Chapter 154, January 1527
Ribeira Palace, Kingdom of Portugal, January 1527

Reading was something that Catalina had always loved, and the passage of time had done nothing to change that. If anything, her status as the aunt of the monarchs of Spain and Portugal had meant that she had more time than ever to dedicate herself to intellectual pursuits. While she may have had more power to money as Regent of Spain during her nephew’s minority, she did not have nearly the amount of leisure time that she now enjoyed. So now the Dowager Queen had much more time to dedicate to reading, which the woman took full advantage of. A copy of The Art of War by the Florentine, Nicolo Machiavelli rested on her lap. The Dowager Queen of Portugal had nearly finished with the book, and she had to confess, it was quite interesting if some of the advice was a bit dated. He’s a fool to discount the use of guns but he raises some good points. In particular, she thought his emphasis on the need for a national militia to be compelling, of course, she noted with pride that her parents had already brought such a thing to Spain with the Santa Hermandad. At the chair adjacent to her, also across from the fire, Maria de Salinas read a recently translated work by the long-dead Greek Galen. She may not have been a physician like their teacher Beatriz Galindo, but Maria had found the subject fascinating. The woman was a skilled herbalist, a useful talent in a court where few other women could say the same, often brewing useful home remedies for illnesses that would ail the other courtiers.

Their reading was interrupted by a servant sent by Catalina’s nephew, the King. The man bowed his head after being let in,”Forgive me Your Majesty, but His Majesty the King has summoned you to speak with him in his council chambers. He says it is a matter of great importance.”

Catalina stood up from her seat, and her ladies followed suit,“There is nothing to forgive Santiago, if His Majesty requires my counsel then I am happy to give it.”

Thus, she and a handful of her ladies, those closest to her, left her chambers to visit the King of Portugal. When they got there, they all discovered that the King was alone save for a few attendants. He sat at the head of the table, a half-drank goblet of wine in front of him. Clearly, he had already made up his mind on what he was going to do, so the question was, why summon Catalina? Did he have a task for her?

“Your Majesty.” Catalina curtseyed before the King of Portugal.

Her nephew was silent where he sat though he did not seem displeased by any means. He had become a very confident ruler, his position was undoubtedly secured thanks to his many connections.

“Would you like some wine? There is still some left from the meeting?”

“No thank you, I am abstaining from wine today.”

Catalina of Aragon had become an expert at this, making sure that her skills would be at the disposal of whichever family member she served,“To what do I owe the honor of your summons, my King?”

He looked towards her intently and finally began,“A diplomatic matter. One that you can help me with.”

“Oh?” Catalina replied.

“As you know, Her Majesty is with child again. We shall surely have a son one day. When you go to Spain this spring I want you to arrange a betrothal between the Princess Beatriz and Prince Juan. I authorize you to negotiate the finer details of such a betrothal with my cousin King Ferdinand when the time comes.”

“I would be happy to help you with this, but if you have no sons?” The Dowager Queen asked.

Joao set the goblet down, now finished with it,”Then I would prefer a Spaniard over any other foreign Prince. I am sure that shall not come to pass though. We both come from fertile stock, after all, and Catarina is barely twenty.”

Catalina hoped that her nephew would be right, Spain and Portugal may be allies, but she felt that the Portuguese would hate to be under Spanish rule,“Very well then, it shall be done.”

Once her meeting with her nephew had concluded, the Dowager Queen of Portugal had more to do, the evening had not yet passed. With Maria’s lessons concluded, Catalina decided that she would pay her darling daughter a visit in the schoolroom. Typically, she did so two or three times a week, but always on different days so that it would come as a surprise. It took a bit of effort to plan her schedule, but the joy that sparked in Maria’s eyes made it worth it. With the same group of ladies in tow, she waited outside for the Infanta to leave. Minutes later the Infanta Maria, with Catalina Fernández Manrique at her side. Both girls smiled broadly at their mothers, and the two women scooped the little girls up into their arms, prompting giggles.

Setting down her daughter with a kiss on the top of her head, Maria asked,”How were your lessons with the Infanta today?”

The younger Catalina grinned,”Very good mama, Señora Vaz had us translate parts of Pliny’s twelfth book, the one on trees. She says that we are both doing quite well, and it was more fun than I thought it would be.”

Maria of Portugal turned to the other little girl and laughed,”Yes it wasn’t boring like his second book. Astronomy is silly!”

The two friends watched their daughters in pride, another Maria and Catalina becoming close, and thought it was splendid. Things had worked out for the pair in the end, and they only hoped that their daughters would live more tranquil lives.
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I love it so much, a little snapshot into Catalina’s life as queen dowager of Portugal. It’s also nice to see young Maria being friends with the daughter of Catalina’s dear friend.
Nice ‘day in the life of’ there for Catalina.

