Royal Sisters: The Story of the Daughter


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.

He quoted:

“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