Author's Note: This is not quality work, I admit. But lately, an old plot bunny from the Tudors forum would not leave my head, and this is my attempt at it. I literally wrote it in two days. It is an answer to the question- what if Anne Boleyn had gone to France before she was executed? It is serious AU and not my best work, but I really hope you all enjoy it. It is also really dark, so be warned of some serious themes in here.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Tudors or any of these characters. History and Showtime have the copyright.
Please review if you liked it! A new chapter of King Arthur will be coming soon for all you fans.
When she miscarried her boy, her sweet baby boy, she knew that she was lost. Henry treated her so coldly, did not even look at her, unless they had to go out in public. She had known that it was a matter of time before her kingdom, built on sand, crumbled. Still, she followed the advice of her father. She smiled widely and kept pushing her way into Henry's bed, when she could. She would try and conceive another child, keep her marriage alive.
Jane Seymour was going to swoop in, with her faction, like she had once done, and place herself between her and Henry unless she did. She was so tired, but for her daughter, she would try. That's what she told herself, and she knew that if there was a way to will herself to fall pregnant, she would have. She still cultivated a French marriage for Elizabeth, hoping that if King Francis accepted her legitimacy that Anne would somehow be safer, but she still listened to her father, knowing that an Imperial alliance was one that would be good for England, and was one that Henry was leaning towards. Even if she hated the idea, she played both sides evenly.
She still thought Henry was in love with her, that there was a chance that he would keep her as Queen. He was still passionate, but she knew that he hadn't consummated his relationship with the Seymour slop. Perhaps he doubted his own virility. But she knew the moment Katherine of Aragon died, she wasn't safe. So she made sure that she didn't let anybody know that, while continuing to give her husband pleasure at night, playing his docile queen. She never mentioned Mary. She never mentioned her own daughter. She just waited. And prayed.
She did all this, contented, until she noticed the way Cromwell looked at her one night.
They had fallen out, but she did not think it was serious. He was not as powerful as he thought, she knew Charles Brandon and the Seymours, and even her own family despite how far she had fallen, could crush him. He knew that too. He was too smart not to. She knew she shouldn't have threatened him, but it was her right. She was the Queen of England; he owed his career to her. It was not impolitic of her to remind him of that, or she thought.
She overheard Brandon mention to Henry, while they were entertaining the Imperial ambassador Chapuys, that she had been behaving lewdly and entertaining men late in her chambers, often inappropriately. She wasn't listening on purpose, but she was listening nonetheless. If she had not declined to dance, too exhausted from her attempts to keep her balance between imperial and French interests, she would not have heard it. The thought chilled her.
She could notice Cromwell's look, keeping that comment in mind from Brandon. It was pity. It was cold. It was calculated. She immediately stopped talking to George, she felt a shiver go through her. He was not overtly declaring war, but she felt it in her bones. She felt unsafe and like instead of being set aside, she was going to be utterly destroyed.
The next week, her father told her they were investigating treason.
She decided she had to leave England.
She cannot know for sure, of course, if there is truly anything to her paranoia. She has not felt safe in her marriage or in her position since her first miscarriage. Her second one is reason to be concerned, she thinks, especially with Jane Seymour lurking in the shadows.
Brandon hated her. That much she has known for a long time. Cromwell does too, something she could blame on herself. She thinks of the men Cromwell could accuse of being too intimate with her, how she could be shamed, sent off to a nunnery, Elizabeth stripped of all title and status. She did not want to consider it, and she thought that her risk of poison was even higher now. If they could convince Henry that she never loved him enough to respect him, people could slip into her bedchamber at night and murder her, all while knowing she no longer had the King's protection.
She knew that she would not let her child suffer. Elizabeth was born to be Princess and a great woman, but Anne wanted her to live more than she wanted her to have power. Her father called it weak, she called it love.
