Title: Iphigenia

Author: ReganX

Rating: T/PG-13

Summary: "His name was Agamemnon… He did a very bad thing."

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.

Author's Note: This story is inspired by Plot Bunny #116, posted by X5 - 452 and 494. Details may be found on the Plot Bunny Master List, in The Tudors Fanfic Forum.

WARNING: This story contains references to certain things that readers may find disturbing or offensive, including murder. If this is likely to offend or upset you, please do not read any further.


The King found her body in the morning.

Her ladies were already there, tidying the apartment and laying out her breakfast but, as they heard no sound of stirring coming from her bedchamber, there was not one among their number who wanted to be the one to go in to wake her so they just stayed outside, keeping their voices low and moving as silently as possible, waiting for her to wake and to summon them to attend her.

He could imagine that they were in no hurry to wait on her, even if she was still Queen.

Even those among her ladies who were not there when the King, terrible and terrifying in his anger, told her that he could see that he would get no boys by her heard of it from the others, who were so eager to spread gossip and so careless of the pain that the lady they served was enduring, and they could all see what this would mean for her, knowing that a woman who was raised to be Queen at the King's pleasure could also be cast down if that was his wish, more quickly and more easily than she was raised, and none of them wanted to fall with her.

They left her alone the previous evening, not one of them willing to see through her assurances that she had all she needed and that she would rather be alone, that they should attend the revels. Not one of them was willing to recognize that she needed their company, even if she couldn't admit that she needed it, that she needed to have somebody nearby with whom she could speak, if only to distract herself from the fears that preyed on her by conversing on other matters.

Instead, they were content to leave her to her solitude.

Two years ago, it would have been unthinkable for her to be left alone.

Two years ago, her suggestion that they should leave her alone in the darkness of her apartment to fend for herself while they hastened downstairs to enjoy the banquet laid out for the court's supper, and the music and dancing afterwards, would have been met with polite and deferential but determined assurances that they would much prefer to remain with her, just in case she needed them to serve her, and those Anne insisted on dismissing would have felt slighted rather than relieved to be set at liberty, disgruntled to think that she did not want them around her.

Two years ago, they would all have been falling over themselves to show that they were the most devoted ladies-in-waiting that any Queen ever had attending on her in the hopes of winning her favour, which could bring them many benefits... but two years ago, things were different.

Two years ago, she was healthily pregnant with her second child and, although the first child was only a girl – something that nobody could deny was a disappointment to her parents, who had anticipated a prince, and needed one to prove to the world that theirs was a union blessed by God – she was beautiful and healthy and so perfect that nobody could doubt that her brother would be a Prince with whom nobody could find fault, least of all the King who waited so long for him and who would celebrate his birth as one would celebrate a miracle.

Then she lost the baby.

He didn't know if she did something to kill the baby, if she became careless and ate something that her physician forbade or took part in activities that were so strenuous that the precious burden she carried was harmed by them, or if an enemy poisoned her to destroy the Prince before he was born or if she was just unlucky but, whatever the reason, the result was the same.

Things were never truly well between her and the King since then, even though they both tried to pretend that all was well, and there were few at court who couldn't see it.

The night before, her ladies-in-waiting, women singled out for the honour of serving their Queen and who swore an oath to be loyal to her and diligent in their duties, were all too eager to leave her apartment so that they might go downstairs, skipping away without a backward glance.

He saw with his own eyes how many of them approached Mistress Seymour, to compliment her on her gown and to admire the few pieces of jewellery she wore, as though they thought that her frumpy country gowns and plain adornments were more beautiful that Anne's exquisite gowns or the jewels that always looked so perfect on her, and which she wore so naturally, as though they belonged on her person, as much a part of her as her eyes or her hair. Even jewels crafted for other Queens, centuries before Anne was born, looked like they were made just for her.

When he first saw Mistress Seymour paraded around on the arm of her proud father, who smiled complacently at each compliment made to his undeserving daughter, he believed that Sir John Seymour, who could surely afford to provide finer gowns than that for his girl even if he was far from being the richest man at court, as well as being a man burdened with an over-large family of sons and daughters to support, encouraged his daughter to dress with relative simplicity and modesty next to the other ladies of the court to encourage the King to think of this unremarkable specimen of womanhood as something special, a modest and pure maiden who was utterly free of the vanity that was so common among the ladies of the court.

