The procession began at The Royal Palace at the very top of Summer Hill. In the long hall, all the members of the court and the royal household lined up to bow before my parents, the king and queen, my sister Meri, the heir to the throne, and me, the princess who was leaving them to marry a foreign prince.
I could not help but feel a little panic at the thought of marrying a man that I had never met before. As I looked at the young lords, turned out in their fine velvets and silks, I wondered why I could not just marry one of them and stay home. It was a question that I had posed to my parents more than once, as well as to my long suffering Lady Governess, Lady Saltsberry, and my patient, sweet sister, Meri. It was Meri who finally gave me an explanation that had satisfied me somewhat.
While we were both at Chenoweth Hall, Meri had taken me riding one morning and explained why I was being sent away.
“Augustine is our ancient enemy. We have gone to war with them many times. Our father and King Francis have decided the only way to end the bloodshed is for you to marry the heir to the throne.”
I had let my horse walk a little ahead of Meri’s. I was attempting to keep my mouth shut and prevent myself from asking Meri the most obvious question.
My sister had peered at me with our father’s light blue eyes. Her mouth trying to repress a smile. “I cannot marry Prince Jahn, Esobella. I am the heir to the throne and the people of Pendland would never accept an Augustinian as their king.” Then Meri had laughed, her deep, throaty laugh, which was almost as loud as our father’s and raced along the path ahead of me.
In the wake of our brother’s death, Meri and I had grown ever closer and it was her that I was most in despair of leaving.
It was late autumn and my maids had dressed me against the chill in the air. I wore a fine, white woolen shift beneath several skirts. Covering all of this was a robe of dark blue damask that opened onto a brilliant gold forepart studded with sapphires and rubies. I wore my sleeves long and trimmed with fur. I thought it was too much. After all it was not that cold yet, but my maids had informed me that the Queen had issued special instructions. My long auburn hair was pulled behind my neck and covered with An Augustinian hood and a long veil. I had been shown my image in the looking glass that morning and I had seen a very beautiful, if sickly pale, young lady looking back at me.
My parents rode behind a battalion of the royal guard in the state carriage bedecked in the Tailwind colors of blue and gold. Following them on white chargers were the members of my father’s privy council, high ranking aristocrats who advised the king on matters of state. Each member of the privy council had been paired with one of my mother’s senior ladies in waiting. After the king and queen came the carriage where my sister, Meri, rode. Earlier that morning Meri had tried to convince my father that she and I should be allowed to ride together, my father had refused that request with more bluster than was necessary. If I had not known my father better I would have thought that he saw Meri and I as possible conspirators and that he wanted to keep us apart to prevent us from plotting. My father had grown every more watchful and suspicious after my brother’s death a few years before. Meri’s carriage bore her arms, a golden owl on a field of blue, on the door. Following her were her ladies in waiting.
My carriage had been designed and built especially for the occasion. It was golden with white wedding flowers created from pearls embossed on the doors. I was instructed to wave to the small folk as we processed through the tight streets of Marisdon. My four ladies in waiting rode on black horses behind me. My ladies and I had been together since childhood. There were all named Mariah and came from the finest families in Pendland: Mariah Giscombe, Mariah Cobb, Mariah Holmes, and Mariah Beaton.