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February 28 1527

Pope Clement sipped his wine as he thanked God that the terrible calamity of the Holy City being captured was averted. Rome was safe from the Holy Roman Emperor's troops thanks to God's will and bad weather: a little of both perhaps. The few ships that had managed to land in Italy were met by the English troops sent over by King Henry and the Spanish ships were quickly commandeered by the English; as a show of gratitude, the Pope had sent the spoils of the tiny fleet back to England as he sent the Spanish and German soldiers back to their master while the generals and commanders were sent to England to be used as hostages.

Despite outwardly forgiving Emperor Charles, Clement was still outraged by his planned attack on Rome and was eager for a chance to get back at him. Although he spent many hours in penance, that sinful thought of his would not go away until a messenger from King Henry the Eighth was brought to him, carrying two requests from the English monarch, concerning his unhappy marriage to Queen Katherine of Aragon and his infatuation with Anne Boleyn.

While Clement never really paid any attention to rumors, he had heard something about a woman not following in her sister's footsteps and refusing to be the King's mistress. He also knew that Queen Katherine could no longer produced any children and the only living babe she had was a girl who could cause England to have another bloody civil war as it had happened when Empress Mathilda rose to the throne.

King Henry needed a son and if the request for a papal dispensation in order to marry a woman whose sister he had known carnally was any indication, it seemed that Anne Boleyn was the woman he desired to be his wife. Of course, the red-haired monarch willfully ignored the fact that if he had committed sin by marrying his brother's widow than by the same token Lady Boleyn was also off limits.

Despite the shakiness of his case, King Henry seemed certain the Pope would grant him the annulment and considering numerous monarchs before him had asked for annulments on less reasonable grounds and were still able to get their way, Clement was not surprised that he would think that. The only difference between King Henry and those royal men was the fact that his wife just so happened to be the aunt of the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of Spain who would not be happy to have his two relatives humiliated and tossed aside like they were nothing.

If Emperor Charles had successfully sacked Rome and held the Pope prisoner, Clement would have needed to find a way to appease the ruler of England without angering his captor. And quite truthfully, there was no reason why his predecessor's papal disposition for King Henry to marry his brother's widow would be null and void just because he suddenly decided he was living in sin. However, such technicalities could be ignored and Pope Clement was fully prepared to do so. After all, God had protected the Holy City from that ruthless Emperor by sending King Henry's troops to Italy's aid. Surely God would want to reward England for it's service by blessing her king with his long-sought after male heir.

And if Anne Boleyn could give birth to a son, Pope Clement would not want to delay the proceedings. God clearly wanted King Henry's Great Matter to finish with Katherine of Aragon's marriage being annulled. This really had nothing to do with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles or his blasted family and all to do with God's reward for England.

Perhaps I should inform my niece that when she goes to France to wed King Francis' son, she should mention to her new father-in-law that if he feels that he was forced into marrying the Emperor's sister, he might have a case to end his unhappy marriage.

With that rather vindictive thought in mind, Pope Clement sat down at his desk to write two official bulls, trying to stamp out the sense of satisfaction he was feeling. Once he made the decision, there would be no turning back and surely no one would dare argue with God's representative on Earth.

March 9 1527

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was normally unflappable and not the type to become overwhelmed with shock. But when he had received the Pope's answer to Henry's suit of annulment, he could not stop his jaw from dropping nor his eyes from widening as he read His Holiness's official decree.

Although my predecessor, His Holiness Pope Julius II, did give a papal disposition to His Majesty King Henry, he had only done so because Infanta Catalina of Aragon had sworn that she had not laid with his late Highness Prince Arthur. In the Bible, it states that a man lying with his brother's wife will be heirless and the lack of male issue of King Henry proves that God Almighty did not approve of this union and so I, Pope Clement VII, do declare that the former disposition null and void and His Majesty King Henry the Eighth is a free man in the eyes of God and the Catholic Church and he is free to marry once more.

Clement had all but accused Queen Katherine of Aragon of being a liar and a whore. Wolsey shuddered as he thought of the proud Spanish Emperor's reaction once he learned of the Pope's declaration.

Hours and a few goblets of wine later, Wolsey realized that it mattered not what the Emperor thought or did; after all that was Clement's problem not theirs. What mattered was Henry had gotten what he wanted and God willing there would be a Prince of Wales by next year.

Even though he was weary of Henry's intended bride knowing that she had been coached by his enemies to speak against him, Wolsey could not help but feel elated that things were actually going better than he thought they would. Besides perhaps if he showed himself to support Anne Boleyn, he would be able to win her over or at the very least keep himself in Henry's good graces. That was another problem for another day. For now, he had to make haste to court so he could tell his master of the wonderful news.

"Boy, fetch me my horse! I must ride to Greenwich immediately!" he commanded his manservant, his thoughts racing. There was much to be done.

March 12 1527

King Henry was not at court when Wolsey arrived, instead he was at Hever spending time with Anne. He had specifically asked that no messenger disturb him so it wasn't until he returned to Greenwich when he learned that his Lord Chancellor had requested an audience immediately.

"Do you think it's about the annulment?" Anne wondered, only to feel silly seconds later as she knew that was a stupid question. What else would Wolsey want to speak to them about?

Henry smiled reassuringly at her as he could tell from the way her hands fidgeted in her lap that she was nervous. He took one of her hands in his, rubbing circles on her skin with his thumb, hoping to soothe her anxiety.

"I'm sure that His Holiness has read my arguments and he will see the justice of my suit," Henry told her assuredly, kissing each of her fingers. "We will be married soon, my love, do not worry."

"Forgive me, I spoke without thought," Anne said shaking her head in exasperation.

"No, no, I give you leave that we may always speak freely with each other, honestly, openly and with a true heart. For me, that is the true definition of love," Henry told her firmly, drawing her into his embrace. He was so sure that Wolsey would walk in soon with good news that he was already imagining their wedding day. "We will soon be man and wife, Anne and I want us to be nothing but honest to each other."

He almost closed the gap between them when Cardinal Wolsey was announced by the herald. With an annoyed groan, Henry nodded for the herald to let his chancellor in. Anne gave his cheek a peck before sitting back down, not even trying to pull her hand from his grasp.

When Wolsey entered, he bowed first to Henry but upon seeing Anne he quickly bowed to her as well- something that he had never done before. Anne could feel her heart thudding in her chest as she prayed that this signified what she thought it did. Wolsey did not seem surprised or affronted when he realized that she was there with Henry and unlike the last time, he did not wait for Henry to tell him that he could speak freely in front of her.

"Your Majesty, Lady Anne, I bring excellent news. His Holiness Pope Clement has agreed to the annulment," the Lord Chancellor announced, placing the Bull from Rome on the desk for the King to read.

Anne did not bother to examine the parchment herself, instead she studied Henry's face. Although they both knew that Wolsey wouldn't give them false hope if it weren't true, it just didn't seem real that their prayers had been answered so quickly. Could it really have been that easy? Could Henry really be free to marry her so they could be together and have many sons and daughters?

Henry let out a victorious shout before lifting Anne up and swinging her around.

"He has given us our blessing, sweetheart, we can get married right now if we wanted to!" Henry exclaimed delightedly, kissing Anne hungrily on the lips.

As deliriously happy as she was, unlike Henry, she had not forgotten the other person in the room so she pushed the red-haired monarch away and turned her head meaningfully to remind Henry of Wolsey who was pointedly looking away.

"Your Majesty, while I agree that this a wondrous occasion, I would caution you to not get married for two or three months- just so your people can digest this news properly," Wolsey hastily added the last part seeing that his master was about to object to the suggestion that they wait. "Not to mention there is the matter of the Princess Dowager and her daughter."

Henry flinched at the mention of Princess- no not princess- Mary. It wasn't her fault that she was born of a cursed union and yet it would be she who would lose the most. Perhaps after Anne and he had a son, he would give his daughter a title of her own that would hopefully make up for her downgraded position.

If either Anne or Wolsey saw his flinch, neither remarked on it and they instead merely waited for him to speak.

"I suppose you have a point, Thomas, for now I wish for the Pope's declaration to spread throughout England so my people know that they will be getting a new Queen by this spring," Henry commanded, hoping that the Pope's blessing would make the English people more receptive to Anne despite their love for Katherine. "Anne, perhaps you should return to your apartments; I'm sure your family will be eager to find out what's going on. I'll join you shortly."

He smiled slightly, thinking there would be much celebration in the Boleyn apartments, once they learned the news. He pressed a chaste kiss on the back of her hands before letting go of her hands and watching her as she left.

"Should I inform the Princess Dowager of what is going to happen?" Wolsey asked cautiously, sensing that the King was conflicted over making his daughter a bastard. This would not stop him from doing it but Wolsey would be careful not even to mention the eleven-year-old girl unless her father brought her up.

"No, I'll do that. In the meantime, I want you to make arrangements for my daughter to be brought back to court," Henry said, unsure what he would say to Mary when she arrived but he would do his best to assure her that despite what her mother might think, he did love her and would still be her loving papa. "As I have no Queen at the moment, the Princess Dowager is to be moved into different apartments, her household should be reduced and she is to give up the royal jewels."

"Yes, Your Majesty."

After his conversation with Wolsey was finished, Henry left his audience chamber and headed to his former wife's apartments.

Katherine was kneeling at her alter when Henry walked in. She had heard someone come in and when she realized it was her husband, she quickly got up to greet him. She froze when she saw his somber face, getting a feeling of déjà vu as he looked as he did when he came to tell her that he believed that their marriage was over. Dread chilled her veins.

"Husband, what is it?" she prompted, swallowing hard.

There was a flash of mild irritation on his face when she called him husband but when he spoke, his voice was gentle with a note of finality.

"His Holiness, in his infinite wisdom, has read my case for annulment and he has agreed with me that you are not my wife. He declared our marriage null and void. Furthermore, he has given me my blessing to remarry a bride of my choosing. I'm sorry, Katherine, but you are, as I've said before, my brother's widow and I was wrong to ever think otherwise," Henry said without a hint of sadness.

She had been married to him for nearly two decades and they had seven children even if only one had survived. And yet he characterized their once happy union as a mistake and labeled his daughter a bastard.

Her disgust at Henry's lack of empathy was overpowered by the horror at learning that Pope Clement, the leader of the Catholic Church, had apparently granted the annulment, allowing her and Mary to be displaced by the daughter of an earl who had merchant ancestors and little to no royal blood. It took all of Katherine's willpower not collapse into sobs. She merely sank back down onto her knees, her back towards the man she still loved, unable to look at him. She closed her eyes and clasped her hands in prayer, silently pleading with the Lord to let her know that this was just some error or nightmare.

Frustrated by Katherine's silence and the fact that she had just turned her back on him, Henry continued talking, his tone growing harsher. "I want you to pack your things. Lady Anne and I will be married soon and she will be the true Queen of England," he continued, growing angry as she continued to ignore him. "I have already ordered our daughter to leave Ludlow and her household will have to be disbanded as she is not a true princess."

"Yes, she is!" Katherine contradicted, her temper flaring at the mention of her daughter. "She comes from a long line of legitimate royalty, on my side at least. Your whore can have twenty sons and they will still be the children of a daughter of a mere earl with nothing but common blood in his veins."

Henry's eyes flashed. "You shall not speak of Anne that way. If anyone is the whore here, it's you, Katherine, for you did not come to my bed as a virgin despite your claims."

Katherine spun around and she stood up, her eyes blazing. "I have known no man but you. Besides if that really mattered to you, you wouldn't be marrying her as you slept with her sister. The only reason you are marrying that harlot is because you want a son. I wonder how long it will take for you to tire of her when she fails. Will you make her daughters bastards? Will you search for a third wife?"

With an angry roar Henry leapt at Katherine, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her, causing her to fear that he would hit her.

"SHUT UP!" he bellowed, digging his nails into her bare skin. When he saw her wince in pain, he let go of her and spoke to her in a deadly soft voice. "I will order your servants to pack your things for you and you are to leave the palace by tomorrow morning. You will not be allowed to return to court unless you are invited."

"What about Mary? May I see her?" Katherine pleaded, thinking that her daughter would need to hear about this from someone who cared about her.

"Why? So you can turn her against me," Henry snapped. "No. You will leave and you will not be able to contact her unless I allow you to. Goodbye Your Highness."

"For the love you bear our daughter, I beg of you, do not separate us," Katherine pleaded, tears welling up in her eyes. She sank to her knees again but this time, she grabbed the edges of Henry's robes, clutching them tightly.

"Do not attempt to manipulate me by using the love I have for our daughter against me, Madam, it will not work," Henry said coldly, tearing his robe from her hands and storming out of her apartments.

He didn't turn back even when he heard her wailing. Instead he walked to Anne's apartments, needing to see people who would actually be rejoicing over the news.

Inside Anne's apartments, the atmosphere was completely different to mood in the Queen's chambers; it was full of celebration. To say Thomas Boleyn was happy, would be an understatement.

"I never thought I'd be so glad that the Catholic Church is so corrupt," he laughed with a grin, surprising his children who had never seen him so light-hearted.

"Thomas, please don't say that when my brother is here," Elizabeth implored him, knowing how much of stanch Catholic the Howards were.

"Father does have a point, Mother. If Pope Clement wasn't so vindictive, I doubt he would have be so quick to grant King Henry the annulment of his marriage to Lady Katherine," George chimed in, a smug smirk on his face.

"I know he has a point but considering Pope Clement granted the King a divorce, I would assume that would make His Majesty less willing to hear anything bad about the Catholic Church," Elizabeth pointed out, giving her daughter and husband a rather meaningful look. She was not a true supporter of the reformation so it didn't bother her but she feared if Thomas or Anne's reformist tendencies were found out, her entire family would suffer for it.

"For now, religious reform is not important," Thomas assured her. "For now, we should be focusing on the fact that Anne is about to become the Queen of England." He beamed at his youngest daughter as he spoke.

"I think Anne is still processing that," George laughed, noticing that her sister seemed to be in a trace and hadn't reacted to anything anyone said.

"It feels like a dream," Anne murmured. "A wonderful dream I don't want to wake up from."

Thomas opened his mouth to remind his daughter that there was still much to do and prepare for but he was interrupted when the herald announced the King's arrival. At once Anne's eyes lit up and she rushed into Henry's arms, looking as happy as he did.

The Earl of Wiltshire smiled at that display of affection. For now, they didn't have to think of unpleasant things and instead they could focus on the fact that soon he would be the grandfather to the next King of England.

March 15 1527

Henry had held off summoning his daughter until Katherine was moved into her own manor with only three of her ladies-in-waiting accompanying her. He had also wanted to wait until he had arranged for Mary's new household only to decide for the time being he would allow Mary to have a place at court; her governess, Lady Salisbury would be allowed to remain with her.

He also decided that in a fortnight, he would create a title of peerage for Anne to have as her own, not wanting anyone to claim--- as Katherine had--- that she was unworthy to be his queen. He decided to make her the Marquess of Pembroke, a title she would pass down to one of their sons.

The were also the matter of discussing a price with the Emperor for the safe return of his captured commanders aside from the traitorous Charles III, Duke of Bourbon who was set back to France for his execution.

There was also the wedding plans to consider and while Henry saw sense in waiting a while, he was determined to be married to Anne in April as he wanted to celebrate Mayday with his new queen and wife.

But all of this could wait until he had spoken to both of his bastard children. He was sure Hal would be accepting of his new stepmother who would certainly treat him warmer than Katherine had; Mary, on the other hand, might see Anne as the reason why her mother was no longer a Queen and she was no longer a princess-even without her mother's influence, she might come to that conclusion.

"Make way for the Lady Mary," someone called from outside, causing Henry to grow tense. In his haste to make sure that Mary was no longer referred to as the Princess of Wales, he had ordered all of his servants to call her by her rightful title. In hindsight that was something he should have waited to do after he had explained to her what had happened instead of letting her figure it out herself.

When his daughter walked into his audience chamber, Henry quickly dismissed her governess so he could speak to her alone. He noticed that she was dressed completely in black which coupled with her sad expression, made her look far too somber than any eleven-year-old should be.

"Mary, my pearl, I have missed you," Henry exclaimed, hugging his daughter tightly and kissing the top of her head. He needed her to know that despite the annulment, he still loved her very much.

"I missed you too, Father, but I am confused and hurt," Mary told him stiffly, trying to keep herself composted. She had fond it very hard to stop weeping when she learned of the Pope's decision to annul her parent's marriage. She had barely been able to believe that her father wanted to be rid of her and her mother, the fact that Pope Clement had given in to her father's demands made this entire travesty a hundred times worse. "How is it that a few days ago, I was my Lady Princess and now I am my Lady Mary? Why am I no longer a princess and my mother is no longer a Queen?" She knew the answer already but she needed to hear it from her father's lips despite dreading what he would say.

"Oh my Mary, I am sorry that you are in the middle of this and I swear to you that this is not your fault," Henry began, trying to find a more eloquent way of telling her that her mother was a liar who cursed her marriage. "It's a complicated matter, sweetheart. I thought that God wanted your mother and I to be married despite the fact that she was my brother's wife but I realized too late that was not the case."