Wherever she went, she was taking her daughter with her, something that made her escape more difficult. But to leave Elizabeth in her father's clutches, and worse, and the hands of her mother's enemies, totally at their mercy, having to beg for favor from Jane Seymour, sickened her. She thought of Mary, motherless and at her father's mercy. If anything happened to her, Elizabeth would be worse off. There would be nobody willing to speak for her. Anne had no powerful relatives, their power came from her. She was utterly alone, and so was Elizabeth. She would have to rely on Henry's fatherly sentiments, and if it was anything like his love for her, it would be fickle.
She would not leave her daughter alone in England.
It was cowardice to run; she knew that in the back of her mind. But she wanted to live, freely, not trapped in a nunnery, or worse, killed at the words of unkind enemies. Most importantly, she wanted to be with her daughter. If Henry would not defend their family, he would no longer be a part of it. She knew where she needed to go, and she just hoped that her daughter would forgive her, and know that even though she was risking both of their lives and the wrath of her father, as well as never truly knowing Henry, she knew it would be better for both of them to leave.
She does not think about the pain of leaving her husband, because she knows she would turn back if she did. For once in her life, she acts for herself.
The French Ambassador always liked her. Not the one who came to arrange Elizabeth's marriage, but the one that accepted her gift of the dog named Wolsey, when she was safe. She stopped him one day, and dragged him into her rooms. He would not refuse her an audience, even though she was a disgraced Queen; she was still the Queen of England. It is not as if an ambassador, no matter his spy network, truly knew everything that happened at court.
She dismissed all of her ladies. If they spoke ill of her, it would not matter anymore. And as Queen, she was entitled to entertain diplomats in private.
"Your majesty, how may I be of service to you?" he asked, sincerity in his eyes, despite the fact that she had insulted him just a week ago, telling him that the French were oath breakers and betrayers. She did not mean it, and she knew she had to make amends if she wanted to have his help.
She would usually be more diplomatic and convincing, but she cannot help the fear in her voice, and after she apologizes, she sputters out instructions, "Write to your master. Tell him that you are coming back, you've been recalled. When your ship leaves, and you must leave soon Ambassador, I will be on it with you, and my daughter, Princess Elizabeth. If you must, tell him that I will be with him, but give no specifics. And use code. Master Cromwell is a clever man."
"Your majesty, forgive me, but I was told your visit to France was postponed," he replied, confused.
"I will not be with the King. I will be alone. And I will not be returning. I only need the safe haven of your shores; I need not trouble you any longer. I will give you all of the money I have, and then some. I will do whatever it takes to be on that ship, your Excellency, but I must be on that ship. I am not safe here anymore and neither is my daughter. King Francis surely understands that," Anne explained, with a whisper. She would not risk any enemies hearing this. This was vital. If Henry knew she was escaping, she would know his anger far worse than she had ever experienced it. And there would no man that could save her.
"His majesty would welcome you, but you could not come as the Queen of England and expect to stay forever," the Ambassador responded, confidently. He had written about the lady's plight in England, how she had fallen out of favor. His master responded that he would try and see that the marriage was arranged between his youngest son and Princess Elizabeth, but there was not much else he could do beyond it.
Even so, he knew his master was fond of Queen Anne, having seen her grow up in France during her youth. He would shelter her, but not at the risk of war. However, Belley did not think that there would be war if Queen Anne left. He thought the King of England would go about his life and remarry, forgetting his wife and daughter over time, never bothering to hunt them down, thinking them dead.
If Queen Anne showed up on the French shore looking for shelter, and hide herself well, Francis would gloat over having Henry's Queen. Still, it was a risk. "You must cease to be a Queen when you come to France, your majesty."
"I plan on abdicating my marriage, for my own safety and for my daughter's. I will turn myself in on threat of war, and your master may plead he did not know. But I will come to France, if it be through you or other means," Anne explained, a gleam in her eyes.
"I will make the arrangements, my lady."
She swears George to secrecy.
Before the King pursued her, she could have told George anything without her father or mother knowing about it. She trusted him absolutely, more than anybody else in her life. Once Henry began to court her, and look to her as his future wife, there was a shift in their relationship, and now she was wary around him, knowing that anything she said to him would get back to their father.
