July 19th, 1562
Tower of London
Isabella fell on the ground, wincing in pain. She had grown used to holding her arms above her head since her imprisonment a month ago and now she was laying on the ground, too weak to do much else. She tilted her head up and saw Ruth, dressed in mourning clothes, Edward, and a much slimmer Marie. She noticed that Edward was holding her hand.
Ruth ran to her side as Barnaby Fitzpatrick opened her cell door. "Isabella! My poor sister!"
In an instant, Ruth had her in her arms, stroking her hair and commenting in how pale and thin she appeared. Her sister helped Isabella to her feet and Edward approached with a smile as he released Marie's hand.
He gave her a kiss on the cheek. "My dear wife, I have missed you."
Isabella's voice was raspy and weak. "Then why had you not come for me sooner?"
He shook his head. "You are still very weak, my dear. Tonight we welcome the Queen of Scots and we will be happy again."
Isabella allowed a faint smile to grace her features. "I cannot wait to see my children. "
Marie spoke and Ruth wrapped a protective shoulder around Isabella. "The children have been sent away. They all have their own households with their own governess. It much more befits their station."
Isabella turned sharply to Marie, her eyes piercing. "Do not speak in my presence, harlot. I see you have given birth to another bastard girl."
Marie put her hands over her stomach protectively. "How do you know?"
Isabella shook Ruth off and stepped closer but Edward intercepted her. "Isabella, your health is very delicate. What Lady Marie did not know is that I have sent for all of the children to be present for the visit. Come, we must return to court."
Isabella was very shaky as she took her first real steps. Edward seemed to sense her weakness and picked her up in his arms, leaving Marie to trail behind alongside Ruth. Isabella leaned her head against his chest, hearing his heart beat in tune with her own, presenting itself as a sign that she still held his heart. He set her down gently in the carriage and sat beside her, leaving Ruth and Marie beside each other. The dark glares that the pair sent each other increased the tension. Edward was gripping her hand gently, but his skin felt cold to the touch. She was no longer in love with him as she had been before. She felt utterly betrayed by the man that swore if she trusted him that she would never have to fear. She had given him her trust wholeheartedly and it had been shattered before her very eyes. It suddenly reminded her of a family secret. Something that had long been locked into the shadows, suppressed by her own selfishness. She knew what had to be done. As she passed through London she resolved to right past wrongs as soon as she was strong enough to walk on her own. Edward picked her up and carried her to her rooms where the remainder of her ladies were awaiting her return. She was lain in bed before Edward turned to her ladies.
"I entrust you all with the care of my wife, I expect her to be ready to feast tonight." With that, he was gone.
Ruth was immediately at her side with a small meal. She was skipping a bit, the only evidence that she was excited.
Isabella smiled back to her. "Ruth, a thought hath occurred to me."
Ruth raised an eyebrow. "And would that be Izzy?"
Isabella moved a stray piece of hair behind her ear. "I must go back for Anna."
Ruth's eyes widened but she responded cautiously. "Anna? You don't mean-"
Ruth broke off her sentence when she saw Isabella's eager nod.
July 27th, 1562
With the delay of the Queen of Scots, Isabella decided to bring herself to face Anna. She remembered the last time she had laid eyes on her youngest sister. It was after Anna's twin Sophia had died of smallpox, only 12 years old. Anna had become melancholic until she was deemed mad by the physician. She had been locked away in London ever since. Isabella remembered the sullen gray - blue eyes, a trait she and her three sisters had in inherited from their mother, and the silky raven black hair that flowed to her waist. Isabella had fifteen and Anna had been twelve. Isabella imagined that her sister had to be about one and twenty now, while she was four and twenty. She had prayed that Anna was alive and well, and bore no ill will against her. She knew that she would be stunning to look at, Anna had always been. So had Sophia, who had hair ad blonde as Anna's black. They had been the perfect mix of opposites and we're extremely close as twins normally was. Anna had to be restrained to keep her away from Sophia when she had been stricken with smallpox. Their middle sister Amalia, had already died of the plague when Isabella was eight, so she knew that Sophia would die. However, Anna didn't remember Amalia and had been hopeful that Sophia would live. The abrupt halt of the litter ended her thoughts of the past she had long locked away. Yet, being imprisoned had shown her how Anna must have felt all those years locked in asylum. Isabella stepped out of the litter, making sure to not reveal her identity. Men murmured a quiet "Your Grace" as she passed, she still appeared as a noblewoman but not the queen, and that's all that mattered.
She smiled at the stewardess. "Anne Exeter? "
The fake name that had been given to protect Anna's identity sounded foreign on her lips, yet she maintained her unreadable expression as she was led into the prison of the mad. Screams of pure terror rang out from somewhere far in the back and Isabella internally shook.
