Rosa Sine Spina: Kitty Howard Is Pregnant in 1541

XIV: Richmond, December 1542
“Your Majesty, The Earl of Lynn!” Lady Rochford curtsies to Kitty, who nods and waves her brother into the room.

“Charlie,” she says coolly, putting her hand out to him as Jane retreats from the room, knowing Kitty wants to be alone with her older brother for this.

“Sister,” Charlie bows, brushing Kitty’s skin with his lips. He goes to straighten from his obeisance almost at once, but a sharp tut from his sister freezes him in place.

“Sister?” he repeats, and this time, there is a note of question in his voice. Kitty isn’t usually one for protocol. At least, not with him.

Kitty says nothing for a few moments. When she does speak, her voice is ice rather than its usual liquid laughter.

“Where’s Mary?”

“Mary?!” Charlie’s jaw drops open. What on Earth does his sister want to know about Mary for? “Blickling, I assume. Why do you ask?”

“Why?! Why?! Because she’s my stepdaughter, you dolt! She ought to be here, helping us celebrate the Saviour’s birth! Do you want to explain to me why she’s not?!”

Charlie spreads his hands, “If I’m truly honest? I didn’t want her souring the festive season for me. I married her because I know you needed me to, to keep her out of Jane’s hair if this child of yours isn’t a boy, but believe me, we’ll all live much happier lives if the crow isn’t around to drain us of all joy.”

It is Kitty’s turn to look astounded. She gapes at her brother, almost too shocked to speak, before she heaves herself to her feet, her gently-swelling belly poking out before her as she straightens.

“Come with me,” she snaps, sweeping from the room without even bothering to check whether Charlie is following. He will be. If he knows what’s good for him, he will be.

The walk between Kitty’s apartments and Jane’s nursery usually takes ten minutes or so. Today, Kitty manages it in less than five.

Upon reaching the door, Kitty nods to the guards to throw it open, though she declines to be announced, instead simply standing in the doorway, watching. When Charlie would stride confidently past her into the nursery, she grabs his arm to keep him with her.

Two nursemaids sit on the floor with Jane, rolling a bright cloth ball between them. The ten-month-old watches eagerly, babbling happily and batting at the toy every time it comes within her reach. Whenever she hits the ball, which is often, the maids cheer and clap and tell her what a clever girl she is.

Jane laughs at the applause, her little mouth open to show pearly nubs of teeth that gleam in the weak winter sunshine.

Moments later, she tires of the game, and whines and squirms, straining towards one of her maids. The young woman obliges, swooping her up into her arms and falling lightly on to her back so that she can hold Jane up above her head.

Happiness instantly restored, Jane laughs again, the high notes spilling into the room like sunshine.

“Look how innocent she is. How happy.” Kitty’s voice is low and harsh as she hisses at her brother, “I asked you to marry Mary because I wanted you to help me keep her that way. I trusted you to help me keep her that way.”

“I will!” Charlie exclaims, unsure what Kitty is driving at, “Kitty, whatever I’ve done to upset you, whatever this is about, I give you my word that I’ll…”

“Really?!” Kitty scoffs, tossing her bright head, “I asked you to marry Mary because I thought you, of all my brothers, would be the one I could trust to shackle Mary to us forever, to keep her from being a threat to Jane. Yet now I find out that your marriage has already broken down to the point that the two of you can’t even spend Christmas together. That you’re not even sure where she is! Christ, Charlie, you’ve not even been married six months! You need to do better than that! What if she’s planning to flee the country and seek her cousin’s aid for her claim to the throne? What if she’s pregnant?! You know the North would rise for any son of hers in a heartbeat!”

Charlie laughs scornfully, “The crow’s not pregnant, I can assure you of that! We’ve only slept together once, and she bled two weeks later. Cold as she is, she laughed in my face when she told me. As if I’d want a child with her anyway. I only did the deed so she couldn’t claim non-consummation if she wanted an annulment.”

“Charlie! Be serious!” It takes all the self-control Kitty has to keep her temper under control, to not let her brother rile her. She has to stay calm, if only for Jane’s sake. For Jane and the child inside her. She clenches her fists so as not to shake him, “I need you to know where Mary is at all times. I need her at your side. I hoped you’d be able to charm her, but if you can’t manage that, then at least do me the favour of keeping her on a leash. Get to Blickling, get her packed and take her to Calais.”

