Author's Note: First of all, ugh. I had a long and eventful summer. But here it is, at long last, thank you for your patience my ever loyal readership base. Few warnings, it's a long chapter, and there isn't much Katherine in it, despite my better attempts, the story has shifted focus a bit. Couple content warnings: there's some sexual content here, as well as a scene with dubious consent. Just a warning in case this is triggering for anybody.
As always, I do not own these characters, Showtime and History do. Big thanks to TrivialQueen and Reganx.
Without further ado, the forty seventh chapter of King Arthur II! Please review and enjoy!
March 21, 1530
"So you favor a French match for Lisbeth?"
It was a clear day, the first day of spring, and Arthur and Anne took advantage of it to stroll during their weekly meeting in the gardens of Hampton Court, while both of their spouses debated matters of taxes and laws at Privy Council. It had become a ritual for them, and this time, little Elizabeth had opted to join them, skipping joyously ahead and picking her favorite flowers, giving them to her uncle and mother. She had been actively involved with the gardener during the winter months, and was excited to see that had taken some of her suggestions to heart, as the first flowers burst from the ground covered in snow just weeks before, a joyous occasion that mirrored the way that the couple at Hampton had been acting.
Anne didn't think she had been this happy since she first married her husband. Each day was like a renewal of the great love that they had felt between them. She felt like nothing could bring her down, now that Henry loved her like he used to, and she did not think the man that had been so solicitous towards her lately would ever dare lay a hand on her again. She knew that it would be foolish to be so trustworthy of a man who had hurt her greatly, but if she did not allow herself to love him as she used to, she did not know what would become of her, her family, or the life she had worked so hard to maintain. She was happy, and she intended to stay that way, even if it meant being naïve.
And now Arthur was going to hopefully, pursue the French match she wanted, hopefully through the means she wanted as well. Clement was dying, there were no qualms about that, and Wolsey was getting his affairs in order to press his suite in Rome, once the Medici Pope passed. Catherine de Medici would not be able to hold to her promise of a dowry, not when Wolsey was Holy Father and would certainly influence the French King to take Elizabeth as a bride for his second son, even if Prince Philip was a tempting carrot dangling in front of her. She needed the King to be behind it, because Henry's wealth would not support Wolsey's ambition, not unless they wished to drain all of their income, something she was not willing to do.
Arthur could invite Francis for a visit, charm him and convince him the rightness of an English match- and how Elizabeth would be the daughter of a King someday, the sister of another, and is currently the beloved niece of great King Arthur, who lacked marriageable pawns after his daughter died, before his brother married. And since Katherine had so heavily favored an Imperial alliance, she knew that Francis would be overjoyed that England was considering them once more, so they would not have to fear the dual threat of the English and Emperor aligning against him.
Katherine was slightly distressed when she told her, but when Anne explained that she would feel so much better sending her daughter to France, where she was familiar with the court and ambassadors, and spoke the language much better. It was not that she disliked the Emperor, and was more than willing to persuade Henry to consider the Infanta Maria as a bride for Edward, but that she wanted to arrange this marriage for Elizabeth. It would bring her comfort about the idea. Katherine's voice softened as she spoke her approval and understanding. Anne could see it in her eyes that she was aware that it was difficult for her- Anne who had never been promised or had to leave the country for marriage, and who married for love and was unaccustomed to the price all royal mothers paid when they gave birth to a princess.
Anne did not tell her about Wolsey, or how deep her involvement went. She did not want to, and she dreaded the day when Katherine discovered her involvement, if they did truly succeed. Maybe she would be able to hide it from her, and maybe Arthur could cover for her, as cowardly as that seemed. Her friendship with Katherine was so important to her, and she did not want to endanger it. Katherine could understand her desire for a French match, but she would not be able to comprehend her vehicle. She did not want Katherine to know that she had been the one making sure Wolsey would become Pope.
"Yes, and I so hoped that you would support it as well. I know the Medici girl stands in the way…but I hear reports from Rome that our dear Cardinal Wolsey stands a good chance of becoming the next Holy Father," Anne remarked, not trying to sound too confident. Better that Arthur come to support Wolsey on his own. She did not truly know Wolsey's odds- but the more confident Arthur was that whatever contribution he made would be put to good use, the more likely he would be to make such a commitment. He should want an English Pope, Anne reasoned to herself. Arthur was a prudent, contempt statesman who did not meddle much in other's affairs and made sure England was a more respected country on his own.
Arthur smirked, amused at her foray into Vatican politics. He knew what she wanted from him, and it pleased him to hopefully see his niece sit on the throne of France- the current Dauphin was not a ruddy young man, nor had his marriage been fruitful, so Arthur would support Wolsey if that's what it took to see his niece secure. Lisbeth need to be locked in her match soon, before the Medici made a play for it. He had discussed the possibility with the French Ambassador already, and he was in favor of replacing Catherine di Medici with Lisbeth for King Francis' second son, provided that she would truly be a Princess of England someday, that her dowry was larger than what the now ailing Pope had promised and that she had no previous contract. Combined with Wolsey's possible election as Pope, therefore ensuring he would not follow through with the dowry agreement in favor of an English match over an Italian one, Arthur was all but confident this would be accomplished.
If it made Anne smile like she was doing currently, he was willing to put the kingdom in debt if it meant seeing this plan of hers succeed. He would have done the same for Katherine, and as King he had made sacrifices to appease his wife and to secure their daughter as heir when she was alive. Now that Anne was in this position, he was eager to see her thrive just as his wife had done. Anne's sons would have no problems securing their matches, but Lisbeth, if she were to go to France, needed a powerful friend sitting on the throne of St. Peter's.
"I've already made plans to ensure Wolsey has enough…resources to make himself Pope, if that's the way it decides to turn," Arthur said with a smile. Anne's glee was apparent, she let out a small scream and she giggled before throwing her hands around his neck and kissing his check.
"Oh Arthur, you are the truest knight I know!" she exclaimed, feeling at peace with everything she had done for the first time since Christmas. Everything seemed to be in place, at last. "And Katherine?" she asked, as an afterthought. She had some reason to be concerned, but perhaps not as much as she had initially thought. Why shouldn't she want to see her niece secure as a possible Queen of France? Especially when the Emperor was also in negotiations to send a Spanish bride for her nephew? If her husband supported this plan, regardless of the means, she was confident Katherine would support it. She was as loyal a queen as any.
Arthur cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable, trying to forget the fight he had with his wife a few nights past. She hated Wolsey, did not trust him, especially after he had supported the York family after their marriage, when things were rocky and in the balance still, before her friendship with Anne. His wife had forgiven Anne easily for whatever slights she had committed before their reconciliation, but Wolsey still stayed unforgiven, untrusted, and most importantly, she did not wish to enter into any more business with him politically. By ensuring his election as Pope, Katherine felt betrayed. He could not say that he was surprised, but he wished that they did not have to fight about it. Quarrels with his wife hardly ever ended well, and since they had been less frequent since her acceptance of Henry as heir, he hoped he could pass into old age with a happy queen at his side.
He could only pray that she never discovered that Anne had been plotting for months to secure him as Pope, instead thinking she only saw the opportunity and seized it- and that it was truly Arthur's idea and that she had only been lending vocal support. He didn't want her to know that the Emperor had pledged the Spanish delegation of cardinals to vote for him because he expressed Katherine wanted it and Lord Edward would enter into a marriage with one of his daughters, and that the French had readily agreed to support him as well, granted that the marriage negotiations with Lisbeth would be the first thing on his agenda. Combined with Arthur's pledge of support of troops for their invasion of Naples (personally he would not engage in the war- just lend his troops), once more, it was almost certainly going to be Wolsey's ring that the Kings (and Queens) of Europe would have to kiss.
But he was a fool to think his wife would stay ignorant of these developments. She had her own spies in Rome and at the Emperor's court. And she had known about Anne because he had stupidly tried to defend himself using Anne as a shield, something he still felt ashamed of, because he had plotted behind his wife's back with the intention of saving Anne the humiliation of answering to his wife- and the last thing he wanted was another rift between these two women.
