“Please remember that when you speak to her Highness you address her in a polite tone Madame,” Marie reminded the Lady just as she was about to enter her Mother’s chambers.
“Marie, you treat me as though I were a child, I pray you do not think of me so lowly that I would dare insult my own Lady Mother to her face, I would not dare be so bold.” Henriette replied quickly, she glanced at the reflection of herself in the mirror, she looked nice, some would say beautiful but she would not. She tried to stop herself from thinking these vain thought but they were true. Besides all the men she had ever met told her how wonderful she looked, all of those men, those gentlemen could not possibly be wrong.
“I know you all too well Madame, you would dare not speak with cheek to your Duchess but it is when her back is turned that the insults fly and when you gain confidence your tongue become sharp and bitter.” Marie reminded her.
“My tongue is never bitter, I am not bitter, I am in a good position thanks to my Mother, why would I be bitter?” Henriette asked. “There is nothing that I desire that I have not got, there is nothing more I could possibly need that I do not have. I was born into a respectable family, I am niece to the King of France, my Father is his brother and most loyal advisor, I have land, and I am due to be wed to an English Duke, the third in line to the English throne, I could one day become the Queen of England, would that not be marvellous?” she asked.
Marie shifted uncomfortably, she was cursed with the knowledge that nothing on this kind would happen, possibly ever. It pained her to see her Mistress so focused on a dream that up until recently could have become a possibility but now seems, as it were a simple dream. “Indeed Madame,” she uttered.
The Lady and maid waited outside the Duchess’s private chambers engrossed in conversation, Lady Henriette sighed loudly, and she walked across the corridor and began to pace impatiently. She turned to inspect a painting that hung on the wall.
How interesting, she pondered, the amount of times she had hurtled though these corridors, past this painting and yet she had never stopped to take notice of this incredible picture that had been painted specially to hang on the wall.
Marie watched the Lady watch the picture, Henriette had begun talking again, and she was admiring the beauty of the painting and chatting happily to herself. So much so that she did not hear the door open and see the Lady’s Cousin Charlotte and one of her maids emerge from the room.
Charlotte and Henriette had a harsh rivalry. The illegitimate daughter to the youngest Duke Pierre had hated her cousin her entire life, she disliked the fact she had to live and serve amongst the peasants whilst her cousin got to waltz around the palace, have luncheons with the King and meet all kinds of royalty from across the globe. Charlotte was the King’s niece as well; it should be her marrying a foreign Prince not her spoilot young cousin.
Marie at saw them at once, she bowed her head slightly, though technically she did not have to as Charlotte was not a peer recognised by the King’s court, she bowed anyway to show her respect. A tiny amount of sympathy often crept out of her mouth when Charlotte was around but then the lady started talking and Marie remembered why her and her Mistress hated the girl.
“Madame,” Marie began trying to catch Henriette’s attention to warn her of her cousin’s presence.
“No, hush Maria, I am most bored, knock and see what is keeping them. Have someone inform my Mother that I am incredibly busy and should not be kept waiting much longer!” Henriette exclaimed.
“Too busy to speak with your own Mother,” Charlotte exclaimed. Henriette spun round quickly.
“Ah do not worry Marie, I see the bastard of my youngest Uncle has arrive, she shall see to it for me,” Henriette said coldly.
“Where on earth have you been cousin, the Duchess, my Aunt has been pondering over your attendance for many an hour, she was most worried.” Charlotte said.
“My Mother is not your Aunt, girl, do not forget yourself,” Henriette warned.
“The court may not recognise me as the niece to the King but I most certainly am, I have every right to the throne as you do, maybe it is you who is forgetting yourself.”
“Hold your tongue!” Henriette snarled.
“Temper, temper, Madame,” Charlotte hissed. “You would not want the Duchess to see you in such a light, she does not think highly of you already without you helping make more negative view on her youngest daughter.”
“You would not know,” Henriette replied gaining an ounce of measure and calmness. She would not let this lady enrage her; it would only fuel the fire in the place her heart should be. “I was not aware you were allowed in the court, I thought we had a rule that only titled women were permitted inside.”
Charlotte paused; she had nothing to say back to her cousin.
“Good,” Henriette smiled feeling triumphant that she had won. “Go and tell my Mother I have arrived.
“You have been keeping the Duchess an awful long time.” Charlotte said. “Her Highness sent for you over an hour ago, and yet it is only now you grace us with your presence.”
“My Lady Henriette has only just been informed; the messenger was late, as usual.” Marie said quickly before Henriette could open her mouth as she fear for the poison that would spit.
“You have your lady well trained so that she will jump to defend your honour,” Charlotte smiled sickly. She glanced back at the single maid she had to cater for her. Not that she even deserved a maid; it was only because she had cried poverty to the Duke of Bourbon that he had employed a maid to tend to her.
“My ladies would do no such thing,” she snapped. “My ladies know their places,” she added bitterly.
“That cannot possibly be true, for one thing, you have not ladies, my cousin, you have a lady, a single maid to assist you. And second of all you have no honour worth defending, you claim your lady knows her place but as I have told you many a time before you do not.”
“I know my place,” Charlotte continued. “I know that for the last few hours my place has been at your poor Mother’s side, sick with grief she is, but who was there to calm her. Twas not you cousin; not her beloved daughter, but her niece who saw to her every need.” Charlotte sighed.
“What?” Henriette demanded. “Why is my Mother sick with grief, what has happened? Tell me at once.”
“Oh cousin, you mean you do not know? Your lady here has not told you?”
Henriette shot a look to Marie who was stood awkwardly.
“Has told me what?” she asked Charlotte whilst still looking at her maid who was cowering away from her glare.
“That is not for me to say. I suppose you had better come inside. Your Mother has been expecting you.”