Author's Note: Welcome back! Thank you so much to everybody who reviewed last chapter, and especially to a Guest reviewer who went through and reviewed each chapter from the beginning. I'm very happy that you enjoyed this story, and I hope you all continue to do so. This chapter is very Anne-centric. Next chapter will involve almost every character, but this one was more mental. I hope it is enjoyable to you guys.
Thank you to Reganx, as usual.
Disclaimer: All historical liberties are taken with full knowledge of real events and are taken only for the purposes of the story. It's very AU. All recognizable characters are a property of Showtime and history. I don't write history, I just mess around with it ;]
Without further ado, please enjoy and don't forget to review!
January 10, 1530
She was honestly surprised he did not come before this moment.
Her father was always the first to be kept abreast of her movements, as she had not bothered to figure out which member, or members, of her household was being asked to spy for him. To her it seemed futile, and besides, if she did expel the member of her household that betrayed her trust time after time to her father, she was sure that he would find another person to pay handsomely to betray her privacy. She just let him do it. She did not bother to tell him that if he simply asked her kindly, she would be more than happy to keep him updated. If he was going to be cruel and petty, she would not answer to him directly.
She knew that rumors about her marital rift had spread just as fast as she had anticipated, despite her ladies efforts to cover up her bruise from Henry's flash of temper she still appeared at Whitehall with noticeable marks. She could hear people talking brazenly, most of them were full of pity, but a few men coldly remarked that she must have done something to earn her husband's rough treatment of her.
She did not need to wonder what her father would say, even though he held his temper in longer than she expected, waiting until her Uncle Norfolk made a request to admit a Howard girl into her household, a request she granted with ease. She needed a replacement for Jane Seymour now that Henry had removed her from her household, gratefully, and her Howard relatives behaved well. She would have no need to fear one of them trying to seduce Henry; her uncle would not want that for their family. Though, if Henry were so inclined to take another mistress, she would not put it past her father or uncle to use any Howard relative to their advantage, so no other family could work their way into Henry's graces as much as they had.
Once she and her father were alone, she braced herself for the conversation. She knew her father would be worried and angry, emotions he did not dare show while they were at Whitehall. She had the protection of Arthur while she was there, and for all of her father's bravado, he would never dare upset the King of England. She knew that she could get Henry to reprimand her father again, or even Arthur, for his words towards her, but then he would lose his earldom, and then George would lose his inheritance. Despite everything that had occurred since her marriage, she did not want to see her father lose his status. She loved him still, and wanted her family to be of higher standing in any case. It would due her no good to still be considered the common daughter of a knight.
Her father grabbed her arm harshly and took her into her private chamber, pushing past her ladies in a huff, not bothering with the proper courtesies. "What have you done to upset your husband, you stupid girl?" he questioned roughly. If this were normal circumstances, Thomas Boleyn would have been more horrified to know that his daughter had been struck by her husband. He knew that Mary had been treated kindly by her first husband, and he no longer cared about her, but while she was in his good graces and part of his family, he would have perhaps had a word with her husband, as he was a knight and Boleyn was an earl now, but there could be no question of him siding with Anne.
His son-in-law was fond of him, he knew it. He often advised him closely, vying for the chance to become his chief confidante once he assumed his throne, if he was able to outmaneuver the willy Cardinal Wolsey. He needed Anne to make sure that he would continue to reap the benefits of her marriage that they had so carefully arranged for her, and not to let her passions and jealously make the Duke lose his love for her. If he took the Duke to task for laying a hand on his daughter, he would lose everything. Better to act as the father who knew what his daughter's place was, and not to stand up for her. It was her husband's right to hit her, and he knew that's how the Duke would see it.
If these were normal circumstances, he would have consoled her as much as he could have, perhaps trying to obtain some sort of cooling ointment to ease the burn or to fade the bruise so she would not have to face the stigma of having a husband who beat her openly. But she was the future Queen of England, and it was her job to advance their family. He loved her, but he needed her as well, and he needed her not as a battered and scared wife, but as the woman who could be regal when she needed to be. He was proud of his daughter, but if she was not careful, they could lose so much.
They stopped having a normal relationship the moment that they both knew she could become the Duchess of York.
"I did nothing, papa!" Anne protested. "And you will address me with respect," she added in afterthought. It was useless, she knew that if she ended up Queen for fifty years and her father lived to see it, he would never accord her that respect. He would treat her same as he always had; his daughter, his property, and the method of his advancement. The papa who lavished her with a glorious education and treated her like a princess before she was truly one had vanished the moment her mother had died. The man in front of her was not the man that she loved as a father.
Boleyn sighed. He knew Anne was going to be difficult about this, but even so, he could not find it in his heart to be gentle, not when the stakes were so high. Anne would never cease to be the Duchess of York and the future Queen of England as long as she and her sons stayed alive, but being his beloved wife was entirely in the balance. The Duke would grow resentful and bitter, taking to bed other women and leaving his wife, and by extension her family, out of his thoughts and his inner circle. If Anne was just his wife in name only, it meant nothing, as he was unlikely to see his grandson assume the throne. He needed the Duke to stay madly in love with Anne, even if she no longer felt it with him.
"You took him to task about his mistress, did you not?" he followed, not addressing her concern about her title or her refusal. He was not a stupid man, stupid men did not rise this far. He took her silence as conformation and continued, "I told you that Mistress Seymour meant nothing. He could take a thousand women to bed but you would still be his wife, and he would want you to act like the current Queen and not some jealous wench!"
