“Francis, will you listen to me!” Catherine screamed. She was following her husband and she was being followed by servants through the palace like parade marching through the royal quarters, the Dauphin and Dauphine shouting at each other. “Please,” she called.
“I demand to be left in peace,” he shouted back at her.
“I beg to know if it is true!” The Dauphin was moving at almost running pace now and the Dauphine and the succession of concerned servants chasing after him were struggling to keep up with his swift pace. The Prince was most athletic, and besides he was wearing a fine suit made of cotton whilst his wife and entourage were laden down with their thick winter attire.
She was speaking of the vicious rumours that the Prince had been romantically involved with someone before they were married, that would not have been a problem. Catherine knew that many men of royal birth kept multiple mistresses as well as a wife, she would not have minded that, her brother kept a mistress, her Father the King of Sweden kept several, but the rumours were that her husband was a homosexual.
It was horrible to think that her own husband had loved a man before he loved her. Or worse still that he may still not love her, that their marriage may be a huge jest, a plan to stop others from thinking he was a homosexual.
“Hold your tongue!” Francis turned his head and shouted back at her, he knew his wife and servants were following him, he could hear the stampede of heavy feet belonging to his men as well as the patter of the heels belonging to his wife and her ladies.
“You were seen crying in the streets over a man’s dead body, you were mourning for him. I want to know why.”
The Dauphin stormed through doors pushing the guards from his path and slamming them behind him. No one was quite sure where the Prince’s destination was, not even the Prince himself. But he was resolute he would keep running, no one besides himself was quite sure what he was running from, the truth that was it. He was ashamed and embarrassed; he did not want to have to face his wife and the rest of his Father’s kingdom. It would be far too painful, all of the memories of Pierre and his previous life.
“I warned you to hold your tongue woman,” he screamed.
“I will not!” Catherine cried. She felt a sudden urge of anger and ran behind him, she over took him and stopped in front of him. “I do not need to accept this kind of treatment from you; I am a Princess in my own right, I hold the title as heir to Sweden, but most importantly I am your wife, you must listen to me. I will not be treated as you treat your servants.” She exclaimed to him.
Her passion was intense; it was one of the things that had made Francis love her, though never as a man should love his wife. More as a brother would love his feisty young sister, the same way he loved Adelaide.
Though now his love for her was blinded, his vision was blurred with rage. Francis was furious, he raised his hand to push her aside but before he knew it his hand connected to the side of his wife’s face.
A sharp scream echoed the palace walls, he stood there frozen. Cries of panic and horror filled his ears but he was unable to move, Francis looked down at his hand, he saw his fist was splattered with blood. His fist, he had struck his wife. The sudden realisation washed over him. He shivered back into reality. There on the floor, at his feet lay his wife.
It was not uncommon for a man to strike his wife, in fact he knew several men who did just that. But it was not seen as gentlemanly, especially not for a Prince to strike his wife, who just happened to be the Princess, and heir to the Swedish throne. This instance alone could result in war between the two great nations.
“What have I done?” he stuttered. Francis turned around to look at the startled faces.
“Your Highness,” a female voice called. “Catherine,” she called again. There was no reply from his wife. She lay motionless on the floor. Catherine had hit her head hard on the stone floor; the blow could have easily killed a frail scrap of a woman like the Dauphine. Her ladies desired to push past the Prince and tend to their Mistress but they were frightened of what the Dauphin would do. They were scared he would hurt them or worse their Mistress once again.
Francis was frozen still, he was in shock, he did not know what to do, he had never hit a woman before let alone the one he loved most in the world. He wanted to go to her but his body would not let him move, or even respond to the voice calling out to him.
He felt a tugging upon his jacket; he let the hand turn him around. He saw a young girl in tears begging. She was a servant, a lady to his wife, he had seen her around the palace; he never forgot a face. He could not remember her name only that she was a poor girl taken in by his kind wife to shelter her from her abusive Uncle. Now he, the Prince, and heir to the French throne was no better than a common drunkard, hitting women.
“We must attend her, my Lady is hurt,” she cried. He did not reply
“Go to her,” another voice said, this time male. He sounded like an authoritive figure. Francis was glad there was a real man available to take control of the situation.
“What should we do?” a different voice asked.
“Send for the Doctor,” the authoritative voice ordered. “Take the Prince to his chamber.”