CHAPTER 1: A LONG WAIT

Anne sat with her husband the King, grim-faced as the news was delivered that the witch Jane Seymour had been dispatched from this world. Anne piously crossed herself as the messenger spoke. "It was my wish that she would not suffer", she said somberly. "Was Mistress Seymour given the pouch of gunpowder as I asked?". The messenger turned to his Queen. "Yes, Your Majesty. I imagine she felt very little". Anne nodded, satisfied with his response and turned her attention to Henry. He sat very still and flinty faced, as if he were brooding on something. Then finally he spoke. "So, it is done then". The messenger bowed. "Yes, Your Majesty, it is done". King Henry nodded and waved the messenger away. He snapped his fingers for his page. "I will not dine publicly today. I will take my dinner in the Queen's rooms, if she wishes it". Anne smiled coyly up at him. "It is always a pleasure to have Your Grace in my company. I shall be honored to serve your dinner in my rooms, my love". Henry smiled down at his wife and tenderly caressed her ever slightly rounding belly. Everything he had done, had been to secure the safety of his son and so secure the peace of England.

Jane Seymour, who had seemed so sweet and purely innocent, had been a witch, and an enchantress, and she had been working her dark magic on him to entice him. Henry thought of the long line of mistresses he had had in his life. She had not been beautiful like Bessie Blount, nor amorous like Mary Boleyn, nor enchanting like Madge Shelton, nor witty like Lizzie Bryan. In fact, she was nothing like any of the appealing, colorful beauties that had shared his bed. Undoubtedly Jane had been nowhere near as alluring, charming, intelligent, and interesting as his own wife, Anne. Surely it was dark magic that caused him to love her. He had never suffered a dull woman! Even Katherine of Aragon had shone with a golden beauty in her youth. Katherine always had read the latest books, and was a political and military genius, thanks to her upbringing under her mother the Queen Militant, Isabella of Spain. Of course, he had to be right in sentencing Jane to death. She was tried and found guilty and it had been wrong of him to allow her to remain for so long. Now, everything was set to rights; exactly as it should be.

The King had cancelled the summer progress in order to let his Queen rest as her belly grew large with child. But there had been other reasons. There were disturbing reports of uprisings in the North of England regarding the changes that had come after the break with the Roman Catholic Church. Henry had set about dissolving many of the monasteries in his reformation of the Church of England. He would not have the court travel in a country of unrest, and thus endanger the lives of his Queen and unborn son. Anne, while a champion of reform, was now always at odds with her once great friend Thomas Cromwell. She complained that he was doing nothing more than stripping the Roman Catholic Church of its wealth, not reforming the structure, and therefore not participating in a godly work. Wearied by her constant complaints and arguments, and desperate that she would not distress herself and thus endanger the babe, Henry promised that he would go no further until she was out of childbed to advise him. Contented with this, Anne said no more on the subject. On top of the unrest in the country, there was unrest in the royal household itself. In July, it became known that Anne's own step uncle, Thomas Howard, had secretly been engaged to Margaret Douglas, the King's own niece through his sister Margaret, the Dowager Queen of Scots.

Henry had been livid. As she was a half Tudor, Lady Margaret had a claim to the English throne. The Howards were the Queen's maternal family, and although Anne's step uncle had not inherited the Dukedom of Norfolk as Anne's uncle- also named Thomas Howard- had, it was still too close for comfort. It did not escape him that as Catholics, Margaret and Thomas Howard could be a center for treasonous rebellion. Anne had been horrified that her step uncle could engage in something so foolish, especially when Anne's place had been so recently uncertain. She might be carrying the royal son that could secure the English throne, but she had not yet birthed him! Of course Henry would feel threatened! In a rage, the King had sent both his niece and Anne's step uncle to the Tower, and passed an Act of Attainder against him, allowing him to be executed without trial. Accompanying this was a new law that forbade any of the potential heirs to the English throne in the realm to marry without his express permission and labeled such an offense as treason. Anne's uncle, Thomas Howard the Duke of Norfolk, had come before her to ask her to intercede for his half-brother. Anne might have been impulsive once too; she had secretly married the man she loved once, to the great displeasure of her family, but he had only been an Earl! Really, her step-uncle should have known better than to secretly marry a royal lady without permission!

Still, he was her kin, and so she went to the King, removed her headdress, and went down on her knees to beg clemency for her step uncle. "Henry", she whispered, making her voice as full of emotion as she could. "I cannot be so distressed, while I am carrying our son", she cooed. "Please, if not for my sake, spare him for the sake of our child". That was her trump card, she knew. She watched his face soften with concern for her. He sighed deeply. "You know that I can deny you nothing. Very well. I will commute his sentence to lifetime imprisonment. It is all I can do". Anne bowed her head to him. Certainly, she felt that her step uncle had been very wrong to court the Lady Margaret in the first place, let alone go ahead and form a betrothal with her. After a few weeks, the Warden of the Tower wrote to Henry to alert him that his niece was terribly ill. Mercifully, Henry had allowed her to be confined to an apartment in Syon Abbey. It was all just an extra trouble Anne didn't need at the time, but by the end of August, things began to return to some semblance of normalcy, and Anne could relax in her pregnancy.

