Monday, December 12, 2011

All I Want for Christmas . . .

. . . is my coughing gone away, my packing finished, house cleaned, Christmas letters written and sent. A personal chef for the next year. And a personal trainer. And edits finished for Book One. And a rough draft finished for Book Two.

And this post is not about me. So I wrench myself away from the hectic nature of a 21st-century Christmas with four kids and a cross-country trip of two weeks and steal you away with me to a more serene Christmastime. In a placid, peaceful, joyous world where beauty reigns and love is everything, right up to the moment where swords are drawn and wives are beheaded and rebel armies are launched at an unpopular king . . .

It's Christmas 1553 in England's Tudor court. A Tudor court ruled by Henry VIII's son, William. What, you say in astonishment, you've never heard of this son of Anne Boleyn and Henry of the six wives? Well, that's because in my world, Henry only ever had two wives and the baby boy Anne miscarried in January 1536 was actually carried to term and born that summer to save his mother's life. And thus alter--for a bit--the course of English history.

This is the world of The Boleyn King, my first novel which will appear next winter from Ballantine. In this world, William is a hotheaded, charming, beloved 17-year-old king ready to take on the world as his father did before him. His best friend, Dominic, is both older and wiser and spending this particular Christmas in France spying for his king. Elizabeth is all that the future Elizabeth I should be--except with a mother who's still alive and a brother who is firmly ensconced on England's throne. And then there's Minuette--poor, pretty, orphaned, clever, and beloved by the inner circle of Tudor royalty.

In their own words, here are their Christmas wishes.

William: What do I want? I want a reason to go to war with France. I want Dominic back from whatever clandestine work he's doing. I want to win the lands my father failed to, and make his Field of Cloth of Gold but a shadow of my own glory. I want my council to look to me for orders, and not my uncle. I want Eleanor to go away for a while so she will stop sniping at Minuette and give me peace. I want the next women I take to bed to be rather more silent.

Dominic: I want to go home. I am not meant to be a spy, or an envoy, or whatever the council wishes to call it. I want to make certain Will is behaving himself, keeping his temper with the council and not flaunting his relationship with Eleanor too openly in front of her husband. I want to have a small command of my own, of soldiers who are trained and loyal and know only their own work without meddling in politics. But more than any of that, I want to serve my king and my friend so well that my loyalty need never be doubted. So I will curb my impatience and do my duty. And try not to think of Minuette. Who is all that I really wish for.

Elizabeth: I don't have time for wishing. It is pointless and also more than a little ungrateful. I am a princess royal, a daughter of England, educated and trusted and with work that satisfies me. If I were to wish for something, I suppose it would be the power to choose my own future. It was a great relief when the French pulled out of the treaty--I should not have loved to marry the French king's widowed brother. But whom should I love? Sweden's prince? A minor royal from the Netherlands? Prince Philip of Spain is by far the grandest choice--and he is, at least, of an age with me. But I do not wish to live in Spain. I do not wish to ever leave England. Almost I would be content to never marry, if only I could stay here. Almost content . . . were it not for a particular young lord with gypsy-dark eyes who can always tease me into humour. A particular young lord who is, himself, very much married to someone else.

Minuette: I wish for fabrics--satins and velvets and shot silk. And ribbons, yards of different colors. Perhaps a puppy. A letter from Dominic would be nice--one that discussed more than the state of the weather. One that perhaps hinted at when he might return to court. I wish that Eleanor may grow very fat this winter. I wish that Elizabeth would settle to a new project, to keep her from fretting at things she cannot control. I wish that the new year will be even more glorious than this one, and that next Christmas will find the four of us together, as we should be. As we always and ever should be.