GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS
What if the Sweat took many people that are most dear to the King's heart? Would it change the man he is about to become, would it spare his six wives their sad fates? Would it prevent his daughter from becoming Bloody Mary? Or will it all go down in the end, since nothing can change the course of events? In this fanfic, God takes drastic measures to show Henry his wrongs.
Author's note: I will stick to the show rather than to actual history. This includes the appearance of Queen Catherine, the character of Princess Margaret and so on. The story begins in episode 1.05 and is AU from then onwards. I know that Chapter 1 sticks very closely to the show, but think of it as a necessary exposition. When reviewing, please also take into consideration that English is not my native language. Hope you like the story, feel free to review!
All His Days are Sorrows(Ecclesiastes 2:23)
Horse hooves clattered over the dusty road as three men rushed towards the ash grey building. They dismounted their horses in a hurry as if all hell was behind them. Their leader, a handsome man dressed in exquisitely embroidered black raiment, simply burst into the house. He passed the guards without opposition and stormed into the great hall. His heart beat like a drum.
"Anne!" He shouted.
A slender figure appeared on the gallery, immediately drawing his attention. My God, you are so beautiful, he thought. A cascade of raven hair fell over her shoulders as she leaned over the balustrade. Her olive face lit up as soon as their eyes met. He couldn't help but smile. Nothing could keep him from her now. Like a knight finally breaching a highly defended castle he rushed up the stairs towards her. Henry desperately needed to see her, touch her, smell her, or else his heart would break his chest.
Anne sank into a deep curtsey as he approached her. He grabbed her by the shoulders. No need for such formalities, he thought. They looked at each other for a split second before kissing passionately. Her lips at last! How sweet they tasted, how wonderful it was to feel her warm body so close to his. He would have given everything for this moment never to end. But when she withdrew her lips, he remembered what he had come for in the first place.
"Anne… I want to say something to you," he began. "If it pleases you to be my true loyal mistress and friend, to give yourself up to me body and soul- I promise, I will take you as my only mistress. I won't have a thought or affection for anyone else. If you agree to be my maîtresse-en-titre, I promise, I shall serve only you."
"Your official mistress," she echoed.
"Yes. And you will have everything you need, everything within my power to give you is yours- just ask," he looked at her, breathlessly waiting for an answer. Was that a frown sneaking into her pretty face? Why would she frown? "What is it?"
"What have I done to make you treat me like this?" She asked.
He withdrew, meeting her with disbelief. "Done?" He understood nothing. "What fault have I committed, tell me?"
She flinched, but he wouldn't let her go. He pulled her closer. "Tell me," he commanded.
"Your Majesty, I have already given my maidenhead into my husband's hands and whoever he is, only he will have it."
He let her go and turned away in anger. Why was she so stubborn? "Oh Anne," he sighed deeply.
She leant onto the balustrade next to him. "Because I know how it goes otherwise."
He fled from her once more, instinctively knowing that she was right, yet denying it to himself. In the fireplace before him, flames rushed higher. Thoughts ran wild in his mind.
"My sister is called "the great prostitute" by everyone," she said harshly.
Once again she was right. The face of Mary appeared in his mind, only for a second, but long enough to remind him of the fate she now suffered. The fate that every woman he ever abandoned suffered. Anne was right not to wish such a fate upon herself, she deserved better. It was his fault. But how could it be his, he was the King, he was God's emissary on Earth, how could he be wrong? He turned around in confusion.
"I am sorry if I offended you. I did not mean to," his words came out less apologetic than they were intended. He saw her lips trembling and could barely resist the urge to kiss her once more. "I spoke plainly of my true feelings." Sadness overcame him, sadness and anger, for now he felt terribly vulnerable. He rushed down the stairs, unable to bear her sight any longer. Why did it hurt so much? Why could he not be with her?
"Your Majest…" Her voice died behind him.
A tall, grey-haired man pushed himself into his way as he rushed towards the door. No, not now. Leave me alone, for God's sake!
"Majesty," the man curtseyed.
He just passed him by. "Open the door," he shouted.
Had he stayed, he would have seen the crystal clear tears filling up the eyes of his beloved as they followed each of his steps. He would have seen her longing. And he would have seen the ice cold look in the eyes of her father who had every reason to believe that his daughter was failing him right now. He would have seen her for the lonely, abused yet loving woman she was underneath her fierce behaviour. But he didn't stay.
He closed the door behind him. What was going to be said now should not be heard by anyone outside these walls.
"He wants a divorce?" Thomas More's voice broke the silence only an instant after the door closed.
Wolsey turned around and looked at More sighing. Pitiful idealist, he thought. "It's not a divorce. The King wants an annulment on the grounds that he was never married in the first place," Wolsey explained while walking towards his desk. "By marrying his brother's wife, he has offended the laws of both God and man. He simply wants that recognized." He sat down.
More paced around like a hungry lion. "The Pope gave him dispensation to marry Catherine!"
"Indeed he did," Wolsey agreed in a low voice. "No one denies it. But the King feels more beholden to God than he does to the Pope. His conscience is genuinely stricken and tender. He has disobeyed God's injunction. There is nothing His Holiness can say or do that can alter that fact."