Wonder if her copy of Art of War survives to modern day? Esp if she made notes in the margins…
Chapter 155, February 1527
Greenwich Palace, Kingdom of England, February 1527

Eleanor had taken to her confinement more easily than usual. Whereas before she had often felt restless, tired, and sick she did not feel so this time. True, there were some days when she felt ill in the morning, but those were the exception rather than the norm. On that day, in the very same room where she had given birth to her son, she wanted nothing more than to lay in her bed and dictate letters. Specifically, Eleanor had hoped to inquire as to the health of her newest nephew. Her sister-in-law Catherine, the Holy Roman Empress, had brought a little boy named John into the world on January 15th. Her brother’s latest letter wasn’t exactly promising, while Catherine had once again given birth with ease, little John was sickly. From what he wrote, Eleanor could tell that the Emperor did not believe that the babe would live long. He had hardly spent much time with the child, while Catherine was quite the opposite. She nurtured and loved the boy at every opportunity, and was apparently in denial of John’s condition. The Queen of England felt for them, they didn’t deserve to feel the same pain that she and Henry had felt three times over. Still, with her own child’s life in her belly, Eleanor tried not to think about it too much. She may not have been privately religious, but she could be superstitious, believing that her very thoughts could impact the health of her unborn child. As such, the Queen of England decided to take a break from her dictation, and have her ladies fetch a musician.

“Which musician would you like, Your Majesty?” Jacoliene asked, curtseying before her.

“Send for my flutist Jacoliene. Master Vrooman may be getting on in years, but his music still soothes me.”

“Of course, Your Majesty.”

When the door was shut behind her lady, Eleanor felt a certain stirring in her belly. It wasn’t one of the baby’s many kicks, it was something else. Just what it was soon apparent when her water broke. As her ladies went through the motions to prepare for the birth, Eleanor of Austria sighed, It will be hours before I can listen to the flute now.

The birth had been rather long, but in the end, she had been awarded with her efforts with a squirming newborn daughter in her arms. Laying in the candlelight, she waited for her husband to arrive. For all her resentment of Henry’s unfaithfulness, Eleanor of Austria was always grateful that he never failed to visit her when she gave birth.

Just like clockwork the man entered the room, a jolly grin on his wide face. Nearly thirty-six, he was well practiced at this, placing a loving kiss first on his newborn daughter’s forehead, and then his wife’s cheek.

“It seems that you were right, we have another Princess.” Henry whispered in her ear.

Their newborn daughter raised a fist up past her blonde down, as if to show she approved of her title.

“Look at her, she’s restless.” Eleanor laughed.

Her husband smirked,“Just like her aunt in Scotland. I only hope she causes me less trouble.”

“What do you think of Margaret, do you think it suits her?”

The Queen of England had to confess she was surprised to hear him suggest that name. He hadn’t always been on the best of terms with his older sister but there was something about this time of year that made him more sentimental. It was after all, the day after the anniversary of his mother’s death, so perhaps he wished to show the long-dead woman that he had made amends with the Dowager Queen of Scotland. In any case, Eleanor wouldn’t object, given that the name also belonged to her beloved aunt, the woman who had raised her as her own.

“A splendid idea.” The Queen of England agreed.

Her husband patted the top of her head,”Margaret it is then. Now, shall I tell Master Vrooman and the others that they can come in to play us some music, or shall I make them wait in the ha;; all day?”

Eleanor was distracted, hushing her now fussy daughter by pulling her closer against her chest, and it did not sink in for a moment. Finally, when she realized what her husband was saying she exclaimed,”Oh Henry, that’s so thoughtful of you! Yes, have them all come in, some soothing music may help us both relax.”

So, the order was sent, and by the time the sun had set, mother and daughter were both asleep, cozy as could be.
Chapter 156, March 1527
Hatfield House, Kingdom of England, March 1527

Her grandson was a pudgy little boy, his cheeks full and healthy. He toddled towards his grandmother, stumbling a little but never fell. Little George had been walking for well over a month at this point but Isabel Leigh, the boy’s governess, hovered over him, protective of her charge. The woman had Howard connections through her mother’s second marriage, but there was no doubt that she was hired for her competence, rather than anything else.

“He just loves to walk, doesn’t he?”Giovanna asked.

“Yes, he does.” Isabel nodded,”The little lord shows us all the time, I can hardly lay him down for a nap some days.”

The Dowager Queen smiled, it was so good to visit the Duke and Duchess, especially as it gave her a chance to watch her grandson grow. She needed something to remind her that not everything was so bleak. As expected, Catherine’s infant son John had perished less than two months into his life. The Holy Roman Empress was devastated, and Giovanna couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. In any case, she was there now, on the floor, waiting for her grandson to make it to him from the other side of the room. Charles and Anne and were also in the sitting room. Charles sat by the window, chewing on a grape, it was a cariñena the same kind that his father had been quite fond of. He watched closely, the Duke of Somerset fretted over his only child like a hen, always anxious that something would happen to him. Anne, by contrast, was calmer simply humming as she did her embroidery. The woman had outlived several younger siblings in her youth and knew a healthy child when she saw one.

Speaking of which, little George stared at Giovanna intently, his lips moving, maybe it would just be babbling, but she couldn’t be sure.

Finally George spoke, toddling towards her“Gra-Grandma!”

“Yes, good boy George!” Giovanna hugged him as he leapt into her arms.

The child giggled; his brown eyes crinkled in happiness and the Dowager Queen beamed as she held him.

“His first word too!” Anne Boleyn exclaimed from her chair,”Isn’t that splendid Charles?”

“Yes, yes, it is!” Charles bobbed his head, before moving to sit with his son,”He’s our smart boy!”

Giovanna of Naples simply took in the moment, enjoying the time that she could spend with her grandson, life could not get more perfect than this.