“Calais?! Why Calais!”

“You’re going to help Papa against the French. And you’re going to take Mary with you,” Kitty holds up a hand against her brother’s bubbling protest, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to sleep with her. In fact, given what a threat any child of hers would be to Jane, I’d rather you didn’t. But I don’t want to see her back in England until this pregnancy has come to term and I’ve given Henry a son. Do you hear me?”

Charlie opens his mouth, and Kitty’s temper broils just that bit closer to the surface. Before her older brother can say anything, she grabs him by the collar and puts her face very close to his.

“Do – you – hear – me?” She growls, punctuating every word by stabbing her brother under the breastbone with her finger.

Then, as abruptly as she seized him, she shoves him away from her and stalks away from the nursery without so much as a backwards glance.
Charlie laughs scornfully, “The crow’s not pregnant, I can assure you of that! We’ve only slept together once, and she bled two weeks later. Cold as she is, she laughed in my face when she told me. As if I’d want a child with her anyway. I only did the deed so she couldn’t claim non-consummation if she wanted an annulment.”
Husband of they year over here.
Well that's the tongue lashing the Brute deserved. Well done Kitty.

Though keeping Mary on a short leash may end up with Charlie having an 'accident' one thinks.
Kitty understands at the very least that honey attracts more than vinegar. While she clearly wants Mary humbled and under control, emotionally and/or physically abusing her is just idiotic. Such actions would make Mary more spiteful and, logically make her run away or ferment rebellion.

Nonetheless, #FreeMary.
Kitty understands at the very least that honey attracts more than vinegar. While she clearly wants Mary humbled and under control, emotionally and/or physically abusing her is just idiotic. Such actions would make Mary more spiteful and, logically make her run away or ferment rebellion.
Yes, Charles being a abusive asshole isn't helping her plans. I'm actually enjoying Kitty's plans blowing up in her face.
Nonetheless, #FreeMary.
True and the slogan many of us are employing.
I’d rather not have Mary run away, but something happen to Charles to make him realise he has been a ungentlemanly brute and work to fix his errors.

Or a small accident Mary has nothing to do with so she can move on.
Music and gaiety fill the air, surrounding Henry as he sits on the dais, though he pays it little heed, focused as he is on his conversation with Lord St Leger.

A particularly loud squeal of delight does wrest his attention away from his Lord Deputy, however, and he glances up to see Eliza whirling round the dance floor like a thing possessed.

She has gathered quite a following of children about her, but the one she seems to be favouring most, the one spinning her fiercely and whispering something that makes her throw back her fire-kissed head and laugh, is a broad-shouldered boy of about her own age, one with close-cropped dark hair.

“After Dublin, I thought we might go to…” Lord St Leger trails off as he realises he has lost Henry’s attention, and follows his sovereign’s gaze, “Ah, that’s young Tom Butler, Sire. He’s heir to the Ormonde Earldom.”

“Ormonde…” Henry murmurs the title, unable to prevent himself from being assailed by a host of memories.

He granted Ormonde to Eliza’s grandfather, back in the days when he was run mad with lust for her mother. In fact, he’d refused to let the Butlers and Boleyns finalise a match between their families, for fear it would take his beloved away from him. That was all decades ago now. How strange that a Butler lad should now be playing so happily with his Eliza, when, in another world, they might have been siblings.

“If I might be so bold, Sire…” Lord St Leger ventures, “If Your Majesty is truly seeking to consolidate your control of Ireland, you could do worse than to wed the Lady Wiltshire to Lord Butler. Loath though I am to admit it, we couldn’t run this godforsaken isle without the Butlers.”

Eliza? Wed to a Butler? Henry has never considered such an idea before, but as soon as Lord St Leger voices the suggestion, he can see the merit in it. An Irish Earl is a fine match for his natural daughter, even if it would be too low for a Princess like Jane. And then, there’s the poetry of tying the two bloodlines, Boleyn and Butler, together at last.

Moreover, if Henry doesn’t live to see his son by Kitty grow to adulthood, then it might be just as well to have a Tudor on the ground here in Ireland, to help uphold the new settlement, until his son grows to manhood.