Now, however, while he did not doubt that this was Sir John's intention, and likely Mistress Seymour's too, he was certain that their strategy was also motivated by their awareness of the fact that, if the woman dressed in the rich garb of a court lady, it would be evident to all that such a creature was never born to be a great lady, let alone a Queen.

Sir John's ambition for his family had seemingly blinded him to the fact that a woman like his daughter was born to be a country matron, a woman whose house would be her world. Mistress Seymour was born to govern a kitchen, stillroom, laundry, dairy and nursery, not a royal court, and her father should have had the sense to recognize the role for which she was suited instead of being such a fool as to think that his daughter could ever be fit for anything more than that.

Were she to wear a gown like Anne's, she would look more foolish and more out of place than a child wearing its mother's clothes, or a serving wench who snuck a gown from her mistress' wardrobe but who gave away her common birth with every gesture and every word.

Mistress Seymour was not fit to wash out his daughter's chamber pot, let alone attend her as a lady-in-waiting, and the idea of her taking Anne's place as Queen was repugnant but, as he sat in the Great Hall watching the courtiers, even those whose high status would ordinarily have meant that a Seymour was so far beneath their notice that they would never take the trouble to bid them 'good day', flock to the woman, he could see the future as clearly as if it was spread out before him and knew that it did not lie in his power to save his daughter and his family.

If the King wanted to be free of Anne, he would find a way to do it.

Even if her family made it clear to him that they would not support any attempt she made to thwart his attempts to get rid of her, even if they supported him in his quest for an annulment by inventing details of a prior betrothal agreed upon for Anne that would render her union with the King unlawful, it would not be enough to salvage their position at court, and all they had gained.

Once the King managed to make Mistress Seymour his Queen, her family would hover around the couple like flies buzzing around a carcass, parasites eager to reap the rewards they would feel was their due as they were kin to the creature who managed to win the King away from his Queen. If they possessed an ounce of sense between them, they would know that they needed to make haste to reap whatever rewards they could before the King's infatuation died, as it inevitably would, and he realized, to his disgust, what kind of woman they had allowed him to marry.

The Boleyns would no longer be in the ascendancy at court, their good will cultivated by those seeking advancement or who wished them to speak to the King on their behalf.

It would be the time of the Seymours, to whose side virtually every courtier would flock, assuring them of their friendship and support, making it clear that, if they had previously sought the friendship of the Boleyns, they had done so only as a matter of policy, and were pleased to see Anne replaced by Mistress Seymour. Those who swore to uphold Elizabeth as heir would quickly transfer their loyalty to Mistress Seymour's brats, or to the Lady Mary, if the Queen advanced the cause of her elder stepdaughter at little Elizabeth's expense.

He would be left with the unpalatable choice of either seeking the favour of the family who displaced his, bowing and scraping before the creature who supplanted his daughter, pretending that she was England's true Queen and that any puling brats she bore were the true heirs, or hiding away at Hever Castle, cut off from the power of the court.

Neither alternative was bearable but his choices were limited.

There was no way that he could save Anne, and only one way to save the rest of the family.

The King might have left Anne after her miscarriage, possessing enough mercy and patience not to take her to task when she was sick and racked with agony after her long, fruitless struggle to keep the child rooted in her womb... or perhaps he simply could not bear to be in her presence so soon after their loss... but that morning, he decided that he wasn't going to wait any longer.

He wasn't there when the King strode into her chamber but he heard the details of what happened later, through the avid gossip of the ladies who were present.

When he was told that the Queen was still abed, the King was not willing to wait and he strode into her bedchamber, determined to speak his mind and to make her position clear to her.

When the sound of his heavy tread on the polished floorboards and his sharp voice as he spoke her name failed to rouse her, he approached her bed, glaring down at her, unmoved by her face, so still and peaceful in repose, and reached out to lay one hand on her shoulder to roughly shake her awake. Until he shook her, she looked as though she was sleeping soundly, enjoying a brief respite from the bitter turmoil her life had become, but when he tried to rouse her, her head lolled limply, like a rag doll's, her broken neck unable to support its weight.

It was only then that he realized how cold she was.

His screams of horror were so loud and so piercing, so full of shock and grief and pain, that those who heard them would never forget that moment.

There could be no doubt but that she was murdered.