"It was Anne's idea?! She is a reformer, I am not a fool."
"Wolsey promised that he would leave her unmolested, and arrange the French match for Lisbeth, and be her constant ally. Sure you can understand why she would want that, now, of all things. When she is Queen-"
"I can almost always understand the reasoning of women. It is men that baffle me. I had a powerful relative in Spain, and I can understand why she would want to be friends with the Pope in Rome. I do not understand why it has to be Wolsey, or why you would support it so blindly."
"Because Anne wanted it to be Wolsey!"
"And you made the whole of Christendom support him as Pope. Now we've put a lecher on the throne of St. Peter's- an English lecher. A butcher's son. Bad enough that he is a Cardinal, but when we had him downgraded I thought it was for a purpose. Now you have betrayed my trust."
"I did it for Anne."
"But I was not consulted! Am I not the Queen of England still, or has she taken that from me already?"
They had not spoken in a few days, nor had they shared a bed. When he went to say goodbye to her before he left for Hampton, her guards had told her that she had already gone to the Privy Council meeting. Yet, he knew that telling Anne that going through with her plan had caused a wrench in his own marriage would make her feel terrible, so he had decided to say nothing.
"She is eagerly awaiting the decision from the conclave, as I am," he lied, smiling when she skipped ahead and swung her daughter in the air. "And Elizabeth shall be a Princess of France!" he exclaimed, not able to stop his joy when he saw the little girl and the woman in front of him beam- like he once used to make his wife and daughter do. He knew that whatever qualms Katherine had would be squashed once the marriage went through and Anne's beaming face would convince her of the rightness of what he had done. They would not be around forever to protect her from Henry, but if she had powerful friends, they could be secure about leaving her with her husband.
Her blind hatred of Wolsey would always be second to Anne's happiness.
"I cannot wait to go on progress this summer with you and the Queen, so I can have as many opportunities as possible to thank you for my good fortune, at long last," Anne exclaimed, kissing Lisbeth's pale forehead and allowing her to whisper in her ear. "And your niece says thank you as well," Anne said, leaning to kiss Arthur chastely. Sometimes she wondered what it would have been like if a man like Arthur had been the father of her children- if Henry was more like him. Surely her children might not have been as healthy, or as energetic, but perhaps they would have been happier. Since their reconciliation, she had tried not to dwell so much on those questions, knowing that God made the Tudor brothers the way they were for a purpose, but in moments like this, when Arthur trusted her without question and did what she asked him to do; she wished it could have all been different and she envied Katherine more than she should.
"I have something else for you, speaking of progress," Arthur began and Anne turned and looked at him, incredulous. What else could he possibly do for her? Her shock was apparent at his next words. "I have given you Richmond. My mother has forfeited it gladly and I know that you will take good care of it, and I'd like you to have a London residence. I have also given you the Suffolk estates and I have decided to make your father a Duke, your brother a Knight of the Garter and an Earl by your father's secondary title, and I have decided to ennoble your sister's husband as a Baron."
He was also going to make his nephew, Edward Brandon, the Earl of Lincoln, but that was more of a slight to Henry for suggesting that Brandon should be ennobled himself- he was bypassing the hope of Charles having a title while he was alive by giving one to his son, so nobody could accuse him of mistreating his nephew. He did not want to hurt Anne with the knowledge that Henry dared to make the suggestion to ennoble his mistress' bridegroom, in case she asked his reasoning. He knew Anne would be thrilled by that too, in any case- she dotted on his sister Mary's children as if they were part of her own brood, and he had always admired the way that she fearlessly took on the task of the guardianship of the Brandon children. But he was not her immediate family, so he did not think it was relevant at the moment.
In one stroke, he had declared her one of the richest women in the kingdom, independent of her husband, and had raised her family to the peerage as one of the noblest English families. He had created a royal, rich and powerful family around her. "Are you an angel?" she asked out loud, setting her daughter down, and running into his arms. "I swear in all of my years I never imagined this would be the product of my marriage," she professed, wishing she could thank him in some way. "I will host May Day at my new palace at Richmond!"
"It shall be the first stop on our progress. I cannot wait to see how Anne Boleyn transforms my father's dreary fortress into the most exciting London palace," Arthur predicated. Her smile was dazzling, and he was happy that all of the formal business had been taken care of, allowing his niece to lead him down the mass maze of gardens at Hampton Court, smiling when she handed him a Tudor rose, the first one the gardener had managed to grow. Lisbeth had been talking about it all year, and he was pleased that it appeared as perfect as the Tudor rose could be- his mother would like it in any case, more white than red, which meant his grandmother would have hated it, all the more reason to smile. He placed the rose in Lisbeth's hair.
"A Tudor rose for the rose of our House," Arthur expressed, kissing his niece, the girl he now considered to be his daughter, after all the hours spent at Hampton Court. It no longer hurt to love her as he did Mary, so he did it freely, and gladly.
"And now all we must do is wait till summer, then? For the death of Pope Clement and the election of Cardinal Wolsey? For the announcement of my daughter's marriage?" Anne asked, hard to believe that this was finally going to happen. Since Henry had abused her she had plotted to make sure she and her children would be safe when she became Queen, and now that her marriage was back to where it used to be more or less, and the King had helped her so much, and she finally felt safe, so she could enjoy the spring weather, the roses growing in the garden, her daughter's laugh and her son's first rides on his new pony.
"This shall be your summer, my darling sister. And you deserve it. For now, we have these Tudor roses to content ourselves with, and the dawning of a new age."
"I have just spent the past hour going through the garden with Lisbeth and my mother; they would not let me escape to spend the afternoon with my wife. I am surrounded by too many women!"
Anne giggled as she felt strong hands around her waist, and she turned to meet her husband's lips. She felt his hands on her laces almost immediately and she blushed scarlet red, all of her ladies were still in the room and it felt uncomfortable to have them watching- a thing she had never quite felt at ease with. She put her hands over her laces and tried to still him, trying not to note the disappointment on his face. "I can hardly believe a man like you would complain of too many women," Anne slyly responded, leading him over to her desk, ignoring his lips now pressing on her breasts, grateful for her sister shooing the women out of her room.
"Oh Anne, I've been thinking about you all day. I could take you right here," he said, pulling up her skirts and bending her over her desk, his hands pulling down her stays. She glanced nervously at the door as all of the ladies hustled out of the room, and allowed herself to relax and kiss her husband.
Since they had reunited intimately, Jane Seymour had stayed in Wolf Hall. The wedding was in a month, and Henry had decided it would be best if they attended but it did not have to be at court, but at her family's estate, as they agreed to host the wedding and welcome Brandon and the York family. It did not sound like an amusing venture for her, but it would be right before the royal court's summer progress, and it would show that Jane Seymour did accomplish a defeat over her marriage, and that she could attend her husband's cast of mistress wedding with a light heart. It was simply the wedding of her brother-in-law, to a woman of the court whose family had rose to prominence. She knew it was no ordinary circumstance, but the more she thought of it as Brandon's wedding and less of Jane's, the better she would feel about going.
And the better she felt kissing her husband, as he bent her over a desk in the middle of the day.
Then he stopped and she didn't even notice, too lost in her own thoughts. And she was genuinely surprised when the next words came out of his mouth, and the tone he took made her immediately recoil from his body, even as he was still reclined on top of her, and that familiar feeling of fear came back to her. "Did my mother deed you Richmond for some purpose?" he asked, with calm, measured, worried tones. She felt his body tense though, and she wanted to run away from underneath him, but she was frozen with fear, though she wasn't sure why he would be so upset about her receiving Richmond.
