** When the Daughter’s arrive **
Henry, Jane, and myself all stood outside the castle some six yards away from the gates. My daughter and step-daughter are arriving today, any minute now. I stood solitary as Mistress Seymour snuggled close into Henry’s arms. Henry was the only thing standing in between Lady Seymour and I. Just Henry and a thick wall of bitterness and hatred, mostly on my part.
Every so often Henry would glance in my direction and flicker his eyes from my growing stomach to my eyes, seeking a signal that my baby and I were alright. I would give him a subtle nod before turning my attention back to the road. The milky faced girl was only four months along and barely beginning to show, so Henry didn’t worry about her stomach so much yet.
Eventually the large clop of the horse’s feet and the noisy wheels of the carriage met our ears. I held my stomach in a vain attempt to calm myself. I was simply too excited! The last time my baby girl saw me I was a wreck. And then I was about to die without a single goodbye to her. I didn’t even begin to make preparations for her for when I eventually do die. I had wanted to leave her something special of mine and a few letters for her to read as she got older. But now I don’t have to worry about that for a little while. God-willing I won’t fall ill giving birth to this baby. I believe the last time I saw the Lady Mary, she was adamant on remaining loyal to her mother’s long gone regency in England and I had been harsh and cruel about getting her to sign the oath.
Oh how I wish I could take that all back. I feel her pain now. I know why she is the way she is. I’m in the same exact position her mother was in all those years ago. In all honesty I would’ve had Elizabeth do the same. If I were to look down upon my darling Elizabeth and see her bend her will to that of the whore that is Jane Seymour, I don’t know what I would do other than sob out the rest of my existence. My heart and soul and livelihood would simply…crumble. I know now. I know. I know how they both felt at my intrusion on their seemingly perfectly happy family. I know the constant fear the held, painfully, in their hearts. I know the sadness, betrayal, and anger at a harlot trying to break apart your only family.
I am determined to make it up to her. Every wrong I have done her, I shall recompense to the best of my ability. I will talk with Henry about getting her married, getting her more ladies, getting her more dresses and jewels. Anything she wants, I shall try to arrange according to my power. But deep down I will always know, and she will too, that I can never fully make it up to her. She can’t ever regain all those lost years. Those lonely years in the cold damp and isolated places she was moved to, simply to be as far away from her mother as possible. I can never help her regain those years without her mom while I danced and frolicked about in Court life. She won’t ever be able to say goodbye to her mother, not even on her deathbed. I simply can’t, and shallow possessions won’t make up for that.
“The Princess Elizabeth, Lady Bryan, and the Lady Mary!” the pageboy announced with every ounce of respect due to the ladies titles. I turned to look at the happy couple and search for their reactions. Henry’s was that of deep anticipation, and Lady Seymour’s was of childlike joy. What else would I expect from a child? I swear to the heavens, Elizabeth is more mature than this harlot.
“Mama!” Elizabeth flew out the carriage in a flurry, her skirts flying everywhere. Lady Bryan frowned deeply until I shot her a look. I don’t care if she’s misbehaving at the moment. She’s my little girl. I heaved her up into my arms and smiled. She turned her attention to Henry and wrinkled her cute little nose in distaste. “Papa, who’s that lady? Mama, is she one of the maids of honor?” Mistress Seymour was frowning at my daughter, her brow wrinkled. How dare she! Has she no shame! The audacity of this woman is unspeakable!
“Mistress Seymour, if you’ve got something on your mind, please, speak up.” The meek little mouse’s eyes darted to me before looking back at her feet. Good. Learn your place, mouse. I was so caught up in my baby I forgot to even look for Mary. I’m surely not off to a good start.
“Father, Marquis, Lady Jane, I’m pleased to have been invited to come.” Her voice was strained and it was plain in her features that it took all her strength to force out the formalities. And considering she’s Catherine’s daughter, that’s a lot of strength. She curtseyed as a Lady always should. I gently placed Elizabeth on the ground and moved her in the direction of her father, who welcomed her genially. I held out my elbow to the Kings first living child.
“Lady Mary, please, join me in the gardens?” She glared at me before shooting a pleading look at her father. Henry’s expression was stony as he motioned for her to come along. “We have matters to catch up on.”
*** The next Chapter ***
Our arms were interlaced platonically as we walked at quite a leisurely pace to what used to be my gardens, which I now suspect Henry will either obliterate of generalize it to make it a ‘public’ garden. Yet as soon as we were out of Henry’s line of vision and hearing range she fiercely tore her arm away from mine and sent me a glare that could freeze the deepest depths of Hell. I smiled sadly albeit shuddering at first. I had expected nothing less.