"You're lying to me, Father, you do think it's my fault! You think because I am a girl, I cannot be your heir so you are punishing me by making me a bastard!" Mary cried, tears falling down her face.

"No, no, sweet child, that is not the case," Henry said gently, kneeling down and lifting Mary's chin towards him so they could be eye-to-eye. "You would make a wonderful queen but this is not Spain and I fear that there will be bad men who will refuse to accept a woman on the throne. England cannot survive another civil war. I must have a son to take the throne after me. It pains me to hurt you, Mary, but I must do what is best for my kingdom."

Mary said nothing more but she did not fight her father when he embraced her and instead she cried into his doublet, remaining silent as he whispered comforting lies into her ears.

March 30 1527

Kimbolton Castle was a nice country manor, lovely enough for any member of royalty but despite how nice it looked, it was a reminder of Katherine's fall from grace. She was not allowed to go to court, the servants were not to treat her as a queen and very few people were brave enough to visit her least they upset the King.

A comfortable manor did nothing to blunt the humiliation or woefulness Katherine felt as she knew that there was very little she could do about this situation. The Pope had made his decision and instead of doing the right thing and declaring her marriage good and valid, he had called her a sinner whose daughter was nothing more than a bastard.

The worst part was no one would stand up against the Pope's decision even though they disagreed with it. Katherine's own nephew was still reeling from the humiliating defeat he had when his troops tried to march on Italy and thanks to attacks from the Turks, he was unable to intercede on her behalf. Through Ambassador Mendoza, he had assured her that he would try to convince Henry to at least allow Mary to retain her princess status as it was a marriage of good faith. However, that would as good as admitting that she had not been a virgin when she first married Henry. Although she longed to allow her daughter to remain a princess and it galled her to stand against the Pope, the alternative was to allow herself be labeled a slut and a liar while an unworthy woman took her throne and crown.

No, she could not allow this to happen. God would not bless Henry's marriage with Anne and He was on Katherine's side. The consciences of either Pope Clement or Henry would awaken eventually and they would recant their foolishness.

If she was patient, Henry would come back to her and their daughter would be the Queen of England. She would not relent and she knew that her daughter and her people would not accept Anne Boleyn as the new queen.

Meanwhile, miles away from the unhappy former queen, Anne Boleyn was contemplating the reactions to the news of her marriage to King Henry as she lay in the arms of her husband-to-be.

According to her father, the common people had mostly accepted their monarch's upcoming marriage as Pope Clement had given his blessing. There were those who grumbled that Katherine was still the true Queen but her father and Master Cromwell had began spreading rumors that Katherine had hoped that her daughter would be Queen, marry the Holy Roman Emperor and make England one of his many countries; essentially robbing England of its freedom. 

Speaking of the Holy Roman Emperor, he was not happy about the humiliation heaped on his aunt and cousin but he was currently occupied with the Turks and France to try and forcefully change the Pope or Henry's decisions.

King Francis was more than willing to accept Anne as the new Queen of England both out of a fondness of a girl who had grown up in his court and also to spite his enemy. He had sent orders to his ambassador to greet Anne as if she was a queen already, something that irked the Imperial ambassador who had not been as gracious when he was introduced to her.

The Duke and Duchess of Suffolk were polite to her, not very warm to her but not outright rude. However, Charles Brandon did try to start up trouble by implying that she had lain with Thomas Wyatt and he would have been banished if his wife hadn't pleaded with Henry to allow him to stay for the wedding.

Queen Margaret of Scotland and her daughter were to be guests at the wedding so Anne assumed that Henry's other sister approved of his new marriage if not Anne herself.

As for her stepchildren, Hal Fitzroy adored her and she went out of her way to dote on him as she tried to do with Lady Mary. Unfortunately, she knew she was doomed to fail when to came to her future stepdaughter. When they were introduced, Anne could see the blame in Mary's eyes when the girl looked at her.

It didn't matter that her cousin tried to attack Italy only to have most of his fleet destroyed by a sudden blizzard and that the remainder of the fleet was captured by her father. It didn't matter that out of anger and spite Pope Clement had decided to punish her mother for what her cousin had attempted to do by granting her father's request for an annulment. To the former princess, it was Anne's fault and Anne's alone that her father had decided to discard his wife of nearly two decades and bastardize his daughter. Lady Mary- as did Princess Katherine and their supporters- believed that Anne was an evil seductress who had bewitched Henry to do her bidding.

Lips trailing up her naked shoulder brought Anne back to reality.

"Have I regained your attention, my Lady Perseverance?" Henry purred, nipping at her neck.

"You never lost it, my Lord Desire," Anne told him playfully. "I simply thought I had tired you out," she teased him.

"Never," Henry laughed, sizing her mouth in a lusty kiss.

If her father complained about her giving in and losing her maidenhead, Anne would point that the only person who would know was her future husband the man whose arms she was currently in. Besides if she did get pregnant after her first time, not even the doctors would realize that she had conceived a week before her wedding night.

"I will give you a son, Henry, I swear to you," Anne promised as her lover straddled her.

"Do not trouble yourself with that, sweetheart, we have all the time in the world to have a prince. Right now I want to enjoy you again," Henry whispered in her ear. "I love you, Anne."

"And I love you," Anne said breathlessly.



Chapter Text

May 19 1527

Today was the day Anne Boleyn would be crowned Queen of England. Henry had opted to have a private small wedding back in April after some urging from Wolsey who feared the English people would still be unwilling to accept Anne despite the Pope declaring Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon null and void.

However while he was willing to keep the ceremony small for his wedding-his first true wedding he insisted- King Henry refused to do the same for Anne's coronation, wanting it to be a bigger celebration than his own coronation which had happened nearly twenty years ago.

As the queens and kings before her had done, Anne slept in the royal apartments of the Tower of London alongside her husband who refused to leave her side. She had fallen asleep in Henry's arms, dreaming of what her new life as queen would be like.

But her wonderful dream soon became a nightmare.

"Madam, you have been convicted of high treason," the jailer told her matter of factly. "You will beheaded at the King's pleasure."

Anne was dressed in rags and she was kneeling on the dirty ground, tears flowing down her cheeks.

"No, there has to be a mistake! I am innocent! Henry, please, I am innocent!" she cried hysterically. A hand sized her chin and suddenly she was looking into the furious eyes of her husband.

"Your neck," he said coldly. "I loved your neck."

With that, Henry swung his sword towards his wife, a sick expression of pleasure on his face as the blade cut into her neck.

"NO!" Anne screamed, shooting upright, breathing heavily.

"Anne, what is it? What happened?" Henry asked her worriedly, waving the guard away as he wrapped his arms around his wife. "It's all right, darling, it was just a bad dream. There is nothing to be afraid of."

She was still shaking as she touched her neck where the sword in her dream had just hit her.

"Just a bad dream," Anne agreed, burying her face in Henry's chest. She reminded herself that he would never hurt her and what she had experienced was just a nightmare brought on by her anxiety.

"Do you want to tell me what it was about?" Henry questioned gently, stroking her face which was paler than he had ever seen it.

"It doesn't matter because it would never happen," Anne told him firmly, kissing his lips, wanting to forget about that awful dream. Considering that there was light coming through the windows, it was almost time for them to wake up anyway. "Let's just get ready for today."

"As you wish, my darling," Henry said with a smile. "After all, today is all about you, my queen."

Anne beamed at him, her nightmare already fading from her mind as she felt a rush of excitement at knowing that she would soon be crowned Queen Anne of England.

The crowds that stood on the streets of London as the royal procession rode by were rather subdued. Although some cheered as the Queen and King rode by, most stood there silently, their gazes were slightly hostile.

Anne was determined not to let the lukewarm reception she was receiving bother her and instead waved and smiled as warmly as she could. Soon the people would forget about Katherine of Aragon and they would cheer for Anne and her sons. It would just take a little time for them to love her but thanks to the Pope, it would happen sooner than it would if they had still been fighting for the annulment.

Suddenly there was a sound like a crack and Anne heard shouting and neighing coming from behind her carriage. The procession came to halt and Henry leapt out of the carriage to see what was going on, ordering Anne to stay there. Despite her better judgement, Anne stuck her head out the window to see what was happening.

"She is a whore and she deserves to die!" a man was shouting as two guards struggled to keep him from escaping their grasp.

"Take this man to a prison at once," Henry commanded, looking as though he was five minutes from strangling the person who had tried to shoot his wife and continued to make such ludicrous accusations.

"She has already bewitched the Pope and the King, how long before we are all under her thumb?!" the madman continued to rant. "Long Live Queen Katherine and Princess Mary! Death to Lady Anne Boleyn!"

"For God's sake, shut him up!" Henry bellowed, causing one of the guards to stuff a handkerchief in the prisoner's mouth before they dragged him away. He then returned to the carriage with a strained smile on his face. He gave Anne a chaste kiss, assuring her that everything was fine and nothing would spoil her special day. Then he commanded the procession to continue forward.

After the procession, Anne learned that the man had tried to shoot her but because of a lack of skill with firearms, he had missed and hit a groomsman's horse instead. Although the poor beast had to be killed, his rider only suffered a minor injury thankfully.

Despite the lack of bloodshed, Anne couldn't help but fear that her nightmare and the gunman were both bad omens. However, she pushed those thoughts aside as she knelt down at the alter and Henry put the crown of St. Edward's on her head making her officially an anointed queen.


As Henry and Anne returned to Westminster Palace for a celebration, Master Cromwell and Cardinal Wolsey went to interrogate the man who tried to shoot the newly crowned Queen Anne.

"What is your name and trade?" Cromwell questioned, judging by the man's poor attire that he was not a gentleman which made it quite suspicious that he would have enough money for a gun.

"Matthew Porter," the man said, looking defeated as he knew he failed his mission and he would die having accomplished nothing. "I am a farmer."

Wolsey's eyebrow rose, thinking it was quite unusual for a farmer to possess a weapon of any kind.

"And why did you decide to shoot the Queen?" Cromwell asked coolly.

The man's eyes narrowed. "I would never try to harm the true Queen, Her Majesty Katherine of Aragon," he declared fiercely. "God gave me the mission to kill the great whore before her poison could destroy England forever."

Cromwell fought the urge to roll his eyes. If God wanted you to shoot her, he would have made you a skilled marksman. Rather than voice his thoughts aloud, he continued interrogating Master Porter.

"How did God provide you with the money for a musket?" he asked calmly. Part of him wonder how a farmer had ended up in the city of London but he supposed the man could have hitched a ride on any cart.

"I had a good harvest and saved my money," Porter replied vaguely as though the only reason why he would put his funds aside was to carry out an assassination attempt. He was clearly keeping something back.

"Tell me more about what God said to you," Cromwell demanded, deciding to set aside the money issue for now. After all, he had a shrewd guess who had sent this man on a mission to assassinate Queen Anne either directly or indirectly.

"God didn't speak to me but His angels spoke to a nun," Porter told them. "She had dreams from angels about what would happen if Anne Boleyn was allowed to be queen. She said that Anne Boleyn would have a daughter and King Henry would die soon after, causing England to be drowned in blood."

Wolsey and Cromwell exchanged a look, realizing who the farmer was speaking of: The maid nun of Kent, Elizabeth Barton had made a prophecy a year ago that King Henry would save Rome from the devil (considering what happened with Emperor Charles, the implication was rather amusing) and Henry had been quite pleased with her until she began to speak out against his quest for an annulment.

It seemed that while Elizabeth Barton had lost the King's favor, she still had people who believed in her "visions of the future" and one of them had decided to try to kill the new queen to avert what he believed was the truth.

It was time for the mad nun to be silenced least she incited any more would be assassins to kill Anne Boleyn.

June 28 1527

Both Porter and Barton were found guilty of high treason and sentenced to be hanged sometime in July. In the meantime, Henry was more than happy to spend his birthday with his newly crowned queen, unaware that she had a surprise for him.

Anne had missed her courses twice and was growing ill in the mornings something that she knew signified that she was with child. She waited until Henry's birthday to summon a midwife, thinking that if she was right, the news would make for a pleasant surprise. She had sent her ladies save for her sister and mother, not wanting anyone to know before she had a chance to tell Henry.

The midwife confirmed her suspicions and the woman was dismissed with a pouch full of money for her service and silence. After spending several minutes of celebrating with her mother and Mary, Anne decided to go find Henry so she could tell him of his unofficial birthday gift. The red-haired monarch was busy with his councilors but Anne doubted he would be too angry at her for interrupting especially when her news involved the prince he had been hoping to have for so long.

Anne was too excited to even bother explain to the sentries why she needed to go into her husband's study despite knowing he was in a meeting. She simply brushed past them, smiling wildly. The men around the table turned when she walked in, surprised by her sudden appearance. Norfolk and Wolsey looked annoyed at her imprudence. Her father and Cromwell looked thoughtful, knowing she would not barge in for no reason. Henry merely looked hopeful.

After all, he spent every night in her bed and was well aware that she was sick every morning for the past month. He knew what that could mean even if he didn't voice his suspicions.

"Anne, what are you doing here?" Henry asked, sounding bemused with a trace of excitement. Why else would she look so giddy if not because she was pregnant?

"I must speak to you alone, Your Majesty, it is most urgent," Anne told him.

"Well I suppose we can pick up our meeting tomorrow," Henry suggested. "After all it is my birthday. I deserve a break, don't you think so, gentlemen?" he jested cheerfully, nodding at his councilors, silently ordering them to leave.

The auburn-haired queen waited until only she and Henry were left alone in his audience chamber before she spoke.

"I have just found out that I have gotten you two birthday presents, my love, one I can give you tonight but the other won't be here for another seven months," Anne informed him playfully.

"Are you sure?" Henry questioned, knowing at once what she was getting at. When Anne nodded, he embraced her, kissing her everywhere on her face before tenderly kissing her lips. "Have you checked with Dr. Linacre?"

"I sought out a midwife instead," Anne replied.

"Well I think Dr. Linacre should take a look at you just in case," Henry reasoned before beaming at her. "Seven months. We shall have our son in January then. A prince who will usher a golden age for England."

"Like his father before him," Anne gushed, cupping Henry's face in her hands.

"Oh Anne, I love you so much and you have made me most happy," Henry quipped, stealing her motto as it certainly fit this moment.

Anne smiled as she kissed him, thinking that they truly were on the edge of a golden world. She would do what Katherine had failed to do: give birth to a healthy son. When she did that, those who disparaged her by calling her a whore and a witch would declare her as England's savior.

That mad nun, Elizabeth Barton and all who believed her nonsense would be proven wrong and Anne Boleyn would be victorious.

Yes, she was the most happy.

August 5 1527

The scandal of Christendom was pregnant. Katherine was not a fool, she knew that Anne would get pregnant eventually but she had hoped that it would take longer than just a few months after the wedding. According to her spies, the false queen was almost three months pregnant and would give birth sometime in January.

Katherine closed her eyes as she remembered her little new years prince who had lived for fifty-two days. If he had lived, he would be nearly seventeen and Henry and she would be picking out his bride-hopefully one of her nieces or grand-nieces. If her little Prince Hal had lived, none of this would be happening because Henry would have his son and not even Lady Anne Boleyn could convince him to disinherit his only legitimate prince.

If Anne had a son, Katherine and Mary would be forgotten by everyone. A son along with the Pope's continued blessing would make the English people accept him and his mother despite knowing that they were forsaking their beloved Princess of Wales and her mother.

The worst part was Katherine was unable to do anything to prevent this travesty. If she spoke out against the Pope Clement's decision, saying he had no right to issue a proclamation invalidating her marriage than her enemies would say that his predecessor had no right giving a papal deposition allowing her to marry her dead husband's brother.

A dark part of Katherine hoped that the so-called Queen Anne would give birth to a girl or a stillborn. Perhaps then, Henry would realize that it wasn't Katherine's fault, that Anne Boleyn was no better than any other woman and was capable failure just like anyone else. Perhaps then the Pope would realize he had made a mistake and would renounce his declaration, allowing Henry, who would come to his sense, to reinstate Mary and Katherine to their rightful positions.

She tried to repress those thoughts and spent long hours in penance before deciding that she would pray that Anne would have a healthy baby. She would never insult Mary by praying for a boy and she couldn't bring herself to wish that her rival would give birth to the healthy prince she failed to bring into this world.

As for Mary, Katherine's spies at court had managed to smuggle her letters to her beloved daughter and vice versa. She would tell Mary of her stepmother's pregnancy and counsel her daughter to act as though she was happy for her father. She would remind Mary that the baby Anne carried was her flesh and blood and it would make her father happy to see his daughter acting like a loving sister to her half-sibling.

Katherine knew that her daughter was stubborn and hated her new stepmother but it was important that she continued to have her father's favor even if it meant being courteous to her mother's replacement and sisterly to her rival.

With Mary's position being so shaky, Katherine feared that if she behaved terribly towards Anne, Henry would send her away, calling her an ungrateful bastard. Worse if she insulted her half-sibling, Henry might view this as treason and would downgrade her even more than he already had.