"The Pope is God's representative on Earth," More answered fiercely. "He speaks for him."
Wolsey's patience was at an end. Why did More always have to be so damn stubborn? He jumped up.
"Oh come, Tom, what are you pretending? Kings get divorced all the time and popes always find an excuse!" This sudden outburst calmed down as quickly as it had arisen. "I know you're an idealist, but you're not stupid. If Henry wants an annulment, who is to stop him?"
More seemed unimpressed. "Alright. You talk of facts. Let me give you a fact," he almost spit out the words. "Catherine of Aragon is not only a great Queen and the daughter of great kings, she is also immensely popular throughout the whole of the country. God forbid that the King should abandon her just to ease his own conscience. I don't think the English people would ever forgive him."
Wolsey turned away, his mind working fast. Was there some truth to More's words?
"Does she know yet?" More just wouldn't let go.
The Cardinal tried to ignore him and his self-pleased tone. He sat down, but More was instantly at his face.
"Does she know yet?"
Wolsey looked at him tantalised. Why on earth did he always know how to ask the right questions no matter how painful they were?
Brandon was screwed. By the end of the week, his head would be on a pike outside the city walls, he was sure of it. His only chance now was to smother his regret in ale and hope for help.
"My dear William," he said gladly when he recognized Compton's silhouette.
"Charles! Welcome back." Compton greeted him with a radiant smile. They hugged as if they had not seen each other in years.
"Come, sit down, we'll drink," Brandon suggested.
As soon as Compton sat down, he frowned. "Actually, I don't understand. Why here? We've been expecting you back at court."
Brandon lowered his gaze. "How is the King?"
"Anxiously awaiting his sister," Compton replied sternly. His voice made it clear that he suspected something. "To share her grief."
Brandon sighed. Better now than later, he thought. "We're married."
Obviously, for all the time they had known each other, this was not what Compton had expected. He laughed in disbelief. Surely his ears had been mistaken. "What?"
"She… and me… we're married", Brandon repeated slowly.
Compton laughed. "You and…?"
"Yes." There was no trace of a smile left on Brandon's face.
A barmaid brought them new ale. Compton stared into the tankard, still unable to stop grinning like a fool.
"You have to tell him. You have to tell the King."
"I have to tell? Why do I have to tell?"
"Because it'd be better coming from you," Brandon insisted severely.
Compton smiled. "What's the matter, Charles, have you lost your nerve?"
"This is no laughing matter."
"Then why did you do it?"
A moment of silence followed.
"You know me," Brandon said in a lower voice. "I don't always think."
"Yes you do. Just not with your head," Compton replied and gently slapped him on the forehead.
His friend was right, Brandon knew it. His head would be on a pike, and Margaret… What would the King do to her? He loved her, he loved Brandon, but once he knew how much they had wounded his pride, there would be no way this love could save them. Brandon knew Henry's temper better than most. He had known before, he had just hoped that Compton would be able to… No. He was completely screwed.
She had been in prayer for almost an hour, begging God to send her a healthy son and to bring her husband to his senses. Catherine could no longer count the times she had prayed for her life to be good again. Why would God abandon her so? She was pious, loving, and devout- in short, she was everything that was expected of her. Why would God not grant her a son? Why did God allow all these ambitious little harlots to catch the eye of the King? Like his latest pursuit, this Anne Boleyn, a girl half her age. Her own lady in waiting. Once more she had to suffer the presence of one of Henry's whores. Why did God put her through all this suffering? Had she not been hurt enough to see that Mistress Blount, the only English lady she had confided in, had given the King a healthy son? And that son was now made Duke of Richmond and Somerset, he was set above her daughter. How could God allow that to happen? Surely God knew how beautiful and talented Mary was- she was destined to be Queen.
A sudden knock on the door ended her thoughts. She turned around to see Henry enter. A grave expression lay on his face.
"Henry?" She asked smiling. "You…"
He cut in on her. "Catherine, I have something to tell you," he said, looking deep into her eyes. "As far as I'm concerned, our marriage is at an end."
Catherine closed her eyes to hide how much he hurt her. She had always seen this moment coming, but now that it was here, she could not believe her ears.
"Actually there is no need to end something which has never been. You and I were never truly married. It was a misunderstanding of scripture and a papal misapplication of canon law." He paused for a moment. His voice became weaker. "It's true, I… I did not know about these things before, but… but it's… it has been brought to light by learned opinion. And it weighs down my conscience."
Tears filled up his eyes. She could see that this was hurting him, too. Why did he go on to say these things? He was the King, he could do as he please, why would he not stop?
"It has forced me to give up your bed and board once and for all. All that remains is for you to choose where to live and to retire there as quickly as possible." She could not believe he would say something like that, but he did. And then he added: "I swear to you, all will be done for the best."
Then he turned around. Catherine stretched out her hand to touch him, to know that he was real, that this was really happening, but he was gone already. The door slowly closed behind him. Shock and sadness mixed in her face, she found it hard to breathe. In fact, she found it hard to keep herself on her feet. She dropped to the floor and burst into inconsolable weeping.