Elizabeth Wyatt followed her future mother-in-law into the private dining hall, where the King and the two Princes were waiting for them. A few steps behind followed Lady Cecily Deighton, the Queen's Lady-in-waiting for 6 years now.
Queen Mary had a strong dislike for Cecily. For all the years that she had been at court the King had been chasing her, but without luck. Cecily remained at a discreet distant of the King during public affairs and didn't give in to him, at least that is what she was portraying to the outside world. Mary had a feeling that there had indeed happened something between the two of them, why else would the king still seek her out?
Lady Cecily went everywhere with the Queen, obviously not because the Queen wished it so, but because the King had commanded it. Cecily was now chief lady-in-waiting.
'Hello husband.' the Queen curtseyd to King Thomas and then greeted her children. Elizabeth follwed in her footsteps and also curteseyd to the King.
'Good evening, Your Highness.' she said. The king raised her up again and kissed her on the cheek. Elizabeth's relationship with her future father in law was nothing out of the ordinary. He treated her with kindness and with the respect she deserved as the future Queen of England, but you could tell that he had no fatherly affection for her. The King never had any interest in having a daughter, boy's were all that mattered to him and this girl, this Elizabeth Wyatt, dimished his interest even more by being off limits. Sure, Elizabeth was a beautiful girl in the prime of her youth, just 18 years old, but she was enganged to his eldest son and so even if he wanted to have her, she could never be his, not even in secret.
Elizabeth moved on to greet her betrothed and Richard. 'Hello Henry.' she said sweetly and curteseyd to him. In all those years of being betrothed there was never a spark between the two of them, even worse; it seemed like Henry started to hate her and Elizabeth didn't know what to do about he. He avoided her in private, and merely acknowledged her in public. They didn't talk much, but the servants gossip went through the whole castle and supposedly he had said that he found Elizabeth too ugly, annoying and unworthy of the position that she was granted.
'Hello.' Henry said uninterested and walked away from her to go to his seat at the dining table. And so Elizabeth was left alone with Richard. He looked at her with sympathy.
Elizabeth and Richard were close in age, just a year apart and they got along quite wonderfully. In Richard, Elizabeth had found a playmate for the first years of her betrothal to Henry, but their bond had turned to friendship as the years went by. Richard saw the troubled look on Elizabeth's face and said: 'Don't worry about it, soon you will be married and then he is oblidged to spend time with you out of public affairs and then he will grow to like you, maybe even love you, just like everyone else does.'
'You think? I am starting to think that all hope is lost for us. He clearly hates me and I am not very fond of him either. What a husband and wife we will make.' Elizabeth tried to make a joke out of it, but a smile would not come.
Just when Richard was planning to respond to what she had said, the King bellowed through the dinging room: 'Come, lets's sit and eat. I am starving!' and without another glance Elizabeth left Richard's side and took her place at the table.
The King and Queen sat at opposite ends of the table and on one of the other sides the two Princes sat, with Elizabeth sitting straight across from Henry. Lady Cecily was standing on a discreet distant behind the Queen. Her head demulery bowed and yet the King could not keep his eyes of her during the presenting of various different courses of food.
It was a long time ago since Mary last enjoyed her meal. Mary no longer had any appetite, not for years. She could not eat whilst Lady Cecily remained at court, it was like her heart had gone into her stomach and weeped it full, grievened by the love that once was between her and her husband. Now it seemed that the only love she has to give and receive is those of her children. But when both her sons will be settled in their own marriages, her motherly love won't matter to them anymore.
'My dear wife, do you not enjoy the meatpie?' the King spoke, ordering the servants to fill his plate again.
'I find it tastes rather strange today.' She putted her silver cutlery down at the table, the food on her plate had gone cold. Instead she drank from her wine. The sweet taste always seemed to give the comfort she needed during these dinners.
'I think it's excellent,' spoke the King, 'even more so. '
A soft sigh left Queen Mary's mouth, so soft that you would have to be listening intently to be able to hear it. This was exactly what the King was doing. Every conversation he had with his wife was one of careful calculation, he made sure to be in charge of the conversation and quite frankly; he made sure to be the master of his wife.
Within a few seconds everybody could feel the tenstion between the two of them and more importantly; the bad temper of the King.
Out of spite the King beckoned Lady Cecily to him. Cecily knew better than to just come running like a excited puppy when the King called her and so she first looked to her Queen for permission. Of course the Queen had to give permission; it was the wish of her lord and husband. So she nodded, jaw clenched.
Cecily gracefully stepped towards the King. Every nerve in her body seemed to hurt from keeping a perfect posture in front of the Queen, and the Kings family. One mistake was enough for the Queen to burn her own Lady in waiting down to the ground. If that happened she would lose the Kings respect and eventually his interest.
'Lady Cecily, would you mind tasting this pie for me and tell me what you think?' A silent tension suddenly washed over the dining table.
Cecily's father had made it quite clear; her affairs with the King must at all times be descreet. But right here and now, the King asked the excact opposite of her.
Lady Elizabeth was quite shocked that the King would seek Lady Cecily out like this in public. Across the table she saw the grin on Henry's face. Of course he would like this; he is utterly his father's son. What a promise for the future this would be, she thought. Richard on the other hand was just as shocked as she was, angry about the insult to his dear mother.
'If you wish it so, Your Highness..' She stepped close to the King to taste the pie. He was about to share his meal with another woman, a protestant nonetheless.
After she had tasted the pie, Cecily was torn between what to say. On the one hand she didn't wan't to offend the Queen because that could make her life a living hell, but on the other hand; if she wanted to stay in favour with the king she had to please him in her answer and so she said: 'I think it tastes very good and yet I think the flavour is a little too rich for someone of my rank.'
Cecily tried to show the Queen that she understood that she was not worthy to eat the same food as her, but in a way that would not displease the King.
Thomas started to laugh and clap the side of the chair as a way of applause. 'Lady Cecily you do have a way of saying things. Well done.'
Relieved that it was over, Cecily stepped back and prayed that she would not be tested like this again, altough she knew that this would most likely just be one of many.