Authors: Olivia Longueville
Copyright © 2015 by Olivia Longueville.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014922973
ISBN: Hardcover 978-1-5035-3173-4
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.
Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.
Rev. date: 02/13/2015
For my parents who are always so supportive and interested in the
work I do as a writer
May 18, 1536, the Tower of London, London, England
Anne Boleyn, the Queen of England and the Marquess of Pembroke, lay on the large wooden bed. Her eyes were closed, and her face had a peaceful expression. The muscles of her face were relaxed, and a vague smile hovered over her lips. Her breathing was even and steady. Although she looked visibly calm, inside her heart was tearing apart in pain.
Despite the last month of the spring, it was a little chilly outside and inside the queen’s chamber, the Tower’s royal apartments, where Anne was locked after she had been arrested and imprisoned. The cold weather mirrored Anne’s emotional state: emptiness, fear, despair and pain had been present in her heart since the day of her arrest.
Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery with several courtiers, plotting to murder King Henry, seducing the king to marry her through witchcraft, and having an incestuous relationship with her brother, George Boleyn. She was also accused of poisoning Queen Catherine, contemplating doing the same to Lady Mary Tudor and laughing at her husband.
Anne laughed aloud at the charge of committing adultery with so many men. It was ludicrous that the queen, who was always attended by her ladies, could have had so many lovers in secret and for so long. In several cases, her supposed paramours were not even at the place where her prosecutors claimed she had slept with other men. All the detailed particulars of her crimes were a product of pure fantasy and falsification, a sheer fiction.
There were no witnesses who could have confirmed that Anne had indeed poisoned Catherine of Aragon and had tried to do the same to Mary. No substantial and serious facts could have been used to prove that she had plotted the king’s death and that she had murdered Catherine. The charge of witchcraft was introduced to please King Henry because he himself said on several occasions that Anne had used sorcery and witchcraft to bewitch him and push him to marry her. In reality, the witchcraft allegation was a mere excuse for Henry’s own behavior, for his passion and his lust which drove him to divorce Catherine.
Anne’s trial was a mere spectacle with a guilty verdict expected in advance. The evidence was weak, but the king’s desire to dispose of her was insatiable and overwhelming. At the close of the proceedings, the twenty-six peers gave their decision verbally, saying only a single word – guilty. Anne was unjustly condemned to be either beheaded or burned at the king’s pleasure.
Anne could not help but try to shake off the nightmare she lived in, but, little by little, it dawned on her that it was real. She had been tried and found guilty on the grounds of ludicrous accusations of incest, adultery, and high treason; her fate was death.
Her life was like a nightmare from which she knew that there was no awakening. She was like a trapped bird flinging herself against the bars of her cage but only succeeding in hurting herself. The strange, spiraling patterns of death and hell, which seemed to spring direct from her whimsical imagination, haunted her every night.
She had a strange combination of feelings – bewilderment, anxiety, concern, fear, and pain. She was bewildered and surprised because she hadn’t expected that her beloved Henry could have been so cruel to her, unforgiving and determined to get rid of her at any cost and by any means. She finally realized that the king no longer loved her and wanted to get rid of her in order to marry Jane Seymour. Yet, she was still shocked and struggled to believe that Henry had conceived this absurd story of adultery to get her sentenced to death.
Anne had witnessed her brother George’s execution that morning. In order to watch the execution she had dragged a large wooden trunk to the window; then she climbed on top and looked outside, her blue eyes fixing on the crowd near the scaffold. Her vision was not perfect as it was slightly hindered by the lattice on the small window, but she could still see every detail of the execution.
She saw the executioner practice his strokes several times above George’s neck, then he swung the axe in the air and when he had finished George was headless and dead. Her dear brother George, her favorite sibling from childhood, was dead, and she no longer could rely upon his support, advice and consolation. All of Anne’s alleged lovers – George Boleyn, Mark Seaton, William Brereton, and Francis Weston – were beheaded and dead.
Anne was alone in the world. Thomas Boleyn, her own father, had betrayed her. Her ambitious father, who had pushed her into Henry’s waiting arms, had abandoned his daughter. From her small window, she saw her father leaving the Tower, and she smiled at him and waved her hand. She longed to see a sincere smile on her father’s face; she needed that as proof he loved her. But Thomas ignored Anne and looked at her with cold eyes, then walked away.
