Title: An Eye For An Eye
Summary: There's always a price to pay.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to 'The Tudors' and am not responsible for the creation of any of the characters that appeared on the show. I also didn't write the Bible.
Author's Note: This is an idea for a one-shot that's been nagging at me for a while, what might have been going through superstitious Henry's head when Jane was dying, and it was insistent on being written. Be warned - it is kinda dark.
An Eye For An Eye
24th October 1537
They knelt for Anne.
Brandon had not wanted to tell him that but Henry had insisted that, if he was going to hear about it, he wanted to hear all of the details.
In the days immediately following Anne's execution, Henry had not wanted to hear her name on anybody's lips, not even that of his closest friend. The cannon had sounded, the signal that let him know that he was a free man, free to marry his sweet, pure Jane, free to make a marriage that would be beyond questioning, the marriage he had made eleven days later, resplendent in white and cloth of gold. He had not allowed anybody at the court to wear any black about their person once Anne was dead, insisting that they must all dress in bright, cheerful colours.
He had not been prepared to allow anybody to imagine that they were mourning for the death of that whore. She did not deserve to be mourned!
Later, however, after his wedding, when even amidst the celebrations in honour of his first true marriage, he could not feel light at heart, when he looked at the sweet, milk-pale, golden-haired woman at his side and imagined another in her place, dark and enigmatic, he had to ask the questions that preyed on him, had to ask about her last moments. Thoughts of Anne tormented him, allowing him no respite, and he had had to seek out Brandon, to learn the truth, knowing that of all the men at court, he was the only one who would tell him the truth, not just what he thought Henry wanted to hear, and Brandon had told him, albeit reluctantly.
They knelt for Anne.
They knelt for the woman they had once decried as a witch and a harlot, the woman whose coronation, less than three years before her death, had been greeted with sullen silence rather than with the cheers that usually greeted such occasions – the cheers that would surely greet Jane's coronation, when the time came... he could not believe that the physicians were right that there was no hope that she would have the strength to fight off the fever that had come upon her after the birth of their son, the male heir that God had finally given him, after all the years of praying and disappointment. How could the dear lady who had managed to give him the one thing that was always denied to him before not have strength beyond the strength of an ordinary woman, allowing her to recover from childbed fever where other women would lose their lives?
She would get well, she had to.
She would recover, proving the physicians wrong and showing her strength, and then she would be at the heart of all of the celebrations honouring the woman who had given England an heir at last. She would have a coronation that would put Anne's in the shade, so much so that it would drive the memory of the day Anne was crowned from his people's memories, even if he had to bankrupt the Privy Purse in order to pay for it. Then, this time next year, they would give their Edward a fine brother for a playmate, a Duke of York to further secure the succession.
Jane would make the people forget about Anne entirely.
It would be as though she never existed, and they never felt the slightest sympathy for her.
It was with considerable reluctance that Brandon told him that, though the people had begun by crying out against Anne as a strumpet, seemingly eager to see her blood spilled, once she began to speak, as was the right of a condemned prisoner before they were executed, the crowd stilled, as though she had cast a spell over them, compelling them to be silent and to listen to her.
Perhaps she had cast a spell over them.
How else could she have turned the crowd so completely, subduing their eagerness to see the woman they had hated for so long brought low at last and finally winning their respect and admiration, years too late for it to do her any good?
They had knelt before her as though they were kneeling before a saint, an innocent martyr about to pay the ultimate price for the evils of others, promising to pray for her soul, and there were many eyes that were moist with tears by the time her head was struck from her body.
Even in death, her face was not robbed of its beauty.
Brandon knelt too, although he had not admitted that until Henry pressed him, asking outright whether or not he had followed the example of the common people who witnessed Anne's death, then he apologized, swearing that he had never intended to honour the woman who had betrayed his King and his friend like that, and that he did not know what had prompted him to do it.
Anne had her faults but she had many good qualities too; intelligence, spirit, courage, a tender heart, when she chose, and the capacity for utter devotion to those she loved but perhaps the most valuable of all her good qualities was her great charm, a quality that made it difficult to recognize her faults and to be angry with her for them, and which could make her irresistible, when she chose to employ it. Henry had become immune to that charm, which had gradually lost its appeal for him over the years, allowing the scales to fall from his eyes so that he could recognize the truth about her but he could not blame Brandon, who had not been exposed to Anne's charm as he had been, as she had not seen any great need to win him over, and who therefore had not had the advantage of being able to build an immunity to it, for falling prey to it.
