Bow Arrow Holder
My Father's Mistress
My Father's Mistress
The first time I met her, I knew she wanted me dead.
Her much discussed black eyes tore through me like a poisoned dart. I stood tall before my father as he introduced me. My eyes focused on the green and white banners of Whitehall Palace and the Tudor canopy, rather than the royal thrones. I am a princess of this court, I told myself. I am to be queen here. I am a princess of this court, I am to be-
"Mary, I present to you the Lady Anne" the King said.
My father, King Henry VIII of England, sat before me sprawled onto his throne. He had chosen to wear white today, so he looked to me particularly regal. His blazing red hair was thinning but comfortable under his feathered cap. He had a cup of wine in one hand and Anne Boleyn's hand in the other.
I performed a small curtsey towards my father's mistress and remained still. My mind raced backward then forward and back again. The King had summoned me only moments ago for I knew not what. He presents her to me before the court, I thought, stunned. What has happened? What has changed?
Chapuys voice rang in my ears. "She commands the King, now." I choked down the rage as images of my mother, the Queen, clicked through my head. First, she is Queen, happy, devoted, devout, and desperate for a son. Then, begging my father on her knees for forgiveness, that she has tried and tried, but God will not grant her a son. Riding in the street, the mobs shout, "God save the true Queen Katherine." And now, she is gone from me. I have not seen my own mother for 6 months. When I am queen I say to myself, and my fists tighten beneath the curls of my sleeves, seen by none. But there is a tiny voice cruelly occupying some unknown part of my mind that uttered but one word: if. This then blossomed. If Henry cannot find a way to marry her, if they have no child, if you survive this woman. No first, you must survive. Just that. You must survive her.
She is seated, but not crowned. No, not yet crowned. The Lady Anne aims for a kingdom and will settle for no less. Henry's 'Great Matter, ' or the divorce from my mother as it is commonly known, has left for Rome. Like some sort of baggage shipped across the sea to be sorted like laundry.
She stared hard at me while toying with her ring. Her eyes told me she is to be queen. I marveled at her confidence, which is perhaps her most stunning feature, after the much discussed eyes. Does she know she is not royal!, my mind screamed.
Her dress was new, naturally, and made of French silk I saw. The color favored her complexion; I believe they called the color marigold. She had added a panel on the back that gave it a royal shade, like a small train that is begging for expansion. I wanted to roll my eyes at this, but truly, I was too frightened. Her influence on the King had spread through the court like the plague. All of her family had been raised, given lands and titles, many in fact stood behind me amongst the court, watching.
"Well, Henry" Anne said. "I agree, her whole manner, especially her face, is quite pinched."
I heard the word repeated from one to another. Pinched, they whispered. My face reddened. I felt my chest get warm, which it does when I am angry or nervous or embarrassed. At this moment, I felt all of those things.
My father and Anne exchanged a look. He suppressed a smile. My father's private nickname for was Lemon, because to him my features looked as if I were sucking on a lemon. And Saints, he had shared it with this woman! When she turned back to me, there was triumph there. She had taken a term of affection and turned it to a dagger. And, only a smile from the King.
The court took this all in. I heard a few coughs and some mild throat clearing in the ensuing silence. I could feel their pity, but something else. As intended, they were in awe of her grip on Henry. All were now quiet, caught up in the show.
"Mary, the King has removed the dowager princess to the north, " she said. "He is thinking of removing you as well."
I remained standing somehow, waiting for confirmation from the King.
The tears thankfully did not come. I had learned over the years, my father does not like tears. Tears are not to be shed by a Tudor. Yet, this remained a weakness so for the moment, I was only grateful for that. My mind knew this was a show. A show to be turned into a story, one that would make its' way 'round the kingdom from courtier to servant to lady-in-waiting, until it finds my mother's ear. He is thinking of removing you as well.
Anne had accomplished much already in these few moments. Mostly with the court. She had put me in my place, and as all could see, it was beneath her. She had also established her absolute grip on the King. If he declared it, my mother was banished to the North as Dowager Princess, no longer Queen. My father had sent my mother months ago to More Castle, in the country to be sure, but she had a full court and was attended as Queen of England. He just wouldn't let her see me.
But, I was sure my father would not send me away yet. He let Anne have her pleasure in saying it, but she could not touch me yet. Merely, a threat to force my mother onto the leash.
"Mary, it is done" he said. "The dowager princess does not obey her king. She refuses my requests. Every single one! She still wants to make my shirts!" The royal fist slammed his cup down so hard the wine had to be refilled. "I haven't an alternative, you see. She will have some provisions, " he said. Then he sighed. "But her allowance is to be cut and Lady Wiltshire will be her companion." The royal cup now was calmly sipped from.
"Her ladies?" I said.
"Lady Wiltshire will be her companion."
