A Dangerous Climb
Under Close Watch
Uncle watched me closely in the weeks following our discovery. He dictated my dress, my behavior and decorum, and even what I ate or drank. "A lady must always present herself as such," he insisted.
I have to marvel at Uncle's finances, for he spent a great deal of money on my clothing and jewels. In every way possible, I looked like a Queen of England.
The court was rife with gossip. Sometimes I heard my name being whispered among my courtiers. It made me very upset. If they talked this much about me before I was queen, what would they say afterwards?
I had to honor my promise to Uncle. I was not to say a word of my impending fortune, not to anyone. Unfortunately, though, it wouldn't remain secret for long.
In the Queen's Care
"I know what you're doing," sneered Amelia, as the rest of the ladies looked on. "How could you do this to our beloved Queen Anne?"
I said nothing, simply lowered my head and stared at the floor.
"It's bad enough to be a royal mistress, but now you are content to steal the Queen's place? I'll make sure she knows what you're up to," she scowled. "You will rue the day that you kicked her off the throne!"
Amelia slammed the door behind her, with the rest of the queen's ladies in tow. Queen Anne, herself, was in bed asleep. She had caught a serious infection, and the doctors didn't think she'd make it.
A short while later, I heard the feeble cry of the queen.
"Is anyone out there?" she croaked. I rang the bell to alert the rest of the ladies that she was awake before entering the room.
There were several doctors tending to Her Majesty. They looked so somber and gloomy as they waited on the pale queen. Though she looked weak, her eyes glowed with a regal and warm quality. "Catherine," she said, smiling faintly. I sat on her bed as she squeezed my hand. "You may leave," said Queen Anne, as the doctors all scurried out of the room like mice.
We were all alone.
"Is it true that you are the king's mistress?" she asked me. Arrow right through the heart.
I lowered my eyes in shame. I bit my lip, trying to retain the tears that had formed. Not only was I his mistress, but I was to be his wife!
She squeezed my hand again. "Lady Catherine, I give you my blessing," she announced.
I paused and looked up.
"I am not desirable to His Majesty," she murmured. "I was not his choice. I have heard the rumors."
She stared deep into my eyes. "I am glad that His Majesty can be happy with someone as sweet and amiable as you, Lady Catherine."
I started to cry. It made the betrayal all the more worse.
Queen Anne started to recover two days later, the 10th of June. Thanks be to God that she would make it.
The King's Visit
I heard a knock at the door late that night.
Panicked, I rose out of bed and reached for my lantern. The face staring at me as I opened the door wasn't what I expected.
I dropped the lantern in surprise. "Your Majesty," I said, curtsying before him. He guided me up. My jaw had nearly hit the floor? Had anyone seen the king head towards my chamber? I swallowed down the lump that had formed in my throat.
"I couldn't sleep, Darling," he announced. "I just had to see you." He pulled me into my room and kissed me, passionately.
He released me, as I stood there, stunned. "I will go no further, Darling," he cooed. "I should rather wait until our wedding night. I will respect your virtue." He knelt before me, like a gentleman, and slipped something into my hand.
It was a beautiful, sparkling ring. An engagement ring!
"My Darling, it is now official," he reminded me sweetly. I sat there, staring in awe at the good-trimmed emerald gift. He gently slipped my finger into it. What a heavy rock it was!
"Your Majesty! I am delighted!" I cried, hugging him. He laughed, then put his finger to my mouth.
"Before we meet again, my Darling," he admired, bowing once more. Then, he was gone.
A Rather Wondrous Gift
"Does it please you, Uncle?" I asked him, showing off my new present.
He admired the jewel for several seconds before squeezing my hand. "It is captivating," he repeated, almost to himself. "You must continue to present yourself as a goodly, virtuous lady in all ways."
I sighed. Being perfect all the time really did have its drawbacks.
"Remember, Catherine, all eyes are on you now. Everyone already knows that you are replacing the queen. Everyone, of course, except the queen herself."
I covered my eyes in disgrace. I really didn't want to think about the hurt I was going to cause her. I rather liked her.
