It was the circle of life. Life was given, only to end in death. For Anne Boleyn, death would come at the hands of a blinded man wielding a silver blade. The former queen had been sentenced to death by beheading or burning, according to the king's pleasure. Anne could only thank the heavens that Henry was not cruel enough to see his wife, his former flame, burned at the stake.
Combing her raven locks in front of the only mirror provided her, Anne sighed, allowing her mind to wander to the past once more. It had been a mere decade since the king had fallen for her, and she for him. Anne would never forget the night they locked eyes for the first time, she a young a woman and he her majestic lord. It had been a grueling road to the wedding altar, and there were times that Anne had questioned if Henry truly loved her. But they had married. Then came Elizabeth, their beautiful princess.
Anne stood, her gray gown swishing as she walked to her bed. Sitting carefully on the edge, she crossed her ankles and retrieved a locket from beside her. Engraved with the letters k and a, it was made to commemorate the love she and Henry had once shared. Anne felt the tears spring to her eyes as she remembered the near tangible passion they had once thrived on. It seemed a cruel twist of fate that the man who had once torn a country apart for her was so willing to discard her now.
That, she knew, was the work of Jane Seymour. It broke Anne's heart to realize that she had been replaced in Henry's heart. A mere decade ago, she had been the mistress, the favored lover. A mere decade ago, Katherine of Aragon had been forced to watch while Henry VIII became smitten for young Anne Boleyn. Now, it was as if fate was laughing at the doomed queen, who was forced to watch in horror as she was replaced. She took Katherine's dejected role as the forgotten queen, and Jane assumed hers, becoming Henry's new love.
And now she was here, sentenced to death by her own husband. She would die in a matter of hours, and Henry would do what he believed would make him happy. Anne looked down at the ring beside her. Upon being stripped of her title as queen, she had been forced to relinquish her wealth and jewels. However, she had managed to hide the locket and the tiny ring. Given to her when Elizabeth was born, it was a symbol of the Tudor dynasty, and a mark of the future Queen of England. Elizabeth had legally been declared a bastard, and as Anne stared at the ring, she was filled once more with a desperate hope that her daughter, the daughter of Henry VIII, would one day inherit her destiny.
"My lady?" A voice from behind her startled Anne, who managed to quickly stash the jewelry.
Heart pounding, she turned, her shock giving way to frustration at the sight of Lady Kingston, the constable's wife and the woman assigned to attend her. "Lady Kingston," Anne acknowledged, her calm tone assuming control of her voice. "If it pleases you, I would greatly prefer a moment of quiet," she began, choosing her words carefully. Everything she said would be sent to the king, and used against her. There was no hope for her at this point, but Anne knew that care was imperative up until her last breath was drawn, for her daughter Elizabeth's sake, and for the sake of the young girl's future.
"My lady, I must inform you that the time to dress approaches. The hour of your execution is near."
Anne nodded, still calm. "Yes, my lady Kingston," she answered. "I was merely requesting a moment alone with my book of hours. You and Master Kingston have been ever so kind to me."
"As you wish, Lady Boleyn. I shall return at dawn." Once she was left alone, Anne sighed and stood, walking over to the table near the mirror. Her book of hours sat unopened on the surface of the table. Anne opened it to the note that she had written to Elizabeth, which she had stashed within the confines of the book in the hopes that it would not be found by anyone other than its intended reader. My dearest Elizabeth, Anne had written. When you read this letter, it is my intent that you have blossomed into the beautiful young woman you are destined to become. I am gone from your life, but know that I will always be watching over you. I love you with all of my heart, Elizabeth, as I love your father. I wish you to remember me when times are difficult, and the road is fraught with sadness. I will always be with you. It is my dearest hope that you will never forget who you are, or the family we once were. Love, Mother." Anne opened the book to one of her favorite passages.
The sky began to lighten. Lady Kingston would be back soon. When Anne heard a tap on the wooden door, she thought it was time. It, however, was only Thomas Wyatt. Wyatt had been instrumental in keeping her sane through her imprisonment. He kept her secret company, visiting whenever he could. Now, Anne, after a brief conversation, handed him the prayer book, with the letter stashed inside. "When the time comes, do give this to my daughter." Anne passed him the locket next. "This as well," she requested.
Wyatt sighed. "Anne, there must be something. Surely the king-"
"Has already extended me the gentility he could," Anne replied. "England found me guilty, as did my husband, the king. There is to be no pardon, Thomas," she said sadly, realizing as she said it, how true it was. She sighed and looked into his eyes through the bars on the door. "All I can do is pray for my daughter. Promise me that you will look after her, take care of her as she grows."
"Anne-" Something on her face must have convinced him of her seriousness, because Wyatt exhaled sharply and nodded. "The princess will be safe as long as I am around," he promised. "I will give her these items upon her entrance to womanhood. I will entertain her with stories of her beautiful mother. I will make sure she understands that you died a hero."
Anne bit her lip, willing herself not to cry. "Thank you, Thomas. It is of great comfort to me to know that someone still has her interests at heart." Hearing footsteps, she sighed. "It's time. Will you be there?"
"In front. I'll be there until the end," Wyatt assured her. "Anne, it will be alright. You heard Suffolk. This is a world renowned executioner. It will all be over soon."
Anne didn't have a chance to respond. They were interrupted by the pounding footsteps, which drew nearer. Wyatt barely had time to duck into a shadow before Lady Kingston and her young daughter appeared, ready to help Anne prepare for her execution. Anne allowed them to dress her in pure black from head to toe. She donned a gable hood, determined to die an English woman despite her dislike for the style. She retrieved the purse for the executioner, wrapped her fur-lined mantle around her, and followed Lady Kingston out of the tower.
The birds were chirping. As Anne stepped forward, one foot after the other, she realized it would be the last chirp she ever heard, the last flock she saw. How she had gone from the king's favorite to his hated former queen so rapidly was a terrifying thought. But one thought remained in her mind as she ascended the steps of the scaffold: she was innocent. Anne said her prayers, forgave the executioner, and knelt down in the hay. Spotting Wyatt, she continued to pray. Then, with one swift blow, the queen of England's head rolled to the floor.