Full Title: If Any Person Should Meddle In My Cause
I am Anne Boleyn, Anne The Queen, once a great king’s obsession, the mother of the glorious Elizabeth, and I would like to think a force behind the reformation. I have also been called the great whore, a traitor…but to some I was daughter, sister, friend.
So who am I? I was a wide eyed leggy girl at Hever who learned early to have my wits about me. With my sallow complexion, dark hair and lithe body, it was my sister Mary that all eyes were on. She had the fair looks of my mother and our Howard relatives. Her figure was full, her eyes light and her hair golden. George my beloved brother and I had the swarthy looks of our father and our “Black Irish” ancestors.
George was tall and taught with black locks that framed that handsome face of his. His eyes were dark and much like mine. I am sure they etched themselves into the memory of every young maid at court in one way or another. However, to me he was always a comfort, my confidant, and the one who would send me into spasms of laughter. Sadly, Jane Parker was never a match for him, but we never had a choice in matters of marriage and we often forgot that neither did she.
George was, of course, was our father’s favorite, but everyone seemed to delight in Mary. It not for my wit and insatiable hunger for knowledge I would hardly have been noticed at all, but father often said he believed I would fare well.
I would spend my days at Hever with my tutors and found I had a skill for poetry and music. When visitors came I would be asked to sing for them and it gave me great pleasure to present songs of my own making. On summer days I would sit outside, sometimes in the courtyard, other times by the river bank or under a tree in the orchard and read for hours. When George was home we would ride and hunt. Mother lamented that I rode with the fearless abandon of her son and much preferred that I stay within the walls of the castle and occupy myself with needlework. As much as I loved my quiet life at Hever I also longed to be brought to court or sent abroad to the great courts of Europe that Father spoke so highly of.
When I was a little older I was finally sent to the Habsburg Court for a more formal European education as a young Lady in Waiting to Marguerite of Austria. Leaving home was at first daunting, but this great lady held me near and I learned the value of my virtue by watching the fall of so many around me. I threw myself into my lessons with delight and excelled beyond my tutors expectations, so I had no time or interest in the courtiers who started to rest their eyes upon me.
In 1515 Mary and I were sent to the Court of Queen Claude who had married Francis I of France and later to the service of Mary Tudor. These years as Lady in Waiting were thrilling happy years full of discovery and development. I became known for my elegance and dressed well. I particularly loved gowns of emerald greens and deep dramatic colors of any hue. My adornment was mainly pearls that felt smooth and cool against my skin.
How I came to love everything French while at court there! The language rolled off my tongue easier than my own mother tongue, and my father praised me for the letters I penned him in French.
My sister Mary soon became the talk of the court. Even Francis, the king, wanted her, but I do believe she escaped his advances, though her judgement was not always sound. I would not risk my reputation for a moment of folly. We were close in those days but our ways were different.
In 1521 my glorious years in service to Queen Claude came to an end as I embarked on the journey home to become the wife of James Butler, son of Sir Pierce Butler, a distant relative. I would become a pawn in a dispute over land. This marriage would restore the title of Earl of Ormonde to our family, and I would be a dutiful wife far from the privileged life at Europe’s most fashionable court. I thought it was inevitable.
However, Cardinal Wolsey tarried in the preparations of my marriage and in the meantime I was brought to Court for a time. The Court of our Sovereign Lord King Henry VIII was not as dull as I had once imagined, or been told in France.
To my surprise Mary had already become the mistress of King Henry himself by the time I returned to England. It was a strange meeting we had when I returned. Sisters united, one the bejeweled object of the kings pleasure, the other in intellectual pursuit of reason, although with painful discretion.
My uncle, the Duke of Norfolk and father had strategically placed Mary in the path of the king.
Mary could command the attention of any man, but with the coaching of our ambitious family she could bring even a king to his knees.
Our family profited greatly and Mary was lauded. After a few years as the kings favorite mistress, the time came when she found herself conveniently married off to William Carey. He gave a name to the fair haired children the king would not claim, and Mary was cast aside by the very prince her heart yearned for, forgotten by the one who once adored her.
No man would do that to me. I would not allow myself even to feel such abandon that would only lead to torment. I was to marry James Butler, my cousin, best not to think of that.
I had seen the great King Harry only a few times and mainly from a distance. He was taller than any man and he moved with the grace of a dancer and the strength of an athlete.
