The Reign of Lawrence
The Years With My
er name, was Sarah Rowe.
Daughter of Allen Rowe, Viscount of Belvoir. She had been pretty;
with hair so blonde it was almost white and eyes a light blue
that looked smoky gray. She had been thin with practically no
bosom, but possessed a love of astronomy, books, and history,
with a knack for knowledge and a determined mind. This is what
caught the attention of Samuel, Marquis of Derby. The middle
child in the family, he was a Cheddar, one of the most elite
families in Derby, he had an older brother named Thomas who was
the future Duke of Derby, and a little sister named Beatrice,
Countess of Derby.
When Sarah was 15, she was
married to 30 year old Samuel. That was February 11th,
anno Domini 1543. And, on December 2nd, a son
was born. His name was Tobias Cheddar, heir to the title of
marquis. Sarah was still only 15 when she had her son. Of course
she felt pressured to provide much more, has her husband had a
roving eye. He had two sons, Adrian and Rowland, by a woman named
Katherine Kitson. She was newly widowed and had given birth to
Adrian Kitson when she was 20, exactly 11 months after arriving
at Samuel's court! Rowland was born a year later, anno
Of course, this upset Sarah
very much. On April 14th, anno Domini 1544,
another child was born to her. Elinor, the first heiress to be
born to Sarah Rowe and Samuel Cheddar, is me. My sister, Josian,
was born in December of that year; she was early and very small.
But she survived and became more beautiful than I ever will be.
While she has our mother's hair and eyes, accompanied by the
heavenly voice and large bosom of our grandmother, Grace Ansty, I
am quite the opposite. I have my father's brown curls, his brown
eyes, his thin lips, my mother's bosom (or lack of thereof) and I
was too tall, taller than most men (expect my father, uncle, and
grandfather, I have never met a man taller than me) . My mother
treated me very affectionately and sympathetically.
"You are beautiful Elinor,"
she would say to me when I asked why I was taller than the other
children or why my chin jutted out so long.
"You are a very attractive
little girl," my grandmother Grace would add, her plentiful bosom
shaking as she nodded.
"Yes," I would reply in a
monotone. (I had a very high pitched voice, while Josian had such
a low pitched cry ever since babyhood that my father thought she
was a boy before my mother told him she wasn't.)
But I saw how my father
looked at me, how he looked at Josian, and how he looked at
Tobias. When he looked at his son, who was then 2, he was
overjoyed, he was happy, he was pleased. When he looked at
Josian, then a few months old, he looked fine, he looked like he
thought she was cute, he looked like she was okay to him. But
when he looked at me, almost 1, he was…sad. He looked like he
wished I was a boy, he looked like he didn't want me. And every
night my mother would soothe me as I cried into her frail
"Don't cry sweet Elinor,"
she would say, stroking my back.
"Dada…" I would
And since I could hardly say
anything besides "yes", "no", "Mama", "Dada", "Toby" and "Jo" (my
nicknames for my brother and sister before I could say their full
names) I didn't know what words to use. So eventually my mother
would stop asking and just hand me over to my wet nurse. My wet
nurse tried to explain to me my mother was carrying another child
and therefore didn't have time for me, but I refused to believe
her until that day in 1545 when I met my younger brother,
After Roger's birth, my
mother was weak. During the time when my mother was sick, my
father often enjoyed time with new mistresses. During Christmas,
just after Josian observed her 2nd birthday, my aunt,
Mabel Rowe, came to court in the widow's colors of white and
black. Immediately, the dark haired witch woman tried to take my
father from my mother. And all I could do was stand by and
No sooner had my mother
gotten well again then she found out my father was up to his old
"I must conceive again," she
said to my former wet nurse, Maud, when she left me in her care
Maud shook her head. "You
are too weak, Milady." She rocked me back and forth in her arms
as she swapped the sheets in my cradle. "Having another child
would surely…"She glanced at my wide eyes. "…Not be good for
My mother paced the floor
before finally looking back into Maud's eyes. She seemed very
regal, her head held high, her hands clasped on her breast, her
eyes sparkling with an idea. "But, Maud, it is my duty to produce
my husband with sons."
"You have already given him
four lovely heirs…"
"Well only two of them can
inherit the title! That is not good enough!" she roared, stomping
Quite out of the blue, I
asked from under my covers: "Am I one of the two,
Maud and my mother looked at
me in shock, their eyes broad and pupils dilated.
My mother was the first to
speak. "Of course, sweetie," she said with phony sweetness. "You
are most definitely one of the two. Now, just get a good night's
sleep my little marquise. I love you."
"I love you too." I said as
I lay down. But I did not fall asleep.
Maud and my mother may not
have been in the room, but I could still hear them:
"Your husband doesn't even
come to your chamber at night! He goes to Ma…I mean…um…someone
"Do you know something I
don't know Maud?"
I heard the sound of someone
stumbling and a crash against a wall, like a body backing into
"Oh Maud…!" I heard my
mother mumble between tears. "I'm so sorry! Let me get you a damp
I rolled onto my side, my
sheets wrapped around me like a cocoon.
"Mama would never hurt
Maud." I shuddered into the dark. And with that chilling thought,
I finally fell asleep.
anno Domini 1546, was the day my mother's final child was
born. My mother was even weaker than before. I was 2. I will
admit, the months before had been not pleasant. One particular
memory stuck out for me.
In September, when my mother
was 7 months along, she told me I was too needy of
"But Mama, I just want you
to tell me a story!" I cried.
"No! Go to sleep!" she
And then she did it.
Crack! She hit me across the face.
I reached for the red mark,
cringing. It stung; my face felt like it was on fire. I clutched
my cheek and slowly the tears rolled down my face, making the
fire burn more instead of less.
"Oh!" my mother said, her
mask of annoyance turning into a mask of remorse. "I'm so sorry
my precious." She kissed my cheek. "I don't know what got into
me. Get into bed and I'll bring you something cold to put on
That night my mother gave me
a damp cloth and snuggled beside me, telling me stories until we
were both asleep. We curled up into a heap in my new bed, snoring
delicately. But, that slap mark turned into a scar. To this day I
still have a small curvy, patch of mended skin on my cheek. I
hate that mark so much, for it not only is a blemish on my face,
but a blemish on my mother's soul.
So that day when I crowded
with other noblewomen to the birthing chamber, I felt torn when I
saw my mother's pain. I must admit, half of me was glad she knew
what ache felt like. The other half, the more prominent half, was
dying just as she was. And, finally, when my sister was born, my
mother named her Isabel.
When it looked like the end,
by that time it was one week before Tobias's birthday, he was 3,
I stood by her and held her hand.
"Mama, where will you
"To a better place, my
child. A place where there is no pain, only
"Are you going to meet
"I'll miss you. Why do God
and Jesus need you right now?"
"Just because they do my
A tear rolled down my face,
my mother wiped it away, pausing at my scar. She bent over and
"I love you."
"I love you too,
"Go get your father. Tell
him I need to see him before I…" my mother choked on the last
"Yes Mama." I said, bending
to kiss her hot forehead. "I'll miss you."
"I know my
In the blink of an eye, I
had fled the room to find my father.
But before my father could
even make it to see her, my mother's tender soul left her
suffering body, never to meet mine for again for the rest of my