Katherine and Elizabeth had always had their own properties and Henry had always wanted her to be recognized, honored and feted like a Queen in waiting, or as if she was Queen already. While the Princess of Wales was still alive, Henry had demanded respect as if he were going to be King and not his niece, so surely he all of all people should understand why she had been given royal properties. She was sure that Arthur had simply wanted her to be treated with respect, in the wake of the scandal her own husband had caused. There could be no doubt in her position, even as her daughter and son's marriage negotiations had begun, no woman or her family should think that they could wedge their way in the York marriage. When she became Queen, nobody should question her position in the eyes of her husband.
"No. Arthur gave it to me. He wanted me to have a London residence," Anne explained, trying to sound confident even though she could sense her own hesitance. Henry dislodged himself from on top of her and began to pace the length of the room. Anne could tell, from years of marriage that he was trying to contain his anger towards her. He had been so solicitous of her as of late that she knew he was trying to keep their marriage harmonious, but she could all see his knuckles whiten, and she had reason to be concerned. "What is the matter?" she asked, trying to get him to look at her again and see that she was innocent of any plot against him. She tried to keep her own fear in check as well, trying to believe that he would not strike her again.
"What have you and Arthur been conspiring about lately?" Henry sneered. "You meet with him weekly, take our children out on walks with him, all while I run his damn kingdom with his damn wife from Whitehall and think about you parading around Hampton with my superior brother, doing whatever you wish," he explained, as if his feelings had all come rushing out at once. He had noticed though, how more content she had been lately, and he loved how she would come to him at night, open for the first time in months. He had hoped she would be with child soon, that they could welcome another member into their growing family and feel as wonderful as they always did after they had a new child.
But she was always with Arthur during the day, and she and Lisbeth had continued to wear their matching diamonds almost daily, that he wished he could have said he gifted. He had heard a few courtiers remark that the King and the Duchess of York were remarkably close, and that it was so wonderful to see the flowers of the Tudor dynasty constantly together, securing the next generation. One time, he had heard from Brandon, that Anne and Arthur had paraded Lisbeth and Edward through court, with his mother in tow, and the five of them handed out alms, looking as if they were a family, while he and Katherine- with the help of Chancellor More of course- negotiated peace with Low Countries for another year. If Katherine was jealous, she never let onto it, even if Henry brought it up.
At least he and the Queen had been getting on better as of late, and they were both shocked when Arthur came to the Privy Council meeting one day and announced his intention to support Wolsey's ambition for the papacy. But Katherine, the wonderful Queen she was, made sure to get Wolsey elected, even as she gritted her teeth. Henry was glad to see his former tutor in line for the chair of St. Peter's, since he was sure if it stayed that way while he was King he would have the support of Rome, but he knew Katherine hated Wolsey, and he was amazed that she had worked so hard on the King's seemingly random request, until the pieces placed together in his head. Anne had been working with Arthur to make sure Wolsey was Pope- that's why they had been together constantly at court, and why she walked with Arthur in the garden all of the time.
But why did she not inform him? Why did she do it behind his back? Why did she go to Arthur at not him? It was an ambition they could have shared, but instead it didn't feel like he had anything to do with it.
There were other signs, too, that perhaps his wife had become too close to his brother. She was writing him all of the time; she had appointed her own Secretary to make sure the letters were well-written and got to him in a timely matter. Sometimes he had come to her room to surprise he for supper, and she was alone with him, sometimes with their daughter in attendance and sometimes the two of them, giggling as if they were the oldest of friends- or even worse, their shoulders were pressed together over a map or a treaty or some other document that had them so enthralled that they did not even notice his entrance. Once, it would have thrilled him that his brother loved his wife like a sister, but now he thought that perhaps their relationship stretched the bonds of family and entered into something else entirely, beyond innocent friendship.
Arthur was who she shared her worries, her fears, her hopes and her ambitions with- either for her own reign or for their children's futures. It was he who she went to for advice on how to act as if she were born royalty and not thrust into it. She turned to Henry for passion and for hunting and riding and the more exciting things, but her innermost self seemed completely closed off to him now and he was not sure if he would ever be able to tap into it again. If she was going to continue to punish him for Jane and for his small act of violence against her then he was not going to tolerate it any longer! She was his wife, and he demanded her love and respect- regardless of she wished him more like his brother or not.
"We have been doing nothing! He just wants me to be a true royal lady, that's all. He is going to ennoble my father and brother-in-law and make George a Knight of the Garter! He is just trying to make me more comfortable in my role, my love, that is all! It is an act of kindness," Anne soothed. She felt as though Arthur was finally giving her the acknowledgement that she was truly his sister- that she was to be Queen after Katherine- a tall order, after all that she knew Katherine had done! And Katherine had taken such a drastic role in the affairs of the kingdom since Arthur's recent bout with illness that she could not come to visit her as much anymore, and she was so grateful to Arthur for coming so often, to make sure she would be prepared for the grand undertaking in the next stage of her life.
She had hoped Henry would not read any more into it than that, even though if she was honest with herself, Arthur had filled a void in her that she thought she had lost when Henry raised his hand to her- even before that, when he had appointed Jane Seymour as her lady. He made her feel safe, and wanted, at once filling the role of Henry and George, the roles that they had once served so wonderfully and then so quickly were willing to abandon. Arthur was the most powerful man in the kingdom, and he wanted her to be safe and happy. That thought was so empowering that she had leaned on him for support when she knew that Henry could betray her so quickly, exploit her love so fiercely that she was so afraid of letting him into her life in that deep of a manner again. Arthur felt so secure, so she let herself fall.
Henry continued to angrily flip through the papers lying on her desk, the royal deeds she had been so lovingly given by Arthur, and she wanted to cry out to tell him to stop, but instead she just tensely reclined on her couch and waited for him to continue. She gripped the edge of the couch and closed her eyes, willing herself to be anywhere else but there. "And the Suffolk estates?!" he questioned angrily, shaking her. "Answer me! What are you doing with my brother?"
"Nothing!" she screamed back at him, shrugging off his grasp as she felt her breathing grow labored. "Don't spoil the progress we've made in our marriage bed, Henry my darling, please. Nothing is happening between the King and I. Nothing improper."
"Are you trying to leave me and this court to relocate yourself at Richmond, gathering money from the duchy of Suffolk to fund your expenses? Are you conspiring to leave me with my brother? Is he giving you royal protection? Because if you try and leave me you will never see your children again, I will make sure of it!" he exclaimed, throwing the papers to the ground. "I am your lord and husband! He may be your King but you are not a fool, Anne, he will only be King for a few more years and then it will be me, and I will not make this easy for you, Madam! You will be stripped of your estate and your palaces and of privileges with our children. You will be Queen in name only."
It added insult to injury that Arthur had dared to gift Anne with the Suffolk estates when he had so eagerly beseeched Arthur to ennoble Brandon with that title. His anger swelled at the idea of his wife and brother conspiring behind his back, snickering at him, making fun of his own requests and undermining them. And Anne of all people knew how he felt about being overshadowed in such a way! She should not let her desire to do injury to his mistress cloud her judgment and favor Arthur over him, not when she knew the consequences of such a behavior, and how it would make him feel.
"Please! Don't take my children away from me, I have done nothing wrong!" she protested, feeling her tears begin to fall. She had no idea what to say to him. There was nothing left to defend herself against- she was sure that Arthur wanted her to have a London residence in case Henry did abuse her again physically so she could leave him- and even though she was afraid of his screaming, she felt her body recoil at the idea of him hitting her again, and she felt herself tense. Perhaps the royal status was a cover for her having her own wealth and perhaps she had been too comfortable with the King, and given herself to him in a way that she had closed off from her husband- but she did not imagine that Henry would be this upset, that he would be willing to take her children from her all for accepting royal gifts. She felt like vomiting and crying but she felt frozen.
"You will return these deeds to my brother and be a loyal wife to me once more, before I begin to think that perhaps you are his mistress," Henry suggested darkly. "My mother keeps me informed of how often he is here, even she remarked to me that you two were far too close for married, noble, and virtuous persons to be behaving, no matter your relation to each other. I will not have my own wife make me a cuckold with my brother, and look for his features in our children!"
