Meet Marie, the Princess de Conde. Married inconveniently to her cousin, Henri, she’s determined to make life for herself in 1570s Paris. A chance for love comes almost too late, but will Marie reach and take that opportunity?
See for yourself in Almost a Queen: Book One of The Three Graces Trilogy.
Conde and I take our places in the massive throne room of the Louvre palace. Navarre and his gentlemen have finally arrived in Paris safely, and to our relief, the formal betrothal will be held as planned. The ceremony demonstrates the tangled web of relations and religious preferences across the country; while the groom is Protestant, his cousin is the very Catholic Cardinal Bourbon, who will conduct the betrothal ceremony and the strange wedding ceremony that is to come. In deference to Navarre, they will be wed on a platform erected outside of Notre Dame Cathedral. After their vows, the new Queen of Navarre will be escorted by her brother the Duc d’Anjou, known as “Monsieur,” who will stand in the groom’s place for the Catholic Mass that will follow the ceremony.
I cannot help but flash back to my wedding ceremony a month earlier, as Conde and I were wed in a thoroughly Protestant ceremony in the formidable Chateau Blandy near the village of Melun. Navarre had stood nearby while I was wed and now I would watch as he likewise was united in matrimony. Like the ring on my finger, our marriage had failed to settle upon me, being more of an intrusion than a comfort. I hoped that as time passed, this would no longer be so. I wished the same for Navarre.
The appearance of so many new people in Paris had also meant that the court had been reshuffled in our housing arrangements. My husband and I were allowed to move out of the Louvre and lodge in my sister’s home with her husband, the Italian Duc de Nevers. Henriette was the heiress of our family, our elder brother having died a few years earlier, and her husband took her title, but not the management of her finances. Thanks to Henriette’s wily use of her financial assets, she was fast becoming one of the most important creditors in France. Perhaps every new groom is uncomfortable being lodged with his new wife’s family, but I sensed that my husband tried little to integrate himself with mine. Henriette and her husband, Louis were devoted Catholics, like our other sister, Catherine and that brought no small amount of scorn from my husband. I would have thought that the idea of having so many fellow Protestant allies in Paris weeks after meeting for our ceremony would make Conde happy, but he seems so dour and determined to be quarrelsome that I doubt anything could make him happy. Even during our shared meals, he took the opportunity to criticize my sister and her studious husband.
“Must we sit here while the two of them continue crossing themselves?”
“Husband, it’s simply in thanksgiving of their food. We should all be grateful for the bounty of God’s providence,” I quoted a minister’s lecture from a few weeks earlier, hoping that he would use the parallel to find some common ground with Louis and my sister.
“It’s idolatry,” he sneered, poking at his fish. “Making the sign of the cross is not creating an idol. We all revere the cross as the instrument of our Lord’s torture and resurrection. Surely we can all agree on that?”
“I will be glad when this spectacle is over and we can get back to our regular lives.” “And back to our rooms at the palace?”
He shrugged, “As far away from Paris as we can get.”