History is not as black and white as many would wish it to be. We only ever see one side, one set of stories, we see the stories and tales as those who won wanted them to look. What would happen if love and passion could still triumph over injury and dynasty? Things could get complicated…
“Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.” The people witnessing my murder let out a roar of short cheer, a few yelling here or there to bless my soul, hail Queen Anne, peace be with you, my lady . But I drowned it all out.
How could Henry be doing this to me? Just to marry that milky faced girl? Yes, I usurped Katherine’s position, but she left with her life. Yes, she left in some degree of shame and was forced to remain in obscurity . But she also left with her dignity , and pride, insisting she was still Queen of England. But she also left with her life! Why am I to be killed? I put everything at risk and ruined my good name just to be with him, to love him with all my heart and soul and I am being killed for loving him. What has that harlot put at risk beside my favor and good treatment of her? I recall now that Henry had once asked me if I were happy , the most happy . I had told him that the only way I would ever be unhappy were if he were to stop loving me. He’d replied by saying he’d die first. It now looks as though it’s the other way around; I am the one who’s dying. I refocused in on the crowd, now aware that my speech and calming was done. It was time to die. I took off my jewelry , handing it to my more loyal ladies. I tied my hair, securely in its bun, in a cap. Untying it from my waist I took the pouch of a generous amount of pounds and handed it to the executioner. I forgave him before he could even ask, and thanked him for his kindness of coming all this way . I knelt upright, managing to keep erect as I said my final prayers, in the French way of executions. I came into this whirlwind, quick paced; backstabbing life with style and by no means shall I leave without the same amount of flare. I looked out to the people, softening my face. If it should be frozen in time after this, I don’t want it to look distraught. I wish to look as peaceful as possible. The people began to drop gracefully to the ground in deep bows and curtsies, which puzzled me. Technically I am not the true queen anymore; they don’t owe me this respect. I might still be the Marques of Pembroke but they don’t need to bow at all, much less so low. I scan the crowd and my tired eyes fall on Henry , haughty as ever. His chest is puffed with pride and importance as he strides up to the scaffold.
“Lady Anne Boleyn, Marques of Pembroke. Upon further inspections of the crimes Mark Smeaton, your brother, and yourself have been accused of, they’ve been proven false. But there is still no proof of your being pure before we were wed. Our marriage is going to be annulled when I find solid grounds for it and you are not to return to Court. You are to return to Pembroke and remain in obscurity there. Come, a carriage is waiting to take you and your trunks are all packed.” I tried to hide my shock and utter surprise. George was alive! George was to live! And I as well! I am being allowed my life! I am not to die for the lies of overly ambitious courtiers and families! I gather myself, removing the cap upon my head in doing so. I stand and take a few short breaths.
“I cannot thank Your Majesty enough. You are indeed a most gracious king and sovereign lord. What of my family , they are not to return to Court either I trust?” the small crowd had already been dismissed and my Ladies, the executioner, Henry and I were the only ones left as we descended from the scaffold.
“We shall talk in a minute, Marques Anne.” I nod shortly before turning to thank my ladies for all they have done. I am almost sure they shall not be coming with me to Pembroke.
“My Lady! Your pouch.” The executioner tries to hand me back the money , but I gently push it towards him.
“Keep it, sir. Please, consider it a gift from me as a show of thanks. You did travel out of your way .” He looks confused before nodding and backing away .
“Why do you look so gay , Lady Anne?”
“I had intended to die in a certain degree of style and grace. Now, please, if you will, I am still slightly disoriented and confused as to what has happened in my absence. What new information had come forward? What is to become of my family? And…what of Elizabeth? My beautiful baby girl…” thinking of my little Elizabeth was enough to keep me calm and quiet. I felt horrible for my little girl. What if Henry hadn’t come? She’d be without a mother or mother figure. No doubt that harlot would treat her terribly , for she was in favor of the Spanish princess. And she’d become just like Mary , ignored and unloved by her male-hungry father. The last time my beautiful princess had seen me I was a wreck, yelling and screaming and begging for Henry’s love and favor.
