There was much dancing that evening, I only reluctantly taking part. Even though I had been taught it was courtly manners to take part in such entertainment, I only did so to be polite, dancing had never interested me. I was more of a woman to go hawking, as I had done in Lancashire, near the moors.
The two women in the spotlight were of course the two royal princesses, Mary and Elizabeth. Although Elizabeth seemed to be the one to attract the most attention, mainly from the male courtiers might I add, her Tudor red hair blowing around her face as she merrily danced with young lords of the court. Indeed, it was a merry sight. Whilst Elizabeth happily dance, I caught a look of disapproval on Princess Mary's face, at a wild guess I would imagine that she would think her half-sister as being frivolous and too immodest in the way she danced. Most likely, she hid behind her frown venomous thoughts of Anne Boleyn, who was rumoured to have treat Mary most horribly for the few years she was Queen of England.
"Doesn't the Princess Elizabeth dance well?" Lucy asked me, as she sat beside at one of the servants tables in the garden.
I nodded in agreement. "She does indeed. I even think she likes the attention." It occurred to me, that even though Elizabeth was a Princess of royal blood, she may not have received the attention a woman of her rank deserved, what with her being declared a bastard, until only in 1546, alongside the supposed treason of her Mother and so she must crave some of the attentions at court.
"Yet, Her Highness, the Princess Mary does not seem at all pleased." Lucy commented.
"I noticed that too, nor has she even danced herself." I spoke, glancing to the heir to England. "Perhaps she has suffered from illness recently." I concluded. "And is perhaps slightly envious of the Princess Elizabeth who seems to be always in well spirits." I dared not raise my opinion of her disapproval of her sister, I was unsure whether I was allowed to voice such a thing. I then noticed someone important missing. "Where is His Royal Majesty?" I asked, glancing round the garden in search of the young King.
"His Grace, the Duke of Northumberland, says His Majesty felt tired and weary." Lucy replied. "I grant he is not used to such celebration, for he did not often attend court when he was Prince. The late King thought it best to keep his son away from the disease ridden streets of London."
I had heard about that, young Edward, he was kept in the country as a much younger boy and his house who cleaned three times from top to bottom. Personally I don't think I could stand such a nuisance, I do understand however it was all for His Majesty's health and indeed it seems to have paid off. I felt slight pity for the two Princesses though who had been given less favourable treatment in comparison. I could not criticise the late King though, for I did not know what it was like to rule a country, especially one that demands a male heir and I suppose with Edward being his only male heir, he had little choice but to keep well, at all costs.
That night, the Lady Clarence, who I had spoken to the Lady Elizabeth earlier, visited my Mistress' chambers. I sat with Lucy in the antechamber. We each held a goblet of weak wine in our hand. Once Elizabeth had dismissed us from her chamber, an awkward silence had spanned as myself and Lucy sat quiet. Eventually, tiring of the silence, I spoke up.
"What is the Lady Clarence like?" I asked. "I have heard little about French nobility."
Lucy looked up from her parchment and the song she was writing. "The Lady Clarence is a lovely woman, considering her heritage. Her and Lady Elizabeth have known each other for nearly two years, she is kind to all and in some ways she is quite, merry, sometimes overly so."
"So, she is not like a typical noble?" I asked, for it sounded thus. The majority of nobles I had noticed earlier in the palace gardens just seemed to have a false merriness about themselves, only seeming happy for the sake of keeping the royals happy.
"She isn't as stuck up, if that's what you mean." Lucy replied, slowly. It was obvious she was careful not to sound cruel toward the Lady Clarence.
"Then I suppose that is a good thing." I said.
"Oh, indeed it is. For the servants and ladies-in-waiting alike anyway." Lucy said, placing her goblet down and she leaned forward to whisper to me. "But there is a rumour round the court, that some of the nobles do not take to kindly to her, they think she should not treat those of lower birth as she does, in equal manner."
I inwardly frowned. I had never been one to take an interest in court gossip for I knew such a thing could be dangerous, history had proven in countless times, but at the though of it affecting people of my ranking, I could not help myself. "Who says such things?" I asked.
Lucy gave a small shrug. "The usual ones, I except. I have not heard the rumour from the mouths of those that started it."
"And who do you expect started the rumour."
"At a gamble." Lucy began, not that she was at all a gambling person. "I would probably think it would be Lord Samuel Grafton and Lord Geoffrey Tiploft."
"Who are they?" I asked, for I didn't recognise the names.
"Two nobleman, as you would expect. Lord Geoffrey is from Lancashire and Lord Samuel, from the rivalling county of Yorkshire."
"Yet they both get on?"
"To an extent, they only seem to stay in each others company, although they have approached me from time to time."
"Why did they approach you?" I asked, now slightly worried for my companion.
