Authors: Olivia Longueville
The King of France also couldn’t sharpen the existing hostility and hatred between France and the Holy Roman Empire because he didn’t wish to have another immediate public confrontation with the emperor at the stage when he was preparing for another war with the emperor. When Bishop Fisher and Thomas More were executed, François was truly shocked with the expense of the Reformation in England and even made some unpleasant comments about Anne’s morals, which lowered the temperature of Anglo-French relations. However, the public condemnation of Henry’s actions by the King of France earned a more prolonged break for France before the escalation of the new conflict with the emperor in the Italian wars.
All François’ movements towards England and public statements about Anne Boleyn were purely political.
“After the death of Queen Catherine, it seemed that nobody would ever dispute the legitimacy of Anne Boleyn’s marriage to King Henry,” Marguerite declared.
“Nobody, except the King of England,” François clarified.
“Indeed, the King of England made himself the most powerful man in the kingdom.”
The sparkle flared up in the king’s amber eyes. “It is interesting that Henry introduced so many revolutionary changes for Anne Boleyn, and these changes gave him absolute power in the country. England is a perfect example of an absolute monarchy now.” He secretly envied Henry that he was an absolute monarch in his country.
King François firmly believed in absolutism. He was the first King of France to be addressed as
, a title previously held by the Holy Roman Emperor. François expanded royal power at the expense of the nobility by absorbing into the royal possession the last great semi-independent fiefdoms: the lands of the Duke of Bourbon starting from 1523; the lands of Alenç starting from 1525; and the lands of Albret by the marriage of his sister Marguerite to Henry II d’Albret, King of Navarre, in 1527.
Finally, in 1529 the lands of Burgundy were included into the territory of the country by a special royal decree. The Duchy of Brittany, administered separately by François’ first wife, Queen Claude, was brought under the direct administrative control of the king in 1535. Yet, some French lands were ruled by powerful and autonomous dukes, and François never forgot about them.
There also were many bureaucratic reforms directed at centralization. François was the first monarch who brought the sale of government offices strictly under the control of royal officials for the profit of the Crown. In order to unite the country, in 1530, the king declared French the national language of the kingdom, and that same year opened
the Collège des Trois Langues, or Collège Royal
. In addition, the king and his ministers were working on the edict that would make French the administrative language of the kingdom as a replacement for Latin. However, despite the high level of centralization implemented by King François, he wasn’t an absolute monarch whose power was nearly unlimited in the country.
Marguerite stared at one of the Italian paintings on the wall. “And these radical changes also eventually killed the person for the sake of whom they were made.” Melancholic notes sounded in her tone. “It is a dark irony of fate.”
“Greatness has its price, and often this price may be very high,” François retorted.
“To achieve greatness in life, we must live as though we would never die,” the king’s sister continued to speculate.
“There is also greatness in death,” François supplemented. “Anne Boleyn achieved greatness and died. And even in her death she cultivated an air of greatness around herself.” He drew a deep breath, his right hand briefly touching his forehead. “Anne Boleyn’s death is an event the people of England will remember forever. They have already embedded the moment in their mind,” he proclaimed.
“The common people of England might remember Anne Boleyn’s death as an act of tyranny stemming from absolute monarchy,” she suggested in a firm tone. “A monarch should be moderate and wise when he chooses to demonstrate his power and his authority, especially in absolute monarchies.”
François laughed moodily. “You are lecturing, again!”
Marguerite cocked her head and smiled. “Yes, I am.”
“Henry was influenced by humanism only in his early youth. Later he stopped supporting humanistic trends. He was corrupted by absolute power,” François admitted.
“Unfortunately, it is so.” Marguerite’s lips parted and she sighed as her mind reflected on the rumors about Anne’s little motherless infant. “Did the ambassador write what happened to Anne Boleyn’s child? What gender was the child?”
François sat forward in his wooden chair with a squeak. “There are rumors that she gave birth to a son who was taken into custodianship by Lady Mary Stafford, Anne Boleyn’s sister. I am sure that it is the king’s son. I don’t believe in those ridiculous accusations.”
“In this case Henry has committed blasphemy,” Marguerite said as though to herself. She crossed herself. “I suppose that the common people are very much displeased.”
“Philippe de Chabot wrote that there are a lot of dark rumors amongst the commoners. The common people are keeping silent, but many of them have gloomy thoughts. They didn’t expect that Lady Anne would be executed so soon after the birth of her child and in such a specific manner. Many people also doubt the charges brought against Lady Anne,” he supplied.