Anne felt her eyes well up with tears, tears she promised herself she would not waste on her father again. If he would not act like he loved her, then she would not love him. The family she had married into was the family that she wanted now. They had accepted her despite everything; her commoner status and shaky grasp of protocol did not stop all of them from loving her. Her father expected too much out of her, it was just was not fair for all of her family's ambitions to be on her conscience. She knew any normal man would want to take advantage of the fact that their daughter had risen so high, and her father did have his own merits which had given her a place at court. But to treat her like she was nothing was not what she wanted from all of this.
"I did what I thought was right, for our marriage and our family, neither of which concern you. My husband and my marriage are mine, not yours, or any other man's," Anne shot back. Her father had always worried about her position, even though he of all people should know that it was secure. She always knew her father as a shrewd man, so surely he should understand that even though the slap had physically burned Anne, it had done wonders for their marriage, even if she was wary and uncomfortable around him. Perhaps that was the point, after all, if their marriage were run by Henry's affections than he was not shy about them anymore, and he was doing everything in his power to make her feel comfortable around him again, for her coldness disturbed him.
Jane Seymour had been sent back to her family's home at Wolf Hall, to marry Brandon at the earliest convenience. She had taken her leave of Anne, and while Anne wanted to rail against her and humiliate her, she could not blame her for all of her marriage's woes. Besides, the bruise on her cheek burned, not even makeup could hide it at that point. She did not want to give her the pleasure of thinking that she caused the Duke of York to beat his wife. It would give her false notions of her own superiority, and make her think that she should have been the Duchess of York, mother of Henry's children. She would not let that happen.
Though she did not give two figs who the wench married, she did worry about Brandon and his children. He had stayed a widower for so long, and she feared for his family life if Jane Seymour were to interrupt it. Frances Brandon had never known her mother, surely bringing in a strange woman would only serve to confuse her. Selfishly, she also wondered if Henry having Jane marry his closest friend, a man Anne was fond of as well, was just an excuse to keep Jane near him, so they could continue their dalliance. She did not want to believe it was true, but how could she trust him?
Even so, her father had nothing to worry about. Henry was more determined than ever to make sure that she was happy and content in their marriage, and to gain her trust back. She wasn't sure if it would be so easily given, but for the sake of their children, she would try.
She frowned at the memory of Henry going to beg for Lisbeth's forgiveness. As Anne expected, it did not go as planned, and he had not only one, but three of his children turned against him.
Anne went in first. It was better that way. She made sure that Lisbeth was out of her nap and that she was free to receive them. She did not want to disturb the girl's schedule, for surely this would be one of the more defining moments of her formative years. She was dressed in a pretty gown of green silk, looking more and more like the beautiful Tudor princess Anne knew she would become, whose portrait would be a shiny carrot for her marriage prospects. She smiled when Anne bent down to hug her, but frowned when she saw Henry.
"What do you want?" she asked sharply, so much that Anne could tell she had startled Henry. Lisbeth, for her part, did not care about her papa's feelings. She saw what he did; saw how she hurt her mama! It was not fair! Mama loved her papa and was the best mama in the whole world, nobody should ever hit her.
She had told Hal and Edward about it straight away. They should know that their papa was mean to their mama, even if Hal wasn't really mama's son which is why he wasn't the Earl of Kendal and Edward was, but Lisbeth knew that Hal would be just as angry. And Edward was still a baby, but he was a smart baby, and very protective over their mama. When they had to go to the Great Hall for Christmas the day after, Lisbeth was surprised that her mama was so cheerful, but she saw the way her Uncle Arthur and Aunt Katherine looked at her papa. They had known and did not forgive him, and so Lisbeth wouldn't either, and she knew her brothers felt the same way.
If her papa was really sorry, why was her mama so scared looking when she came to the nursery? Lisbeth put her small, chubby hand on her mother's bruised cheek and glared at her papa when he didn't answer her. "Did you tell mama you were sorry?" Lisbeth asked. She knew her mama would make her papa sorry for what he did to her, but still, she did not know if she could forgive him so easily, even though she loved her papa just as much as her mama. But she knew her mama would never do something like that to him!
Henry knelt down and tried to clear his mind to speak plainly to the little girl, who he saw so much of himself in. Her temper was the same that caused him to kick his grandmother when his own beloved mother was hurt, and was the same that caused him to question his stern father's judgment. He tried to do differently than his father, but he feared that it would all come out weak to the intelligent daughter, his first born with Anne, his beautiful princess.
Anne and he had discussed lying, but both of them felt it was unfair. They did not know how much of the argument she had heard, and the both knew that she was the brightest of their children. He mustered his courage and reached for his daughter's hand, stunned and hurt when she pulled away. He wiled himself to speak, perhaps then she wouldn't look at him so coldly with Anne's eyes. "I made a terrible mistake, and got very angry at your mama when I shouldn't have. I am very sorry, and will work the rest of my life to make sure that your mama knows that, and that you do as well. I never wanted you to see such things."
"But you hurt her, and she had to act like nothing happen," Lisbeth protested. She thought her mama was very brave, she overheard her Aunt Katherine say as much to her grandmother, but she still didn't think it was fair. If it was her papa's fault, why did her mama have to be brave about it?
