Catherine Parr heard the whispers, despite her ladies-in-waiting, veritable barriers of silk and blockade as she strode through the court. They were waiting for her fall like all those brides who had come before her to the king's bed.
Another woman, possessing fine skin, child bearing hips and ambitious relatives, had caught his eye.
She avoided the eyes of the glittering aristocracy, but couldn't miss the symbol of her predecessor on the ceiling that the overworked artisans had overlooked.
Keeping her face serene, Catherine ignored the goosebumps that had broken out on her velvet-covered arms before leading her ladies on the quickest route to the private royal chapel with a muttered desire to pray. The rich tapestries on the walls could have been rags for all the attention she paid them. Like gilded birds, her ladies chirped behind her. Most had served Henry's past queens and expected to serve the one after her or wanted to take her place. Touching the simple cross at her neck, she wondered if she'd live to see her mission complete.
Catherine stopped and bowed automatically when she spotted her king. Eyes lowered, she tried not to think of another, one who she kept close to her heart during this marriage of duty. The one she gave up to serve God and the King.
The King grinned at her approach and bid her to rise. "Join me, Kate."
"Of course, your majesty."
"Before we retire into our meditations," Henry began, eyes sparkling reminding her of the golden prince she remember from her youth, leaning his great weight on his valet, "I must ask your thoughts on a interesting volume by one of those reformer you so dearly love. I was most impressed with his logic."
Catherine nodded, made polite agreement, holding back the satisfaction that infused her. All the sacrifices would be deemed acceptable if it brought the new religion to her kingdom. Her faith was stronger than her fear. She turned to her ladies. "And I will also be here praying just like I said."