A gentle knocking sound came from behind the closed door.
“Come in,” The Lady Henriette called. She looked up from the letter she was reading, she put the piece of paper back on her desk. It sat, resting nicely upon her piles and piles of paper that she had collected throughout the years. She had been meaning to tidy her desk area but each piece of paper was so dear to her. Upon most of them were letters, declarations of love, her husband to be was the most gentle man, and the most romantic one the Lady had ever met. Of course she had many men attempt to woo her but the Duke, her future husband and Father to her future children was the only man who had ever engaged in her in ways rather than empty compliments.
Since the engagement was verified by the King and Pope, the Duke had sent letters almost daily to the Lady, there were now piling up upon her desk, she knew she should burn the older ones but she did not have the heart to do so.
Lady Henriette, a slight and attractive young woman of eighteen, glanced at her appearance in the mirror, although she was not overly beautiful she was thankful that her position in court and money increased her beauty and charm much more than having more pleasing features. Sat upon a chair furnished with real gold and a cushion of the finest velvet in the whole of Paris, she felt most proud.
She adjusted her dress and shifted; turning to face the door in anticipation. She was hoping she would have a visitor other than her royal woman. After years of working for Henriette’s Mother, the Duchess of Bourbon, all of her woman had had their personalities drained from them and they were frightfully boring, they brought the adventurous Lady into a damped mood. Although her life at the palace was a luxury one, she could never be accused of living a particularly thrilling or adventurous life.
As the door to her private chambers swung open she was expecting to see one of her ladies-in-waiting peek behind the door in their nervous manner, or maybe her sister, Isabelle, Countess de Rochambeau. It was always thrilling to see her recently married sister.
Though the Countess was recently married she still lived near by and was able to come and visit her Mother and sister most often. The sisters, born less than a year apart, were close, their relationship better than most sisters for there was no sense of competition between them. From a young age it was know that Isabelle would marry the Comte (Count) de Rochambeau and Henriette would marry the English Duke Richard of Gloucester, therefore there was no arguing between the girls of who out of them would marry the best, they both were due to be wed to men of almost equal wealth and stature so their lives would be of the same high quality they were already living.
Lady Henriette was expecting, or rather longing, to see Isabelle’s bright smile light up the room.
Instead she was faced with a concerned looking young man dressing in the palace uniform. His Grace, her Father had insisted on employing a palace uniform, it was rather similar to the one worn by the men of his older brother the King of France, but instead it had both the Duke and Duchess’s coat arms incorporated onto it. The men wore the coat of arms proudly and it made Henriette smile to see her shield worn upon the chest of many. It brought an immense feeling of pleasure knowing all of the men who wore it upon their chest were true men, both loyal and dedicated to not only her father but to the King of France himself, it made her feel safe, well protected, secure.
“Who are you?” she demanded, there was an echo of excitement in the Lady’s voice. Not out of fear, she was thrilled to see a new face. It was not often the Lady was able to meet new people, the staff at the palace stayed the same and she had not been around others since her sister’s wedding last season.
Her Lady Mother preferred Henriette to spend her time inside rather than wondering around the palace grounds, the Duchess wanted to keep her daughter safe, no harm could ever come to her. She would go across to England and marry their boy the Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester and she would hopefully one day become Queen of England. It was not uncommon for a French Lady to be sent across to England to marry a nobility but not often was the Lady so high profile as Lady Henriette was, daughter to the Duke of Bourbon and niece to the King and Queen of France, marrying their daughter to the English Prince would be a good move, hopefully it would unite the troubled countries for a length of time so they would not fight each other for at least a few years.
The boy, he was only a boy, though a good three years older than the Lady, stood awkwardly. It was clear to Henriette that this particular young man was not use to being in the presence of royalty that could be why she did not recognise him; she made it a habit to be aware of all the servants who were employed by her parents, call it a hobby, or possibly a safety precaution, although it was very unlikely, anyone could assassinated her at any point, though it was more of a fantasy. She dreamt of someone breaking into the palace and trying to kill everyone, how thrilling, though naturally her Father and his men would ride upon their midnight horses and fight the peasant to the ground then my Father would take his sword and plunge it into the man for trying to hurt his family. It was all so vivid in her imagination, though she knew nothing of the sort had happened in France for many hundreds of years, and her Father was much loved by the people, no one would ever try and hurt them.
The boy stood at nearly six feet tall, his hair was combed back sleekly, the parting in the middle was clear exposing his pale scalp. His eyes were beautiful, a perfect bluey green colour, the colour of Henriette’s favourite court attire, her best dress, the one she reserved for only the most special occasions, in fact the Lady wore it to the recent wedding of her sister. It was a most beautiful attire though she rarely got the privilege of wearing it out.
There was no doubt about it that the boy was attractive, Henriette felt a tinge of emotion towards the boy. She felt both guilty and ashamed at once and stopped her lustful thoughts.
The Lady was due to be married in a few weeks to a wonderful man, a Duke, the English Prince Richard of Gloucester. Although Henriette had not seen the man for many years, since they were children in fact. Richard came to visit the Lady in Paris whilst he was meeting with the King and her Father along with his older brother to discuss matters of the treaty. She knew her duty was now at his side, he was the only person the Lady could ever have eyes for.
