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The Twylight Tower

Karen Harper




  “An exciting mystery … What makes The Twylight Tower comparable to the fine works of Alison Weir is the strong riting of the author, interweaving historical tidbits into a owerful story line.”


  “Harper has a fine touch.… Both her fictional and historical characters breathe and provide the reader with spirited entertainment. So do her plots, perhaps as complicated as the real life of Elizabeth’s court. Join the Queen’s Privy Plot Council and sleuth along with the best.”


  “Harper’s Elizabeth is a brilliant and willful young woman.… Conspiracies and lies take the story through twists and turns.…”



  “An entertaining cross between a swashbuckling historical omance and a mystery novel. The heroine is spunky, the ourtiers scheme and truckle, capes swirl, daggers flash, and horses gallop.”


  “Poison, double-cross, betrayal, sibling rivalry, and a mass murder plan are believably made the stuff of Elizabethan times. Harper delivers a detailed look at the era and the people.”


  “Impressively researched … the author has her poisons and her historical details down pat.”



  “Harper’s facility with historical figures such as William Cecil, Robert Dudley, and the treacherous Duchess of Suffolk is extraordinary.”


  “A nice mix of historical and fictional characters, deft twists and a plucky, engaging young heroine enhance this welcome sequel to The Poyson Garden.”


  “Peopled with historical figures and bounding with intrigue and mystery, The Tidal Poole is a triumphant read. Harper does a masterful job at re-creating the era, and her portrait of the young queen is brilliant. The intricate plot will immediately carry readers away to Elizabethan times.”


  “Harper delivers high drama and deadly intrigue.… [She] masterfully captures the Elizabethan tone in both language and setting and gives life to fascinating historical figures.… Elizabethan history has never been this appealing.”


  “Rollicking good action, wicked doings, and lively characters.”


  Also by Karen Harper




  Published by

  Dell Publishing

  a division of

  Random House, Inc.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2001 by Karen Harper

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. For information address:

  Delacorte Press, New York, N.Y.

  Dell® and its colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

  Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 00-064470

  eISBN: 978-0-307-77959-5

  Reprinted by arrangement with Delacorte Press


  For Sharon and Nancy,

  who shared a lovely trip to

  England with us.

  Also my gratitude to

  my far-flung sister Elizabethan experts

  and fellow Anglophiles:

  Susan Watkins, who first suggested Dr. John Dee

  as a fascinating character. Susan’s THE PUBLIC


  has helped me set many a scene.

  to author Eloisa James for pointing

  me toward and lending me THE ARUNDEL

  HARINGTON POETRY manuscripts.

  to author and researcher Dorothy Auchter.

  Best wishes for his continued stellar career

  to my former British literature student, and the

  world’s best living lutenist, Paul O’Dette.

  And, as ever, to Don,

  for living so many years with a wife who spends

  much of her time in the 1500s.

  Elizabeth I

  1533 Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn, January 25. Elizabeth born September 7.

  1536 Anne Boleyn executed. Elizabeth disinherited from crown. Henry weds Jane Seymour.

  1537 Prince Edward born. Queen Jane dies of childbed fever.

  1543 Henry VIII weds sixth wife, Katherine Parr, who brings Elizabeth to court.

  1544 Act of succession and Henry VIII’s will establish Mary and Elizabeth in line of succession.

  1547 Henry VIII dies. Edward VI crowned; Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, his uncle, becomes his protector. Thomas Seymour, King Edward’s younger uncle, weds Henry’s widow, Queen Dowager Katherine Parr, in secret. John Harington enters Thomas Seymour’s service. Seymour tries to seduce Elizabeth in Parr’s household; Elizabeth is sent away.

  1548 Katherine Parr dies in childbirth. Thomas Seymour tries to court Elizabeth and Jane Grey; fails in attempt to gain control of King Edward.

  1549 Thomas Seymour arrested for treason. John Harington accompanies Seymour to Tower. Elizabeth denies complicity in Seymour plot. Thomas Seymour beheaded; Harington released. Edward Seymour ousted from power as Lord Protector by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, father of Robert Dudley.

  1550 Robert Dudley, age seventeen, weds Amy Robsart.

  1552 Edward Seymour executed.

  1553 Lady Jane Grey forced to wed Guildford Dudley. King Edward dies. Mary Tudor overthrows Northumberland’s attempt to put Protestant “Queen” Jane Grey and her husband, Guildford Dudley, Northumberland’s son, on the throne. Robert Dudley sent to Tower for his part in rebellion. Queen Mary I crowned. Northumberland executed. Queen Mary weds Prince Philip of Spain by proxy; he arrives in England in 1554. Queen Mary begins to force England back to Catholicism.

  1554 John Harington weds Elizabeth’s friend Lady Isabella Markham. Protestant Wyatt Rebellion fails, but Elizabeth implicated. Jane Grey, Guildford Dudley, and Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk (“Queen” Jane’s father) beheaded. Elizabeth sent to Tower for two months, accompanied by Kat Ashley, John and Isabella Harington.

