The Three Crowns: The Story of William a - By Jean Plaidy


Throughout the day the sounds of rejoicing had echoed in St. James’s Palace. All the bells in London were ringing to welcome the new Queen; and by night the light from a hundred bonfires was reflected in the April sky.

The King continued to sup with Lady Castlemaine each night, a fact which made many shake their heads and ask themselves what wedded happiness there could be for the Princess from Portugal, in spite of the fact that her bridegroom was reckoned to be the most charming Prince in the world, having inherited the gaiety, wit, tolerance, kindliness and, alas, the sensuality of his grandfather, the great Henri Quatre of France, these many years since murdered by the knife of François Ravaillac.

The feastings, the ceremonies and pageants delighted the people of London—always ready to admire a King who had made England merry after years of puritan rule. They had jeered as the effigies of past heroes were hanged and insulted, while they cheered when the merry, ugly, fascinating King moved among them, with his band of hilarious-mannered, elegantly attired, rakish courtiers who attempted to become as notorious as Charles himself. And there were the ladies. Always the ladies! “Who will entertain him to supper tonight—and after?” asked his subjects indulgently. Stories of his escapades never failed to amuse. He was amorously insatiable, approachable, charming—all that a nation could ask of a King returned to his kingdom after being forced, by a dreary Parliament, to live in exile. And now there was a bride from Portugal.

At least one woman in St. James’s Palace was not concerned with the festivities. Anne Hyde paced up and down her apartment, her hands on her heavy body, and all her thoughts were for the child who would soon be born. She hoped fervently for a son—Anne Hyde’s son, who could, in time, be King of England. Not that it was likely, especially now that the King had a bride and several illegitimate children already to prove his virility. There was young Monmouth for one, a lusty fellow whom many—Charles included, so it was said—wished was legitimate. But Anne’s child would be in the line of succession, and until Charles and his bride produced a child, might be considered a possible heir to the throne.

She walked to a mirror which hung on the wall; it was so long that she could see her reflection from head to feet. She grimaced at the ungainly sight. She had never been a beauty at her best. All the more reason to be congratulated on having succeeded in making a marriage with James, Duke of York and brother to the King.

One of her women came into the apartment.

“Your Grace …” she began anxiously.

Anne shook her head. “Leave me. I will call you when I need you.”

“But …”

Anne waved her hand. “I shall know in good time. Everything is going as it should. I wish you could shut out some of the noise from the streets.”

“Ah, Your Grace, there is so much noise. The people are mad with excitement. The crowds in the Mall are so great that there is danger of being trodden underfoot. I saw His Majesty.” The woman smiled. “He bowed and smiled at me …”

Anne’s lips turned up at the corners sardonically. The King had a way of looking at a woman—any woman—and forever after that woman believed that he had been as excited by the encounter as she was. Charles was never too pressed to bestow those smiles on any female subject. He was a natural exuberant lover of women, and although James lacked that overwhelming charm, he was enough like his brother to make a wife watchful.

“I’ve no doubt he did,” answered Anne abruptly.

“And my lord Duke rode with him … a fine figure of a man, Your Grace. And getting more and more like His Majesty every day.”

“I trust not in every way,” retorted Anne.

“Oh, Your Grace!” The slight titter, the shine of the eyes, and the parted lips, meant that she was thinking of an occasional encounter with one of the royal brothers. Charles might have kissed her. Had James? “The Duke is such a devoted husband. As for His Majesty, his time has come. Although they say the Portuguese Princess …”

“Is not worthy of him?” interrupted Anne. “I’ll swear that’s what they say.”

“Doubtless she will look magnificent in her jewels, Your Grace, but who would not?”

Anne shrugged her shoulders. “I will call you when the pains begin in earnest.”

The woman bowed Copyright 2016 - 2024