"May I, your Majesty, may I go to-" I almost begged.
"Mary, Enough! Consider it well and good that you remain here with me."
So I am to be shut away from my mother, still. I had not felt her touch for so long, I wondered sometimes if I ever would again. Now, I was sure I wouldn't. I thought the Lady Anne was about to burst out laughing. Indeed, she hid her smiles behind a large kerchief. But still, the eyes. They announced her merriment to the court. This woman, I thought, this one woman. I was 15 years old. The year was the year of our Lord, 1531.
Anne stood in the royal apartments staring out the windows at the gardens. She fiddled with the pearls hanging from the B on her necklace, absently remembering the event that just unfolded. Mary, she thought. That girl will be the death of me. A chill flooded over her and she turned her thoughts to what to do about her. Fifteen years old and she was pinched. Her whole attitude simply appeared that way, especially her face. Maybe it's because she is royal, her mind taunted her. Mary's father is the King of England, her mother, Queen Katherine, who herself is the daughter of another Queen, Isabella of Spain. But still, Mary is just a girl, Anne thought.
When I have a son, I must keep him safe from Mary. Yes, she is only a mere child now, but she will become a woman. And she will have allies. Catholic allies. Surely, Anne thought, I will survive the King, and my son will be put on the throne. But what to do about Mary. Of course, she will have to be shut away eventually. The child has so much pride; it is hard to see anything else. Pride in her mother, pride in her faith, pride in her royalness.
She paced the rooms, letting her mind wander. The divorce goes nowhere even if it has made a trip to Rome. Henry had foolishly pinned his hopes on a brief bit of from Leviticus: If a man marries his brother's widow, it is an unclean thing. They will be barren." Damn the Pope, she said under her breath. Any other monarch in Europe would have a dispensation from the Pope as quickly as he asked for it, their wives rotting in a nunnery before the habit had even been fit. But Henry had married Katherine and she had a very powerful nephew: Emperor Charles V, of the Holy Roman Empire, the most powerful monarch in all of Europe, more powerful than the Pope himself. Charles is Spain, and all the territories of the Holy Roman Empire along with it. His armies were the most fearsome in Europe. And the Pope had no armies, his own Papacy would be at risk if he issued a dispensation for divorce. No, it will not come from Rome, Anne knew.
Anne had been toiling for months for a way around this. She had an ace up her sleeve that she knew could be the solution. But, we have need of France first, she thought... Anne realized an alliance with France was crucial not only to her safety, but to the safety of England. For her solution to work, Henry and Anne would need France. Henry might not do it alone.
God, I'm exhausted, she thought. "Anne, back on track, " her father's voice, his index finger tapping the page of Latin before her when she was little. "Back on track." She sighed. Anne found a chair by the fire to sit in. She asked Lady Bryan for some watered wine. Thinking still of her father, memories rushed forward.
When Anne was not yet a teenager, her father sent her to Archduchess Margaret of Austria who held sway over the Netherlands. Anne lingered on the moments with the Archduchess who was like a mother to her. She recognized Anne was a rare creature. And Margaret believed Anne special enough to catch any man she wanted.
When the French court came calling, Anne went. She was lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary, Henry's sister. Anne briefly thinks of Mary, now a dowager Queen, and duchess to Charles Brandon, Henry's best friend. She does not approve, Anne said aloud in a prudish voice. Well, she can stay removed from court then, out on her country farm. We have too many Marys as it is. With this Mary removed, Anne had only two to deal with: Mary, the King's daughter, and Mary, Anne's own sister.
Returning to her thoughts of France, she remembered when Queen Claude became Queen of France after Mary, and Anne stayed on. Seven years, she thought; I was practically French. The French King adores me, Anne told herself. France will legitimize me, he will. She fingered the rosary in her lap, silently praying it true.
Her father called her home Anne knew when the King was ready for her. And you are close Anne, she thought, close, but not yet. The King will not have all of me yet.
Anne had not been inclined to proceed like her sister, the other Boleyn girl, as the court called that particular Mary now. Five years ago, when Henry rode to Hever Castle, the Boleyn family seat, Anne's sister was seven months along with the King's child. But Henry came for Anne, not Mary. Yes, it was fancy gifts and lands for Mary and the family for a brief time, then, the spigot was tapped. So, when news came that Henry was riding for Hever, all eyes looked to Anne.
"She has caught his fancy. The court is bursting with the news, " George announced.
A small posse had assembled in the great hall at Hever; Anne's brother George, her Uncle the Duke of Norfolk, her mother and father, and her sister, Mary, working embroidery, uninterested.
"Brother, I told youI will not submit, " Anne said. "I am not to be used likethe royal napkin and tossed aside when the King is done. I will not!" Anne yelled to her family.