  1555- Elizabeth lives mostly in

  1558 rural exile as queen sickens.

  1558 Mary dies; Elizabeth succeeds to throne, November 17. Elizabeth appoints William Cecil Secretary of State. Robert Dudley made Master of the Queen’s Horse.

  1559 Elizabeth crowned in Westminster Abbey, January 15. Parliament urges the queen to marry; she resists, February 4. Bishop Alvaro de Quadra becomes Spanish ambassador in England, May. Mary Queen of Scots becomes Queen of France at accession of her young husband, Francis II, July.

  1560 English army defeats the French in Scotland, January. Cecil achieves Treaty of Edinburgh in Scotland to get France out of Scotland and make Scotland a Protestant nation, July.

  1561 Now widowed and not permitted to pass through English territory, Mary Queen of Scots returns to Scotland, August 19.



  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page



  Elizabeth I


p; The Prologue

  Chapter the First

  Chapter the Second

  Chapter the Third

  Chapter the Fourth

  Chapter the Fifth

  Chapter the Sixth

  Chapter the Seventh

  Chapter the Eighth

  Chapter the Nineth

  Chapter the Tenth

  Chepter the Eleventh

  Chapter the Twelth

  Chapter the Thirteenth

  Chapter the Fourteenth

  Chapter the Fifteenth

  Chapter the Sixteenth

  Chapter the Seventeenth

  The Afterword

  The Author’s Note

  About the Author

  The Prologue

  Venomous thorns that are so sharp and keen

  Bear flowers full freely and fair of hue:

  Poison is also put in medicine.

  And unto man his health doth oft renew.

  I trust sometime my harm will be my health.

  Since every woe is joined with some wealth.

  — SIR THOMAS WYATT, the Elder

  MAY 30, 1560


  THE QUEEN KNEW A STORM WAS COMING, but it wasn’t going to halt her necessary duty.

  “I cannot fathom this large a crowd could form so quickly with bad weather threatening,” Elizabeth observed as her chief adviser, Lord William Cecil, and her Horse Master, Robert Dudley, escorted her from the palace toward the public street. Other counselors and courtiers trailed after her as the crimson-clad yeoman guards used their halberds horizontally to hold back the press of people.

  “It is hardly popular fervor to see Cecil off to Scotland to negotiate a dry, nitpicking treaty, Your Grace,” Robert put in before Cecil could say aught. “This public thoroughfare through the palace grounds is always this crowded on market day. Your subjects are heading for Cheapside or the public barge landing—ah, but they are thrilled, of course, for the opportunity to see their queen,” he added, evidently realizing his banter could be construed to insult not only Cecil.

  “Though they may also be here,” Cecil muttered, “to see you, Lord Robert. As usual, you are dressed as gaudily as—”

  “You were not going to say as our queen, my lord?” Robert interrupted, his voice mockingly abashed.

  “Hardly. As a peacock. Her Grace’s taste is matchless.”

  The queen saw Cecil bite back the rest of his comment and merely roll his eyes. He had, no doubt, wanted to remark that her taste was matchless in all things except choosing intimate friends.

  It was true that her dear Robert—she ever called him Robin—wore only the finest fig at court, as if he dared rival her royal selection of fabrics and styles, though the man had no fortune but that which she had bestowed. She had granted him the right to export wool without a license and awarded him twelve thousand pounds to cover his court costs, else he’d never have been so finely arrayed, not after the treasonous tumbles his family had taken more than once. But she did indeed—whatever Cecil and other courtiers thought of him—trust Robin.

  Amidst the swelling crowd noise, the horses of Cecil’s waiting retinue stamped and snorted. Or mayhap the big beasts sensed the coming storm. At least, she noted, for she had a keen eye for horseflesh, the steeds and their trappings had been selected to match the occasion. Her Robin might think Cecil a stern stick-in-the-mud, but he knew to prepare a fine show for a queen’s man heading out to do his duty.

  On her accession, Elizabeth had made Robin her Master of the Horse, later a garter knight and Lieutenant of Windsor Castle. The position was no sinecure, for it made him one of her closest advisers. In addition, Robin oversaw the royal stables and the purchasing and training of the 275 household horses there. He rode directly behind her in all ceremonial occasions. She felt safe from everyone when she was with him, except sometimes from herself, since he held such manly appeal for her. Cecil feared that too, though he should know she was, above all, master of her own heart.

  “I shall not have you two sniping at each other like schoolboys,” she scolded. “Worsening weather or not, I want a public departure, not only to assure my people all is well after our brief, victorious war with the French in Scotland, but”—she lowered her bell-clear voice so only the two of them could hear—“because I want the whoreson, poxy French and Spanish spies to tell their masters of my people’s affection for their queen.”