"For general talk, general banter. The Lord Geoffrey has a taste for music and he knows that I am quite skilled, so on occasion he asks for advice in the sonnets he writes." She must have noticed my worried expression, for she then added. "It is all courtly like. I can grant they have no interest in me."
Myself and Lucy had to end our gossip there as our Mistress' voice rang with authority as she summoned us. We quickly stood, Lucy placed her quill on a wooden table and left the small servants chamber for the Lady Elizabeth's own. With Elizabeth stood the Lady Constance, her bright blonde hair subtly complimenting her light blue gown. She wore a golden rosary around her neck, decorated with rich pearls and sapphire gems. It was clear that this Frenchwoman was a Catholic, for those of the reformed faith never adorned themselves with such expensive jewels when expressing their faith. I, myself was of the Protestant faith but I had no quarrel with those who preferred to be ruled by Rome, for in the end we all believe in the same one, true God.
I acknowledged the two noblewomen with a deep curtsy and fetched some spiced wine for the two. Lady Constance smiled warmly at me as I filled her goblet. I gave a polite nod in return before retreating to the back of the chamber alongside Lucy. I decided to indulge myself in some of Thomas Wyatt's poetry, but in truth my eyes only scanned the words as, despite the fact in knowing I should not, I began to listen to the conversation between my Mistress and her French companion.
"Already the Seymour brothers are making themselves the power behind the throne." I heard Lady Constance say nonchalantly, only to hear Elizabeth reply, in albeit a more bitter manner.
"That doesn't surprise me. As soon as they found places at court they attempted to be Puppet Masters and now they have succeeded."
"I cannot help but feel sorry for His Majesty. He's just a child." Constance sighed.
Elizabeth frowned. "There's little we can do, we shall jut have to wait until the King is of age to rule alone."
"Yes, the Dukes and Earls already look for an heir from the King, forcing a marriage between His Majesty and Mary of Scots. There are soldiers fighting in the cold North over it as we speak."
"Fighting over a marriage. Pathetic!" I am surprised that I do recognise the voice, for I know that the speech did not escape from either Elizabeth or Constance's lips. I was quickly clapped my hand over my mouth, it just dawning that the voice that had spoken was my fixed me with a hard stare.
"My lady. I am so sorry, I spoke out of turn. Forgive me." I bowed my head to hide my face and my lady's piercing stare.
To my surprise, I heard Constance speak. "I find myself heartily agreeing with you. I don't believe know your name."
"It is Joan, my lady." I reply, keeping back a stammer as I dared to look to the Frenchwoman. Her features held no sarcasm or disapproval and for that I am glad, but I had a nervous feeling that Elizabeth would chastise me for my boldness later.
"Why do you think it is pathetic, this war with the Scots that your betters are so bent on winning?" Constance asked in curiosity.
I glance nervously at my Mistress and her expression seems stoic. I decide to answer the question that Lady Constance had asked. "I find it a waste of resources and the only outcome we shall gain, even in victory, is the hatred of the Scottish commoners. Once more they will be tied to the English throne and they will fighting for freedom once more, just as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce did against Edward I."
"You make some excellent points, Mistress Joan. I grant that, were you born a man, you would make a fine Councillor to the King." Constance commented. I have little time to reply as she then speaks again. "You are well versed in history?" She asked.
"Yes, my lady. I enjoy it very much. I am also well versed in languages such as French, German, Gaelic and Latin."
My pride that I was famous for amongst the Thorpe family, whom I used to serve, must have shone through for then Lady Elizabeth spoke up rather abruptly. "Well, I think we have discussed enough of politics. Tell me of France, Constance."
I was totally ignored. Even though I had learnt the people's native tongue, I have never held any real love for the country, my English patriotism was strong and I held the same opinion as the majority of English peoples. The French were nothing but vain, cheats and cowards. Henry V had proved as much at Agincourt. Having no interest in the conversation I continued with my poetry, all the while knowing that Elizabeth had chosen the topic to spite me.
It had grown late when the Lady Constance left to retire to her chambers. The door had only just shut with a soft click and Elizabeth with a glare and flick of her wrist dismissed Lucy from the chamber. Lucy gave me a worried glance before doing as Elizabeth had gestured.
Elizabeth slowly walked toward me, her steps like that of a lioness preparing to pounce. Once she stood a few inches away from me, she leaned close so that I could not escape her blue eyes that were tense with anger.
"How dare you speak when you are not spoken to." She hissed through clenched teeth. "
"My lady, I apol-" I started.
"I do not want your apology, Mistress Joan. I want you to listen." There was a tense silence I quickly nodded. "None of my ladies speak to anyone of higher noble birth than themselves in such a reckless manner, especially when discussing politics. Normally I would punish such behaviour, but since it is your first mistake, I shall be merciful just this once. However, I shall not be so forgiving again."
I nodded, Elizabeth had not shouted at me, but there was clear danger in her tone."I shall do my utmost best to remember and reflect on what you have said." I decided to reply.