How could he, whom Anne had made her devoted slave for years, fault another for falling under her spell for a few minutes?
In the weeks immediately following Anne's death, there was grumbling among the people, grumbling that his advisors diligently tried to keep from his ears and that Henry would have ignored if he could but he couldn't shut his eyes or his ears to them. There were ballads sung in the street mourning Anne's death, singing of a wronged, innocent Queen, decrying Henry for ordering her execution and Henry's advisors for arranging it in order to please their master.
Henry offered generous rewards for the capture of the men responsible for the songs, so that they could be punished for writing and circulating it, punished before the public so that everybody would know that it was completely unacceptable for them to side with Anne, but he had been unable to either suppress the songs or to discover their origin. Although he had done his best to ensure that his Jane would not be tainted by what was happening, sending her back to her family's home at Wolf Hall so that her reputation would not be stained, the people spoke against her too.
Whispered gossip accused her of feigning virtue only out of ambition, so that she might supplant Anne, and of being so ruthless as to be prepared to continue in her quest, even at the cost of the other woman's life. She was even accused of bearing responsibility for Anne's last miscarriage, as though she would not have been pleased to see Henry happy with a son, even if that son was born of Anne Boleyn, loving him too much to begrudge him his joy; people whispered amongst themselves that it was the shock of finding him and Jane in a dalliance that had destroyed the infant prince Anne carried, with some even alleging that this had been deliberate, that Jane had maliciously set out to distress Anne in the hope that she would miscarry and intentionally enticed Henry so that his wife might find them together, knowing what the result of her shock would be.
Even the wedding had not pacified them.
In some ways, the haste had made it worse.
Henry had not wanted to wait, had not wanted it to look as though he was allowing a decent interval to pass out of respect for the dead. His marriage to her had been annulled, confirming that Anne was not and had never been his wife, absolving him of any duty to mourn her – and even if their marriage was a valid one, Anne deserved no such respect, not after what she did.
What man would mourn a wife who cuckolded him?
It was his duty to marry as quickly as possible, to father a legitimate son and heir and secure the succession, something he had already waited far too long to do; any longer and he might not live to see his son grow to manhood. His Privy Council might have made a formal plea to him to take a new wife for the sake of England's future security but Henry knew that they had done so because they knew that he wished for them to call upon him to do the very thing he desired above all else and he was pleased that they had thought to ease his way a little.
It was true that Cromwell and several of his councillors had tried to persuade him that it might be better if, for the sake of appearances, he kept his distance from Jane for a few months before he made any plans for a wedding, with one or two of the most daring even hinting that it might be better if he looked elsewhere for a bride, taking advantage of his freedom in order to make a royal marriage with a comely princess who would bring him a strong alliance with another royal house but Henry had refused to listen to those suggestions, and refused to consider the idea of delaying, or of pretending that his choice had not fallen on Jane.
He had waited long enough – more than long enough – to make a proper marriage and since Jane was willing to marry him now, he saw no need to wait.
Why should they be forced to delay because of Anne's crimes?
He had hoped that the pageantry and splendour of a royal marriage would help the people to forget the trials and executions that had taken place over the past few weeks and, for many of his subjects, he was sure that this had been the case... but there were still a disloyal few who had used this as further ammunition against him and against Jane, making snide suggestions that there must have been a reason why they needed to marry in haste, snidely suggesting that the haste indicated that Jane, for all her attempts to show herself as a virtuous lady, already carried his bastard child in her belly and that this was why Anne had been accused, brought to trial and executed so speedily, so that Henry would be free to marry Jane as soon as possible and legitimise their child, displacing little Princess Elizabeth for a Seymour bastard.
They had been unable to wait long enough to annul his marriage to Anne for fear that Jane would be great with child when he was finally able to marry her, proving to the whole kingdom that she was an unchaste woman and, because they could not take the time to end his union with Anne lawfully, they had resorted to a far quicker method of getting rid of her.