"It would be a monumental thing, never done before, " Norfolk told Anne, "what you think to accomplish." He took a turn around the hall. "It will be a small step forward, many steps back, and so forth. I do not know that it can be endeavored, to, to, well to undo his marriage to Queen Katherine. She is powerful."
"Uncle, " Anne said. "You say yourself, the King is already looking about for a way out. He'll have needs of a warm womb I trust, if the goal is a son. The key is the King's heart, what does he wish for, who will he believe can provide it. I have no fear from Katherine. I only need the King. He rides for Hever, regardless." Anne gaze settled on Mary. "If the King only wants to ride a mistress, well, we have one here for his pleasure. Otherwise, he will be a disappointed, I assure you."
Five years, Anne thought, still toying with her beads. Five years I have fought for this. A few more pieces to move on the board, and I will be Queen of England, all the Mary's be damned.
I went to the chapel. I knelt but did not pray. I tried to calm my nerves. The court had made way for me as I left, doffing caps and curtseying as I passed, my chin held high. But, I was not recovered. She had humiliated me. This person, I almost spat, this person humiliated me in front of my father. I will never bow to her, I will never acknowledge her. My mother is rightful Queen, and will be until her death. This person is his mistress and her children will be bastards. Much better, I thought to myself, feeling some calm return. I am Princess MaryI am Princess Mary. When I am Queenwhen I am QueenThe voice crept up again, if.
"Princess Mary, " someone said.
I turned to find my fool, Arabel.
"Oh, it's you Arabel" I said. "Did you see that? Did you see what she did to me?"
"I'm so sorry Princess Mary, she is hideous person."
"Yes, she is hideous person" I said. I pulled Arabel to my skirts and stroked her hair. "Very hideous indeed. She'll be after me now. She'll want me sent away too."
"She no marry yet Princess, " she said. "You are King's only heir at moment."
This was my thought as well, and Arabel was right. She's always right. Arabel came to me as a gift from the Persian ambassador when I was very young. She has been my best friend and really my chief counselor ever since. She was not taught properly, but her mind is one of the sharpest here at court. I am always so grateful for her and a swell of gratitude again rushes over me. To hear it said aloud, I felt better. I am the King's only heir. Therefore I am safe, if and until, she has a child.
"She may not have a child, " I said.
"Well, she will have to couple with him first Princess."
Despite ourselves, we laugh at this. Yes, I thought, she will have to do that. And so far it's marriage or nothing at all for the concubine. My cousin, the Queen's own nephew, the Emperor Charles will not allow a divorce. He held the Pope prisoner once, I suspect all parties prefer the status quo.
"Arabel, let's go over it again. Review the specifics about the divorce."
My mother had kept details about the divorce from me. Now, with my mother gone, I must learn the details. I must learn the law. I must fight on my mother's behalf.
"Your mother, Katherine, traveled from Spain and married Prince Arthur, good King's older brother, who was supposed to have been King all along. But then Prince Arthur died. We don't know from what. They were only married few months. She was 15, Prince Arthur was 17. Old King still lived, but now Henry heir to throne."
"A tragedy, " I said and crossed myself. "God save the King, " I added.
"The King say when Katherine married Prince Arthur and set up court in Wales, they couple together, I don't know English word for what I am trying-"
"Consummated, Arabel, consummated the marriage, oh it doesn't matter. It isn't true. No one will believe it. My own mother says it isn't true. She says she came to Henry a true maid. They've been married now almost twenty years. No, no one believes it."
"The man in white hat might. Normally is enough."
"No, he won't. Pope Julius II issued the dispensation for the King to marry my mother after Prince Arthur died. Pope Clement would not reverse that. He would never." I had this point down.
"And Cromwell, what does my good father's Master Secretary do?" I said, turning my thoughts to the home front.
"He is clever they say." I said and plotted my way onto a pew.
"Princess, he will undo us all." She did a little dance with her hands of Cromwell undoing us all.
"No, well some of us perhaps, but not all. Cardinal Wolsey was indeed undone."
"I believe that was mistress, " said Arabel.
"Yes, right" I said. Frustrated, I tried to straighten my skirts. "She did bring him down. A great success in the end."
I had learned so much from Arabel and Chapuys since my mother left. Memories were colliding with one another, trying to reconcile themselves.
The Cardinal I knew, was Thomas Wolsey, the King's Chief Advisor. But he was also a Cardinal, appointed by Rome. When the King asked Wolsey to obtain a divorce for him, Wolsey apparently, had not known which way to turn. It was a sorry collection of events to witness, they say. First a secret trial to declare divorce, but for whatever reason, fear of Rome, fear of seeing Anne rise, genuine belief in the marriage, ultimately Wolsey ended the proceedings by calling for a representative of the Pope to come to England and hear the matter. Henry's faith in Wolsey had begun to wither, a decline Anne nursed along, whispering in Henry's ear. "He believes himself more powerful than you, majesty. He does not your will. "
Two years ago, Wolsey finally arranged for a trial for my mother. How I hated him then. I only knew Wolsey was our enemy now. Initially, Wolsey had encouraged the King to keep Anne as mistress. But the longer she refused the King her favors, the more power shifted to her, away from Wolsey. He became frightened, thus the trial. We were betrayed.
