This was an assignment from my Queen Elizabeth class where we had to interpret a painting of Elizabeth, in any medium.
Captured in Repose
23rd day of June in the Year of our Lord 1553
Marjory slipped through the halls, her shoes making a soft shushing against the marble floor. She tried to ¬¬¬move about the stately house as quietly as possible since her Lady had taken ill. Marjory would do nothing to disturb the Princess Elizabeth’s rest. The soft morning sunlight filtered diffused through the clear glass and danced upon black and white checkers of the floor. She always began her day with the sun’s rising and the cleaning of the entrance. As the first thing any guest would see, Marjory knew that this space must shine with the understated grace and strength of her Mistress. Marjory’s first allegiance was always due to her.
As she finished up in the foyer, the soft soles of her shoes padded up the stairwell, past the mural lining the walls and the flowered tapestries that hung down keeping out the bitter winter air. She dusted and gently cleaned the beautiful wood banister as she went, careful to do her work thoroughly and that not even a mote of dust should rest upon it. Her Lady would not be seen about the house during her illness, but it was Marjory’s responsibility to ensure that it was always kept spotless in anticipation of the unexpected arrival of any guests. The Princess required the best and Marjory endeavored to please her Mistress at all times.
She had been with the Princess since her childhood and prized herself on serving her Lady with nothing but the utmost care. Marjory believed that the Princess Elizabeth’s surroundings should appear as pristine as her Lady was. Therefore, though her bones ached and her skin cracked from the washing, Marjory performed her duties as though the Princess herself might inspect every inch of the house and Marjory would not allow her to find it lacking.
Her favorite part of the day occurred when it came time to dust the portrait of the Princess that hung in the main hallway. She remembered the day seven years ago when Master Scrots had come to paint her. She had been cleaning silently around the Lady’s solar as Elizabeth read in the muted sunlight of the cloudy day. Even as a youngling her Mistress held the quiet fortitude that Marjory now saw her exude every day. At first Marjory had tried to slip out the door as her Lady slipped in, but the Princess had refused declaring that she would not have the orderly running of her house disturbed simply because she wanted to sit by the window and read. She had ordered Marjory to continue about her daily duties and though she thought that a servant had no right to be seen as her Lady relaxed, Elizabeth spoke and Marjory obeyed.
They both went about their day as if an ocean of difference did not exist between them. Though Elizabeth never spoke after her initial command, Marjory took in the strength of the woman she served and decided that she would endeavor to stay by her side until the end of her days. Marjory was hard at work when the Master Scrots called on the Princess. Her father King Henry had sent the artist to render his daughter in living color that she might be captured in the bloom of her youth.
The Princess, though hearing the announcement of the man’s presence and the shuffling of his feet against the quiet of the room, continued on with her reading until, after the passing of several minutes, she softly closed her book, her finger caught in the page where she left off. Her face turned away from the pastoral beauty of the garden in the courtyard and towards the man who quickly knelt before her.
“Rise Master Scrots,” her still youthful voice not betraying an ounce of weakness.
“My Princess Elizabeth, your father…” was all the man managed to squeak out before my Mistress waved her hand aside to silence him.
“Yes, yes. I am very aware of what my father wishes. You may set up and proceed as you will. I shall wait to continue with my reading.”
Marjory remembered that the Master Scrots had appeared shaken by this quick interview, expecting maybe more of the imperial inside the young Princess before him. Maybe he expected that she would demand that he paint only in the afternoon light or to command that he only paint her tresses with the color of the midnight rose. Marjory watched as his thoughts skittered across his face and he broke out in a wild smile that changed his entire demeanor. He set to work at once and Marjory regretted when she had finished her work in the solar and needed to move on to the next room.
Looking at the painting now, as she did every day before she swept its surface free of errant dust, gently so not to mar the delicate paint, she saw the book held in her Lady’s slender hand. The book that sits on the podium to the right of her, placed so that it draws attention to the smaller one that waits, its story interrupted and its lady patiently waiting to return to its pages.
The red gown she wears in the painting is not the one that her Lady wore that day, for it was to be a quiet day at Hatfield and the Princess wore a simple gown of white as she sat bathed in the grey of the summer day that promised rain later. The red gown granted her an air of youth and beauty, marked her as a young woman growing into her elegance.
Marjory had always thought the darkness of the room behind her mimicked the struggle of Elizabeth as a child; the darkness that trailed behind her as she grew into womanhood. Marjory could see it each time her Lady strode into a room as if the Court awaited her at every turn. No matter her trials, the Lady Elizabeth conducted herself as the Queen she deserved to become.
And so Marjory spent her days serving the one woman who deserved her loyalty and the length of her years, however long she might be granted. She is thankful as she steps back to admire the painting one last time, before moving past her Lady’s private chambers, the muffled voices inside trickling out into the hallway.
“You must not go to Edward Elizabeth. You must know that you cannot trust Dudley.”
Marjory paused for only a second before moving on, if there were news she would hear of it soon enough. She would leave her Lady her privacy. Marjory moved into a beam of light flickering with dust motes and continued on.