He was furious when he heard these reports.
Not only were they maligning Jane, an innocent, virtuous maiden with the allegation that she had been his mistress and conceived his child out of wedlock – and if she had become pregnant shortly after their marriage, those slanders would have marred the birth of the prince, especially if he had arrived some weeks early, as babies often did – if they were alleging that she had been the reason for Anne being brought to trial and executed, then they showed that they doubted the verdict of that trial and therefore the justice of the sentence.
His advisors had tried to soothe him with assurances that even if it seemed that the people might sympathize with Anne at the moment, he should not worry unduly about that. They insisted that it would be natural if, in the immediate aftermath of her execution, they perceived her as an underdog, as a victim, that she might excite their pity as such and that they would seek to defend her name but that had been no consolation to him, quite the reverse.
For Anne to be a victim, she would have to have been innocent of the charges laid against her, the charges for which she had died.
If the people believed that Anne was a victim, then they must believe him – their King! – to be the murderer of an innocent woman, the slayer of an anointed Queen, willing to send the woman he had loved and who was the mother of his child to the block, accompanied by four innocent men, in order to satisfy his lust for another woman.
It infuriated him to think that his people could believe him to be capable of such evil.
He did not deny that he loved Jane, and that before he learned of Anne's crimes, he had been looking for a means of freeing himself from his union with her so that he might marry Jane instead but he would never have wished to resort to such a vile trick in order to remove Anne, leaving little Elizabeth motherless so that he might have Jane.
He could never have done that.
He had to believe that he could never have done that.
He had to believe that he would have waited however long it took to rid himself of Anne through a proper annulment, even if the long months of waiting grated on him, even if it was humiliating for him to have to admit that he had made a grave error and entered into a second incestuous union, rather than killing her for the sake of convenience.
Cromwell advised that he should pay no notice to these rumours, discouraging him from his inclination to search out the people responsible for these slanders and having their tongues slit for daring to speak such evil of their King, reasoning that it would do more harm than good if they drew any further attention to their hateful words. It would die down in time, when the memory of Anne's execution faded, and the people would welcome their new Queen Jane into their hearts, loving her for the joy she brought to their King's life, and for her goodness and kindness.
The people would get over the shock of her death and remember Anne as she was, the woman on whose account countless men, good honest men like Thomas More and Bishop Fisher had lost their lives. They would remember the woman they had decried as the Great Whore, the woman they had sworn that they would never accept as their Queen, the woman who had caused such turmoil in England since she danced into the King's life. Once they did, they would feel like fools for ever feeling a shred of pity towards her, much less a hint of suspicion over the justice of her execution.
It was with some misgivings that Henry suppressed his urge to stamp out the gossip, pretending that he knew nothing of it and that there was no blight over his happiness with Jane but he consoled himself with the thought that it could not last long; sooner or later, the people would come around and once he and Jane gave them a prince, they would be so delighted that it would be as if Anne had never existed.
He had ordered every intertwined HA chiselled from the walls and unpicked from silken hangings and banners, Anne's portraits had been burned, her belongings destroyed, given away or consigned to chests in abandoned rooms in the palace, where they could gather dust for the next hundred years for all he cared. He had succeeded in banishing the physical reminders of that whore... all save their little daughter, and even she was sent away from the court to her reduced establishment at Hatfield, where she could be kept out of his sight, and it wasn't until months after his wedding to Jane that he could bring himself to look on Elizabeth's face again, and welcome her to court when Jane and Mary arranged for the child to be presented to him at Christmastide.
Time would remove Anne from the hearts and minds of the people soon enough.
They had been so pleased once the Lady Mary was restored to court and to her father's favour, a reconciliation that had come about due, in no small part, to Jane's urging Henry to welcome his estranged daughter back to court and back to the bosom of the royal family, and one that would not have been possible as long as Anne was Queen.
As long as Anne was Queen, Mary would never have been able to accept that she was illegitimate and that she had wronged her father by standing against him and refusing to obey him and to take the Oath of Succession. Her pride would not have allowed her to do so when her submission would mean Anne's triumph and the security of Anne's child's position as Princess and heiress but with Anne gone and Jane, a lady who heartily desired Mary's restoration, as Queen in her stead, Mary had been able to swallow her pride as a dutiful, obedient daughter should, admitting the truth, and the people had rejoiced to see her welcomed back into her father's heart.