Marguerite’s thin mouth frowned as she stared down on her lap. “I wouldn’t have expected any other reaction.”
“The Seymour family and their supporters are pleased,” François added. “The power of the Seymour faction will considerably strengthen now.”
“Oh, François, it is understandable.”
“Henry has announced he will marry Lady Jane Seymour before Christmas,” François added.
Marguerite glared up at him and shook her head in disapproval. “This is distasteful and indecent. Henry creates the image of a tyrant in Europe.”
François and Marguerite shared a worried, lamentable glance.
“Definitely not a perfect image,” François suggested. He was always cautious in his words. “I wonder how long Lady Jane Seymour will stay the queen if she doesn’t provide the King of England with a male heir.” He settled back in the chair.
“I guess Lady Jane will also be set aside if she fails to have a boy,” Marguerite concluded.
“Maybe. Henry is unpredictable.”
Marguerite bestowed on her brother a compassionate look. “What are you going to do with your own miserable marriage? It cannot continue in the same way! You absolutely ignore your queen, to the exclusion of all official occasions. You have never visited her bedchamber!”
“Ha!” François laughed a short, withering bark. “I am not going to sleep with Eleanor of Austria even under a threat of death. She is the sister of my mortal enemy – the emperor.” He smiled. “Moreover, I am not physically attracted to Eleanor. I have my Anne to warm my bed and many other ladies at my court who are always eager to please me.”
“François, Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly is only your mistress. Eleanor is your wife, and you cannot ignore her forever,” Marguerite rebuked.
“Why not? I am the king, and it is in my power to never sleep with her till my dying day.”
Marguerite drew a deep breath. “Eleanor is just a poor woman, the emperor’s pawn in his game for power. The emperor dreamt you would sire a child with her when he forced you to marry her.” She sighed again. “It has been almost six long years since you married Eleanor. I know that you had to marry her, but you must change something in your union. She is neglected by you and everybody at the court, except your daughter Marguerite. She feels that she is not liked here. She is suffering.”
François shook his head in denial. “I am not going to perform even my husbandly duties,” he said categorically. “You know why I am ignoring Eleanor, Margot. I cannot risk getting her pregnant and have Valois children with half Habsburg blood. If my sons fail to produce male heirs and I have a son with Eleanor, Spain will have much influence in France. I will never let it happen. If there are no direct descendants on the Valois male line, it is better to have a new, purely French ruling dynasty, like the Bourbons.”
“You don’t need to be friends. Any proximity will fuel Eleanor’s hopes for reconciliation with you.”
François smiled. His sister understood him so well. “That is why I am always courteous and official with Eleanor, but I am cold, distant, and indifferent to her. I am striving to devoid her of all illusions that we can be happy together. It is better to know harsh reality than sweet lies.”
“Brother, I understand you, but I pity her.”
“I also do pity Eleanor. She was just a victim when the emperor made us marry,” François complained. “I know that she is stressed out because she is a neglected wife and queen. But it is not my fault – it is the emperor’s fault.”
“Then, François, you must find the way out of this matrimony that is like purgatory.”
“This is what I am going to do,” the king said with an enigmatic smile. “You know that I am fed up with the number of Imperial and Spanish spies at our court.”
Marguerite gave a worried glance to her brother. “What will you do?”
The King of France smiled with caution and collusion. “I have a good plan how to weaken my ties to Spain and Emperor Charles.” As Marguerite’s gaze turned more suspicious, he went on. “Sister, don’t worry about Queen Eleanor. I am not Henry – I won’t murder her. I think the time has come, and now I can try to have my marriage annulled by the pope. It was a forced marriage, and there is a canon law that might be used for an annulment in our case.”
Marguerite smiled at these words. “Oh, François, you will never be like Henry. And the pope likes you. I hope you will be free soon.”
François and Marguerite shared a bemused half smile.
The king let out a sigh. “Although I pity Eleanor, I am dreaming of sending her back to Spain, to her brother. If my marriage were annulled, it would be better for both of us.”
Marguerite rubbed at her tight jaw with her fingertips. “You know that if you annul this marriage, the emperor will be in a towering rage.”
François smiled at her with a devil-may-care smirk. “My dear sister, the Italian war had already started in 1536 when the French army captured Turin and the whole Piedmont last year. There will be other battles in Italy next year. The war may continue for years. Thus, an annulment of my marriage to Eleanor will contribute very little to my, and the emperor’s, intentions to control a part of Italy by conquest.”
Marguerite also smiled ironically. “You are right, François. An annulment of the marriage won’t stop the ongoing war in Italy.”