He would throw his head back so his golden hair would fall across his wide shoulders and roar with laughter so his crystal blue eyes would gleam, but they never saw me.
That is not until the mask on Shrove Tuesday in 1522 where Mary and I both performed. I was “Perseverance.” Some say that suited me. That was the first time I felt the presence of his eyes upon me and felt the surprising thrill of it even into my spine. There was no man like him. When he appeared the sun could not have shone more brightly. The splendor of him was astounding, the flurry around him was endless and a mere gesture from him would have even the highest in the land scurrying to please him.
It was in these early days when I was back at court as Lady in Waiting to queen Katherine that I met Henry Percy, Heir to the Earldom of Northumberland, who was in the service of Cardinal Wolsey. Our eyes met and somehow our hearts were captured before our hands ever could touch. He was betrothed as was I, but the love we had for one another grew with a fierceness that defied any prearrangement. We promised ourselves to each other and then were brutally torn apart by the Cardinal who sent him back to Northumberland to a bride of nobility suitable to his rank. My heart was broken but my anger towards the Cardinal never died and I vowed, that if it were ever in my power he would know the fire of hell itself for putting me in such a miserable state.
It wasn’t long after that my father and my uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, summoned me. I was to be prepared that the king had mentioned me and there was hopes that he would take a liking to me and the family would again be ushered forward into favor and riches by the pleasure of the king. Me, Anne Boleyn, good enough to be the mistress of the king, but not the wife of Henry Percy? It was maddening. My father looked at me with a glow in his eyes that pierced my soul. Had not one daughter already been fed to the king and cast aside so her children would not challenge the succession?
So the king, favored me? In spite of myself I have to admit that it was exciting, even more so because now Wolsey could not dismiss me. He would see that the king thought me suitable enough for him, but no cast off I would be. No, they could take the man I loved away from me, but they couldn’t have me. I would not be used and cast off like my sister.
But, it was difficult to resist the king. He would linger with me for moments when he came to the queen,s apartments. The queen would watch us with expressionless eyes and greet him meekly when he came to her. She nodded approvingly when he commanded me to sing and applauded as he did, then watched as his eyes rested adoringly on me. I believe she tried to warn me, shield me and protect me from him, but it was an irresistible pleasure to bask in his light. Everyone took note of me and the king himself hung on my every word. It was glorious. When Henry Percy came back to court a married man, my heart ached for a minute, but the king in all his glory distracted me from my pain.
It was not difficult to fall in love with the king for he loved me with such abandon that there was nothing I could ever want for and nothing could bring the joy to his eyes as the sight of me. It was a horrible moment when I realized I loved him. I adored him, loved him, him the man, not only his majesty the king and my sovereign, but Henry the man. I loved him. To the world I was no different than any other woman placed in his path who would yield willingly to his desires and bask in it’s rewards before being discarded. It wouldn’t be so with me. I couldn’t bear it to lose him. Finally Wolsey would be a pawn in my palm, for no-one dared deny me anything at all in fear of his majesty.
I had watched the ways of men, both at home and abroad, I had seen the courtships, the passion, the agonizing pleasure of the hunt, then the short lived joy of victory when the hunted was captured and had, and then discarded.
No, there could be no such thing. He would either have to find me a husband and send me far from him so I did not have to bear the pain of being in his sight, or make me his wife and queen. That is how it should be, for did he not love me above all others? The queen was aging, I was young, and I could give my lord the sons he longed for. So it should be.
I told him so and laughed at him imagining me married. My poor Henry, how I could make him suffer!
He declared he would make me his only mistress, but why should there be a queen other than me by his side when it was me he loved and adored above all else? There was no other way he could have me, for I would not be cast aside. Our child would rule England. I felt it! I knew it! It would be so because I Anne Boleyn, would be Queen of England and the wife of the most magnificent king!
Then there was the moment when he told me it would be so, we would be married. I would be queen of England and those who would grumble could grumble, for it was the king’s desire. Thomas Wyatt, who had so wanted me once, wrote a poem that said it all “Noli Me Tangere, for Cesar’s I Am!”
What followed, was daunting but magnificent. Wolsey was given the task of preparing the king’s divorce and petitioning the Pope for a dispensation to marry again.
Wolsey, who wouldn’t allow me to marry a duke, would now clear the way for me to be queen of England! Anne, the Queen! In me Henry would have a queen like no other! To my great disappointment the process was fraught with difficulty and argument from many sources. Weeks became months, and months years, all while Katherine held her head high and refused to relinquish her hold on the king who had already left her.