“Hello, Lady Mary.” She held her glare and lifted her chin to me.
“Mistress Anne. I expect you have called me here as one final stab at getting me to sign that godforsaken oath? I won’t. I won’t ever be an ally to you in any sort. I’ll never comply with your will so long as I live. You’d have to find a way to execute me before that’d ever happen. Or maybe considering your newfound title as a ‘witch’ perhaps you’d just blacken my heart as you did my mother’s, you harlot. Whatever your purposes are for calling me here will prove futile, so I don’t suggest you try.” She began to walk away, so I pulled her back. All the lessons and tutors in the world couldn’t help me in this situation. I haven’t the slightest clue how to mend this, neither with words nor actions.
“Lady Mary.” I bowed my head deep and curtsied my lowest. This should be a good start. This is my first sign of respect. Right? “I realize this is long overdue. I also realize that it’s too little too late. Please, consider this and listen to what I have to say. After this, I understand if you still feel large disposition considering me, but I’ll learn to accept it and hope and pray that one day you’ll come to forgive me. Think of me as the confessor and you the Priestess.” Her eyes narrowed and I knew her curiosity would get the best of her; I’m still practically on my knees in front of her.
“Rise then, and speak.” She looked down her nose at me, her expression still as stone.
“I, myself, am suffering in the same way your mother was all those years ago. I’m ashamed and appalled with this feeling and even more so appalled that this is what I put you both through. Let me begin by offering my most sincere apologies.” She gave a slight nod of her head and I could tell by her expression that she wasn’t moved in the slightest.
“Well, what should I be saying at this point? That an apology from your heart is all I desired all these years in my desolate isolation? That a few words will make me forgive you for all that you have done to me, my family, and my beloved country? Think twice, three times, and then once more.”
“I know. But my suffering at this point in time should be your smallest comfort. I was going to be executed, as you very well know, I suppose that might have comforted you as well. But I’m round as ever, and your father is excited.”
“My father died a long time ago. The first time he ever indulged you, he died. The King Henry Tudor somewhere about this palace with Jane, bless her heart, isn’t my father.” Her tone was sharp. Her resolve wasn’t weakening one bit.
“I know. Back at Hever, news would come every so often about the Royal Family. It was like a bed time story, a fairytale life that everyone wanted to live.”
“Was it now? So that’s what you do in your spare time. Crush dreams. Destroy fairytales. Blacken the beauty of the magic? Wonderful.”
“Lady Mary, I truly am sorry. Why do you have to be as stubborn a mule as your mother? If Catherine had complied-all in the past, forget I mentioned that. That is why I have called you here; I wish to make it up to you. To make your life better. To build and grow the stepmother-stepdaughter relationship we should have. If it is your wish, I will ask Henry to bring you back to court. I don’t know if you have been told, but you have already been removed from Elizabeth’s charge. You’re free to come and go as you please. I hope you’ll stay at court, though. Your continued presence will help me in deteriorating your fathers resolve and soften his feelings towards you. Given a small piece of time, I might be able to restore your position as a rightful princess. Afterwards, you’d be able to freely go to Spain, if you wish. Or even better, if I manage to restore you, we’d have to begin building up a marriage prospect for you. You’d be a queen.”
“You mean like you’ll never be again? Such a lovely title it is, isnt it? Queen. To be a queen is to have power, although less than your husbands, it is still power. Unless said husband doesn’t love you, and I’m sure mine won’t if I choose to marry a prince of Europe. Political marriages rarely ever have love. What I am hearing from you is that you believe making me a princess again will soften my feelings towards you. It won’t. what I’m hearing is that you’d have me made a princess again, thinking it’d make me happy, and then trap me into a loveless marriage, in which my husband will be continually unfaithful, like yours is. No thank you Mistress Anne. We’re done here.” she smirked cruelly and pitifully at me as she skillfully plucked a rose from one of my bushes and gracefully walked away. No, this will not happen. I am not done trying. This is just the beginning.
