A Tudor Christmas Tale: One Day in the Life of Elizabeth I by Sydney M. Klevesath Cabrera

Hatfield House, 1st of January of 1559

It was a cold morning and the beginning of a new year, of a new era. While the dew was still sleeping on the lawn of the Hatfield House garden, the birds began their morning songs. The sun tried to give away some of its sunrays to their inhabitants, having to fight against the large and gloomy clouds, which covered the whole sky of Hertfordshire.

Some noise came out of the house, produced by the servants, whose ran from one side to another, getting everything ready for the banquet, which was foreseen in the afternoon. A great feast was coming and many visitors from all over England were going to celebrate the New Year’s Day at Hatfield House.

The whole house smelt like cinnamon, anise, oregano and bay leafs. In the kitchen was already carefully prepared the swan and the wild boar was roasting slowly in the great fire, which heated the entire hall. The servants were kneading doughs of different Christmas cakes, whilst they sang festive songs. Some of them were busy snipping vegetables and fruits for the minced pye and others were controlling the development of the punch. Apples and oranges, whose had been freshly brought from Seville, rolled on the tables, while the servants were cracking nuts and skinning the partridge, which had been hunted fortunately a few hours earlier.

The servants didn’t stop running through the galleries, carrying silver plates and cups for the great hall table, which surface was already decorated with branches of yew, mistletoe and holly.

Inside the threshold of the house hung a crown, made of hazel and pine branches. Inside were hiding apples, cinnamon sticks and in the middle was placed a small effigy of the Christ Child. This crown had already been blessed by the local priest.
Anyone who called at that house during the Christmas season, showed that they brought only goodwill with them, by a symbolic embrace under this Holy Bough.

The great Tudor rose, affixed above the chimney in the great hall, was also decorated with wonderful red poinsettias and with star anise hanging around.

And while the servants were passing quickly through the halls, carrying out their tasks, a red haired lady and with porcelain skin was sitting in her chamber, observing dreamily how the wood was burning in her fireplace.

That lady wore a red silk gown with elaborate golden fabrics, whose hung down from her hands. At her cleavage she wore a gold brooch with ruby stones and jasper and a necklace made of pearls. On her red hair appeared a crown made of leaves, branches of fir, roses and grapes. In one hand she held her book of hours and with the other she was playing absently with the waves of her long and loose hair. Whilst in the endless corridors were resounding the angered footsteps of the servants, in that little chamber just the silence reigned and the sound of cracking produced by the wood, which was burning in front of her dark eyes. The lady’s name was Elizabeth.

There were only a few hours for the reception of the visitors and she only desired to spend some time with herself before.

Suddenly a ray of sunlight came through her window, illuminating the ground until reaching Elizabeth’s hands. She felt the pleasant warmth on her skin, while her eyelashes were shining like gold threads.
She stood up, approaching herself to the window. It was a fabulous day of January. As she took a look at the garden, full of shrubs and hedges, she recognized a family of robins, singing and leaping from branch to branch, when they finally flew to their nest and cuddled up together tenderly.

Smilingly Elizabeth sat down again, when she abruptly found herself in a melancholy disposition. The house was full of people, at the galleries ruled the noise, but anyway she felt lonely. Thoughtful she turned her sad gaze towards the fireplace trying to remember. For many years she had tried to commemorate a woman, who loved and protected her once. Elizabeth was separated from her arms, even as a small child and ever since she never saw her again.

The woman’s name was Anne and she was the mother of Elizabeth. Anne had been destroyed by her enemies and her daughter grew up without a mother and nearly without a father.

Since then, nobody talked about it and Elizabeth didn’t receive the answers to her questions.

The years passed by since the death of her father.

The only thing which was left over, was the remotely memory of the warm embrace of a woman without a face, couldn’t remembering the color of her eyes or the shape of her lips. She never felt the same warmness again.
23 years has passed since that embrace and today more than ever, on New Year’s Day, she desired to remember every detail of it.

The perfume of her hair and the softness of her cheeks. She just wanted to feel the wind blowing, as they spun around together happily.

Suddenly a slight knock at the door brought her back to reality. She looked up and saw how Margaret Shelton shyly entered, who was a maid of Hatfield House.

“Excuse me Lady Elizabeth, for interrupting, but I would like to talk to you, if you don’t object.”