It was I that placed William Tyndale’s book “The Obedience of the Christian Man and How Rulers Ought to Govern” in the king’s hands. It inspired him to place himself as the head of the Church of England. No pope should stand in the way of a majesty such as him. We were as one mind in those days. He consulted me in everything and I gave him my wisest and loving council.
The year 1530 marked the end of Cardinal Wolsey as he failed to bring about the divorce and the king took matters into his own hands. I quietly watched the fall of a man that had angered me for so many years as my heart rejoyced.
The kings impatience grew, as did mine for the two of us to stand before God as man and wife. Within a year, Henry declared himself “Sole Protector and Supreme Head of the English Church and Clergy,” with the stipulation that it would be “so far as the law of Christ allows.” It was a joyous moment and the beginning of reform in our country.
Henry and I talked often of how things would be when I would be on the throne beside him. He discussed matters of state with me and everything else. We were inseparable to the great dismay of many, but grumble, grumble those who dared, for that is the way it was.
It had become impossible for me to remain in the Queens service so Henry provided me with my own household and on Sept 1st 1532 he bestowed upon me the title of Marquess of Pembroke in my own right. My family fared well and I was quickly becoming the happiest of women.
In October 1532 Henry brought me back to France for a meeting with King Francis I, and I would be presented to him as Henry’s intended. While Francis received me well, his consort was not as obliging. Henry was hurt by the slight, but now that he had declared me the one who was to be his queen I had nothing to fear and we became lovers on our last night in Calais.
After that Henry was in a delightful hurry to have us wed! We had a private ceremony already in November of that year, but a more formal, although secret wedding occurred the 25th of January. In March of that year Archbishop Cranmer annulled the the King’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon, making her Princess Dowager of Wales and reduced her daughter’s title to “Lady Mary.”
On Whit Sunday in June of 1533 I was crowned Queen of England. It was an indescribable time. Anne, The Queen, that was I. In the streets of London there was little joy over my coronation and within the palace walls there were also those who wold do away with me, but I was the king’s wife and so it would be. They would come to love me. I was sure of that.
So I was finally queen. Was it for a thousand days? Perhaps. From the day we married in secret, to the day my daughter was born, we were gloriously happy. If we fought, he found something to please me and all was well in no time at all. There were still so many that favored Katherine, and would not acknowledge Mary as the bastard child she was. It infuriated me, we had come so far. Henry had married me and made me his queen. He had declared himself the head of the church of England because of me, and yet there were those who dared grumble. I felt safe in the King’s love in those days.
In the years prior to our marriage we were inseparable, but once married there were changes. I had duties as queen and my own staff to oversee.
The king took to matters of state and his sports and I found myself no longer at his side every waking hour.
I also had my own land and houses and ensured that these properties were prosperous and managed well, and always ready for the king and his queen. I spent much time reading and discussing my findings with clergymen so our people would have the best of guidance. My ladies and I would regularly give alms to the poor and I often heard of the suffering families in our great kingdom and would send them livestock to soothe their plight.
Then there were visiting dignitaries that would be entertained and I often wrote music especially for their entertainment and planned masks and dances for the King’s pleasure. As queen, my jewelers and tailors were always about me with new fabrics, jewels and adornments for me to choose from. I would see that my ladies and my wards were appropriately dressed as well, and took great care in their education and readings. There were also the long hours in my apartments when my ladies and I would tend to our needle work, mending and embroidering. Katherine, the Princess Dowager would still take upon herself the mending of the King’s shirts, which would irritate me, but I would adorn the new ones.
For the first few months of Elizabeth’s life I kept her by my side as much as I could. When seated with the King she would lie next to me on a large velvet pillow because I could not bear to take my eyes off her.
When the king was otherwise occupied and Elizabeth was not with me, I spent hours in my window seat composing music, writing new songs and poetry which I would play for the king and the courtiers when they would bolt into my apartments with great fanfare and the quiet of the day would quickly be replaced by music, dance, laughter and shameless flirtation.