Anne spoke up, knowing it would mean more coming from her. "I am a very important person, and people must see me happy at all times, for when I am Queen, I will be their example. When you grow older and have a husband and children of your own, you may have to pretend to be happy when you may dislike the food or the way your ladies did your hair. It is our duty as royal ladies," Anne explained, tucking a lose strand of hair behind her daughter's ears and looking directly at her. She softened it for her daughter's sake, but she knew it was true. If it was one thing Katherine and Elizabeth had taught her, it was that.
Henry placed his hand on Anne's shoulder and looked down at Lisbeth. "I hope you can forgive me, my sweet girl. Your approval means more to me than you'll ever know," Henry stated earnestly. He was hoping that showing that Anne did not flinch away from him (even if he did feel her muscles tighten from underneath her gown) showed that he was forgiven and that they would be a family again.
Lisbeth eyed him curiously. "You have to tell the boys you are sorry too. And you must tell mama every single day. And buy her pretty things and treat her nicer!"
As if on cue, Hal and Edward emerged, looking at Henry coldly. He had never felt so intimidated by children in his life, and he never thought to be made to feel like this by his own children. He looked at Anne and saw her look of shock and horror, but he knew it was warranted. Why should his children idolize him when he had hurt their mother? "I am sorry, for what I did to your mother, and to this family. I truly am."
The three of them eyed him with reasonable suspicion, and then, in unison they told him their bottom line, "We will forgive you, but we won't forget."
Anne was worried Henry would blame her, thinking that she turned their children away from him. But she was pleasantly surprised when he just accepted their judgment, knowing that Lisbeth had seen what happened with her own eyes. Anne did not wish to turn her children away from their father. That would not be good for them when they were older, and the royal family would have to put on a united front, as King Arthur has always stressed. Her brother-in-law took his responsibility seriously and Anne would hate to see his disappointment if the York family was fractured.
Still, she could not forget the look Edward gave his father, such a fierce look from their little boy. Edward was Henry's favorite, regardless of what he could say about his fathering skills for their other children, who despite his apparent love of his heir, they were still fond of him until recently. Lisbeth thought neither of them could do no wrong, and Hal admired and idolized his father. She was proud of her children for knowing that it was wrong for Henry to treat her poorly, but for them to appraise him so harshly was not what she wanted.
"You had no right to do it. Do you know what's at stake? Everything!" Her father broke her from her thoughts, and looked at him coldly and opened her mouth to speak, but he spoke too quickly. "If you lose his love, everything is lost, for all of us. I will not be a Duke or rise to the top of his favor without it!" he theorized.
Anne laughed at him, even though she knew that would just inflame his anger. He was worried about losing his spot as the King's closest advisor? Anne, and everybody else, knew that position was already Cardinal Wolsey's or even Charles Brandon's. Never her father's. Yet, she knew if she wanted to, she could get him into that position, and get some member of their loyal faction to become Lord Chancellor instead of Wolsey, but she did not want to tell him that. She was fond of Wolsey despite his association with the Pope in Rome, whose authority she was too imposing for a country he was so removed from, but he worked well for Henry and she knew that he loved him. She was not willing to make overtures in that direction, especially not for her father.
"Henry will only love those in my family whom I love as well. I suggest, for your sake, that you accord me and my children with the respect we deserve, and to be cordial with me if you wish to raise high, father," Anne sharply responded. She knew her threats were mostly empty. She still could not find hatred in her heart for her family, especially her siblings. Her father had turned cold after the death of her mother, but she could not even find fault in him for that still. She put her hand to her cheek, who would she have left if not her natural born family? How could she count on her own survival and happiness without allies?
Boleyn's face softened with his daughter's response to his own harshness. He felt sick to think that she would have to fear his cruelty on top of her husband's. He resolved to keep his voice softer. "You are right, of course," he conceded, forcing himself to smile kindly despite his worry. "But he must also love you too, my darling, or not even you will rise. You will be Queen in name only, what good is that?"
Anne smiled slyly, thinking of how desperately Henry had been trying to make her feel comfortable in their marriage again, and another small laugh escaped her lips. "I will be as docile as you wish father, but you must do something for me as well. I must be careful with my favor, after all." Anne knew that was a lie. If she gave Henry a million demands she knew all of them would be met. She would give it all back for just a moment of peace, where she could lay in his arms without the distrust she felt in her heart, or not to flinch at the first sign of his tone turning slightly harsh. But she would never tell her father that. He would think it weak and dangerous, and aside from that, the more that she could hold her father responsible for his words, the more power she would wield in their family, and the better off she and her children would be.
"Anything," Boleyn choked, not without difficultly.
"I want Mary back." It was all she had thought about since she and Henry fought. Her sister would have had the exact right words to say to her, would have made her feel safe. Elizabeth of York was a good woman, one that Anne loved very much, but her sister was her best friend, the only woman her own age that she could truly trust. She missed her more than she thought she would, they had been together all of the time since they were girls. It was very cruel of her father to keep her away for so long. Anne knew a lesson had to be learned, and they had to show Arthur and Henry that she took her role as the future Queen of England seriously, seriously enough so she would not let her sister marry a commoner without punishment, but Mary had been gone for too long. She wanted her sister.