He watches the children for another moment or two, turning the idea over in his head, and then nods.

“Find Lord Ormonde. Tell him we’ll travel to visit him at Kilkenny as soon as the Christmas festivities are over.”

“As you wish, Sire.”

Lord St Leger bows, pushes back his chair, and vanishes into the merry, heaving crowd.

The nursery is dark when Elizabeth and Mary get back from the Christmas revels. It is often dark when they retire, for with Jane four and six years younger than them respectively, she goes to bed long before they do.

What is not so usual, however, is the quiet sobbing coming from Jane’s trestle bed. Oh, Elizabeth might tease Jane for being a cry-baby, but in actual fact, the youngest of their trio has been remarkably brave, given all the change she’s gone through in recent months, and both Elizabeth and Mary know it.

They exchange glances, and Elizabeth flicks her hand behind her in dismissal.

“Mary and I will see each other to bed, Blanche,” she whispers, shutting the door in her tiring-woman’s face before the other has a chance to protest.

Adults thus taken out of the equation, the two girls creep across the room to Jane, dropping down on either side of her.

“Jane? What’s wrong?” Mary murmurs, putting an arm across the younger girl’s shoulders. Jane jumps, her entire torso leaving the bed for a moment, before she recognises Mary and sinks back down again, burying her face in a tear-stained pillow,

“It’s Mama!” She chokes, more to the pillow than to Mary, but loudly enough for them both to hear it regardless, “Mama’s gone!”

“Gone?!” Mary looks up at Elizabeth, nonplussed, but the eagle-eyed redhead is already one step ahead.

Gently, more gently than is her usual wont, she reaches out and eases a thin sheaf of crackling parchment out from beneath her younger cousin.

“May I?” she asks, and Jane sniffs, moving her head in what might be supposed to be a nod. Elizabeth certainly decides to take it as one, anyway. She unfolds the crumpled letter and scans it before Jane can change her mind.

The close-written lines hit her like a punch in the solar plexus. Cousin Frances is dead, having succumbed to seizures brought on by childbed. Her third child lives, thanks be to God, though it isn’t the boy Lord Dorset was hoping for. Rather, it is a daughter, one Lord Dorset has named Frances, for the mother she will never know.

Elizabeth elbows Mary sharply, and the brunette glances up from rubbing Jane’s back. Elizabeth thrusts the letter under her nose without a word.

Moments later, the two of them are exchanging a meaningful glance. No wonder Jane is crying.

Not knowing exactly what to do, but knowing she must do something, Elizabeth puts a tentative hand on her younger cousin’s shoulder. For a moment, she wishes her older sister were here. Mary always knew what to say when Elizabeth herself was upset.

But Mary isn’t here, and so it’s down to her. Taking a deep breath, she squares her shoulders, and says the first thing that comes to her.

“You know, Jane, I haven’t got a Mama either.”

No sooner are the words out of her mouth than Elizabeth hopes Mama Katherine will forgive her for stretching the truth, but it is clearly the right thing to say, for Jane stops crying.

Stiffening under Elizabeth’s hand, the four-year-old lifts her head cautiously. Her pale eyes fix themselves on Elizabeth’s face, gleaming huge and wet in the light of the candles the older girls hold in their free hands.

“You don’t?” she breathes, “But, Eliza, you’re so brave! I’ve never seen you cry! Don’t you miss her?”

“Not really,” Elizabeth shrugs, never knowing quite how like her Gallic-raised mother she is in that moment, with her shoulders in the air and her eyes dark pools of shadows in the candlelight, “I don’t remember her, so I can’t really miss her. But I liked to pretend I had a Mama sometimes, when I was little. My big sister Mary would help. She’d let me play that she was my Mama, and I was her little girl. We could play that game too, if you wanted. I mean, I probably wouldn’t be as good at playing your Mama as my sister Mary was, but…”

“You’d do that for me? Eliza, you’d do that for me?”

Jane’s narrow face lights with such hope that Elizabeth just can’t say no.

She nods, “If you want.”

A second later, she finds herself with an armful of grateful younger cousin.

“Thank you, Eliza, thank you!”
Super sweet, feel bad for Jane though