And then there were times when his eyes would wander. When young girls would blush and gaze coyly at him, Kathrine’s supporters would fling their daughter’s at him and he would be amused, not seeing the slight. There would be mistresses among my own ladies that I could not banish and I had to endure their presence while they brazenly flaunted themselves before me, and him. How could my husband hurt me so? He who had put a royal princess aside for me, defied the pope and elevated me and my family to staggering heights! Much worse, he made no secret of declaring he could lower me as quickly as he had risen me and that I should turn my eyes away as my betters before me! My betters? Husband, I beseech thee, how can this be? I was not like all the others, not I.
In 1534 the King became the Supreme Head of the Church of England and the Act of Succession was past declaring that only the offspring of Henry and myself would be lawful heirs to the throne. That year was to be the year that our son was to be born for I was pregnant again, but the child was lost and there was no consolation in my husband’s eyes.
When I became pregnant in October of 1535 I was tense with anticipation awaiting the son that would so please my husband, secure the dynasty and even secure me and mine. The gloating of my enemies and the agony I endured in losing my last child was causing me to be impatient and irritable, and there was no comfort in Henry who reproached me for losing his heir.
When I was able to tell his majesty I was again with child, he would forsake the others. I would be safe for a moment. Katherine’s supporters would be held at bay. That woman would be the death of me, and I hers!
In 1536 I noticed that one of my kinswomen seemed to have gained the King’s favor. Jane was a meek fair haired Seymour whose cold blue eyes hid their steely depth from my smitten husband. Had she not been in the service of Katherine, who’s stubborn Spanish pride had infuriated the king? And now, she watched me, a woman of influence who had risen to this most coveted position, speak my mind often to my own regret, and decided to woo my husband by being everything I wasn’t, dull and bland. It was infuriating. He was smitten with her and I was forced to keep her in my service as she observed my distress without an ounce of emotion.
Then Katherine died at Kimbolton without ever having seen her daughter since she was exiled. For a moment I felt for her, and I do believe the king mourned, but soon he was dressed in bright yellow with our golden haired Elizabeth proudly on his arm and called for festivities at court. For a moment in time we were at peace again. Then towards the end of January Henry’s horse stumbled in full gallop and the king fell to the ground and was without signs of life for two hours or more. My fear for him was palpable and I was inconsolable and could not heed my ladies begging me to rest while waiting to hear the fate of my husband. Henry did come to, but did the injury change him in any way? I wondered sometimes, but it was never spoken of by anyone, never even whispered.
Five days later I suffered another miscarriage. I lost the son that would have become King, the son who would have restored our marriage and our happiness. My enemies said that the boy was not right, but he had been whisked away before I could see him and nothing was said to me. I was left alone in my emptiness and pain without my husband there to assure me that there would be more sons to come as he once had.
I had not felt well for some time. I felt abandoned. The King no longer sat with me in the evenings and he rarely came to my chambers at night, where once I had been his joy and inspiration, he had appeared to find others to amuse him. I could rage but to no avail, the King was the King, and I felt my enemies drawing closer.
Cromwell had been inscrupulous in his management of the monasteries and feared my vengeance, but at the same time his hatred for me was gaining force. I could feel it.
I could also feel that Henry was being even more drawn to the Seymours. How a woman with no fire in her could command the attention of a king was beyond me.
She had learned from the best, me!
It was I that had taught her by my example alone. She had seen my ascent, she now saw my wretched decline and she thrived on my pain. It was after I found her on my husband’s lap that I lost my son, the beloved son that would have been my savior. I recall ripping a locket from that woman’s neck that held my husband’s portrait in it. He had given it to her. To her!
That spring was difficult. Henry was not happy with me and I saw him rarely. Thankfully I spent much of my time with Elizabeth, and when not with her I used my influence to strive for education and reform among the people, but Cromwell was a constant thorn in my side. He feared me I believe, as he should have because it was clear his power was growing beyond his state and he should be removed to put an end to his greed.
In April rumors came to me of his plot against me and that the king had comanded that a commission of oyer and terminer be formed to investigate offences of various members of court. I was fearful, but in disbelief that the king would have me, his wife, the queen of England investigated in any such manner. The last few months had been difficult and the king distant, although we appeared together in public and he recently spoken lovingly about me in his foreign correspondence. But then there was that argument in the garden at Greenwhich when the king walked away from me leaving me distraught with Elizabeth wide eyed and shaken in my arms. That had not happened before. Only a few years ago he held me above all others and changed the course of England so we could be wed, and now he walked away.
I didn’t know who to trust but a few, among them my almoner who swore to look after the well being of my daughter should anything befall me.