Had her killer poisoned her or smothered her, the physicians who examined her cold, still body might have made the mistake of thinking that she had died of natural causes, that her miscarriage had left her more ill than she had seemed and that, when she was alone, with no lady to alert when her symptoms worsened, and no way to summon a physician, she slipped away.

Instead, she lay on her bed, as if asleep, until the King disturbed her body.

It was not difficult to imagine what must have happened.

It was no secret that there were many people, both in England and abroad, who would have been only too pleased to see Anne destroyed.

So many people stood to benefit from her death, so many people viewed her as their enemy or as a barrier standing between them and their ambition and some of those people were powerful, powerful enough to be able to buy the services of an assassin ruthless enough to slip into the room of a sleeping, ill woman, waiting until she was alone, with nobody to call for help, before breaking her neck. There were so many people who might have been responsible, from the Bishop of Rome to the Seymours to the Emperor to the Lady Mary that the true culprit was unlikely to ever be discovered.

All anybody could do was speculate, never able to know for certain.

The only consolation – if one could call it that – that the physicians could offer was their assurance that she was unlikely to have felt any pain.

In the aftermath of her miscarriage, she suffered from occasional bleeding and frequent pain that kept her awake at night. Dr Linacre prescribed poppy syrup to dull the pain and allow her to rest, so that she might heal and regain her strength, and Nan Saville confirmed that her mistress had taken a dose shortly before her ladies left her alone for the night. As there was no sign of a struggle, the physicians theorized that she must have been asleep when her killer entered her chamber, too deeply asleep to be aware of his presence, and asleep when he broke her neck.

He was present when the physicians made their report to the King, stressing their belief that the Queen had not suffered, and could see the relief that broke through his grief, if only for a moment, at this news, and hear the sincerity of his hoarse "Thank God she didn't suffer!"

Watching the King, he couldn't help but wonder if the rumours that he was tiring of Anne and would soon find cause to set her aside might not have been exaggerated.

There were so many people at court who wanted nothing more than to hear that Anne would be abandoned, her marriage to the King annulled as though the union was no more lawful than the King's union with the Dowager Princess of Wales. Could their desire to see Anne set aside have been strong enough that they convinced themselves that this would happen? Had they mistakenly assumed that the King's attentions towards Mistress Seymour meant that he wished her to be his Queen because that was their wish, even if it was not the King's?

Had he viewed the worthless wench as more of a threat than she was because of his own fears?

If Anne had lived, might the King have changed his mind?

He once loved her so much that he was willing to forsake his wife of many years, bastardize his once-beloved daughter, tear the country free of the clutches of Rome and risk tearing his country apart for her sake. What man would do so much for a woman if he did not love her with all of his heart? Could such love be destroyed by nothing more than the lack of a son and the presence of a worthless slut whose family were deluded enough to think that she could be Queen?

If Anne had lived, would he remember the love he once held for her before he moved to destroy her? Would he have looked at Mistress Seymour's bland, pallid face and realize that she was not a woman who would ever have the power to make him happy, as Anne had? Would he realize that, if he set Anne aside in favour of that creature, he would bitterly regret his decision before he was a year older, yet be kept from rectifying the situation by his pride, which would never allow him to admit that he had made a mistake, let alone to return to the wife he had cast aside?

Would he change his mind, send the creature from his court, and return to his wife?

Part of him would have liked to think that his son-in-law, the man his daughter had loved for so long, had not been so unworthy of the love she gave him that he would ever seriously contemplate replacing her, least of all with a woman like Mistress Seymour. Anne loved the King so much that it would cause her great pain to know that he could ever be willing to set her and their beloved daughter aside. Part of him would have liked to believe that, if Anne had lived, she would have regained her husband's love and enjoyed it, along with her place as Queen, for the rest of her days but he was sure that there was no hope that this would have been.

If he wanted to have any peace, if he wanted to be reconciled to Anne's death, then he needed to believe that there was no hope and that, with her death, she was spared the pain she would have otherwise had to endure as she watched her husband turn from her and marry another woman.

When Anne was a little girl, she was cleverer than any other child he ever encountered.

Mary was a pleasant girl but no scholar – which was no bad thing in a daughter, who could find that the man chosen to be her husband would not be pleased if he thought that his bride was better educated than he was – and although George was bright enough, he was not a boy who enjoyed spending time at his books, preferring music and poetry and the leisurely pursuits that every gentleman must learn to Latin, Greek and theology.