"My mother won that trial, " I said.
"She did. She did. A true Queen. Everyone said. She was true Queen."
Queen Katherine had come into court when they called her, but she didn't submit to testimony. She got down on her knees before the King of England and told him her truth. She had not lain with Arthur after her marriage. And she had given the King diverse children, many sons, although God didn't see fit to let them survive, God forgive her. She said she appealed to the Pope, in Rome, not a representative to decide on the divorce. She then rose and left the court. The matter was decided by the papal legate. To Rome, and the Pope, it would go.
"Now she is exiled for good, to die in some remote corner of her kingdom, without friends, or clergy, or me" I began to sob into my hands.
"Princess, you must do her wishes, and preserve your good self."
"She told me it is my inheritance, " I said. I cleared the tears from my face and looked at Arabel.
"So it is, " she said.
Six months earlier
Anne walked along the corridor toward Cromwell's rooms. This man is my creature she told herself. He is completely mine. She laughed softly to herself and knocked on his doors. A way forward, she thought. I must find some way. Leviticus cannot carry all of Europe on its' back.
Cromwell himself was seated behind his desk, pondering Anne. She is fascinating. And he can't figure why. Is it her charm? Her time in France? Her withe settled on her wit. She is witty. When she first arrived at court years ago, that's all a man would talk about, the Lady Anne and her sharp tongue. And the women too. Good God, the women. Hell fire cats when her name came up. Cromwell's own wife warned him of Lady Anne's effect on the common women. "No, Tom, they're not jealous. They are...well, they have evaluated her, and found her to be, I dunno, a vixen."
"But she has notwith the King" he stammered.
"Tom, " she replied, "they have evaluated her. D'ya think people are stupid? Lord Tom, the whole world saw her from a mile away. Hold out for him to get a divorce, become a Queen, I mean what strollop hasn't tried some version of that before. It's just the stakes Tom, that's all. What we all marvel at is the King. Doesn't see a thing now, does he?"
He smiled at the memory. Good sweet Bess. Smarter than you'll ever be Crom.
Cromwell had been Cardinal Wolsey's man, before Anne' rise. He watched poor Wolsey being pulled hither and fro, desperately trying to clear a path for himself. And failing. Wolsey was with the King for 20 years, mentoring him, ruling with him, and finally almost ruling for him. His power was immense. And Cromwell watched as Anne surpassed the Cardinal. It was painful and terrifying. But Cromwell was not Wolsey. He knew how to navigate above all. He had a plan.
"Lady Anne, please." He said, and ushered her into his rooms.
"Master Secretary, I am adrift." She was shooing a lace handkerchief about in one hand.
"So it appears, m'Lady." The lace now appeared settled in between two hands. Clenched hands, placed upon his desk.
"I need a menu to place before the King." Her voice, he noticed. Silky, no, he admitted, sexy. It rivaled her wit, he decided.
"A menu, Lady Anne?"
"YesI, he must be made to feel he is doing the choosing Cromwell." She looked annoyed that he had not perceived this in advance.
"Ah, of course. I have been working to that end, naturally. I perhaps didn't square it as perfectly as you just did."
"I don't care square, circle; want I want is a ring!"
"Quite right." He laughed and shuffled some papers looking for his ring maker. "Here, Lady Anne, I believe is our finest dish."
He transferred the papers to her and she perused them.
"Is this true?" She appeared astonished, shocked.
"For the rest of Europe, yes, for England, no."
She steadied herself into a chair placed by the wall. Tapestries draped the walls around her, appearing to envelop her. The papers hung by her side. She stared off, but her eyes were shifting about.
"Who wrote this?" she asked.
"Ah, " he looked about his desk, found the man's name. "A William Tyndale."
"It would mean-"
"Per usual Lady Anne, you aim at the heart of the matter. Yes, it would mean excommunication. Dismissal from the church, damnation in Hell, all of it. War possibly." He squeezed the bridge of his nose for affect. This could not be all his doing. Lady Anne would have to mop the deck alongside him. Together, perhaps they could move Henry. But she was right that Henry would have to believe he had done the choosing. That might protect both Cromwell and Anne.
"Well, war." She said. "That's been there all along. Katherine could have started a war with Charles' support! She wouldn't, so I have no worry of war."
"So, it is the other matter?"
"Cromwell, the King is the Defender of the Faith. How do I- I must-"
As she thought, Cromwell reflected on this thing she said, how do I, and how quickly she switched to I must. Amazing. Amazing instincts this woman has.
