A Marriage Contract – Chelsea Cogan [Short Story]

I’m happy to share with you another submission to the last short story contest I have, and this will please you Mary/Brandon fans! I’m honestly really glad they’re getting more attention lately because I feel their story is great. Thanks to Chelsea for sending this in!

Readers, what are your thoughts?

A Marriage Contract

              I waited until I saw the last swish of velvet disappear behind the black drapery and heard the metal click of the handle against the door. I despised that I was not allowed to have any of my English ladies here to attend upon me. Instead, I had a retinue of French women to serve me. Strangers, I longed to be surrounded by at least one familiar face. How awful it was to not only be forced to live in a strange land, but to be striped completely of friends as well!

              I quietly put my sewing to the side, and gathered parchment, ink, and pen.  Writing to my brother, I put what had been gnawing at my heart since I arrived to this country into words. I read the letter carefully, knowing that my hot-headed sibling would take offence to even the slightest mis-wording or perceived slight. I wrote:

“Sir, I beseech your grace that you will keep all the promises that you swore to me when I took my leave of you by the waterside. Sir, your grace knows well that I did marry for your pleasure at this time and now I trust you will suffer me to marry as I wish… wherefore I beseech your grace for to be a good lord and brother. If you do not keep your word unto me, I would rather enter a nunnery so never no man shall joy of me than marry again to one that my heart does not desire.”

              I sealed it and went to order one of my ladies to get a messenger for me. Before my hand touched the splintered wood, however, a loud knock made me jump backwards. I decided to open it myself since I was so close. The woman’s face looked surprised for a moment before speaking, “Your Majesty, his royal highness, the future King, is here to see you again.” I nodded my consent and stepped away from the door so he could enter.

              I suspected that the young king-to-be, twenty one to my eighteen, would have been writing to my brother, King Henry VIII of England, for my hand once it was clear that I was not pregnant with my deceased husband’s child. If he wasn’t already married to my step-daughter, the new Queen, Claude. Well, new Queen as long as I wasn’t carrying their usurper. He had been visiting me quite regularly over the past two weeks since my decrepit husband’s death. The talks we had led to an easy friendship, even if it was new.

              He walked into the room, standing tall with his hands on his hips and threw himself into a chair by the fire. He motioned for me to sit beside him, which I did. After going through the standard pleasantries, he said “Well, Mary, I heard that your brother is planning on marrying you off to Charles of Castile once your forty day seclusion here is complete.” I’m sure my face drained of all blood at those words as tears came to my eyes.

I somehow managed to not fall into a thousand pieces, but gathered the strength to ask, “But that would be a Hapsburg alliance. Surely you would be more in favor of an Anglo-French one?” I hoped that perhaps he would be an ally to me against my brother or any other that would force me into marriage with one that I did not choose.

“But of course. Why would I be in favor of an alliance against me?” He raised his thick eyebrow.

I decided to try something. Perhaps something dangerous, but something I thought that I could risk considering the kindness Francois had shown me. “What about a marriage that wouldn’t be an alliance at all?”

He leaned forward in his chair-his blue eyes piercing. “How so?”

I looked towards the letter begging my brother to keep his promise that he made to me on our parting. “What if I were to marry someone not of Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, or anywhere else?” His calculating eyes narrowed in thought. I decided that I could continue, “What if I were to marry someone with a title, but no royal blood? Someone that might be considered to be a lesser match for one of royal blood. A man of my home country.” I paused before I dared: “A man of my own choosing.”

The future King sat back and put his fingers together, loosely hiding a coy smile. “I like it. It will effectively remove you from international politics, and would make your obstinate brother most unhappy.” He laughed. “I approve of it for that alone! But,” he became more serious, “You seem to already have someone in mind. Who? And how do you expect to marry them? Or get away from the wrath that you would incur from your brother?”

Hope began to flutter in my chest as I began to talk with excitement. “Charles Brandon-the Duke of Suffolk. We spoke of it before I left. We knew the odds were that King Louis would not live long-he was thirty-four years older than myself after all.” I realized that I shouldn’t sound so pleased at the passing of a monarch, especially not one that I was married to and added, “Heaven look after him, we didn’t realize just how quickly it would be. I don’t have a plan in place for the marriage to take place, but I’m sure it would need to be secret. It would need to be completely over and done with before Henry finds out. Legally binding and…” I blushed and looked down from embarrassment, “and consummated, so he cannot annul it.”

“And your brother’s anger…? He could put you in prison for such strong-headedness.” But he was nodding his approval, slowly.

“I’ve always been his favorite sibling-and Charles is his best friend. We’ve always been very close. He may be angry, but I trust that I can use my charms to win over his forgiveness. Henry may be quick tempered and spoiled, but he has a good heart and loves me dearly.”

Francois smiled wide. “Well, it seems that you have been quite blessed. As it so happens, I have recently been informed that the Duke of Suffolk is on his way to France. He is expected near the end of this month.” I gasped. “Yes, you should be excited. I will give my permission to have the union take place on French soil, before you will be sent back to England. I will return with Brandon to perform the ceremony and to discuss the details of your return.” He turned gravely serious. “As long as an unwelcome child comes along to ruin it all.”

I threw myself upon the ground, my hands spread upon the smooth surface. “Thank you! Thank you-thank you so much!” Not wanting to look at him, I spoke to the floor, “My courses started this morning. I know that I must stay here for the forty days, but I am pleased to say that there will be no child. You will be the King of France. And I do not know how I can ever repay you for your kindness to me!” He lifted my chin and spoke softly.

“You have just assured me my throne. More than enough in repayment, I should think. But I would ask, as a friend, for you to continue to be a former Queen and ally of France. Remember us fondly as friends when you return to your homeland.”

“I shall. It is a small thing to ask in return for the enormous favor you are showing to me.” He gave me an affectionate smile as he rose. Once the soon to be crowned King left, I jumped to my feet and spun around, laughing. I was not destined to become the Queen Dowager Mother of France or a Duchess of France or a Queen of Spain or anything other than what I wished to be. And that was to be the wife of Charles Brandon. How glorious to be a woman that was free and able to choose my own destiny!   

I'm a lover of all things Tudor, and historical - fiction or fact. My aim is to bring together writers of all calibers to share their work with like minded people!

One thought on “A Marriage Contract – Chelsea Cogan [Short Story]

  1. It’s always interesting to read historical facts from different angles and the background to the marriage of Mary and Charles Brandon is an unusual subject and thus all the more intriguing, especially as the new King François 1 was instrumental in arranging it. Mary’s status, as sister to Henry VIII, meant that she was not allowed to marry without his consent but she and Charles went ahead with their clandestine wedding in France, subsequently suffering the wrath and a heavy fine from her brother, before he accepted the situation and they held an official marriage ceremony in England.

    Chelsea’s description of the meeting between François and Mary, recently-widowed third wife of Louis XII, seems entirely plausible and is so well-written I could picture the scene and their conversation as if I had been there too. It also gives an insight into the character of the new French king – one who was prepared to defy the King from across The Channel, to help Mary find the happiness missing from her three month marriage to his cousin and father-in-law whom he succeeded.

    This was a very interesting short story and I look forward to more from Chelsea on the ATWC site.

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