But this was life or death. She needed him to be her brother again, and not her father's son.
"You are a fool," he said when she told him.
"I know, but I have to try. If I don't, what more do I have to lose? Cromwell wants me gone, and I do not trust him. I fear death, George, and I need to leave. Write to Elizabeth's governess, tell her I want to see my daughter, and tell nobody of my plans, or else you will kill me," Anne explained, not making an attempt to hide her feelings. George would not damn her, she was sure of it.
"I will go to Hatfield myself, today. Take Elizabeth back for a surprise visit, just me and her, none of her household. You have that right," George proposed. It was unorthodox, but if Anne could have it done, it would be easier.
"No, she will need people, do so would be strange. Have her take back a reduced staff. When I intend to leave, she will be with me. I will not leave her behind."
She has George arrange to deliver a letter to their sister when she leaves.
She would feel wrong leaving England without telling Mary she was sorry for everything she had done to her, exiling her from the family and not staying in contact with her. She congratulates her on the birth of her child, girl or boy, she knows Mary loves her husband and will be happy with a child she truly chose to have.
She misses her terribly, but knows she cannot take her with. It was already so dangerous having Elizabeth leave with her. Her only child, the light of her life, was all she needed. But she missed Mary, but knew she was happy.
She always knew Mary would be happier one at the end of their lives.
She writes three more letters.
The first one is to her father, to be dropped off by her steward the day she leaves, as if it just any other message she would sent to her father when she did not feel like speaking with him directly. She writes that she loves him, and that she forgives him for everything he ever did to upset or wrong her. She asks him to forgive her, and to treat Mary and George with kindness, now that he did not have to focus on her anymore.
She tells him to leave court, have George leave his marriage that makes him so unhappy, and visit Mary and her new child, and be kind to her new husband. Henry would most likely never want to see their family again after she betrayed him, and she knew her father would lose everything. But she knows that there is nothing better for him than that. He needed to love his children more and love the feeling of having it all less; because Anne knew there was no such thing as having it all after her marriage fell apart.
She tells him she will miss him, and kisses the letter as she seals it.
She also writes to the Lady Mary. She has trouble with this one, but she knows it was wrong to keep her from her mother while she was dying. If it was her choice, she would have told Henry to let her. But she has thought about her own daughter too much, about how she mistreated her stepdaughter, and how Jane Seymour would have treated Elizabeth without Anne being able to speak for her.
The thought scares her, and so she knows it's the Christian thing to write to Mary.
She does not ask for her forgiveness, because she knows she will never truly receive it. But she wishes her happiness, and for the love of her father to be restored to her. She does not wish for her queenship or restoration. She just wishes that like her, the Lady Mary will find peace.
The last one she writes is to Henry.
It is stained with tears so she has to rewrite it, cursing the ink as it runs down the page.
When you read this, I will be gone.
Not dead, as your friends and my enemies wished, perhaps even you, but just gone. Pretend I am dead. Pretend Elizabeth never existed. Be just and let us go, because you do not want this family. You never did.
You want your boy. I will not deny it. I leave our marriage freely, for safety, for Elizabeth, and for you. I love you so much that it pains me to do this, but I cannot stay where I am not protected by you, when you promised to protect me and honor me. I do not trust you, but God help and forgive me; I will never stop loving you. I will not go a day without thinking of you, but this is the last your majesty shall hear of me.
Please forgive me.
Your erstwhile sweetheart,
She seals the letter, and calls for Elizabeth, leaving behind the only man that would ever love her.
Lady Bryan releases her charge for the night, as Anne just wants to tuck in her daughter in her bed and sleep with her. She knows it is not what a Queen would do, but it is her last night being able to call herself that, so she does not care any longer what looks her attendants and Elizabeth's give her.
She does not have to answer to anybody anymore.
Her ladies all leave too. The one assigned to sleep on her pallet, Nan, knows of her plan. Anne tells her to leave, to absolve herself of responsibility. She instead offers to go with her to France, something that Anne does not reject. She would like somebody with her, a friend, and it would be helpful to have somebody help her with Elizabeth, since she does not really know how to be a mother. She dresses in her riding habit, and leaves all of her gowns behind, her lovely gowns, which made her beautiful but did not make her safe.
