CHAPTER 10: WANDERING EYES

Mary had naturally been dismayed at the prospect of marrying a Protestant Lord, but she told Anne and the King that she was willing to do her duty. Anne's father had not attended the Privy Council meeting due to illness, but he had been eager to take up the chance to journey to Cleves to parlay with Duke Wilhelm. The Duke had been amenable, and the negotiations began. Thomas Boleyn had arrived back in England in early March, claiming he had taken a chill in Germany. A few days later, he had taken to his bed. Two days more, and he had called his lawyers and drawn up his will. By the 12th of March, in that 1539, Thomas Boleyn, Duke of Wiltshire and Earl of Ormond, had died. Anne had never been particularly close to either of her parents, but it did seem strange to have lost them both, in such a short time. And, after a fashion, she had loved them, and they her. The court had gone into mourning for the Peer of the Realm, who was also the Queen's father. George of course, as the only male heir, took on the Dukedom of Wiltshire, as well as the Earldom of Ormond, and his father's place on the Privy Council. Anne had become increasingly prominent on the council, much to the dismay of Thomas Cromwell.

A Queen Consort typically had no role other than a ceremonial one. But Henry depended on her advice. And Anne, unlike other Queen Consorts, was also Marquess of Pembroke, and thus, a Peer of England. In April, she had finally been able to convince Henry to desist with the dissolution of the monasteries. The negotiations for Mary's marriage were proceeding slowly, and Thomas Cromwell found himself often bearing the brunt of Henry's rage. Princess Mary had begun living at court, at Anne's behest. More than ever, she wanted to show her solidarity with Mary in hopes that the Spanish would not launch an attack with the half-Spanish Princess in such high favor. Mary accompanied her into her confinement. On June 17th of 1540, Anne had another boy, who was named Thomas in honor of her late father. However, only a month later, the child weakened and died. Anne had been heartbroken that she should lose a child. Cynically, she thought that it must have been because this babe had actually been the King's. Her last two children were fathered by another, who was now lying in a cold, unmarked grave somewhere, God forgive her.

Henry had taken the news disproportionately hard. He already had two healthy sons and a healthy daughter by Anne as far as he knew. What more could he want? But he had gone and locked himself away in his rooms, claiming illness and leaving her to the business of state, which she often took on in his behalf. Early in the new year of 1541, Jane, her sister-in-law had finally born a child, a boy who was also named Thomas for the same grandfather he would never meet. Anne had received the happy news in a letter dated January 16 from Beaulieu Palace, George's beautiful Essex estate that Jane had removed to for her confinement. When she returned to court, it seemed that Jane was utterly transformed by motherhood. "I can hardly even recognize her", George said to Anne one day as they walked in the gardens. "It's like she's become a different person, truly. I feel as if all the evil was snatched right out of her". "If you had done your duty before, you may have had joy of your wife before now, and a whole quiver of sons!". George laughed. "Mayhap, sister!". When Henry had finally returned to court after his bout of self-pity, he seemed to be distancing himself from Anne. One day she caught him flirting with some of her younger maids-in-waiting. Anne was now 34, and she had a few fine lies on her face, but she covered them so expertly with her creams and powders, that one could never notice unless they were right upon her. Still, she was not as vivacious as she had been when she was newcome to court.

Anne felt alright in this. She was not a silly maid, nor a hopeful virgin looking to make a fine match; she was a married woman, a mother, and a Queen. She was dignified and majestic, even though her fiery temper did manifest itself from time to time. And of course, she always knew how to turn on the coquetry when it suited her. It did still give her a vain thrill to watch the male courtiers eye her with desire when she executed her signature slow, sexy turn of the head, while she laughed her everlastingly charming laugh at a jest. Henry had several favorite flirts, including Anne Basset, the stepdaughter of old Lord Lisle. Increasingly though, another favorite of his was her young cousin Catherine Howard. Catherine was absolutely the silliest, vainest creature at court. Anne liked her well enough; she was amusing at the very least. And she was pretty and high-spirited. Anne had recently given Catherine a place at court at the request of Agnes Tilney, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk- their shared step-grandmother. However, Anne was sure the girl was stupid and ill-mannered. It seemed Catherine shared the bad manners and foolishness of her brother Sir Charles. Twice she had to have their uncle warn him off the Lady Margaret Douglas. And really, Margaret should have learned from her first reckless affair with Anne's young step uncle that the sort of behavior was forbidden, especially now that it had been written into law.

