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The Tale of Anne Boleyn
Ambition. The most deadly of diseases. I am unfortunate enough to be infected with it. It may have led to my rising, yes. But because of it, I await my death. Beheading or burned, whatever tickles the king’s fancy. Yet, I cannot wait. For when I die, surely the king will regret it. Surely he would want to take back this day. Surely. I feel tears trickle down my cheek now, as the canon announced the death of my dear brother George. And follows four more of the sentenced men, and on my behalf. Yes, ambition is a cruel thing. But why do I speak of ambition with such disdain? Because that is why I am here, in the tower. That is why four innocent men are dead, whose families will grieve. I know mine will. But that is not enough details for you to completely understand. I will tell you of my story. The story of Anne Boleyn.
I have returned from France now, and I am serving the aging queen, Katherine. She is old, and most probably beyond child bearing. But oh, I do love court. The gowns, the flirting, the kings men. There is one in particular that I am quite fond of. Henry. Henry Percy. He comes from a wealthy family, probably far too wealthy and noble for a low Boleyn commoner. But I am going to plead the king to allow us to get married.
I step up to the king and queen alongside Henry. My head is bowed as I curtsy, and remains that way when Percy and I address the sovereigns.
“My Lord and Lady of England,” Percy says, “I appeal that I, Henry Percy, and the love of my life, Anne Boleyn, get married.” The king and queen were silent, then King Henry directed the next words at me.
”And why do you keep your head bent, Mistress Boleyn? Unless there is reason,” he added, mocking uncertainty. The court laughed, the queen smiled politely, but gave no other sign of mirth. I raised my head and met Henry straight in the face. He was clearly taken aback, of which I was pleased.
“Well clearly not.” He and the court laughed again. I hated it, them laughing at me.
“So, my lord? Do you consent that we wed? Or would you rather prefer to be kind to… other women” I asked this rather boldly, because the king is quite known for his temper tantrums.
“My queen and I will think on it,” he replied quietly, apparently oblivious to my comment. I had obviously stunned him with my daring tone. Which pleased me very much so.
The next day, and the next and it is soon a month after my pleading and I am wet with tears. Rejected. My marriage to Percy. Rejected. Overruled in the discussion between the Percy’s and the king. I sit down on my bed and I cry. I weep for the lost life I could have had with Percy. I feel nothing but hate for that old king. But I am interrupted in my sorrow by a messenger from my father. I open the letter, and read.
I have heard of your request for marriage has gone awry, and it would have been the most best marriage that you could do for this family. But I don’t give you my sympathy, because I have some interesting news. one of my secret informers has told me the reason why Henry has denied you and the marriage to Henry Percy. The answer is simple: he wants you to be unwed so he can wed you if he decides to divorce his current queen, but no one knows that, so you must not speak of it. This is your chance, Anne. You can aim high. Tell me your reply, immediately.
Oh, I have also told Norfolk.
I reread the contents of the letter over again. So this is why I am rejected. He probably included Norfolk to make me do what they want. Talk about serious pressure. I get out my stationary, and write.
I admit that your letter gives me mixed feelings. You know how I adore Percy. But you are right, this is my chance. I know how Henry is longing for a new marriage, and I will get him to consider me, but I will not behave like my foolish sister Mary, and her…acquaintance with the king . I promise you that. This will be a dangerous task, and I will hope you will be behind my back if I fall. But I feel ambition on my side. I will succeed.
Your most humble and obedient daughter,
I seal the letter and hand it to the messenger who bows and runs off. I feel a new sense of delight overflowing me. Ambition will make me succeed. I smile, and straighten up, ready to continue with my everyday chores for the queen.
The king is watching me closely now, well, for a couple years now, and I want to keep it this way. I encourage it, without showing it. But I know that the queen is suspecting something. The king is infamous, after all, for his many affairs. But now since it has been a few years after I have come to court, we have become close. We walk in the garden, and I read him Thomas Wyatt’s poems. But I feel Henry getting bored with me, so I go to my home of Hever so that he may miss me, and that is love will renew.
Letters fly in everyday. It is actually quite tiring reading them all, but I still read them, and I never reply. The latest one is:
Dear Mistress Boleyn,
It gives me great displeasure that you do not respond to the letters that I write to you. And rumors are that you left court because of me. But do not feel that way. I put me and my heart in my sweethearts arms, and do pray that you return so that I can see your sweet face.
Henry Rex seeks AB and no other.