They had always loved Mary, since the day of her birth when they rejoiced over the fact that their King had a living child at last, so pleased to see that the long years in which the royal cradle lay empty were over that her female sex only caused the faintest disappointment for them, and they were delighted to see her restored to a place of honour within the royal family.
It seemed that they had begun to forget Anne then, something he wished that he was able to do but that he was beginning to fear might prove to be impossible.
She hadn't spoken against him on the scaffold.
He had half-expected her to, a small part of him had even wanted her to, but she hadn't. It might have been easier if she had, if he could point to the fact that she had died with an insult for him on her lips as proof of the fact that she could never have truly loved him or respected him, that no matter what had happened between them, a woman who truly cared for him would never speak against him before his own people, but her last speech had praised him rather than condemning him, calling upon the crowd gathered to witness her death to pray for him.
"I pray, and beseech you all to pray for the life of the King, my sovereign lord and yours, who is one of the best princes on the face of the Earth, who has always treated me so well, wherefore I submit to death with a good will, humbly asking pardon of all the world. If anyone should take up my case, I ask them only to judge it kindly."
Her last words were common knowledge now, as was her last confession. At her express request, Master Kingston had remained to witness it, accepting the charge of reporting it, as was his duty.
Anne had had the right to ask that her last confession should be made public if she so chose, a right that even Henry did not have the power to deny her, even though she was a convicted traitor, and she had availed of that right, taking full advantage of the opportunity to make her confession known to the whole country, fully aware of the impact her words must surely have.
Anne swore her innocence.
Even when she was condemned to death, after the four men found guilty of being her lovers – four men among at least a hundred who had shared that whore's bed! – had been beheaded for their crimes, she swore on the Holy Sacrament, on her immortal soul, that she was innocent of the crimes of which she had been accused, confessing only jealousy and a lack of humility, sins that few people would find it in their hearts to condemn her for under the circumstances.
She had to have been lying.
He had to believe that she had lied, or he would go mad.
Anne couldn't be innocent because if she was, he had committed a foul sin, and his hands were stained with the blood of a guiltless woman who had held his heart in her hands for many years, a woman he had loved and married and fathered a child with, a child whom he would have wrongly deprived of a mother. If she was innocent, he would deserve whatever punishment was inflicted on him for allowing her to be killed, even if that punishment was an unbearably painful one.
He had to believe that her last words were a subtle mockery, or that she was attempting to paint herself as a wronged martyr, implying that he was nothing more than a murderer.
He couldn't let himself think of the possibility that he might be a murdered in truth.
He had to forget Anne, forget everything about her life and her death, if he was to find peace and be able to be happy with his new wife and with their beautiful son.
For the past days, he spent long hours on his knees in the Chapel Royal, and in his Privy Chamber and by Jane's bedside, devoting every hour he could to prayer and beseeching God to remember that Jane was innocent and loving and had brought him such joy, pleading with Him to restore her to health so that England could have its Queen, so that their sweet Edward could grow up knowing his mother's love and so that he could have his wife by his side, but he found it increasingly difficult to concentrate on his prayers, the words of Exodus intruding into his thoughts.
"...If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe..."
Queen for Queen...
That could not be!
Anne was no true wife to him and no true Queen and even if she was, her death was the result of her own crimes and her own choice to betray him. It was not something that God would need to punish Henry for by taking Jane away from him and from their son.
Instead of praying to God, half-afraid that, despite the justice of Anne's death, despite the fact that she and her paramours were the guilty parties, not Henry and certainly not Jane, His ears were closed to him in this matter, Henry went to Jane instead, dismissing her ladies, even Mary who loved Jane truly and prayed for her recovery, and he knelt by her bedside to plead with her.
