Jean Plaidy - For a Queens Love: The Stories of the Royal Wives of Philip II

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Jean Plaidy - For a Queens Love: The Stories of the Royal Wives of Philip II
Название: For a Queens Love: The Stories of the Royal Wives of Philip II
Автор: Jean Plaidy
Издательство: неизвестно
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Дата добавления: 7 март 2020
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Charles laughed his loud Hapsburg laugh. But he was sober almost at once. Melancholy was never far off these days; in the midst of pleasure and triumph it would overtake him.

Wily Clement was his prisoner, but the Holy City was desecrated, and many would mention his name—although he had had no part in it—when the Sack of Rome was recalled.

“Holy Mother of God,” he prayed as fervently as any in the streets below, “let this not prove an evil omen to my son.”

When the Queen heard, she had the child brought to her and held him fast in her arms.

Leonor, watching her with frightened eyes, made the sign of the cross. Her lips moved. “Holy Virgin, intercede for us. Let not the wrath of God fall on this newborn child. Strike not through him, Holy Virgin, Holy Mother of God.”

She rocked to and fro on her stool, weeping for this evil thing, which had fallen on Rome.

Queen Isabella touched the baby’s fair head and prayed. The baby cried for his milk. He was small and delicate, and everyone was now looking at him with trepidation. Any day the wrath of God would strike, and how could God strike more effectively than through the Prince?

But the weeks passed and the baby began to thrive; and now it was said in the streets of Valladolid that God did not intend after all to avenge the Sack of Rome on little Philip of Spain.

TWO

The little boy with the fair hair and the pale blue eyes looked wonderingly into the dark face of the handsome woman on whose lap he sat. He loved her—loved the warm comfort of her plump breasts, the kisses and caresses which she showered on him. He loved to be rocked in her arms, to smell the scent of her—wine, onion-flavored food, and the perfume of her body mingling with the perfume she used to disguise them.

Secretly he loved her better than anyone—better than his mother, better than his little sister, the Princess Maria. His mother continually impressed upon him the need to be brave and strong; but to Leonor he was not so much Prince Philip, the heir to Spain and the Empire, as the baby boy. When with her he could suck his thumb in comfort; he could cry against her breasts; he could tell her that he was afraid of the solemn-faced men who came to look at him and talk of the greatness of Spain, and the part he would have to play in keeping it great; he could show her the bruise on his leg, the cut on his finger, and she would cluck and tut-tut and kiss to make it better. She would call him her brave little baby; and if he shed tears that would be a secret between them, because the rest of the world must believe that the Prince of Spain could never be so childish as to cry.

It was Leonor who made it possible for him to be the possessor of two personalities. Alone with her he was Little Philip, however grave and silent he was in the presence of the grandees. He was two years old, not yet breeched, still a baby, yet a Prince.

Lately he had grown jealous. Leonor loved him, but there was another. He saw Leonor’s eyes soften when she held the new baby in her lap; she would laugh with pleasure when she held up her hand and the little Maria grasped her finger. “You love her most!” Philip would accuse her. But then her eyes would flash and she would swear by the saints that that was not so. “Never … never shall I be guilty of treason to my Prince of Spain.”

“But,” the little boy replied to that, “I do not wish to be your Prince, Leonor. I wish to be your Philip.”

Then Leonor took him into her arms and kissed him tenderly. What thoughts went on behind those pale blue eyes? she wondered. They had feared his brain might not be strong; but it was. It was calm and capable of reasoning, if it was a little slow. All the delicacy was in his little body.

“Maria,” she explained, “is but a baby, and women such as I am love little babies. They do something to us. Our hearts turn over to see their helplessness. Thus it was when you were a baby; now you are my prince as well.”

And as she watched the children, Leonor compared them one with the other. Maria already showed her temperament. She was gay while her brother was solemn. Maria was a Hapsburg. There would be little to fear from Maria. But Philip … he was another matter. His gravity might please his mother and the statesmen about him, but Leonor thought it unnatural. She would have liked to see him laugh more often, not to think first: May I laugh? Is anyone watching? That was not natural in one so young.