Elizabeth stood up smiling and replied:” It will be a pleasure, Lady Margaret, please take a seat. Tell me, what do you want to talk about?”

Both sat next to the fireplace, when Margaret smiled back, but even so she couldn’t hide her excitement.

Margaret stared to the ground, inspiring consecutively, when Elizabeth recognized that Margaret kept something into her hands, something that she would not disengage. But even so Elizabeth did not mention her discovery, waiting for any statement of her.

At last Margaret raised her eyes slowly and so both ladies could look at each other.

“I wish to hand something on to you, Lady Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth raised her eyebrows and replied quietly:
“Well, please tell me, what it is all about.”

Margaret had to take a breath again before she started to speak.

“It’s something I had kept for many many years, Lady Elizabeth. I was obliged to hide it and I even could mention it to nobody. Nobody knows about it. Over the years I just waited for the perfect moment to hand it on to you. And today it is New Year’s Day and everybody receives a gift and this one is mine in particular for you.” Elizabeth looked totally perplexed at Margaret, when she suddenly opened her hands slowly. In her hands was a small wooden casket with golden embellishments.

Elizabeth smiled, but she still found herself in confusion.

A silence reigned for a few seconds until Margaret finally opened that little casket cautiously. Those seconds seemed for Elizabeth like an eternity, but then she detected a ring inside.

That ring was made of mother of pearl with sparkling jewels and ornamented with gold. Elizabeth looked surprised and was even more confused, when she suddenly recognized two letters in the middle of the ring: “E” and “R” made of glittering crystals and a white pearl aside. She tried to say anything, but she just was lost for words and confusion increasingly stretched across her face. Margaret approached it to her, when it abruptly seemed that she was trying to open it. “There is something else in there?” asked Elizabeth amazed.

Margaret answered with a smile and opened the cameo with one single click. Elizabeth’s face changed instantly. She stared at the portrait in miniature, which was hidden inside the ring. A few seconds passed, but she just wasn’t able to react. At once she understood everything. In that small cameo was a portrait of a woman. A young woman with large and dark eyes and she also wore a French hood. She knew so far that that woman was the same one, who she had missed so much since her childhood. She was the reason for her existence, the reason for wanting to remember. Her eyes suddenly were filled with tears, it just was impossible for her to contain them. Margaret brought her the world’s most valuable treasure. It was something she longed for so many years. A simply memory of her mother.

Margaret approached it to her, when Elizabeth at last could touch it with her own fingers. Tears run down her porcelain cheeks observing every detail on it. A few seconds passed and then Margaret said: “That ring belonged to your mother, Anne Boleyn, it was made for you. Lady Anne included the “E” and the “R”, because she wished that someday you would be the queen of England. She added the portrait, when things were difficult and for the purpose that you won’t forget her. The last day we were together, she quickly put it in my hands and begged me to hand it on to you, when the right moment had come and I promised her to do it. The clear space is for putting your own portrait and so you always will be together.”

The tears came streaming down her face and Margaret worried about it.

“Lady Elizabeth, forgive me if I have make you miserable.”

“These tears are tears of happiness. You have granted me the greatest present I ever have had before. I don’t know how to thank you enough. This Christmas is the happiest one of my life; I am indebted to you, Lady Margaret.”

“Oh no, please, I beg you, it has been an amazing pleasure for me.”

Elizabeth seemed to travel through time, observing the ring detail by detail, when finally she put it on her finger. Now that she was wearing the ring, she silently stared at it during a few minutes. Margaret than stood up, took a bow and said:
“I will leave you alone, so that you have peace of mind.”

Elizabeth then, as newly awakened from a dream, hold her down:
“No, I beg you, stay here with me and tell me something about her, who she was, what she did, what she said and about the love between my parents.”

Margaret was confused.

“You have been there, you have seen it all with your own eyes, please abide with me, and tell me something about her.”

Margaret then smiled placidly and with one hand she put her hair behind her ear. Both looked at each other, like two accomplices and then they sat down near the fireplace, while Elizabeth proudly wore her ring.

