Sooo … I entered a writing competition again! This is the second time I’ve done it and it’s exciting, a wee bit nerve-racking and lots of fun! Anyway … the theme this year was “A convincing lie” and it was only allowed to be 2,000 words. You may or may not know this, but I am a Tudor history geek, so of course, I was inspired by that! See what you think …
Sentinel & the Galleon
Well, Elizabeth thought grimly, it appears I need to remind Robert of our disparity in rank. She arched one finely plucked ginger eyebrow and observed the tense set of Robert’s neck as he stalked away. His behavior would certainly not do –one should never turn their back on the Queen and Elizabeth had seen the shocked looks of the courtiers when he had done so.
Elizabeth and Robert had been childhood friends – he had stuck by her through the tumultuous and the downright dangerous times, but now she would have to remind him she must be seen as regal and unquestionable – the Virgin Queen, respected by all and beloved by most.
But that unpleasant little conversation would have to wait – Elizabeth and Robert had a “situation” to deal with. One neither of them could currently see their way around, and one which wouldn’t go unnoticed much longer. Her allusion to that was the reason he had left so abruptly.
Of course everyone in their inner circle knew Elizabeth and Robert were lovers. The concept of the “Virgin Queen” was a lie – so far as her people believed, a fairly convincing lie – but a lie nonetheless. However, before you jump to conclusions and assume Elizabeth was pregnant; she was not.
Robert, you see, was a thief. A fraudster. That was the problem. And very soon, it would not only be Elizabeth who knew it, but the whole of the English court and beyond.
The situation was grim, and frankly Elizabeth was furious with Robert. As Queen, she had bestowed great favours and offices on him – she’d had to really, but that wasn’t how people would see it. Whilst he was descended from a very wealthy family, the tiresome Lady Jane Grey saga – which had resulted in his father’s execution – had rather drained the family’s purse and Robert couldn’t be expected to carry out his role as the royal favourite without the means to do so.
The crux of the matter though, was that Robert had become greedy and his accompanying lack of integrity had landed them both in this unpleasant predicament.
It had started with Sentinel. As Master of the Horse, Robert came in contact with some spectacular animals and when Sir Francis Knollys arrived one morning on the magnificent black stallion, a covetous gleam appeared in Robert’s eye and he determined that Sentinel must be his. Sir Francis wasn’t interested in selling Sentinel at first, but Robert made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. An offer Robert also couldn’t afford to make, so he purchased Sentinel out of the purse he’d been allocated as Master of the Horse. From there, it was a logical step that the same purse paid for Sentinel’s upkeep. Robert knew no one would have the temerity to question why Sentinel was available only to him and wasn’t part of the courtier’s pool of horses.
But it hadn’t stopped at Sentinel. God knows if it had, Elizabeth thought, I could have made it all go away. There were numerous other transgressions; a painting here, an expensive wall tapestry there, even a water closet in his quarters at Whitehall – all on the public purse. But it was what came next that threatened to bring both Robert and Elizabeth into disrepute and eventual ruin.
The Galleon Leicester – where it all started to unravel for Robert. Rather than paying for the galleon from his own private funds, he fraudulently commissioned, built and fitted her out from his purse as Lord Steward of the Royal Household. The galleon was a vain folly and an expensive one at that. Robert wanted it for reasons threefold; the more noble reasons being to increase England’s sea power and to offer Elizabeth a quick means of escape, should that be necessary; and the third being simply that Robert felt his position in the realm warranted it. While the Galleon Leicester was not designed as a pleasure craft, it was entirely suitable as such, and Robert embraced that use wholeheartedly, hosting many a magnificent soiree onboard, with Elizabeth as guest of honour. On one particularly extravagant occasion, he had Sentinel spirited onboard before his guests arrived and greeted them from the stallion’s back. Impressive, but risky – Sentinel soon registered his distaste by whirling round, rearing and nearly throwing Robert off the side. Robert dismounted and Sentinel was led off – but not before the impressive spectacle had been witnessed by all, and was talked about for months afterward.
Those were the glory days for Robert and Galleon Leicester, and Elizabeth had no idea of his deception. She believed he’d paid for the galleon out of his private funds and indeed, she’d been impressed by his generosity in commissioning her partially for Elizabeth as a means of escape. She doubted such means would ever be needed, but she was flattered all the same. Flattered that is, until Robert knocked on the door of her privy chamber late one evening, his face pale as a ghost. Elizabeth dismissed her ladies at once and watched in horror as he fell to his knees in front of her, his shoulders wracked by silent sobbing. “Robert,” she asked in a hushed and terrified tone “what is wrong?” In the half hour that followed, Elizabeth ran the full gamut of emotions; from horror to disbelief; sympathy to anger and finally to the current feeling of dull dread that had resided in her chest for the five days since his confession.
Not only had Robert been duplicitous in his use of the Royal Household purse, he had used Elizabeth’s royal seal to authorise it – something which Elizabeth would never have allowed, had she been asked. Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s Personal Secretary, had taken Robert aside that evening and questioned him about where the money had come from for Galleon Leicester and a number of other expenses. Robert had denied using the Royal Purse of course, but Walsingham had solemnly promised him a full investigation would ensue over the next few days. The use of her royal seal meant Elizabeth was mired as deep in this mess as Robert and she knew full well there was no point in disassociating herself and claiming she had no knowledge of it – no one would believe that, given the closeness of their relationship. She was also under no illusion that Walsingham would ensure that particular approach would be wholly ineffective.
So that is how the current situation had come about and Elizabeth was furious she had spent the days since Robert’s confession worrying herself sick trying to find a solution, only for him to turn his back on his Queen and stalk away in anger. That behaviour would be addressed – mark my words, she thought to herself. But first things first. She was going to have to come up with something for Walsingham and it was going to have to be good. He was no fool and furthermore, he was no supporter of Robert, nor she suspected, herself. If the latter were true, he would certainly never admit it – that would be treason and treason meant a forfeiture of his life. Which, Elizabeth mused, would certainly be the easiest way out of this mess.
No, she had to come up with something or they would both be ruined – he rightfully so; she, through no fault of her own. She would be seen as a silly and thoughtless Virgin Queen who had allowed a man to turn her head and take advantage of not only herself, but the people of her realm. She may as well abdicate then and there, and Elizabeth had no intention of doing that.
And so the lie was conceived and Elizabeth went about the task of ratifying it using the formidable skills of state she had inherited from her father, King Henry VIII and her mother, Queen Ann Boleyn.
The ensuing lie was convincing indeed and Elizabeth delivered it at its dramatic pinnacle when Walsingham came calling the next morning. She was rather proud of her performance really; the wide-eyed surprise when he deferentially yet smugly laid out his accusations, followed by her scathing delivery of the lie itself. Her subsequent arrogant dismissal of Walsingham, accompanied by a thinly veiled threat that it would not be in his best interests to question her ever again – it was all rather good really. The most gratifying moment was the dawning recognition on Walsingham’s face that he’d been hoodwinked by a far superior opponent.
Half an hour later, Elizabeth tucked a stray lock of firey red hair back under her crown and in a voice of steel, requested her page bring Robert to her. It was time they had a conversation.
Hope you enjoyed my story!
Yours in stallions and galleons …