Anne's sister Mary had also been with child. They sat together for a good portion of the day knitting baby clothes and discussing the educational regiments of Princess Elizabeth, and of Katherine and Henry, Mary's two children. Katherine was a maid-of-honor to Anne, and sometimes she sat with them and massaged their swelling feet or read to them in French. The time reminded Anne of her and Mary's girlhood in France. They giggled and gossiped and played games together. Their greatest pleasure this summer was to sit in Anne's rooms at night teasing the cooks by ordering strange dishes, like buttered plums, or hunks of beef drenched in milk, claiming they were fancies brought on by pregnancy. Henry was also tender to Anne, often breaking his fast with her and sitting with her before going out hunting. As his injured leg was worsening, he went out hunting less and less, and was more often found reading to Anne, playing cards, or singing with her. By now, news of Anne's final gift of charity to the Seymour witch, as the late Jane Seymour was now being called, had spread. While the common people had never much liked Anne due to Katherine of Aragon's popularity, everyone was astounded with how the Queen could be so generous as to offer a slight reprieve to a witch who had attempted to lure the King away from her with evil sorcery, not to mention one who had caused her to lose a baby.

In mid-October Anne had to begin her confinement, and so the court moved to Hampton Court Palace. She was happy to go and lock herself away in peace, as the news that her step uncle had died in the Tower had come only days before. Tradition dictated that noble and royal ladies were to retire from court life about a month before the expected birth. This was to give them extra rest to build the strength they would need for the travail of childbirth. The rooms were darkened so that the lady would not be disturbed by light. Heavy tapestries depicting relaxing, or biblical scenes were hung up for her comfort and edification. No man was allowed to enter the confinement; not even priests, doctors, or the expectant father. The King commanded an elaborate dinner in Anne's honor to mark her entry into confinement. After dinner, the entire court escorted her to the confinement chamber. Henry had spared no cost in making sure that she had every comfort and luxury she might desire while within. He kissed her heartily in front of everyone and she curtsied to him and came up smiling. "When next we meet, I hope to introduce Your Majesty to the Prince of Wales", she whispered lowly to him. Henry shook his head and kissed her again. "We shall meet long before that! I will come to visit you every day. Godspeed sweetheart!".

Anne's confinement chambers were luxuriously furnished, but very stuffy. "Open the window", Anne commanded once she was comfortably in the bed. One of the midwives hesitated. "Your Grace, confinement is supposed to be…well, confinement". Anne fixed a sharp look on her. "I know. This is not my first confinement. But it is too stifling in here with the windows closed and the fires blazing. The baby and I will both suffocate to death within a day, and His Majesty will not thank you for it". The midwife sighed and opened the windows a crack. "A little wider", said Anne. "Your Grace!", exclaimed the midwife, scandalized. "Do it", said Anne flatly. "I command it". The midwife had to acquiesce once again. Anne nodded when the window was opened sufficiently for her liking. Mary giggled as the midwife flounced off to the other side of the room to fold some sheets. "It's such an outdated thing, isn't it Anne? What babe would suffer from fresh air? My two children have never caught so much as a chill in the open air at Hever Castle". Anne shook her head. "It really is quite ridiculous".

During the second week of Anne's confinement, Lady Mary (formerly Princess Mary), the King's daughter from his invalid first marriage, came to attend Anne. Naturally, that made Anne irritable. "I do not see why she has to be here", Anne whispered fiercely to her sister. "She is neither a married woman nor a mother! And what is worse, I can feel her silently praying for me to miscarry or barring that, give birth to another girl". Mary laughed. "Who cares what she prays for? She has lost, and God bless her, her mother the Princess Dowager is dead". Anne was still scowling. "Oh Nan! Do fix your face! It is better that she is here. It is a sign of respect…even if the King has commanded she attended you. You have nothing to fear from her". "I have everything to fear from her!", Anne retorted, as quick as a viper. "From her and everyone who still supports her". "They will have nothing once you give birth to the King's son", said Mary reasonably. Anne's face blanched a little. Mary's brow creased in concern. "Anne, are you alright? You're not having any pains, are you?". Anne shook her head, but just barely. Her eyes stared ahead of her, seeing nothing.

"Oh Mary, what if it is not a son?", she asked in such a tiny whisper, her lips barely moved. "What if it's another girl?". "Don't think like that Anne", said Mary soothingly. "Of course you'll have a boy. You will". Anne gave a mirthless snort of laughter. "Don't tell me you've begun to believe the old crone we hired to tell the King extravagant stories to keep my arse on the throne of England?". Mary smirked. "Of course not. I'm not so much of a fool! But I think you will be lucky this time". Anne shrugged. "And it is a pattern with the Howard women anyway", said Mary. "Look at our Lady Mother, she had me first, then George. And I had my Katherine first before I bore Henry". This did not make Anne feel as heartened as Mary intended her to be, as she recalled that her mother had had miscarriages in between Mary's birth and George's. Apparently sensing this, Mary tutted. "Oh Anne, really. You've already had your share of miscarriages too. Trust me, you will be just like our Lady Mother. All of us Howard women bear a girl first. You have had Elizabeth, you have had some tragedies in between, and now you will bear a son". "Pray God it is so", said Anne fervently. "Pray God it is so".