My dearest was calling for me to come back to bed but I could not. The night was clear and starry as I stood by the open window staring at the sky. It had been a very long day, this day of days. My sister had met her end at the hand of the man who had professed his undying love and affection… what nonsense. His words and faith were as false as his love.
It had all started some years before as that self same man had whispered his tender affection into mine own ear in order to tempt me into his bed. Fie, the rogue and liar… as all men must be save my own dearest William. Is it in the womb that men learn to lie and coerce those whose gentle hearts would faith be loving and true?
She had kept him at bay those seven long, interminable years, panting at her heels. I’d often wondered if her reluctance was in order to keep his interest at the highest peak, or simply because she cared not a whit for him and was reluctant to welcome an undesired man to her bed. The same would not have been said of Henry Percy… or so she stoutly attested.
She claimed to have been in love with Percy and was determined to wed him until Cardinal Woolsey had interfered. I believed her not. She knew full well that Woolsey would not have taken it upon himself to interfere had not his master, the king, cast his lascivious eye upon her lithe form. I do not, for a moment, think that she had ever entirely forgiven King Henry for his dashing of her dreams. And so she made him wait and dance to her tune.
It had all come crashing down with the birth of Elizabeth I believe.
Sons! Sons! She had sworn, tempting him with the promise of an heir. And then, the ultimate betrayal, a daughter, no better, and possibly worse, then the other already born.
I have often wondered if, indeed, that was not the greatest betrayal. After so many years of teasing and promise, had Henry not found, once conquered, his victory over Anne had been an even greater disappointment . Perhaps Anne had been, not the perfect lover as promised, but a reluctant and shy maid being breached by an overeager King. A disappointment after all those years of lust and passion.
No matter at this point. She had failed in her greatest task and that had been the ultimate cause of her death.
She had been, in those last moments, more of a queen than ever she had before.
I stood at the back of the crowd holding my dear William’s arm, watching my sister, now estranged, meet her ignominious end. She walked proudly to the block, said the expected conciliatory words chosen to, undoubtedly, protect her beloved daughter.
William is calling for me again, but all I could think was:
“There but for the grace of God go I.”
By Ingrid Darzins