He wondered how she managed, through this perfect storm Henry had created. First, he married Katherine, whose nephew is the Emperor Charles V. Henry and Katherine had a legitimate child, although it is a girl. Later Henry penned a book defending the Pope from the Lutheran attacks, and what followed was that the Pope granted Henry the title Defender of the Faith! So, Charles has Henry blocked in Rome, but Henry alas, is desperate for Rome.
Cromwell knows the King. And the King fears for his soul. Henry struggles with his earthly responsibilities but cannot rid himself of the eternal ones. Ridiculous, all of it, but here we are. He shook his head to clear his mind of the absurdity.
Cromwell turned to Anne, watching as she combed through her mind for answers. Back to the papers she went. She read them more carefully. For clues. Something tasty for the King to have in exchange.
"He would be supreme head of the county-" she read out slowly.
"And of the church." He finished for her.
She sat back. "And of the church. Of course." The implications crystallized in her mind. He saw it all dawn on her and wondered if his face had looked something similar when he had read the papers. And the possibilities had formed in his mind, like morsels of meat. Try this bite, your Majesty, or might this one over here suit you better? I have one more flavor if you like?
"It's marvelous." She said.
"Thank you Lady Anne." He stood and faced the windows. "I would like to present this, uh, these papers, to the King and yourself. Naturally, I would be at your leisure."
"Tonight, Cromwell, tonight."
I sat in my receiving chair biting my nails. Arabel scolded me, but I could not divert my mind. I must know what that person is thinking so that I may think against it. "Bring me some wine, " I said.
My lady, Suzanne, announced his arrival. "Princess Mary, the Imperial Ambassador to the Holy Roman Emperor."
Chapuys strolled into the room and performed a deep bow. "Princess MaryI am delighted to see you. Are you in good health?"
"Oh, Eustace, " I said. "The weather is ill." He kissed my ring, a gift from my mother.
"Yes, Princess, the weather has been ill for quite some time." He settled into a tall backed chair Suzanne had placed nearby me. "I have some news, not much, but some, concerning the concubine. She has received information from the continent, " he said.
"First my mother, Eustace? How fares my mother?" I clenched my hand over my lips awaiting his response.
"She prays for you child. She prays for you and for the King. For his well-being and for his mortal soul."
"But her health Eustacehow does she fare?"
"I am afraid it is not good news. At More Castle, she took more air and ate a sound diet. Now, at Hertfordshire, she shuts herself away Princess, I know this is hard, hard news, forgive me Princess, but she shuts herself in one room and is fearful her food or her very self might become a victim to poison." He finished and stood from his chair and issued a deep bow.
"Please sit, Eustace, " I said. I took his hands into mine and told him, "Thank you, thank you for telling me. For, you see, without you, I would know nothing. So, please Eustace, let me thank you."
"Of course Princess."
I absorbed his news about the poison. Yes, I thought, me or you mother, or both. I cast a net out in my mind for other possible victims. My hands went to my throat. "Chapuys, " I said, "how fares the Duke of Richmond?"
He found my meaning immediately. "He is in perfect health Princess. Do not worry. The concubine would be a fool at this point, with no legitimate male heir, to harm Henry's only possible male heir. No, she would be wise to not even think it, lest the King read it in her eyes! You, on the other hand, we must be cautious. You are the only legitimate heir, but if one knows their history, this can be meaningless." He looked as if he was to go on, but being the diplomat he is, stopped and took a new course. "We shall have tasters from now on."
The King's son by his mistress Bessie Blount was then but 11 years old. Almost 12, I thought to myself. I did not know him well, but he was ever respectful and charming to me. And yes, that person, she couldn't afford to risk young Henry Fitzroy. Tasters, well, yes. I looked to Arabel and she approved. She looked a little angry we hadn't done it sooner.
As to the history, heaven's above, look at the Plantagenet's. I am granddaughter to a Plantagenet. My own father's mother, Queen Elizabeth, married to Henry VII, was perhaps the last Plantagenet to sit on the throne. Her father was Edward IV. What a mess his brother made, Richard III, heaven's above. Those poor young boys, Elizabeth's brothers. The Princes in the Tower they called them. About young Henry's age. People would kill anybody if it meant the throne. Me or you mother, or both. I heard Chapuys voice in my head, "You are learning, Princess."
I turned my mind to deal with the mistress.
"Information. So we aren't privy to this information?" I looked at him to see if he was being truthful, and quickly was ashamed. This was the one man, the only man perhaps at court, that I could fully trust. He had worked on my mother's behalf for years, and now labored for me, for Spain, and for the Emperor. I moved my gaze to the portrait of my father hanging in my rooms. Father, how can you do this? I am your daughter, and here I sit, a maybe Princess.
