Alisa Libby The King's Rose

ISBN 13: 9780525479703

The King's Rose

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9780525479703: The King's Rose

Life in the court of King Henry VIII is a complex game. When fifteen-year-old Catherine Howard catches the king?s eye, she quickly transforms from pawn to queen. But even luxury beyond imagination loses its luster as young Catherine finds her life?and her heart?threatened by the needs of an aging king and a family hungry for power. Will their agendas deliver Catherine to the same fate as her infamous cousin, Anne Boleyn?sacrificed at the altar of family ambition?

Engaging historical fiction with a throbbing YA heartbeat, this thrilling novel will draw readers into the intrigues and dangers of the Tudor court.

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About the Author:

Alisa M. Libby lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

 

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

 

THE KING’S ROSE

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

XIV

XV

XVI

XVII

XVIII

XIX

XX

XXI

XXII

XXIII

XXIV

XXV

XXVI

XXVII

XXVIII

XXIX

XXX

XXXI

XXXII

XXXIII

XXXIV

XXXV

XXXVI

XXXVII

XXXVIII

XXXXIX

XL

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE CONTRARIOUS PASSIONS IN A LOVER

Acknowledgements

DUTTON BOOKS

A member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

 

 

PUBLISHED BY THE PENGUIN GROUP

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. | Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) | Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England | Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) | Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) | Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India | Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) | Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa | Penguin Books Ltd, Registered

Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2009 by Alisa M. Libby

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any
information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission
in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in
connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.

 

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume
any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

 

CIP Data is available.

 

 

Published in the United States by Dutton Books,
a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
www.penguin.com/youngreaders

 

 

 

 

eISBN : 978-1-101-02468-3

This book is
dedicated to my mother,
Bernice Vicki Moskowitz,
who likes a bit of romance
with her history.

THE KING’S ROSE

I

The Thames is a messenger of fortune, rippling smoothly beneath the prow of this barge. The curtains flutter in the cool spring breeze; silver moonlight filters through their thin silk.

When I was a child and knew nothing about court life, I watched my cousin Anne Boleyn set across this very water, not long after her secret marriage to King Henry. The king’s first wife had been banished from court in order for Anne to take her place upon the throne. The gold curtains of Anne’s royal barge were flung open to reveal her, gowned in sparkling white satin and draped in jewels. King Henry awaited her on the steps of the Tower of London, where they would spend the night together before her glorious coronation as queen. Anne’s long black hair glistened like satin in the sunlight, and the panels of her jeweled gown shifted to reveal the round belly beneath—already pregnant with a prince, an heir. Or so we all thought.

Years later Queen Anne had a much different voyage to the Tower, this one void of fanfare—or reverence. But it is best not to think of Anne, and the sorcery she used to entrap the king. She creeps into my daydreams when I least desire to find her there.

“It will not be for long,” Lady Rochford reassures me. She pulls a curtain aside and smiles, enchanted by the moonlight sparkling upon the dark water. We are not going to the Tower, of course. In the distance I see the torches lit before the red brick façade of Lambeth—my former home, from my former life. I lived here before I went to court and became “that Howard girl who caught the king’s eye.” I imagine my grandmother, the dowager Duchess of Norfolk, pacing the front hall and peering out the mullioned windows to spy my approach.

“I know, Jane. The king thought it best that I stay at Lambeth, for a time,” I tell Lady Rochford, just as my uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, informed me earlier today. The king is not displeased with me. It is simply for the best, I was told as the servants hastily packed my trunks. I was given no further information. The king’s will be done, as my father used to say with his strange mixture of bitterness and awe.

What would Father think if he saw me, now? The moonlight winks darkly upon the tear-shaped sapphire suspended from a gold chain around my neck. It’s not the type of necklace a lady-in-waiting in the queen’s household would wear, not even a lady of considerable means. And definitely not Catherine Howard, the daughter of disfavored Edmund Howard, who died penniless years ago in spite of his powerful family name. The sapphire was a gift to me, from the king. And it was only the beginning.

“I saw the queen before we departed. Her trunks were being packed, as well,” I inform Lady Rochford, though she already knows. “Where was she going?”

