The gravestones stood silently, like soldiers long forgotten, a scream shattered the silence. I looked around trying to determine who was imposing on my solitude when I realized that I was alone. She had seen to that.
My mother was a lady in her court, and her beauty rivaled that of the queen. This angered the queen, but since she was a foreign bride in our country she had no choice in who her ladies were. My mother was Lady Diane, daughter of Gerard Pratt, Duke of Ashlake. The duke was a close friend to our king, or as close as one could be to a king. This gave him the opportunity to insure my mother was in a prominent place in court. Unfortunately for grandpapa, he had no male heirs. It was vital for mother to make a good match, to insure that Ashlake would not fall to ruin.
When King Reynard finally decided to bring his bride, Princess Philippa, to court grandpapa jumped on the opportunity. He convinced the king that he should appoint several loyal court ladies as the new queen’ s attendants. If they were appointed by the king these ladies would remain loyal to him and could insure his bride’s fidelity. It was this suggestion that put my mother in front of the king to be interviewed for a place at court. It was mother’s looks as well as her quick wit that kept her there and in the king’s favor. She was installed in the queen’s chambers and her only order was to remain loyal to His Majesty.
Once Queen Philippa arrived at the palace and realized that she would not be allowed to keep her own ladies she became sullen. King Reynard had no patience for sulky emotional women, but he wanted his bride to be happy. Knowing my mother was sharp-witted and cunning, he set her to making the queen happy. So it came to be that mother befriended the queen.
It took her months to break through to Philippa, but eventually she became the queen’s most trusted companion. This would be very beneficial to mother, she held all of the queen’s secrets. Soon mother became very sought after by the king. By this time the queen had been in residence at the palace for two years and there was still no sign of an heir.
My mother was to find out why the queen was not yet with child. The king called in every doctor and midwife in the country and mother was in the room at every appointment. No one was able to find anything wrong with the queen except for an extreme case of home-sickness. Every evening mother would report to the king and they grew to be extremely close.
The queen was miserable, the king was desperate for an heir, and mother was caught in the middle. It was during these difficult times that my mother betrayed her queen and found herself in the arms of her king. The affair quickly escalated, and with still no sign of an heir, Reynard made my mother his official mistress.
Mother quickly became pregnant. This made her the king’s darling and hated by the queen. My mother’s first pregnancy was uneventful and her labor was surprisingly easy. Unfortunately for her, that would be the last simple thing in her life. The king finally had his heir. In order for my brother, who would come to be known as Crown Prince Francis, to be considered the legal heir to the throne, my mother would have to renounce her claim as his mother to the queen.
Francis was just the first of many things that Philippa would take from my family. For five years my mother lived at court as Reynard’s official mistress in name only. Everyday she was forced to watch her son being raised to think another woman was his mother. It got to be more than my mother could bear. She went to the king and requested that he find her a husband and a home away from court.
Reynard married my mother off to her second cousin, Baldwin Compton. Baldwin was a second son with no claim to his father’s title. He agreed to marry mother in exchange for the title of Duke of Ashlake. A year into the marriage mother found herself once again with child. The queen, still unable to carry a child of her own, was overcome with jealousy and had Reynard banish the couple to their country estate.
Mother flourished once she was away from court and shortly after they arrived I was born. For twelve years I was their only child. Then during the summer of my twelfth year, mother gave birth to another son. He would be my father’s pride and my mother’s downfall. Father named him Nicholas, and placed all his dreams on the tiny infant’s shoulders. Mother became depressed after his birth. At times I would catch her crying and apologizing to God for Francis. At the time I didn’t know that she meant Prince Francis.
Nicholas is three now, and mother has been gone for two years. We found her in bed one morning surrounded by opium flowers. It was after we buried mother that father told me about her past. Having Nicholas was too much of a reminder of Francis and what she had been forced to leave behind.
I blame Philippa for mother’s death. In my heart I know the queen stole not only my brother but killed my mother as well. Now that I’m of age, it’s time for me to take my place at court. Father thinks I’m going to find a husband, but I know I’m going for revenge. One day Philippa will pay for her crimes against my family.
Slowly I stood up and said my last goodbyes to mother. I turned and left the graveyard to accept my destiny.