Boleyn sighed deeply. "I will write to her," he responded. He did not want to, but if Anne was asking it of him, he knew he needed to. The happier he kept her; the more beneficial it would be for him. As far as he was concerned, he owed Mary nothing; she had not understood her duty like Anne or sought to advance their family with the same vigor. Mary was lucky Anne gave her any thought, because he would have been content to let her rot in her country hovel.
However, he would not let his daughter completely gain the upper hand on him. To do so would put him entirely at her mercy, something he could not allow. "I have a favor to ask as well," he began, thinking of his earlier conversation with Norfolk. Wolsey was dangerous, the Duke of York was far fonder of him than any of his other courtiers, and the man was already Archbishop of York and King Arthur once favored him above all others, before the Queen saw him as an enemy. He had his own international presence; he knew the King of France paid him a pension when he was in King Arthur's service, and he was sure that it was still continuing now, with the promise of the new King's favor once he assumed his throne. It did not bode well for any of them if a Cardinal of the Catholic Church became Henry's most trusted advisor once he became King.
"Yes?" Anne asked tiredly, already done with this interview by her father. His presence exhausted her. It made her wish that she could at least feign pregnancy, because then she knew he would not bother her so much, even if she did upset him.
"Cardinal Wolsey cannot be allowed to rise too high once Henry becomes King. When you can, speak ill of him to your husband. I know that they have been close for a lifetime, but it is so important that you stop his ambitions. I am sure that they will interfere with ours," Boleyn explained, trying to stress the need to his daughter. He did not know her opinion of Wolsey and he did not particularly care either. He just needed him gone.
She would have, two years ago perhaps, ask what he wanted her to say, to make sure that she could carry her father's plan through. She would try as hard as she could to get Wolsey out of the way for her father. But now… she was not so sure that she wanted to. Wolsey could be a powerful ally, one that if she played correctly, could keep her and her children safe if Henry ever did want to be wrathful again. Perhaps they would never be friends, she was sure Wolsey would be weary of her due to her religious opinions, but she needed allies outside of her family or Henry's. She thought of Katherine, how the Spanish Ambassador and the Imperial one were constantly courting her favor, and how she always seemed to have her own power base aside from Arthur. She knew that Thomas More loved the Queen and did everything in his power to advance her interests, even in the rare occasion that they were not the King's.
A man like Wolsey would be a good friend to have when she was Queen, and could prove to be a bad enemy to many people.
Still, she smiled at her father, as if it was no hardship for her to do this service for him. "Of course, papa. The Cardinal means nothing to me."
Hampton Court Chapel
A Week Later
He had wondered if he should attend this meeting at all.
Everybody, especially somebody like Wolsey who had taken it upon himself to know the comings and goings of both Hampton and Whitehall, knew that the Duke and Duchess of York had gotten into a physical altercation recently. He did not want to be seen siding with the Duchess, regardless of his sympathy for the lady that he had grown fond of since she had married his old student. Anne Boleyn was a smart, charming, intelligent individual, whose interest in France aligned with his own.
He certainly did not want to incur Henry's wrath for meeting with his wife, but he saw the way that he attended to her, and his spies informed him that the Duke had been making grand overtures towards his wife, and lavishing more gifts on her and their children, and shunning Mistress Seymour. If anything, he now believed that refusing to meet with Anne would make Henry cross with him, something he was determined to avoid. Everybody at Hampton knew that the Duke of York took his sport with Charles Brandon and his consul from Cardinal Wolsey. Any upset in that balance could cause men to usurp his place, men such as Anne's uncle or father.
He needed her friendship as long as Henry continued to dote on her like he had always done. A small rift was clearly not enough to break the marriage, a love match by all accounts. He would certainly not risk her wrath either, if this were the case. And it was the first time she had directly asked to meet with him, in an unusual spot. The Chapel was often empty at this time of day, as it was a break between masses. Wolsey would do the evening one, but he still had some moments to spare. Even if it was a hardship to meet with her, he would take it on gladly. He was so close to his dream that he wouldn't let something as silly as this get in his way.
Perhaps, they could help each other; after all, it was not as if she lacked the influence. Surely she would want an English Pope, just as much as any powerful Englishman would? As Pope, Wolsey would have the highest office in the land, and could do England's biding. He needed the French vote, and perhaps she could deliver it for him with agreeing to ally herself with the French once she became Queen. He thought Katherine of Aragon was a fool to not take advantage of him, for she could have delivered the three great powers to his side. Instead, she was far too interested in the interests of her home country, something that would not be a problem with the Duchess of York.
She looked radiant as she walked in, some foolish men at court (the commons adored her- for all of her charity) may whisper and say that she had seduced Henry unnaturally, but he would never think that. The Duchess was beautiful, just as beautiful as any other royal princess come over to England. He may have wanted his former pupil to have married French, but as far as he was concerned, Anne was a good choice, as long as she proved to be friend and not foe.
She smiled amiably at him as she held her hand out for him to kiss and motioned for him to sit down. "Cardinal Wolsey, I hope I have found you well," she began, trying to ignore the way he looked at her face, still slightly bruised. She had tried valiantly to cover it up once Henry apologized to her, and even though it had faded greatly and the pain had gone away, her husband was strong and had left an impact that was a constant reminder. Arthur especially had written to her a few times since she had left Whitehall, reminding her to stay strong and telling her she had nothing to be ashamed of.
