I read the letter addressed to me from Richard of Gloucester, it put a smile on my face picturing the Duke write these messages to me from inside his room in the tower.
There had been an exchange of several more letters and I was beginning to forgive him, though not for marrying another woman but I had accepted his friendship, he was a good person and not wishing to be friends with him would just be a foolish act upon my part. I longed to see him again but I knew I could not. At least not until the fuss had died down a little.
I had been in Paris now for nearly a month and the time had ticked by most slowly, serving the Queen was a tedious and boring task, it was work that should not be given for the likes of such as Lady as myself. It was work far too boring, though I found myself with much free time.
Serving the Queen was a task that many wanted to put themselves forward for, it was a great honour to serve in the Queen’s court but somehow I failed to see it as such the honour it was claimed to be.
My duties included fetching and carrying belongings from her Majesty, choosing her dresses and matching her jewellery to what she was wearing, I also dine with my Aunt and keep her company, though my Lady Mother told me I must dislike her, I hated to admit it but I was beginning to become friends with her.
“Henriette, Henriette,” she would call as we were sat in her private chambers, she would sit upon her throne like a prize one would win at a fair, she would often sit and look out into the distance, claiming to be thinking, though her other ladies murmured that it was because she was not as clever as she made out to be. I instantly snapped and shut down their gossip.
Her ladies also had a disliking for her, though their reasons were not as deep and close to home as mine, her ladies felt no love or respect for their English Queen but I, for some reason, felt a great sense of anger when someone spoke scantily of her, my Queen.
“Yes your Majesty,” I said kneeling in front of her throne which was raised upon several stairs so she could look up and over the rest of her chamber.
“Come, sit with me sister,” she said, often I would have a small stool placed by the side of her throne; we would sit and discuss matters of womanly interest. She asked whom I wished to wed and whispered if there was any gentleman at court who I had my eye on. I flushed crimson and told her that my sole purpose at court was to serve her Grace. But she did not look as though she believed me.
“Oh, come now Henriette, do not treat me like a fool sister,” she said. She had recently begun calling me sister, it was an honour, I had been told, just like everything else seemed to be. I was most pleased the she had begun calling me sister; it showed our relationship was gradually becoming closer.
“I have seen you looking, eyeing my kinsmen,” I blushed once again. “You have been speaking to a certain gentleman I have been informed. The Lord Bennacioux, you have an interest in him?” she asked.
I almost felt my blood run cold, Lord Bennacioux was a close friend to Richard, it was his doing that I was able to keep in contact with Richard, the Lord kept the letters safe and passed them across the border for me and delivered them into his hands and vice versa.
“The Lord Bennacioux?” I stuttered.
“Yes, oh sister, do not look so coy I am a lady too, once a young lady like yourself, he is a very handsome gentleman. You have chosen rather well,”
“Please, your Majesty, I am becoming good friends with the Lord, I do not desire to wed anyone at this moment in time, and besides, I am still raw from the Duke of Gloucester.”
“Ah,” the Queen nodded knowingly. “You still have feelings for the Duke,”
“To say I had feelings for a gentleman would be most unladylike, your Majesty, I have known the Duke, your cousin, since I was but a child.”
“You were betrayed by a friend, I am most sorry that my cousin chose to betray you,” She said.
Normally when we spoke we did so in French, it was only what was expected of us, but occasionally the Queen would revert back to her native tongue, none other of her ladies were fluent in the language, but I was. Being betrothed to an English Duke I thought I might as well learn the language.
“He has not only betrayed the house of Bourbon but the French throne as well, sister, do not think I am making excuses for my cousin but I know he is most sorry,” she added in French.
"Indeed your Majesty," I replied. We sat together for a few moments in silence, I was about to get back on with the sewing I had brought with me to her chamber to keep myself busy when she said something which shocked me to the core.
“I hear you still write to him,” she said in English. I gasped aloud. Then coughed to try and cover my shock in her asking such a question.
“Pardon, your Majesty,” I replied in French.
“In English, sister, please, my ladies are most kind but they gossip like fish wives, I do not know who I can trust. I cannot have it spread that the niece to the King is in contact with a traitor to the throne,” she spoke softly.
“You are in contact with him also?” I asked in English as she desired me to speak. I felt the English words drop off of my tongue, although the language is said to be similar to French I disliked speaking it, it made my mouth move in strange ways, the words seemed to choke up the back of my throat whereas my native French words rolled gently off the tip of my tongue.
“I am, he is my cousin, I am afraid the bond between a cousin and cousin with a relationship as close as ours is not something that can be lost over night, you were due to be married since you were young. You and Richard have grown up together; more like brother and sister than lovers, a bond between you must have been hard to break.”
“How did you find out, did my Richard tell you?” I asked.
“Oh no, he did no such thing, for he must have feared for your life,”
“Then Lord Bennacioux?” I asked, realising suddenly I had revealed to her a traitor in her own palace.
“No, I knew he was passing letters and acting as a go between but I could not get him to admit to anything, he said he would rather die for treason than risk the lives of the ones he loved.”
I placed my hand on my heart, how noble and gracious of him, the Queen was right; maybe he was a better match for me than Richard was.
The Queen acknowledged the look of both relief and joy in my eyes as I sighed.
“You have many friends here,” she whispered, “many more than I could ever dream of having.”
“No love for an English Queen,” we agreed quietly.
“Oh Henriette,” she sighed.
“My good Queen,”
“You are a most noble Lady and a perfect friend,”
“It means an awful lot to me Majesty that you would say such a thing,” said I.
“And I know you will never betray me, I just know that you will stay loyal to me as your Father has done to his brother,” she said reverting back to talking in French.
I felt the insides of my mouth go dry, what an odd thing for the Queen to say to me, I thought. It was most unusual, why would she commend my loyalty, I had only made acquaintances with her but a month ago.
“And you must stay loyal to me Henriette, you have signed an oath to me, to my husband, you will stay loyal to France, won’t you?” she asked.
I nodded my head, I had to write to Richard at once, something was wrong, this was a warning, a secret warning the Queen had issued only to me. Her odd words rung loud in my ears, “you will stay loyal to France,”
“She will stay loyal, it is her duty,” a loud voice came from behind us, startled I turned round. I gasped loudly at whom I saw stood before me.