There were no daisies for Michaelmas.
The Condessa de Penalva had brought harvest fruits from the offerings in the Chapel Royal. They made a fine show, Dona Maria whispered, but the fruits had been put on boxes and in cornucopias to disguise how few they were. The apples in the enameled bowl were small and rust-speckled. The dogs huddled miserably in a corner, and down in the Pebble Court, water pooled and turned the humped cobblestones into archipelagoes.
“At least we have the Muscovites’ furs!” Charles said.
The Muscovite coat was dyed and painted leather, lined with thick fur. The garment dragged Catherine’s shoulders down, though it helped to take away the chill. The beaver hat pushed down her curls and weighed on her head like a crown.
“Better, my wife?”
Catherine had forgotten the worst thing about winter: Winter comes round every year.
“I cannot get warm.” She spoke from under the ridiculous hat.
“Build up the fire; Her Majesty is cold,” Dona Maria called to the chambermaids.
“There is no need,” Catherine replied, but she was shivering, truly. She turned to Charles. “Will you share fire and supper with me, my husband?”
“I must sup elsewhere, wife; I have a harvest to bless.” He smiled at her, touching his hand to her stomach. “And may the harvest you prepare us bless all England.”
He kissed her and took his leave. The room was smaller, colder, with him out of it. “I will sit,” she said. “These weigh so much.”
“Will you have them off, ma’am?”
She was cold all the way to her bones. The warm baths and long rides of the summer seemed a thousand years away. “Not yet.” She gestured to Feliciana. “Come to me.” The little dog nuzzled under the furs with her, a warm, comforting weight against her belly.
She was tired, tired. In Lisbon, there would still be sea-bathing on St. Michael’s Day; the days would be short now but the twilights would be long, butter-yellow. At the convent she would have been walking in the gardens with nothing over her shoulders but a shawl. Here in London, beyond the tiny blurred roundels of glass, the rain runneled down, and she was cold in furs.
“Madam, do you choose to dine in the presence chamber?”
“Are there suitors?” There were always suitors here at Whitehall, looking for favors or curious to see her. Whitehall was closing round her again: Whitehall of schemes, Whitehall of enemies, Whitehall of lies.
“A few to see you, Alteza, but no petitions.”
And now there was this gossip that her husband had actually married Monmouth’s mother. Charles would not have done so. She rubbed her aching stomach, disturbing little Feliciana. She must show herself to them unconcerned. She had made her husband lie and bend the law; she had lied herself and denied the Faith by denying her Catholic marriage. She must show herself pregnant, triumphant, carrying the heir to the English throne. No matter how she felt.
She tried to rise; her shivering and the warmth of the fire made her sink down. “No, we will eat by the fire, here. Tell them to come back tomorrow. Tell them to disturb my husband the king instead.”
One of the maids of the bedchamber tittered. Dona Maria hushed her.
Her women bustled around her, bringing a table, chairs. She leaned back, away from the nauseating smell of stewed chicken. Saliva came up in her throat and of a sudden she was feverish hot. She knew what the laughter meant. Disturb my husband. A harvest to bless. Her husband was not at some English harvest feast; he was with Barbara.
She asked Dona Maria in Portuguese, “Has she had her child?”
Catherine snatched up her napkin and held it over her mouth. There was nothing to fear from Barbara; her children might carry their father’s image like new-minted coins, but Catherine had a child too.
You, my little one, you who sit so imperiously in my body, calm yourself. You will be king. You are your father’s heir.
She put down the napkin. A queen always controls herself. “Bring the harvest fruits to our table.” Next year, sweet little king-to-be, you will see the harvest in its abundance. Next year there will be a glorious autumn, with sweet rains only, with yellow suns and long sunsets.
“Bring me my mother’s flowers,” she told Dona Maria. “We must have flowers to grace the table.”
Dona Maria brought from its place on her prie-dieu the enameled spray of flowers that her mother had given her. Catherine took it, the gilded stems and bright petals, and held it next to her body.
The royal family of Portugal owned three sprays of golden roses from the Pope, the Pope’s blessing to a faithful servant of the Church. When she was a child, Catherine had been fascinated by the ever-blooming golden blossoms. She had wanted to climb up on the altar, to pull them down and smell them. She had thought that they would smell like real roses, that they would be soft-petaled and waxy-leaved.
Before Catherine had left Lisbon, her mother had sold some of her...