The Last Masquerade by Dawn

Anne peered firstly over her left shoulder, then the right into her full length mirror, scrutinising herself carefully, not sure about the gown she had put on…
‘Does my bum look big in this dress?’ she quizzed her ladies, knowing full well they would say no, on the fear of being slapped silly if said otherwise.
‘Oh No’!! they exclaimed in chorus, ‘It suits you well your Grace’, continued Lady Rochford, who managed to make any compliment sound snide. Anne shot her a look that would have turned her to stone, if she wasn’t already made of it…
‘Umm, I’m not sure’ Anne continued, ‘it’s a little too plain for my taste, but Hey-ho, it will have to do, there’s of nothing of great importance taking place today according to my Blackberry, except this bit of ‘a do’ Henry has laid on’.
‘I could have done without this today’, she thought to herself, ‘I feel a bit of a ‘head’ coming on. Will he ever grow out of these Guises!!’
One last look in the mirror, Anne adjusted her cap, smoothed down her dress, then turned to face her ladies, the youngest who had begun to cry so profusely that her mascara had run down her cheeks making her look like the lead singer out of ‘Kiss’.
‘Heavens above, Girl, what’s to do?’ screeched Anne, in her usual understanding way,
‘Do you not think I have enough to put up with, without you wailing every 5 minutes, we all have to do things we don’t like, so the sooner we get this over with the sooner we can get back to normal, Capiche…’ The girl nodded frantically, like one of those ornamental dogs you have in the back window on the parcel shelf of your carriage.
‘ Right, lets get on with it then’ said Anne as she made her way to the door.

Marching down the corridor she noticed Master Kingston, only after she managed to tear her eyes away from the handsome young guard stood by the window, the coquettish look on Anne’s face left no doubt to what she was imagining..
‘My Lady’, he said bowing that low he practically head butted his cod piece, ‘I was just on my way to tell you it’s ‘Show Time”
‘I am well aware of that, Kingston, I didn’t get where I am today not knowing something as simple as what the time is’, she uttered sarcastically. ‘Do we have a fine day for it?’ she continued.
‘Oh Yes, your Grace, it’s a glorious ‘Heady’ day’, he smirked
‘I swear to God that one day I will have his guts for garters..’ she muttered to herself as she stomped away.

As they stepped out side she stood and took a large, deep breathe, then instantly regretted it.
Anne went into fits of coughing and gagging, all done into Lady Rochford’s French Sleeves, as she had forgotten her hanky. What on earth was that putrid smell…she looked up in between baulks, to see the the reason all around her. People, lots and lots of smelly people, she knew it was Market day, but she had never seen so many dirty commoners all at once, let alone smelt them, how disgusting.
‘Why so many?’, she asked her ladies, annoyed at their presence.
‘It’s the butcher, my Lady’, Jane Rochford answered. ‘He got a special offer on, ‘Buy 1, get 1 free’, on joints of meat he got from Tower Hill’, hardly trying to hide her mirth at her smart comment, as she tried, in vain, to wipe the vomit off her brand new sleeves she bought for this occasion with her widows pension!!
As luck would have it, Anne HAD remembered her Nosegay, and proceeded to ram that up her nostrils as far as it would go, while she weaved herself in and out of these ‘peasents’, who eventually noticed who she was and stood back while she passed.

At last! she could see across the court yard to where she needed to be.
‘Tally ho Ladies!’ she bellowed, lifted her dress slightly, and burst into a canter over to the steps, turning to look behind her as she went to make sure her Ladies were following, just in time to see Lady Rochford trip up and fall full length onto the muddy ground, her dress flip over her head, revealing all that was reserved for the privy chamber, only!!

This was so much to Anne’s amusement, that she nearly run full pelt into a stranger, a fit looking young fellow with a sword in his hands…’Serves the bitch well’, Anne chuckled, ‘for the smart mouthed harpy that she is’.
Anne and her Ladies finally retained their composure at the foot of the steps, dresses smoothed, caps straight, all except Jane of course, who looked, and smelt as though she had spent the night in a pig sty, and had managed to put her hood and veil on back to front,
‘A great improvement’ Anne thought sardonically.
Anne looked at the steps in front of her, and sighed, loudly.
‘Typical’, she groaned, ‘this is just typical of Henry, all show and no thought, how on Earth am I meant to climb these steps in this outfit’. She took hold of the banister rail and it rocked to and fro in her hand, she rolled her eyes around in her head at the cheap, shoddy workmanship that was just managing to hold these steps together.
‘I swear on my life that if I fall and make a spectacle of myself, just as my SWEET Sister-in-law has done, your life will not be worth living My Darling Sweetheart Henry…’ Anne muttered quietly under her breath.

