Today we have another post from the fantastic writer, Bonny G Smith. If you haven’t read her Tudor Chronicle series, click here to read the first chapter from The Bakers Daughter! With the rise in popularity of Charles Brandon lately, I think this will interest many of you! Be sure to come back Friday to read the first chapter! You can also purchase the Tudor Chronicles by clicking here!
A note from the author,
The Nymph from Heaven is about Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon, with Henry, Katharine and Anne as the subplot. The title comes from something Henry’s court jeweler said to the Venetian ambassador. The remark was recorded and sent in a dispatch to the Doge of Venice. When Lorenzo Pasqualigo beheld Mary Tudor for the first time, he remarked to the Venetian ambassador that “She is a paradise; a nymph from heaven.”
The Nymph From Heaven
“Eighth Henry ruling this land, He had a sister fair…” – The Suffolk Garland
Westhorpe, Suffolk, England, June 1533
She was uncertain what had awakened her. The room was dark, quiet, and very still. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could barely make out the faint pinkish glow of the embers that earlier had been a blazing fire. Jane must have fallen asleep, letting the fire go out. Ah, well, she thought, it was warm for June, and no one but the sick needed a fire during that lovely month.
Using all her strength, Mary raised herself slightly on her pillows. If there were anyone else in the room besides herself and Jane, she did not want to rouse them. Of all the plenty and privileges bestowed upon royalty, one thing that was most sadly lacking was privacy. One was simply never alone. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw no one but Jane, asleep in the chair, her head to one side and her hand resting over her heart. Dear Jane. She had come for a summer visit and had had this thrust upon her.
For Mary was certain that, this time, she was sick unto death. She only hoped that Brandon would come again, before… But that was a vain hope. It was three weeks and more since the coronation of the Great Whore. Why could he not be spared now, for just a little while, to see his dying wife? But she had been ill so often, and this illness had been so conveniently timed, that it was likely no one believed she was sick, save those closest to her, who knew it to be true.
She had refused to attend Anne Boleyn’s coronation on the first of June. Even on her better days, she was far too frail to have made the long journey to London. She had only recently returned from a trip to town for her daughter Frances’s wedding. No one could guess what that exertion had cost her; it had probably brought on this last bout of illness, of which she was sure to die. But she would never, in any case, have agreed to lend the aura of her royalty to such an affair.
It was bad enough that she had been forced to send the jewels that Henry had demanded of her, to decorate his sham queen. How that must have galled Brandon, who had not only been forced to attend the various ceremonies and celebrations, but who, as Earl Marshal, must arrange them all. Mary sneered to think of Anne Boleyn bedecked in the jewels of a long line of French and English queens. Well, she wished Henry joy of the woman for whose sake he had broken Katharine’s heart, not to mention upset the delicate balance of politics and religion all over Europe. She had begged; she had pleaded; but all to no avail. Henry would have Anne crowned queen if it tore the whole world asunder.
A flicker caught her eye; Mary leaned slightly to the left to see what it was that had distracted her from her musings. The bedpost and heavy velvet curtain had hidden from her eye the tiny flame atop the stub of candle on the table just inside her chamber door. Last night’s thick candle was now burnt low. The ivory-colored wax lay melted in an intricate pattern, all over the candle holder, and had spilt onto the table. A gentle breeze caused the flame to gutter. It went out momentarily, and then came back, stubbornly holding on. Just like me, she thought. Well, not much longer now.
Mary’s glance took in the far side of the hearth. She noticed that the log basket was gone. That must be what had awakened her; the young maidservant whose duty it was to sleep on the pallet at the foot of her bed must have arisen early, seen that the fire was out, and gone to fetch more firewood.
She lay back, breathless with the exertion even this little exertion required. She knew she was dying; this morning could very well be her last on this earth. She turned her head towards the window; it was covered with an arras. The same wind that had caused it to lift and make the candle flame flutter now lifted it enough to show it outlined by a faint, gray light. It must be very early.
Perhaps, thought Mary, I can use these few precious moments alone to collect my thoughts. Maybe, in this unexpected moment of solitude, on this knife-edge of time, she could think back on how she had come here, to this situation, to this moment. Soon she would be with Saint Michael and all His angels. But would she? Had her life been blameless enough to hope for that?
Yes! she cried in her very soul. I am blameless. I never did a conscious wrong to anyone. Ah, said a voice. But you could have done more good. Had a more selfish creature ever roamed the earth? Not true! she protested to whomever, or whatever, awaited her on the other side. I did my duty and asked for no more than the reward I was promised. Yes, promised. Had I not fought for what I wanted all would have been lost.
But even now that mocking voice said, yes, yes, you got what you wanted. But were you happy with it?
Yes, she was happy. She had had more happiness than most royal princesses can ever hope to attain. But now she was to die and her beloved Brandon would go on without her. Horrible thought! She had seen the way he looked at the Willoughby girl. And she, destined for their son, Henry! So she was to be punished after all. She would soon be forced to look down from Heaven every day…and night…Oh, God help me, the nights…to see Brandon loving another. So in the end we meet our fate, it seems. We can mock God and the devil but in the end we are undone. Perhaps if she thought think back over it all, she would discover that one detail that she had overlooked, and that should have changed the outcome.
For it was not supposed to end this way. Brandon was so much older
than she was. She had always feared, always dreaded, the long years that she
would have to wait after his death to join him. And now, in cruel mockery of
those fears, she was to die first. Not fair! I’ve always had my own way… If I
think hard enough, perhaps I can find a way to change things, even now…