His mother had not overtly said that she thought that there was some kind of impropriety- to his dismay; she also seemed pleased that Arthur was at Hampton Court more than he used to be. But she had expressed hesitation that it perhaps would look suspicious to the rest of the courtiers, that Arthur was neglecting his duties as King, and spending too much time playing in the nursery with their children. She did not seem unduly concerned about Anne's role in everything, but that's all he could think about when his mother brought it up with him when they were alone (a rarer occasion since he had hurt Anne and one he treasured all the more because of it). But he was willing to shame her out of her this relationship he found all the more distressing, and he knew that invoking his mother's disapproval would put more pressure on her to end the relationship with Arthur.
She did not want to address the claim of a sexual relationship because that did not seem legitimate or fair, and she would not give it any more credence by confirming or denying it. "Arthur is King, Henry; I will not refuse his gifts to me, to us. They are mine! I have nothing of my own and he wanted to make sure I was taken care of…"
"As if I do not give you enough to live on! You are the finest dressed woman in the kingdom and our children want for nothing! How dare he allege you are not kept in the best of condition?" Henry protested, disgusted at his brother and wife's presumption. If Anne needed more money for her allowance, he would have gladly given it to her. Instead, there was secret dealings that he was not privy to, and his wife going behind his back to secure her own wealth, her own protection. She said she had forgiven him but she clearly did not trust him, if she was willing to accept gifts from his brother and walk with him and share so much of herself with him.
"I promise you, on the life of my most beloved children, that I have no dishonored you, or the great title that I have married into, by behaving improperly with the King. I love you, and this family, too much to compromise it this way. But I will not return his gifts to me, not when he has been so kind. Henry, please," she begged, hating the way her voice sounded, how weak she had all of the sudden become. She had felt so strong, so secure, for the first time in a long time, and now she felt it all crumble inside of her, by the simple act of cruelty her husband had employed. Months of progress within herself, gone in a single moment of distrust.
But she felt like a fool too, worst of all. She felt like such a fool for parading around court with the King as if they were married, as if she was the first lady in his life, while the Queen, her dearest friend, and her husband, the only man she loved, labored away at making England into the great country she hoped to inherit. She loved the King, not romantically, but truly as a brother, since she had not spoken to George lately- he was so cold with her and blamed her for his barren marriage and the way she had scolded him for Mark Smeaton- and she did not think any harm would come of it. She had felt safe for the first time since she watched her marriage crumble in front of her- she was not willing to sacrifice that for some imagined slight, and she would not allow Henry to do this to her again, to make her feel foolish for being a woman who wanted to be loved and respected. To make her feel like she had stuck cuckold horns on his head when all she had done is take advice from his royal brother- the King of England still.
What frightened her so much is the prospect of him not being King of England forever. That she would have to forge out in the world alone, friendless, and now she had feared she had isolated Katherine and Elizabeth. She was truly not trying to be arrogant, or think herself above the rank that she had been granted, but she wanted to make Henry and Arthur proud, and she wanted her children to be secure before she had to rely on her husband's diplomacy alone. She still loved her husband, desired him above every man living, and was happy with the strides they had made in their marriage. But to say that she trusted him completely would be to lie to herself- her façade had worked for Henry, and for their children, and even for Elizabeth, but she did not want to have to pretend around every person in her life that her marriage was the same was it was before Henry betrayed her and hurt her.
Perhaps she should have shut herself away and waited for the time when her husband had been King- that is what she had intended to do, in any case, when she had first married Henry. She did not want to think herself above her station or try and become Queen before Katherine's time was up. She was a commoner thrust into the role of Duchess of York, and all she wanted to do was be a royal duchess and to love the man that she knew was the one God intended her to be with. She wanted to raise her children and dance at court and laugh with Henry, with George, with her sister Mary, with Katherine and Elizabeth- that's all she had wanted out of life, out of her time before she had become the Queen of England.
But when she felt unsafe and her future compromised, she had to take action, and she needed Arthur's support. She would not let Henry make her feel guilty about that, not after everything he had done to make her feel so helpless and frightened. Not when he had been the one that forced her to go to the King, and to disobey her father and conspire with Wolsey, and combined her father and husband had driven her out of the public eye and into the arms of her children more than ever before. He had forced her to look less favorably upon him, and she hated how stupid he was making her feel.
"You will give them back the gifts, all of them, and you will ask Arthur to ennoble Charles as the Duke of Suffolk instead of taking the lands selfishly for yourself, or you will stay the rest of progress at your new fine house at Richmond, receiving no visitors," Henry calmly threatened.
"No." That's all she said. She would not accept those conditions, either way, nor would she be threatened by him. She felt her rage come back, the fear being shoved aside. "I will not make your whore a duchess. Bad enough she's marrying Charles, my dear friend and dishonoring Mary's memory!"
Then, it hit her. She was a fool for not realizing before what he had been playing at. His real anger was not towards her, but towards Arthur, but he was not able to take it out on him, so he lashed out at her, because they were friends now. Because Arthur did not make Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk, and would not endorse make Jane Seymour a member of the peerage by marriage because he was protecting her further. He protected her from Katherine being upset about Wolsey, and he protected her from Henry's cruelty. She would not betray what he had done for her, not when her husband proved to be so faithless. She felt truly alone, once again, but she would do what was right for herself. She could not spare the feelings of anybody else any longer, or worry about her own position. This had become immensely personal.
"It's got nothing to do with her! It has to do with us, and our marriage, you cannot hide behind my misdeeds anymore!" Henry fired back, moving closer. Anne grabbed her deeds in one hand and held them to her chest, like she was a solider reaching for her shield. She smiled slowly at him; her eyes alight with fake mirth. She felt despair inside but she would see this through.
"You will have to kill me to get me to return them. Lock me up in Richmond and starve me. But I will not disobey my King, who I am bound by God to serve above all else, including my husband. I will die in service of this, and to see to it that whore Jane is not rewarded for slipping her way into my marriage, because that is what His Majesty has commanded of me," Anne calmly rationalized, still clutching the parchment to her chest. "I am a mere Duchess, your grace; I cannot think myself above Kings."
"Damn you!" he screamed, reaching for the deeds and ripping them in half. "You are a fool, Anne, a blind fool. And you have thrown away our marriage all because of your pride and arrogance, because you tried to make yourself Queen alongside a King you never married!"
"You ruined this marriage the moment you left my bed for that of another. You are upset that you cannot strike out against your brother because he remains King for as long as he breathes, and you wanted him dead when he was sixteen, but stubbornly he survived, and now he advises the wife whose love you tossed aside," Anne stated neutrally, not even reacting when he ripped up her fortune in his hands. The paper was a formality, the land, the palace, it was all hers. And while Arthur was alive she would make herself so popular that if Henry dared to mistreat her, no amount of convincing would make them love him, the love that he always craved since he was born.
If Henry would not accept the attempt she had made to secure herself privately, then she would do it publically. She was the one who handed out the alms, she was the one who had given the people their heirs, and she was the one whom the King and Queen and the Dowager all adored. She would make sure Henry needed her, even if she would no longer be in his heart. She still loved him, but she no longer could trust him, not after he flung into a rage around her because of the kindness of his brother.
Even if it meant a few years without her children, or without the luxuries she enjoyed. She would make sure that she was the Duchess of everybody's heart, and that everybody knew what poor state she was kept in. She would make sure that all of his threats became meaningless, if he would continue to hurl them at her so casually- that if every time she did something that made her feel an ounce of joy would make Henry hate her just that much more. She would guard herself against that, and find some happiness there, even if her marriage crumbled into the dust.
Arthur was not going to die yet, his health had improved since he had shrugged off his responsibilities a bit, and he could see to it that Henry be disinherited, he had said so himself- her son could be King, and if he loved his mother more than his father, she knew that she would not be mistreated forever. Her children were the future, and she had spent enough time with them for them to love her above all others.
