“What are these state matters you have to discuss with Pope Sixtus?” I asked.
“Oh, some canonical issues about the dispensation for the Lady Elizabeth’s marriage negotiations.”
“But the degree of consanguinity between her and the dauphin must be very slight, is it not?”
Anthony moued vaguely. “It’s not for that marriage.”
“You mean it’s for one of the king’s other daughters?”
“N-no. It’s for a different possible marriage for the Lady Elizabeth. The king wants to… open up another possible scenario.”
I was astonished. Words failed me. I stared at him.
“The king has received a proposal — a secret proposal, of course — that would unite my niece with the heir-general of the House of Lancaster.”
“And who could that be?” I growled at Anthony, and he stared back at me like a sheep; a Welsh sheep. “Henry Tudor? And what did you call him? A Welsh nobody, a descendant of bastards on both sides?”
“The Lady Margaret Beaufort is negotiating with the king for her son to be recalled from exile, to be restored to the honour of Richmond and — perhaps — as part of the arrangement…”
“To marry the king’s eldest daughter, who is already betrothed to the French dauphin?” My astonishment had become outrage. “How can you…?”
“The king is simply considering it. He wishes to keep the option open. It would be a very tidy solution to the eternal battles within the dynasty.”
“And it would insult the King of France!”
“I’m sure His Grace will have considered how to finesse the French king, should the need arise.” He could see I was deeply upset; both at the king’s duplicity (though it would be treason to call it so) and even more at my friend’s collusion in it. “It’s high politics, brother, and it’s what the king commands.”
“If I’d known that was the purpose of our journey, I would not have come.”
“Only one of its purposes, brother. The other is for us to see the great world — together.”
That night, in my own chamber, I still felt mortified; but was it, I wondered, because of the duplicity of statecraft and the ambivalence of kings, or simply because I had not been included once again in the magic circle of knowledge?
Rome was a city in turmoil, in an orgy of building and profligate, but magnificent, expense. The Supreme Pontiff, Sixtus
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