Mary would have to tread carefully and to be forward would be forearmed. If Katherine was able to inform her daughter of her stepmother's pregnancy, she could put on an act of happiness when Henry made the official announcement.

All her daughter could do was pretend and all Katherine could do was hope. Hope that everything would work out. Hope that God would touch the hearts of those who had turned against her. Hope that she would return to court as Queen and Mary would become England's ruler after her father.

It was hard to have hope without wishing that Anne Boleyn would fail and she would be reborn from her rival's ashes.

It seemed that while England and Italy were done fighting, France and Spain were not. They both had sent treaties to King Henry, hoping to convince him to ally with one of them.

Despite being war-hungry and filling the English coffers with quite a bit of coins the last time, Henry had decided not to get involved with the squabble over territories, feeling that his time and resources were better used to secure his own country for his unborn son.

His Excellency Jean du Bellay had privately told Cardinal Wolsey that King Francis was sure still eager to make an alliance and had commanded that his ambassador after the birth of Queen Anne's child suggest that Princess Margaret could marry the new Prince of Wales or if it was a girl, she could be a bride for the Dauphin.

Wolsey understood at once what the French monarch was trying to do. While Emperor Charles might grudgingly offer his nieces for the future Prince of Wales, he would never dream of allowing his son to marry his cousin's rival for the throne of England which King Henry would find very insulting. By offering his son-his oldest son no less- for Henry's daughter by Anne would not only make it clear that France was England's ally, it would make a statement to all of Europe that while Emperor Charles might disagree with the Pope and King Henry's decision, King Francis supported them.

King Henry had told his councilors that Queen Anne was expecting a child and had them draw up an Act of Succession that would make it clear to all that boy or girl, the new royal baby would be his heir.

Wolsey had wondered if his master would be angry if instead of the prince the entire court was praying for, Queen Anne gave birth to a princess. Would he declare he had made a mistake and return to Katherine of Aragon and her daughter? The Lord Chancellor doubted that would be the case, considering that Anne Boleyn was in the prime of her life and could have many babies: both sons and daughters. It was more likely that the King would disappointed but not disgruntled.

However, with the mad nun of Kent's prophecies still circling, Wolsey feared that the birth of a daughter would make it seem as if she was right and the Pope might use it as an incentive to recant his blessing. It was better for all of them if Anne had a son even if that would make her pompous father and uncle even more powerful and smug.

"Your Eminence, might I have a word with you?" Sir Thomas More questioned, bringing Wolsey back to the present. He glanced around the room, making it clear he would speak to the Cardinal where no one would be listening in.

"Of course, my lord," Wolsey agreed. He followed More out of the Great Hall and into an unused chamber. "How may I be of service?"

"As you must have heard, William Tyndale's English translation of the Bible has been circulating around England," More began. "I have learned from my daughter, that she has seen a copy of it in the Queen's apartments."

Wolsey knew that More's daughter Elizabeth had joined the Queen's ladies-in-waiting and he had guessed that she was there to spy for the Dowager Princess of Wales. If it weren't for his loyalty to More, he might have told King Henry about this.

"And where did she see it?" Wolsey inquired, already knowing the answer. He had spies in Anne's household just as he did in Katherine and her daughter's households.

"In plain view," More told him, before his face paled. "The King already knows, doesn't he?"

"He would have to be blind not to notice," Wolsey pointed out with a sigh. "It doesn't surprise me that Her Majesty has an interest in the reformation. Her father and she have been known to make donations to groups that support Martin Luther. Luckily those heretics in Germany do not support the King's annulment and are still calling the Princess Dowager Queen of England. It's ironic but thanks to the Pope's decision, it is unlikely that Queen Anne will be able to convince His Majesty to turn against the Catholic Church."

More did not look convinced. "Unlikely but not impossible," he said foreboding. "She is a dangerous woman, Wolsey and I fear that once she has her son, heretics will be able to take over England."

Cardinal Wolsey said nothing, thinking perhaps he should dig a little further into Queen Anne's interest. At the very least, find a way to diminish her control over the King before she gave birth to a son and King Henry viewed every heretical word from her mouth as the gospel truth.

August 30 1527

Her father's concubine was pregnant. Of course Mary had already known that before her father chose to make a public announcement that he would soon have another child. Even if her mother hadn't warned her, Mary would have already known as the whore's belly had become rather swollen as she was entering her fifth month.

Despite her mother's urging, Mary could not help but frown as she listened to the courtiers congratulate her father and Anne on their upcoming happiness. They were betraying her mother by doing so- deep down she knew that people like More, her aunt and her uncle were only expressing good cheer because they knew if they didn't, the King would be angry at them. However, that knowledge did not make the former princess feel any better.

She hoped Anne would give birth to a girl so her father would realize that he had made a mistake forsaking Katherine for his harlot. It would be better if God chose to abandon the harlot altogether and made her miscarry but Mary could not wish such a fate on an innocent child even if it was Anne's baby especially when it was Mary's flesh and blood just as Hal Fitzroy was.

Mary remembered hearing about the incident before Anne's coronation- for days afterward, she had wished that the gunman had not missed- and how a woman named Elizabeth Barton had said that Anne would have a girl which would lead England to be torn apart by civil war. Although she prayed that God would not take her Papa, who she still loved, she did not care if that prophecy came true, she would not let Anne's children- sons or daughters- take what rightfully belong to her.

She would be Queen of England, not the spawn of her stepmother. God would see to that.

"Mary," her aunt called, laying a hand on her shoulder. "Your father wants you to go up to the dais." She gave her niece a stern look, making it clear that she expected her to behave instead of causing a scene. Not that the Duchess of Suffolk liked Anne Boleyn any more than Mary did but she had promised Katherine to keep her niece out of trouble with her brother.

A little apprehensive, Mary walked towards the two thrones, curtsying to her father as she got nearer. Protocol dictated that she should curtsy to the queen as well but Mary would not acknowledge any queen aside from her mother. Luckily King Henry was sitting close enough to her stepmother that it seemed like she had curtsied to both of them, allowing her to get away with doing it only once.

"Mary, my sweet, in January, you will have a new brother," Henry told her as if she had somehow missed his announcement. "When he arrives, I hope you will be a good sister to him. After all he is to be the new Prince of Wales."

"Of course, I will, Papa," Mary said sweetly, trying to keep the bitterness out of her voice at the reminder of the title she had lost. Although she knew that had her mother given birth to a boy, she would have been unable to retain her status as her father's heir, it would have been much easier to give up being the Princess of Wales for her mother's son than it would be for Anne's son.

I hope she never has sons. Mary snarled inwardly.

"Good girl," her father praised her with a warm smile before beckoning Hal Fitzroy over. Putting Hal on his lap and having Mary stand in-between him and Anne, he declared "Je suis en famille!" causing the courtiers to clap.

Well aware of the eyes upon her, Mary was forced to continue to smile happily, not letting her outrage show.

While she could accept little Hal being her father's family, even if he was a bastard, Anne Boleyn and her spawn had no right to be included. Her mother was the true queen and father's true wife. She could not wait until the Pope recanted his vile mistake and her father saw the Boleyn witch as the unworthy harlot she was.

Mary met Anne's eyes and she was pleased to see unease in them. The Great Whore had cause to worried for when Mary was Queen she would see to it that Anne was burned at the stake for her sins.

October 13 1527

If there was one bad thing about becoming pregnant so early in her marriage to Henry was the fact that she would miss out on her first Christmas as queen. In fact, she was due to go into confinement during the last week of November.

Despite knowing that she would not be able to participate, Anne had decided to plan a masque anyway, thinking it would be a good way to show off her skills even though she would not be present at the Christmastide feast.

"Are you sure you are not doing too much?" Elizabeth inquired, looking for her daughter's shoulder. "Too much excitement is bad for the baby."

"Mother, for goodness sake, I am simply designing a dress, not practicing the dances with my ladies," Anne snapped, rolling her eyes. She couldn't help but think that nearly everyone was treating her like a piece of glass that might break. At least with Henry, she could understand his worry, his former wife had five of her seven pregnancies end with miscarriages. Her mother recoiled as though she had been slapped. The queen sighed and softened: "I'm sorry, Mother, but I'm fine. Honestly, I'm just glad to be able to do something. I don't know how I will be able to handle two months of being confined in my apartments with nothing to do."

"Once you have your son in your arms, you'll find that two months of boredom will be well worth it," Mary assured her, deciding to leave the part about her needing to stay in the Queen's apartment a month after the birth so her body could properly heal.

Anne nodded, lightly rubbing her belly. She felt excited knowing that in three months she would have given birth to a healthy son in less than a year of being Henry's wife and queen.

She wondered how Princess Katherine and Lady Mary would react once the new Prince of Wales was born. Would they accept it or would it make them want to stir up an uprising against their rivals?

Thinking of Lady Mary caused Anne to shiver, there was hatred in the girl's eyes that she had never thought an eleven-year-old could be capable of feeling. Anne wondered if even without Princess Katherine's urging, the former princess might try to harm her half-brother either directly or indirectly.

"Anne, are you all right? Are you feeling too cold? Should I get more wood for the fire or bring you a blanket?" Elizabeth offered, sounding as though she was afraid her daughter would freeze to death despite it being a warm day.

"No, Mother, I'm fine," Anne said, shooting Mary a dirty look when she saw the corners of her sister's mouth twitching. She laid down her quill and held up her drawing for mother and sister to inspect. She then turned to her other ladies-in-waiting. "Nan, will you please get this to palace seamstress? Tell her, that I'll need ten of them."

Nan curtsied before hurrying off to do her mistress' errand.

"Well now that's over with, perhaps you should take a short nap," Elizabeth suggested, hopefully.

Anne masterfully turned her yawn into a sigh. "Will it make you feel better if I do?" she asked quickly, not wanting to admit that she was feeling rather tired. At least this way, she could pretend she was only lying down to please her mother.

"It would."

"Then I will lie down but I'm only doing it for you," Anne said firmly, ignoring her sister's knowing expression.

"And the baby," Elizabeth reminded her, looking a little too pleased with herself.

"Yes Mother."

As she walked towards her bedchambers, Anne rested her hand on the top of her belly. Soon she would have her son and nothing else would matter.

October 31 1527

Henry did not look like he was enjoying himself as they rode through the forest, looking for any wild game to hunt. It was nearly winter, so the King had wanted to go on one last hunt before it became too cold and too snowy to enjoy such a pastime.

Unfortunately, it seemed that he could barely keep his mind on the hunt, he was no doubt thinking of his pregnant wife who was too big with child to join them as she usually would.

Charles didn't mind that Anne Boleyn was not with them as he held no love for that horrid woman who his friend was so infatuated by. Although he would never say so aloud, he agreed with his wife that she was a cheap nothing who had caused a good woman to be cast out while her daughter was made a bastard.

Of course, Henry was too smitten to care about his wife and daughter; he had even ignored his brother-in-law's warning that she had lain with Thomas Wyatt. Henry had taken Anne's side and nearly banished his childhood friend from court. A fact that still upset Brandon as he rode by his King's side.

It was clear to everyone that Henry was not enjoying himself and his bad mood was casting such tension over the hunting party that it was almost a relief when he decided to return to the palace instead of continuing to search for game.

"How is my sister, Suffolk?" Henry asked as they rode towards the palace. "And how are my dear nieces and nephews?

"Quite well, Your Majesty," Charles replied. "I think my wife and I would like to invite them to court for Christmastide."

"Well they should meet their new cousin so I think that would be a splendid idea," Henry said with a merry laugh. "Just think, Charles, by the New Years, we shall have a Prince of Wales."

Or a princess. Charles thought ruefully. After all Henry had believed that each of Queen Katherine's pregnancies would end with a healthy son. Why would Anne Boleyn be any luckier?

In fact, in his opinion having a daughter would be just what the Boleyn bitch and her smug family deserved for what they had done to Queen Katherine and Princess Mary.

Henry didn't even bother to change out of his riding clothes and instead he made a beeline for Anne's apartments, wanting to see her right away.

He found her sitting in a chair, reading a book only for her to drop the book and clutch her stomach.

"Anne!" Henry exclaimed racing to her side. "Should I get Dr. Linacre?"

"No, no, here, feel this," Anne demanded, grabbing his hand and putting it on her stomach. Within seconds, the King felt a thump against his palm.

"Now that was a powerful kick," Henry declared with a grin. "Our boy must be strong."

"Just like his father," Anne agreed, lying her hand on his. "Soon we shall have our son."

"The prince England has been waiting so long for," Henry agreed, kissing her lips before kissing her belly.

"Our Prince Henry of Wales," Anne declared.

"No not Henry. That was what her son was called," Henry said urgently. While he would love to have a son named after himself, he refused to tempt fate by naming a son born in January the name he had given his infant son who was born and died over a decade ago. "We will call him Edward or Edmund or perhaps a name that no other king has had."

"Well we have until January to decide," Anne reminded him, smiling softly, her eyes were shining with excitement and joy. "We'll decided once he is born."

January 9 1528

Her water broke just a few hours after she had broken her fast and now she had spent the entire day in labor. Mary had said that first births were always the hardest and longest; Anne hoped her older sister was right but she was unsure she could go through this much pain for this length of time for a second time.

The midwife continued to tell her to push, her sister and mother continued to tell her to hold on and she was doing fine. Anne was ready to tell all three of them to go to hell if they didn't stop saying that.

Instead she simply settled for letting out a pained scream as another contraction rippled through her body.

Finally, the pain stopped and the midwife held a child up. The woman cut the umbilical cord and gave the infant's bottom a ringing slap that caused it to let out a wail before she went to clean the child up.

"Hurry and give me my son," Anne demanded, remaining sitting up so they could put the baby in her arms when her was all cleaned up and swaddled.

"Your Majesty, you have given birth to a healthy baby girl," the midwife said, her tone was soft and her eyes were filled with pity

It took all of Anne's self-control not to wail in horror. She had given birth a princess instead of the prince she had promised.

Her enemies would celebrate and Henry…

Oh God, what would Henry think when he found out she had failed him? He had turned England upside down so he could divorce the barren Katherine and have her as his wife. And despite all they had gone through, she had given him a second daughter instead of the Prince of Wales that he wanted.

Henry's feet moved slowly as he walked towards the Queen's apartment. Anne had given birth to a daughter instead of the son they had hoped for.

He couldn't help but feel disappointed. All of Europe would surely be laughing at him once they learned he had a second daughter despite divorcing Katherine when she could not give him a prince.

The thought of Katherine made the disappointment disappear and it was replaced with outrage as he recalled her words to him:

"The only reason you are marrying that harlot is because you want a son. I wonder how long it will take for you to tire of her when she fails? Will you make her daughters bastards? Will you search for a third-"

Her first pregnancy had been a stillborn daughter and yet she dared to think Anne giving birth to a healthy daughter should be labeled as a failure. No. Anne giving birth to a healthy princess this early in their marriage was a good omen that she could have strong children. It was a girl this time but it would be a boy next time.

With that thought in mind, Henry smiled as he entered the room outside the birthing chamber, only to frown when he noticed the uneasy looks on everyone's face. Did they all think so little of him that he would be angry at Anne?

"I hear I have a beautiful daughter," he declared happily. "I think her name should be Anne after my loving queen."

"A fine name," George Boleyn agreed, beaming at Henry. Obviously, he was more concerned about his brother-in-law's reaction than harboring any resentment that his sister had given birth to his niece instead of his nephew.

His father was less pleased but smiled at Henry's demeanor all the same and looked even happier when the King ordered for the bells to be rung in honor of the new Princess Anne.

After that, Henry walked into Anne's bedchambers where she lay with their newborn daughter.

"I'm so sorry, my lord," Anne whispered once she saw him.

"Don't be, my love, my mother was the first of three girls before her brothers were born. If we can have a strong daughter than a strong son is sure to follow," Henry assured her as he stroked the head of their baby.

"Can we name her Elizabeth after your mother and mine?" Anne asked, relief flooding her now that she knew that her husband wasn't angry at her.

"While that is a lovely name, I think we should save it for her sister. I thought that we should name her Anne for her mother instead," Henry informed her. His  eyes widened as tears fell from her eyes, mistaking them for tears of sadness instead of joy. "Have I made you unhappy?"

"I would only be unhappy if you stopped loving me."

"London would have to sink into the Thames first."

Henry kissed her lips lovingly before moving onto the bed and wrapping his arms around his wife and daughter.

He would protect them from their enemies. He would not let anyone, not even the Pope himself, try to say that they weren't his true wife and daughter. Princess Anne was the beginning of a golden age of England and he would fight to his death to make sure that no one tried to dispose them.

God was on their side and Henry was sure that he would bless the royal marriage with a son eventually. England did need a Prince of Wales, soon rather than later, but for now his two Annes were enough.

Chapter Text

January 10 1528

News spread through the city of London like wildfire: Anne Boleyn had given birth to a princess instead of the Prince of Wales she had been certain she carried. Despite she and the King believing that she would have a son, the new queen had failed and those who supported Queen Katherine were celebrating what surely would be a blow to the Boleyn woman's vanity if not the beginning of her downfall.

