Authors: Carolyn Meyer
Beware, Princess Elizabeth
is a work of fiction based on historical figures and
events. Some details have been altered to enhance the story.
Copyright © 2001 by Carolyn Meyer
All rights reserved.
First Gulliver Books paperback edition 2002
First published 2001
is a trademark of Harcourt, Inc., registered in the
United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:
Beware, Princess Elizabeth/Carolyn Meyer.
Summary: After the death of her father, King Henry VIII, in 1547,
thirteen-year-old Elizabeth must endure the political intrigues and
dangers of the reigns of her half-brother Edward and her half-sister
Mary before finally becoming Queen of England eleven years later.
1. Elizabeth I, Queen of England, 1533–1603 —Childhood and youth—
Juvenile fiction. 2. Great Britain—History—Edward VI and Mary,
1547–1558—Juvenile fiction. [1. Elizabeth I, Queen of England, 1533–1603—
Childhood and youth—Fiction. 2. Great Britain—History—Edward
VI and Mary, 1547–1558—Fiction. 3. Mary I, Queen of England, 1516–1558—
Fiction. 4. Princesses—Fiction. 5. Sisters—Fiction.] I. Title.
Text set in Spectrum
Designed by Lydia D'moch
A C E G H F D B
For Elizabeth Van Doren
inspiration, archeditor, and friend
Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England 17 November 1558
HERE WAS A TIME,
long ago, that I loved my sister. There may have been a time that Mary loved me. But that all changed. It had to, given who we were: the daughters of Henry VIII. Our father at times adored us but often shunned us and occasionally nearly forgot us. We were not the sons he desired.
Worse: I am the daughter of the woman Mary hated most in the world. She never forgave me for who my mother was: Anne Boleyn, who took the place of Mary's mother as queen.
When I was born Mary was forced to be my servant—not an easy thing for a proud young woman of seventeen. How she must have loathed that! But then, before I reached my third birthday, my mother was dead, her execution ordered by my own father—and Mary's.
Yet, in spite of all, it seemed for a time that Mary was truly fond of me—before she turned bitter, before she recognized that we were enemies.
My path to the throne has been long and fraught with peril. Now I am ready to follow in the footsteps of my father, England's greatest king. Mary, who hindered me at every turn, will soon be forgotten. But I promise you, history will remember me, Elizabeth, not for who my father was, or my mother or my sister, but for myself.
The king is dead."
Those four words, cold as marble and sharp as flint, were uttered by the thin, cruel lips of Edward Seymour, the king's privy councillor and my brother's uncle. In this way I learned of my father's death. The date was the thirty-first of January,
My father, dead! I knew that he had been ill, yet the news still came as a terrible shock. It seemed impossible that the great King Henry would no longer stride like a giant through the kingdom and through my life. I was not close to him, and I had spent little time with him in the years of my growing up. Nevertheless, he had been an enormous presence in my life. Now, suddenly, my father was gone. I would have neither his protection nor his occasional bursts of affection. I was alone, and—I confess it—I was afraid.
But I had no time to dwell on my own tumultuous feelings. My brother burst into tears at the news and threw himself sobbing into my arms. Named Edward in honor of this uncle, he was nine years old, a beautiful boy, delicate as a wren's egg. I held him, and my own tears fell upon his thick curls. I was thirteen, poised on the brink of womanhood, but at that moment I felt like a child myself. My brother and I were orphans, and now he was king. I can scarcely imagine his terror.
"When did my father die?" I asked Seymour, struggling to still the tremor in my voice.
"On the morning of the twenty-eighth."
"Three days past?" I asked sharply. "Why am I told only now?"
"There were decisions to be made," Seymour replied in a cold voice. "For three days no one but members of the privy council was informed of the king's death."
I glared at him. I did not trust Seymour, even then.
Decisions concerning what?
I wanted to ask boldly, but I did not, for I saw that my questions angered him.
Seymour was the brother of young Edward's mother, Jane Seymour, who had died soon after giving birth to my brother. Seymour had made himself so much part of our family that he'd carried me in Edward's christening procession. Now he was the most powerful of the privy councillors. Seymour had his own reasons for keeping the death of the king of England a secret. I guessed that it was to make sure of his own power over the new king.
Instead of demanding an explanation, I asked merely, "Has my sister, Mary, been informed?"