“At least I will no longer be married to the sister of my most vicious enemy – Emperor Charles V,” François whispered. “At least I won’t have to see every day a woman whom I don’t like and whom I will never like.” The last words were said so quiet that the sound vibrated in his chest.
Marguerite had disliked Eleanor of Austria right from the beginning. In general, she disliked all the Spaniards. She wanted her brother to be happy and possibly remarry a woman whom he at least liked and respected, even if not loved.
“May God help us annul your marriage,” she murmured.
April 1537, the Palace of Whitehall, London, England
King Henry sat on the throne in the huge great hall. On his left, his wife Queen Jane sat, and Lady Mary Tudor occupied the seat on the queen’s left. Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, and Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, stood on Henry’s right; Edward Seymour, Viscount Beauchamp, and his brother Thomas Seymour were on the queen’s left.
Henry thought back to several months ago. During Anne’s arrest and imprisonment at the Tower of London, Jane Seymour had left the court for Wolf Hall in Wiltshire where she had been born and had spent her childhood. As it became clear that Anne’s execution had to be postponed due to her pregnancy, Henry gave Jane and her family a magnificent mansion in Chelsea, only one mile from the Palace of Whitehall.
Upon that move, Jane and her family had a vast array of Henry’s royal servants to serve them. Jane was lavished with gifts and gowns and was already treated like a future queen. Then King Henry married Jane Seymour just two weeks after his second wife, Anne Boleyn, had been burnt at the stake. He hadn’t even waited a month to marry. He wanted to have his pure and virtuous Jane as his wife.
Henry glanced at Jane. He was happy that he was married to Jane, not to the whore Anne Boleyn. In contrast to Anne Boleyn, Jane deserved to be loved. Anne and Jane were so different. Jane was everything that Anne had never been: she was quiet, reserved, mild, even-tempered, and humble, and she did what was asked or ordered without asking any questions or biting back.
Henry didn’t care that Jane wasn’t very well educated compared to the intelligent and broad-minded Anne. Jane was exactly what Henry was looking for in a wife and in the Queen of England. Henry thought that he loved Jane from the bottom of his heart. He believed that he loved her even more than he had loved Anne Boleyn. She was his treasure and his happiness. She was the light in the darkness that was created by Anne Boleyn.
As a wedding gift, King Henry made Jane Seymour a grant of more than one hundred manors in four countries as well as a number of forests and hunting chases. The couple was married by Archbishop Cranmer, in the Queen’s closet at the Palace of Whitehall. The wedding party slowly proceeded through London streets. Later Queen Jane was introduced to the court. Feasts, jousts, and other entertainments in honor of the royal wedding followed.
King Henry wanted to get Jane pregnant as soon as possible. Henry wasn’t disappointed. Jane proved herself to be a good wife by falling pregnant rather quickly after their marriage. In April 1537, Jane was around two months along in her pregnancy. Henry was overjoyed and was sure that God had blessed his marriage to Jane.
Henry forbade the courtiers to wear mourning for the death of Queen Anne. He said that it wasn’t necessary to do that in the light of Anne’s crimes against the King of England. In addition, he ordered Anne’s clothes and all her things be burnt. He instructed the royal goldsmith to melt down many of Anne’s expensive and beautiful jewelry sets, which he’d given her as gifts when he had loved her and had been ready to put the whole world at her feet. A lot of Anne’s portraits and even miniatures were destroyed. Henry wanted to forget Anne Boleyn and everything associated with her and her family. Even an indirect reference to Anne could be considered high treason.
After the marriage to Jane, King Henry and Thomas Cromwell worked out a new document - the Second Succession Act of 1536, which declared that only Henry’s children by Jane were legitimate heirs to the throne of England. The same document confirmed the illegitimacy of Lady Mary Tudor and proclaimed Lady Elizabeth Tudor illegitimate; both of Henry’s daughters were excluded from the line of succession.
Henry also saw another good and practical side of his marriage to Jane. Jane managed to reconcile Henry with Lady Mary, his long-estranged daughter with Catherine of Aragon. Lady Mary came back to the court right before Christmas and obediently agreed to sign the Oath of Supremacy. Henry suspected that Mary didn’t want to but she had no choice. Therefore, Mary recognized Henry as the Supreme Head of the Church of England, repudiated the papal authority, and acknowledged her parents’ marriage as unlawful and invalid.