"Serves that haughty whore right," Tom Clinton hissed as he drank his ale. "She thought she could do better than Queen Katherine and yet she failed." There were many jeers and hoots at that remark.

"Did she really fail?" Arthur Paxton questioned loudly, causing the tavern to fall silent, surprised by his words. "Do not get me wrong, I love Queen Katherine and Princess Mary as much as the next person. But the old queen only gave birth to a healthy daughter after seven long years of her marriage and yet the new Princess Anne was born nearly ten months after her parents were wed," he explained, not wanting to upset anyone by calling Anne Boleyn queen.

"The King doesn't seem to be disappointed by the birth of the newest princess," his friend, George remarked, thinking of how the people of London had woken up to the sound of bells ringing, something that many had assumed meant to signal the arrival of the new Prince of Wales. "I have a brother who works in the royal kitchen, the celebrations for the new baby girl have not been cancelled and it is said that His Majesty has not let go of his daughter since she was put into his arms."

"Well then, I suppose we should toast to the newest princess," the bartender suggested, raising his own full mug of beer. "To Princess Anne Tudor!"

Even though they didn't like her mother, the people were willing to accept the newest princess as she was the daughter of their beloved King Henry and that was good enough for them. In time, when Queen Anne had a son, they would accept him and his mother as well.

Anne Boleyn had failed to give her father the son he had so desperately wanted and Mary was thrilled when she learned of this new development. She expected her father to be furious at his false wife and was sure that he had demanded that she and her daughter to be kept from his sight.

Mary expected King Henry to stride into her apartments and apologize for believing the lies that wicked woman had fed him. He would tell her that he had sent a letter to the Pope Clement, pleading with him to recant his declaration and once His Holiness did so, he would call back Queen Katherine and reinstate Mary as his one and only heir. He would banish Anne Boleyn, her bastard daughter and her horrible family from court and out of their lives.

When she heard the bells, she thought nothing of it, believing that Anne or one of her family members had ordered it in hopes to cushion the blow or to pretend that giving birth to a princess was a good thing for their family.

When the morning hours dragged on until it was almost noon and her father had not come to her rooms, Mary simply thought that her father was too angry and disillusioned to do anything but rage in his chambers. After all, he had just come to the realization that his harlot had played him for a fool.

When she told Lady Salisbury that she had no wish to visit her half-sister as she knew that her father would send the baby and her dratted mother away and she would never lay eyes on either of them again, her governess disagreed with her view. Lady Salisbury tried to tell her that the King would not banish them from court because Anne Boleyn was young and even if Mary's father was unhappy with his second daughter, he would try again with Anne until she gave him a healthy prince. Mary, perhaps naively, had not believed that Lady Salisbury could possibly be right.

Surely, her father would realize that his new daughter was God's punishment for forsaking her and her mother. Surely, he would realize that if he did not return to his true family that Elizabeth Barton's prophecy would come true. Surely, he would not forgive Anne for failing him as he had not forgiven his loving and faithful wife of two decades because she had failed to give birth to a healthy Prince of Wales.

Then her father sent for her and Mary's hopes soared. She could hardly contain the smile on her face as she walked down the corridors with a small bounce in her step. She hardly noticed that Lady Salisbury seemed to be almost pitying her charge's good mood or that the courtiers barely bent their knees as she passed them even though she had expected the nobles to cleave to her and her mother's side once Anne failed to give to a birth to a prince.

All she cared about was the fact that soon everything would go back to the way it was before her father had met the Boleyns. She was certain that no more witchcraft from the Boleyn whore could tear her family apart.

But when she arrived at her father's audience chamber, her heart plummeted like a stone in her chest. King Henry was holding a swaddled infant in his arms, his eyes filled with love and affection.

"Mary, my dearest, come say hello to your sister, Princess Anne," her father commanded her happily, breaking Mary's heart in the process.

She struggled to keep the tears at bay as the name Princess Anne resounded in her head. Instead of being angry at Anne for giving birth to a girl, he was thrilled even rewarding that bitch by choosing her to be the namesake of their daughter.

Why would he do that? How could do this to her and Queen Katherine? How could her father be happy with Anne when he was angry at her mother? How could her father be pleased with the birth of his second daughter when he had disinherited his first-born daughter for not being a boy?

To Mary's horror, she could not stop the sob escaping her lips nor the tears rolling down her face. She closed her eyes, willing herself to stop but she could not. She was not aware that her father had cleared the room until she found herself in his arms, bawling like a baby into her doublet.

"I'm sorry, Papa," Mary cried, angry at herself for not being able to control her emotions. "I don't know why I'm crying." That was a lie of course and she was sure her father knew it. But she couldn't tell him the truth in fear that he would get angry at her and she was too vulnerable right now to be able to take her papa yelling at her.

When she first learned that Anne had given birth to a daughter, she had thought that everything would go back the way it was. But just as Anne had replaced her mother, it seemed that Princess Anne would replace Mary in their father's heart.

"It's all right, sweetheart, I know this must be a confusing time for you," Henry said soothingly, stroking her hair. "Let me assure you of something: just because you aren't a princess anymore, doesn't mean you are not a king's beloved daughter, my precious pearl."

"But why are you so happy with Anne when you were so disappointed when I was born?" the question fell from Mary's lips before she could stop herself.

"Oh sweet child, no, Mary, you were the only living child I had with your mother and I swear that I was overjoyed when you were born," Henry assured her, leaving out the part where he had hoped that Mary's birth meant that he and Katherine could conceive a living son. His daughter was already doubting her worth and he had no wish to add to her insecurity. "Forgive me, Mary, I did not call you here to hurt you and I am sorry that I have. But you must understand that Anne is your family too just as much as Hal is."

But Hal isn't legitimate nor could he replace me as your heir.

Mary wiped her tears as her father kissed the top of her head. Then deciding that his daughter was comforted enough, he called Lady Salisbury and the infant's nursemaid back in.

Holding her father's hand, Mary was led over to Princess Anne and this time, she was able to force herself to smile as she laid eyes of her rival. But the more she stared at her new sister, her smile became genuine. Princess Anne looked like a pleasant baby even if she was Anne Boleyn's daughter. Perhaps she would not be so bad.

"I was thinking you could be her godmother, sweetheart, would you like that?" Henry asked his daughter, smiling encouragingly to her. After all, who better to be a godmother to his newborn princess than her older sister.

"Yes, Father," Mary said, nodding her head with a determined look in her eyes.

Eventually the false queen would be cast out and Katherine and Mary would be returned to their rightful positions. When that happened, Mary would not allow her half-sister to live with her maternal family; instead she would entreat her father to allow the child to live in her household where Mary could make sure she grew up to a respectable woman unlike Anne Boleyn.

January 13 1528

Mary Brandon wondered how Norfolk and Wiltshire had reacted when Anne had a girl instead of a boy. Did they fear for their positions? Did they blame Anne for it? Not that the Duchess of Suffolk had much sympathy for her sister-in-law but even she didn't deserve to be yelled at for something she had no control over.

If Norfolk and Wilshire were disappointed with the newest royal child, they were doing a masterful job of concealing it. Lord Howard looked as impassive as he also did, Lord Boleyn had a look of pride on his face as he carried his baby granddaughter up the aisle where Archbishop Warham was waiting.

He and Brandon were Princess Anne's godfathers while his wife shared the position of godmother with the infant's half-sister.

The Duchess of Suffolk smiled at her niece as she passed by. She had heard of her niece's reaction to Princess Anne and was relieved that instead of getting angry about it, Henry had comforted his daughter. It was a good thing that he treated his daughter kindly despite bastardizing her and forsaking her mother. Although the former queen of France did think Katherine and Mary should be reunited, she felt that at least if her niece continued to stay at court, it was possible that she could at least develop a sisterly bound with Princess Anne and stay in her father's good graces.

Lady Brandon had no doubt that Mary's extreme reaction to her half-sister came out of despair at learning that despite Anne giving birth to girl, her father had no intention of getting rid of her. Sadly, the King's sister doubted that even if the Pope changed his mind about his declaration, Henry would never forsake his concubine.

Her brother was too besotted with Anne Boleyn to give her up. Charles had been surprised when Henry decided to celebrate his daughter's birth; her husband, as did many others, assumed that at the very least Henry would be frustrated that he had a second daughter when Anne had promised him a son. However, Mary Brandon saw the matter differently. She was only fourteen when Katherine's first miscarriage happened just a few short months after their wedding. It had been a girl who Henry had named Katherine after her mother just as he named Anne after hers. If Mary had to guess, her brother viewed a daughter being born just ten months after his wedding as a blessing and a good omen that Anne would give birth to many healthy children unlike Katherine.

Maybe he would get a little frustrated if Anne didn't have a son next time or if she miscarried her next child but he would be patient for a few years.

The worst part was even if he did decide to discard that cheap nothing, Mary knew her brother well enough to know that he would not swallow his pride and admit he was wrong to leave Katherine, instead he would try to start a new marriage with whatever poor lady he grew fond of.

Thomas Boleyn was not pleased that his daughter had given birth to a princess instead of a prince- especially when he was sure that if his new granddaughter was a boy, he would have gotten a dukedom. However, the King was happy that Anne had a healthy daughter and even Thomas had to admit that even though she was a girl, the newest Princess was a good omen for the royal marriage.

Besides, according to his spy in Wolsey's household, the French ambassador had orders to suggest a French match no matter what the gender of Anne's baby was and once he broached proposal publicly, it would quell any doubts that Princess Anne was unworthy for Europe's' heirs. And according to Cromwell, although there were some who laughed at the Boleyn's misfortune, most were pleased to welcome the new princess, something that boded well for when a prince was born in the near future.

Princess Anne cried out as holy water was poured over her, cleansing her soul from all impurities. After saying a prayer, Warham handed the baby girl back to her grandfather. Then the Earl of Wiltshire led the precession out of the chapel and through the corridors of the palace.

Thomas could not help but smile at his sweet granddaughter as he walked towards his daughter's rooms. She looked just like Anne did when she was babe in his arms. He had always known that his second daughter would be special but he had no idea that she would be the Queen of England. They needed to secure Anne's position with a son but Thomas could not be too unhappy with the baby in his arms. She filled him with too many found memories of his children's childhood for him to resent her even a little bit.

Elizabeth gently touched his arm as they neared the bed where both the King and Queen were lying.

"Princess Anne, Your Majesties!" the Earl of Wiltshire announced with unnecessary flourish. He laid his granddaughter in Anne's arms and then, to everyone's surprise, broke protocol to lay a kiss on his daughter's cheek. "She looks just like you did. Although she didn't make as much of a fuss when she was christened," he whispered, just loud enough for Henry and Anne to hear.

The red-haired monarch laughed good-naturedly, clapping Thomas on the shoulder while Anne just chuckled at her father's words.

As the precession left the room, the Earl of Wiltshire glanced back at three people on the bed. It was hard to tell who Henry had more affection for: his wife or his daughter. Thomas just prayed the King's love for Queen and Princess Anne continued.

He would remind his daughter that she needed a son tomorrow but for today, he would celebrate his granddaughter: the first Boleyn princess.

January 18 1528

Her first-born babe was a girl who Henry had named Katherine after her mother even though the baby was born dead. That girl was the first child the former Spanish princess had carried in her womb; the first baby she had ever miscarried. Back then, Henry held her in his arms while she sobbed over the death of their daughter, assuring her that they would have many more children to fill the empty royal nursery. He continued to hold her and comfort her when five of her next six pregnancies ended in death and sorrow, never once reproaching her for her failures.

Then his mistress Elizabeth Blount gave birth to her husband's son and Henry suddenly decided it was not his fault that he had no living Prince of Wales. A few years later, he met Anne and soon after Katherine, the barren and aging queen, was set aside for the much younger and fertile daughter of an Earl.

She was not so foolish to assume that if Anne had a daughter, Henry would be so upset that he would discard his whore and return to Katherine. But she did not think he would be so happy with receiving a girl instead of a boy that he would name his new daughter after her mother nor that he would celebrate her arrival as if he had hoped that Anne would give birth to a princess all along.

Perhaps Katherine was being a little bit unfair as Henry had been just as delighted with Mary's birth but she would have thought he would at least be displeased that he didn't have the Prince of Wales he was so convinced Anne would be able to provide for him after so many years of losing son after son with Katherine.

"The joust was canceled, Your Majesty," Ambassador Mendoza pointed out as though no jousting was a sign that Henry was furious he had a second daughter instead of a son. Upon seeing her skeptical look, he pressed on, wanting to give her some good news that would give her hope that Henry's love for his concubine was fading. "And Lady Anne will be confined in her bed for at least another month." He didn't elaborate nor did he need to: it was entirely possible that Henry would get a mistress while his wife was unable to preform her martial duties.

However, Katherine doubted that would be the case for one simple reason.

"Did he take a mistress while Lady Anne" she would never refer to that woman as queen. "was pregnant?"

Katherine would never condone adultery even if she did not believe that Henry and Anne were truly married but at the very least Henry showing an interest in a different lady would mean that the Boleyn woman's hold over him was weakening.

"No," Mendoza admitted, sounding rather displeased. After all, if the red-haired monarch couldn't be faithful to Katherine- a far worthier woman in Mendoza's humble opinion- why would be faithful to Anne?

"Then he is unlikely to do so now. He waited years to have her so he'll be fine with waiting one more month," Katherine said with a sigh. Henry was a fickle man but he clearly viewed the birth of his second daughter as a good thing and if he showed no interest in another woman, then he would wait until Anne was churched before happily returning to her bed. Not wanting to discuss her husband's affairs any longer, Katherine turned to a different subject. "Have there been any news from Rome?" she questioned hopefully.

"Nothing good I'm afraid. His Holiness, insists that Anne is the Queen of England and her daughter is a trueborn princess," Mendoza answered, frowning sympathetically when he saw the Spanish woman sag in despair. Of all the betrayals she had encountered over the years, it was the unexpected one from Pope Clement that hurt her the most.

"What of the Princes of Europe? What do they think of Henry's newest daughter?" Katherine asked, praying that at least her nephew was unwilling to acknowledge the so-called Princess Anne.

"Well heretics like Martin Luther are on your side, my lady," Mendoza remarked with an ounce of humor in his tone. It was rumored that the Boleyns believed in all of that heretical nonsense so it was almost funny that their ambitions inadvertently made the Catholic Church's influence stronger in England and drove a wedge between them and the reformers. "So I doubt that the heretical dukes of Germany will be calling the new baby a princess or her mother a queen any time soon. Your nephew is, of course, on your side and he will continue to plead with the Pope to put an end to this injustice. Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Scotland and Poland seem to have take His Holiness' declaration as the truth but they have simply sent their congratulations to King Henry, nothing more. France, on the other hand, are more overt in their support." Mendoza grimaced before continuing: "If the rumors I hear are true. King Francis is offering his oldest son as a bridegroom for Anne Fitzroy."

Katherine could scarcely believe it. The gall of King Francis was appalling, he had to know that if Pope Clement ever did recant his declaration that the so-called princess would be made a bastard. And yet he was willing to risk his son marrying an illegitimate girl just so he could insult his enemy.

The worst part was once it became known that Francis was seeking to make such a match, there was no doubt that the royal houses of Europe would follow, in hopes to make an alliance with England.

And when Anne Boleyn had a son, it would be even harder for Pope Clement to see reason and even if he did eventually, Henry might not listen.

If that happened, only God could help Katherine and Mary.

Meanwhile Henry was discussing matters with his councilors.

"Both France and Spain are asking for your aide in their war," Wolsey read from his papers.

"Considering the Emperor continues to badger the Pope, trying to force him into declaring my false marriage true, I think it is safe to say that I will not be siding with Spain," Henry snapped, harrumphing at the gall of the Spaniard who used to call him uncle.

"King Francis also expresses his desire to see a marriage between Princess Anne and the Dauphin Francis," Wolsey continued. No one at the table seemed surprised as gossip traveled fast around the court and it has been known for days.

"I hope he doesn't expect me to pay my daughter's dowry in advance," Henry said coolly, scowling as he remembered how the Spanish Emperor had wanted to marry Mary-when she was still a princess- and had taken her dowry in the form of help against the French. When Emperor Charles married Isabella of Portugal, he did not pay back a farthing of the coffers he received.

Thankfully Henry had managed to gain his money back a year ago when his troops sized control over the ships left floundering on the Italian shore. But it still irked him that the man he once saw as an ally and was the cousin of his beloved daughter was such an untrustworthy knave.

"The French Ambassador assures me, he only hopes to unite France and England through the bounds of matrimony," Wolsey informed him.

"I think that the Dauphin Francis would make a good husband for Princess Anne," the Earl of Wiltshire declared with a smile. After all his granddaughter would be the Queen of France and his future grandson would be the King of England. Why wouldn't he be elated by such a prospect?

"Very well but I do not want to seem too eager so let's wait a few months before starting the negotiations," Henry decided before abruptly changing the subject. "Speaking of my daughters, the Lady Mary will be turning twelve in a fortnight and I want to celebrate by giving her a title of her own."