Anne was the one who soaked up every minute of Dr Knight's tutelage, and she was such an eager pupil that, although the tutor was originally engaged with the intention that he would instruct George while the girls would learn all they needed to know from their governess, she quickly became Knight's prize pupil, praised most highly and most often whenever he made his reports.

Dr Knight's stories of the war at Troy fired her imagination, so much so that when he left court to come to Hever on a visit, he was waylaid by his youngest child almost as soon as he entered the castle, and despite her governess' attempts to constrain her to proper behaviour, nothing would satisfy Anne except that he sit down with her and listen to her tell him some of the stories she had heard from Dr Knight. He sat down with his daughter on his lap, listening to her retelling and, if his attentiveness was feigned at first, in order to humour her, he quickly became entranced.

He was familiar with the stories already, of course, having learned them from his own tutor, but Anne's retelling enchanted him. She told the tales simply, as she was barely six years old, but her enthusiasm was infectious. She didn't mix up any of the stories, and when he quizzed her on the names of the various characters, she knew them all, beaming when he praised her for it.

"And who was the King of Mycenae?" Her smile faded away abruptly at his last question and he assumed that it was because she did not know the answer, and did not wish to admit it. "Would you like a clue?" He offered, not liking to see her upset and reasoning that, at her age, there was no harm in giving her a little help. "His brother was Menelaus, Helen's husband."

"I know who he is." Anne stated flatly, a frown creasing her brow. "His name was Agamemnon."

"That's right." He praised. "Clever girl." He expected to see the smile return to her face now that she had answered correctly but instead her frown deepened. "What's wrong, Anne?"

Her eyes sparkled with anger when she met his gaze. "He did a very bad thing."

Within hours of Anne's death being announced, it seemed as though Whitehall Palace was entirely swathed in black.

Black draperies shrouded paintings and statues, every member of Anne and the King's household wore sombre black gowns and livery and virtually all of the courtiers wore dark colours and spoke in hushed tones. There was no music other than mournful dirges composed in Anne's honour and played in the Chapel Royal, and no laughter. Most of those who were known not to have liked or esteemed Anne in life made a particular effort to dress in black and to school their faces into masks of tragedy. There were one or two exceptions, like the Duchess of Suffolk, who refused to pretend a grief they did not feel, but even they had the sense to withdraw from the court on some pretext or another rather than allowing the King to see that they did not share his grief for Anne.

Had the King seen any of his courtiers dressing in bright colours, as Anne and quite a few others who wished to show their support for her had when the Dowager Princess of Wales died, he didn't doubt that they would quickly have learned what a grave mistake that was. If the King ever wanted to be rid of Anne, he was not minded to remember that now that she was dead.

Even Mistress Seymour wore a black gown and hood, identical to the garb worn by Anne's other ladies-in-waiting, and she joined them in the chapel to pray by the bier on which Anne's body was laid out in state. When courtiers spoke of the motherless little Princess Elizabeth, Mistress Seymour was quick to express her sympathy for the child and to agree that it was a sad thing that she should be deprived of her loving mother, and at such a young age.

When he heard what she was doing, he was curious about her reasons.

When she prayed for Anne's soul – if she was praying for Anne's soul at all, and not thanking God that the lady who stood between her and the Queen's crown was no longer there to challenge her for the King's love – was she trying to convince herself and others that she had never prayed that she might have the opportunity to supplant her?

When she spoke of Princess Elizabeth, was she hoping that the King's concern for his motherless little daughter would lead him to give his daughter a stepmother as soon as possible, and pretending that should that role become hers, she would show her predecessor's child every kindness, doing her best to fill the void Anne's death left in her life?

Or was she thinking of Elizabeth at all?

Was she thinking that, now that Anne was dead and unable to champion her child's interests, it would be easier for her to act as the Lady Mary's advocate, persuading the King that he would be better off if he disinherited the toddler in favour of her elder half-sister? Was it her intention to hint to the King that she believed that it would be better for the stability of the country if he welcomed the daughter who had defied him back to court and restored her to favour, instead of giving the wretched girl the punishment she deserved for her treason?

The Seymours were rumoured to be supporters of the Lady Mary, even if they lacked the courage to make their allegiance publicly known, for fear of exciting the King's anger.

