Read The King's Secret Matter Online
Authors: Jean Plaidy
In one of the privy gardens of the Palace a young man and woman sat on a wicker seat, their arms about each other. In the distance the shouts from the arena could be heard but both were oblivious of everything but the ardour of their passion.
The woman was plump and dark-haired; her body voluptuously curved; and the expression of her face, soft and sensuous, betrayed her nature. One glance was enough to see that she was one who had been endowed by nature with a deep appreciation and knowledge of fleshly pleasures; and her generous nature was one which wanted to share these. It was the secret of her great appeal to almost every man who saw her. And if they tired of her quickly it was because she could hold nothing back, but must give all that was demanded; so that in a
short time there was little to learn of Mary Boleyn.
Since her early teens Mary had been in and out of more beds than she could remember. The Kings of England and France had been her lovers; so had the humblest officers of the Court. Mary was overflowing with desire which demanded appeasement and, being on such terms with pleasure and of a generous nature which never sought material gain, her favours had until this time been bestowed on most of those who asked for them.
Now she was in love and discovering that the emotions this young man aroused in her were of a different nature from those she had ever felt for any other person. She was still Mary, as uninhibited as a young animal in forest or jungle; lust was strong in her but it was tempered by affection, and when she thought of her future with her lover it was not only sharing his bed that filled her mind, but sharing his table, his fortune, and being a mother to the children they would have. This was a new and exciting experience for Mary Boleyn.
âAnd so,' he was saying now, as his hands caressed the bare plump bosom, âwe shall marry.'
âYes, Will,' she answered, her lips slightly parted, her eyes glazed, while she wondered whether they dared here in full daylight. If they were discovered and tales carried to the King . . . ! It was only a few nights ago that His Grace had summoned her to his bed. He might be somewhat angry if he knew of her love for Will Carey.
âAnd when shall I speak to your father?'
Mary was alarmed. She caught his hand and pressed it against her breast. It was so easy to lose oneself in a sensuous dream and forget reality. In truth she was more afraid of her father than of the King. The King might decide that it was a good idea that she married. It was often the case in relationships
such as theirs. He had found a husband for Elizabeth Blount and there was always a possibility that a mistress might become pregnant, when the necessary hasty marriage could be a little undignified. No, she did not think the King would object to the marriage; though he might insist that husbandly activities were confined only to giving his wife his name. Mary would not be greatly perturbed. Could she imagine herself living in a house with Will, and not . . . The thought made her want to laugh.
But her father â approaching him was another matter.
Thomas Boleyn had never thought much of his daughter Mary until she had caught the King's eye. Now he was inclined to regard her with greater respect than he had even for his son George; and all knew how clever George was.
Strange that Mary should have been the one . . . with her wantonness which had earned her many a beating in the past . . . to have brought honours to the family. But if Will Carey went to her father and asked for his daughter's hand there would be trouble.
âHe'll never give his consent,' she said sadly.
âWhy should he not?'
âYou do not know my father, Will. He is the most ambitious of men, and of late he has risen high in the King's service.'
âDoes he not wish to see his daughter married?'
âMayhap, but alas, Will, you have no money and are only a younger son of your father. To us such matters are of no moment because we love, and that is all we ask. But my father does not believe in love. He will never give his consent.'
âThen what can we do?' Will asked in despair.
Mary took his face in her hands and kissed his lips. The kiss was full of invitation and promise. She was telling him that,
even if they had to wait awhile for marriage, they had much to give each other in the meantime.
âI want to take you away from Court, Mary.'
âAnd I want to go.' She frowned. If the King sent for her, she must go to him. But it would really be Will with whom she wished to make love.
we do about it? We must do something. I cannot wait for ever.'
âSomething will happen, Will, never fear. We will be patient . . . about marriage . . . and something will happen; you see.'
Will fell upon her in a storm of passion. She was the ideal mistress, never withholding, always ready to give. But he wanted to take her away that he might keep her all to himself and that no others might share the pleasures which she gave so wholeheartedly. He knew about the King, of course. He could never be sure, when she was not with him, whether she was with the King.
She soothed him as she well knew how and after a while she said: âI will speak to my father of your offer.'
âAnd if he forbids us to meet?'
âNo one could prevent our meeting, Will.'
But Will was unconvinced.
âThey are returning from their sport now,' went on Mary. âMy father will surely have been with the King. It may well be that his mood is a good one. Will, what if I spoke to him now?'
âBut it is surely I who should speak to him, Mary.'
She shook her head, imagining her father intimidating her lover. Will was a man who might easily be intimidated, and her father, who had always been formidable, had become more so during the years of success.
She withdrew herself from him, sighing regretfully. âNay, Will,' she said, âI will find him, and if the moment is a good one, speak to him. I know him better than you and if he shows signs of anger I shall know how to withdraw and pretend that our matter is of no importance.'
âYou will not let him dissuade you?'