“Don’t worry about her, Catherine,” she answers, her voice quiet, dreamy. “Don’t waste your time worrying about her.” But I can’t help but worry about the queen—King Henry’s fourth bride, shipped to England from Cleves, Germany, at the start of this year. Anne of Cleves was intended to rejuvenate the king after his long mourning for his third wife, Jane Seymour. But this seems unlikely; the German princess was not as pretty as her portrait, and King Henry’s disappointment was clear.

I came to court last autumn to serve the new queen, and awaited her winter arrival with the rest of her ladies-in-waiting. But by early spring the gift of the sapphire made the focus of the king’s affection clear for all to see. At fifteen years old, I am on the brink of gaining great wealth and great privilege for my family. Or so I have been told. I had best act properly, I am often reminded, or else squander all of our chances. The king is forty-nine and not as well as he once was. Time is precious, fleeting.

The Thames is a messenger of fortune, be it good or ill.

II

I am swiftly ushered to my apartments upon arrival at Lambeth—elegantly appointed chambers near the duchess’s own, nothing like when I lived here as one of her many charges, sleeping side by side in a row of beds in the maidens’ chamber. A long wooden box lies upon the bed. The duchess’s servants crowd around me, smiling expectantly. Their eyes flicker like candles. “Where is the duchess?”

“She will be with you soon, Catherine. Look.” The servant moves forward, touching the box with eager fingers. “This arrived earlier today, along with the message that you would be joining us. Don’t you want to look?”

My fingertip traces the image carved into the center of the box—a Tudor rose. I’ve received gifts in such boxes before, but never one as large as this. With a glance at Jane, I lift the lid, the motion followed by a wave of sighs. A cream silk gown is nestled in the box before me; the ladies crowd in for a closer look.

“There is a letter,” I proclaim, plucking the parchment from the box and bending my head over the slanted script, wary of the prying eyes surrounding me.

I hope this gown will suit your pleasure, as surely you suit mine. I look forward to seeing you wear it and can think of no more lovely young lady to which to present this gift, from your

Henricus Rex

“Oh, how exquisite. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jane declares.

“You haven’t?” I inquire, but Jane does not answer. Jane’s late husband, Lord Rochford, was George Boleyn—Anne’s brother. Jane was lady-in-waiting to Anne when she was queen. Did she really never see Queen Anne in a gown such as this?

It is the type of gown I’ve always dreamed of wearing. As a child I had only my sister Isabel’s shabby outgrown dresses to wear. Even at Lambeth I was envious of the sophisticated ladies in the maidens’ chamber, only to later be awestruck by the elegant attire of my fellow ladies at court. But this far surpasses anything they flaunted before my covetous gaze. The silk is deliciously soft to the touch, the bodice embroidered with gold thread and hundreds of delicate pearls.

“Wait until the king sees you, my dear”—Jane gushes, admiring the ample silk skirt—“from a girl to a princess in just one day.”

“Wait until all of those snobs in the queen’s household see you,” one maid exclaims, “arrayed like royalty.” The ladies giggle, sharing my revelry.

“Wait until all of court sees me.” I hold the gown to my chest and stand before the mirror, admiring the twinkling bodice in the candlelight. “Even the gift of a sapphire can’t quite compare to this.” I smile, remembering when my fellow ladies-in-waiting saw the first concrete evidence of the king’s affection: the deep blue-purple refractions of the stone glittered in their eyes.

“Imagine the look on the faces of those handsome grooms,” one of the younger girls waxes dreamily. “All of the courtiers, the lords and ladies. Imagine the look on the face of your cousin Thomas Culpeper.”

I flinch at the sound of his name. Jane’s eyes turn sharp, piercing through me—we’ve talked about this already. I swallow, compose myself, and attempt a slight smile. I blink rapidly, smoothing my palms over the full skirt. Suddenly my fingers feel numb, the softness of the silk no longer registering upon my skin.

The door to my chamber opens, and a tall figure emerges from the shadows. A single glance from the duchess silences the servants’ chatter.

