Lord Bacon and Lady Anne took their seats silently and tensely in the small room in Elizabeth’s private quarters on a settee facing Elizabeth and Dudley on straight-backed chairs, and Sir William Cecil took his place in an armchair between the two couples, as all felt a heavy sense of destiny hanging in the air.
Elizabeth broke the ice. “After considerable thought, Robin and I are agreed that the most important thing for us is to have the child.”
“Your Highness,” said Cecil, “Do you realise…..”
But Elizabeth cut him off. “Please let me finish. There will be time enough for discussion. We have a proposal. We will have the child. There will be no abdication of the throne. Nor, in our opinion, will it be necessary.”
She turned to Lady Anne and Nicholas Bacon, and looked them intensely in the eyes back and forth. “This is our proposal.” Elizabeth reached out and took Lady Anne’s hands in hers. “My dear Anne. You are my dearest and closest friend. Robin and I want you and Nicholas to raise the child as your own.”
Suddenly everyone was talking at once. Elizabeth raised her hands, “Please, please. Let me finish.” They calmed down again. “It can work. I know it can. No one outside this room knows. Know one else has to know. With the dresses we wear these days, no one can tell anyway. Anne can let it be known that she is expecting, in January, a little brother or sister for Anthony. I will go about my business as usual and stay out of sight the last few months. It can work.
“Of course, there are costs, but I will make it well worth your while. Naturally all expenses will be covered. In addition, I will present the Bacon family with extensive properties and honours. Whatever you wish, it shall be yours. And I will take care of his, or her, education. But the child must live in York House, so we can be as close as possible,” concluded Elizabeth, as she straightened up. “Well?”
“Your Majesty,” said Cecil, “This is not…”
Elizabeth interrupted him again. “Cecil. Please. I would like to hear from Lady Anne first. She is after all the one to carry the greatest burden.”
Lady Anne continued to hold Elizabeth’s hand. The tears were running down her cheeks as she said, “I am overwhelmed.” She looked over to Nicholas Bacon to read his face.
Lord Bacon raised his eyebrows, and opened his hands, as if to say: it is up to you, darling. Then he spoke. “I would consider it a great honour, Your Majesty. But of course, as you say, it is Anne who really has to decide, and I will abide by whatever decision she makes.”
Lady Anne was searching for words. “Dearest Elizabeth. I am so touched that you would ask me.” The tears ran down her cheeks profusely, as she dabbed at them with her handkerchief. “And, yes I do believe it could work.” She nodded, “Yes. Yes. I will do it if that is your wish. And if Nicholas has no objection.”
Elizabeth rose and moved over to her and embraced Anne tightly in a long loving hug. Dudley too moved over and gave her a warm embrace, and then shook hands vigorously with Nicholas Bacon, smiling satisfactorily with the outcome.
William Cecil was fuming. It was seldom anyone dared to interrupt him, let alone twice in the same conversation. As the hugging and hand shaking died down, he spoke, “May I say something?” All eyes turned to him, as if he had been forgotten.
“I do sympathise with your feelings on this matter, your Highness. But I believe you are making a very serious mistake. I agree that the plan is clever. And if it could be pulled off with no one outside this room being the wiser, yes, I would agree that there is no need to worry about a public reaction. But, that is a big ‘if’. And frankly, I do not believe for a minute that this can be kept secret. In the first place, I cannot withhold this information from the Privy Council, as it has national security and succession consequences. To do so would be treasonable. That means sixteen more people have to know, not all of whom I consider reliable. The truth will surface eventually. Believe me. And when it is out, all Hell will break loose. A child born soon after a hasty marriage is one thing. A child born out of wedlock with a married man is another. You would not survive, Madam,” said Cecil haughtily.
Dudley spoke up for the first time, “It is not out of the question, Cecil, that a legal marriage could still happen. I have been informed just recently that Amy is, in fact, seriously ill.”
“Oh, really, Lord Dudley? I understood that she was in quite good health when she visited the Queen here last week,” replied Cecil sharply.
Elizabeth spoke, “Cecil, I appreciate your concern, but we do not entirely agree. I believe we can contain any rumours, as there will be no proof. Any signs of loose talk will be dealt with severely.” She looked around. “I believe we have an agreement here, do we not?”