He had originally wanted to wait until Anne had their son before giving Mary her own peerage but he could not get his daughter's reaction to her new sister out of his head. The last thing he wanted was for Mary to feel unloved so he hoped that a title of viscount or countess would remind her of his love. However, he did not dare give her a higher title, in fear that some would insist that he was punishing Anne by making Mary a marquess or a duchess.

"Your Majesty, if I could make a suggestion," Thomas More began, trying to keep his fears under control. He could tell that Henry felt guilty about Mary's downgraded position. He had thought of this solution some time ago but he had thought it was best to wait until Henry decided that leaving Mary as simply Lady Mary was not enough before he broached this particular subject.

"Of course, Thomas, speak freely," Henry told him, smiling at his old tutor.

"I've been thinking about the Lady Mary and I remembered how you said that she had done nothing. She is a victim of circumstance, born from a marriage of good faith. Perhaps you could ask Pope Clement to allow your daughter to return to her title as princess," More explained.

The men sitting around the council table became apprehensive, fearing Henry's reaction. Those who supported Katherine and Mary were nervous that the red-haired monarch might lash out at More for suggesting such a thing while those who supported Anne were worried that he might agree which would surely weaken Anne and her children's positions.

"I do not think that would be wise," Henry said stiffly, a dark look on his face. If he died sometime after declaring that Mary was a princess, Spain's troops would be at England's doorstep to make sure that his wife and daughter did not hold the crown. Dear Lord, what if he died tomorrow and that happened anyway. Little Annie was just a babe: she would not be able to protect her throne. "In fact, gentlemen, I want to make sure that there can be no question that my children by Anne are my true heirs."

More flinched, knowing that he had unintentionally just caused Lady Mary to lose her chance at receiving her own peerage.

Henry sighed. He wanted to honor his oldest daughter but he could not do so now. Not while he had no son and that dratted woman's prophecy of him dying once he had a second daughter which would cause England to be torn apart by civil war was still fresh in everyone's mind.

His father had hoped to put an end to the civil war in England and he had already let the old King Henry down by failing to secure the Tudor Dynasty. Henry could not do anything else that would put his legacy and England in jeopardy.

However, that didn't mean he disagreed with Sir More. After all, Mary was not to blame for all of this. Why should she have to lose the title she was born with because of her mother's lies?

His daughter was a charming, intelligent young lady, a good wife for any king. When Anne had a son or maybe two sons, Henry would send a letter to the Pope, requesting that his pearl be reinstated as a princess.

She deserved to a queen, he just couldn't allow her to be the queen of England.

February 9 1528

"You are a month old, my sweet girl," Anne cooed at the baby in her arms. Her father was right, Annette (as Mary liked calling her) was her mirror image except she had Henry's eyes.

Annette giggled as her mother bounced her up and down.

"Your Majesty, it's time for her feeding," the nursemaid said, her hands fidgeting at her sides as she did not want to seem like she was eager to take the baby from the queen.

Anne glowered, feeling that her time with her daughter was too short and she hated not being able to feed her daughter from her own breasts because queens did not do that. She still grudgingly handed Annette over and waved goodbye as the nursemaid took the infant back to the nursery.

"I'm sure they will bring her back soon," Mary whispered in her ear, patting her shoulder sympathetically.

Before Anne could reply, the familiar call of 'make way for the King' was heard and minutes later Henry strode into the bedchamber. Mary quickly took her leave, knowing that the married couple wanted their alone time.

"Where is my Annette? I was hoping to see both of my Annes today," Henry mock-complained after sharing a sweet kiss with his wife.

"I am afraid that you just missed her. She returned to the nursery to be fed," Anne explained before adding with a teasing tone. "I hope that I will be good enough company while we wait for her to be brought back."

"Always, my sweetheart, always," Henry assured her with a fond chuckle before sobering. "Anne, may I ask your opinion of something that has been weighing on my mind for these past few weeks?"

"My opinion has been given more times than anyone has actually asked for it," Anne jested before putting her hand on Henry's arm, gently stroking his sleeve. "Is it about Mary or that awful Barton woman?"

She had heard rumors about the mad nun's prophecy and while she didn't believe it would ever come true, it was still a dark cloud hanging over her and her daughter's head. Her father had told her about Henry and More's discussion and while she didn't see the harm in giving her stepdaughter a title, she did agree that making Mary a princess ahead of Annette was simply asking for trouble.

"A bit of both perhaps," Henry said, his brow creasing. "I want to make my daughter happy but I fear what will happen to you and Annette were I ever to die-"

"You will not die. I won't let you!" Anne declared fiercely, not even wanting that terrible thought to be completed.

Her husband beamed at her. "If only it were that easy," he murmured, lifting her hand to his lips and kissing her fingers. "In any case, my love, what do you think of me giving Mary a title or making her a princess again?"

What could Anne say to that? She could not tell him that she feared that the twelve-year-old girl might her death and she would rise an army against her own blood in order to wrestle the crown of England from her half-sister's hands.

To be so afraid of a child was ridiculous and Henry would find it insulting that Anne would think his daughter would turn against his loved ones.

Henry feared that Katherine or her allies would use Mary against his daughter and wife but he would never believe that Mary herself would be capable of being anything but his sweet lovely daughter.

"I am sure that she would be very happy with either," Anne said thoughtfully, privately wondering if Mary would accept being a princess with her stepmother still the queen. "However, I do fear that wrongminded people might believe that your daughter takes precedent over our children." Feeling slightly guilty, she added: "But if you really want to do this for your daughter then you should."

"I think that I will wait a few years," Henry decided with a sigh before giving Anne's hand a squeeze, not wanting her to think he was angry at her honest answer. After all, they both feared the same even if Anne was slightly more paranoid.

June 2 1528

Her husband had returned to her bed in early March and they had spent every night together but Anne had not dared believe that she would get pregnant again so soon after giving birth.

After all she had the mistake of being too prideful in her own abilities the last time and God had punished her for her arrogance-even if Princess Annette was the sweetest and most adorable punishment she had ever received.

She had missed her courses twice but she had yet to feel sick in the mornings so she did not send for a doctor or a midwife. Anne feared getting her hopes up prematurely so she did not share her suspicions with anyone not even her mother.

However, as she rode her horse by Henry's side, she could not help but feel a little nauseated and was beginning to regret not seeing a physician before agreeing to join Henry on this outing.

"Are you all right, Anne? Do you not feel well? Should we head back?" Henry quizzed her, his brow furrowing in worry at how pale and queasy his wife looked.

The queen swallowed the bile in her throat that lurched upwards when her horse walked down the bumpy path. Then she shook her head, a strained smile on her face.

The group that they were traveling with was George, Anthony Knivet and Charles Brandon. While Charles and Anthony were joking and jesting with each other, George seemed was uncharacteristically quiet and Anne was sure she knew why.

While her brother and his wife did not have the best of marriages, they had grown closer when Jane fell pregnant and was due to give birth in July. George for all his playfulness was anxious to be a father and had asked to leave court tomorrow.

"Tell me, George, what will you name your offspring?" Anne questioned, ignoring how her stomach seemed to be doing cartwheels.

"Either Henry or Anne, of course," George stated, his eyebrows shooting up in mock-surprise as if there could not be any other names to choose from.

"As flattered as we are, I think that there might be too many Henrys and Annes that it might be confusing," Henry pointed out with good cheer. "After all your daughter will be a companion to our little Anne."

"Besides I think Mary might feel a bit left out," Anne remarked, thinking of her sister who was currently spending time with her husband and children. "Perhaps you should name your son George or your daughter Jane."

"I shall think on that, Your Majesties," George promised.

After having a picnic under a tree, the group made their way back to London only to stop at the gates, realizing something was terribly wrong.

"Dear God what is that awful smell?" Anne asked, feeling as though she was about to lose her lunch on the side of the road and she quickly covered her face with her handkerchief.

"It smells like vinegar," Anthony remarked, looking worried.

Henry tried to approach the gate only for the guard to stop him.

"You must stay back, Your Majesty, it is the sweat," the man told him. "It is spreading quickly."

"We must return to the palace at once," Henry commanded just seconds before Anne leaned to the other side of her horse and let loose the vomit she had been trying to keep down for the past few hours. "And I think that Dr. Linacre better take a look at you just in case, my love."

June 25 1528

The sweat was running rampant through England and Anne was pregnant.

Henry had sent Mary and Annette away to Katherine's residence as it was the furthest from the sickness in London. On Wolsey's advice, he had disbanded the court, feeling that for everyone's safety, there needed to be as few people as possible at the Palace of Placentia.

Learning about Anne's second pregnancy should have been a joyous occasion but instead it was filled with fear and uncertainty. They both remained away from each, having contact with only a few attendants.

Just when it looked like things couldn't get worse, Henry's manservant dropped dead and an hour later, Anne's maid became sick with the sweat. They had to flee from the palace before they could catch it.

However, Henry knew that he could not leave London completely as they needed their king but he could not risk getting ill so he ordered her to go to her family's house immediately.

Unfortunately, Anne was not so easily cowed despite her fear of the sweat.

"I am your wife and queen. My place is at your side. Either we leave together or we stay here," she declared.

"Anne, please, you have to go to safety for our children's sake. Our daughter and our son need their mother alive and well," Henry implored her, struggling to keep his temper under control.

Didn't she realize how much danger she was in? If the sweat took Anne and their unborn baby, he wasn't sure how he would cope without them. He couldn't lose them, not when everything was going so well.

Death was everywhere and he was just a mere mortal. He couldn't protect his children from the sweat.

What if Hal Fitzroy, his only living son, died at such a tender age? He would never forgive himself if Mary died as a bastard believing that her father did not love her. And sweet Annette was only a babe who he wanted to see grow and flourish.

"What about you? Don't they need their father alive and well?" Anne questioned, reaching out to touch his cheek. Her eyes widened as her hand continued up his face to his forehead.

Henry suddenly realized that the room seemed to be swirling. He could see Anne's mouth moving but there seemed to be no words coming out of it.

Then it all went dark.

Chapter Text

June 25 1528

One minute everything was fine and then the next moment, her world was crumbling before her eyes.

Anne was not sure how she had managed to remain calm when Henry fell to the floor, covered in sweat. She was not sure if she had screamed in horror or if the guards had heard the red-haired monarch's body hit the floor and that's why they came running in. She was not sure how she did not collapse into hysterics as her only remaining lady led her away from the physician examining her husband.

God must have been watching over Anne that day, keeping her from losing her baby and becoming sick with the sweat herself. She was determined not to give in to the fear that was coursing through her veins, her husband had decreed that she was to be regent if he was indisposed for one reason or another and she would not let him down.

She refused to flee to Hever. Henry had said that someone needed to stay in London and with him being indisposed, Anne needed to be the that person.

"You can't be serious, Anne, you must get to safety," Thomas Boleyn demanded. "Think about the baby and yourself." He would not speak to her too harshly in fear that the argument would cause her to miscarry or worse become sick.

"Henry wasn't about to run away so why should I?" Anne demanded.

"Anne, I beg of you, for the sake of your son and your daughter, at least let us go to Hever until the sicknesses has abated. If you die, who is going to protect your daughter's crown?" Thomas questioned pointedly.

His daughter chewed her lip thoughtfully before nodding as she stroked her stomach.

"I will go to safest place near London and I expect to be informed immediately when I can return," Anne ordered regally. She would leave Surrey so she could keep her children from becoming orphans but she refused to leave England without a leader. She was the regent and she would not allow anyone to say that she cared more about herself than her people's well being.

Miles away at Hever, while Anne was worrying about her husband, her sister-in-law was afraid for not only her life but also the lives of her unborn babies. Because she was carrying multiple babies, Jane had gone into confinement early and she had been doing all right for the first eight months of her first pregnancy. However she feared that with the epidemic going around she was in great danger, a fear that only worsened as her labor pains started.

"I can't do it," Jane sobbed. "It's too much pain. Oh God, what if the babies catch the sweat from me."

"It's going to be all right," Elizabeth Boleyn said soothingly, holding her daughter-in-law's hand. It was impossible to tell if Jane's sweaty forehead was because of the strain of childbirth or if she really did have the sweat. Despite knowing that Jane would be contagious if she did have that horrible disease, Elizabeth did not leave; she would die before she left Jane and her grandchildren go through this alone.

"How can you say that! I have doomed my babies and you!" Jane screamed.

"The first baby is crowning!" the midwife called.

Once the child was out of it's mother's womb she quickly cut the umbilical cord and hurried the newborn out of the room just in case their mother did have the sweat. The Boleyn's doctor was waiting in the other room and he would inspect and clean the child so the midwife could go back to tending to Jane.

The second baby was born forty-five minutes later. Sweat or no sweat, Elizabeth doubted Jane would be able to safely deliver a third baby as she had lost so much blood already; unfortunately, she had no choice but to keep punishing despite barely having the energy to scream.

"Save the baby and let me die. Please," Jane whimpered as her eyes rolled to the back of her head.

"No! Jane! Stay with us!" Elizabeth shouted, terrified.

"We have to preform a c-section immediately," the midwife told her before summoning the doctor.

Elizabeth could not bear to watch so she left the room to be with her worried son.

An hour and a half later, the physician walked outside of the room, his expression grim.

"How is she? Is she all right?" George demanded. He had heard all three cries of his children so he assumed that they were healthy. However, his mother had mentioned that Jane had fainted in the middle of giving birth and he feared that the c-section would damage her already fragile health even more. Although he had not loved Jane, George had cared for her and once she became pregnant, he had found himself excited at the prospect of becoming a father and he was sure that Jane would make a wonderful mother.

"I am sorry to tell you that your wife died due to blood loss. We couldn't save her," the doctor said sadly. "She had one more boy in her womb. I do not think the fourth baby is long for this world."

George could feel his heart breaking. God, he was to lose his wife and newborn son on the same day. "What of the other three? Will they live?" he asked, a plea in his voice. He closed his eyes and swallowed the lump in his throat. He had been so happy when he learned that Jane had given birth to a daughter and overjoyed when she was joined by a by a second girl. Now he had two daughters and two sons but no wife to complete their family.

"I cannot say for certain especially when there is so much sickness going around. Only time will tell."

"Why don't we go to the nursery and we can go see them," Elizabeth suggested, resting her hand on her son's sleeve.

"No, I should go. Anne needs me," George said, tearing his sleeve from his mother's hands.

Elizabeth stared open-mouthed at her son. How could he abandon his four newborn and motherless children like that?

"George, you are all they have, you cannot just leave them," she admonished him.

"I can't look at them right now, Mother, please don't make me go see them," George pleaded with her, his voice strained.

He couldn't explain it but he was afraid. Afraid that if he saw his children, he would never be able to bear the grief he would feel if they died. It was ridiculous but he was unsure of how much tragedy he could take.

"Very well. Will you at least name your motherless babes?" Elizabeth demanded, glaring at her son.

"Jane, Mary, Thomas and George. I should go pack, I'll leave in the morning," George said, not meeting his mother's eyes. He didn't need her to tell him he was a coward; he was already aware of it.

The newest George Boleyn died just a few hours after his mother. When Elizabeth passed her son's room, she could hear loud weeping from inside it. But he was not the only one who needed comfort so she continued to walk until she reached the nursery where her remaining grandchildren were sleeping, blissfully unaware that they had lost both their mother and their brother in a matter of hours.

June 28 1528

Henry was thirty-nine today and he languished in Greenwich Palace, barely clinging to life. There were rumors that the sweat was God's punishment for the King forsaking his true wife and daughter replacing them with another. But if that was true, surely it would Anne who was sick instead of Henry.

Katherine was terrified about what Henry's death would mean for her and Mary. They could fight for Mary's right to the crown. In fact, as her mother had done in Spain, even if the Pope did not recant his declaration, Katherine would gladly raise the troops to battle for her daughter's throne as winning would prove that God was in fact on her side and that Clement and her husband were… mistaken in their views.

But would it be worth it? The sweating sickness was still spreading through England, ravaging countless lives. Countless more Englishmen would perish in the civil war that would happen if the Boleyns and Howards chose to fight for a Queen of their blood despite her being just a babe.

What if one of Anne's relatives or even Anne herself if she was paranoid enough, decided to get rid of her daughter's rival permanently just in case Henry died? Katherine was sure that there were spies in her manor who reported everything she and Mary said to their masters, what if one of them murdered the twelve-year-old girl just so her seven-month-old half-sister would be the undisputed queen of England?

Despite everything he had done, Henry was the only person who could keep Mary safe and end this horrible mess without bloodshed. They were at a stalemate right now and only Henry being alive and well would keep the fragile peace from being broken.

God please forgive my husband's sins and spare him from death. Katherine prayed that Henry would get better so he could protect his kingdom from civil war and protect his daughter from harm.

Deciding that was enough prayer for the time being, Katherine left her rooms and went to visit her daughter. The town they were in had been lucky enough to avoid the sweat and considering how long it had been since she had seen Mary, Katherine was pleased that she got to spend so much with her daughter without fear of either of them growing ill.

They sat together as Mary showed her mother how much better she had gotten playing the lute. But throughout her performance, Katherine noticed that Mary seemed to be lost in her thoughts and she finally told their ladies to leave so she could ask Mary what was bothering her.