Yes. Leonor spoke truthfully when she said she loved her Prince the better. She felt that though he was a boy and heir to half the world, he was the one who needed her love and, as Leonor herself had said, it was helpless ones whom women such as she was must love.

She sat with her arm about the Prince while she held his sister in the other and she told him of the April day more than a year ago when the great Cortes of Madrid had paid homage to him. He listened, attentive and grave, because however many times he heard her tell of this, it always seemed to be the first time.

“It was to you they paid homage … to you … my little one. I was so proud. I stood there and the tears flowed down my cheeks. My little one, and all the great men bowing before him, kissing his baby hand … the little fingers that had curled about mine. They all swore that he was their Prince and that when he grew to manhood they would follow him to the ends of the Earth and they would serve him with their lives.”

“Did they then?” said the grave little boy. “’Tis a pity, Leonor, that I did not hear them.”

“You! You just blinked at them as though you did not think so much of them, for all their fine words.”

“And did I cry, Leonor?”

“Not you! Though you were tired out with it all, and there was a jeweled pin tormenting you. I found it later. But did you cry? Not you. You remembered that your great father would not have liked to see you cry.”

“And he was there, was he not, Leonor?”

“He was there, great and mighty, looking at you as though he cared more for you than all his kingdoms and his riches.”

“And my mother?”

“She too.”

“They love me dearly, Leonor.”

“They do, my little one. And the people in the streets, they love you too. You should have heard the shouts. But you did hear them, of course.”

“Did I, Leonor?”

“Yes, you did; and you did not cry. You lay there looking about you with those solemn blue eyes … a regular little prince.”

“What did the people say, Leonor?”

“‘Long live the Prince. Long live Philip.’ They then lighted bonfires in the streets, and they brought forth the best bulls. There was dancing and such goings-on in the bullring as never before. There was tilting with reeds, and such merriment … All that night and the next day, and the next night and the next and the next, the feasting went on. And it was all for you.”

“They love me, do they not, Leonor?”

“They do, my love.”

“But they love me as the Prince, Leonor. You love me as your Philip.”

He put his arms about her neck and kept his head on her breast, for he did not wish her to read his thoughts. It was good to be a prince; but the best thing in the world was to be Leonor’s little Philip.

His mother loved him too; but he wished that he did not know so much; he wished that he did not know she loved him so much partly because he had been born a boy, because he had not died—as everyone had expected—and because every time she looked at him she remembered that she had done her duty to her lord and to her country. Yet he felt that part of her love was his because he was her little boy.

She never petted him as Leonor did. Always when he saw her he must kneel before her and kiss the hem of her robe. He must remember ceremony before love.

Often she talked to him of his great duties.

“Never forget that you are a prince of Spain. Even if you have brothers, you will still be the heir to the crown. You must be more like your father than any.”

“Why do I never see my father, your Highness?” he asked.

“Because he is far away. Your father is not only the King of Spain; he is Emperor of almost the whole of the world. That means that he cannot stay long in one place. He must roam the Empire, defending it.”

“Why does my father own half the world, your Highness?”

“Because he inherited it … as you will. It came to him through his father and mother; and his father was called Philip as you are.”

The boy liked that. He wanted to know more of this Philip.

“He was called Philip the Handsome because he was beautiful. He was fair and many loved him. Your grandmother loved him very dearly …”

Isabella’s face altered when she spoke of Mad Juana, and Philip missed little. He had heard voices other than his mother’s change when his grandmother was mentioned. He wished to know more about the mystery which surrounded her, the Queen who had brought the crown of Spain to his father. But Philip did not ask the question point blank. He already knew that if he wished to take people off their guard it was better to approach a subject by devious means.

“And Philip the Handsome died, did he not?”

“He died long ago.”

“And my grandmother … did she die too?”

There was the faintest hesitation, which the boy was not slow to notice. “Yes; she is dead, my son.”

For dead she was, thought Isabella, dead to the world, living her strange existence in the Alcázar of Tordesillas, surrounded by those who were really her keepers, frenziedly gay at times, at others lost in the depth of her melancholy.

The little boy looked into his mother’s face. One day he would discover more of this strange grandmother whose name seemed to have such an effect on everyone who heard it.