She had never felt so envious of Queen Katherine for having a husband that would never betray her and humiliate her in the way Henry did.
"Thank you, your grace. You look dazzling," he replied, admiring her gold gown and thinking that he should buy a new gown for Joan soon. His mistress was a good woman, accepting her disgrace out of love for him. Try as she might though, his Joan would never sparkle the way Anne did, even if he could trace sadness in her eyes, sadness he hoped he would never cause his Joan to suffer. The Duchess looked regel even in her suffering, looking nothing like the French girl she was when she arrived in England all those years ago. She looked like she was born to be Queen; something he knew was in part to the Queen Katherine and the Dowager Queen.
Anne smiled despite the clear flattery. She had not slept well in weeks and she still felt the lingering fat from her last childbirth. She feared she would never regain the shape she once held with confidence. How was she supposed to keep Henry without her looks? Not letting herself dwell on it for too long, as she had business to attend to, Anne continued, "You are a diplomatic man, Cardinal. I fear, as I am just a poor woman, newly come into my position, that I lack the grace that you do. I would very much like it if we could speak plainly to each other."
"Of course, your grace. I consider us to be the best of friends, who should be transparent," he replied smoothly, still unsure of where the conversation was heading.
Anne merely nodded, and then she got straight to her point. "I know that many here at court think that I am falling out of favor with my husband. But I assume since you agreed to meet me here, in a deserted place, you too think my position in an awkward place- not quite in or out of favor. I came to assure you that it would be unwise to think that my husband and I were not the utmost devoted to each other, as we have always been," Anne explained. She knew it was only a half-truth, but she did not need Cardinal Wolsey as a confidante, she had her sister, Elizabeth and Katherine for that. She needed him as an ally.
"I never would have presumed your graces to have a falling out. You seem, as always, very much in love, and every man and woman here at Hampton, indeed, in the whole of Christendom, has reason to be jealous," Wolsey responded daftly, pointedly ignoring the bruise on her face. If they wanted a façade, he would not be the one to deny it to them. Besides, he had reasons to believe she was telling the truth.
"Excellent, I am warmed to hear this. Now, to the business of what will happen in a few years, when Henry and I assume our inheritance. My father and uncle, unfortunately, will not rest unless they have all of the power that they can gather. They want to set either themselves, or a man completely in our family's purse, in my husband's inner circle once he is King. They do not trust you, and have asked me to talk poorly of you to my husband," Anne explained bluntly, feigning sadness and helplessness at the prospect. Even if she was sure Wolsey could read through her supposed pity, she did not think that he would dare question her about it, nor would he tell others that she was callous about it.
Wolsey tried, not without difficultly, to keep his face composed. Surely she would not tell him this if she intended to do it, unless she was as foolish as she tried to come off to him? He did not think she was, after all, she had gotten the Duke of York to marry her, a daughter of a knight. He could recognize her ambition and shrewdness, being the son of a butcher raised to a Cardinal. "I shall pray that his grace knows that I am his most loyal servant, dedicated to him and only him. I will advance, of course, your grace's interests as well as that of your children's, if they are, as you say, aligned with your devoted husband's," Wolsey explained. He would not bow to her so easily, or be so easily blackmailed.
"Nevertheless, my good Cardinal, you hold so many offices and titles, and have amassed a great deal of wealth, that any reasonable man could think you to be more loyal to his Holiness than to my husband," Anne countered, not letting herself lose the higher ground. "Perhaps I would be worried, if I thought that you did not want something more than to be the Lord Chancellor of England. But I hear the climate in Rome agrees with you more than London's."
Wolsey had enough decency to look surprised. "I am forever devoted to his grace. I have been since I was a young man and he was just a boy. Becoming Pope would tear me from him…" Wolsey began, but he was cut off by her sharp voice, different than the tone she had adapted earlier.
"His grace is well aware of your loyalty, which is why my father fears you," Anne explained quickly, not wanting to hear his assurances. She knew what he wanted, and while she disagreed entirely with the way that the Pope held the Christian Kings in such a yoke, she knew it would be beneficial to her if Wolsey sat as the head of the Catholic Church. He would never dare act against Henry, not if he owed him so much, and reports of Luther's heresy would worry him enough not to upset the country disconnected from the rest of Europe by water. And she could continue to receive her gifts from her former French mistress, the Duchess Marguerite, the King of France's sisters.
Her gifts were treasured to her, books about the growing call for Reformation. She hid them well; fearful that Thomas More would find them, as not even her status could save her at that point. Katherine and Arthur would disagree, and although she would not get burnt at the stake, she could lose her friends and their love, and even Henry could be cross with her. She needed time to show them to him, before his mind would be closed.
It could be dangerous having a Pope in power from England, who would know of her supposed heresy, but as far as Anne was concerned, as long as she held this over him, the ability to crush him if she wanted to- and as long as her children remained pawns in his fight to gain votes, she thought it was a risk worth taking. Even if he never fulfilled his ambition, as it was difficult and expensive, at least the Lord Chancellor would be one who understood her. She did not want to supplant Wolsey just have Henry turn to his other former tutor, the dogmatic More.
"What is that you want from me, then, madam, if you simply wish to depose me?" Wolsey asked with just as much bluntness as she employed. If she was going to be plain with him, then he supposed it was better for him not to honey his words. Secretly, he was impressed with how well she maneuvered around him, but he would never admit it, not when he could not sense her angle.