"Mama, I don't want to leave forever!" Elizabeth protests.
"This is the only way we can be together. I love you and I am keeping you safe. France is so beautiful and you will be so happy there, I promise darling," Anne swears, kneeling down to her daughter's level to scoop her into her arms.
Elizabeth tucks her hand into hers once she releases her, and gives her brave smile. She truly is Henry's daughter, and she thinks proudly, hers.
They leave through the servants' entrance of Whitehall, where there are no guards and board the ship. George's hand slips from hers, and she kisses him with salty tears. She tells him to be safe, and to try as hard as he could to be happy. She watches the shore until her brother becomes a tiny dot, and sobs for the last time in England.
In the morning, she breathes in the sea air and tastes freedom.
King Francis does not take kindly to her arriving in his country unannounced.
She is able to charm him, however. Even after she feels numb inside, scared and heartbroken, she is still able to convince men that she is worth whatever trouble they must endure. The French Ambassador retains his position after an hour in a room with King Francis, her daughter is assigned a tutor, and Anne is given rooms at court, and a house just outside of Paris, with an annual pension. She gives him a kiss, passionate and longing, and ignores the bile in her throat. He returns it, and smiles at her.
"Mademoiselle Anne, you have not lose your Frenchness, despite being England's Queen," he observes. Even if he looks older, he is still handsome, and Anne smiles back. If she tells herself enough, perhaps the smile will not be fake any longer.
"I need a new hair color, and a new name," she proposes. "I will not have you suffer at my former husband's wrath. I will be dead in England soon enough, there is no need for anybody to look here."
He smiles and sends her to his tailor and a woman who dyes her hair blonde. Her gowns are plainer, but still beautiful. Elizabeth also receives beautiful clothes, which his daughters once wore. They raise suspicion because they live alone. Francis tells everybody that her husband is an invalid in the country, and soon Anne receives a position in his new Queen's household.
When she serves in her household, she ignores the irony of kneeling at Katherine of Aragon's cousin's feet. She also ignores the looks she gives her when Francis places his hand on her breast, brazenly, while they are dancing. The woman is not suspicious, since she refused to meet her when she was the Marquess of Pembroke and the King of England's mistress. She has no idea her name is Anne Boleyn. She has no idea that Anne is a consummate actress, capable of seducing kings. But she knows that her husband is besotted.
Anne does not reject his advances, and when she is invited into his bed, she leaves Elizabeth with Nan and sacrifices her body to keep her life. The feeling is not foreign, after all. And two hours in bed with a King weekly doesn't seem like a bad deal for a home, an income, and a future for her daughter. She has given much more for much less.
It takes a few months before she gets word from England, so she knows she has hid herself well. Francis delivers the letter, which he explains was in code. He smiles sadly at her when she sees it's from George, and she wants to cry when she see his familiar handwriting. She never realized how much she missed him.
She was curious, despite herself, how her departure has influenced events in England. Nan is lonely too, she can tell, and they both miss England. Elizabeth is too young to remember, although she wonders why she cannot go back from time to time. Anne wants to tell her it is destroyed, because in it a way it is.
George's letter answers all of her questions, and it takes her no time to figure out the code.
I miss you terribly. So does England, believe it or not, if England is the King.
Henry wept when you left. Wept openly. Then declared revenge on Francis'. Brandon talked him out of going to war, and told him to act like you had died and Elizabeth too. Everybody important at court knows the truth, but it does not matter. They accepted it. Father and I lost our positions, as a façade of mourning. Jane and I divorced, her dowry was returned because her father did not want to be with a disgraced family. We live at Hever now, as the King in his generosity has let us keep it. Father curses you daily, but sometimes at night, I hear him weep too.