When May day came we went through the usual ritual of festivities. It was a beautiful spring day and for a moment everything felt right. His Majesty, our daughter the Princess Elizabeth and I were once again together and surrounded by my family, our closest friends and our people. I knew George was uneasy, as I was, that the recent promotion to Gentleman of the Garter had been bestowed upon a Seymour instead of himself, but I tried to put it aside for that moment. Perhaps better fortune would be bestowed upon us.
When the King and I were seated to preside over the jousts I sat back in comfort and in peace that beautiful spring day, but my stillness was forever torn asunder when the King received a notice from one of the groomsmen. Without a word he stood up and walked away in great haste summoning Norris to follow him, as I was left in startled disbelief with a gnawing fear within me.
The following day guardsmen came for me. For me, Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, by the order of my husband? It was more than my heart could bear. I was brought to the tower and I could see that my guards were uncomfortable in their duty. I searched mysoul for what could have caused the king to have this befall me. Was it that impulsive bantering with Bereton last week saying he would have me himself if the king were dead, unwise, of me…! But surely it was just in jest! Was it Jane Seymour who had bewitched my poor husband, or some wretched plot of Cromwell’s?
When I arrived I was spared entry through the Traitors Gate. Master Kingston received me to bring me to the very same quarters I stayed in on the eve of my coronation. Such cruelty! I recall becoming hysterical with fear… If they were to think I was capable of treason, then dare to send me to the dungeons. Do not tear what remains of my heat asunder by placing me in the apartment made for my greatest joy and triumph! I was told I collapsed at his feet at that time and he took great pitty on me.
My sweet brother along with Henry Norris, Francis Weston, and William Bereton were also taken one by one and brought to the tower. Four men so close to the king that few knew him better or loved him more. We were all accused of adulterous treason. Could the king be fooled to believe that I who loved him so dearly who stop at nothing to conceive a son to place on the throne and secure my husband,s love. A king was to have the bloodline of a king, and my son would be no less than the son of a king. Adulterous I never was, never, never. Was it a note from the tower that had the king so angry that he left the joust without a word to me? I heard that even Mark Smeaton was brought to the tower, but due to his common state he was tortured relentlessly. Could he have been told then that Mark Smeaton had confessed to being intimate with me? It infuriated me that Cromwell could take my musician, a simple innocent man with such musical genius and torture him until he said what they bade.
George and I were tried together, the others apart. But there was no trial for the verdict and sentence was predetermined and I saw that my words fell for deaf ears. My father was in the room, and Henry Percy on the jury. Our eyes met and he sunk to his knees having to be removed from his duty due to illness coming over him. My own uncle presided over the trial and read our sentences with tears streaming down his cheeks. I wondered, my Lord Uncle, did you weep for your niece and nephew, whom you knew in your heart were innocent, or were those tears of fear for the wrath of the king?
When I was taken to the tower even my mind escaped me. Anne, the Queen of England, a prisoner. Anne, The Queen of England convicted of treason and sentenced to die at the hand of a french swordsman who was sent for before my trial. I would be beheaded for adultery after my marriage was annulled on the last days of my life. Five men would be accused of intimacy with me, even my own brother, and these men, the king’s closest circle. What posessed him? What had taken hold of my husband? It had to be Cromwell. With me, the queen and the king’s inner circle gone, he is safe, and the king is free to seek new love and the son he yearns for. The Princess Elizabeth, my precious daughter would be declared a bastard. But how could Henry deny her, she is a Tudor! She is the image of him, but with my eyes, and those eyes will follow him for the rest of his days. Some day she will rise to be a greater monarch than there ever was, for she is a Tudor, and a Boleyn.
So as I sit in the tower and despair over the unimaginable that stands before me, I wonder if my husband for one moment thinks of me. How can my glorious husband let this befall me for whom his passion spanned for more than a decade of time, me, for whom he sacrificed and gained so much. As I select the gown I am to die in, Jane Seymour is trying on the dress she will wear when she marries my husband. Does it make her shudder that my blood will be shed for her triumph?
I am tired of the world as it is. I have played my cards to the best of my wits but without the love of my lord the king and a son securely in my arms there is no hope for me now.
Since I must take leave of this world, I go to rest with a greater king, and for those who wish to meddle in my cause, I require them to judge the best, for my name will be remembered for a thousand years, as will be my daughter’s, my glorious Elizabeth… God bless.
By Linda Saether