I do not know whether to feel relieved or scared for my soul. The Marquess of Pembroke is about to die, and it is mainly my doing. It is my fault that an innocent woman is about to die.
No. I have done the king’s bidding. That is all that matters. She was guilty!
I had hoped that she would make her way to the scaffold weeping, shouting, screaming, anything that would make her look like undignified! But to my utter annoyance, Anne walked out of the gloom of the Tower with a supreme air of regality. I did not like to admit it, but her determination and stubbornness didn’t surprise me at all.
Why could she not make this easier for me? I watched carefully as she approached the scaffold steps with her ladies, who seemed more nervous than she. My eyes were taken aback as I saw Anne more clearly. Her gown of grey did not do anything but show off the vibrant crimson petticoat underneath. Was she attempting to pass herself off as a martyr? For all the questions I had, there was one thing I was definitely sure of.
This was not the Marquess of Pembroke about to meet her maker. It was the queen of England. Damn her!
“Do you think she’ll criticize him?” Charles Brandon inquired, glancing over at me. He was standing next to Henry Fitzroy, who was looking frighteningly sickly.
Yes! I said to myself. Let her show the world how unwomanly she was, how unfit for a queen and over opinionated!
Show the crowd that I was right in having you condemned!
“I’ll bet a drink on it milord! We can toast to the King’s happiness!” Brandon smiled, but it seemed a bit forced. I wonder if my grin did as well? Anne’s voice interrupted, and the chattering crowd hushed.
“Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law, I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it.” Clever Anne, clever! Not admitting to your guilt outright, but making it seem like you did! What would the king think? Anne gazed directly at the crowd, looking a bit too jolly for one about to face death. She continued on, her voice never quavering, or showing a hint of fear.
I found it rather ironic how Anne finally had the attention of the English people, that attention and love she had so desperately craved, but it was only as they awaited her death.
“And thus I take my leave of the world and of you…..” She hesitated for a split second. I could see the inevitability finally dawning on her like a shadow. Anne turned her head in my direction, and I felt a chill down my spine as those cursed black eyes of her locked on mine.
You’re probably next. I pity you.
“My lord? Are you alright?” Brandon was glancing my way yet again, looking slightly concerned. I nodded, successfully breaking my gaze from Anne’s. There was no way in hell I would let her think she had made me feel nervous. Or guilty.
Meanwhile, Anne’s voice had regained its strength. She smiled, an eerie grin that made her seem sadly at peace with her oncoming fate.
“And I heartily desire you all…to pray for me.” Anne stopped, smiling as her ladies helped her take off her jewels and gable hood, and I saw a flash of her black hair shine rebelliously in the May sun before it was tucked into a coif. Anne remained dignified, thanking her ladies quietly as they left her for the last time. She kneeled into the sawdust, praying to the Lord to have mercy on her soul.
It appeared as if her nerves finally sunk in. Between every cry for Christ to have mercy on her soul, Anne would glance back at the executioner, looking for the sword that would claim her life.
I was about to let an innocent woman die.
I did nothing as the executioner cried out for his sword, to trick Anne into looking the right way. I did nothing as her head turned in the proper direction. I did nothing as the sword cut cleanly through her neck. The shocked look on her face would never cease to haunt me from that day forward.
I walked away from it all, my conscience dying faster with every step I took.
By Katherine Stinson