"I have not discovered this yet, Princess. One more day or two perhaps. I am afraid it took months to uncover only this, such is Cromwell's skill. I have much skill to claim as well, but Cromwell, well, he is formidable."
"So I am gatheringhe is to play the role of Wolsey in my life I see."
"For now madam. But things do change. I have seen much at this court that I would never have predicted. Wolsey's own downfall, in fact. Yes, as we traveled the road, it became clear the Cardinal would lose to the concubine. But, in the beginning, madam, the mistress held little sway. So it is indeed possible to start with nothing."
"We have England. Catholic England. Anne does not, she is practically a Lutheran with her tendencies. They despise her. Arabel heard of a story where the fishwives chased her clear out of Fleet Street, a mob they said."
"Trueif you will Princess."
"Of course. Continue, Eustace, " I said.
"I perceive the concubine much happier of late, forgive me madam. And with this announcement concerning the Queensome great change is afoot."
"I know Chapuys. She is making sound progress. My mother the Queen is gone. And that is not nothing."
"Perhaps the King is now prepared to make the break" Chapuys said.
The words floated about, finally finding my ears. To make the break, from Rome. What would that mean? All England is Catholic. What could the King do, really. You can't just change a country's religion. She then realized, her heart almost stopping that was exactly what Henry intended to do. Somehow, someway. Change the country's religion.
Anne stood before the dresses laid out on the bed. "Mary, what do you think?" She asked her sister, the King's former mistress. "You've not sampled these as well, have you?" she said.
"No, Anne, you know as well as I the King had these shipped over from France." Mary twisted her sleeves and refrained from much.
"No, I suppose not. The King likes fresh things now." She slid her hand over one particular crimson dress with a cinched waist encircled with pearls. "New and fresh, " Anne said.
"New, perhaps." Mary muttered, no longer refraining.
Anne shot her a look to remind her other people were about. "Stop it Mary" she hissed. Anne waved her hand, and the rooms cleared free of all the ladies. Lady Jane Rochford, however, caught the remark, and toyed with it in her mind as she left Anne's rooms. She quickly marched off to find Cromwell's man, Fitzwilliam.
"How did you manage it, with the Queen, I mean with, well, with Katherine? How did you manage it Anne?" Mary said.
"Oh, I'd been at him forever. When she was at More Castle, she still had a court and lived there as Queen. After I harangued him for the shirts, she's still making his shirts Mary! After that, he agreed it was untenable. She must no longer be Queen, and now, she is not. She is locked up in Hertfordshire, like Eleanor I suppose, a prisoner to her King."
"Who Eleanor outlived, " Mary said.
"But that's because Eleanor had sons who fought for her, where sadly, Katherine has none."
"Indeed, " Mary said. "I almost feel sorry for her."
Anne snickered to herself. "If you must Mary."
"I don't know if Katherine's daughter will be useful in France, " Anne said, trying to calm waters. "A distraction, really, " she plucked some lint from the bed, now muddying waters.
Anne's sister saw the arrow as it was loosed and knew it was aimed at her. She pursed her lips and said, "I really don't care if I go. Take me or not. I only wanted to see the fashions. The other Mary? Well, I am not the one to say. You might want a distraction. Yes, Anne, everyone sees how you torture the poor child. I think it cruel, but you perceive it as entertainment I see."
Anne turned to her and took her by the shoulders. "Don't be a fool, Mary, she is my enemy, and I will treat her as such." Then Anne softened, "I did not mean to make you think for one minute that you wouldn't be going to France, it's just, you are still so beautiful"
"Oh, stop, Anne, d'you think I don't know you better than anyone. One hand gives, while the other denies. If I am of no use to you, then do not take me. By God sister, I don't know how you keep it all straight. I know I can't."
"Yes, it is consuming, " she admitted. "But, Mary, if I can get this treaty, and get us to France, King Francis will recognize me. Henry can then finally feel safe! Next week, he will declare himself Head of the Church, which as you know, took months to accomplish. I managed to keep it from that serpent 'til now, but I am come to know the court is expecting a sea-change finally. Thank God, that is all but done."
Anne's announcement took Mary by surprise. She knew Henry, intimately and therefore had always thought Anne's plans futile. Chapuys must be devastated already she thought, this might send him back to Spain. But Anne wouldn't have saidunless"My God, Anne, I believe you have won."
"No, Mary, I have not won. I have scored a few points only. This is where we differ, sister. You can only see one battle, while I am busy managing the whole war. France, sister, France is next."
"And Wolsey?" Mary said, curious.
"Yes, Wolsey was a thing unto itself, " she said, sitting on the edge of the bed. Anne fiddled with her girdle, a lovely silk embroidered silver chain. Mary wasn't sure, but she believed Anne looked scared.
"Well come now, " she said, taking Anne's hand, "he's dead and gone sister."