"She has," he snapped. "Madam, your questions could delay our arrival in London. Kindly summon your servants. We must leave at once."
"You have waited three days to tell us of our father's death," I retorted. "Now, if you please, have the kindness to allow me a little time to console my brother, the king." Without waiting for a reply, I knelt beside the sobbing, quivering boy. Only when he was somewhat soothed and my own feelings calmed did I call for Kat Ashley to prepare for our journey.
ORD HAVE MERCY!
" Kat cried out when I told her the news. She put on a great show of wailing and blubbering that I only half believed. Kat had been my governess and dearest confidante since I was three years old. We knew each other very well, and I sensed that although she deemed it proper to grieve for the death of the monarch, she could not forgive my father for his treatment of my mother and for the many times he seemed to have forgotten me. While Kat continued her lamentations, I summoned the maids of the chamber to begin laying out the black mourning garments I would need.
Eventually—not quickly enough for Seymour, but in good time—our belongings were packed into panniers carried by horses, and our mounts prepared. Frost crunched beneath the horses' hooves as we plodded along rutted roadways. For once Kat was mostly silent, and I was finally able to give myself over to my grief.
I hadn't seen my father for two years, since last he called me to court to celebrate the dawning of the new year. That was how he was—sometimes I was in the king's favor, sometimes not. It had been this way all my life. For a time he hadn't even acknowledged me as his daughter, long ago declaring both my sister, Mary, and me bastards. (Mary is the child of his first wife, I of his second, and Edward of his third.) Yet, only weeks before his death, I learned that he had restored us to the succession, putting us in line for the throne after Edward and whatever children my father's only son would produce. My sister and I were still bastards, but we were the king's heirs. I stood a long way from the throne, however, and it did not once occur to me that day as I rode toward London that I might one day become queen.
T WAS LATE
afternoon, and the torches were already lit when we reached London. We were chilled to the bone and aching with weariness. But we could not rest. We had to hasten at once to Whitehall Palace, where my father's body lay in state in the chapel. His enormous coffin was surrounded by dozens of mourners and as many flickering candles. As I entered the chapel, I gave a start and nearly cried out, for beside the coffin stood a wax effigy of the king, dressed in magnificent jeweled robes. The extremely lifelike figure didn't resemble my painwracked father as I last saw him. It was made to portray the king in his vigorous youth. I had never seen him like this. My earliest memories were of a man who was already turned fat and ungainly. I was unprepared for the feelings of loss and yearning that swept through me for the awesomely powerful man I had never known.
Near the coffin sat Queen Catherine, my father's sixth wife, pale but composed. It would be wrong to describe her as beautiful, for Catherine, at thirty-four, was past her bloom. But she had a kindness in her eyes and a generous mouth that, on less somber occasions, smiled easily. I thought how lonely she would now be without my father. She had been so attentive to him in his last months, when he was feeble and in pain. He had been a demanding husband, yet she was sure to feel his absence keenly.
By her side sat one of our cousins, Lady Jane Grey, gently stroking the queen's hand. As we entered, Jane jumped to her feet, and she and Edward rushed weeping into each other's arms. I stood silently by, observing the scene. I, too, felt like weeping, but I would never reveal my feelings so easily.
After Edward received Queen Catherine's embrace, it was my turn. I stepped forward and knelt before her, and when she raised me up I kissed her with true affection. As I did so I noticed the man who hovered near her chair with an air of solicitude. He gazed at me, and I couldn't help gazing back frankly. Two years previous, when I was last at court, I had met Tom Seymour, brother of Edward Seymour and another of my little brother's uncles. I'd paid little attention to him then—I was but a child of eleven. But now thirteen and aware of such things, I was quite conscious of his eyes lingering upon me.
Tom Seymour was tall, at least six feet, although not so tall as my father, with a slender, athletic build. His dark hair fell over his brow, and his beard was red and abundant. His brown eyes generally glowed with merriment, although at times they seemed to smolder with less pleasant emotions. I thought him very handsome.
After gazing at me for a long moment, he bowed and greeted me cordially, expressing his deep sympathy. But almost immediately he turned to my brother with an outpouring of affection. Edward had been weeping more or less steadily since Seymour brought us the news. Now he suddenly brightened and fairly leaped into Tom's arms. Tom swept up the frail boy in an embrace that nearly engulfed him.