“I must speak with Catherine alone,” the duchess says smoothly. The servants move away from me, receding into shadows and filing silently out of the room. Jane squeezes my arm swiftly before departing.

The duchess walks into the ring of light created by the cheerful fire and the lit candles on my dressing table. Even in this golden light she appears hard, silvery, her sterling hair swept back from her white face. She levels her steel-gray gaze at me and smiles.

“The gown is beautiful, Catherine,” she says, lifting it from my arms and spreading it out carefully upon the bed; she caresses it lovingly. “We will have it fitted while you are here.”

“Is the king to visit me here?” I ask, feigning composure. For all the times I’ve met him in the palace gardens, played my lute for him, or danced before him in the great hall, I’ve never been alone with King Henry.

“Do you know why he sent you here?”

“The Duke of Norfolk assured me I had not displeased the king,” I state, instantly defensive. “I’ve charmed him. I’ve done all that you told me to do.”

“Calm yourself, Catherine.” She moves to a corner of the room and lifts a glass decanter of wine from a small table, filling two goblets. I feel uneasy watching the duchess pour wine for me. Her face is serene, but there is a certain energy sparking around her; I can see it in spite of how carefully she moves. “Your uncle Norfolk is correct, you have not displeased the king. Quite the contrary. Please.” She hands me a full goblet and gestures to a chair before the mirror. She sits across from me upon the bed, her rich black satin gown a stark contrast to the cream silk lying beside her. “It was the king’s order that you were sent here.”

“Norfolk told me. But why did the king remove me from court?”

“He thought it prudent that you be sent away before the queen is relocated. She will be sent to Richmond, to escape the threat of the plague and take in the country air.” The duchess sips primly from her own goblet, then sets it upon the table.

“There is a threat of plague? In London?”

“Of course not, fool.” But she smiles, amused instead of frustrated. “Don’t you think the king would be the first to take to the country if there were? No, no, he will stay at court and brave the false threat of contagion. It will not be long now before their marriage is deemed null and void on the basis of a preexisting betrothal contract for Anne of Cleves with the Marquis of Lorraine, and nonconsummation of her marriage to King Henry.”

“He will divorce the queen,” I murmur, rolling the meaning of these words over in my mind. “Already?”

“Oh, you cannot play the fool with me, Catherine. You did not truly think that our king would stay married to that Flanders Mare?”

“Will I return to court when the divorce is final?”

“In a matter of speaking.” The duchess’s eyes fairly glow in the dimness. “After the wedding.”

“The wedding?”

She stares at me for a moment. Extending her arm, she places her cold hand upon mine.

“The time has come, Catherine. King Henry intends to make you his bride.”

She smiles at me. I blink back at her.

“King Henry intends?”

“To make you his bride,” she repeats. Her eyes are focused upon mine. “I expect you will be wed before the summer is done.”

My heart rises in my throat, as though I have just swallowed a living thing. I knew this was their goal, eventually, but the sudden reality of it shudders through me. Cousin Anne waited years for King Henry’s separation from his first wife . . . oh, but I can’t think about Anne, now.

“So soon?” My voice cracks slightly. I clear my throat. “I did not know . . . it is all . . . I didn’t know it would happen so soon. That he would be rid of the queen—” I clear my throat again, trembling hands clasped tightly around the goblet. “Anne of Cleves is a princess. I am not even—”

“He has chosen a common girl before—don’t forget your cousin Anne, and Jane Seymour. Neither one with royal blood. But you are not common, Catherine. You are a Howard, and our family is among the most powerful at court.”

My mind swims; the golden light in the room seems liquid, blurred.

“The king has made his choice, Catherine, and he chooses you. Norfolk said King Henry has described you as a jewel of womanhood. He loves your freshness, your innocence.”

There is something literal about the way she says that word: innocence.

“The king knows that he has little time to waste,” the duchess adds, and looks at me darkly. “Do you know what is required of you, as the king’s wife?”

“A child,” I state, “a son.” I drain my wine in great gulps and set the goblet upon the dressing table.

“An heir, Catherine—your...

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