She wished only to close her eyes, fall sleep and wake up and realize it had only been a nightmare, but it was a cruel, harsh reality. Nothing could have been changed at that moment; she was doomed to die as an adulteress.
Anne Boleyn accepted her fate. But even if everyone wanted her dead, she decided she would die with her head held high, her eyes cold, her expression calm and resigned. She would die with dignity, showing all her enemies her strength and will power even in her last moments. And whatever Henry and her enemies did to her, Anne wouldn’t be broken, for her spirit and her will were not broken, and truth was at her side.
May 18, 1536, the Tower of London, London, England
Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, stood near the door to the queen’s chamber. He hesitated to open the door and go inside as he didn’t know how he would be able to face Anne and give her the gravest news. Yet, it was his duty to announce that her marriage to King Henry had been annulled and Elizabeth had become a bastard. Cranmer was convinced that Anne was innocent and that the king had murdered four innocent people.
Cranmer let out a sigh of frustration. He felt guilty that he had to inflict more pain on Anne, but there was no other option. Cranmer knew that the king wanted to get rid of Anne. He understood that Henry had convinced himself that Anne had betrayed him with those executed men. He could do nothing to save Anne. After a long silence, Cranmer sighed heavily and went inside the chamber.
As her gaze fell on Cranmer, Anne jumped to her feet from the bed. She smiled heartily, welcoming the Archbishop; she viewed him as a friend, and nothing had changed even now she had been condemned to death. She stepped forward towards Cranmer, her gaze fixed on him.
Anne’s ladies remained in a distance, watching their condemned mistress. During the brief time of her staying in the Tower, Anne was attended by five women who had served either Catherine of Aragon or her daughter, Mary Tudor. The ladies were chosen by Thomas Cromwell. They were Lady Mary Kingston, the wife of Sir William Kingston, the Lieutenant of the Tower; two of Anne’s aunts – Lady Anne Shelton who was the elder sister of Thomas Boleyn, and Lady Elizabeth Boleyn who was the wife of the eldest brother of Anne’s father; Lady Margaret Coffin, the wife of Anne’s Master of the Horse; and Lady Eleanor Hampton. They had to inform William Kingston about everything Anne said and did, then Kingston reported the same to Thomas Cromwell.
Archbishop Cranmer looked at Anne. His eyes were rather grim and he held Anne’s gaze in his for a moment in silence. “My Lady, I have to tell you that your marriage to the king has been annulled.” Once he spoke the sad truth, he averted his gaze.
Anne frowned and her heart missed a beat. She could barely speak but managed to ask, “On what grounds?” Her voice sounded unfamiliar and far away, but, considering the turmoil within her, it was still curiously calm. She shut her eyes for a moment, trying to regain composure. With mounting horror, she guessed what would follow an annulment: Elizabeth would be declared a bastard. She knew Henry too well now not to hope that he would make idle threats and then take his words back; there was no way the king would re-consider his decision about an annulment.
Cranmer still couldn’t look at Anne. “On the grounds of your close and forbidden affinity to another woman, who was known carnally by the king.”
Anne felt a sharp pain in the region of her heart. Fear and shock entwisted each cell of her body more and more deeply, tauter and tauter, but she didn’t show her weakness to Cranmer.
“My sister,” she said shortly. Her lips twitched slightly. “Then my daughter is…” she murmured thoughtfully and paused.
Cranmer emitted a new heavy sign. He felt guilty that he’d had to inform Anne about these details. “Yes, Elizabeth is to be declared a bastard,” he said sorrowfully.
Anne tried to piece together all the fragments of the ridiculous puzzle and tried to understand how it was possible. Why was Henry being so cruel to her? She loved him with all her heart, more than everything and everyone in the world, but he had stopped loving her and didn’t even want her to die in peace. Henry’s cruelty had no limits.
But at all costs she had to keep calm, even, especially now she was beginning to feel the creeping onset of real fear. She could not demonstrate her weakness and vulnerability to the world; she had to act as a strong woman before Cranmer and Kingston. Anne raised her chin, her beautiful blue eyes blazing in both resignation and anger. Her proud, disdainful eyes met and held Cranmer’s ones without flinching. “Oh, I see,” she breathed.