“Tell me of my father and his wars,” he said.

She was eager to tell, for she knew that his father wished him to learn quickly all that was happening on the continent of Europe.

“Your father has many enemies, my son, for when a king and an emperor is rich in his rightful possessions there are many to envy him. Through his father—Philip, your namesake—he inherited Austria, and that means that he is continually at war with the German Princes who seek to take his lands from him. Through your grandfather, your father inherited the Duchy of Burgundy as well as Milan; and in France there is a wicked king who wishes to take these from him. So, as well as the German Princes, you father has to fight this wicked French King.”

“But my father always wins.”

“Your father always wins.”

The little brow was puckered. “Why does he not kill the wicked French King and the German Princes? Then he would not have to fight them, and could be here with us.”

“Once he caught the French King and brought him to Madrid. But kings do not kill kings. They make treaties. Your father sought to make peace with the French King so that all might be well between them; but the French King did not keep his word, and when your father released him, he went back to France and his little sons became your father’s prisoners.” Isabella smiled at her son’s eagerness to hear more of these French Princes. “Yes,” she went on; “little Francis and little Henry came to be your father’s prisoners in place of their father.”

“Your Highness,” cried Philip, betraying a little of his excitement, “if my father had been the prisoner of the King of France, would he not have taken him to France and should I not have had to go in his place?”

This was one of the moments when he betrayed his youth and his folly. His mother was looking at him in astonishment.

“Your father could never be the prisoner of anyone. Your father is the greatest ruler in the world.”

The little boy blushed a deep pink. It was so easy to make mistakes.

Now he could ask no more about the little French boys who had been his father’s prisoners. But he knew that his Aunt Eleonore had become their stepmother. He wondered if they asked their stepmother—who was his father’s sister—about their father.

His mother said, softening as she saw his dismay: “There is not only the King of France to plague your father; there is also the wicked King of England.”

He nodded. He had heard of that King. His father distrusted the King of England, who was making a lot of trouble by being unkind to Philip’s great-aunt, Queen Catharine.

“One day, my son, all these tasks will fall to your lot. One day you will have to face them as your father does now.”

He knew it. Always the talk came back to that. It was the recurring theme. Already, although he was not yet three years old, he must begin his preparations. Yet he could not understand why, if his father always won, he did not put an end to the strife. Why did he not kill all his enemies and thus win everlasting peace? Philip was silent; there was so much to learn.

“Now I will tell you a story,” said his mother. “Once upon a time there was a wicked man. He was a monk, and so he should have been a good man. But the Devil made him his own, and, with this monk, decided to destroy God’s Holy Catholic Church. Do you know the name of that monk, Philip?”

This was the oft-told tale. This was his nursery legend. He knew the story of the wickedest man in the world, so he answered promptly: “Martin Luther.”

She was pleased with him. “And what did he make throughout the world?”

He could scarcely pronounce the word; but he knew it and he would be able to say it for his father when he came: “Heretics.”

She took his face between her hands. “Yes, my son, this wicked monk has gone about the world preaching evil until it has spread through Germany, Holland … the Netherlands. The poor, simple people there listen to the bad man and they believe what he says to be the truth. One day it will be your task to fight these heretics. You will have to drive them from the world as your great-grandfather and great-grandmother drove the Infidels from Granada. They must not be allowed to live, because living, they spread their evil. You will drive them from the face of the Earth. You will have the might of your father to help you, all the might of the Holy Inquisition.”

He smiled, but he was tired. There was too much talk of what he would have to do in the future; he wanted to do something pleasant now. He wanted to play, but there was no one to play with, except his little sister Maria, and how could such a solemn boy play with a baby?

So patiently he listened while his mother continued to talk of the great tasks that lay ahead of him.

He was four years old—a baby no longer.

They had talked to him very seriously before they made the journey to Avila.

“Remember,” said his mother, “that all eyes will be fixed upon you. This is a solemn occasion. As you ride through the city the people will shout your name; they will be thinking: There is the Prince. There is the boy born to be King and Emperor. You must show no fear. You must show nothing but calmness … dignity and pride in your rank. How I wish your father could be here.”

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