  “Then my leave-taking is best done in the open air, even if ’tis chill and wet, Your Majesty,” Cecil agreed, hunching his narrow shoulders. “As you imply, your palaces are oft infested with self-serving ears and eyes that lurk above a smiling mouth.”

  The queen saw him glare at Robert again, but other conversation was thwarted by huzzahs from the crowd when they caught their first glimpse of their queen emerging from the shelter of rose-hued, brick Whitehall. She smiled and gave a stiff-armed wave, but was sore annoyed to see that the late-morning sky looked like twilight and already spit rain.

  “Should we go back inside, Your Grace?” Robert asked, sweeping off his bronze-hued satin cloak and slanting it aloft to shield her.

  “The queen of England had best not be shaken by a bit of rain,” she retorted as they hurried toward the protection of the triple-arched King’s Gate. Connected to the palace yet spanning the public street, it was three stories topped by twin turreted towers of gray stone with protruding cornices and busts of Roman rulers. Some courtiers not in her immediate retinue crowded its narrow second-floor mullioned windows. Trumpets blared, sounding as if they had something stuck in their brassy throats. No turning back now, though it rained harder and thunder rattled the cobbles underfoot as if cannonballs rolled along them.

  About twenty feet away the lead horse Cecil would mount whinnied and shied. Though a groom seized the reins, Robin handed his cloak to her women Kat Ashley and his sister Mary. “By your leave, Your Grace,” he said before he darted over to comfort the big beast. Suddenly, for no reason, Elizabeth felt as skittish as that horse. She sensed something amiss, someone …

  As Robin reached the horse, a full-fledged rose hit her hair from above, then skidded down her face to scratch her forehead and nose before plopping at her feet. When she cursed and squinted skyward another sodden flower smacked her, its thorns snagging her hair before it fell off her shoulder. Through raindrops, she saw numerous heads and arms leaning out windows above her but no one heaving flowers.

  “Hell’s teeth!” Cecil cried, seeing her plight. “Your Grace, your face is bleeding from a thin scratch.…”

  “It’s nothing,” she insisted. “Some overzealous dolt is throwing Tudor roses instead of simply petals. Jenks,” she called to one of Lord Robert’s men who was also dear to her, “go up there and see the bouquets from heaven cease!”

  Though slow to grasp what she meant until another rose pelted down between her and Cecil, Jenks ran back into the palace to access the upper tower.

  After Kat Ashley dabbed at Elizabeth’s forehead with a damp handkerchief, Elizabeth nodded to the crowd but glanced again at Robin calming the horses with those big, steady hands. They were thicker than hers, but also long fingered, skilled at the pursuits of riding, hunting, and dancing that she excelled in. And he was doubly skilled in the art of making a woman feel tenderly touched, wanted, and beloved.

  Sometimes Robin almost seemed her other self, though his hair was a more muted chestnut while hers gleamed red-gold. Neither had milky English complexions. Hers was olive-hued, a heritage from her mother, while Robin’s was more burnished. His nose was classically long like hers, and his eyes dark too. “The gypsy” some courtiers called him behind his back, and she almost believed he could put a spell on her. Tall, perfectly proportioned, and poised with an athletic body both powerful and graceful, he was also the queen’s masculine ideal of wit and charm. They were of an age, and both had suffered much to survive in turbulent times, binding them even closer.

  When Robin rejoined her, she stood on the square of
carpet someone had originally put down for her but refused the canopy of his cloak. Nor did she move under the shelter of the tower, for then her courtiers above could not see or hear. She cleared her throat and nearly shouted her words.

  “My Lord Cecil, your queen charges you with the honored task of riding to our northern neighbor Scotland and seeing that the French we have defeated are expelled forthwith by lawful treaty.”

  As raindrops thudded harder, Elizabeth watched Robin’s finery go from speckled to blotched to sodden, and knew Cecil would not get far on muddy roads in this deluge. He would have to put everyone in his train up at his city house and set out on the morrow, but she wanted to maintain the illusion he could charge off at her bequest the moment she commanded.

  Elizabeth admitted to herself she wanted him to go. He didn’t approve of the time she spent in Robin’s company, though it was none of his damned business. Under her full brocade gown, she stamped her foot.

  “And so farewell and godspeed for the betterment of our righteous realm!” she shouted, and cut her carefully planned speech short as Cecil knelt before her.

  “Rise, my lord,” she said, her voice softer. “I am certain,despite this wretched beginning for your trip, the sun will smile upon you in this great endeavor.”

  “I pray so—for the sake of queen and kingdom,” he said to her alone as he rose and replaced his cap on his slick head. “Your Grace, I also pray you’ll not heed seductive Siren voices while I am away—”

  Thunder made him look like a mute mouthing words. No one waited until he and his men were mounted. When the queen made it back inside and wiped the rain from her face, her palm showed smeared crimson.

  “Vile thorns. Jenks,” she called when she saw him at the fringe of the soaked crowd, “did you find who tossed those roses?”