War and History Fiction posted April 15, 2013

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A fiction based around the life of Henry Fitzroy

Conversations with a King

by PhilipCatshill

June 1525

“Is this the boy, Thomas?”

“Highness, this is the boy.”

“I will talk with him. Have you told him to whom he speaks?”

“No, your highness, he does not know.”

“Leave us, leave us. I will talk with the boy alone. Tell me boy, are you aware to whom you speak?”

“I am not, Sire, but you must be a noble man of some esteem, for the man you have dismissed is a duke.”

“You are very wise for one so young.”

“Sire, I am to be six years of age by the middle of this June.”

 “Then tell me, young sir, who is it that you call your father?”

“Why surely, Sire. Though I rarely see him, my father is the Baron Gilbert of Tailboys.”

“What would you say if I were to tell you truthfully that your father is a king?”

“But Sire, you jest. How can this be? I cannot be the son of a king. Am I not the son of my father? My father is not a king.”

“Your father is indeed the king.”

“Sire, my father is a baron, not the King. The baron is the husband of my mother, is he not?”

“Baron Tailboys is the husband of your mother, but you were born to your mother before he was her husband.”

(The boy shook his head. His curly red locks flicked like flames in the forest.)
“I do not understand, Sire. If this is not a jest, then I am the son of the King, but I am neither duke nor prince. I am called Lord Fitzroy because I am the son of a baron, nothing more. Is not the son of the king called a prince?”

“You are a prince in all but name, Henry Fitzroy. Do you not understand why you bear the name Fitzroy? Fitzroy means son of a King.”

“I do not understand, Sire. Is my mother married to the King? Surely the King is married to the queen and my mother is married to my father… I mean, the man who I thought was my father.” (The child frowned.) “But, Sire, the queen is the wife of the King. Is Queen Catherine then my mother?”

“No, your mother is Elizabeth, Bessie, the wife of Baron Tailboys. You were born to the King before your mother married. Your mother bore the name Blount. And now, the King wishes to recognise you as his son.”

“But my name is just a name, Sire. If I were the son of our noble King, then should not my name be Tudor?”

“Do we call our King Henry Tudor? Is our King known only as Henry?”

“Yes, he is the eighth king to bear that name, but I am confused. I am unsure what I am expected to respond.”

“A wise man says little, so that what he says will be wise.”

“If I am the son of the King, and I know that the King has no other, am I then to become a king?”

“One day thou may well be thus; the noble duke, Thomas Howard has thought so and has pledged his daughter to your hand. He has these hopes, I believe, that you will be Henry the ninth, King of England, King of France and King of Ireland. But we will not speak of such things. We will not talk of the death of the King. Shall we call in our noble duke, and let him in on our secret?”(The boy made no answer.) “Norfolk, bring yourself into our presence.”

“Sire, I beg you; the duke is not a man to be commanded, lest you be the king.”

“Then I best declare that I am the king.”

“Sire, are you then my father?”

“I most certainly am. I am Henry, King of England, King of France, save that the French do not call me such. I am the king, whom his holiness called his Defender of the Faith.”

(The child bowed until the locks of fire tickled the floor.) “Majesty,”

“Ah, know me now, boy; you know me now. Now ask me why I should come this time to see you. The Duke of Norfolk is here to bear witness. Your Godfather will be here shortly, and he also will bear witness.”

“My Godfather, Sire.”

“Thomas Wolsey, have you not heard of such a man?”

“I have heard, Sire, that Cardinal Wolsey is your chief minister, but not that he is my godfather. May I ask, Sire, upon what will the Cardinal bear witness?”

“Ask, you may well ask, for you are my son. And upon the day of your birth in the midst of June, all will learn it and all shall be told that you are to be the duke. Does that please you boy, that you will be called the Duke of Richmond and Somerset, son of the king?”

“All will be told, Sire. But why? Why should all have to know? What will become of our dear Queen Catherine? Will she not be displeased?”

Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk interrupted, “Do not ask such things. The king needs to show his seed has brought forth a son; that is all.”

“I do not understand such things, Sire. Am I to be the prince?  Am I to live with you, at your palace in Greenwich? Am I to return to my… my mother?”

“Within the month, you will be Henry, Duke of Richmond, Duke of Somerset. You will be called the son of the king. But no, you will not stay in my palace. You are to remain here with Thomas Here you will learn to be the son of the king.”

Ten Years later

“Sire, I was told my marriage to Mistress Howard  had your blessing.  I swear my wife is still a maiden. If this marriage is displeasing to you, then let it be annulled. I do not seek to provoke you.”

“I hear you, Richmod. This mischief is not of your making. Damn you Thomas Howard. Damn your ambitions. You are using his innocence against me. You have arranged this marriage to thwart me.”

“Highness, you cannot think this is so. The union has been arranged since the child was six. You gave it your blessing then. You have said yourself that it is an excellent match. My daughter will make a devoted wife.”

 “Oh, yes, Thomas. I see your plan. You would make your daughter a queen! I warn you, Thomas Howard. I will not allow it. I will not allow it! The Queen is with child, and this time, Thomas, Anne will give me a son. Richmond must not cause a child from this union.”

“Then Sire, it will not happen.”

“Pledge that boy. Thomas, you hear the boy. He pledges that this union will not produce a child until there is a legitimate heir.”

“Consider it pledged, Sire. Richmond will have no child until the queen produces a son.”

“A king cannot be betrayed in this. This union must not create a child, not yet awhile.”

“Sire, husband and wife they may be, but they will never be alone.”

“Then Richmond, keep your wife with my blessing.”

January 1536

“Majesty, I have ridden away and blown two horses, for the news I have news that gives me cause to haste.”

"Richmond, what message can bring you out in such a blizzard as this? Come boy, you seem unwell. Seymour, make room by the fire, lest this lad freeze. Do you recognise this man? Edward Seymour must surely know of you. Make room Seymour; let the boy sit.”

“Sire, I must convey my report before I partake of rest. It is the dowager princess; I have heard of her death.”

“Catherine? Catherine is dead. Hear that Anne? Do you heed such news? Tell me, Anne; should we mourn this passing or should we dress in our finest clothes?”

“Henry, in Spain, they wear colour yellow in their mourning. Let us share their yellow but wear it to express our joy.”

“Joy, Anne, you speak of joy? Damn you woman. What joy is there for any man who has no lawful son? Where is happiness for a king with no heir? Here, Anne, here is Richmond, Henry Fitzroy. Fitzroy, Anne, do you hear that, Fitzroy, Fitzroy, the son of a king.”

“Henry, we will have our son. See  the swelling of my belly. Already I feel his presence in my womb. I swear it. It is a boy. Sire, I am almost four months gone.”

“Oh, Anne, Anne, have we to go through this again?”

“I am carrying your son, Sire, this I swear.”

“What say you, Richmond?”

“Highness, you once told me that a wise man says little, so that what little he says, will be wise.”

“Ha, do you hear that Seymour? Did I not say that Richmond was wise for his years.”

July 1536

“Jane, you are distressed. Come, my sweetness, tell your husband. What ails thee, my love?”

 “Highness, I have news of your son, Sire, Richmond is most seriously ill with consumption. Sire, they say he is dying and may already be dead.”

“Oh, Jane, then you must give me a son, Jane. Now more than ever, I must leave a king to reign after me. Jane, give me a son.”
(Queen Jane gave birth to Edward on 12 October 1537, which was 15 months after the death of Henry Fitzroy, the only illegitimate child publicly acknowledged as the son of Henry VIII.)

Although the historical content of this story is accurate, the conversations are fictional.
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