Curiously, she wondered if this is what Elizabeth felt like when her husband told her that she could not spend time with her children because she might influence them in Yorkist ways. Powerless, but unlike her, perhaps Elizabeth had the good sense to give up and work her way back into the good will of those men who controlled her life. Anne was not willing to set aside what she knew was her right because her husband had suddenly turned into a spiteful excuse for the man she fell in love with. Her love of him clung to her like a desperate stray dog in the streets of London, it still made her feel human when she would cry for him at night when they were estranged, and she was sure that if this did not get resolved she would feel the same way for quite a long time, and perhaps she would turn into a bitter old woman. But she would be the Queen of England, monarchs and Popes would know her and court her, and her children would know her and love her- she had worked too hard for it to be any other way and maybe she should not have expected her husband's love forever.
To her surprise, he looked hurt. Angry, still, but he also looked like she had just struck him. "I did not toss aside our love. I came in here this afternoon with the full intention of making love to you all afternoon, and praying tonight for another child to quicken in your womb. I had hoped we could spend time walking in the garden and riding through England together this summer, so that everybody would know and love us as their future King and Queen," he began, but he did not soften like he usually did. He still looked hurt, but it was a murderous type of hurt, the same he had seen when Arthur had publically revoked him at Christmas the day after he struck her. She kept the hard look on her face, because she did not trust his emotions. "I love you but I can destroy you if you undermine me. I will be King, someday, and you will be my Queen. I will publically shame you as the slut you have proven yourself to be unless you turn away from my brother and back into my arms, and love me like a true wife should. Your children will hate you because they will think you betrayed their father with their uncle. Not even our new Pope Wolsey will be able to save you if I wish to set you aside then."
She felt like crying, and screaming, and beating her fists against him until they turned bloody, but she kept staring at him. "Nobody would believe you. Arthur loves Katherine, and has stayed true to her. Nobody would believe your filth. And you forget, husband, that Kings have power above mere Dukes. If you try to set me aside, I know of a few things he could do to make sure that you aren't the King," she fought back, afraid, but she knew that if this was how spiteful her husband proved to be she had to fight back, she had to put some kind of doubt in his head.
"Edward? You would put me aside for our son? Or is it his son? He does look more Boleyn than Tudor."
"My son will not be a boy forever, your grace. And your brother is not yet dead. Sick men have known to live longer than healthy, virile man. God has ordained stranger occurrences."
"Are you threatening my life, Anne? Do you hate me that much?" Henry asked, wishing to shake her, or hit her humanity back into her, to realize how badly she had made him feel. He never intended for it to get this sour so quickly, but he was hurt, and she needed to be reminded that he was her husband, and that she should not think herself so far above him as to do things without consulting him. Perhaps he should have been gentler, but clearly, Anne knew how to fight as fiercely as any man, and he need not treat her gently as a normal woman would have needed.
"No! That's the problem! I love you, Henry, I love you more than I should, more than most women who husbands treat them this way would! I love our children, I love our home, and I love the evenings we spend together! But you have wounded me, beyond what I thought any man capable of, and I have the cruelest father that I know of. You have stripped me of my security and of my capability to trust ever again, and now you call me a slut and threaten me with isolation all because I wanted to make our friend Pope and become friends with the King of England!" she ranted, her breath running out towards the end, and she felt herself collapse onto the floor.
He did not move to help her, but instead stared down at her. "You know it is more than that. You love him more than you should. And you want to make Wolsey Pope because you are afraid of me, and you want our daughter to be Queen of France someday for the same reason. And you wanted Arthur's friendship so he'd give you a London residence to retreat to if I turned to another woman, or if I hit you again, even when you came to me so sweetly and whispered those tender words of forgiveness."
"And you came in here and told me that I could not something of my own. That I had to be your wife and that was where everything came from- never mind your mother and the Queen's own wealth. You want me all to yourself, just like you want everything else, and when your brother dared to reach out to me, it awoke the ugliest part of you that I never wished to see," she replied, all of the anger deflated out of her. He could have beaten her to a pulp and she would not have moved. She was a prisoner in her marriage now, if she could not even accepted gifts from the King of England without incurring wrath on her head.
Henry sighed, and was willing to admit he had been somewhat foolish, though he felt no tenderness towards her, like after he did when he had struck her at Christmas. She did trust Arthur above him, and that was something he could not forgive, not after all he had done to ensure that she felt happy again with him. "You do not have to return those gifts, it would incur the wrath of Arthur on me again and I do not wish for that, but if you use them against me with ill intent, I swear to God I will never forgive you," he compromised, but she did not even smile at him, or acknowledge him. "If you so much as ask my brother to visit here again without asking my permission, or if you hire a secretary or another official position without asking me, or if you humiliate me again in front of the Privy Council by conspiring with Popes and Kings without consulting me, I will move our children so far away from here and you will never see them, unless you request permission days in advance and take an escort. You want Arthur's friendship, if you want to play politics and make your faction; this is the price you must pay. I am your husband, it's time you start acting like my wife."
"Your brother is twice the man you are. I will continue to say that to you until you turn into my sweet Henry again, instead of the jealous, insecure man that you have become once you saw the throne in your sights. And I will never forgive you for today until you love me as you used to- because this is not love, Henry, this is not what we promised when we wed," Anne protested.
She flinched when he reached down and stroked her cheek, and she accepted his outstretched hand, even though she feared his pain. Yet, he did not even shout, or look upset or angry. He looked like he had finally figured out what was happening, even if his next words were filled with warning. "I always knew I was born to be above my brother, I have always known God intended me to be King, which is why he has given my brother no issue and allowed to the line to continue through our children. I married you because I thought you saw this in me, but you clearly have been led astray. You will find your way back to me, or you will not enjoy my tenderness or love," Henry stated, before walking away, picking up the deeds and throwing them in her burning fire before he walked out.
She did not even wait for him to leave before she burst into hysterical weeping, and she did not even feel her sister grab her arm and lead her to bed, and finish undoing the laces that Henry had begun in passion.
Despite the careful work of the past two months, she had forgotten that Henry was her husband, and all she had would be taken away from her if she dared to act out of step with him. She just never thought she would have to worry about these things, because when she married her husband, it was with the assurance that their hearts and minds moved as one.
She felt like she had begun to share her bed and heart with a complete stranger, and that she would never get her husband back. She felt like the fool who dreamt of marrying a rich, royal husband for love, without realizing what kind of man he truly was before the ring had bound her forever.
"Mary, I wish to speak with George. I need my siblings now." Mary nodded wordlessly and rocked her back and forth, as if she were a child again.
The bundle of Tudor roses stabbed at his arm, and by the time he reached Katherine's room, he frowned, noticing that his doublet had holes ripped in them. He remembered when he commissioned this to be made for his tenth year celebration of being King, and he remembered Katherine's matching gown. She did not fit in it anymore, as she was pregnant at the time, but he smiled every time his groom dressed him in this doublet, because he remembered how his wife glowed so brightly in both of their splendor.
Mary had still been alive, of course, and that made each day brighter. Their life had been so dark for so long after that, it didn't feel right to wear this doublet, until Katherine and Anne had become friends. Katherine had a daughter again, and he had made a great friend through his brother's marriage. So he could wear kingly gold again, and look less like his father used to in his last years as King.
He had let himself be blinded by Anne's dazzling smile of happiness, which had been far too rare. She wanted Wolsey to be Pope, and he was hopefully going to make it happen, never mind Katherine's rightful distrust of Wolsey. She wanted a French match for Lisbeth, never mind Katherine's hopes for Prince Phillip and Lisbeth. She could have wanted the entire world and he would have given it to her, because it hurt him so badly to see a woman in so much pain.
He was far too young when his father used to abuse his mother to do much about it. Mostly it was his grandmother's influence, but his mother was a York princess come into a match with a man who was less royal than her entire line, who her family called a pretender her entire life. She could have been the Queen of England in her own right, but instead she was arranged to marry a man she had never met, who was deeply paranoid and cold. His mother had lost her brothers, her father, her uncles, and her mother to a war between cousins- and she had lived a hard life and bore many children for her new dynasty, which had usurped the one she was raised in. She was met with distrust and with disappointment. His father may have loved his mother, but Arthur knew that his mother loved his father out of desperation, out of a desire to belong somewhere when her life had been ripped from her. The only time her mother was truly allowed to be happy was when he had become King- and he was happy that he had rescued her from her misery and given her everything she desired and deserved, even if Henry had always been her favorite son.
