Author's Note: My apologies to those who were reading "Two Worlds Collide," but the writer's block I developed with that story saw it stretching off into all sorts of meandering directions. Hopefully this, the re-write of the final part of my AU Anne Boleyn trilogy, will be much more streamlined, focussed and faster-paced. Another change is the addition of Hans Holbein for the introduction. He was still alive in the show, right at the end, so I figured I'd get away with using him, too.
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters, events, history, or the TV show. Please read, review, and hopefully enjoy this story. Thank you!
Chapter One: The Tudor Legacy (Introduction).
A broad morning light spilled through the windows of Queen Anne's Privy Chamber, and bounced off the bent head of Hans Holbein the Younger, as he hunkered down, spare brush clamped in his firm set jaw, behind the huge canvass. The scene was a bizarre one, at first sight. Queen Anne herself sat up on the dais, beside an empty throne. Her arm was held aloft, as though resting on the arm of an invisible man who occupied the throne beside her's. Twelve years on from the event, she had been poured back in to her old coronation robes; a task made easier by the fact that she was pregnant when she first wore them, and so easily fit her still. She was adorned, dripping in the jewels of the Queens of England. The crown set firmly open her head. So many gems catching and splintering the light, twinkling emerald and ruby in the bright autumnal sun. In her free hand, was the orb. The sceptre was going to be held by the invisible Henry at her side, who would be painted in later on.
On her other side, the ten year old Prince Wales, Arthur, sat. He remained stock still. Around his narrow shoulders, there was draped the scarlet velvet robes, all trimmed with ermine. A small, but ornate coronet sat comfortably over his blonde curls. He kept his eyes fixed firmly ahead, just as Holbein had instructed him. One small hand rested on the arm of his mother's throne. The other gripped a miniature sceptre, a symbol of his future Kingship.
Sat at their feet, dressed in full ducal robes and coronet, was Anne and Henry's youngest son, Prince William, Duke of York. Just over a year younger than Arthur, he was restless and fidgety as the artist did his work. Anne herself couldn't blame the child. She was dying up there, and her arm hovering in mid-air felt as though it had developed rigor mortis. "Serenity" Holbein had urged her. "Serenity, Your Majesty. You are the Queen, and that it was what I will capture." Now, after three hours of posing, she wanted to shove his serenity where the sun wasn't shining.
Occasionally, Anne would sneak a quick glance from the corner of her eye, to the column beside which Princess Elizabeth stood poised and dignified. She was twelve years old, and every inch the Tudor Princess. Her long satin and silk gown hung from her shoulders, accentuating her waist, and her long, slender body as it pooled elegantly at her feet. The plaits of the train had been painstakingly arranged by her Governess, Kat Ashley. It was Elizabeth who had been in her belly when Anne last wore these robes. The sudden realisation set her eyes welling with tears of sentimentality, and she silently chided herself. But as she grew older, Anne knew she just couldn't help the pangs of sadness as her children grew, and took their first baby steps away from her.
At the opposite end of the dais, stood Lady Mary. She wore a gown and jewels that were identical to Elizabeth's. They stood like statues. Their hands folded neatly before them. Patiently waiting for their ordeal to be over. The sunlight made their skin glow like porcelain, and their blue eyes twinkle like sapphires. Anne expected every last detail of it to be captured in oil on canvass.
Finally, there were two further empty points marked out on the dais for the artist's later attention. King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York would be painted in, standing hand in hand, behind their son, King Henry VIII. For this was a family portrait. The Tudor family. The dynasty, and the legacy. The power, and the prestige. The past, the present, and the future would be captured, and immortalised in this one painting. She hoped that Henry would like it.
"Where are you taking me?" Henry asked as Anne steered him down the gallery towards her Privy Chamber. "I know when you are up to something, madam."
Anne looked back up at him, and pressed her lips together in a thin pale line. A gesture of teasing silence. She gripped his arm tighter, and couldn't prevent a burst of mischievous laughter erupting from her throat. With his free hand, Henry leaned on a walking cane, taking the pressure off his diseased leg. He had injured himself badly in a jousting accident, and it had not been treated properly at the time. That same day, all those years ago, Prince Arthur had been abducted, and all their energies went on finding him, and to hell with a crushed leg. He paid the price now, though, and willingly.
"Very well," Henry sighed as they finally reached the Queen's private apartments. "I'll just have to wait and see."
"That you will," She chided, giving him a playful smack on the arm, like a child trying to sneak a look at his new year's gifts.