The boy bowed slightly at the door. Although she was a Lady not many servants bowed or curtseyed to her, officially they should. Her Father was the Dauphin, the next in line to the French throne and respectively her Mother was the daughter to the Spanish Prince Philip. Henriette was one of the most powerful young women in France; apparently, she had heard from her ladies, men had been queuing at her Father’s door to ask for her hand in marriage.
She had been told her sister, Isabelle, had over one hundred men desiring for her to be their wife.
They were quite the pair of Ladies, all of France was fascinated by the family, and the house of Bourbon was one of much mystery. The Duke of Bourbon was a stranger to his family’s residence in Orléans; he lived in Paris in the Louvre by the King’s side as his most trusted and loyal adviser. The Duchess and until recently her two daughters, now only her youngest daughter resides with her, lived with a court of many servants but Henriette often got bored. Therefore her Mother invited many guests to her home, both men and women from across the mainland and abroad came to stay with the French noblewoman. Mainly rich and powerful men sent their daughters to the Duchess after their schooling and tutoring to prepare them for life in a French, or foreign, court.
The boy stood, his eyes occasionally caught the Lady’s eyes. She was very beautiful. It was rumoured of her beauty and now, only once he had seen her in the truest light was he able to say how beautiful she was. Though he assumed she would behave like a spoilt witch, she seemed pleasant enough.
Henriette was beginning to get suspicious, he is the bearer of news, she concluded, he must be.
A frown swept across her face. “Yes?” Henriette asked impatiently. If this boy had news for her she was eager to hear it and had not the time for time wasting.
“Madame,” the servant said before pausing. He caught Henriette admiring his perfectly set facial features. Henriette blinked and changed the direction of her gaze instantly. Embarrassed at being caught staring she snapped at him once again.
“Well!” she exclaimed.
“Kind Madame, her Royal Highness the Duchess of Bourbon requires your presence in her chambers at once.” He said quickly stuttering over a few of his words.
“The Duchess” Henriette sighed.
Although Henriette lived with her Mother she was not overly close to the Duchess, they had a troubled relationship for many years. When Henriette was young her Mother spent the majority of her love and affection to Isabelle, being the oldest Bourbon child meant she would marry first and inevitably be the first to reach all of major stages in her life.
She had little interest in speaking to her Mother; she bored Henriette dearly, she was so intent on following her husband’s orders, she would have someone write to the Duke almost daily and several times a year she would travel to Paris and stay with the King. Though she was a woman and should not be interested in matters of political importance the Duchess often found herself highly involved in conversations between men about what the solution to the French problems was. The Duchess was also an outspoken woman, she spoke her mind to anyone who would listen and woe betide anyone who got on the wrong side of her.
“Do you know why it is that I have been summoned?” she asked.
The boy shook his head, even though he had heard rumour of why there was panic in the palace it was not his place to tell the Lady, even if he did know for sure informing the Duke’s daughter on such an important matter could be treason, he could be executed. It was not worth the risk.
Henriette narrowed her eyes. “You must know something; I will not attend on my Mother unless it is for a particular reason, who was it that sent you to come for me?” She asked.
“Madame, her lady maid informed me the Duchess required your attendance in her chambers, she gave me not a reason or explanation. The good lady seemed preoccupied, I dared not pry.”
“Be off with you boy,” she said. “Have someone inform the Duchess I will attend her later this evening.”
“At once Madame,” the boy exclaimed. He bowed his head before leaving the room and shutting the door behind him.
As soon as he closed the door she could hear faint whispers coming from behind the closed door. A few seconds later another knock came.
“Come,” she called again. This time her lady maid Marie opened the door and hurried inside.
“Pardon me, my good Dame, this man, he was a messenger was he not?” she asked hurriedly.
“He was,” she replied.
“What did he say Madame, what news did he bring?” she asked frantically. She was aware of what had happened, she dreaded to think that her Mistress had received the bad news when she, her most loyal lady was not at her side in her aid.
“I have been granted an audience with my Lady Mother, an audience I did not wish for,”
“When has her Highness granted you an audience?”
“I said I would speak with her in the evening, I am rather busy currently.”
“Madame, I must advise you do as your Lady Mother desires and you visit her at once.”
“You may advise me however you wish Marie, but I cannot promise I will listen to a word of it,” Henriette replied.
“Madame, the matter concerns something serious; I beg you go at once.”
Henriette snorted, she knew it was rude and unladylike but she was only in the presence of her lady and no one more important.
Her lady had seen her in a far worse condition, like when her young brother died. It was a sad moment for the entire family, especially for Henriette as she was under extreme pressure, word was that it should have been her that died and not the son, Louis his name was, named after the King of France, their Uncle. Henriette was but five summers old when the death struck, even at such an age she felt she was to blame. She spent her nights praying that God would forgive her for selfishly taking her brother’s place on this earth.
“Oh my good lady Marie, if you so beg that I attend on my Mother at once then I will go to her,
if it so pleases you!” Henriette sighed.
“Oh it does, Madame,” she said softly.
“Then we must go at once.” Henriette sighed. "Come good Marie, not a moment may be wasted," she uttered sarcastically.