The day arrived, cold and crisp, but sunny. Rowena hadn’t slept, she’d been too nervous to close her eyes. Instead she had sat and watched the people in the city from her window. They were no more than dots from such a large distance but she strained her eyes to see the celebrations for her wedding progress throughout the night. She hardly noticed when the sun came up. To her it felt as though only moments had passed.
When the time came for Rowena to prepare herself for the wedding, her newly appointed secretary and personal advisor knocked on the door. ‘Your highness?’ Vincent whispered. ‘May I come in?’ When he received no answer he pushed the door gently open. He was slightly alarmed when he couldn’t see the Princess in her bed, eyes beginning to dart frantically around the room. ‘Rowena?’ He said, trying not to let the panic show in his voice.
‘I’m over here,’ her voice replied from behind the thick curtain.
‘I was getting worried about you,’ Vincent said as he walked over to the windowsill, pulling back the curtain to see Rowena, knees pulled up against her chest. ‘What are you doing hiding here?’
‘I couldn’t sleep,’ she said simply, ‘so I thought I would watch the stars. But I forgot that you can’t see the stars from here, you have to leave the city.’ Vincent wasn’t sure what to say to her. The only time he had seen Rowena like this was when she had been locked away in his mother’s tower. ‘What time is it?’ Rowena asked, not looking away from the window.
‘It’s time for you to start getting ready. The procession leaves the palace in two hours and we need to get you into your dress.’
‘Is it really that late,’ she exclaimed, suddenly snapping out of her trance and jumping into action. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘I did try, but you weren’t listening.’
‘That is not an excuse. Everything has to be perfect today, so I need to arrive on time looking perfect. What’s happening first?’
‘The dressmaker is waiting outside to get you into your dress and your maid is ready to do your hair and make-up.’
‘Yes but which comes first?’ Vincent looked at her blankly, unaware that there should be a special order to how the Princess got ready. ‘Men are useless,’ Rowena sighed. ‘Send in my maid and tell the dressmaker I will be ready for her in a moment.’ Vincent did as he was told, and soon Rowena’s bedroom was a hive of activity.
Her maid was very skilled with kohl and rouge and all the items Vincent didn’t recognise, and she was finished in no time. Getting Rowena into the dress was slightly trickier as she had to be practically sewn in to the dress it was so well fitted to her shape. It took nearly an hour for that task to be completed, so as soon as she was in, Rowena’s maid immediately set about doing her hair, leaving the majority of it hanging in waves, but pinning the top layer in coils on the back of her head, putting white roses into the arrangement too, their colour matching Rowena’s dress. When she was finished, the maid stood back and admired her handiwork.
‘Would you like to see what you look like?’ Vincent asked, gesturing to the mirror. Rowena crossed the room, the train of her dress spreading out behind her. No one spoke as she examined herself in the mirror.
‘I look quite pretty don’t I?’ Rowena said, turning left and right so she could see every angle of her dress.
‘You look more than pretty your highness,’ her maid said, smoothing down a crease in the dress. ‘You look beautiful.’ Rowena turned to Vincent, looking for an honest opinion.
‘She’s right. You look radiant.’
‘Would he have liked it?’ Only Vincent knew who Rowena was talking about, the two women not questioning what their Princess was saying.
‘Of course he would. He loved you.’ That put a smile on Rowena’s face.
‘Thank you Vincent.’ There was a knock on the door and Vincent went to open it. As the door opened the people gathered in the room all dropped into a bow or curtsy as the King entered. He was looking worse than ever, deathly pale and relying very heavily on his walking cane to move across the room towards his daughter.
‘My little girl has grown up,’ he said, a tear in his eye as he hugged Rowena.
‘I’m not that old Father,’ Rowena laughed, trying to keep the mood light. ‘I’m only just eighteen.’
‘But you’ll always be my little girl,’ he said, clasping her hand. ‘You look so beautiful today; just like your mother did on the day we got married. I wish she could be here to see you marry such a wonderful man as Prince Felipe. She would be so proud.’
‘I’m sure she’s watching us fondly from wherever she is,’ Rowena said, wiping a tear from her father’s face.
Vincent knew that they were now running late, the carriage would be waiting for them outside the main entrance hall, with an armed guard to escort the King and his daughter to the cathedral. He desperately wanted to tell Rowena to hurry up, but he daren’t in front of the King. Instead he coughed loudly, trying to catch Rowena’s attention. She looked briefly away from her father and rested her eyes on Vincent. It was enough time for Vincent to mouth the words ‘we’re late’, to get the message across.
‘Father, we need to leave,’ Rowena said, linking her arm in the King’s to steady him. ‘The carriage is waiting for us and we don’t want to hold everyone up, do we?’ She led her father out of her bedroom and down the hall, heading towards the north staircase, which would take them to the front of the palace. Vincent followed behind in silence. They couldn’t walk fast because of the King’s failing health, so it took them longer than Vincent would have liked to arrive downstairs at the carriage. He helped first the King, then the Princess into the carriage.
‘There should be a horse waiting for you,’ Rowena whispered as Vincent tucked the train of her dress inside. ‘Please come, I want you to be there.’
‘Of course my lady,’ Vincent said, smiling up at her. ‘I wouldn’t miss it for the world.’ The carriage door shut and the horses leapt into action, pulling the carriage as a reasonably fast pace down the drive, towards the main palace gates, followed by soldiers on horseback, dressed in full regalia, swords sheathed at their sides. Vincent watched them leave and then turned to the footman on the door. ‘Where can I get a horse?’