“The accuser’s only proof of your witchery was a sixth finger and body marks on your back. I have never seen either in the many times we had lain together. Katherine’s heart had not been blackened by foul practices but by some unhealthy air from where she was sent, she’d been sick for far too long. On the charges of adultery I found Mark Smeaton battered. He signed an oath stating that he’d never known you carnally . He’d only been tortured and done anything to make it stop. On the charges of incest, Cranmer had overheard your brother’s wife telling another Lady about her guilt because she’d never truly known George to be with you. Nan had supported this by saying that you two were never out of her own eye and only shared as much as a kiss on the cheek. Your father is being allowed to stay , but George left immediately for Hever. He’d mentioned something about your mother being sickly . And for all I am told Mary is still living happily with her lowly husband.”
“Your Majesty , if I may interject,” I looked to him for his approval to continue, he dipped his head low for a short second before I continued. “I don’t think it’d be wise to keep my father at Court.”
“And why not?”
“He’s quite the ambitious man. He and my uncle were always putting me under various degrees of stress and pressure warning me of your power over me, telling me it was too much at times, telling me to exile certain people. They gained me a few enemies that would’ve smiled at the thought of seeing my head roll.” I looked down as he stayed quiet.
“Maybe you wouldn’t’ve lost my boy if it weren’t for them then? Absolutely not. They shall be dismissed. I thank you for being straightforward with me, Marques.”
“You never answered my last question, Henry . What is to become of my daughter?” I was tired of calling him by his formal title. I had known him as Henry through seven years of companionship and three years of marriage. I am far too accustomed to it now.
“Our daughter, Anne! Elizabeth is mine too!” he was upset now. At least I am assured that he loves Elizabeth. “She is to remain at Hatfield as a royal child. However she is a bastard as well. She hasn’t been told much except that she is to no longer to call you by certain names.” I nod.
“When shall I be allowed to see her? I’ve missed her terribly .”
“I know you have, Anne. But you are not yet allowed to see her. You coddle her so. She needs some form of separation and isolation from such strong feeling so she may grow into a respectable young lady . Once Jane bears my son, I plan on marrying her off to a dauphin.”
I smile wryly to myself. He knew how much I favored the French. “Yet she is declared a bastard. Yet she’d still be under the children you have with Mistress Seymour.”
“Anne, remember your place. You are forever beneath her from this point on. We are to be married as soon as our marriage is formally over. She’ll not be crowned Queen formally until after she bears me my son, which won’t take very long considering she’s already two months along. But she is to be my legal wife and fulfill the position and title of Queen informally .”
I tried to swallow my temper. He’s being generous, Anne. Control your temper. If you had before maybe he would still love you, and not the milky faced girl. Control your temper, Anne. Think of Elizabeth. She may be subject to Henry’s wrath and consequence if I make use of my sharp tongue with Henry . The thoughts of my baby girl made me feel better already . “Yes, Your Majest-” I passed out.
I suppose Father was wrong, and Mother had always been right. Keeping your highly volatile emotions in like this isn’t entirely healthy . I must still be quite drained and distressed from coming within an inch to my death. The last thing I remember were so many footsteps, all running toward me. “Lady Anne!” rang through my ears as the world went black. When I woke up I was in my old chambers.
True to Henry’s word all my things had been moved out. But none on Mistress Seymour’s were moved in yet. I suppose the milky faced girl prefers lighter colors than Katherine and I did. How frivolous. I enjoy light colors also, for certain occasions I even prefer them, but not for all the time. Darker, deeper colors bring about a sense of solemnity , of regality . Bright colors are nice but they do nothing for me. A few of my old Ladies stood around me, looking fearful. Among them were Nan and Madge. They were so loyal. Out of all I think I should miss them the most.
They heaved a sigh of what I was assuming was relief before Nan shooed them away to go do as they had been told, sending Madge for the physician and Henry . She sat by me on the bed feeling my forehead and stroking my hair a bit. “Thank god you’re finally awake. The doctors were afraid you might stay in a sleeplike trance for weeks, maybe even forever. His Majesty was not at all pleased, he’s been in a terrible temper for as long as you’ve been ill. The only person he’ll see is the Duke of Suffolk.” Her tone was of reproach and she was shaking her head and clicking her tongue.
“And how long exactly have I been ill?”