She was so still as she lay there, looking frailer than he had ever seen her, or any other woman, her strength sapped by the long labour she had endured to bring their beloved son into the world. Her face as pale as marble and beaded with sweat as her body tried, unsuccessfully it seemed, to burn away the fever that was slowly but surely robbing her of her life. Even her hair, usually so gleaming and golden, as though it had caught the sun's rays in each strand and held them there, even in the darkness of winter, was limp and lifeless, damp with sweat and drained of its lustre. If not for the slow, slight rise and fall of her chest as she breathed in an out, each breath seeming like it was more of an exertion than the last, he would have thought that she was dead already.
He took her still hand, hot with fever and damp with sweat, between both of his, kissing it gently and praying that Jane would be able to feel his lips on her skin, to know that he was there with her, that he loved her and that he wanted her to get well. Maybe it would give her strength to know that he was there, enough strength to be able to fight to stay with him.
"Don't go." He pleaded with her. "Please don't go. Just because you have done everything that you promised, please don't leave me. You are the milk of human kindness, the light in my dark, dark world. Without you, life is a desert, a whole world of loneliness. Please, God," He looked to the window, where the faint grey lights of dawn were beginning to shine through a heavy haze of clouds, praying that He would relent, that He would understand that, even if Anne was innocent, even if he should not have allowed her to be executed, his sin was an unknowing one and did not call for such a heavy punishment as this to be laid upon him.
There were other ways that he could make amends, if God would spare Jane's life.
He could command that Anne's body should be moved from the precincts of the Tower, where it now lay in an unmarked grave within the small chapel, alongside other executed criminals, and order that she should be buried with honour instead, as befitted one who was once crowned Queen of England. He could command that the charges laid against her should be investigated again, by different people than those who had led the first investigation that found Anne to be an adulteress, and if they found that she had been wrongly accused and executed, he would declare her innocent before his people, no matter what it might make them think of him to know that he allowed an innocent woman to be executed. He could declare Elizabeth to be legitimate once more, restoring her to her place as a princess, allowing her to be next in the succession after his sons and making a royal match for her, perhaps to the Duke of Angouleme, the match Anne wanted for her.
Anne would want their daughter to be recognized as a Princess of England, he was sure of it.
Surely she would want that more than she wanted to see Jane die in payment for her own death.
"In Your mercy, don't take her away from me. My son needs his mother," he pleaded, thinking that, even if he had sinned, how could God punish Edward, an innocent baby, for that sin, a sin committed before he was born and that he could bear no guilt for. Jane's loss was one that would affect him too, perhaps more than it would affect his father. He could take a new wife, he knew that, but Edward could only ever have one mother. "And I need my Queen."
When he kissed Jane's hand again, her eyes fluttered open and for one short, glorious moment, he was sure that God had listened to his prayers and that He had decided to be merciful, restoring Jane to health and allowing him to keep his wife with him, to sit by his side as his Queen and to be a mother to their son... but that moment passed.
Jane's eyes closed again, her skin looking grey in the early morning light and, instead of burning with fever, it began to feel cool to his touch, then cold. The slow, laborious rise and fall of her chest ceased and when he placed his head on her breast, he could not hear the beat of her heart.
She was gone.
Queen Anne had been executed, at his orders, and now Queen Jane was taken from him too.
He wept them, still clinging to Jane's hand, as though he could allow his strength to flow to her through their joined hands, as though his grief and remorse could make her heart beat again and fill her lungs with the air they needed in order to keep her with him.
He couldn't bear to look at her face.
He didn't want to remember her as she was now, dead and growing cold on the bed where she had laboured to bring forth England's prince and lost her own life. He wanted to remember her in happier times, when he had her sitting by his side and it never occurred to him that they would not lead a long and happy life together, with their sons, when he could never have imagined the awful possibility that she might be snatched away from him so soon, far too soon.
He thought of Jane sitting in her bed, robed in state as a Queen of England as she prepared to receive their son, kissing his tiny, downy head and giving him his mother's blessing.
He thought of Jane's smile as she sat opposite him at the breakfast table, coyly admitting that she had developed a fondness for quails' eggs and confirming that she carried his child.
He thought of the way Jane had brought little Elizabeth to court to present her to him, knowing that a father should not be estranged from his children and that Elizabeth was a sweet, beautiful child who would bring him joy if he welcomed her back into his life and into the bosom of the royal family, smiling at him and at his daughter when he took the child on his knee and embraced her, signalling to the entire court that he recognized Elizabeth as his daughter and welcomed her as such, and he thought of the way that she had rejoiced when he was reconciled with Mary, and of how she had brought the girl to court where she could be honoured as the King's daughter.