I feel such satisfaction that he wants me to return. I think I shall return now that the marriage is so close to dispensation from the Pope. But soon I learn that Katherine is attempting to stop it. What shall Henry do?
Henry did it. He did the thing that nobody could stop him from dispensations and such. He made himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England. We plan on getting married soon. Very soon. And that Katherine is now supposed to be called “Princess Dowager”, for her marriage to Henry’s older brother. And I find that I do not pity her, Well, why should I? After all, she ruined the first part of Henry’s life. And I will never get in her predicament. I will have sons. Many sons.
I am now a married woman, as well as a mother too be, and the best part is that I am Queen. I succeeded. My family is proud, but the people hate me. I will not even say the words that they mutter when I pass. However, despite the hatred of me, Henry is happy at my pregnancy. It will surely be a boy. I will be triumphant, and have a boy.
It is a girl, and I am distraught for that the easily tempered king will say. What will he do? He walks in.
“Where is my boy? The prince of England!” He looks around, and the ladies hand the baby him. He looks shock, and I turn my head away in shame.
“What is… her name?” He asked, slight disappointment in his voice.
“Elizabeth,” I croaked. He nodded.
“Well, a son will come next time,” he said, as though convincing himself. “There will be a son.”
But it wasn’t a son. It was a girl. Stillborn. I cry for days as Henry yells at me. About Elizabeth, no son, my temper and sharp tongue. He still upset when I confronted him about Jane Seymour. He told me to keep my eyes shut, as my betters had done before me. And I feel terror rising in me. I know that Cromwell is putting sick lies into Henry’s ears, though I do not know what. But I do know that he is doing, putting ideas into Henry‘s head on how to get rid of me, and I know that it bodes ill for me.
I am pregnant again, but as soon as this happy news comes, I lose it. Six months early than full term. Henry is more than furious now. He is beyond it that he does not speak to me. Only Jane Seymour now. But Katherine of Aragon is dead, and we paraded throughout the city in yellow. But that celebration soon ended. I am nothing, even as queen. I am nothing, and I shall remain nothing. Even my ladies are following Jane Seymour’s fashion, the gable hood, modest dresses. There is no turning back. I have stepped over the line.
I now know what the late night discussions are about, for tomorrow I go on trial. They are accusing me of adultery, with four men, one my own brother, and of witchcraft. Those are lies! Filthy black lies! And it is because of Jane and Cromwell. What shall become of me? What have I done wrong?
And I am guilty. Guilty. I cannot bear this news. I am as innocent as my daughter, who isn’t even three. God, protect me. I am alone, for ambition is no longer on my side.
You understand my quandary now. I am going to be beheaded on false terms. I hear footsteps and there is my Uncle Norfolk. He voted against me. My own flesh and blood, who is practically the reason I am here. “It is time.” He tells me cruelly and stares at me pointedly. I suppose I have shamed the Howard’s. On the other hand, they are the ones who would threaten me if I wanted to stop.
I am lead out to Tower Green. The people shout at me, make threats and call me rude names, but I just stare ahead, walking slowly so as not to trip and make cause for more laughter. I climb my way up to the scaffold, and I deliver my speech.
“Good Christian people, I am come hither to die for I am judged by the law and will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor speak of that which I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king, and send him long reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was a good, gentle, and sovereign lord. And if a person was to meddle in my cause, I require you to judge the best. Thus I take my leave of the world, and heartily desire for you all to pray for me.” I hand my Book of Hours to one of my ladies in waiting, of which all are crying, and I step to the block. I rest my head down, and I quietly repeat, “Jesus Christ receive my soul, Lord Jesu receive my soul.”
When the blow comes, I know I will be ready. Never will I be afraid. For it is ambition that lead me here, and I am ready to receive consequences not on the false charges, but on my greed, and lust for power. But my only regret is leaving my Elizabeth in a battle for her future. I know she will be declared illegitimate, and who knows what other cruel punishments for only me as her mother. But God protect her soul, and make her Queen of England. And my treatment of Katherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary, I regret. I have mistreated them, but Mary will never forgive me. Oh, I hope she does not be cruel to Elizabeth.
The blow comes, and I leave England. I leave my lord Henry, who is playing tennis I know, I leave my sister, in the crowd with a face of shock and tears, my niece and nephew, where, I do not know, my father, beside my sister, and my poor, sweet, Tudor daughter, who I shall never see play music, dance, or anything that I would have loved to see her do and learn. And I see my brother ahead.