Precariously, Anne and her ladies mounted the steps safely, all except Jane, who stumbled and fell to the bottom, twice, until she realised that having her hood and veil on the wrong way round didn’t help..
At the top Anne was faced, once more, by that ‘fit young man’ she had nearly ‘bumped’ into earlier, but this time he had no sword, but was wearing a mask..
‘How strange’ she mused ‘though it does give him a certain ‘Jena se qua’, I will get one of my ladies to word him on my where-about after this performance’. she grinned and continued eyeing him up and down greedily, thinking what sweet music they could make together, now that Mark Smeaton had mysterious disappeared off the face of the earth…
‘Let’s get this show rolling’ she ordered her Ladies, as she snapped herself out of lusting after a second young man that morning, ‘this is what happens when you are married to someone who got no ‘ink in his quill’ she thought frustrated, —

‘Time is of the essence… Jane would you kindly stand down wind a little, you are becoming a little ‘Ripe’ shall we say’. Anne barked, taking much pleasure at Jane’s discomfort. The other Ladies lifted their kerchiefs to their faces, firstly to hide their sniggers, and secondly to mask the dreadful pong coming from Lady Rochford.

‘Not long now’ Anne giggled to herself, ‘before I am back in my chambers, my feet in a bowl of warm water sipping a nice cup of Earl Grey tea, with high hopes of a little ‘male company’ later on…oh yes! this time next year Henry will have the son he desires, he won’t take any note of what the child looks like, he’s too busy looking at himself in the mirror to care…’ Anne found it hard to suppress her excitement.

Anne looked all around her, to see if there was any sight of him yet, that great lump of lard studded in jewels of a King, her husband, who loved to make a grand entrance, and wallow in the false applause on what a ‘Great guise’ this was,(not). That man has an ego as big as his kingdom, the half-wit.
‘No, he’s going to drag this out to the bitter end’ the annoyance had began to show in Anne’s face now.
Anne moved to the edge of the platform, and looked at the dirty faces of the people, staring at her, with arms full of the Butcher’s Meal Deal,
‘For goodness sake’ she mouthed quietly, ‘they look as bored as what I am with this farce, he REALLY is going to wait until I’ve made a damn speech before he shows up, this is going to cost him dearly!!’

Anne pulled back her shoulders, put on her pious face, and began the speech she had cobbled together last night as she downed her second vat of wine, and waited for her next ‘Visitor’to arrive…
‘Good Christian People….blah, blah, blah, I pray God save the King, blahdy blah, and if any where to meddle with my cause, etcetera, etcetera and so on…Oh Lord have mercy on me…(and you too Henry the bloody Eighth, when I get my hands on you….)’ DAH DA the end!!
‘Thats it! shows over now Henry, WHERE ARE YOU, if you’re fiddling about with that Madge Shelton again, woe betide you Mr.Tudor… Oh come on, your not expecting me to kneel down SURELY’ Anne said to herself, a little louder than she ought to have, because the crowd were starting to wake up and take note of what was happening by now.
‘OK, if that’s the way you want it, down on my knees I go, I hope this straws not damp it will ruin the fabric of this dress, I’ll pretend to pray, and hopefully he will take the cue and bring this joke of a Masquerade to its conclusion, and I can all get on with my ‘Private Party’. Anne crossed herself as she knelt, waited what seemed like hours, then she heard a noise, ‘AT LAST’, she turned to look, but saw nothing, ‘where is he?’ she growled, Anne stood up and looked down at her feet.
‘What in God’s name is Jane Rochford doing now, laid sprawled out like a legless doxy who’s drunk too much cheap wine, has she NO shame… but wait she not ‘legless’, she’s Headless, and that’s MY dress…’ Anne thought, panic rushed through her mind. Anne’s eyes flitted back and forth, and in a split second she realised, as her lips spoke her final words ‘HENRY YOU…………’