Continued from Part Five.
Sipping the tea, his hands clasp around the warm cup. The gesture reminds him of the way she took her husband’s arm, at the end of that first glimpse of what The Queen had in store for him. She, John Dee’s wife, Jane, never entertained the notion that she would not stand, shoulder to shoulder, with her foolish but magnificent husband as his life turned to face the incoming cannon-ball of the Sovereign’s will.
He looks at the place where chair N5 had been, with its quietly intense and magnetically humble occupant.
Jane Dee – Mistress Dee as the others referred to her – had visited Nonsuch Palace, before. As a former Lady in Waiting, she had been at the Young Elizabeth’s beck and call; and had been happy to be so. But this was different. This time, forced to be here by the force of the charges against her husband, she was in hell…
When she spotted the bag of gold coins on the small, ornate table next to the Royal throne, her heart had missed a beat. She knew they were intended for her husband, Dr John Dee; knew beyond doubt that they were a part – possibly just the first part – of a human process designed to crush his spirit… or something worse.
‘Spirit’ she whispers, suddenly frightened that someone had overheard her soft and ironic utterance; spirit was a bad word to use in the land of the persecuted alchemist…
Dr Dee’s lady raises her eyes, slightly, to look around her. To her right is the line of chairs in the West that contains her husband, their apparent gaoler – Sir Walter Raleigh, and the Jesuit Priest, whom she has heard spoken of as ‘the most hunted man in England’.
And yet, The Queen is playing with them all…. First she delights in the dancing entrance of the figures of the Royal Court, orchestrated by Lord Essex – or was it really Sir Francis Drake whose prize was stolen by the more senior Peer? She doubts that few have survived robbing Sir Francis of anything…. though, on the high seas at least, he has done his fair share of piracy.
Is she taunting them – The Queen? Is this whole masque about learning a new dance code to take then across the chequered surface? As she muses, the Queen uses the ladies Bess of Harwick and Blanche Parry to good effect; having them stage an impromptu dance immediately after the stiffly formal movements of the gentlemen – who ‘sought to lift the Queen’s spirits’…. And then there is the first hint of something deeper, as Christopher Marlowe, that most intellectually mischievous figure, prompts an emotional reaction from Her Grace:
“I find men are obsessed with rules!” says The Queen, disparaging the protestations of Essex and Drake. “Women are much more flexible in how they do what feels right.”
Sensing this breach, Sir Francis Drake seems equally determined to flush out the real motives of the Sovereign:
“But, Your Grace, you would be harsh on any man here if he did not follow the set ways of the Court!”
She smiles at that, recognising the practiced hand of strategy, allowing it to have life – as though she had expected–nay held in readiness, the prompt.
Just so, Sir Francis,” she says, through her smile. “It is an unjust world and women have few advantages – you would, therefore, expect us to use the ones we have!”
Sir Francis Drake bows, practices silence, and withdraws. Only Mistress Dee seems to notice the curl of his smile beneath the greying beard.
Shifting tack, The Queen plays games with sailors and soldiers as she spells out the real meaning of her statement; “Let all be sea, then…” The mock combat she has instigated invites comment of an almost legal level – as Lord Essex is ‘tried’ in the sense of being alive or dead at the bottom of the sea. Even Frances Walsingham, daughter of the – now dying – fearful spymaster; and Lord Cecil, deformed son of The Queen’s near lifetime First Minister, Lord Burghley, are asked for their verdict.
But this courtroom is not established to try these powerful and trusted people; it is established to try the man who now rises, on royal command, to his feet, to stand staring at the pot of gold towards which his unfortunate feet must now move….
Mistress Dee trembles with fear as her husband is escorted to what his wife senses will be his public death before The Queen.
But then, in the way of things of great power, the Saracen noble lady rises to her feet, also, and the world changes….
Other parts in this series:
Part One, Part Two, Part Three
Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.
His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.
You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.