"See that you do." Was Elizabeth's signal was made, but judging by her expression it was best not to linger any further. I hastened a quick curtsy and left my Mistress' presence and as I walked away, I could feel her eyes watching me.
Lucy's eyes alighted on me when I entered the chamber we both shared. Once having shut the door, I looked down at my hands which were shaking with anger. I had never enjoyed taking orders. I liked to voice my opinion to the world, but alas, how little it was heeded. I sat on my bed and heaved a sigh, I unfastened the hood on my head and removed it, allowing my cool brown hair to fall freely to my shoulders.
"What was said?" Lucy asked me, approaching me tentatively.
I shook my head and ran a hand through my thick hair. "Little was said, but words weren't needed. I could feel the Lady Elizabeth's anger just by looking at her, the anger was seething off her."
"Did she see fit to punish you?" Lucy asked, concerned.
"No." I replied, biting back my anger. I was sick of my companion's question. I preferred to be alone when I had been ired. I could not confide in Lucy in how I felt about Elizabeth, at least not yet, I hardly knew the woman. I needed to find some friends at court and fast, one who was of the same mindset and held the same opinions as I.
"Then what are you going to do?" Lucy asked.
"I don't know!" I replied, voice raised. "There isn't much I can do."
Lucy then fell silent and at her silence a sudden surge of guilt overwhelmed me. I didn't enjoy shouting at others, but sometimes my anger got the better of me. However, I ignored the guilt that I felt in the pit of my stomach, as much as I would have liked to apologise, I was not in the right mindset to do so.
Nothing more was said between us. I stood and prepared myself for bed, albeit quite violently. In my anger, I threw my dresses and other pieces of clothing into my chest before I climbed into bed. I fell asleep my thoughts clouded with my anger at Elizabeth. Sadly, as much as I disliked it, I often held grudges against those that had ired me, even in the smallest of matters.
It seemed I wasn't the only one either, the Lady Elizabeth saw it fit to keep me from any fun activities, she proclaimed that a disrespectful and disobedient servant was not permitted such rewards. I watched from under a tree as all of Elizabeth's other ladies merrily picked apples from the garden while I was supposed to watch to guard my Mistress' hound.
A few hours had passed and I sat playing with a lock of hair that had escaped from my hood. I squinted at the sound of approaching footsteps on soft grass and looked up to see Kate approaching me, donned in her riding habit. I made no response, however, still feeling ired by my Mistress' pushing aside of me.
Kate remained standing and didn't as much flinch as she allowed Elizabeth's hound to sniff at her feet. "How would you like to join myself and Lord Hugh for a ride?" My friend asked.
I was surprised at this question. "I would not wish to interrupt anything and what of Lady Elizabeth?"
Kate gave a dismissive wave of her hand. "You wouldn't be interrupting anything. Myself and Hugh are only courting, we are not married yet and I spoke to Elizabeth earlier, she seems to just want you out of the way, judging my her quick response."
"Not too much out of the way, I hope." I mumbled. For I knew now, Kate having told me what Elizabeth had said of me, that I would be constantly watching my back or waiting for my food or drink to be poisoned. I looked up to find Kate giving me a confused look and so to clarify I asked. "So has Lady Elizabeth given me permission to go riding?"
"Yes, of course. I would not have invited you otherwise." She replied. Then a smirk formed on her lips. "Besides, Joan, I grant you get into trouble without my help."
I had to laugh at that, for indeed as more often than not, Kate was correct. "You know me too well."
Kate smiled and her brown eyes sparkled in jest. "Now, hurry up. The King will be married by the you start to move."
I grinned at that, for all at court knew the rough wooing was going to Hereford's plan. I jumped up from where I sat on the grass and followed Kate to the palace, my yellow dress gliding softly along the wood floor. The hallways were quiet, as it was still early and myself and Kate laughed with one another as we spoke of our home county. Suddenly though we both fell silent as Thomas Seymour, the King's Uncle passed. Thomas Seymour was a rogue and all at court knew it, as he walked he held an arrogant air about himself and he glanced at myself and Kate, in not an entirely platonic. My blue-grey eyes looked with his dark and instantly I glared, I'd heard enough rumours about the man to know he was dangerous and not at all chivalrous and to add all that he was currently out of favour with his brother, Edward Seymour, the Duke of Hereford, who, more than anyone, save for the Duke of Northumberland held the King's ear. Seeing me glared, Thomas smirked at me, not all fazed by my clear disgust. Once he had passed, Kate let out a snort of laughter, one she had been holding when she saw me glare, unlike like most, Kate knew my hostile glares were only a threat and that I would not cause harm, unless I felt the dire need to. I was one to stand up for others rather than myself. Mentally I shook my head clear of thoughts, for now, I had a ride with Kate and Hugh to look forward to and escape Elizabeth's ever watchful gaze.