Queen Mary’s Spanish advisor Simon Renard interrogates Princess Elizabeth on the eve of the Wyatt uprising.
“Now, are you in possession of any information of any kind that could cast light upon Sir Thomas’ plans, his comrades-in-arms, his politics? Anything at all?”
“No. I don’t believe so.”
Renard gathered himself together for the next parry, taking a deep breath, frowning slightly and lightening his tone. “Your Highness, would you by any chance know Edward Courtenay, the Earl of Devon?”
Elizabeth hesitated again, wondering what was this was all about. Renard noted that she clenched her left hand. “Yes, I… believe I have met him at Court. He is not a close personal acquaintance.”
Renard bent forward intensely, with feigned innocence, as if to study her reaction. He spoke slowly for emphasis, “Are you aware, your Highness, that Sir Thomas, in the event of his success, is planning to have you wed Edward Courtenay in order to ensure what he calls a ‘native-born succession to the throne’? ”
Elizabeth lost her composure, her well-known temper beginning to flair. “No. No. Not at all. Nor would I ever contemplate doing such a thing. I…I..It’s outrageous. The very thought. Especially not that beast of vanity. If I ever marry, and that is doubtful, it is I and I alone who will make that decision.” Then she stopped suddenly and began to pull herself together. She was beginning to wonder if Renard had more bombs to throw at her, and began to tremble slightly.
Renard watched her unfeelingly while she slowly regained her composure. “There is no need to get upset,” he said coldly.
When she was ready, Elizabeth raised her head high, and asked very directly, “Ambassador Renard, can I assume that your questions have been answered satisfactorily and that we can conclude this meeting?”
“Oh, no,” replied Renard, shaking his head from side to side very slowly, and enjoying himself immensely, thought Elizabeth. “We are just getting warmed up.” He studied her intensely with his unflinching gaze, radiating undisguised hatred, a technique he had mastered to perfection. But he received back only what he was later to call her “ice lady” stare. Eventually, and for the first time ever, it was he who first broke the ice.
“Queen Mary would like you to answer a couple of, shall we say, more personal questions.” Elizabeth said nothing, and continued to stare.
“To come to the point, the Queen would like to know what you will do if Wyatt is successful in his enterprise?”
Elizabeth said nothing, just stared. Renard waited patiently.
“The Queen has a right to know. You owe her an answer.”
Elizabeth said nothing. Once again, after a long pause, Renard took the initiative. He was clearly getting a little angry with her.
“This attitude will not stand you in good stead with the Queen. The Queen has a right to know. Will you accept Wyatt’s proposal? Will you then send her to the Tower? Or will you decline? And if so, whom will you point to instead? Lady Jane Grey? Mary Queen of Scots? Sir Thomas himself perhaps?” He pounded his right hand fist into the palm of his left hand, lowered his voice to a whisper and said very slowly, “She has the right to know.” He paused for a moment, and followed up with, “Your Highness, what will you do?”
Elizabeth saw through his clever trap. Anything she said would be a screw without an end, an opening in the dike. There would be no end to it until she was sent to the Tower. No matter what she said, it would be ammunition to be used against her. Her heart was beating faster and faster, and she knew not what to do, except keep her silence. Now she realised that everything else had been foreplay. This was what the Spanish “inquisitor” was leading up to. This was what he was after. Her head.