Not wishing to see his daughter, Henry sent Lady Elizabeth away from the court. Elizabeth reminded him of Anne. Her blue eyes seemed to be accusing Henry of something; her elegance and grace, so rare for a little girl of her age, infuriated Henry. He declared in front of many courtiers that Elizabeth wasn’t his daughter, although he knew that it wasn’t the truth – she was his. Anger at her mother, Anne Boleyn, had blinded the King of England.
King Henry cast a warm glance at Queen Jane. She looked charming in her silver muslin gown, set off with gold lace that fitted her body rather tightly. Her long blonde hair was left down, half secured by a jeweled English hood. Rubies and diamonds were weaved in her hair with the thinnest gold thread. A massive, oval cut diamond necklace was around her neck. He was happy when he looked at her.
Henry bent his head to Jane. “Sweetheart, how are you feeling?” he asked Jane.
“Your Majesty, I am perfectly well,” Jane answered humbly and lowered her eyes down. As usual, she spoke quietly, in a soft, caressing voice.
Like Henry, Jane was happy. She had everything she had dreamt about. She was the queen. She was married to the King of England, a glorious, handsome, charming man. Since the king had asked Jane to let him serve and worship her, like Lancelot served his Guinevere, as he put it, she had been smitten with his powerful presence and the very regal air around him. Their courtship wasn’t long, but it was romantic, except the moments when Anne Boleyn had showed her short temper and thrown tantrums of jealousy, driving Henry to the verge of madness..
Jane was delighted and proud that such a powerful and unique man had served her and loved her. Jane had fallen in love with Henry after he had begun courting her; and she believed that he had returned her affection. Besides, now Jane carried the future heir to the throne. She hoped that her child was a boy. Unlike Anne’s marriage to the king, Jane’s marriage was lawful and blessed by the Almighty, Jane thought.
Henry smiled at his wife. “Soon we will have our son in the cradle. I am looking forward to having him in my arms,” he said merrily.
Jane smiled faintly. “Yes, Your Majesty.” Each time Henry talked about the boy she inwardly shuddered.
Henry stared at Jane. “If you are tired, you may retire, Jane.”
“No, Your Majesty, I am fine.” Her voice was soft and low. She always talked in that modest way – soft and quiet. Jane proclaimed her motto to be “
bound to obey and serve
Henry smiled. “I am happy that the banquet didn’t make you tired, sweetheart.” His gaze fixed on the massive oval cut diamond necklace around his wife’s neck. “Did you like my last gift?”
“Your Majesty, I love it with all my heart. Thank you very much for this marvelous gift,” she whispered, touching the necklace and looking sweetly at her husband’s face. “It is very beautiful.”
Henry smiled eagerly. His gaze was ever-penetrating, his aquamarine orbs betraying his passion and zealousness to finally get what he had been dreaming of for a long, long time. “I trust you will give me the most important gift quite soon.” His voice was ambiguous.
Jane smiled timidly, knowing what the king implied. “I am praying to give Your Majesty the greatest gift in the world,” she answered with a tremulous smile. At that moment, she felt a cold shiver run down her spine. There was so much impatience and so much anticipation in his gaze. She prayed every day that she carried a boy.
When Jane started talking to Lady Mary, Henry glanced away. He scanned the room, his eyes drifting from one courtier to another one. The courtiers were chatting, eating, some of them dancing. Everything was standard and routine. It was the same month after month. The court was boring for Henry. He was bored, and he knew that. He wanted fire and passion, which Jane could never give him.
Suddenly, a thought struck Henry: everything was not always so boring. There were times when there were wonderful banquets and merry, entertaining parties at the court – the times when Anne Boleyn was the Queen of England and was alive. It seemed that it was in Henry’s former life, although Anne had died not a long time ago. Henry cursed silently. He wanted to forget Anne, and he would do it, he swore.
Henry’s aquamarine eyes wandered across the room and stopped on the raven-haired lady dressed in an extravagant French gown of yellow velvet, with a very low, square-cut neckline. He hungrily stared at the lady’s bosom. The lady’s hair was arranged in the French fashion: dark curls around the face and falling down on the neck. She seemed to be vivacious and energetic; she was laughing, her laugher as melodious as Anne Boleyn’s laugher. Her clothing style was also similar to Anne’s.
Henry bent his head to Charles. “Charles, who is that beautiful lady?”
Charles glared ahead. “Your Majesty, do you mean the lady in the yellow gown?”
“Yes, Charles,” Henry confirmed.
“This is Lady Ursula Misseldon. She is a lady-in-waiting at Her Majesty Queen Jane’s household.”
“I like her,” Henry declared straightforwardly.