"What troubles you, my dear heart?" Katherine asked soothingly even though she could already guess the answer.

"Why didn't Papa heed Elizabeth Barton's prophecy? If he had just admitted to making a mistake and asked the Pope to reinstate you and me to our rightful positions, he wouldn't be dying," Mary ranted, feeling unusually angry at her father. "Now he'll die and I'll have to dispose my own sister in order to keep England safe from the Boleyn witch and her vile kin."

Katherine stared at her daughter in dismay. It wouldn't be until later would she realize that Mary was simply covering her own feelings of anguish with ire. But in this moment, she was completely unnerved by her daughter's words.

"How dare you say something like that! How can you talk about your king not mention your own father dying so casually? How can your even think like that?" she demanded, furious at what she perceived as callousness. Perhaps her daughter took after Henry in more ways than one.

"But Mama-" Mary began, trying to explain that it was not that she wanted her father dead, it was that she believed that he could have avoided getting sick if he hadn't married Anne Boleyn.

"No!" Katherine interjected sharply. Then she softened when she saw the tears in her daughter's eyes. She embraced Mary and gentled her tone. "You should not be berating your father for his actions. You should be praying that he lives so there is no bloodshed. England is already suffering and a good queen should always do what's best for her people including waiting until her father sees the error of his ways." And the Pope as well. She added inwardly.

"I understand, Mama," Mary told her softly. Her mother's words reminded her of something that her father had said that day she had asked him why she was no longer the Princess of Wales, accusing him of punishing her for being female.

You would make a wonderful queen but this is not Spain and I fear that there will be bad men who will refuse to accept a woman on the throne. England cannot survive another civil war. I must have a son to take the throne after me. It pains me to hurt you, Mary, but I must do what is best for my kingdom.

Although she was a young girl when this particular event happened, she remembered rumors that the Duke of Buckingham was plotting to kill her father and take the throne for himself. Would he have done so if her mother had a son? Perhaps he would have still carried out his treasonous plot regardless of what gender her father's heir was but the fact remained that there was royal blood in England that could try to take her crown from her if they felt they had a better claim.

Perhaps it would be better if Anne had a son especially when Pope Clement had blessed her stepmother's marriage to her father. And if her father did die, perhaps it would be better for her country if she chose to stand aside rather than let a civil war destroy what was left of England.

That being said, Mary would cut out her own tongue out rather than letting anyone think that she believed the vicious slander that was spread about her mother. Katherine of Aragon was not a liar and if she said that her marriage to the former Prince Wales was unconsummated, then that was what happened.

Her mother would fight for her right to become queen of England even though she did not want any blood being spilled and Mary would defend her mother's reputation until her dying breath.

"We will get through this together," Katherine promised her daughter, planting a kiss on the top of her hair.

"I know we well," Mary said determinedly. "We come from a line of strong woman."

July 1 1528

It was nearly over. They had decreed that court could be reestablished in London again. Wolsey had given Henry and Anne Hampton Palace as a wedding gift and it would be used for those who were able to travel to court.

There were still a few men (including her husband) who were still sick and they remained locked in their homes. Henry was still in Greenwich and Anne prayed that he would soon become well. Because Kimbolton had not been overcome by the sweat, Anne decided that was the safest place for her daughter to be until the dangers of the sweating sickness was truly over.

Her father disagreed.

"Anne, leaving your daughter in the home of the enemy might not be a good idea," he argued. "If the King…" He could not finish his sentence as it was treason to even think about the monarch's death. However, Thomas doubted that there was a person in all of England who wasn't thinking those thoughts from the moment Henry became another victim of the sweat.

"Give the Princess Dowager some credit, Father, she would never harm a helpless baby," Anne said firmly. Even though she still feared that Mary would one day be her death, the queen knew that the twelve-year-old girl would not be dangerous even if she was used to weaken her siblings' claim to the throne of England.

"If it makes you feel better, Father, I can ride to Kimbolton and stay there until Princess Annette is able to return to London," George suggested, thinking that as the uncle of the princess, no one would be suspicious that he was there as a spy instead of simply being there for his sweet niece.

There was another reason why George wanted to leave: fearful of the sweat Jane had gone into labor early and it was entirely possible that she would have died from it had she not bleed out from her excruciating childbirth. The was some irony that instead of dying of the sweat like so many of her countrymen were dying from, the Countess of Rochford died because of complications during giving birth. She had now left her husband a widower and their children motherless.

Anne gave her brother a disapproving look, clearly thinking it would be better for him to go back to Hever where his newborn children were than playing spy for their father. But she said nothing which was something George was thankful for; he was feeling enough guilt already.

"Very well," Thomas agreed. "But we must make plans in case the worst thing happens and your son is born a king."

Everyone was so certain that Anne would have a son just as they had cheerfully predicted it would be a prince when she was pregnant with Annette. But for once, the hope that she will have a son did not come from fear for her position if she fails again. If a second princess is born, Katherine of Aragon's loyal allies would use it to strengthen Lady Mary's claim to the throne. A son would show everyone that God favored Henry's second wife and therefore those who were not firmly on Mary's side would not rise against him especially when they still had the Pope's blessing.

"When it has become safe for people to move about the city, I want food and clothes to distributed amongst the poor," Anne commanded. She had also decided that when the sweating sickness had left for good, she would visit a poorhouse herself, to find out what she could do to help them. Anne was fully aware that her father would object on the grounds that she was a queen and queens did not mingle with the common folk. She would deal with his disapproval when the time came. "How soon can there be a meeting of the privy council?"

"Wolsey and Suffolk are still recovering from their illness. Norfolk and Oxford will be here in a few days," Thomas informed her, frowning slightly. He had half hoped that the cardinal would die from the sickness so he could be rid of that hated son of a butcher who had risen far too high.

"Very well, do you have any other suggestions on what to do, Father?" Anne asked as she racked her brain for something, anything else she could do aside from simply waiting for everything and everyone to get better.

"Arrange a mass for those who died in the sweat," Thomas replied. "However, I would suggest waiting until we have the final numbers. I will speak to Cromwell and Audley about writing papers that will declare your daughter Queen just in case the worst thing happens."

"God willing the worst won't happen," Anne whispered, terrified that she would lose her husband after only a year of marriage. It would be heartbreaking for her and devastating for England.

"Leave it to me, Anne, perhaps you should go rest," Thomas suggested to her gently, not wanting his daughter to overwork herself in her delicate condition.

Anne opened her mouth to refuse when a page entered.

"I have a message for the Viscount of Rochford," he announced.

George stared at the man apprehensively, not moving to take the envelope in his hands, fearing the message inside. His father took it instead, dismissing the page before opening and reading the contents of the envelope.

Upon finishing it, the Earl of Wiltshire turned to his son with a grave look on his face. "Thomas has gotten sick with a fever," he reported, knowing that his eight-day-old grandson was not strong enough to survive this illness.

"Well I should go pack. I'm sure Princess Annette will want to see her uncle," George declared tonelessly, practically sprinting out of the room before his sister and father could say another word.

"George, what about your two daughters!" Anne shouted after him but if her brother heard her, he ignored her.

"Let him go, Anne, everyone grieves differently," Thomas told her gently. "He has lost his wife and two sons in a matter of days. It's hard thing to get over."

"I would understand him bottling up his emotions if he wasn't punishing his children by ignoring them," Anne snapped.

Thomas sighed. Anne wouldn't know what it was like to lose a child who had barely lived. He prayed that she never would know that pain.

July 4 1528

I fear that the King does not have long to live.

Dr. Linacre had made his report grimly and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Warham had been summoned to administer Henry's last rites. The red-haired monarch had fallen asleep so physically exhausted and drained that he too assumed that he would not wake up in the morning.

But God worked in mysterious ways and in the early hours of dawn, a groom had come in to find Henry sitting up, demanding food to brought to him at once. His servant had run to get the physician and then afterwards made his way through the empty kitchen to fetch some meat that thankfully was only a few days old.

"Your fever has broken, Your Majesty, you are going to get better," Dr. Linacre assured him, sounding relived as Henry was sure that all of England would be.

If he had died, he had no doubt that Katherine would immediately ask her dratted nephew for help stealing the throne from Anne and his children. The results would have been catastrophic. But thankfully it wouldn't happen because God had saved him and he would live to see the birth of his legitimate son and he would get to watch all four of his children grow up with his adoring wife by his side.

Anne had written him countless letters that the only remaining groom had dutifully read to Henry as he lay in his bed. He was elated to know that she, their baby, his son, and his two daughters continued to live. Soon he would be able to return to them.

"How long will I be stuck in this bed?" Henry demanded as he tore into a chicken leg greedily.

"I would just you stay here at least a month until you have returned to your full strength and health, Your Majesty," the doctor replied.

Henry groaned, hating the fact that he would be stuck in bed like invalid especially for such a long time. But if he wouldn't dare ignore his physician's warnings as he feared that if he did, he might become sick again and this time he might not be lucky enough to recover.

I'll be home soon, Anne, I promise.

Kimbolton Castle was spacious manor where George could avoid the two enemies of his family if he wanted to. Truthfully, the childish part of him enjoyed the look of irritation on the mother and daughter's duo when he called Katherine the Dowager Princess of Wales or the offended look when he greeted the twelve-year-old girl by the title of Lady. They should be used to it but perhaps it was the fact that George was the new queen's brother that just made the entire ordeal just a tiny bit harder for the two of them to deal with. He was sure that it was even more aggravating that they had to play gracious host to him.

However, having lost his wife, two of his four children made George not wish to do anything but sulk in his rooms without having to interact with anyone. The lone exception was his niece.

Seeing his niece gave him hope that when he returned to Hever, maybe Janey and Mary (he would half to consult his sisters on possible nicknames) would be alive and well. He looked at Princess Annie and wondered if his daughters looked like her. Dear God, it had been twelve days since they were born? He had not even seen them; what sort of father was he?

"Your cousins had two brothers who both died as did your aunt," George remarked as he rocked a sleeping Anne back and forth. "I keep fearing that they will die as well and I'll be left with nothing. I never saw their brothers and yet their deaths did not hurt me any less. Am I being a fool, Annette?"

The princess gurgled and her uncle could not help but think that was a yes.

"Perhaps you are right," George said with a sigh before letting out a sardonic chuckle and smiling tearfully. "Boleyn girls are so very strong. Mary has Cathy and Anne has you. I have no doubt that both of my nieces will be just like their mothers when they grow older. Cathy's father is dead and you… well hopefully not. But I'm all my girls have left."

But still, George was afraid of going home and losing the only two lights left in his dark world. He had been falling in love with Jane and he would have loved George and Thomas so much. But his sons had died and he was left with this empty numbness of his heart.

He needed more time before he could face his daughters.

July 5 1528

To my dearest Anne, Queen of my heart as well as England,

I dreamt of you as I lay there in my sickbed. I remember walking towards the light until I heard you calling for me, begging for me not to leave you. Then you grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the light, telling me that it was not my time and you would not let me go.

Then I woke up and my fever had broken. You saved me, Anne, I know you did. Just as you promised me all those months ago, you refused to let me die. God saved me just as He protected you and our son.

I will be trapped here for two months and I shall spend every waking day, thinking of you and our children. Write to me, Anne, for it was my only comfort when I was sick and it will be something for me to look forward to while I am stuck here. When I am better, I shall ride to court and take your in my arms, kissing your sweet ducky lips, trailing kisses down your lovely neck.

Until then, my darling wife.

Yours forever and for always, Henry Rex.

Anne's eyes glistened as she read her husband's letter, her fingers lightly caressing the words written on it. When she had received the news late last night that Henry was alive, she had been overcome with emotions. To know that her husband was not going to die and would be home in two months lifted a burden off of Anne's shoulders.

"It's over, Father, Henry is coming home," Anne whispered as she folded the letter and held it close to her heart.

"The Sweat is over but our work is not," Thomas pointed out. "While His Majesty is quarantined, you are still regent. The mass will be tomorrow. I have arranged for Thomas Cranmer to lead it."

Anne frowned, knowing full well why her father had chosen Cranmer of all priests to preform mass.

"Really Father? Now is not the time to proceed with religious reforms. We can't stir up controversy after a crisis," Anne snapped.

Thomas glared at her, annoyed that she would think he'd be so foolish. "If I wanted controversy, I would have asked Robert Barnes to do it," he said coolly. Unfortunately, Barnes was one of the many Lutherans who did not support the King's new marriage. Something Thomas hoped would change once Anne had a son. "Cranmer is of the new faith and loyal to us. He won't be doing anything different but he will be making sure to remind the people that God has saved the King and blessed you and your daughter so you may bring a golden age to England."

Her father had a bigger goal in mind, Anne was sure of it, but she decided not to dwell on it. She would leave him to his ambitions while she focused on other matters for the time being.

She would first send a letter to Queen Margaret of Scots, assuring her that her brother was alive and would recover from his sickness. She would also send a letter to Kimbolton, summoning not only Princess Annie and her brother back to court but Lady Mary as well; perhaps she should even send an invitation to the Princess Dowager Katherine as she was sure her stepdaughter would not wish to be separated from her beloved mother.

A letter would be sent to Hever would be sent as well and Anne was fully prepared to lock George in the nursery if that was what it took to get him to actually bond with his newborn daughters.

Anne pressed Henry's letter to her protruding stomach as though she hoped the baby could read it through her skin and her dress. The danger of the sweat was finally over, and Henry was alive and well. Although they had lost many people, including those they had been close to, they had still lived through it.

Everything was going to be all right.

Chapter Text

July 8 1528

"My sweet sister, how are you holding up?" Anne inquired the minute Mary arrived at the queen's apartments. Her husband had passed away with the sweat, leaving poor the oldest Boleyn girl a widow.

"Sad by our loses but honestly I am more concerned about how Cathy and Hal are doing than I am willing to let myself grieve," Mary replied earnestly. Sir William Carey had been a good husband to her even if he was dreadfully boring. Despite not being in love with him, Mary would mourn the death of father of her children.

"Well at least one of my siblings has their priorities straight," Anne grumbled, as she sat down, her back beginning to ache.

"Anne, please, everyone grieves differently," Mary told her gently, unknowingly parroting what their father had said.

The auburn-haired woman pulled a face, shaking her head. "He can grieve all he wants to but not at the expense of his daughters," she proclaimed passionately.

Mary sighed but nodded her head in agreement. Although she believed that their brother simply needed time to process this great tragedy, his refusal to even meet his soon to be one-month-old daughters was nothing short of shameful.

George had lost his wife and two sons but he still had two daughters who needed their father. However, in her opinion, it would be better to let George work through his emotions instead of simply scolding him. Unfortunately, she doubted she could stop her sister from doing so.

"Just be gentle when you talk to him," Mary implored her.

Anne smirked at her. "Who says I'll be saying anything?" she said, a mischievous and determined glint in her eyes.


They made for quite a group in the carriage: the Viscount of Rochford was sitting in one seat, holding his niece on his lap, not even paying attention to the two women sitting in the adjacent seat. Katherine and Mary were side by side, not feeling comfortable to talk in front of George even if it was just a light chitchat. On the other hand, it seemed that George could not stop gushing over his niece.

"Look at her, isn't she the most perfect princess you have ever seen?" George questioned. "She will be someone's beautiful queen when she grows up."

If it weren't for the loving smile on his face or the fact that he had not looked up when he spoke those words, Katherine might have thought he was mocking her and Mary, trying to upset them or get them to saying something bad about his niece so he could run to King Henry with tales of how the former queen and princess had insulted the daughter he insisted on calling princess. Whatever his intentions, that didn't mean he wasn't being insensitive. The sad look on her daughter's face was enough to make the former queen eager to change the subject.

"And what of your daughters, Lord Rochford? Are they not just as lovely?" she asked, before realizing her own insensitivity. George Boleyn may have gotten two daughters but he had lost two sons and his wife.

Immediately George's head snapped up at the mention of his girls, the ones he had not met yet. "They are," he replied in a strained voice, trying to keep himself from snapping at the former queen.

Katherine had no idea that George had not laid eyes on his daughters and that his anger was at his own cowardice. She believed that she had reminded him of what he had lost in the process of getting those two daughters. Although she viewed all the Boleyns as her enemies that did not give her an excuse to be rude.

"I apologize if I have hit a nerve, my lord, that was not my intention to do so. I know what it is like to have suffered such terrible losses," Katherine began, leaving out the part where she had lost her husband, not to death, but to George's sister. "I just think it is better to focus on the child who survived rather than to dwell on the ones who did not." With that, she embraced her daughter, kissing the top of her head.

The death of six babies had nearly killed Katherine as did their father's betrayal but Mary made her life worth living and she would never stop doting on her beloved daughter.

"Wise words," George remarked, a faraway look in his eyes.

None of them said a word after that. Only Princess Anne's gurgling and the horse's hoofbeats kept the rest of their journey to Hampton castle from being completed in silence.

By the time they arrived at Hampton Palace, it was already becoming dusk. There were only a few members of the court there to greet them. Anne stood in front of the crowd, wearing the Queen's jewels as though she wanted to remind Katherine and Mary of her stolen status.

