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First published by Leisure Books, January 1996. All rights reserved. No part of this may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical without permission in writing from Virginia Henley.

Chapter One

"Your mother was a willful little jade," the queen said, thumping her first on the magnificently carved desk. "Some maggot in her brain made her throw away her position of maid of honor by making that disastrous marriage with a common spy, rather than accept the union I had arranged for her with the Earl of Devon. Even the flamboyant name she chose for you flouted convention."

Burgundy Bedford stood silently before Elizabeth, thinking the queen looked like a corpse that had been resurrected. How she hated this bitch of a woman! Well, if Bess thought her mother had been willful, she would soon learn that Burgundy Bedford was even more headstrong and unbiddable!

Elizabeth's red wig screamed its falseness to the world, making Burgundy wonder if her own abundant wine-colored tresses had triggered this tirade against her mother. The queen was overdressed in silver gauze, slashed with red taffeta. Pearls and rubies studded the lining of the high-collared gown. In contrast, Burgundy wore one of the queen's castoffs in dark green velvet.

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