His spies informed him when that snake, Chapuys, paid a visit to Edward Seymour in his apartment the day after Anne was found murdered, and this was enough to confirm his fears.

For Chapuys to take the step of visiting the Seymours so soon after Anne's death, particularly when the Emperor was among those suspected of having a hand in her murder, could only mean that he was very confident of their allegiance to the Lady Mary and of their intention to help her, if they had the power to. If he thought that they would stand her friends, he would not hesitate to cultivate them and encourage that friendship, reminding them that his master would look favourably on those who offered his cousin kindness and assistance when she stood in need of it.

Chapuys had always been quick to seize any opportunity to help the Lady Mary, as he had the Dowager Princess of Wales before her.

At first, he was worried, afraid that he might have miscalculated the effect of the King's grief, that with Anne gone, the King would be left vulnerable to Mistress Seymour's manipulation.

She did not strike him as intelligent or calculating enough to take full advantage of the situation by herself but she would be taking her instructions from her ambitious kin. They might see the King's grief as an opportunity to remind him of his elder daughter, and of how much he once loved her before her arrogance and obstinacy left him with no alternative but to send her away until she learned her true place. Anne's death was proof of how short and how fragile life could be, and he could not dismiss the possibility that, with the right encouragement from the creature he yearned for, the King might decide to let bygones be bygones and welcome his daughter into his life once more, allowing the Lady Mary to choose the terms on which they would be reunited.

That would have been a disaster.

The Lady Mary inherited her pride from both of her parents and she would be adamant that she would come to court only when her father was willing to welcome her back as his legitimate heir, refusing to accept a lesser place. If the King was manipulated into thinking that nothing was more important than that he should be reconciled with the girl, Elizabeth's position would suffer.

He need not have worried.

When he saw Mistress Seymour praying alongside Anne's other ladies, he wanted to order her from his daughter's side, forbidding her to set foot in the Chapel Royal, dishonouring Anne with every moment she spent by her side and with every false prayer that passed her lying lips.

He hated to see the creature who would have seen Anne cast aside by her husband for her sake pretending to grieve for his daughter, knowing that the thoughts that would be uppermost in her mind would be thoughts of how she and her revolting kin might benefit from this turn of events, and speculation about how long she would be obliged to wait before court mourning for Anne ended and the King could make her his wife and Queen but, before he could give voice to his anger and command her to leave before he threw her out, the King spoke.

"You are excused, Mistress Seymour."

He spoke only five words to her but his voice was so cold, so hard and so angry that Mistress Seymour's blue eyes filled with tears and her lower lip trembled. He did not spare her another glance, not even to see that she obeyed his command and removed herself from the chapel. He moved towards the bier, leaning heavily on his cane to take his weight of his injured leg, a legacy of the joust at which he wore the creature's favour instead of asking Anne for hers, as he ought to.

By the time, he reached Anne's side, the tears were streaming down his cheeks unchecked.

Whether the King's tears were tears of grief at the loss of his wife, or tears of regret at the memory of the way he treated her before she was taken from him, he took them as a hopeful sign. Either way, his daughter would not be forgotten and, the more he grieved for Anne's death, the more protective he would be of the rights of the beautiful child she gave him.

Seeing the tears, he knew that he need not fear that the King would turn from Princess Elizabeth, daughter of his beloved, lost Queen, to his stubborn bastard, the Lady Mary.

"Oh, sweetheart." The King's voice was choked with tears, and his sincerity was apparent.

He could hear it, standing just behind his sovereign, and so could Mistress Seymour, who was making her way out of the Chapel Royal as slowly as she dared, as though she hoped that the King would relent, and give her some sign that he still cared for her, but he gave a different sign.

The strangled sob of distress from the creature as she realized that, in death, Anne could break her hold on the King's heart far more effectively than she could in life, was music to his ears.

Edward Seymour was the only member of the family who had the sense to see when he was not wanted. He left the court, perhaps hoping that if he did not stay so long that the King would order him away, he might one day be allowed to return, but the other Seymours stayed, continuing to go about dressed in black and to feign grief for Anne's death, waiting for the King to remember that he cared for the creature, that he had wished to marry her more than anything else and that he was now free to do so, and to show her and her family favour again.

They waited in vain.

The day they buried Anne, the King ordered the Seymours to leave court at once.