Katherine could see the frown on her daughter's face and quickly grabbed her hand as she curtsied to Anne just in case Mary chose to snub Anne in front of everyone. The Spanish woman may not view Anne as the true queen and it may have been a blow to her pride to be submissive to a woman who was below her in both rank and bloodline but she did not want to cause trouble for herself or Mary by being rude especially so publicly. Thankfully Mary followed her example albeit reluctantly.

"Princess Katherine, Lady Mary, I am pleased to welcome you back to court. I cannot thank you enough for taking care of my dear daughter during this epidemic," Anne said gratefully, her eyes lighting up when George placed the six-month-old daughter in her arms.

"We thank you for inviting us and we hope are glad to hear that His Majesty has been blessed by God as have you," Katherine added quickly, not wanting anyone to think that she had wished death on Anne especially not when she was pregnant. She also prayed that no one would take notice of her deliberately not calling Anne Your Majesty.

Luckily it seemed that Anne just wanted to spend time with her daughter as she merely gave both Katherine and Mary a winning smile before requesting her father to show them to their apartments.

His sister was up to something. The way she had requested he join her as they brought Annette to nursery and the fact that she had give Annette to Nan Seville to carry while she kept a tight grip on his arm made him almost certain that she was up to something. And he had a good guess of what was waiting for him in the nursery.

George wanted to run. God damn him, he wanted to stop in the middle of the corridor and refuse to move. But he could not do so. Anne's ladies had accompanied them and he was not about to embarrass himself especially when he knew that if he tried to do either of these things, Anne would have no problem with taking him to task for being such a shabby father in front of everyone.

"Anne, please," he whispered, as they got closer to the nursery. He kept his voice low so no one would hear him. "I don't want to go."

"You sound like a child," Anne hissed, her eyes narrowed. "They are your daughters, George and I will lock you in the nursery for the entire night if I have to."

"You wouldn't dare."

"I have a crib in my chambers where Annette can sleep and I am prepared to tell the guards that under no circumstances are they to let you out unless I order it," Anne told him firmly.

"I'm beginning to think that the power of being queen has officially gone to your head," George could not help but jest.

"I'm sure people think it has already," Anne laughed, pleased to see her brother joking again.

They finally reached the nursery where Francis Bryan was waiting outside the doorway.

"Are you Anne's backup?" George questioned as Francis greeted him with a far too smug grin.

"Just in case you needed a push," Francis replied, throwing his arm around George's shoulder and practically dragging him inside the nursery.

"Traitor," George grumbled, giving his cousin a glare.

With Francis's mother as Princess Annette's governess, the two cousins had established a friendship of sorts something George was beginning to reconsider.

Anne ushered her ladies besides Nan and Mary out of the nursery before walking over to one of the cribs and scooping up one of the two girls before bringing her to George.

"This is your daughter, Mary, although I have been calling her Marian to avoid confusion," Anne introduced.

George looked down at the bundle in Anne's arms. She did not look sickly and she had light blonde hair just like her namesake. She looked like a sleeping angel. Trying to be as gentle as he could, he took his daughter out of her aunt's arms and cuddled her in his arms.

Pleased that her plan was working, Anne quickly picked up George's first-born daughter who was beginning to cry, perhaps because she sensed that her sister was no longer in her crib or maybe she was indignant that she had not been introduced to her father and was demanding her aunt bring her to him immediately.

George moved Marian slightly so he could reach his hand out towards the baby girl who had gotten his and Anne's darker locks.

"It's okay, sweetheart, your papa is here now," he breathed, caressing Jane's cheek with his finger.

As if she had understood what he was saying, Jane was quiet as her father cooed over both her and her sister.

The queen could not help but smirk in triumph.

"Don't gloat, Anne, it's unbecoming of a queen," George teased her, finding it very hard to feel angry as he studied his daughters.

"Now you have four Boleyn girls to look after, cousin," Francis laughed. "I don't know how you are going to manage."

"Six if you include Annette and Cathy," Mary pointed out.

Meanwhile Katherine was getting changed from her traveling clothes to her regular clothes. If she was a spiteful woman, she might have worn purple to remind everyone that no matter what else they could say about her, she was still royalty- born and bred a princess while Anne had only become royalty through marriage. Even if she was that vindictive, she still would never dress in a color that her poor daughter was forbidden to wear.

It galled her to have to act like Anne and her daughter were Henry's true wife and heir but she could not afford to act any other way and not just because she feared that Henry would separate her and Mary again if she did so.

According to Mendoza, heretics seemed to be on her side, using the Pope's actions as proof that the Catholic Church was corrupt. She was sure that His Holiness had annulled her marriage out of anger but she was convinced that God would make him see sense in time. However, if she spoke out against the unfairness of the entire situation, her words might be interrupted as her being against Pope Clement which might cause the people on her side to be more susceptible to Luther and his followers.

God must be testing her and Mary's faith. That had to be it. One day, Mary would be Queen and her trials would have made her stronger.

"Your Highness, one of the Queen's ladies requests an audience," María de Salinas announced, a disgusted look on her face. As Katherine's oldest friend and most loyal lady-in-waiting, it upset her to have to call her mistress by the title of Dowager Princess and to have to refer to Anne as queen.

"Thank you, Maria, I will see her," Katherine replied as she studied her appearance in the mirror to be sure she looked presentable.

Minutes later, Lady Madge Shelton came in, looking rather apprehensive as if she was nervous at being in the rooms of her cousin's rival. She curtsied shallowly and waited until Katherine nodded, giving her permission to speak.

"Her Majesty has commissioned a masquerade to be preformed to celebrate the King's miraculous recovery and she wishes to know if Lady Mary would like a part in it?" Madge explained politely. Because Mary was not of age, the invitation was addressed to her mother instead of herself.

"Well I will have to discuss it with my daughter," Katherine told her politely. "But please thank Her Majesty for the invitation and tell her that she shall have her answer by the end of today."

The lady-in-waiting nodded before making a small curtsy and backing out of the room.

Katherine had been quite shocked when she was invited to court along with her daughter- although she was very pleased- and now she was mildly surprised that Anne was including her stepdaughter in the masquerade dedicated to Henry.

According to her spies, Anne was weary of Mary at best and downright suspicious of her at worst.

However, Katherine was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. If Anne was reaching out and being kind to Mary instead of using Henry's devotion to treat her shabbily, then the former queen was glad.

She would never stop hoping that things would go back to the way they were but she would be pleased if she, Mary and Anne could have a peaceful coexistence.

When her mother told her of her stepmother's invitation, Mary was a little suspicious of the woman's motives. She thought that Anne surely had an agenda and she would use this masquerade as an opportunity to humiliate either her or her mother or maybe even both of them.

"I doubt that would be the case, sweetheart," Katherine assured her. Anne was not that subtle and if she wanted to humiliate them, she wouldn't be so elaborate by casting Mary in a masquerade that wouldn't even take place until King Henry had returned. "She is doing this to celebrate your father's recovery, she is more focused on him than you and me. Why don't we go see her and ask her what part she has in mind for you?" Before Mary could protest, she added: "I think your father would be happy if he saw you in a masquerade made for him."

Her daughter sighed but nodded, giving her mother an indulgent smile when Katherine patted her hair.

They walked to the Queen's apartments in silence ignoring the stares of the courtiers once people realized where they were headed. Soon there would be gossip spread throughout the court, with people laying bets on what the former queen and princess would possibly want to discuss with Anne Boleyn.

Katherine scarcely recognized her old apartments. It was filled with expensive furniture and drapery. The ladies and gentlemen were dancing and drinking. Hardly the elegant demure quietness her household had been.

The music came to an abrupt stop and those who were dancing suddenly froze looking at Katherine and Mary as if they were children caught doing something naughty. Someone must have informed Anne of their arrival because Mary Boleyn stepped out of the bedchamber, telling them that the queen was in her audience room, waiting for them there.

A little annoyed that she was being summoned by a woman she still didn't view as the rightful Queen of England, Katherine followed Lady Carey into the audience chamber of the Queen's apartments, her daughter's hand in hers.

"Katherine, Mary," Anne greeted them with a smile. If she felt odd using their Christian names instead of their titles, she didn't show it. "What may I do for you?"

"I was wondering what your masquerade was going to be about," Mary replied quickly before her mother could say that she would be participating.

"Well it's about an ill king being healed by the love of his family. I thought it was rather fitting, considering the circumstances," Anne said, a melancholy look on her face as she touched her belly.

Katherine could not help but feel sorry for her. She had certainly been dreading Henry's death but Anne must have been just as--- if not more--- fearful, considering Henry's death would leave her even more vulnerable than Mary. How Anne had not miscarried her baby was beyond her.

"Would I be playing the daughter?" Mary inquired hopefully, forgetting for a few moments of her dislike of her stepmother.

"Of course," Anne laughed, as though there was no reason why she wouldn't include her stepdaughter. As if she wouldn't have preferred if her daughter was the only child Henry had.

Katherine shook her head, clearing it of those spiteful thoughts. While her rival certainly had her issues with Mary, perhaps she was trying to get over them and was extending a hand of friendship towards her stepdaughter. If that was the case, the former queen would be grateful.

"That sounds wonderful," she said, beaming at her daughter who now looked excited about her part in the masquerade.

For all the hopes and prayers she made that she and Mary would return to their rightful positions as Henry's Queen and heir respectfully, Katherine would be pleased if there was no ill-will between her, her daughter and Anne.

July 11 1528

Her sister was nearly five months pregnant and although the danger of the sweat was gone, Mary still felt that now was not the time to be walking through London in order to personally bring the citizens food, money and clothes.

She realized why Anne was doing. She had felt so useless during the sweat, not being able to be the job Henry left to her. And it wasn't as if Anne was actually walking to their destination alone. She had ridden in the royal carriage and now there were two guards dressed in the queen's livery and four ladies-in-waiting walking discreetly behind the three Boleyn siblings.

"I still think this is a bad idea," Mary muttered. "Father won't be happy when we return." Anne had told their father that she was resting today so he could take over the privy council, ensuring that both he and their uncle were too busy to stop the Boleyn siblings before they left.

"Like I said you're free to go," George reminded his sister, sounding more cheerful than he had been days before.

"At least let's make sure we're back before sundown," Mary said, peering up at the afternoon sky to judge the time.

"Look around and see how lucky we are to be alive right now, "Anne remarked, thinking of how the sweat could have destroyed the start of the golden age she and Henry were hoping to build.

The small entourage walked down the London street, passing out bread and a few coins to the beggars they passed.

Finally, they arrived at an orphanage. Anne grimaced as she studied the building that was clearly falling apart and she could almost smell the dirt and grime. The matron was a plump lady who seemed surprised to see a highborn lady at her establishment but less welcoming even more so once she realized it was the queen.

"My lady, you honor us with your presence," she greeted her with a deep curtsy.

"What is your name?"

"Mathilda Brown," the woman replied, her eyes downward.

"Mistress Brown, may I see the children of your establishment?" Anne questioned, knowing that if the orphans were still ill, she couldn't risk her health of the health of her baby but hopefully there would be no danger of it.

Mathilda nodded dumbly, allowing Anne's entourage enter. The inside was much worse than the outside. It was cramped and humid with at least two dozen children with tattered clothes and dirty faces running about.

If the visitors had not caught their attention, the aroma of the food they carried in baskets certainly did. Anne quickly signaled for her ladies-in-waiting to start unpacking the food.

"Thank you, pretty lady," one of the boys said as Anne placed a bun in his hands and he greedily tore into it.

"She's no lady, she's the queen," the girl beside him corrected him, causing an amused titter from behind Anne.

"Then where's her crown?" the boy challenged.

One of the matrons of the orphanage quickly stepped in before a disagreement could happen and disrupt the queen's visit.

After making sure to donate a sum of the money she carried with her to the orphanage and a promise that someone would be back with new toys for the children, Anne was nearly leaving when the same boy from before came running up to the auburn-haired queen.

"For you, Majesty," he told her, holding out a broken and old toy ship. "It's all I have but I wanted you to have it because you have been really nice to us."

Anne's heart swelled as she looked at him and she bent down so she could be eye to eye with him.

"What's your name, sweet child?"

"Andrew," the boy replied.

"Well Andrew, I thank you very much but I do not want to take something that precious from you," Anne told him softly, not wanting him to think she was rejecting his gift.

"But I want you to have it. Maybe your son could play with it," Andrew suggested, causing Mistress Brown attempt to step in, in fear that his innocent words might be taken the wrong way.

"Alright, I'll tell you what. We'll trade, I'll take the ship if you take…" Anne shot her brother and sister a look, not sure what she could give the boy that would compensate for taking his toy. Then an idea occurred to her that would certainly upset three men but she could hardly care. "I shall think on it but for now, I thank you for your gift."

"Let me get this straight, an orphan boy gave you a toy ship and now you want Cardinal Wolsey to take him as his ward," Cromwell repeated, looking as though he was trying very hard not to laugh in his queen's face.

He admired her for her brains and her steadfastness. He, as did Cranmer and the small group of reformers that he frequented, knew that she would be the one who would bring the true religion to England.

When he learned that the Queen wanted to speak to him, he had gone to the her apartments immediately, ready to be of service to her. Her brother and sister were the only ones in the chamber with them.

"God knows that Father and Uncle complain about, forgive me Master Cromwell, the baseborns that Wolsey takes under his wing," Anne pointed out.

"Yes but I was not eleven-years-old when I joined Wolsey's household and neither were most of the boys that he employed or was a mentor to," Cromwell said logically, not in the least bit insulted by being referred to as baseborn. It wouldn't be the first or last time someone called him that. "Also I could read and write and as an orphan, I doubt he would have those abilities."

"But he can learn. I spoke to the matron and she said that Andrew was one of the most intelligent boys of his age," Anne protested.

"If Wolsey won't take him as a ward, I will," George declared suddenly, causing the three people in the room to turn and stare at him.

"Father would never allow it," Mary pointed out, picturing their father's less than thrilled reaction if George decided to adopt a boy whose parents had been too poor to take care of him let alone once he found out that Anne was advocating for the boy to be a ward of the man he hated.

"I don't care what he wants. If Anne thinks the boy is special then I want to take him in," George decided firmly.

Unlike George's sisters, Cromwell could guess why Viscount of Rochford was suddenly so determined to adopt the young boy: to fill the void that losing his infant sons had left. When Cromwell's precious daughters had died, he would have adopted a whole group of girls to try to fill the hole in his heart.

"My lady, if your heart is set on this, I would suggest allowing your brother to take the boy in. Besides this will do nothing but bolster your reputation among the common folk," Cromwell remarked, sounding slightly more cheerful.

"I suppose if I can get Henry to approve the idea, Father won't complain that much," Anne suggested.

"And you were worried about Father making controversial decisions," Mary said with a sigh.

July 12 1528

I cannot say what it was that drew me to that boy. Perhaps it was the thought of having a sweet boy like him- in a manner of speaking- in a few months.

We discussed it at length with Master Cromwell even speaking to Master Audley so we could have two lawyers' opinions. According to law, a baseborn orphan cannot be adopted by nobility but George can bring him in as the apprentice of his secretary which would allow him to remain in my brother's household.

My father does not know what to be more angry about, my trip to the orphanage or George's decision to accept young Andrew into his household. Astonishingly he has not demanded that my brother put a stop to it. I believe he thinks that George has gone mad with grief and will come to his senses in time.

Your daughter is here with her mother. They have been very courteous to me. I have received a letter from Elizabeth Blount who has agreed to send your son to court. When you return home, you will be greeted by your loving family.

The entire court eagerly awaits your return, my darling. It is a pity that I will be too big with child when you return because when I see you, I would love to do nothing more than jump into your arms.

Love your Queen, your wife and your Anne.

Henry smiled as he reread her letter, imaging her voice as if she was standing next to him, whispering in his ear.

Still feeling a bit weak, he was not allowed to leave the bed but the groom had left the tray on his bedside along with parchment, quill, ink, and pounce so he could reply to write his own letter without going to his desk.

Dearest Anne,

First things first, I hope you are not doing too much in your condition. Besides that, concern of mine, it lightens my heart that you care so much about our subjects that you would go to them directly. A sweet gesture that after the epidemic will surely be met by good feeling.

I think my father would be horrified that I have the son of butcher as my Lord Chancellor and have given him so much power. But I think, as you do, that despite their low birth, there are shrewd minds amount the baseborn and we would be fools to ignore them.

So if you and your brother believe that boy, Andrew, is special enough to get your patronage then he has the King's patronage as well. Perhaps when he is older, I will knight him.

Speaking of George, I hope he is doing better. I was most grieved to learn of his and your sister's loses. It is only thanks to God that we were not similarly devastated. I hope you will extend my condolences.

It pleases me that the Princess Dowager and my sweet Mary have been courteous to you, Anne. I know that Mary is a good big sister and it will be wonderful if you, Annette, Hal, Mary, our unborn son and I can be a real family. If you will indulge a moment of tenderheartedness, it is my greatest wish that Mary, our son, Annette and Hal will be as close as you are with your siblings.