"She doesn't know, correct?" he asked, furrowing his thick brows.
"No, Sir, not that I can recall," I answered honestly. "She simply believes me to be a royal mistress, but nothing more."
"Good; we shall keep it that way," he replied.
"But there is someone who knows and is threatening to tell her."
"Who?" he wondered.
"Lady Amelia, one of the queen's ladies."
"I will handle this," he responded. "You did right by telling me this news."
The next day, I arrived into Queen Anne's chambers and noticed all the ladies whispering by the fireplace. When they saw me, they stopped and stared at me.
"You didn't hear?" they exclaimed. "Lady Amelia has been dismissed from her position."
I certainly didn't expect that.
"Someone informed the King that she had been threatening your life, so he promptly had the guards take her away."
It was a good thing a chair was nearby, or I'd have fallen over in shock.
"And that's not all. As they dragged her away, she told Queen Anne everything. She knows that you are taking her place."
A familiar figure showed up in the doorway. I watched, helplessly, as each of the ladies dropped to the ground in unison. I wanted to cry and run out of the palace as fast as my legs could carry me. Instead, I found myself joining them in a deep curtsy.
I couldn't look at her. I didn't have the heart.
The Queen approached me. "Is it true?" she asked.
I nodded. I bit my lip so hard it drew blood. It was better than crying in front of her.
There was a long silence. She drew in her breath and whispered, "You are dismissed, Lady Catherine."
The Long Wait
I slept in my chamber for the rest of the day. I wasn't up for any visitors on this morn. Nor, did I desire to be seen around court and questioned as to why I wasn't with the Queen.
A loud knock disturbed my rest. At the door, I was greeted by a concerned Uncle Norfolk. I curtsied. "Uncle."
"Lady Catherine, I went to the Queen's chambers to check on you. Nobody knew where you were. What happened?"
I sighed. "The Queen dismissed me from her service. Lady Amelia told her about the plan."
Uncle shook his head determinedly. "As a future Queen of England, you must work for the Crown. I will speak with King Henry and have your position reinstated. Good day, niece."
Items Needed for Lady Catherine
Additional Costs (Her Maids)
15 yards of satin
3 pounds per yard = 45 pounds
Mistress Jane - 15 pounds per month
5 pairs of pearl earrings
15 pounds per pair = 75 pounds
Mistress Margaret - 15 pounds per month
4 pairs of velvet brocade shoes
12 pounds per pair = 48 pounds
Mistress Elizabeth - 15 pounds per month
It wasn't long before I'd regained my position as lady-in-waiting. Apparently, King Henry was furious with Queen Anne for having dismissed me from her service. He fervently demanded that I return to her side.
Needless to say, the King always got what he wanted.
My reception back into her presence was very cold. She was polite, but it was very formal. The worst part wasn't losing her respect.
It was losing her trust.
For several days, Queen Anne was very distant. She didn't ask any favors of me, so I felt entirely useless.
It was June 19th. Summer was in full effect, and all of the Queen's ladies were outside enjoying the warm day.
Queen Anne addressed me by name, for the first time in a long while. I knelt by her side. "Madam?"
She squeezed my hand tightly. "Can we be friends again? I miss you."
I nodded, relieved, and cried. She embraced me. "I'm sorry for how I treated you, Lady Catherine," she apologized. "There's no way you'd betray me. I have been told that you are being forced into this by the will of your Uncle."
I turned away.
"It is my dearest wish that you remember me fondly when you become Queen. Perhaps I can be one of your ladies!"
The thought made my stomach turn. But, I didn't show it. Instead, I smiled and nodded.
A Day of Reckoning
I was by her side when they delivered the news.
"Queen Anne, by orders of His Majesty, you are to leave this place at once."
I could see the panic wash over her face. "Where will I go?" she asked, terrified.
"You are to retire to your house at Hatfield until the King warrants your return," remarked one of the privy counselors coldly.
As the men walked away, Queen Anne collapsed into a chair. We gathered around her, feeling heartbroken, but none as much as me. "Ladies, I will miss you terribly," she admitted. "I pray God will send me back to this place to be in your company." We all huddled together like field mice, crying and praying.