“Have you even visited your mother’s gravesite?” I yelled after her, forcing her to stop dead in her tracks. She flew back toward me a fiery rage in her eyes that’d put Henry’s to shame. She rose her hand with purpose and cracked it down on my face. The sound reverberated around the gardens and tensity lingered in the air afterward. Ignoring the cool sting that felt worse than needles pricking at my face, I reached down into the satchel that I had hidden behind my skirt folds. Digging for a second, I produce a solid gold tiara emblazoned with the finest and purest rubies, emeralds, pearls, diamonds and silver. Every expensive metal you could think of was made into this tiara. It’s fit for an Empress who rules over not one or two countries, but the whole of Europe and the ‘new world’ Spain is involved in. This tiara has been the most sought out trinket in the world since I had had Henry order it to be made for me. “We’re done here; I will respect your wishes on that. But, here, this crown was fit exactly for a person like your mother, whom I loved before she became my competition. She had always been kind to me. Serving her had been nice. She was an amazing Queen and a princess, three times over.” Cradling my still throbbing cheek I left Mary in the gardens and went to begin my work. While I’m still in power, I have a lot more retributions to make.
I enjoy knowing I have left Mary speechless, Anne Boleyn always gets the last word. Always.
I woke up from my nap blissfully happy. My sources told me I had left Mary in a trance like state of deep thought, and that after trying on the tiara and crying, she immediately made arrangements for Chapuys to take it and place it safely with her mother. Mary very well could have thrown the tiara at the ground or at my head for that matter. But she didn’t.
Henry hadn’t asked many questions about the red mark on my cheek. I told him I just fell asleep the wrong way and some odd material had left its imprint on my face. He simply shrugged and held me closely, or attempted to, while we spoke. He kept trying to pull me to him, but between my resistance and my grotesquely large stomach, it was a futile effort on his part. After dancing lightly around the edges of the matter, testing the waters, I finally let him know that something was on my mind and that we would need to discuss these matters as quickly and professionally as possible. In fact he should be here in a few minutes.
“Anne, what’s so important that I had to put a hold on discussing affairs of state with Cromwell. He was less than pleased. Whatever he had to say was important.”
“And what I have to say isn’t?” I gesture for him to sit as I call upon Madge for some tea.
“Look, Anne, as refreshingly wonderful as it is to get to discuss political matters with a mind so scholarly it may rival mine, I’m busier than ever. Couldn’t this have waited until my daily visit?”
“A few years ago, you would’ve held up a treaty with Kings, simply to hear my thoughts on the matter. But what we have to discuss is more important than anything you could be arranging. The matter at hand is very close to both our hearts, mine only recently, but has been with yours for a lifetime. Mary.”
“I had been missing her as of late. It was a wonderful idea of yours to bring her to Court; I wouldn’t have had the guts to. I feel…happy. My loved ones are all surrounding me, except Charles of course, he’s busy.”
“She is twenty years old, Henry. It’s high time she be married.” He waved his hands dismissively.
“No one respectable will want her as a known bastard. What would you have me do? Marry off my firstborn baby girl to a lord or a duke, even though she’s a bastard?”
“And you don’t think I’ve already thought of some barrier like that?” I replied sharply, my tone more than a little terse. I was absolutely and indefinitely offended. How dare he? He’s belittling my intelligence to think that if I had to discuss political matters with him I wouldn’t think it through. “You’ve been spending far too much time with the likes of that wench, Jane Seymour. It’s almost unthinkable to me that her influence on you has made you so accustomed to the thought that women are permitted to be so idiotic-
“That’s enough, Anne. I’ve permitted your bitterness towards my Jane up until now, but it’s beginning to get old. Grow up Anne; you’re acting like a five year old. Get to your point.”
“I wish to restore the title of Princess to Mary, as it should never have been taken away. Why punish your innocent daughter simply because the Pope and Catherine made a few silly mistakes in letting you be wed? If Mary is a Princess once more that brings us great political advantage. Think of how great it was for your brother to marry Catherine, a princess three times over in her own right. Just think of what that Princesses daughter could bring for England. Another advantage is your daughter’s happiness, Henry. When was the last time you saw the somber look on your very first jewels face brighten into a smile? Making her a princess and marrying her off will benefit the political stance of England, Mary’s happiness, and Spain will be quite well pleased to see her become all this. In addition to Mary’s husband’s country, we might possibly gain Spain as an ally once more. Just think about it Henry. Think.” By now I was practically on his lap and whispering in his ear. His lips were taut as he thought over every…single…word I’d just said. The possibilities were running very quickly through his head. I could practically see what was going through his head at the moment.
I removed myself from his presence, moving to one of my outer chambers to pour myself a glass of water. I sat with my glass and began to munch on an apple. Soon enough Henry came out of my bedchamber and I could tell he’d already made his mind up about attempting to rearrange things for his eldest daughter; he tried to play it off as though he had even better things to do. But I’ve known him closely for too long now. I can read him like a book, but I played along and pretended to believe that he’d not finished thinking on it.
Another point for me.