The Chamberlain ushered them inside with a bow. As they entered, Anne could see that already, the whole Privy Council had already assembled for the big unveiling. Wriothesley, Rich, Gardiner, and even the Seymour brothers, who had both earned places back at Court following the Pilgrimage of Grace. Anne had even given her permission to one of her dear friends, Lady Catherine Parr, to marry Sir Thomas Seymour.
"Husband," Anne whispered low and intimate into Henry's ear. Even though he now stooped, Anne still had to stand on tip toe to reach his ear. "Husband, are well enough for such a large audience?"
"I'm fine, I'm fine!" He waved away her concerns as they both acknowledged the deep bows that welcomed them to the Chambers. "Good afternoon to you all," Henry addressed them at large. "Now will someone tell me what is going on?"
Some Grooms stepped forwards to assist Henry into his seat up on the dais, and got him settled. A footstool was procured for his bad leg, and drinks were poured. Fine, warmed wine with spices, just as Henry liked it.
"We're just waiting for some last minute guests," Anne explained, her eyes twinkling excitedly as she beamed over at Henry from the throne on his right.
Henry was about to enquire further, when his question was answered by the arrival of Prince Arthur and Lady Mary. He threw open his arms to welcome them both with tears in his eye.
"There is more," Anne whispered as Princess Elizabeth and Prince William joined their brother, sister, and parents up on the dais to the sound of rapturous applause from the assembled Councillors.
"Oh good heavens!" Henry exclaimed as he looked up at all his children who now gathered around him. He wanted to bear hug them all. To squeeze them all tight to himself. But for his damn leg, he would. It didn't stop the pride bursting his heart, though. He cupped their faces, and showered them with kisses. His children. His pride and joy. Meanwhile, the Councillors fell into an impatient silence.
"Why didn't anyone tell me?" Henry asked.
"Because then it would not have been a surprise," Anne couldn't help but laugh. At length, she continued. "Well, when Mary and Arthur last visited a few months ago, it wasn't entirely a pleasure visit. They came to help out with your present. And, so did William, and Elizabeth."
"A present! What present?" Henry's eyes widened as he looked around at the beaming faces of his children, who all hopped excitedly from one foot to the other, choking on joyful laughter.
"Children!" Anne clapped her hands and gestured for them to take their seats that had been arranged up on the dais. Arthur took precedence over his siblings, but the rest were equal in height. "This present, Henry," Anne added once they had all settled down. She gestured to the Chamberlain at the back of the room, who then ducked behind the double doors, and out into the gallery. When he returned, he was followed by three grooms, who all helped carry in a huge canvass draped in velvet. Hans Holbein, with a look of barely controlled panic on his face, came trotting after them with an easel and frame under his arm.
Holbein bowed low to the Royal Family, and set up his frame so the portrait could be balanced on it. He turned to King Henry, and spoke confidently.
"Her Majesty the Queen has commissioned this gift for you, Your Majesty." He whipped off the velvet cover with a flourish, and then stood back to let the King see the finished work.
Henry leaned forwards in his seat so his failing eyes could properly make out the painted figures. His mouth ran dry, and his heart beat raced in his chest. Puffing slightly, he hauled himself to his feet, again.
"Father, let me help," Arthur jumped up to assist the King, joined by Queen Anne.
"Do you like it, Henry?" Anne asked as she drank in the finished product. It was immaculate, in her view.
"Like it!" Henry repeated, his voice was awestruck. "It is magnificent."
The children all jumped up, and pointed themselves out to Henry in an excited babble.
"There I am, Papa!" They all called out, and pointed to their spot on the canvass. Elizabeth and Mary by the ornate Roman-esque columns, and the Princes on the dais, beside the King and Queen.
"Look Henry," Anne said gently. "There is your father, and there is your mother."
"Family," Henry whispered, his voice was hoarse with tears. He wrapped his arms around them all as best he could. For the first time in his life, all of his family were under one roof, and in one room. "My family." He choked, and leaned over to kiss Anne firmly on the cheek.
They moved back to the dais to enjoy their drinks and picnic foods, while the Councillors all filed past Holbein's latest masterpiece. Anne watched them all, happy that life had settled again. There had been little trouble since the Pilgrimage of Grace, but since the grand progress of five years ago, even the troubled north had finally been settled, and not a murmur of discontent had been heard from there since.
But, as she looked from the faces of the sharp eyed young Councillors, to the ageing King, she knew that a struggle was around the corner. She knew that it would take more than a beautiful work of art to remind some of them of who was in control around here. She knew that soon, they would have another fight on their hands.