"Ay, he is dead. But I don't know gone."
Jane Rochford slippers echoed on the cobblestones of Whitehall as she continued to make her way toward Fitzwilliam. New and fresh. Well, new perhaps. She repeated the exchange over and over in her mind, her glee barely contained. This was worth a kingdom, this exchange between Anne and Mary. And Jane had always hated Anne anyway, what with her bizarre relationship with Jane's husband, George. And by the Saints, Anne was condescending, arrogant, just a real bitch. Yes, she held sway over the King for now. But, so had Queen Katherine once. So had Wolsey once.
And Anne's brother George treated Jane like an extra broom in the house, only useful in a real mess. Like when the rumors got too loud that George liked to indulge in boys. Otherwise, she was left completely to her own devices. A mistake on Lord Rochford's part, Jane mused. For she intended to see Anne and all her Lutheran friends burn. This gem Mary had uttered might be the flint that lights the torch.
"Lady Jane Rochford to see Sir Fitzwilliam, " Jane said to the guard outside Cromwell's offices.
Fitzwilliam came out into the corridor and motioned Jane inside.
"Ah, Jane, good to see you, Crom's out, so we can chew the fat some. You can regale me with the latest on the Lady Anne. How 'bout some ale?"
"Fitz, I have just heard the most amazing sentences I believe ever strung together" she flopped into one of Cromwell's finest lounges and accepted Fitz' cup of ale.
"Do tell, Jane."
"Well, I know you have been with Cromwell since the Wolsey daysand if you connect dots here, I would like to be introduced to each dot."
"If I am enlightened, I will then endeavor to enlighten you Jane."
Jane scooted the chair closer to Fitz. "Sure it's just us?"
"Well, if you're so inclined, I can take a look about" he said.
"No, 'tis fine. " She began her tiny tale. "Just now the Lady Anne and her sister were discussing Anne's new dresses from France. Anne remarks that the King likes things fresh and new, now, obviously referring to Queen Katherine. Then, Mary says, aye, new maybe. D'ya see Fitz?"
Fitz did, of course. And he had an inkling to where Jane's mind may have traveled. "Jane, I-" he said.
"Oh, stop fretting Fitz, I'm not to do anything. I just want to know what they're referring to. I mean, I can guess what they referring, but with who Fitz, with who?"
"Head of what?"I asked feeling my hands start to shake.
I was in my canopied bed, one panal drawn back, and feeling poorly, But Chapuys stood before me, darker and angrier than I had ever seen him.
"I can't believe it Princess. I simply cannot believe the King will do this. He is asking for war."
"Oh, war with who, Eustace, " I said. I knew there would be no war if there hadn't been one by now.
"Madam, I believe this will convince the Emperor-"
"Chapuys, the Emperor is not England, the King is England. Really, if either parties wanted war, I'd possibly wager on England. My father's navy alone"
"Yes, yes, Madam, but I believe with these new circumstances, the Emperor would be forced-"
"Forced, by whom?"
"Well, Princess, if you will allow me"
"Fine, fine. Proceed."
"The King is to be declared Supreme Head in Earth of the Church in England as far as the law of Christ allows, " he said. "So you see, they've put in that last bit"
"As sugar, to sweeten the medicine."
"Yes, yes, madam, but it is what we have for now. It is but a tiny, fragile, connection to Rome. But, still, it exists. A place-holder if you will, while the Emperor readies for war. For it will come. The King will bide his time, continue to maneuver around Rome. Perhaps, he will find a way, this I do not know. The Emperor cannot have an England that is not Catholic. With France-, " Chapuys stopped.
"Ahh, I see, that is where they will go next. To France, " he said, looking at me.
There was silence in the room. We both pondered this and I realized, yes, the King and Anne might have luck with France. She had been almost raised there, her sister Mary was King Francis' mistress for a time. Poor Mary was but mistress to almost everyone. But Anne, she had been a favorite of the French King's.
I remembered then, the first time I saw her at court, so many years ago. It was Shrovetide, and the court was at Greenwich Palace for Easter. She was dancing with Lord Percy. What a pair they made. The ribbons from her hair kept tickling Percy's face as they moved, laughing and whispering. I had seen many couples in love so I recognized what I saw before me. And I wanted it for myself someday. The King had strewn betrothals for me all across Europe like pollen, so from day to day I did not know whose portrait to make moonbeams over. But, I was happy then, naively happy. I even felt a little pang of happiness for this couple that appeared so in love.
"I think she oversteps, " the Cardinal said.
"I think she makes perfect steps, " Cromwell answered.
They stood apart from me but near enough to hear. I scooted closer to the marble pillar.
"Cardinal, just let them be. You've given permission to scores of unsuitable matches. I am at a loss your Grace as to the nature of the difficulty. Have you met the Lady in question?"