Cramer annulled your marriage on the grounds that Henry married you despite the fact he had carnal relations with Mary. Your "body" was buried next to Elizabeth's in the Chapel here, simply bearing the title "Anne Boleyn, Marquess of Pembroke, and her daughter, Lady Elizabeth Tudor." Henry pretended well like you had died. Sometimes he yells at his advisors for letting you escape. Cromwell made sure that his marriage to Jane Seymour happened quickly, and convinced him it was best to never look for you. Henry is sick and angry constantly. Queen Jane sometimes appears at court with a bruised eye.
He is expecting a prince in the fall. The Lady Mary dances in attendance to the Queen, but she even must tread carefully. She attended your "funeral." She looked sorry, but I was not sure if it was an act or not. She and Henry are not close, but there is talk of having her legitimatized again.
Mary, our dear sister, is happy and had a daughter, named her after you. Sometimes she visits Hever with her husband, which father accepts now.
If you ever can, you would be welcomed back here. We all miss you.
Anne cries and spends the rest of the night telling Elizabeth stories of a maiden fair, who fell in love with a cruel King, whose brother saved her.
There are rumors in France that she is a liar.
She ignores them.
She speaks French, walks French, acts French, and dresses French. Elizabeth's pretty French voice echoes through their room. The three of them live happily, and Elizabeth is promised a glorious future. Sometimes she hopes she will never marry, not truly, not suffer the way Anne had to. Sometimes she thinks about how she thought Elizabeth would be England's greatest Queen, but she looks at her daughter and knows she made the right choice.
When Nan marries, Anne dismisses her. She deserved a life separate from hers.
When Francis' Queen dies in childbirth, he asks for her hand. Anne laughs at him.
"Your majesty, I am a married woman, while my invalid husband lives. I am a woman without a name, with a daughter who has no father. I have no history, no background. I am truly a new woman. France will not accept me as your Queen, as England never did."
She still visits him weekly, still receives his money that she knows she does not deserve. When she falls pregnant a year into her time in France, she has a midwife get rid of the child. She cannot love his child, not the same way she loves Elizabeth.
She begins to write her story down. She does not know if it will ever be told, since nobody knows it truly, not really. Sometimes she thinks it would be better if Elizabeth thought her father was truly an invalid, or dead, and that she truly was French. But her daughter is too smart. She remembers her life in England, how she used to be called Princess and treated like the future Queen of England in the absence of her brother.
So she writes their story down, the former Queen and Princess, and how they were free women. How Anne Boleyn did not die in 1536, but lived, lived truly and freely, and never regretted leaving England. She writes it down because she thinks people ought to know the truth. The project leaves her consumed, she stops dancing, stops dining in the Great Hall. She tells her daughter her history and writes it down.
When Henry sends her a letter, she weeps.
I hate and miss you. At night, the woman next to me sometimes looks like you.
Come back. Please.
She burns it and when word reaches her he has died, she keeps writing her book, and she wills herself to keep living.
She knows, for the first time in her entire life, that she deserves to live. Not just for Elizabeth, for her family, or for Henry. But for herself. For the love she had lost, and would never get back, or for the daughter that was truly hers and not Henry's. To tell the story of Anne Boleyn, she decides, is to tell the story of a woman who made her own path and destiny.
The day Henry, King of England dies, Anne knows she is free. She does not cry for him. She would dance on his grave, if she were still English. She tells Elizabeth her father had died, and she does not react. She does not care. Her callousness would usually frighten her, in a girl so young, but she does not punish her or feel afraid for her daughter. She knows Elizabeth, like her, is capable of love. But they do not have a husband or father. They only have each other.
She knows that she and Elizabeth are the only two women that escaped, and the only two that are truly free. She does not let herself feel sorry for that.
Anne Boleyn lives laughing, and dies in her bed in France, after seeing her daughter translate the Bible and marry a lowly gentleman who sweeps her away into a life of happiness. Anne never marries again, and she deserves that, she decides. She deserves to die and live freely, the way she never could when she was in England. She thinks that it's appropriate she's buried in England, because she died there, truly.
However, she still dies in body a Queen even without the law, just as God intended.
Please let me know what you think. This is sloppy and I threw it together but it would not leave me alone!