Anne reminded him of his mother, in some small ways. She was more like Katherine in spirit, which is probably why Henry had loved her in the first place, and which had pleased Arthur as well. But she was in deep suffering when her husband left her bed for another woman's- a lesser woman, who threatened to destroy the marriage that she had created for herself. She was a novelty- she had married for love but was more miserable than some arranged unions he knew of, including his own. Like his mother, she had become trapped- except now; Arthur was King, not his father, and not his brother- yet.
He would not stand idly by and watch another tyrant destroy the life of a woman who had come to love, respect and admire- the mother of the future monarchs of the Tudor dynasty. If Henry would not see sense, he wanted to protect her. Her happy smile was all the reward he needed, it felt like atonement for his years as the Prince of Wales, having to watch as his dearest, gentle mother was abused by a family that she could not fight against.
He had not bothered to explain that to Katherine, because foolishly, he thought she might understand. Anne was another solution for her- a solution to the loss of her daughter and the loss of control for the future would hold. Katherine was disappointed that she had not created a Spanish/English King to rule over England and ally with her family when she was gone, because his dear wife had been raised for that exact duty. He wished that he could have given her that satisfaction, he hated that she had to content herself with his brother's wife and not her own son. But because she had done that, he thought she would understand when he began to visit Anne more, and began to bend to her whims.
Perhaps he had gone too far with his chivalrous quest. He had to make amends, because regardless of how much time he had spent with Anne and her children lately, Katherine was his home and his heart. Any pain he caused her was a failure on his part.
Maria dare not refuse him entrance, even if he could tell she wanted to.
"Your majesty, the King is here," she announced, and Arthur dismissed her with a wave of his hand, even though if he had turned around he would have seen her grimace.
Katherine set down her needlework, a new gown for baby William, and curtsied deeply and gracefully to him. "Your majesty, an unexpected pleasure," she replied, her face morphed into a smile that did not reach her eyes.
"I brought these from Hampton Court for you. The first bloom of Tudor roses, from our niece Elizabeth," he presented, handing them to her and enveloping her into a deep kiss, releasing the twist from her hair, not even noticing when the flowers hit the ground with a quiet thud. Katherine's mouth was cold, though, and he pulled away from her immediately. "How long do you intend to keep this silence?"
"You went behind my back. I love that you are making Anne feel safe in her new role, but making Popes without consulting me? I know you are King and may do as you please, but you put me in this position of immense power in your council and I feel so foolish each time you do this to me. And you know Wolsey is a serpent…"
"Better he be in Rome, then," he interrupted, despite her look of annoyance. "I am truly sorry, you are my Queen and I should have told you first before I announced it. I just wanted to make her happy."
"She is not yours, though, and you cannot just simply make her happy," Katherine replied, trying to keep the note of jealously out of her voice. Despite all the years they had been married, she knew how men could be, especially powerful men. Anne was beautiful, and was the mother of his dynasty, not her, despite all of her attempts. She would never feel secure when there was a woman fourteen years younger than her making overtures towards her husband and exercising just as much influence over him. Bad enough that they did not see each other as much anymore, she hated the thought of him lusting after his sister-in-law, even if he did not necessarily know that was what he was doing. She feared his subconscious response to Anne's charms.
"God in heaven, never. I have one wife, that is enough for me," he replied with a smile. "Truly, Katherine, I will never love anybody as I love you. Anne is a sister to me, and part of our family. It is our job to protect her. I have failed to make Henry into a suitable heir, though I am resolved to keep trying. But you are truly the Queen of England and no woman, regardless of her title or status will ever overshadow how much I trust, admire and love you."
"Anne is wise, though, is she not? And young and beautiful, with three children in the nursery. Tudor children. Forgive me for being suspicious of the time you are spending with her, it is a lot of time, Arthur. And then she makes Popes with you, when you know how fun of a diversion that would have been for me."
"She is clever and becoming politically shrewd, but she is not a witch, because only a witch could take me out of your arms, or stop me from taking your wise consul," he replied, attempting to kiss her again. This time, her mouth opened and accepted the invitation, and she stroked his arm tenderly when he released her. "I am sorry if I have made you feel unloved."
"How do you intend to fix this slight, my lord?"
"I could think of a penance or two."
It was a beautiful gown.
Each time the seamstress had come to cut more parts of it off, and sew more beading on it, she had demanded to try it on. Sometimes she would close her eyes and Henry would be there, dancing with her in the great hall at Hampton Court and all eyes would be on her, and they would remark how beautiful she looked. But when she would open them, she would see a plain girl staring back at her, and a gown that did not look like one that a Duchess would wear. It looked like the gown of a woman who was marrying a plain gentleman.
Then she would demand that they unlace her.
Her sister had held her as she cried when she had come back from the court the first time, after Henry had ended their relationship, and told her that Charles Brandon was the best match she could have asked for. Despite not being part of the peerage, he was the best friend of the Duke of York and likely to be in high favor once the Duke became King. She suggested that she would have beautiful children with him, live in splendor at Hampton Court, and be a grand lady. Maybe, Lizzie whispered one night in the dark, he would even come to love her. He was so handsome and dashing, it was like he was a prince already and after all, he had married the Princess Mary and saved her from a life of unhappiness, so he was clearly chivalrous and brave.
Lizzie had tried to make it like a fairy tale, and Tom rode out with her each day she had been stuck at Wolf Hall making ready for her nuptials that he was so grateful to her for making Brandon his brother-in-law. Already he had sent Edward and Tom gifts and tokens of friendship, and he had sent Jane a beautiful necklace that he asked she wear at their wedding. She knew that she was making a great match for her family, and that she should smile.
But then they made her try on the damn gown once, and she tried to make it better by putting it on each day, but each day it just made it worse and worse, even after she met his children and already loved them. Anne had come in and been kind, but Jane was just reminded that she would always be a guest in her children's life, that her actions would be dictated by the Duchess of York, even after she was dismissed from her household, and for that Jane would always hate her. That her children by Brandon would have to bow and curtsey to their mistress, if her children were lucky enough to share the quarters with their royal half-siblings. Each time she tried on her gown, she was reminded that she was thwarted by the man she loved, and was forced to be married off like the castaway mistress she now knew herself to be.
At least for a while her family treated her like she was special; like she had done some great service for them and that they were grateful. Today, her father had come in the room after she put the gown, before she would demand to take it off like it was her new routine, and Jane expected him to tell her how beautiful she looked, like one of her brothers or her father did each time she tried on her gown, to keep her from her apparent misery. But today her father looked concerned and upset, and Jane turned sharply to face him. What could possibly have gone awry now, now that everything had already been ruined for her?
"The Duke of York is here to see you, Jane," her father remarked, unable to hide the surprise and dismay from his voice. Jane knew that her father had disapproved of the length of the affair, and that he wanted to protect her virtue. She felt immediately guilty for how much pain this entire thing had caused her father, event though it had thrilled her brothers. But her guilt was replaced with elation, had he finally come to pay a visit to her, to tell her that her nuptials could take place at court and that she could go with them on progress?
Sometimes at night she would dream that he would come bursting into her chamber at Wolf Hall and express to her his love and devotion, and tell her that he was setting aside Anne with the blessing of his family, because he needed her to be his Duchess. She did not pretend like this is why he had come today, however. She knew that the Duchess of York was at the peak of her favor, but perhaps he had relented on her request and have her wedding take place under the height of royal favor, instead of be hidden away in the country like some shameful secret.
She demanded the seamstress undress her and she called for Lizzie to fetch her new green gown that she had intended on wearing when Charles Brandon was planning on coming in a few weeks to dine and sleep the night before the wedding. She was sure her family would have another one made for her if it meant that she wear her finest gown in reception of the family's greatest royal friend.
