Fandom: 'The Tudors'
Date: April 1, 2007
Warnings: Slashy, maybe irreligious?
Author's Notes: This is my first Tudors fic, and I'm pushing it to get something written.
It was time to tell Henry that the Blount wench was with child. No doubt he would be pleased, but it was sometimes difficult to be certain, and these sensitive matters required equally sensitive handling. If Wolsey had learned anything in a decade of serving England's king, he had certainly learned how to sidestep the young lion's roar.
The nubile Bessie Blount, maid in waiting to Queen Katherine, had awakened a necessary part of Henry's nature, an aggressive sexuality that could result in the elevated probability of seeding a strong son. Henry's only male issue had lived but a few weeks, and Wolsey knew from Henry's confessor that the king still grieved of both having lost the boy and having lost the chance of getting another. Henry's interest in bedding the queen had waned, and according to his cleric, he was now starting to doubt the devoted woman's veracity, wondering if his brother's widow had indeed been a virgin when she married Henry as she had claimed.
Why was it that so many great men had so much trouble getting an heir? Hadn't the same been true of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar? Didn't both cleave their empires apart by leaving behind no male progeny?
Would the same thing happen to England?
If necessary, a bastard son could be acknowledged, meaning Elizabeth Blount might become one of the most important women alive. As the King's Lord Chancellor, it wasn't surprising that she had come to Wolsey to reveal her pregnancy. Not only was Wolsey a Cardinal, the highest churchman in England, he was the king's closest advisor. Wolsey had instructed the girl to keep her condition secret on pain of death and made plans to have her secured and secluded when her condition warranted.
And now he and Henry were at Wolsey's estate, Hampton Court, and he had maneuvered the king into a comfortable and private setting, something that was becoming more and more difficult as Henry aged and surrounded himself with his minions. It was hard now to recognize the youth who ten years earlier had sought his council in all matters, including those that defined his manhood.
"Your majesty, if I may... " Wolsey began.
Henry looked up from his reading, and Wolsey saw that the king was studying something written by Thomas More, some somber treatise that would no doubt make it more difficult to distract and divert him. Swallowing his chagrin, Wolsey eased himself down to a couch near the king.
"Lady Blount is with child," he said without preamble, watching the king's eyes carefully while seeming to divert his own.
"Lady Blount... " Henry murmured, showing no apparent emotion.
"I have arranged for her confinement. If Your Majesty should choose to recognize the child, I can speak with her husband."
Henry sighed. "Speak with him. We will see soon enough about the child."
Wolsey nodded, knowing the gender of the baby would determine its fate.
"There are some who say you would be Pope if you could," Henry began, surprising Wolsey.
"They do. They seem to think it was ambition that inspired your peaceful intentions toward the French."
Wolsey smiled. "An English Pope. That would be an anomaly."
"We would miss your council, Eminence, if you went to Rome. What a waste it would be to leave this beautiful palace unoccupied."
"My home is yours, Majesty, whether I am here or not." The thought of giving up Hampton Court tugged painfully at Wolsey's chest.
Henry's eyes softened, and Wolsey saw something in them that reminded him of the 18-year-old king trembling with trepidation on the night before his coronation. He risked reaching out a hand and laying it lightly on the king's shoulder.
"Would you really leave me?" Henry asked, a boy again.
Wolsey shook his head. "No, Your Grace," he said, meaning it. "I am your humble servant for life."
Henry looked around, grinning. "Not so humble, Your Eminence."
Wolsey raised his eyebrows. "Perhaps not."
"I don't know what I would do without you," Henry said, moving closer. "I miss those times when your council was given more often at night than during the day."
"I remember those times with fondness," Wolsey acknowledged. "Your Majesty's tastes were somewhat different then."
"Were they? What of your tastes? You were a mere priest then, with no red robes to remove."
They were both different men, Wolsey thought to himself. He of humble beginnings, risen first by the force of his own will to an intimate position at court and finally to an exalted status in the Church. And Henry, raised as the second son with no particular aspirations to the throne, now the English king and acknowledged Defender of the Faith by the Pope himself.
But were their natures really so changed, or had they been rearranged by circumstance?
"I am not loathe to remove my vestments whenever Your Majesty requests it," Wolsey said, "although I fear what you would find beneath them less pleasing than those young lords who take up so much of your time now."
Henry's fingers brushed Wolsey's hand and played with his gold ring of office. "These hands have not changed. Nor has that amazing mind of yours, stronger than the most impressive physique. With that alone you could always move me."
Wolsey paused, wondering how long that could remain true.
No matter. If this were his final opportunity to share his most private council with the king, he wouldn't hesitate.
He reached up and removed his red zuchetto, his cap of office. Then Wolsey slowly rose from the couch and smiled down at England's king.
"Come, Harry. It's a long walk to my bedroom."