Royal Decisions Part I
A/N- I have just under a month to pack up my entire life and move across the world so here’s to procrasti-writing!
Caroline is the Queen of England, roughly Tudor Era.
Queen Caroline awoke that morning firm in her resolve.
When her ladies came in to dress her that morning she pondered a while before choosing her gown of red silk with silver undersleeves and underskirt. She sat patiently as her hair was brushed until it flowed down her back in golden waves and breathed steadily while her crown was placed on her forehead.
“Fetch me the ermine cloak.” she ordered as a heavy diamond necklace was placed around her neck.
“You look beautiful Your Majesty.” Lady Katherine told her as she draped the cloak over her shoulders and Caroline watched her from the side of her eye,
She would know, she supposed. Lady Katherine had been raised in the French court and was the most fashionable albeit sauciest of her ladies, collecting men’s hearts like a squirrel collected nuts, however she could not fault the wench when she was the one who had given her the idea which she would enact today.
It was a chilly autumn morning and Caroline shivered as she led the Court from Dover Castle down to the green where the stands, tents and jousting arena had been set up. The people of Kent cheered her loudly as she approached and even in spite of her nervousness she managed to smile and wave.
The people of England adored their young and beautiful Queen.
Especially on days when they were celebrating victory.
Once again, the Spanish fleet had entered English waters and once again it had been rousted.
She walked up to her throne, underneath the canopy bearing the royal coat of arms, through the throng of bowing courtiers and loud trumpets and waved once more to the people as she sat down. She rests her hands on the arm of her chair and tries to grip the wood subtly so as to hide their trembling.
Her ladies settle around her like decorative dolls, and the nobles of the land take their position, each vying to catch her attention before the trumpets sound again and she becomes blind to her capricious butterflies.
He has arrived.
The hero of the English fleet, the man who’d captained them to victory, who’d stormed Calais and won it back from the French after her ancestor had lost it to them. The man who had first come to her attention by forcing invading Scots to retreat from the North and held it for her.
The third son of Mikael Mikaelson, Lord of Hever Castle in Kent. His eldest brother Finn alone had inherited anything from the late lord, the rest of the family had been forced to make their own way. The second son Elijah had entered the diplomatic service and even now protected her interests in France. Niklaus had gone into the army and achieved such renown on the battlefield that his enemies called him The Wolf and whispered that he was the most dangerous man to encounter in a fight. After his victory against the Scots he had asked permission to enter the navy and she had granted it out of curiosity of his abilities.
As it turned out, he was as skilled on the seas as he was on the land.
Not even thirty and already more accomplished than men twice his age.
He comes into view amidst the cheers of the crowd, he was second only to her in the hearts of the English people. Not only was he a brave and successful soldier but he was handsome and ready with a smile. He was a knight of true chivalry and honour, bringing to mind the romance of King Arthur and the Round Table.
His breast plate has been polished until it shines and his face is aglow with pride as he marches towards her, stopping before the canopy and bowing as deeply as permitted in armour.
“Good day Master Niklaus,” Caroline managed to smile, giving him leave to rise.
“We welcome you back to England with open arms and thank you for your service to our country.” She announced and his grin widened,
“I am grateful for the opportunity to have served, Your Majesty” he replies
sweetly, his blue eyes dancing and words momentarily fail her.
Oh but he was handsome.
All the women of the Court thought so. Golden hair that fell to his shoulders, blue eyes, red lips, a skilled dancer and an even better flirt.
“I am grateful that you did not fall in the water,” Caroline says before she can think to stop herself,
“I was not sure that wolves could swim.”
The Court laughs merrily and Niklaus along with them,
“When asked by the Queen herself, I am sure a wolf could take wing and fly.” he replies wittily and she fights to keep her smile regal, “We shall keep that in mind if our enemies ever take flight.”
She stands, “Come,” she calls to the crowd, “Let us feast and celebrate.”
She sees Niklaus falter uncertainly and sees the question on his face.
He had achieved the greatest victory of her reign- albeit her young reign- surely he was to be rewarded with more than thanks?
She turns away from him for the moment and to one of her ladies,
“Bring food and wine for two to my tent,” she commands and to another,
“Tell Niklaus to attend to me there”
She cut a path to the cloth of gold tent set up under a great oak tree, lain with carpets and furnished as grandly as possible. There is already ale on the table and she drinks deeply, hoping that it will go straight to her empty stomach and calm her nerves as she sends her ladies away to enjoy the festivities.
The food arrives only moments before Niklaus and she notes that he tarried only long enough to remove his breast plate, revealing his dark blue doublet underneath.
He stands there with his hands behind his back and she waves towards the food,
“We would have you dine with us,” she said, gesturing to his seat,
“And discuss the prizes we would offer you as thanks for your duty.”
She sees the relief in his face and sinks into her chair cautiously as he takes his own,
“Serving Your Majesty is reward enough.” he intones dutifully and she smirks,
“If that were true many a noble would be a peasant or as poor as one.”