He thought of their wedding day, when Jane was gowned in white, like an angel, and stood by his side as she promised that she would always love, honour and obey him, a promise that she would have kept for a hundred years or more, if God had allowed them to live so long. He was so happy on that day, so sure that he had finally found his perfect match, the woman he needed to have in his life and in his bed, the woman who would be able to make him the happiest man in England.
He could never have guessed how little time he would have with Jane before she was taken.
He thought of her face when he sent her away from court before the investigation into Anne's conduct began in earnest, not wanting her to be tainted by it, although his attempts to shield her from gossip and blame were not as successful as he had hoped they would. At first, she was puzzled at the thought that he should want her to leave when he had sworn that he loved her and always wanted her by his side but her face grew radiant when he promised her that it was only for a short time, that he had good reason to want her to be away from his side but that he would soon be able to bring her back, and that they would then have their great desire.
Although she could not know what was happening, as she was too pure to ever be able to imagine the depths of Anne's betrayal, a betrayal that Jane would never have dreamed of committing in her place, the thought of their future happiness brought her joy, as it did him.
He thought of the day he asked for her favour, before his ill-fated joust, and of how he had called her to him afterwards, so that she might be reassured that his feelings towards her were unaltered by the accident and that he was not such a fool as to see his fall as a sign that her favour brought him ill-luck, holding her on his lap as she leaned towards him to kiss him... and he felt as though his heart froze in his chest for a brief, horrible instant, before beginning to beat again, far too rapidly, his fear sending chills throughout his body, terror making his breathing shallow.
The day Jane sat on his knee and allowed him to kiss her, Anne entered the room and saw them.
She was carrying a child then, his son, a son she miscarried before the day was out... a son whose loss she blamed on the fact that she had seen him with Jane, a sight that broke her heart.
He did not want to believe her then, had thought instead that their unborn child's death, together with the signs of deformity that the physician insisted he could see in the tiny corpse, were nothing more than another sign that God did not and had not wanted him to marry Anne, that He had known from the beginning that she was unworthy to be his Queen and that He had withheld the blessing of a son from them in order to show His displeasure, so that Henry would know that he should find himself another bride, a more fitting bride. That day, he felt angry with Anne for daring to try to blame the loss on him and on his sweet Jane but now he could not stop thinking of her words as she sat on her bed, the same bed in which Jane now lay so cold and still and dead, hunched over in pain, her face drawn and pale.
Could Anne have been right?
Was it possible that, if she had never seen him sitting with Jane, their son might have been born alive and whole, and lived a long, healthy life as Prince of Wales and, in time, King of England?
Had he, by holding Jane on his lap and kissing her, and by allowing Anne to see them thus, robbed his own son of the life that he should have had?
If their son had lived, then Anne would still be alive, still be by his side as his Queen. If the allegations against her were true, he would never have believed it, not even if they were related to him by Brandon, a close and trusted friend, and if they were false, no man in England would have dared to slander Anne, much less to bring about her death, when she was the mother of a Prince.
If Anne was guilty, then he could believe that their son's death – if the child was his son at all – was just another punishment for her sins but if she was innocent, if God had intended that she should be his Queen forever and that their son should reign after him, she might have been right all along about the sight of him with Jane causing her miscarriage, which would mean that he could have the blood of two innocents on his hands, two blameless people he should have protected with his life; his wife and his son, and for that crime there must be retribution.
"...life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe..."
He thought of Edward, who must now be sleeping in his ornate cradle in his nursery, watched over by devoted attendants who were commanded that he should be protected from all injury and contagion. Edward would be sleeping soundly now, unaware of the fact that he was the most important baby in England, an answer to so many prayers, the future King of England and the country's protection from civil war, just as he was unaware that he had just lost his mother.
His son was so small, so sweet, so beautiful and so innocent.
He had already had to pay Queen for Queen but he didn't know if that would be enough, not to cover the life of their unborn son as well as Anne's own life.
When would God decide that it was time for him to pay Prince for Prince?