“Madame?” Cranmer was puzzled by her reaction.
She uttered a laugh of mingled disdain and irony. “Of course, His Majesty had his last trump card to play! I should have expected that.”
The Archbishop blanched. “Madame, please…”
“I am sorry. I don’t know what came over me,” she said humbly. Her voice again sounded calm.
Cranmer felt a shiver running down his spine. He was astonished with Anne’s calmness and self-control in such terrible matters. “Madame, I swear to you, I will do everything in my power to support and protect Elizabeth and keep her always in the king’s good and kind graces.”
Anne’s gaze turned more intensive, but her eyes were kind. “Thank you very much,” she said without expression. Anne understood that the time for her last confession had finally come. She wanted William Kingston to hear her confession because it left her with a chance that even after her death, people, including the king, would learn about her innocence.
“And now since my time approaches, I beg Your Grace to hear my confession,” Anne spoke calmly. “Also, I should like the constable to stay here when I receive the good Lord.” She wished Kingston to report her confession to the king.
Master Kingston only bowed. “Madame,” he replied in agreement.
As Cranmer took a seat, Anne knelt before him. As she looked at him, Cranmer’s heart began hammering harder and harder. She looked beautiful and vulnerable at that very moment, yet calm and sincere. He was amazed and enthralled by Anne’s behavior, her emotional control and will power. “My child, do you have a confession?” he asked.
Anne bent her head low. “Yes,” she answered and lifted her head. “I confess my innocence before God. I solemnly swear on the damnation of my soul that I have never been unfaithful to my lord and my husband, nor have ever offended with my body against him. I do not say that I have always born the humility towards him of which I owed him, considering the kindness and great honor he showed me and the great respect he always paid me. I also admit that I have often taken it into my head to be jealous of him.” She trailed off for a moment and sighed. She recalled how jealous she was when Henry had taken on so many mistresses during their short matrimony. Indeed, anger had boiled in Anne’s heart as she loved him and wanted him to be faithful to her. “But God knows and as my witness, I have not sinned against him in any other way. Think not I say this in the hopes of prolonging my life. God has taught me how to die and he will strengthen my faith.”
A short silence stretched between them.
Anne sighed and went on. “As for my brother…” Her voice was a little shaky. She wanted to say that she was innocent, but decided to keep silent; she would be graceful and cautious in choosing her words. “… and those others who were unjustly condemned, I would have willingly suffered many deaths to save them. But since I see it pleases the king, I will willingly accompany them in death. With this assurance, I shall lead an endless life with them in peace.” Anne bowed her head again as she finished her confession.
Her ladies were crying. They also didn’t believe that their mistress was guilty of the charges ascribed to her.
Cranmer blessed Anne with a cross on her forehead.
“Master Kingston, please go and make sure to report my lady’s last confession so the world will know it.”
Master Kingston rose to his feet and bowed. “I will,” he said. Unfortunately, he lied. He intended to visit Cromwell and report Anne’s confession to him.
The last night before Anne’s execution was restless. Anne tried to sort out her thoughts while silently preparing to die. She remembered her early youth: her happy childhood at the Hever castle with Mary, George, her mother Elizabeth and father Thomas. At that time, her relations with her father were very much the pure relationship of a father and a daughter. He was very caring but unfortunately, it was a long time ago, and now everything was different.
Anne remembered the years she had spent at the court of Archduchess Margaret von Habsburg, Princess of Asturias and Duchess of Savoy by her two marriages, and the Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands. At Thomas Boleyn’s request, Archduchess Margaret had agreed to take Anne, a small girl at that time, as one of her eighteen
in 1513. Margaret had immediately put Anne to study under a French tutor to learn French and master the sophistication of court life. Anne had liked being close to Archduchess Margaret, making herself useful to her on every possible occasion. She had been eager to share in the intimate society of the court and to join various kinds of court entertainment; in the Low Countries, she had plunged into the whirl of elaborate dances, festivities, tournaments, and hunting.
Although Anne had liked her time in the Netherlands, she had loved much more the happy time she spent at the French court where she became a lady-in-waiting for Queen Claude of France, King François I’s young wife. Anne had still been very young when she had been brought to the French court, but she remembered everything very well because those years were the golden years of her early youth. Anne had stayed with Queen Claude for nearly seven years, during which she had spent the majority of time in the Upper Loire at Amboise and at Blois where the Queen of France usually resided.