"Met her, " he almost spat. "Cromwell, I do not have needs to meet-" The meat almost fell from his plate. Agitated, he handed it off to his manservant.
"Forgive me, your Grace, I only mention it because she is really quite charming. Truly, your Grace, she is exceptional. And if Percy is to hold the North one day, she could be of value. He is to be Earl of Northumberland, he will need a strong partner. Perhaps she might be worth it, as they say. Conversely, sir, she might pose some danger"
"Crom, don't be ridiculous. Danger. Bolelyn's daughter. Really, Crom, I have digestive issues today, I implore you, " the Cardinal said
Poor Wolsey, I thought. He had denied the marriage. Much crying and heartbreak ensued, but the match was undone. Wolsey's soul presumably rested in the hereafter. Anne was my problem now.
"So, what do we have, Eustace, a threat of a possible, maybe, potential, war, or the concubine succeeding in France. Which, I suspect, she will, " I said.
"Madam, we must appeal to the Emperor, " he said.
"Alright, Eustace, what do we appeal for?"
"I believe, Princess, it must be war. It is your life or the concubines. The King must choose."
"My life or hers, Eustace, well that is no choice. That I believe is what we refer to as suicide." I sighed and said, "Let me think on it."
I was not allowed letters from my mother. But occasionally, one would slip through. Chapuys was careful, he let Cromwell find most of them, but a precious few, the most important ones, he saved for me. This one, he delivered moments ago, and left me to my peace. I read it in a corner window seat, in an otherwise empty room.
I cannot think of what you must be feeling. Please remember you are daughter to Katherine of Aragon, and heir to the English throne. This above all else you must remember. Nothing can change that. I do not know what the future holds, but in all the world's eyes, you are heir. I tell you again, Mary, it is your inheritance. And I will never, never sign it away. The King knows this now, I have finally convinced him. Which is why I find my circumstances now so pitiful. But you Mary, your life is in front of you. I want you to live it as Queen and you shall. Chapuys will guide you, listen to him in all things and you will survive. One day, you will be Queen of England.
My love and eternal prayers, your mother, Queen Katherine of England
I stare at the letter, tears rolling down my cheeks. "I will never, never sign it away" That was my message. So, that was their hope, I almost laugh through my tears, that my mother would sign away her marriage, thus declaring me a bastard. No, she would die first. As would I.
Perhaps he will come to me next, asking for me to sign away-no, I am still the heir. He may still have needs of me yet. But someday Mary, he will want you to sign something, and you must not, you must never sign what he puts before you. That was the message from my mother.
But she did not mention war. My mother, God bless her, would not betray the English people. "No war, " I heard her tell Chapuys years ago. "The English do not want war and I will not give it to them. You tell Charles, you tell him what I said. Tell him the Queen of England does not wish war!"
But, what of you Mary, I thought to myself, do you want war?
I am fifteen years old, facing the future alone. What do I do? The King is inching away from Rome. Will he separate? Will he break from Rome for the concubine? Well, he has not yet done. I must anchor myself to that for the moment.
And war. I thought of my cousin, Charles. I knew him slightly, we had been betrothed once. But I reasoned that if he would agree to my mother not wanting war, perhaps he did not want war himself. Katherine was Queen, but still, a woman. Charles would not defer to her, unless he had his own reasons. What might they be Mary?
I pressed my fingers to my forehead.
No, he's not waiting and preparing for war, I decided. Charles is only waiting. There will be no preparing. Just waiting. To see what Henry will do. So much could happen or not happen. It's the will of God, I thought. The will of God.
The court convened early, as the King's mood preferred.
"Gentleman, " he started, "I have put before you the Act of Supremacy. Please argue amongst yourselves." The King stood from the royal throne and left the chambers.
Anne watched from an antechamber and giggled to herself. They'll not escape this, she thought. Oh yes, the bit about the law of Christ as far as it allows, but that could be undone. This was the main meal that had to be undertaken and consumed, and Henry would not falter. The whole court could see this. Wolsey had been brought low, and conveniently died before Henry took his head. Lives were at risk. Would anyone stand up to the King?
As it turned out, no one did. The Act was passed. Henry was now Head of the Church in England and would do as he liked.
Anne was given the Queen's rooms. She felt she was Queen. By the Saints, she should already be Queen. If not for Rome, and the meddling. Well, she would make her status known. She set about training her ladies to be above reproach. English gowns only, well, once France was secure. But, the new English Bible only. This bible was literally, in English, not Latin. Anne believed any Englishman should be able to bask in the wisdom of the Gospels, not just uppity churchmen. She displayed her copy on a tall table that anyone could view as they entered her chambers.
I aim to take England toward the true faith, she told herself. Henry will re-make the church into the Church of England. Mary and her ilk, they will go by the wayside. Rome is done for in England.By Elizabeth Wilson -
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