He chuckles and they begin eating, him heartily, her picking at her food, making a pretence of dining as she resists the urge to have the server refill her cup more than once.
“What you managed in battle was believed to be impossible,” she begins, unable to wait until they have even finished the first course and she sees Niklaus pause before rapidly trying to swallow the food in his mouth and she feels embarrassed that she has put him in that position,
“My council was in a panic,” she continues quickly so that he doesn’t have to try to speak,
“They were certain that the Spaniards would land on our shores and were begging me to take refuge in London or even the Tower itself.”
“God forbid that we ever allow that day to come,” Niklaus said and she smiled,
“The Tower is truly not that bad, if you aren’t a prisoner it can be quite nice, the royal bed chambers are some of the best in England, warm and pleasant…”
She stops when she realises that she’s describing the rooms where she sleeps and closes her mouth before she finds herself discussing the bed curtains or some other foolishness. Meanwhile, Niklaus’ tongue darts out to lick his lips and she clears her throat,
“We have had the papers drawn up,” she informs him,
“We would show our gratitude by offering you the earldom of Leicester.”
His eyes widen in almost comical disbelief, his mouth opens and closes a few times before he can manage to speak, “An earldom? Your Majesty honours me far too…”
“It is nothing,” she interrupts, although arguably, raising the third son of a lord to an earl in one step was quite something. Filled with nervous energy she stands but waves for him to remain seated as she paced to the opening of the tent, looking out into the field of revelry despite the chilly autumn day, quickly she turned to the brazier heating up the room,
“We would have the investiture at Hampton Court,” she says as she turns the ring on her finger,
“And then we would ask something else of you.”
He stretches his legs under the table and out of the corner of her eye she sees how graceful he appears even when there are traces of exhaustion under his eyes,
“However I may serve Your Majesty I will gladly do so.”
She takes a shaky breath, “I am in need of a husband,” she announces, dropping the royal ‘we’ in her nervousness “England is in need of a Prince consort to support me in my rule.”
He frowns and falls silent as he tries to figure out his task,
“You would have me conduct the negotiations?” he asks doubtfully, Elijah being famed as the diplomat in the family and she shakes her head.
“I would have you fill that role,” she corrects, looking up briefly before her eyes flew back to the brazier, “I would have you as my husband,” she elaborates further.
“We are in need of someone who can command our army or navy,” she brings herself to look up and meet his eyes, noting that he has gone pale and his eyebrows are halfway up his forehead,
“Someone who can defend the North but does not belong to once royal stock. A strong man but not so strong as to force us from our throne into the shadows and…we will need to provide England with an heir and we are an only child whilst your mother birthed seven living children, so you are from fertile stock therefore you are a suitable candidate.”
He tried to speak and only a croak came out before he tried again,
“My brother Finn is a lord…”
She shakes her head, “Your brother Finn has been known to consort with women of ill-repute and rumours of his suffering from the French disease has reached our ears, we would not risk our lives in that manner.”
“My brother Elijah…?” he suggests weakly.
In truth, she had considered Elijah, he was an educated man, a brilliant diplomat, witty and a skilled musician. He was handsome and chivalrous, a true gentleman- however, Caroline had seen the love letters that he wrote to Lady Katherine and suspected that if she took him as husband, she would very shortly find him taking Lady Katherine as his mistress.
Besides, even if she could simply send Lady Katherine back to France or into exile anywhere in the world, the simple fact remained…
That Niklaus was very handsome and very exciting and if she did have to marry, she would marry someone who would be a source of happiness for her.
“We believe that you would be the most suitable for us,” she tells him firmly,
“Unless you have already promised yourself to another?”
The thought strikes her, even though she had heard nothing of the sort, certainly even though many a woman had swooned over him, few would be willing to match themselves with a disinherited third son.
He shakes his head, “I am free to marry.”
She smiles, “Good,” she holds out her hand and he stands up, gripping the arms of the chair to keep himself upright before making his way over to her slowly, swaying as if he were still aboard his ship.
“Then you will accept our proposal?” she asks as he takes her hand and kisses her ring,
“With all my heart.” he murmurs quietly.
She lets him go then, to join the festivities and he barely manages to make it out of the tent without tripping over something.
With a sigh of relief, Caroline nearly puts her hand on the brazier to steady herself before remembering at the last minute that it would burn her fingers clean off. She clears her throat and motions for the servant to bring her cup, having it filled to the brim before drinking deeply and deciding to try to eat,
“You will not say a word of this to anyone.” she warns them darkly as she cuts into the roast swan.
If nothing else, she didn’t want the Court to know how much she’d had to convince Niklaus to accept her hand marriage. He’d seemed rather reluctant.
She hoped the idea wasn’t too distasteful to him, if nothing else she would bring him a great deal of power.