"Lady Anne Exeter is one of our favorites. She is not actually mad, she only remains to assist us in out duties so that she will have room and board. She is noble, of that I'm sure, she should have some fortune stored somewhere. Perhaps, a greedy man in her life deemed her mad to take her inheritance. It happens so often." The stewardess mused.
Isabella could feel the guilt creeping into her heart. She had abandoned her little sister to this fate, neglecting to mention her existence to Edward. In a way, she had convinced herself that Amalia, Anna, and Sophia hadn't existed.
"Lady Anne?" The stewardess called.
Suddenly, a young woman exited the cell that so happened to be unlocked. The flowing raven black hair, the stormy grey blue eyes, and the pale face that seemed so child like.
She nodded to the stewardess. "Yes, Mistress Harding?"
Mistress Harding nodded to Isabella. "This woman claims to be your sister. She wished to take you home."
Anna narrowed her eyes and looked her up and down. "I have three sisters but two of them are dead. I know not of the other."
Isabella pulled the heavy gable hood off of her head and removed the scarf from her face. "Well now you do sister."
Anna's eyes widened. "Izzy?"
Her voice was barely a whisper, yet Isabella could hear the hope that had overtaken her suspicion. Mistress Harding suddenly realized that she was in the presence of the Queen and quickly bowed.
Isabella shook her head. "You may rise, Mistress Harding."
Isabella then turned back to Anna. "Anna, I'm bringing you home with me."
Anna nodded eagerly. "Yes, we will go to Bletchingley with our Lady aunt and -"
Isabella shook her head. "No, sister."
Anna seemed confused. "Where do you call home? Hever?"
Isabella shook her head again. "I am currently living at St. James' s Palace."
Anna nodded, appearing to understand. "You're a courtier now?"
Isabella chuckled. "Sister, I am the queen."
Anna laughed loudly. "I am not a child anymore Izzy. You cannot play your tricks on me."
Isabella raised an eyebrow. "I am married to King Edward and I have six children with him."
Anna smirked. "What are their names? "
"Jane Margaret, Arthur, Alexander, Anna Amalia, Constance Sybille, and Philippa Rose." Isabella quipped without hesitation.
Anna's eyes widened but Isabella raised a hand before she could speak. "We are leaving. Come."
June 27th, 1562
St. James' s Palace
Edward was locked inside of his Privy chamber when Isabella and Anna, who insisted that she be called Anne, arrived to court. As usual, the courtiers bowed as she passed them, though she could hear the whispers about Anne. Save her hair and temperament, Anne was like Isabella in every way. Richard's eyes widened as he laid eyes on Anne and Isabella had to step in front of her in order to gain his attention. Anne giggled as Richard flushed with embarrassment.
Richard returned shortly and waved them in. Anne smiled graciously at him, causing the young page to blush more as they walked into Edward's privy chamber. Marie was sitting nearby, amusing herself with her daughters. Anne quickly understood the situation, anyone would as Eleanor FitzRoy grew and began to resemble her father, offering a sympathetic glance. Isabella acknowledged it with a slight nod before smiling at her husband.
She made a grand gesture. "Your Majesty, I would like to present you with my sister, Lady Anne of Cleves. "
Marie looked up quickly from Eleanor. "Sister?"
Edward seemed equally confused. "Isabella, you must explain."
Isabella's eyes narrowed. "Only if Marie is dismissed."
Edward raised his hand to Marie and she left with Eleanor in her arms. Anne was watching Isabella expectantly.
The Queen sighed before she began. "Edward, I never told you that my sister Anne was alive. In mine eyes she was dead although she lived, locked away in an asylum in London."
Edward nodded before laughing heartily. "Welcome to court sister."
Anne smiled shyly. "Thank you, Your Majesty."
With that short introduction, the two women left Edward's rooms. They were silent as they passed the other courtiers and they turned the corridor on the way to Isabella's apartments.
Anne spoke first. "So he openly keeps a mistress? Flaunting her right before you?"
Isabella cringed, hearing the hostility in her tone. Anne was very much a cross between Isabella and Ruth. "Yes, since I discovered the affair a little over a month ago."
Anne shook her head. "That bastard that was in his rooms, she has to be at least two years old. You were always so oblivious. Now you turn a blind eye to the things you cannot unsee."
"And what do you expect that I do?" Isabella snapped, angry with herself.
Anne smirked. "Simple. You get even."
This is the final chapter of Edward's Queen, however Isabella's story has just begun. Because I don't want this to become too long I'm splitting this into two parts. Please watch out for All Hail the Queen, the follow up to Edward's Queen. Also read The Fate that Binds Us, which is a prequel to Edward's Queen. Thank you for reading, reviewing, following, favoriting, and showing support.