"It is no secret, to those who have spies in my household, that I am in favor of reform," she paused to give him a moment to deny it, but it appeared he gave up on making her think that he was all smiles and sweetness. "I wish to continue reading and discussing with people these ideas when I am Queen, and I want my husband and his advisors to understand that. I believe we can be of service to each other, despite the outer trappings of your office."
"I will not trouble you, your grace," he hastened to assure her, knowing that he would never dare risk the enmity of the Duke if he took his wife to task on her religious views. Even if he would dare, it was not worth losing his position, if Anne was going to speak poorly of him to Henry if he did not let her practice in peace. He did not really care about learned men and women reading such books that were banned by His Holiness, as long as England stayed a part of the Holy See. An afterthought, he added, "but the current Chancellor has no such qualms about finding heretics."
"I know that, and I have been very careful what I say and whom I say it to. I know the King and Queen, for all their great love for me, would not be keen on me reading such books. But in any case, I am glad to hear that you are not so militant," Anne replied with a smile, thinking she could trust him, as much as these men could be trusted. "An English Pope would be good, something that I would be willing to support. But I need you to promise me a few things."
"And you will not speak ill of me to your husband?" Wolsey asked, trying to hide his glee at her words. She seemed to understand him better than he could have possibly hoped for. It appeared he had underestimated her.
"No, as long as you propose a French alliance once Henry becomes King, and start convincing him now that marrying the Lady Elizabeth to a French Prince would be in England's benefit, and of course, yours. And perhaps Edward could be married to one of the Emperor's daughters?" Anne explained. She had thought about it for a long time. She would be far more comfortable with her daughter, who she knew she was going to lose, to go to France instead of anywhere too much farther. Elizabeth would no longer be hers or Henry's, but she knew that the King of France would treat her well while he lived, and then she could have a chance to be Queen of France, since she knew how fragile the lives of King Francis' sons had already proved to be. Even without a crown on her head, her daughter could do great things, and she wanted her to be safe doing them.
And she knew Wolsey wanted a French alliance more than anything and was upset when he was thwarted by Arthur time after time for an Imperial one; but she also knew Katherine wanted an imperial one. She could appease both, and have another Spanish-English Queen, something that had to appeal to Katherine more than her daughter going to Spain to marry the Emperor's eldest son, even if they would make her Queen and potentially Empress someday.
"You want me to leave you unmolested in your religion and arrange the marriages that you want for your children?" Wolsey asked, amazed that this is all she wanted from him in exchange for helping him get the Pope's throne and to make him a powerful advisor to her husband. He knew that the French alliance would be beneficial for them both, but why would she not want her family in power, who certainly could do the same thing?
Anne smiled, knowing that it sounded so easy to him. He wanted a French alliance so he could get his pension and his seat in Rome. She wanted everybody to know that reform was important, and if a Cardinal acting as Chancellor said nothing, then surely it would be desirable for many people- and her religious and charitable works would gain that much more credence. And aside from that, she had an ally, one not tied through blood or marriage. Even if it was made through blackmail, she felt that there was no going back on her and Wolsey.
"Yes, and I want you to be loyal to me, as loyal to me as you are to Henry. Make no mistake, Cardinal, you are mine."
"You are cheerful today," Elizabeth remarked, eyeing Anne with gleeful suspicion as the younger woman sat across from her, wearing a smile that had been too rare in recent days. It made her heart swell with joy, for the first time in what had been a stressful month. All she wanted to do was rest, but how could she, when her children needed her so much still. She shivered at the thought of what would have happened if Katherine and herself were not there for Anne after Henry had abused her.
She wished she had such friends when she was Queen. Perhaps she would not have spent so many nights fearing the worst- fearing for the loss of her children, for the loss of her husband's love, for her own death at the hands of neglectful doctors or insane mother-in-laws. She never wanted that fate for Anne or Katherine, and she was determined at any cost to do her best to make sure their lives were always comfortable. She never had to worry with Arthur, but her younger son had not shown such restraint. It was a fault in his upbringing, and she could not help but blame herself. She would do what she could, for the rest of her life, to correct it.
"I had a wonderful discussion with Cardinal Wolsey this afternoon," Anne replied, sipping on her wine slyly, waiting for their supper to come. She had not felt her appetite this strongly for a very long time, since the birth of William. Henry had asked to share her bed that night, still respectful of the ban, just to be close to her. She wanted to reject him, but she actually felt safe enough to have him next to her, if perhaps for a night. She felt powerful, and needed. Even if Henry lost his temper with her again, or even worse, turned away from her, she would have the alliance of powerful men at court, and Henry's own family. She was not alone, and she would have the power to keep her children's positions secure.
Elizabeth simply smiled, trying not to look at the English bible in the corner of the room. She did not want to start an argument about Anne's religious beliefs, it was better left unsaid. Katherine also showed shrewd restraint, knowing that upsetting Anne would do no good. She was optimistic of Anne trying to make friends with the Cardinal, even if she did not entirely trust Wolsey herself. She knew it was only a matter of time before Katherine lost her resolve, and accused Anne of meddling with heresy. Even if Katherine hated Wolsey, she could not deny that he represented the very power that the growing reformation tried to dismantle. Anne could not to be willing to destroy the Church's power in England once she became Queen if she was friends with Wolsey.