Charles smirked. “Your Majesty needs my help?” Nothing had changed. It was the same as usual – Charles Brandon often helped Henry in the king’s extramarital affairs.
“I don’t mind if you tell Lady Misseldon that I want to talk to her in the privacy of my chambers tonight,” Henry replied with a smile.
Charles sighed heavily, realizing why the king wanted Lady Ursula Misseldon. She was so different from the sweet and impassive Queen Jane. She was more similar to Anne Boleyn, with her dark curls, French style of clothing, and her sharp tongue that was so well-known at the court. “Your Majesty, why this woman, if I may ask you?”
Henry frowned. “I like her,” he answered simply.
That night was the first time King Henry bedded his new mistress Lady Ursula Misseldon. Ursula eagerly agreed to go to the king’s bedchamber in the late night. Henry thought that he was the king and had every right to have as many mistresses as he desired, especially when his wife was in a family way. He was doing nothing wrong.
Later that night, Lady Ursula Misseldon slept peacefully near the king, snuggling closer to him under the bedcovers. However, Henry was suffering from insomnia; his brain was working, his mind reproducing the scenes from a past he wished to forget. Henry glanced at the face of his new mistress. Ursula was as unconventionally beautiful as Anne Boleyn. Both of them had an enigmatic, dark, seductive appearance that attracted Henry to them mentally and physically. During the night, he had taken Ursula three times in a passionate dance of physical love because now, without Anne, the need for fire and for passion had returned with the dark fury of a tempest, and neither wine nor sleep could quell it. Jane wasn’t capable of giving that fire to Henry, but she was music to his ears and a balm on the healing wounds of his heart; the wounds caused by Anne Boleyn.
Henry had summoned Lady Ursula Misseldon to his chambers because he thought that there would be no rest and no release until he took Ursula as wildly as he often took Anne. However, he was mistaken. When his mistress drifted to sleep, loneliness and vehement desire for fire stubbornly returned and bothered him. His heart ached without ceasing as Anne haunted him even after her death. Ursula was not Anne Boleyn – his Anne was dead.
Henry’s gaze wandered across his private chambers. He remembered that he had spent many nights with Anne in the same room and on the same bed. During their short and turbulent marriage, his quarters were filled with their so-called “love”. Even Henry’s bed was the symbol of their love and passion. When he thought that Anne had loved him, everything in his chambers and in every corner of the palace – from the ceiling beams to the embroidered slipcovers – symbolized their tastes and their life together.
Henry cursed in his mind. Despite everything Henry had done to make Anne happy, she had betrayed him when she had slept with those executed men in a desperate attempt to conceive a child. Anne Boleyn was the harlot and the whore, as the common people referred to her; she had never loved him and only used him to her own advantage, Henry persuaded himself. He again glared at Ursula, but saw another face – Anne’s face. Henry cursed and closed his eyes, trying to fall asleep. He would forget Anne, he swore.
May 1, 1537, the Palace of Whitehall, London, England
Thomas Cromwell was calm for the first time in the last two years. His position was stronger than ever, and everything seemed to be going well for him. Anne Boleyn and the Boleyns were out of the way. King Henry was content in his new marriage to Jane Seymour who carried his child and the heir to the throne. Cromwell was in great favor with the king who listened to him, publicly praised him, and trusted him much more than his many other counsellors.
The future promised to be brilliant for Cromwell. He thought that it was the right time to prove to the king how useful his chief minister was. He was anxious to show the Duke of Norfolk and the old English nobles that his status had been no worse than their position. An ambitious and hardworking man, Cromwell dreamed of concentrating more power in his hands and for the factions that shared his passion for religious reforms and Protestant beliefs.
Religious reforms were the first thing on the agenda. Cromwell had a fanatical dream – to utterly destroy the Roman Catholic Church in England.
The Ten Articles
, which were prepared by the reformers, included Protestant teachings on sacraments and justification and Catholic beliefs regarding saints and purgatory. Cromwell, Cranmer, and the Boleyns thought that if Catholic and Protestant beliefs had been muddled and some of the teachings were revised, the golden mean would have been achieved, which would be a sort of compromise for the adherers of Protestantism and Catholicism.
The Church of England was supposed to be neither purely Protestant nor devotedly Catholic, and it could easily be called the Henrician Church. Over time, Cromwell hoped to make the Church of England more Protestant than Catholic. The minister especially hated the so-called “idolatry” of Catholicism and initiated the extensive campaign to attack and to destroy statues, roods, and images at the monasteries and the abbeys.