She rushed into the great hall of her family's home and did not even waste time with a curtsey, instead threw herself into his arms like they were the oldest of friends. "Henry," she whispered in his ear, and when she released him was when she saw the dark look on his face, though it was not intended towards her, that much she could tell. She turned around with glee written all over her face, but it was wiped clean when she saw the stern look of her male relatives. "Your grace," she greeted again, dropping into a graceful curtsey.
Henry did not respond, just took her hand and lead her upstairs. She knew that he would not want her to ask questions. That was not what he enjoyed about their relationship- he verbally jousted with Anne enough for her to know that. Sometimes he would come to her chamber and not even make love to her, just sit his head on her lap while she stroked his hair, as if he was her child. So she followed him, knowing that he probably just wanted her calming presence, which he had remarked upon and admired so many times before.
She sat down on her bed and watched him pace before he finally spoke. "Do you think I am a great man?" he asked, and it was the first time Jane noticed the vulnerability and pain on his face.
"Yes, of course I do," she responded by route. He had asked her this before, sometimes, in the heat of their coupling, and she always thought it was strange but she knew that he had lived in the constant shadow of his older brother, the King, and that his relationship with Anne had been strained for a while. He needed validation from her because he sought comfort in her words, and he always called her "my sweet." She was not as clever as Anne, but she knew that she did not push him the same way that Anne dared to. She was too grateful for his kindness and tenderness; she dare not push him away or anger him.
"My mother always called me her favorite, you know that? One time she told me she prayed for me to be King because I was the living image of her father. That was a long time ago, before everybody decided Arthur was superior just because he was born first," Henry ranted, not even looking at her. This was more passionate than he usually was when he revealed a piece of himself to her, but she knew that things must have been difficult for him lately, with the way his family had probably forced him on his knees to beg Anne's forgiveness, even though Jane, like all good English maidens, had been raised to believe if she upset her husband, he had the God-given right to use physical violence against her. Even Queen Elizabeth had been rumored to be hit by the Old King Henry, and such a gentle lady as her would have never taken to the public the way Anne did, to force them to turn against her husband.
"You are just as much a man your brother is, your grace. My entire family has always thought that," Jane replied, and he finally turned to look at her.
"Oh sweet Jane. Sweet, pious, lovely Jane. I stole your innocence but you love me with a pure devotion that I know in only one other person in my life…which is why I know you will make Charles so happy," Henry stated, running his hands through his hair. "Though I will loathe losing you, and your innocence." He kissed her, then, kissed her passionately and she felt his hand up her leg and she backed away from him, frightened. He had never been so aggressive with her before, and she did not want to do this anymore. It would not last and it would hurt too much, and she was determined to make her marriage to Charles work, so she could not go to his bed with thoughts of Henry. It would not be fair to the man whom she would have to be loyal to.
"Your grace," she began, before he looked up, but not at her, and interrupted her.
"Your majesty, please, Jane, call me that," he begged.
She gasped. She could not do that. It was treason, she loved Henry and looked forward to the day he would be King, for all of England's sake, but her family was loyal to King Arthur and she did not want to jeopardize her future. She had no idea who was listening in, walls could have ears, and even the most intimate of moments could have her stand before her King. "Henry- King Arthur…"
"No! He always gets this. I was born to be King, Jane! You see that, don't you?" he asked desperately, grasping at her thigh again, reaching his hand upwards. "Call me your majesty, profess your loyalty, and be less faithless than those around me," he demanded, and took his hand off her leg and moved to her breast, kissing her furiously. To her embarrassment, she felt a warm liquid run down her leg; she was so terrified of where this conversation had turned that she had pissed herself.
"Please, Henry, I have to marry in three weeks. I cannot do this now; this part of our life is over," she protested, daring to push him slightly off of her.
She looked up to plead with him and look him the eyes, but his look was a quiet rage, and a pain. She had disappointed him with her refusal, and despite herself, she did not feel bad. He had arranged her marriage to Charles Brandon, and she would not go to his bed still in love with the Duke of York. The only way she could be a true wife to Brandon is if she didn't have to see Henry before she became Mistress Brandon, and that she didn't have him creeping his hand up her soiled leg, not even carrying about what was under there.
"You would deny your King this pleasure, Jane? I thought you loved me?" Henry asked slyly, kissing her again, slowly worming her way down to the bed. This was unfamiliar to her, he was never this aggressive, he always asked for her consent, he always made sure she was comfortable first, and undressed. There was a solemn process to this moment, and he never took her like a common slut, in her family home, with her finest gown on. She began to cry, but she didn't dare shove him off of her.
She saw him untie his breaches and made one last plea. "Why must you do this now, Henry…errr, your majesty? I had thought….your wife….Charles…" she sputtered out, not making sense any longer because she felt so utterly confused. This was not her Henry, this was not her lover. This was a desperate, insecure man. She still loved him, but she was so frightened. She hoped that this is not how Brandon would try and couple with her, that this was not a new style at court.
No, she thought, this was not. This was a desperate man who wanted her comfort and she could not deny to him. She had dreamt of him coming with his apologies and conformation of his love, and she was disappointed that he had turned to her because his wife seemed to have hurt him so badly that he doubted his greatness. That she would be forced to call him King and declare her premature loyalty just weeks before she was to wed a man of his choosing, so he was to get rid of her. She was not the love of his life like he was to her- she was just a woman who did not challenge him. She was sweet and would not deny him his request.
"I have no love in this world, Jane. Nobody understands how God has tested me by making the second son. Call me your King and make me forget," he pleaded, kissing her limp fingers and moved his hand underneath her gown before looking up at her.
He looked at her with tears in eyes, and she knew that she had to do this small favor for her future King, even if she was not sure why he was coming to her so aggressively, so anxious for love and approval. She did not want to do this with him again, so afraid of the feelings it would bring out in her, and she was afraid, for the first time she her relationship with him, that she would end up getting physically hurt. She wanted to love Brandon, wanted to enter into marriage with him the best she could and accept it on her terms. She was finally making progress, despite her utter misery, and the way he so forcibly took her in her childhood room made her want to refuse him.
But she never would, and he knew that. "Your majesty," she replied, and bowed her head to meet his kiss, ignoring the salty tears of a man tormented and the betrayal she committed towards her future husband. She would always be Henry's sweet Jane as long as he asked.
"George!" Anne exclaimed as soon as her brother walked in the door, wasting no time barreling over to him and hugging him without explaining what had happened. Mary ran up behind her, shooing her ladies out of her chamber. Mary had relished her position as chief lady-in-waiting and knew that her sister needed privacy now more than ever. She yelled at them to all leave, as the Boleyn siblings needed this moment to comfort their youngest, who had risen the highest so she had the longest distance to fall.
Mary would become a baroness soon, something she knew she had Anne to thank for, even though her and Will knew that they would have been content to live a country lifestyle and live off what little land and income they had, it was nice to be provided for by the royal family after so long struggling. And George would become an Earl, though Mary doubted if that would make his childless union much better. But they knew they had Anne to thank for their good fortune, and so she was relieved when George hurried down as quickly as possible.
Word had gotten out that Henry had left Hampton Court, as there was no supper in the Great Hall, and the Duchess had not even left her rooms to go and see her children. Nobody knew where he had left to, and the rumors that had been circulating about the Duke and Duchess' marriage began again, just as they had begun to die down. It hurt Mary to know that her little sister's most intimate moments were to be displayed before a nosy court, so willing to keep ahead on gossip that they could not respect the dignity of a woman who was grieving for the loss of love in her marriage. Mary had never been so thankful to be a private person in her entire life- she had known briefly what Anne was going through, when she was the topic of conversation at the French Court as a younger woman. Now, she was content and in love, and Anne was suffering so deeply, that she wished to protect her.
