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«Three Sisters, Three Queens»

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For Anthony


I am to wear white and green, as a Tudor princess. Really, I think of myself as the one and only Tudor princess, for my sister Mary is too young to do more than be brought in by her nurse at suppertime, and taken out again. I make sure Mary’s nursemaids are quite clear that she is to be shown to our new sister-in-law, and then go. There is no profit in letting her sit up at the table, or gorge on crystallized plums. Rich things make her sick and if she gets tired she will bawl. She is only five years old, far too young for state occasions. Unlike me; I am all but twelve. I have to play my part in the wedding; it would not be complete without me. My lady grandmother, the king’s mother, said so herself.

Then she said something that I couldn’t quite hear, but I know that the Scots lords will be watching me to see if I look strong and grown-up enough to be married at once. I am sure I am. Everyone says that I am a bonny girl, stocky as a Welsh pony, healthy as a milkmaid, fair, like my younger brother Harry, with big blue eyes.

“You’ll be next,” she says to me with a smile. “They say that one wedding begets another.”

“I won’t have to travel as far as Princess Katherine,” I say. “I’ll come home on visits.”

“You will.” My lady grandmother’s promise makes it a certainty. “You are marrying our neighbor, and you will make him our good friend and ally.”

Princess Katherine had to come all the way from Spain, miles and miles away.

. Since we are quarreling with France, she had to come by sea, and there were terrible storms and she was nearly wrecked. When I go to Scotland to marry the king, it will be a great procession from Westminster to Edinburgh of nearly four hundred miles. I shan’t go by sea, I won’t arrive sick and sopping wet, and I will come and go from my new home to London whenever I like. But Princess Katherine will never see her home again. They say she was crying when she first met my brother. I think that is ridiculous. And babyish as Mary.

“Shall I dance at the wedding?” I ask.

“You and Harry shall dance together,” my lady grandmother rules. “After the Spanish princess and her ladies have shown us a Spanish dance. You can show her what an English princess can do.” She smiles slyly. “We shall see who is best.”

“Me,” I pray. Out loud I say: “A basse danse?” It is a slow grand grown-up dance which I do very well, actually more walking than dancing.

“A galliard.”

I don’t argue; nobody argues with my lady grandmother. She decides what happens in every royal household, in every palace and castle; my lady mother the queen just agrees.

“We’ll have to rehearse,” I say. I can make Harry practice by promising him that everyone will be watching ...

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