When the King's guard showed up, we were disbanded from our group and forced to escort her outside. Everything in her chamber remained untouched, as though she were a ghost.
A Night of Remembrance
That evening, I thought about the kindness and goodness of the Queen. Two of her ladies-in-waiting had been summoned to travel with her to Hatfield. Since I was not chosen, I stayed behind and pondered on my destiny - and hers.
I decided to go for a walk in order to clear my thoughts. I felt a cold, large hand grip my shoulder tightly. It was my Uncle, and he looked none too pleased to see me out.
"Niece, it is no longer safe for you to travel alone," he confessed. "Not whilst the Queen's position is being undone."
"What is to happen, then?"
"There is to be a trial in order to annul the marriage. However, before he can safely divorce her, he needs to gather evidence to do so."
I wondered what he meant by "evidence," but I knew better than to ask.
"Keep your chin up, Lady Catherine. Soon, you will be queen!" He kissed my forehead and escorted me back to my chamber.
"I will call with news," he announced, before closing the door behind me.
It had been several days since the Queen had been sent from court. The court has been ablaze with gossip.
I try to avoid it as much as possible these days.
Then, on July 9th, I heard the news. "The marriage is officially annulled. They are sending all of her belongings to Hever Castle. Well, except for the Queen's jewels. You'll be wearing those."
Me! Soon to be, a queen of England! I had known for a while, but now I was overjoyed. I could scarcely contain myself. That feeling, however, was quickly tempered again. I had displaced someone else to rise in the ranks. I hoped she was okay.
The King summoned me to his chamber. "My Darling, it is almost here!" he cried. "I have set our wedding date for July 28th. Aren't you the happiest?"
"I am! I am the most happy!" I cried.
"I have some presents for you, my Darling," he whispered. "Close your eyes."
I felt something heavy draped around my neck. "Open them." In awe, I saw them. The Queen's jewels! And here they were: around my neck! I was a Queen! I was a Queen!
I embraced him. "Thank you for the present!"
He smiled. "I trust to thank you with mine, shortly," he said, touching my belly. It was then that I thought about it. The heir. The heir I must deliver, safely, from my womb.
Childbirth wasn't easy. My own mother died giving birth to me. What if I were to follow in her footsteps?
I shook the thought out of my head as I thought about my upcoming marriage. The King had treated me so kindly. It would be the perfect match.
The next few weeks I spent largely confined to my chambers, but the King visited me daily. I felt more secure than I'd ever been. All the threats to my person were now over. Every day, the King was giving me more gifts and trinkets. He also selected my motto, which would be "no other will than his." I found it suitable.
Even though not yet married, I felt I was already Queen.
Married At Last
On the morn of July 28th, Uncle summoned me to the King's chamber. I quickly dressed and made my way there. I curtsied upon entry, where I was informed of my fate.
"Come, Darling," he whispered. "It's time for our marriage."
He and I walked, hand in hand, to a waiting carriage. The horses were a pretty shade of white. I admired them as I entered.
King Henry kissed me tenderly, until the horses jumped with a start.
It wasn't long at all until we arrived at Oatlands Palace. The carriage drew to a stop, and King Henry assisted me into the grand building. It was the fanciest castle I'd ever seen!
"Here it is, Darling," he announced, kissing me once more. He left to go inside the beautiful palace. Uncle was already waiting for me. "Are you ready?" I smiled from ear to ear, as I linked arms with his.
The large wooden doors opened, revealing a small retinue who was already inside. All eyes were on me. And for the first time, I didn't mind it one bit.
The King replaced my emerald ring with a much-larger sapphire one. It sparkled in the glow of the sunlight that had shone through the stained-glass windows. The King's eyes were filled with such joy and merriment. It made me happy just to see his high spirits.
We kissed, ending the ceremony. Everyone cheered. "Wife," he addressed me, as he guided me out of the chapel. "Husband," I squeaked, barely believing my own words.
I did it! I was now Queen of England! All hail Queen Catherine Howard!