Though he did not say it aloud, everybody knew that it would be folly for them to show their faces in his presence again without his express invitation, an invitation he would never give. Mistress Seymour was a living reminder of the unkindness he heaped on Anne during the last months of her life, and of the distress they caused her and that had resulted in the loss of their son.

That was not something that the King would ever forgive them for.

The Seymours left the court, stealing away in the evening as though they were thieves, trying to hide themselves from those who would delight at their departure and disgrace and knowing that there would be nobody who would offer them any sign of friendship, much less any reassurance that the King would change his mind. Even those who pledged friendship and support to them over the past months would not bother to come to bid them farewell, much less to promise to speak to the King on their behalf, when the worst of his grief for Anne faded.

They packed all of their clothes, along with every single item they brought to court when they hoped to make their home there, as one of the first families in England, knowing that if they left anything behind, there was nobody who would send it on to them and no way that they could dare to return to claim it themselves when the King would not invite them to return.

Once they were gone, the King shut himself away in his apartment to mourn his wife in peace.

He thought of Mistress Seymour from time to time over the years, wondering what had become of her after she was sent away from court, losing the King's favour.

Sometimes, he liked to imagine that she became a nun.

It would not have surprised him to learn that, with his daughter known to have been favoured by the King and assumed by many to have been his mistress in truth, Sir John would be unable to find a decent man of rank who was willing to take such a woman as his wife.

If he could not find a mortal man willing to take her as his wife, she must become a Bride of Christ, who was less particular about the women who pledged themselves to him. He was not a wealthy man, and so was unlikely to be able to buy his daughter entry to one of the more congenial convents, one where the regime was not strict and where ladies of noble and gentle birth could enjoy comfortable lives instead of the austerity of other orders, but he would surely be able to scrape together a dowry sufficient to ensure acceptance to a lesser order.

Countless other unwanted women, many of them better women by far than that creature, were shut away in convents when their kin could not do any better by them, so why not Jane Seymour?

It amused him to think of her dressed in a dark habit of rough, homespun wool, her hair shorn under her wimple and cumbersome headdress. He liked to think that, as she spent her days working and praying, often obliged to fast and remain silent, with none of her kin or those who once sought her friendship ever bothering to pay her a visit, she would think with regret on her brief time at court, as the King's sweetheart, wishing that her life could have turned out differently, and imagining what it would have been like if she had achieved her ambition.

He thought of her spending her nights dreaming of being Queen of England, feted by the court and gowned in the finest silk, velvet and ermine, glittering with jewels, with every comfort and luxury available to her, only to wake up in a cold, bare convent cell, lying on a lumpy pallet with only roughly woven blankets for warmth and realize that that life was forever out of her reach.

She had enjoyed the King's attention for such a short time, a matter of weeks, and to little avail.

He hoped that she would always think of her time at court with regret, wishing that she had never agreed to come, never flaunted herself before the King, always feigning modesty, and never dreamed of trying to come between the King and his Queen. He hoped that she would clearly see how foolish and arrogant she was to think that she could ever be worthy of taking Anne's place, and that she would always know that, whatever the King might have said to her when he thought himself smitten with her, she would never have been able to hold his heart as Anne had.

She deserved to feel regret and pain.

If not for Mistress Seymour, Anne would still be alive.

If Anne had not seen the slut sitting on her husband's knee, she would not have become distressed and she would not have lost her son, the son who would have been her saviour. With a son in the cradle, Anne would have been safe for the rest of her life. The King's love for her would bloom anew when she was the mother of his long-awaited son, and he would recognize that this was proof that their marriage was blessed, and that he should never look at another woman. He would never dream of setting her aside, no matter how many pretty sluts caught his eye.

If not for Mistress Seymour, Anne would have been safe and happy and loved, for the rest of her life. She would have died an old woman, a beloved Queen, wife, mother and grandmother.

She would not have had to die so young, and so alone.

Mistress Seymour could not suffer enough for the wrongs she committed against Anne.

Sometimes, he liked to imagine that Sir John found a husband for his daughter, a humble country squire who eked out a living from the handful of farms in his possession and who was only willing to take a woman with Mistress Seymour's reputation as his wife because her father bribed him with the biggest dowry he could scrape together for her to see her settled, and off his hands.