Nevertheless, Anne seemed happy, and that was important. It was a hopeful sign for the reconciliation that Elizabeth so hoped to facilitate between her son and his wife. "And you and Henry?" Elizabeth asked, trying not to pry too much, but she was genuinely concerned for the state of their marriage. Henry was wrong, but Anne had to forgive him. It would break her heart if she were to die without seeing them just as much in love as they used to be.
Anne sighed, but knew that Elizabeth meant well. "He will be joining me tonight after we are done with supper. As long as he continues to make a valiant effort, I will not be cold towards him," Anne explained. She was not willing to put in the same amount of work into her marriage anymore, not after she had spent nearly a year trying to get Henry to leave his mistress and prove his love to her. She was scared of trying to get him to love her, scared of his abuse and his anger. She did not want to risk her own life or her children's place in their father's heart. He had not fathered any bastards since their marriage, but what could stop him if he was not worried about her love?
She knew that he was not a patient man; she could only get him to dance on attendance to her for so long before he grew tired and irritated. She did not want to refuse him for this reason, even if she did not trust him anymore. She certainly did not feel her heart swell with the same admiration and tenderness when they saw each other, when they were obligated to make public appearances. Her skin did not burn with desire when he held her hand and kissed it. When he kissed her lips she occasionally felt bile rise in her throat.
She could never tell Elizabeth this, but she knew that she needed to pretend, for her own sake as well as those around her. She hoped, eventually, she would not need to pretend any longer and her emotion would stop being feigned and feel real again.
Elizabeth smiled in response and the two women talked about various things throughout supper, never once touching on Henry or even Anne's conversation with Wolsey. She did not think Elizabeth would understand her need for an ally outside of her family- after all, from what she knew of Elizabeth's time as queen, her political ambition was limited greatly, and her influence over her children's lives was nil. Katherine would understand, but she would not agree on her choice of ally. She hated Wolsey more than Anne ever thought the pious woman capable of.
She was anxious for her sister to return, so she could share these things again. The last few months were unbearable without her; she had never felt more alone. If she had Henry's devotion, love and friendship, like the early days of their marriage, Mary's absence would have felt less profound. She had spent more nights crying herself to sleep than she cared to admit, and the ladies that slept around her either did not hear her or did not care to hear. She knew Mary would have woken her up and soothed her gently.
She was proud of herself, too. Proud of herself for securing his friendship and his loyalty and proud of herself for pushing forward her daughter's future. She needed to feel that confidence again, that strength would have to come from within more than it used to, but it was still there. She knew that she could not relay on others forever, or at all. Elizabeth did not have a grasp of power the same way Katherine did- and Katherine would surely not agree with all of her motivations. Arthur could comfort her but he could not always keep her safe. Her children needed a mother to be strong for them, to advance their interests in an intimate way only she could. She would not shrink at the task.
They worked on needlework silently until Henry came, and Anne observed their greeting from a distance. Elizabeth was stiff when she hugged her son, and that was not from age. She always envied Henry for how warmly his mother would hug and kiss him, compliment his appearance and ask about his life. She had never received that from her father or her mother, but she feared that she had taken it away from him. Her own lashing out at Henry had caused his mother to stop loving him the way that she used to. Part of her wanted to be grateful that somebody had the power to make Henry understand how much he could hurt people and how badly it hurt to have somebody that once loved him turn away from him- much the same that he had done to her.
But when she looked at the scene unfolding before her, all she felt was consuming guilt; similar to the way she felt when she saw her son give Henry a dark look. Her father's words came rushing back to her, making her breath hitch. She did not need to confront him the way she did. She could have been calmer. She pushed him to hit her. She made her prideful and royal husband, the man who raised her from commoner to Duchess and would raise her to Queen, she made him come to her on his knees and beg her forgiveness. She owed everything to him, and she had made him hit her.
When they exchanged pleasantries and climbed into bed together, she nuzzled close to him, not bringing herself to an apology, not yet. Part of her brain rebelled against the notion of her own culpability. Elizabeth, Katherine and Arthur all told her that Henry was to blame, but there were others just as willing to lash out against her, put her in the wrong. She had turned her children against him and turned her own body and love against him. Perhaps in some small way, their marriage needed it, and it was a sacrifice that she should bare. Perhaps she did push him. Perhaps she was ungrateful and playing with fire.
"You are stiff, darling," Henry whispered, not wanting to wake her just in case she truly was asleep. He loved the feeling of her body against his; the feeling was far too foreign in recent months. But she was not soft and welcoming; her body was cold and hard, and not molded to his the way it used to be. He reached his hand and moved her hair out of her eye, tracing his finger around the outline of her fading bruised eye. "Did my mother say something to upset you?" he asked, fearing the worst. He would never dare critique his mother to her face, but he thought that recently, she had meddled far too much, and had put a gulf between him and Anne, even though he knew she was just trying to help.
"No!" she immediately recoiled from his body, shooting up at looking at him. "Of course not. I just… the children. I fear that we have torn a rift in our family." Realizing that his warmth was gone and his body language was defeated, she put herself back in his arms, trying to enjoy the feeling.
Maybe it was her fault just as much as it was his. The idea was uncomfortable, and against everything she had thought a week ago. But the voices of the past few weeks swarmed her head and would not stop fighting with each other.
"What did you do to upset your husband?"
"A man has the right to hit his wife, especially if she is an ungrateful sow."