In France, Anne had continued living in the sophisticated atmosphere of the Renaissance. Intelligence and splendor surrounded her and she had found everything more elaborate and enchanting than at Archduchess Margaret’s court. Although Englishmen boasted of their achievements, England still didn’t have the greatness of the intellectual Renaissance environment, which the Low Countries and France had in abundance; at the French court, Anne understood that.
In France, Anne had acquired excellent knowledge of the Renaissance culture and the court etiquette; she had embraced French coquetry and infamous French courtesy. She had also completed her study of French and cultivated interests in fashion, religious philosophy, art, poetry, and literature. Anne had developed her music to an outstanding ability. She knew how to sing, play the lute and perform on other musical instruments. At Amboise, Anne had met Leonardo da Vinci who had settled at Cloux, a place just outside Amboise, in 1516 at the invitation of King François; after she left France, she had frequently thought that she should have tried to become closer with Leonardo, a man of great intelligence and intellect.
Life with Queen Claude had been much less public as the queen spent much time in seclusion during her annual pregnancies, but she had still spent some time at feasts and tournaments. With great pleasure, Anne remembered her conversations with King François I’s sister, Marguerite d’Angoulême, at that time Duchess d’Alençon and at present the Queen of Navarre, who was a patron of humanists and reformers and a talented author in her own right. The supporter of the religious reforms, Marguerite had encouraged a multitude of discussions on religious topics in her entourage, and Anne had been an active participant and had been much influenced by that.
Anne stretched her legs across the bed. She blinked and swallowed hard, suppressing the light sobs that rose in her throat. Her memory reproduced her time she had spent with Henry; she remembered how he had fallen in love with her and how she had fallen for him over time. Then her mind drifted to their long and romantic courtship, with Henry’s countless love professions and oaths, all of them worthless and empty in the end.
Anne smiled at the memory of Elizabeth’s birth, the happiest day in her life. Then her smile vanished as Henry’s disappointment with the birth of the healthy daughter came to her mind. She recalled her two miscarriages, especially the tragic circumstances of her second miscarriage. Even after her death, she would never forget the pool of hot, red blood on her white nightgown and the reprobative, cruel gaze of Henry’s aquamarine eyes when he came to the her suite and accused her of losing their son.
A new tide of pain, like sharp daggers, transfixed her heart. Hot tears were streaming down her pale cheeks. She automatically brushed them away with her palm. It was her last night, and Anne tried to prepare for her death; she planned her execution speech and imagined how she would ascend the steps of the scaffold. She could almost feel a touch of cold French steel on the tender skin of her slender neck. She was sure that she would find eternal peace after her death, together with her beloved George and her executed friends.
She began to pray for the safety of Elizabeth from Henry’s wrath and for the repose of the souls of the executed and unjustly condemned men, including George Boleyn. She didn’t want to leave her dear Elizabeth motherless at such a young age. She knew Henry would be highly unlikely to favor Elizabeth and feared her daughter would be alone in the world. Anne loved Elizabeth so much because she was one of the few joys in her life and the most pure thing that had come out of her union with Henry.
As she was praying, her heart became more and more paralyzed with pain and cold and fear. She was ready to accept her death, but in reality she didn’t want to die but she was condemned to death and there was no other way to avoid it. She would die with dignity, showing her strength and will power to all her enemies even in her death.
Suddenly, Anne screamed loudly as she felt a warm sticky liquid somewhere on her tights. She sat in the bed and looked down at her white cotton nightgown. There was blood everywhere. She screamed aloud again, horror and fear overcoming all her essence. Her cries sounded like a vinegar poured into a festering, painful wound of heart and soul. Her screams of horror were so loud and so piercing, so full of both shock and pain, and all those who heard them would undoubtedly never forget that moment.
The ladies rushed to her side, their faces expressing confusion and horror as they saw blood on the bed and on Anne’s nightgown. Their faces became more frightened when they saw how deathly pale Anne’s face looked as blood drained from it.
“Oh my Lord! We must find a physician,” said Lady Eleanor Hampton.
“What is going on?” Lady Anne Shelton questioned.
“I don’t understand,” Lady Elizabeth Boleyn shook her head. “Only a physician can say what happened.”