Queen against the throne, the same throne the Queen sits upon.”
“You are very quick to defend the Queen; I pray you would be so quick to protect the honour of myself or your sister,”
“Mother, of course I would jump to defend you honour and my sister, the Countess as well. I do pray you rethink your line of enquiry, if you could hear yourself you would be most furious, I beg we do not continue this conversation,” I say.
“Very well,” she said nastily. “As you wish my Lady,” she said turning her head she stood up and hurried down the steps and out of the room leaving me stood there speechless and alone.
It was not until my Mother had left in a hurry that I realised how alone I really was, and how much I desired for Richard to be at my side with me once again.