Mary had always loved King Arthur from a distance. She thought he was noble and the greatest King England had ever had, even though she had only been alive for two Kings, she had learned about the other families, and how they feuded amongst each other. King Arthur had always kept his family in line, and had always led nobly, more so than King Francis and the Emperor. She was not the only girl in Queen Katherine's household that was jealous of the love the two of them shared, nor was she the only girl who would have willing accompanied the King to bed if he had ever asked. Even though the Duke of York was regarding as the more handsome of the two brothers, King Arthur was attractive, carried himself so well, that Mary could not help but admire him so greatly, and even lusted after him. So she did not blame Anne for growing closer to the King. There weren't many women who didn't have a girlish admiration for their King.
But she had played a dangerous game by marrying the Duke of York and getting too close to the King. Everybody knew how deeply slighted the Duke of York had always felt by his family, most notably his older brother, whom overshadowed him just by the nature of the order of their births. Yet, Elizabeth of York had always been a doting mother to her youngest son, and until recently, the two were inseparable. Even so, that was not enough for the Duke of York, who wanted a more glamorous wife whom he chose, who wanted many more children than anybody else in his family, who wanted the most handsome and well-connected court. Mary knew that Anne loved her husband- but had she been blinded by that love not to see how intense this rivalry had always been for Henry? And how Anne was simply a part of Henry's fantasy that he had likely had conjured in his mind the minute his brother had wed in St. Paul's to the wealthy Spanish Princess?
It would probably hurt Anne to be aware of how even though she thought she had thwarted their father's ambitious plotting by marrying a man for love, that she was just like Mary and George, and a pawn in Henry Tudor's game just like she would have been in Thomas Boleyn's. Henry loved her, certainly, but he expected her to adore him above all others. That was part of the image he had always dreamt of. The moment that she decided to plot with Arthur about Wolsey, and the moment that Arthur decided to be chivalrous and grant Anne her own wealth independent from Henry was the moment that she lost Henry's love. The moment she decided Arthur was worth courting over Henry was when she lost her place as the devoted and honored Duchess of York, future Queen of England. Now everything was in jeopardy, and Mary was shrewd enough to know that her sister was aware of all of these things. Anne had always been the clever one, which is why she had been inconsolable the entire evening. She felt as though she had lost everything, and she not only needed her beloved sister, but the sibling she had always been closest to- George.
"Anne!" he exclaimed, like all of their past troubles had flown out the window. He had felt badly for how he had treated her lately, like she was not worth his time, but he had grown closer to Mark and did not want Anne to be aware of it. He knew she probably thought that he blamed her for his marriage- but that was blame solely owned by their father, who did not love his children the way that he was supposed to. She needed him now, and he would not let her down, like he had before, and like Henry clearly had. Mary had already briefed him on the situation, he was just intending on being a comfort to her. "My darling sister, have you written to the King to tell him of your plight?"
Personally, he thought Anne was smart to employ the friendship of King Arthur, but he underestimated how severely the Duke of York needed to feel validated by his wife. Why could he not understand the need for Anne to have friends outside of their inner circle? Anne had been hurt by him, and George vowed to make sure she felt safe again, even if it meant toning down his relationship with Mark and spending more time with his wife, or even if it brought down on his head the enmity of his old friend Henry. Anne had always been the most important person in his life since they were children, and he needed to distance himself from his father's tactics of being so cold to Anne about her marriage. She had been deeply unhappy since Henry took up with Jane Seymour during her last pregnancy, and there was no more pretending.
"No, and I will not. This is my battle now. If he wants to make me feel badly for being friendly with our King then he will be the one to look a fool. If need be, Arthur will disinherit him and put Edward above him. Strip him of his titles and name Edward his heir," Anne passionately fired back. She did not want it to come to that, of course not, and she also doubted the ability of Arthur to do such a thing. Henry was powerful and had a great many supporters, who would not want to see their young son above him. But it made her feel empowered to say it, so she said it. "Did our father speak to you?"
"No, but he will not be happy," he began, and seeing Anne's dark look, he rapidly continued, "not that I care. He has caused us all misery and Arthur plans on making him a Duke. He can say nothing anymore about our lives. But you must not be rash about this plot you and Arthur have. In my opinion, best just to put yourself back in Henry's good graces. Forfeit Richmond and Suffolk, tell Arthur to grant it to Henry instead. If you need to leave him because you feel unsafe the Dowager Queen will always make sure you are kept safe. Go to him and tell him you were mistaken, and he will love you again."
"Make sure you emphasis his greatness," Mary added, and she was warmed to hear Anne and George both giggle in unison. Her brother-in-law needed his mother back in his life, and he would be far less arrogant. In the meantime, Anne would do best just to come to Henry on bended knee, admit fault, and forfeit what she had been given gently to Arthur.
"He threatened to send my children away from me, the lights of my life. How can I ever forgive him for such cruelty?" Anne asked. It hurt her to know that he was capable of that, just like his father was towards Elizabeth. Her children where why she worried about her own position, why she had undertaken Arthur's advice for Wolsey, she was not so wholly selfish. He called her a slut and accused her of adultery, but she did not even care, things could be said in anger-but taking away her children? She would never forget that he was capable of that, out of spite and his own insecurity.
Mary looked uncomfortable, but George was honest, "You may never forgive him. Marriage is a battle, my love. You will sometimes get wounded, but this one was not mortal. You will never have the bliss you experienced when you were first wed, because you were never going to forgive him for Jane Seymour, but you may love him again truly, and you may even trust him, but you will always hold your children closer and be grateful for their lodgings even more."
"He is so powerful, George, and he will become even more so when Arthur dies. I will have to walk on broken glass all of the time now, and I already feel so exhausted and sad. I am sad that I have lost what I had," Anne confessed. She truly was. She knew that it went sour with Jane and their little interlude between his slap and his cruelty earlier that day was not truly going to last. They had deep seeded problems that perhaps would never be healed. But looking at her siblings, who had both been forced into marriages that they did not necessarily want, perhaps she was never meant to be the luckiest woman in the entire world. Perhaps she was meant to fight just like everybody else.
"You are loved, Anne. Not only by your family, but by England. You are young, beautiful, and generous with your money, and you have already made friends amongst the growing reformist crowd. Someday you shall be the Queen of England alongside your powerful husband, and you must make sure that it comes to pass that you continue your good works," George advised. "Love, Anne, love will never keep you safe. You must be cleverer than that- and you love the Duke of York. This was not intended to be easy, even if it was for a short time."
"I am afraid. I am truly afraid and lonely. I do not know what to do, apology or coldness towards my husband both makes me feel like I might vomit. I feel like lying down and crying and I hate myself for that weakness," Anne explained, and then she felt the tears and relaxed into her brother's warm embrace, inhaling his scent and feeling, despite herself, a bit safer, even if she knew that things were not going to be okay like they used to be. Things were different now, and she was not accustomed to the times she was now living in. But she would have to fight, like she thought when she was young and in love she would have to fight for her love. Now she had to fight to keep it, and she had only lost it due to her own foolishness, and the arrogance of her inflated husband.
She was so content laying on her brother and sister that when her door opened and the King and Queen came bursting in, she did not move. She did not even cry out in joy that something she had conceived of had worked. She just blankly stared as Arthur and Katherine crowed, in unison, the news that was supposed to make her life much easier.
"Wolsey has been elected Pope, Anne! You did it!"
Instead of crying out in joy, she felt the tears come again, and she knew she had truly lost.
So this took a bit longer than it needed to- this has sort of been an insane summer. But this chapter was a marathon to write, it went through the ring of emotions for Anne and Henry and I'm sorry if it ruined anybody's ship. Trust me, there's still a bit more story to tell, so this hasn't been resolved, but I made Henry a very big twit in this and I think it needed to happen. I also included a lot of ~deeper~ themes I've been trying to play with, if anybody catches on, mainly the nature of marriage, the nature of feudal womanhood, and the character of Henry, even without being King and with a sensible mother and brother. So let me know what you thought, please, and again, I'm sorry for the long wait! Hope it was worth it! Until next time, please read and review :) ~Marissa