âNo one shall persuade me to give you up, Will.'
He believed her, because he knew that she could be strong where her passions were concerned.
Thomas Boleyn, taking a moment's respite in his private apartments of the Palace whither he had retired when the King dismissed the courtiers that he might be alone with the Queen, was confronted by his daughter, who asked to speak with him in private.
Graciously he granted this permission, for Mary had become an important member of the household since the King had elevated her to the position of mistress.
Even so Thomas regarded her with faint distaste. Her dress was crumpled and her hair escaping from her headdress. Though, Thomas thought fleetingly, it may be the slut in her which appeals to the King. Yet although he was pleased with her, he was often anxious because he must constantly ask himself how long she would continue to hold the King's attention.
It was difficult to reconcile himself to the fact that Mary had sprung to such importance. She had always been the fool of the family. The other two were such a precocious pair. He had high hopes of George and it was his plan to bring him into prominence at Court at the earliest opportunity; he was sure that when that young man was a little older he would prove an
amusing companion for the King. As for Anne, she was too young yet to make plans for. At the present time she was at the Court of France whence he heard news of her from time to time, and how her cleverness and charm pleased the King and Queen and members of their Court. But that the little slut Mary should have found favour with the King . . . was incredible.
âWell, my daughter?'
âFather, I have been thinking that it is time I married.'
Thomas was alert. Had the King put this into her head? If so he would be following the normal procedure. The King would feel happier with a mistress who had a husband; it forestalled an undignified shuffling into marriage if the need to do so should arise. No doubt Henry had found some worthy husband for his favourite; and Thomas, even if he wanted to, would not be such a fool as to refuse his consent to a marriage suggested by the King.
âPerhaps you are right, Mary,' he said. âWhom have you in mind?'
Mary smiled in what seemed to the practical Thomas a vacuous manner as she murmured: âIt is William Carey, Father.'
âWilliam Carey! You cannot mean . . . No, you could not. I was thinking of Carey's son . . . a younger brother . . .'
âIt is that Will, Father.'
Thomas was astounded and horrified. Surely the King would never suggest such a lowly match for a woman in whom he had been interested. It was an insult. The blood rushed to Thomas's face and showed even in the whites of his eyes. âThe King . . .' he stammered.
âThe King might not object to this marriage,' Mary began.
âHe has suggested it to you?'
âOh . . . no! It is because Will and I have fallen in love.'
Thomas stared at his daughter. âYou must be mad, girl. You . . . have fallen in love with this Will Carey? A younger son of a family that can scarcely be called distinguished!'
âOne does not think of family honours or wealth when one falls in love,' said Mary simply.
âYou have lost your wits, girl.'
âI believe it is called losing one's heart,' replied Mary with some spirit.
âThe same thing, doubtless. Well, you may put this young man out of your mind. I want to hear no more of such nonsense. It may well be that, if you are patient, the King will suggest a good marriage for you. Indeed, it might be a good plan for you to make some light suggestions. Carefully, mind. Hint perhaps that marriage might be necessary . . .'
Mary bowed her head that he might not see the defiance which had sprung into her eyes. Hitherto she had been as easily swayed as a willow wand, but the thought of Will had stiffened her resistance. Strangely enough she was ready to put up a fight, to displease her father and the King, if need be, for the sake of Will Carey.
Thomas laid his hand on her shoulder; he had no doubt of her obedience. He was confident of his power when he looked back and saw how far he had come in the last years. He was forty-three years old, in good health, and his ambition was limitless. The King's pleasure in him was stressed by the fact that he had designated Sir Thomas Boleyn to play such a large part in making the arrangements for the Field of the Cloth of Gold; and now that Henry had favoured his daughter he was more grateful to Thomas than ever, because he had produced such a willing and comely girl. Mary had always been pliable, lacking the arrogance and temper of George and Anne.
Had he looked a little closer at Mary on that occasion he might have noticed that when her jaw was purposefully set, as it was at this moment, she bore a striking resemblance to her headstrong brother and sister.
But Thomas was too sure of his daughter, too sure of his ability to subdue her, to be alarmed.
He patted her shoulder.
âNow, my daughter, no more of this foolishness. There'll be a grand marriage for you, and now is the time to ask for it. I see no reason why you should not become a Duchess. That would please you, His Grace, and your family.'
Still she kept her head lowered, and giving her a playful push he dismissed her.
She was glad to escape because of the overwhelming desire to tell him that she was no longer his puppet, nor the King's; Mary Boleyn in love, fighting for the future she desired, was as formidable as any young woman of spirit.
The great Cardinal was alone in his audience chamber, where he stood at the window looking out over the parkland of that most magnificent of his residences, Hampton Court. He could always find delight in this place which he regarded as essentially his own; for how different it had become in those years since he had taken over the lease from the Knights of St John of Jerusalem and raised this impressive edifice to what it was at this time, built around five courts and containing 1500 rooms.