"The Duchess should be grateful she has even got a husband and children, just look at poor Queen Katherine, saddled with a weakling! Who cares if he hits her?"
Henry sighed, his heart filled with guilt and sadness. Yet, if he wanted to fix this, he had to stay strong. "It will all be well, I promise you. Go to sleep now, fretting will do you no good," Henry reasoned, kissing the top of her head before blowing out the candle and settling down into sleep, much easier than recent nights with his wife next to him.
Anne tried valiantly, eventually drifting into a fitful sleep.
Redness engulfed her, and she could see nothing else.
She reached out to Elizabeth and Katherine but they faded into the red. Her children too, gone, before she could reach them. Henry stood at the other end of the abyss, laughing, his green eyes shining with anger she had only seen once before, before his hand met her face.
She turned to reach out, one last time, to Arthur. He was the only one left. He kissed her hand with reverence before apologizing. His mouth moved but there was nothing coming out. She knew though. He would follow his wife into wherever she went, into the red. Henry's head twisted until a crown rested on top of it, and she felt a strong arm clasp around her neck.
Her father's eyes stared back at the mirror, in a vacant white room. The Queen's crown rested on her head, but her face was not beautiful. It was ugly and marred, puffy from abuse and unrecognizable. Her body was deformed, too large to even be fully represented in the mirror, her hair matted and grey. Her father was smiling, but all she could do was scream.
"Anne!" Henry shook her, trying to refrain from violence, knowing that it would frighten her more, but her screams were getting louder. "Anne you must wake up, you are having a bad dream!"
"I cannot be Queen!" she shot up screaming, her brow wet with sweat. She had been having bad dreams, mostly reoccurrences of Henry's fight with her, but she had not dreamt so vividly yet. It frightened her more than she could convey in words, and especially not to Henry. He would take it personally and blame himself. To tell Elizabeth or Katherine would risk that Henry would grow cross with her for involving them in their marriage. Mary was still on her way from the country; her brother and father too set on their own advancement.
"What?" he asked, concerned. She had never voiced such a thought before. Was she rethinking their marriage, hoping to find a way out of the burden that would soon be theirs? The idea of being King without her hurt him deeply, and scared him. He would not lose her!
"It is nothing, my love. A terror of sleep. My whole family has them from time to time. I must have had too much wine at dinner," Anne lied, smiling sweetly before settling back into his arms. His devotion to fixing their relationship would ensure he would not question her any further.
She resolved to write to the last person she could think of in the morning, to talk about her conflicting feelings and her nightmares. King Arthur was the most sympathetic ear she could think of.
I regret to bother you, knowing that your station requires you to have only a few leisure hours per day. I have been plagued with guilt and terror in my sleep. My sleep grows short and each time Henry stays in my bed, I wake up screaming. I need somebody who can help me, and I have lost options. Those around me I do not trust, your wife and mother have been so kind I cannot burden them further. My sister will be back soon, but even then I fear that my worries will not be made clear enough to her, and I do not trust my household to give us privacy.
You have helped me so many times before, and I know you are a busy man, but if you could take time to write to me, or please come and visit, just once. I know your words will be a balm to my worries, and the children need their uncle.
My brother is lost to me, but I once relied on his friendship before his marriage soured it. I need a big brother in my life again.
Your sister always,
Arthur crumbled the letter into the fireplace, unwilling to let anybody else read it.
Her plea was for him and she had suffered enough at the hands of unkindness. Somebody around her was making her feel like she had caused her own suffering, when truly she had been powerless to stop it. His mother and wife had been so good to her, but she wanted him, she wanted a man to make her feel like it would be okay, when the others in her life failed to provide her with the comfort she so sorely needed.
When Anne was a little girl, she had helped him prove himself to his father. Now, with his duties reduced to just one weekly meeting, as his physicians banned from anymore, he felt useless again, a boy instead of a man. Perhaps Anne could make him feel whole again, instead of a puppet on a throne.
It was the duty of the King of England to protect ladies from the unkindness of knights who had failed at their duty. His own duties usurped his time, but with his restrictions, there was not much statecraft he was permitted to do anymore. Now would the right time to have a sister again, a girl who had admired since she was three years old. Now was the time to know his heirs, little Edward was a stranger to him and Lisbeth had just had a traumatic experience.
They needed a stable figure in their lives just as much as Anne did, if not more so. To know that their father was capable of such violence would not make them feel safe in their own home, even though they were given the highest level of protection. And Anne… she wanted to feel safe again, in any way she could. Henry clearly had not been making the grand overtures he promised, and the women in her life could be abused in the same way, even if in the case of Katherine and Elizabeth, Arthur would never have laid an unkind hand. It was not the point though. Her own personal security had been jeopardized, and if she was to be Queen of England, she needed her confidence back.
Tomorrow, he would go to Hampton, alone, unannounced to anybody, and fix the York family.
Author's Note: I'm not entirely thrilled with how this turned out, but I needed a chapter to show Anne's psyche and her own transformation. Last chapter was Henry, this was Anne trying to regain her own confidence and social standing after suffering humiliation and fear. I tried very hard to capture this, and I feel like I fell a bit short, but I needed some political scenes too. Wolsey's ambitions cannot stay dormant, sadly. Anyhow, hope you all enjoyed, and if you read please don't forget to review! Until next time, Marissa :)