Fortunately for Charles, he had listened to the advice of their Uncle Howard and denied his betrothal to Lady Margaret. Anne had promptly written to her sister-in-law, the Dowager Queen of Scotland to implore her to reprimand her daughter, and command her to desist. Anne had never met Margaret Tudor in person and had expected not to be recognized by her, but surprisingly, the Queen of Scots had always corresponded amicably enough with her on the rare occasions when they wrote to one another. Certainly, she had never shunned her as Mary Tudor -the late Duchess of Suffolk had when she was alive, favoring Katherine of Aragon. Anne suspected that Margaret never forgave her sister-in-law, when back in 1513 at the Battle of Flodden, Katherine had commanded that Margaret's slain husband, King James IV of Scotland, be brought back to England as a trophy, rather than honored and buried as a King in Scotland. And horribly, she sent his bloodstained coat and royal banners to Henry while he was campaigning in France. If she never had a liking for Katherine, or that act destroyed what liking she did have for her, Queen Margaret had no reason to hate Anne. Queen Margaret sent a sound rebuke to her daughter nearly as swiftly as Anne had sent her request, and Lady Margaret recanted and claimed that she and Charles Howard had only been making eyes at one another.

The King, Anne guessed, wanted very much to believe this, and so he pardoned the two of them with a mild punishment. Anne's young cousin Charles had been banished from court, and had gone to stay with their step-grandmother at Lambeth. Lady Margaret had been sent away from court as well to live under the guardianship of Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, which she had done as a child in Princess Mary's household. Sometimes, Anne wondered why she even bothered to bring her family and put them in coveted places, when clearly, so many of them knew not their boundaries! Of course, Anne herself had pushed boundaries...in fact she had essentially demolished boundaries, and so she could hardly fault them. But really, they could all use a little more sense! Now that she dealt with one cousin, here was his younger sister, at court, behaving as if she were born a dairy maid and not a girl of one of the greatest families in England, strutting about like some strumpet. Anne had complained to her Uncle Howard. "Lord Uncle, I fear I will have to write to my step-grandmother the Dowager Duchess in regards my cousin Catherine, as I fear she has been remiss in her upbringing".

Her uncle flashed his almost reptilian smile. "Why, Your Majesty, I do not know what you mean. Has your cousin offended in some way?". "The girl is a ninny", Anne replied bluntly. Thomas Howard barked a laugh. "I know that you yourself are well learned, but I did not know that you wanted your maids-of-honor to be scholars, Your Grace". Anne smirked. "I do not need them all to be scholars, although I do enjoy intellectual sparring with my ladies. But I do expect to have well-mannered ladies whose heads are not full of wool, Uncle. I think it is reasonable to want my maids-of-honor to have a higher intellectual capacity than that of a kitten". He laughed again. "Your Majesty, my dearest niece, the girl can hurt no one, even if she is not the brightest". "She is also ill-mannered Uncle", Anne complained. "She even curtsies like a Smithfield whore. She already wears her bodice tugged down, and then she dips at just the right angle so we can all see her breasts like newborns on a wet nurse!". "I recall another young maid-of-honor doing much the same in her day", he answered smoothly. Anne gave him a sharp look. "And I recall at whose behest it was that she did such things", she retorted. "Might it be the same person bidding my cousin to perform such antics?". "Your Grace, I do not know what you mean". "Do not play games with me Uncle", Anne snapped, her temper rising. "Do you mean to undermine me using this little nitwit?". "I would never undermine you, Your Majesty", said the Duke seriously. "You are a Howard Queen with two royal Howard sons. I would do nothing to jeopardize that". "Hmm", said Anne suspiciously.

"I merely mean to have her...lighten the King's mood while he is so gloomy. He has been avoiding you". Anne sighed and nodded. "You know that Henry sulks like a child. He'll come 'round soon". "Indeed", her Uncle replied. "But until then, I don't want one of these Neville, Culpepper, or Percy girls catching his eye. We are safest with a Howard girl that I can command doing that". Anne nodded. "Very well then, Uncle". Anne came upon George and Jane walking in the gallery at Hampton Court later in that day. She smiled to see them in rapt conversation. She stood in silence for several moments until, sensing someone, George turned to her. He smiled and bowed deferentially. "Your Majesty". Jane curtsied to her, smiling. "I was just walking through to the gardens", said Anne "I will not intrude". "Oh nonsense Nan!" said George buoyantly. "You could never intrude". The smile on Jane's face faded slightly. In a matter of seconds, Anne was on her brother's arm as he spoke delightedly to her of his plans for renovating one of the estates that had come to him upon their father's death.

Part II Coming Soon!