“She was the most beautiful lady of the whole court. Nobody wasn’t speaking of Lady Anne and her unique beauty. The men were muted whenever they saw her and the women wished to be like her, to dress as she dressed, to move as she moved. But you have to know, that she did not have the typical appearance of an English woman. She had a tanned skin, comparing it with the other women. Her eyes were so dark in color, that they seemed to be black and beautiful. She attracted attention for her long hair that shone like ebony and always wore loose. As newcomer to the court, everyone felt impressed and she became the most popular lady of the court, with clothes that everyone wanted to wear. She had a delicious flavor and everyone knew it. She introduced the French fashion at the English court. She really was the symbol of beauty and youth. She also actually introduced the French hood. But the court was delighted not only with her wardrobe, but also for her simple way of moving and behaving. She possessed a grace and a lively personality. With each single step she made, her unsurpassable classiness was shown to everyone. She didn’t walk, she danced. She also was one of the most intelligent and cultured women in England. When she spoke everything was silent, no one dared to take her the contrary, she just was too smart. Her behavior was modern and different, she brought new hope and a special glow to the English court.”

Elizabeth had her eyes wide open and with every word which Margaret said, her smile expanded.
She still could not believe what was happening, what she was hearing to. But impatiently she said, “I beg you, continue, continue”

Margaret laughed and continue telling her everything in great detail:

“Furthermore Lady Anne was very talented. She adored music, she sang and played the lute and other instruments. She also knew to play cards, dice and chess. She spoke French fluently, too. She enjoyed archery, hunting and riding. Your mother showed a great interest in fashion and ethics that demanded the reform of the church. The court also spoke of her courage and considered her to be sweet and emotional. I remember that his Majesty Henry VIII, first saw your mother, when she was part of a costume dance rather complicated and very good elaborated. All were impressed by her beauty and elegance she had issued in that performance and especially His Majesty Henry VIII. I still remember it very well, although it was a long time ago. But I can assure you, Lady Elizabeth, from the date everything changed. I really do not know all the details, but I still do remember that his Majesty suddenly began issuing several important titles to the Boleyns and the whole court was talking about it. Initially your father had to fight for the affection of your mother, sending her countless letters and gifts, which Anne initially rejected. It was then, that his love for her began to increase every day. The time passed and your father showed his devotion for Anne increasingly in public. He did not care, what they might were whispering behind him, he just really was in love with her and Lady Anne then, could also not hide her affection she felt for him. After that, nothing could separate them. I can assure you, without a doubt, it was a love that nobody had ever seen. A love that changed the course of history and England. And who knows, maybe after a few centuries the world will still talk about it. I witnessed how his majesty had changed, he did everything for her and she did everything for him.

Anne really had been everything to your father. There was no one who did not speak of them and I suppose there is no woman in the world, who does not want to be loved in the same way as your mother was loved by his majesty Henry VIII. ”

Again Elizabeth could not control her emotions and had to run her hands through her eyes to prevent her tears will roll down her cheeks. Margaret paused and looked with pity but then Elizabeth said, smiling: “Please, continue ”

“You are the evidence of that deep love. There will never be another love like the love between your parents, Lady Elizabeth.”

“I will keep this day always in my memory. I am deeply grateful and I will always be indebted to you. I beg you to apply to me whenever you will need any help. I won’t disappoint you, Lady Margaret.”

“Please, don’t worry, seeing the happiness in your eyes is all that my heart desire. And I ‘m sure that your mother wishes the same, from where she is watching at you.”

“I also want to see her again. But this ring gives me a bliss, which will shine forever in my heart. I will wear it until the day I die.”

“Forgive my boldness, but let me ask you one thing. Don’t you also wish to find the true love, the love that surpasses all obstacles and live forever? Isn’t this your wish for Christmas?”

“Even though I adore love stories and feel bliss for those who love, that is not my wish for this Christmas, and neither for those, whose are still to come. What is love, Lady Margaret? Do men know what it is? The love has the power to transport us up to the sky, but suddenly we can find us down in hell. A man can love you for a reason and abruptly hate you for the same. I am simply not made to live in heaven or in hell, I just want to live here, now, and serve to my beloved English nation as nobody has done it. England means everything to me, everything that I want, England is my heaven and at once my hell and my only desire is and will forever be to reign as queen of England. I just want to transmit to my people something they have not seen for a long time: Peace and happiness. That’s what I want for Christmas, Lady Margaret. ”

Margaret looked at her, speechless and with wide eyes for a few seconds. Reflecting on Elizabeth’s words she replied: “You are brilliant, Lady Elizabeth and let me add that you have inherited so much from your mother. If she were watching you, she would smile. I hope that our Lord will answer to your prayers.”

