Romance Fiction posted March 5, 2017

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What really happened between HenryTudor and Anne of Cleves

The Flanders Mare chapter 1

by Cass Carlton

It had been settled.
I was to become Queen of England by marrying Henry, England's lately widowed king.

My sister Amelia would have been far more suitable, being very pretty and accomplished in painting and singing, but somehow it was my portrait the king had fancied and so it was I who was about to make the uncomfortable trip to Calais on the coast and then across the channel to England.

The morning before I left on the long trip from Germany I was busy finishing with the dried comfrey and other herbs I had readied for storage through Winter.

It had always been my task since I had left the schoolroom.

I loved it dearly and knew I'd miss it when I became Queen of England.

I must have sighed more heavily than I intended because Dame Domitilla rose from her seat at the window and stood beside me taking my hands in her own.

Dame Domi, as we called her, was a skilled apothecary and herbalist.
She had been in charge of Mother's still room for as long as I could remember.
I knew she had been in Mother's employ since before her marriage to Papa.
They were devoted friends and Dame Domi was Mother's most trusted confidante.

"Anne," she said, fixing me with her bright, beady eyes, "you have only one thing to fear when you go to England."

"What might that be good Dame?" I asked politely, not wanting to offend her.
She hesitated for a moment and then said, "Beware the witch's cat."
I stared back at her in puzzlement.

"A witch's cat?" I repeated, and broke into a smile.
Her black eyes bored into mine with an intensity that surprised me.

"Yes, " she hissed, "the witch's cat's name is a secret, but if you learn it and call it by name it must obey you."

She reeled against the table where I had piled the comfrey and I grabbed her and settled her back into her chair by the window.

I realized she had had another of her "turns"so I prepared a cup of warmed wine for her and held it to her lips.
She sipped a few mouthfuls and then with a knowing look at me took the cup and drank it down.
She knew I had added something to the wine to calm her, but as I had been her apt and obedient pupil, she trusted me implicitly.

"Remember", she said softly, "the witch's cat has no power over you if you know his name. He may fear you and hate you but he dare not harm you or allow harm to come to you."

Her eyes closed drowsily as the wine, with the little something I'd popped in, began to take effect.
She gazed at me for a long moment, lids drooping over bright eyes. Then with a sigh she laid back in the wide chair, drew the rug up to her chin and settled down to sleep.

It wasn't an unusual occurrence for Dame Domitilla to have one of her odd little turns so I didn't pay a lot of attention to it as I made ready for the journey which would change my life forever.
I went on with my work, watching over her as she slept, like a mother hen with her chicken.
I had been Domitilla's diligent pupil and she taught me all she knew. After I had absorbed all she had to teach, I studied all the books in Papa's library, and questioned every wandering apothecary and herbalist I met.

My knowledge soon surpassed Dame Domitilla's although I never actually let her know just how far my learning had gone.

Nor did I ever allow her to know just what I had learned about the supposedly innocuous herbs I came upon or the ways in which they were used to prevent certain events happening in a woman's life.

But, having learned something which I felt was worthy of note, it went into a large, secret herbal of my own, that never left my possession.
It was written in my native German with cryptic references that only I would understand as an added precaution against any individual who might be inquisitive enough to look within.

Dame Clothilde, my nurse since childhood, was to accompany me on the journey. Apart from her I had few familiar faces in my entourage.
It had been Henry's instructions that I bring as few of my people as I needed, as he would supply a full household as soon as we were married.
There were two other members of our household that I had insisted were included in my retinue. One was Jacques, a man who had once saved me from a wild dog, and the other was his sister, Mariposa. She was to be my maid and body servant.
She was a tall rangy woman with long dark hair and a strange, almost ethereal expression on her small, elfin face. When she smiled her eyes lit up like green glass, and her voice was soft and melodious.
She had the knack of being able to sing anyone to sleep, and had been invaluable to the ladies whose infants and little children she had taken care of.

She spoke German and French as well as Latin and Greek, but was strangely reticent about speaking in English, which her brother Jacques spoke like a native.

Jacques had taught us both to speak English, but I was a bit out of touch with the language.
Although I understood perfectly, at times I was a little hesitant in answering, having to recall the words and their pronunciation. Given time I could converse in English as well as anyone. but in the meantime I needed to practice diligently.
Mariposa was a bright, merry companion. She wasn't at all bothered by the idea of leaving home. It seemed to me she was almost impatient to be gone, so I had no qualms about taking her away from her place at my sister's fireside.
Her brother told her the news and within a morning she had settled her affairs, given her large black dog to a watchman and came smiling to my side.

The next day dawned with a grey sky and threatening clouds and it rained solidly from the departure and tearful farewells at the front door of our ancestral home, to the arrival at Calais where we put to sea almost immediately.

I was almost sick with mal de mer, but I had prepared a tisane of ginger and other herbs which settled my queasy stomach and also Dame Clothilde's.
Thankfully I noted her almost immediate response to the warm fluid and settled down to brave the rest of the wild weather.

Mariposa stood out on the deck, wrapped in a long dark cloak, her hair blowing in the winds and laughing at the gale. She was a magnificent sailor.

I made myself comfortable in the small cabin, reading through some recipes to place in my leather bound , already bursting, herbal, while Dame Clothilde went on with her needlework until she drowsed off to sleep.
At last the lookout cried "Land Ho" and I knew I was within the kingdom of the man I was to marry.

Once in shore the waters were less choppy and so we came at last to the Golden Goose Inn where we thankfully gave ourselves up to the ministrations of Mine Host and his bouncy, talkative wife.

She and Mariposa immediately set up a conversation about the weather, the food and some other subject which required a great deal of nodding, giggling and rolling of the eyes.
Mariposa wasn't given to casual chatter and I wondered what they were talking about so animatedly. I decided that since she was happy and performing her tasks ably I wouldn't intervene.
From the coast we continued inland along utterly foul roads to Rochester. There was a religious house in Rochester where we were made welcome and I was so weary after the long journey I was glad to stop and recover myself.
I sat by the fire in an upstairs room after partaking of a small repast.
The room was warm and I had taken my shoes off and set them by the fire to dry.
I was bareheaded in an old black velvet gown, with not a jewel at my neck or ears, drowsing over a warm posset of chicken broth, almost asleep when the world broke in on my reverie.

With a crash and a shower of sparks, a log in the fireplace fell back, startling me into wakefulness as a clatter of hooves and shouts made a pandemonium in the courtyard below.

A company of men had arrived and lost no time in hurling themselves up the stairs and pushing into the quiet room, filling it with the scents of Orris root, wet clothing and horseflesh.
Henry had come to meet me.

To be continued

Erotic Fiction Story contest entry


This began as a short story about Henry 8th's fourth wife Anne of Cleves. The history books once claimed that Anne was a bucolic German Hausfrau, but I never quite believed it. Later texts have borne out my belief that she was in fact a clever diplomat, a wise companion and an attractive woman.
This first chapter is 1600plus words long, but to shorten it or halve it would upset the flow. Subsequent chapters won't be as long as this one.
Please enjoy and feel free to review and comment. Cass
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