Authors: Jean Plaidy
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 1966 by Jean Plaidy, copyright renewed 1994 by Mark Hamilton
Courting Her Highness
copyright © 1966 by Jean Plaidy, copyright renewed 1994 by Mark Hamilton
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Broadway Paperbacks, an imprint of the
Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Broadway Paperbacks and its logo, a letter B bisected on the diagonal, are trademarks of
Random House, Inc.
Originally published in hardcover in slightly different form as
The Haunted Sisters
in Great Britain by Robert Hale Limited, London, in 1966, and in hardcover in the United States by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, in 1977.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming Broadway Paperbacks reprint of
Courting Her Highness
by Jean Plaidy, which was originally published as
The Queen’s Favourites
by Robert Hale Limited, London, in 1966. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Plaidy, Jean, 1906–1993.
Royal sisters : a novel of the Stuarts / Jean Plaidy.
1. Mary II, Queen of England, 1662–1694—Fiction. 2. Anne, Queen of Great
Britain, 1665–1714—Fiction. 3. Queens—Great Britain—Fiction. I. Title.
Cover design by Laura Duffy
Cover photography by Richard Jenkins
A HUSBAND FOR ANNE
he Princess Anne, walking slowly through the
tapestry room in St. James’s Palace—for it was a lifetime’s habit never to hurry—smiled dreamily at the silken pictures representing the love of Venus and Mars which had been recently made for her uncle, the King. Tucked inside the bodice of her gown was a note; she had read it several times; and now she was taking it to her private apartments to read it again.
Venus and Mars! she thought, Goddess and God, and great lovers. But she was certain that there had never been lovers like Anne of York and John Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave, Princess and Poet.
Her lips moved as she repeated the words he had written.
Of all mankind I loved the best
A nymph so far above the rest
That we outshine the Blest above
In beauty she, as I in love
No one could have written more beautifully of Venus than John Sheffield had written of her.
What had happened to Venus and Mars? she wondered idly. She had never paid attention to her lessons; it had been so easy to complain that her eyes hurt or she had a headache when she was expected to study. Mary—dear Mary!—had warned her that she would be sorry she was so lazy, but she had not been sorry yet, always preferring ignorance to effort; everyone had indulged her, far more than they had poor Mary who had been forced to marry that hateful Prince of Orange. Anne felt miserable remembering Mary’s face swollen from so many tears. Dear sister Mary, who had always learned her lessons and been the good girl; and what had been her reward? Banishment from her own country, sent away from her family, and married to that horrid little man, the Orange, as they called him—or more often Caliban, the Dutch Monster.
The exquisitely sculptured Tudor arch over the fireplace commemorated two more lovers whose entwined initials were H and A. Henry the VIII and Anne Boleyn had not remained constant lovers. That was indeed a gloomy thought and the Princess Anne made a habit of shrugging aside what was not pleasant.
She turned from the tapestry room and went to her own apartments. Delighted to find none of her women there, she sat in the window seat and took out the paper.
Soon, the whole Court would be reading the poem, but they would not know that those words were written for her. They would say: “Mulgrave writes a pretty verse.” And only she would know.
But it was not always going to be so. Why should they hide their passion?
Her father had always been indulgent, and she preferred to believe he would continue so. Her uncle too, but state policy could come into this—as it had with Mary.
Anne was suddenly frightened, remembering that terrifying day when Mary had come to her, bewildered, like a sleepwalker. “Anne, they are forcing me to marry our cousin Orange.”
Matters of state! A Princess’s duty! Those words which meant that the free and easy life was over. An indulgent father and a kind uncle were yet Duke of York and King of England; and matters of state must take precedence over family feeling.
Anne refused to consider failure. It was a trait in her character which had often exasperated Mary. Anne believed what she wanted to believe, so now she believed she would be allowed to marry Mulgrave.
Reaching her apartment she went at once to the window and, as she had expected, she saw him in the courtyard below, where he had been walking backward and forward hoping for a glimpse of her.
They smiled at each other. He was not only the most handsome man in her uncle’s Court, thought Anne, but in the world.
“Wait!” Her lips formed the words; he could not hear, of course, but with the extra sense of a lover, he understood.
She turned from the window, picked up a cloak, wrapped it round her and pulled the hood over her head. It would help to conceal her identity. Unhurriedly she went down to the courtyard.
He ran to her and took both her hands.
“We must not stay here,” she said.
“But we must talk.”
She nodded and drew him to an alcove in the stone wall; here they could remain hidden from anyone crossing the courtyard.
“My poem …” he began.
“It was beautiful.”
“Did you understand what the lines meant?”
“I think I understand,” she said.
“And therefore They who could not bear
To be outdone by mortals here
Among themselves have placed her now
And left me wretched here below.”
“It sounds as though she’s dead,” said Anne.
“It is symbolic. I daren’t tell the truth. You
so far above me … a Princess. What hope have I …”
“You should always hope.”
“You cannot mean …”
“I think they want me to be happy.”
“And you would be happy?”
Anne never troubled to hide her feelings; she was always frankly herself.
“I want to marry you,” she said.
Mulgrave caught his breath with joy, and surprise.
Marriage with the Princess Anne! That thought had entered his head, of course, but he scarcely dared hope. Why, if Charles had no legitimate child—and it seemed unlikely that he would—and James had no son, which also seemed a possibility, and Mary remained childless, well then it would be the Princess Anne’s turn. The prospect was dazzling. Married to the Queen of England! She was not an arrogant woman; one only had to look into that fresh-colored face, those eyes which, owing to some opthalmic trouble which had been with her since childhood, gave her a helpless look, at that body which was already showing signs of indulgence at the table, to realize that her air of placidity was an absolute expression of her true nature. She would be easy going, lazy—a comfortable wife even though she were a Queen.
No wonder he was in love with Anne.
He shook his head. “They would never allow it.”
She smiled at him fondly. “If I begged and pleaded …”
“You would do that?”
“For you,” she told him.
He drew her toward him and kissed her almost wonderingly. She was delightful—gentle, yielding, frankly adoring, and a Princess! He, of course, was a very ambitious man, but this seemed too much good fortune. He must not let her delude him into the belief that it would be easy to marry her.
It was a pleasant state of affairs when ambition and pleasure were so admirably linked. Ever since he had become Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Anne’s father he had observed the royal family at close quarters and consequently knew a great deal about their weaknesses. No one in the country could help being aware of James’s position at this time for already his brother the King had thought it wise to send him into exile on more than one occasion and the Bill, the object of which was to exclude James from the succession, was being discussed not only in Parliament but in every town and village.
Mulgrave had served with the fleet against the Dutch and been appointed captain of a troop of horse. The Duke of York was inclined to favor him; but what would his reactions be when he knew he aspired to marry his daughter?
Looking into the eager face of seventeen-year-old Anne he believed she was too simple—or too determined to have her way—to see the enormous difficulties which lay before them.