Then she slowly bowed to Elizabeth. Both looked at each other happily and giggling.

“Thank you, Lady Margaret!”

Margaret nodded and left Elizabeth’s chamber.

Now that she was alone, she felt such bliss and euphoria that she couldn’t keep calm. Rashly she got up and stood still forward the window. The family of robins were singing happily once again, jumping from branch to branch. Suddenly she heard once more the footsteps of the servants and smelt the perfume of pastries and baked apples with cinnamon. It was, as if she suddenly awakened from a beautiful dream. But it hadn´t been a dream, she was wearing the evidence on her left hand. A ring made of mother of pearl and rubies. She looked at it again and still couldn’t believe it.

Now full of energy and joy, she went out of her chamber to visit the garden and to lean against her favorite tree, which gave her every summer, some shades and peace when Elizabeth sat down, to reflect on something or to have a look on her book of hours.

Even with the cold weather, she wished to sit next to him, leaning against his strong trunk and to breathe in the pure air. When she was going through the front door, she felt the cold on her skin and quickly buttoned up her long coat. She took a deep breath of the pure country air and when she breathed it out, it was transformed into white smoke.

Reaching the tree, affectionately she touched its trunk. She let herself fall into the grass, leaning against the tree. Once seated, she reflected on every phrase, every detail which was said by Lady Margaret. Mentally, she repeated every word and so she almost could imagine who Anne really was. She imagined her dancing at the masquerade ball, with the elegance of a swan and the charm of a butterfly. Now, that she knew everything, she felt such pride and affection. Suddenly she felt the desire, as she had never felt it before, to see her mother one more time. She missed her with each passing second, with every passing breath. He looked at her ring once more and kissed it softly, whilst tears streamed down her cheeks. She wanted to scream her name to the whole world, to tell everybody what she knew, to demonstrate to everyone what was hidden into her beautiful ring.

So took a deep breath, closed her eyes then and run her fingers across her face to wiped the tears away. She sat on the grass with her eyes closed, when she suddenly felt something cold and wet on her hands. She quickly opened her eyes again and saw some snowflakes, falling down gently from the sky onto her lap. Elizabeth smiled and spread her hands wide out to catch some more snowflakes. The snow fell down in the garden, which bit by bit was gradually transformed into a white paradise.

But suddenly, looking at them falling down, Elizabeth noticed between them, a bright white fog, almost transparent. She frowned trying to recognize something in that white cloud, but confused she couldn´t see nothing at all. A few seconds passed, when abruptly the fog took the form of a person. Elizabeth opened her eyes wide, trying to get up, but her whole body turned into stone.

She could only realize that the glowing silhouette was turned more and more into a woman. She still was completely petrified, when Elizabeth suddenly understood who that woman was, even though she couldn’t see her face.

The appearance was surrounded by a light brighter than the sun and Elizabeth was only able to see her long and loose hair. Elizabeth really knew who she was, but she simply couldn’t believe what she was seeing. But it actually was happening, her mother was before her and Elizabeth was seeing it with her own eyes.

The silhouette drew nearer and Elizabeth finally was able to realize, that she was smiling and suddenly bowed to her. Elizabeth now completely confused, she could gradually raise and reply: “Why do you bow to me, when you are the queen, beloved mother?”

The appearance seemed to spread her arm, as she began to fondle kindly the cheek of her daughter. Whilst she was looking at Elizabeth’s hand wearing the ring, she smiled and whispered: “I bow to the Queen of England.”

Elizabeth’s heart was beating fast. She frowned and didn’t understand what her mother has told her. Being on the verge of answering, she suddenly heard the galloping of some horses approaching. Several men of the royal palace then entered into the garden, taking formation in line in front of Elizabeth. One of them stepped forward and expressed: “Lady Elizabeth, Queen Mary died, you are now the queen of England”

“Long live the Queen Elizabeth!”, cried all in chorus whilst they bowed to her.

She opened her eyes wide and looked then quickly toward her mother, but then she just saw the snowflakes falling down to the ground. With one hand fondling her ring and with her heart full of happiness, she nodded peacefully looking at the knights. In that winter, somewhere in Britain, had been born one of the greatest queens of history, the last link of the unforgettable and sparkling Tudor chain…