He imagined that the man saddled with the creature would regard her with scorn, knowing that she had set out to seduce a married man, and that he would be wary of her, always fearful that she might make a cuckold of him, given the opportunity. He would not have the rank or the means to go to court but, even if he did, he would never dream of allowing her to accompany him. On the rare occasions when they had company, he would watch his unworthy wife with sharp eyes, alert for any sign that she might be flirting with his guests.

He would never be able to trust such a woman, or to respect her, and she would never be allowed to forget this.

When he imagined Mistress Seymour married, he never imagined that she might have children.

She had cost Anne's unborn son his life, just as she had cost little Elizabeth her mother, so she did not deserve to be a mother herself.

He hoped that Mistress Seymour would never be allowed to know what it was like to hold her son, or even her daughter, in her arms, marvelling at the tiny life she helped create, just as he hoped that if she married, her husband would grow impatient with their lack of a child, resenting her for failing to give him even this much and regretting the day that he was ever persuaded to take her as his wife, telling himself that even the dowry Sir John used to bribe him to wed her was not adequate compensation for taking on a barren, unworthy bride.

When she died, he hoped that there would be no child to stand by her bedside, and no husband or friends who would mourn her loss.

He wanted them to be as happy to see her dead as he had been to see her sent from court.

Once, when news came of an epidemic in Wiltshire, not far from Wolf Hall, he hoped that the creature had succumbed, though part of him begrudged her the release of death.

He never made any attempt to discover what became of her.

Had he wanted to, it would have been easy enough for him to send somebody to find out what the Seymours were doing but he knew that this was something he could not do.

However much pleasure it would have given him to know that Mistress Seymour's life was a miserable one, it would not compare to the anger and dismay he would feel if his agent was obliged to return to him with news that, somehow, despite her reputation, the creature had managed to forge a happy life for herself, that she had married a good man who doted on her and who could give her a comfortable lifestyle, and that she was the mother of children she would be able to keep with her, and who would love her, not knowing of their mother's shame.

As long as he did not know the truth, he could imagine whatever outcome he pleased for Mistress Seymour, and those imaginings could bring him a measure of temporary comfort.

Anne might be dead but it would surely comfort her to know that her rival was prevented from triumphing over her.

He remembered that, when he was a boy, the tales his tutor told of the Trojan war entranced him, inspiring him to practice his swordsmanship, archery and horse-riding so that he might one day be skilled enough to emulate the achievements of the heroes whose stories he listened to avidly, and read himself when his Greek was equal to the task.

The story of Iphigenia was never one that he paid much attention to.

She was not a hero who fought countless opponents and defeated them, she was not a King whose strategies could mean the difference between victory and defeat, she was not wily Odysseus, whose shrewdness he hoped one day to emulate, or Achilles, invincible but for one fatal flaw, or even Helen, whose desertion had caused the war than captured his imagination.

Her role in the story was a minor one, and her destiny was to give her father the chance to wage the war that would make a legend of him, and many others.

"If King Agamemnon had not sacrificed Iphigenia, then the thousand ships would never be able to set sail." He pointed out to Anne who, unlike him, was indignant on Iphigenia's behalf, resenting Agamemnon for doing what needed to be done. "There would have been no war at Troy, and Menelaus would never have been reunited with his wife."

"It was still wrong to kill her. He didn't deserve to win when he killed his daughter."

He should have told her that Iphigenia did a daughter's duty by sacrificing herself for her father's sake, so that Agamemnon could achieve his goals.

He should have taken the opportunity to prepare Anne for the fact that, when the time came, she too would be expected to do what was necessary to help him, and her brother, advance.

In these Christian times, no pagan god would call upon him to spill his daughter's blood on a sacrificial altar but she would still have her part to play in ensuring the advancement and prosperity of her family. When she was old enough to be married, he would find a husband who would be a useful ally for him. Anne's husband would be a man who was well-placed to help him, not a man chosen because he would make her happy. For Mary, it would be the same and even George's wife would be chosen for the benefits she could bring, not for personal considerations.

But she was only six, and he could not bring himself to tell her that, not yet.

Instead he smiled, holding her in his arms. "Iphigenia loved her father, and he loved her. I'm sure that Agamemnon knew that his daughter would want to do everything she could to help him."

Anne shook her head decisively. "He didn't think that. He just killed her anyway."

"How do you know that he didn't?"

"If he did, he would have asked her first."