As for our newest nieces, I think that once they are old enough they shall in Annette's household. Perhaps they will join Annette when she goes to France that is if your brother can bear to part with them. I suppose I am getting ahead of myself but being stuck in this bed, all I can do is dream of the future.

Until we are reunited, Henry Rex

After he finished his letter to his wife and spread the pounce on the parchment to stop the ink from spreading, Henry ran the bell which summoned his groom who-upon spotting the letter in his master's hands- quickly went to retrieve an envelope and the royal seal.

Once Henry had blown away the excess powder and making sure the ink had dried, he folded the parchment and when his groom returned, he placed in into the envelope, sealing it and handing it to his groom with orders for it to be sent to Hampton Court Palace right away.

The Palace of Placentia was not that far away from Hampton and yet the distance between him and Anne felt so wide they might as well be in separate countries. It hadn't even been a month since they saw each other last and yet he missed her so much that it felt like it had been years since he held her in his arms.

The worst part was even when he did return to the palace, he wouldn't be able to have her in the way he wanted for she was too pregnant for them to make love. It was frustrating that in nearly two years of marriage, he had spent the majority of it in his own bed.

Henry couldn't help but chuckle at his own thoughts. He was complaining because she was so fertile and get pregnant so fast that he hadn't had enough of her. He would wait for her because she was worth waiting for.

July 16 1528

Rumors were buzzing around the small court which was growing as the danger of the swear was past and courtiers were emerging from their hiding places.

Thomas Boleyn wasn't sure if he should be happy or annoyed that people seemed to be viewing Anne's actions of going to the poorer parts of London to hand out food and clothes quite favorably.

On one hand, it was good that Anne's subjects were warming up to her especially when she was doing things the proud Katherine of Aragon would never do despite how generous she was. Once Anne's son was born, he was almost certain that his daughter's actions would cause the Spanish bitch and her dratted daughter to be nearly completely forgotten.

On the other hand, it irked that his daughter has behaved so recklessly- and in her condition too- the sweating sickness might be gone but that didn't mean she couldn't catch something from one of those filthy beggars on the streets.

And then there was the boy. A penniless orphan that was now a member of his son's household. Of course being an apprentice to the secretary of a viscount was not exactly an exalted position but the last thing he wanted was for more baseborns to start climbing the social ladder.

"You do have a point and that's why a daughter of a duke should never marry a mere knight," Elizabeth had interrupted his ranting, trying to look innocent. "And obviously, the daughter of a knight should never marry a king."

Thomas stopped dead in his tracks and he whirled around to glare at his wife. "Your father was an earl when we married and I was an earl when Anne married King Henry," he snapped as though that made much of a difference.

"And what of Cromwell? Is he not baseborn? And yet we support him," Elizabeth pointed out as she continued knitting her granddaughter's clothes.

"That is completely different. He has a shrewd mind and he will help us bring the true religion to England," Thomas snapped. "And besides unlike that son of a butcher, he knows his place."

"It's not like George is planning on naming Andrew his heir. I think the lose of his sons has only made him want to be a father figure to a boy," Elizabeth said softly, feeling sorry for her son. "Perhaps he'll be another Cromwell or Cranmer."

Thomas smiled thinking of Cranmer who had been well received by the court upon giving mass which he had hoped was a stepping stone to having Cranmer become the royal chaplain who could plant a few ideas in King Henry's head.

He sighed as returned to his brooding.

"I suppose you have a point. George can mentor the boy all he wants as long as he knows that boy is not the heir to all I have achieved. I will have to find George a new wife," he said firmly, only continuing when he saw his wife's judgmental look. "Oh don't worry, I won't start looking for another six months. I wouldn't want to seem uncaring."

"I think you might be too late. There are rumors that your heart is made of stone," Elizabeth teased.

"Yes and I have ice flowing through my veins instead of blood. I am aware of all the creative comments about me," Thomas sneered before shooting his wife a smirk. "But then is that not why you fell in love with a mere knight?"

"Or perhaps I just wanted to upset my father," Elizabeth laughed, knowing full well that if her father hadn't approved of the match, he wouldn't have paid for her dowry.

What ever the reason was, Elizabeth Boleyn couldn't help but be proud that her daughter with Thomas was the Queen of England and she would be the grandmother of England's next king.

July 30 1528

Wolsey had dreaded to return to the palace to a court dominated by the Boleyns and Howards. Although he was thrilled that the King had survived-no doubt he'd be lucky to still have a head if the monarch had died-but it galled him that for the next month, he would have to work with two men who were hoping to bring him down especially if they used the Queen as a mouthpiece.

While Wolsey was certain he could overrule Norfolk and Wiltshire as he had the King's ear- ironically it was securing permission to marry Anne that had secured his favor- however if he argued with the Queen, he had no doubt she would tell Henry and Wolsey would gain the monarch's ire for daring to upset his beloved.

He prayed that Anne Boleyn was off doing womanly things, leaving her job as regent in her father and uncle's hands. Oh good gracious was he actually hoping to have to deal his enemies?

The Cardinal shook his head and entered the chamber where the privy council met and too his disappointment, the Queen was indeed there with her father sitting on her other side, talking to her in a low voice.

"Your Eminence," Thomas More greeted him, announcing to the others that Wolsey had arrived. "I am glad to see that you are well."

Out of the corner of Wolsey's eyes, he could see Wiltshire grimace as if he would have preferred that he had died of the sweat.

"As happy as I am to be alive, I am more pleased that His Majesty has escaped from the jaws of death," Wolsey said, smiling. "I can just imagine how those who believed the mad nun of Kent are reacting to his survival."

His remark received a few awkward laughs as they all realized just how close her prophecy had been to coming true.

"We are all pleased that Henry continues to get better. Dr. Linacre informs me that he will be able to return to court in a little more than a fortnight from today," Anne informed the council, practically beaming at the thought of being reunited with her husband at last. "For the meantime, I will continue to be regent and Master Cromwell, I believe that you were about to share the reports with us before Cardinal Wolsey arrived."

Cromwell nodded, shuffling through his papers.

"I'm afraid there is nothing too interesting from abroad. I have letters from the kings of Europe who offer their condolences for our loses while mentioning that God was surely looking after the royal family," the secretary began, grimacing slightly as he wondered just how genuine the Emperor's words were considering he would like nothing more than for it to be Queen Anne who was sick of the sweat and then to have died along with the baby she carried.

He was sure that everyone was of the impression that had Anne died, Henry would return to Katherine and Mary, making his baby daughter a bastard. He guessed that the opposite would happen, King Henry would grieve Anne and her unborn son's death, be more protective of Princess Anne and search for a new wife as he still had the Pope's blessing to do so.

"We should tell King Francis that his son's bride continues to thrive and that we are thankful for his words," Anne said. Although she was sure that she needed to send letters to the other monarchs who had been kind enough to send their well wishes to England but as she hoped to make her daughter a French Queen and, God willing, a French princess an English Queen she wanted to be sure to keep a warm relationship with King Francis especially if it irked the Spanish Emperor in process.

"I have good reports from nearby counties that those who survived the sweating sickness are getting better and the news that the King has survived as well as certainly reinvigorated them," Cromwell remarked with a light chuckle before becoming serious again. "There have been a few clergy that are insisting on preaching that the sweating sickness is a warning of what will happen if King Henry does not go back to the Princess Dowager Katherine and if the Pope does not declare that the marriage between them as valid. I have already sent a message to King Henry, asking him what I should do about these troublesome men."

"Why did you not consult me?" Anne asked, standing up abruptly, furious that Cromwell would speak of something this important so casually and to go behind her back at that. For his part, the secretary looked rather embarrassed.

More and Wolsey looked both disturbed and confused.

"You didn't tell her?" Norfolk snapped at his brother-in-law, looking rather apprehensively at Anne, fearing that she might throw a fit and lose her unborn son, ruining everything.

"I wasn't aware that Master Cromwell would bring the matter up today," Thomas muttered, glaring at Cromwell as if he was the cause of this. He had not wanted to stress his daughter with news of a group of priests and one bishop who were speaking nonsense in hopes to cause the people to believe that God was still on Katherine and Mary's side.

"Tell me what? What have you been keeping from me!" Anne demanded. "I AM YOUR QUEEN! ANSWER ME!" she bellowed, when neither of the three men spoke.

"It's nothing, Anne. The priests under Bishop Fisher have been preaching that the sweat was an omen of what was too come if the Dowager Princess is not restored as Queen. Not many people have been flocking to their sermons," Thomas assured her. "It is minor concern that we just wanted to get the King's opinion on."

"I am the regent, Father, it should be my decision and you should have told me," Anne retorted. "And I think that we should call Bishop Fisher here for a debate. After all I would like to know why he seems to think that Pope Clement and King Henry have made a mistake."

There was not a man at the table who didn't realize what Anne wanted to happen. She wanted Bishop Fisher to have to decide whether to say that he didn't think the Pope's word was irrefutable or that his King was dooming his country or for him retract his statements. Either way he would be humiliated.

August 5 1528

Henry had been furious when he learned of what Bishop Fisher had been saying. After the Mad Nun's prophecy of him dying after having a daughter was disproved, he had assumed that would the end of it but the fact that there were supposedly pious clergymen were trying to stir up trouble was infuriating.

A warning from God that he should leave Anne, big with their son, to go back to the barren wife of his dead brother who he had lived in sin with for twenty years. That was almost laughable.

The worst part was this would give false hope to his poor daughter who already had a hard time dealing with this situation.

The red-haired monarch wanted to send Bishop Fisher and his men to the Tower of London for daring to spread such nonsense but then Anne had sent him a letter, requesting permission to invite the Bishop to a friendly debate.

A debate that would corner him to a point where he would either have to outright state that the King and the Pope were fools or to recant his words against Henry and Anne's marriage.

Dearest Anne,

As much as I would love to send that wolf-in-priest's clothing to the tower for a long stay, I admit I would enjoy humiliating a man who would bastardize a one-year-old babe.

Let him spew his nonsense and have the most skilled orator you can find who can talk him into a corner. I only ask to be present when we call him to court. We shall be reunited soon and we can talk more about this then.

Forgive me for such a short letter but I feel that all I want to say to you, I shall say when we meet again.

Love your king, your knight, your husband, your Henry.

Upon finishing that letter, Henry frowned as he reread a particular line of that he had just written. Fisher wished for him to bastardized Anne perhaps because he believed it had been easy for Henry to do so to Mary.

That wasn't true of course but how could Mary know that? She had accused him of punishing her and in a way, she was right: he might not be punishing her for not being a son but she was being punished for being the child of a sinful union. She had done nothing wrong and she did not deserve to be labeled a bastard when she had been born out of a marriage he had made in good faith.

Besides Anne had said that she had been courteous even agreeing to perform in the masquerade her stepmother was planning. The fact that she had seemed to adore her sister and would hopefully treat her brother the same way gave Henry hope that she had reconciled to the fact that Anne and he were lawfully married despite whatever her mother's opinion was on it.

Grabbing a new piece of parchment and dipping his quill in ink, Henry wrote another letter: this one to Wolsey, requesting he find a pretext to declare his daughter, born from a marriage of good faith, was in fact a princess.

Chapter Text

August 7 1528

It was not easy to betray the man who he owed his job to. Wolsey had seen something special in Cromwell and became his benefactor. But that support would vanish instantly if the Cardinal knew that the secretary was a supporter of the reformed faith. As much as he revered the corrupt and yet still honorable churchman, Cromwell knew that he had to side with Boleyn especially when it concerned Queen Anne.

So when King Henry sent a letter to Wolsey commanding that he was to find a way to make Mary a princess again without having to divorce Anne and return to Katherine, a clerk made a copy and gave it to Cromwell who immediately went to the Boleyn apartments with the news.

"While it cannot be denied that I lived in sin with my brother's widow, my dear daughter was still born from marriage of good faith," Wiltshire recited as he read the letter. "I believe that he got that idea from Sir More." He scowled, wishing that More had never put that thought in the monarch's head or had the sense to speak up and dissuade Henry before the idea took root in his mind.

"At least the King has requested Wolsey wait until Anne has her son that should give us enough time to change his mind if he doesn't do so by himself," Norfolk said pragmatically.

"We can't tell her about this in her condition," Wiltshire snapped. Everyone knew that Anne was a little leery of the former princess, the idea that her stepdaughter might become a princess again and be her father's heir if Anne did not have any sons might terrify her to a point where she would miscarry her son.

"Because not telling her went so well the last time," Norfolk sneered. It wasn't that he believed that they needed to keep his niece informed but he was aware that this sort of news was bound to be leaked eventually and he had no doubt that Anne would react worse if she learned of her husband's plans through gossip.

"That was different. I don't expect Cromwell to bring this up during a council meeting," the earl said firmly, throwing the secretary a dirty look.

"I think it would be better to tell her now instead of the risk that she should find out about it later when she's even further along," Norfolk recommended.

Thomas Boleyn sighed, seeing the sense in his brother-in-law's words.

"Fine but I think it would be best if we tell as few people as possible," he began as though that wasn't obvious to the other two men. "After all, the last thing we want is for the good Bishop to get more ammunition to use against our cause."

"Speaking of whom, Fisher has agreed to arrive at the palace for our debate in a few weeks. I am told that Sir More tried to talk him out of it but was unsuccessful," Cromwell informed the men, pleased to be giving them good news.

Out of the men on the council, More was the only one who did not want Fisher to be refuted or humiliated. However, despite surely being aware that the only reason he was invited to speak was so the Queen's people could shut him down, Fisher was confident in his skills and was borderline cocky that he would win the day.

"I assume that you are nearly finished with your speech," Boleyn said coolly.

"My lords, I have been composing a rebuttal to Fisher's words the minute that man started speaking," Cromwell jested with a smirk. "Although, I had to tone down my sarcastic quips."

Wolsey had been slightly put out by the fact that Cromwell had been chosen by the King as orator rather than him but he had acknowledged that both the nobility and the common folk alike were unlikely to side with the man they hated over Bishop Fisher especially when the topic was about the Great Matter which some people, the Dowager Princess included, blamed him for.

So it was up to Cromwell to debate with Fisher and by God, he would make it a debate that no one would ever forget.

August 22 1528

When Henry returned to court, they would have a feast and a masquerade to celebrate his glorious return. Then in the late days of September they would have the debate between Cromwell and Fisher.

Mary was excited about the first event, hoping her papa would be pleased when he saw just how skilled a dancer she was. The second event made her feel rather conflicted for more than one reason.

As much as it touched her that people were still fighting for her mother and her cause, Mary was not so young to realize just how dangerous such talk was. Not only were they technically committing blasphemy by condemning Pope Clement's decision, their words could also be considered an act of treason.

It surprised her that instead of demanding that Fisher and his priests be sent to the Tower of London, King Henry was instead summoning the bishop to court so he could be debate with Cromwell over whether or not Katherine of Aragon was the true Queen and her daughter was the only heir.

A small part of Mary wondered if perhaps her father was willing to listen to Fisher's arguments as he was beginning to believe that making Anne his wife was a mistake and if Fisher convinced him, he would restore Katherine and Mary to their rightful positions, banishing the Boleyns from court, never to be seen again.

But as much as she would like to delude herself that was the case, she knew in her heart it wasn't. A fact that was made even more obvious when Sir Thomas More had confirmed that the debate was all Anne's idea.

"I tried telling His Eminence that it was a trap," More explained to Katherine and Mary. "But he believes that he can convince if not the King, then the England people that he is right."

"And what of Pope Clement? How does he except His Holiness to react?" Katherine inquired, sounding annoyed. While Fisher had not condemned the Pope's decision, the fact that he was speaking out at all was testament to the fact that he disagreed with God's representative on Earth.

"He has made it clear on numerous occasions that he has no quarrel with the Pope, he merely believes that like the King, he has been misled," More told her, grimacing slightly. "As much as it pains me to admit, I think Fisher believes that Anne Boleyn is a witch and he fears that she is casting a spell over the common people through her acts of charity."

"Does he mean her visits to the poor section of London or of that boy?" Katherine asked, an eyebrow raised.

It was unorthodox and unseemly for a Queen to mingle with the common folk and some nobles derided Anne's decision to place an orphan boy in her brother's household, even mockingly saying that it would make sense that she would be drawn to a child who had no royal blood flowing in their veins just as she had none.

However, the common folk were viewing the entire thing in a more charitable light and they had stopped seeing Anne as a haughty whore and were becoming quite warm to her.

As for Mary, as much as she would have liked to jeer at Anne's behavior, declaring her an unfit queen, she couldn't help but be touched by the story of how an orphan boy, who must have had very few worldly possessions, had given his toy ship to Anne Boleyn's unborn child who would be given everything on a silver platter. It was understandable and even heartwarming that her stepmother had rewarded the child for his generosity. Despite her stubborn wish to continue hating Anne, Mary could not help but admire her stepmother's actions despite the fact that she had to know she would be mocked for that decision.

"Do you think he'll listen to me if I try to talk him out of it?" Katherine questioned, bringing Mary back to the present.

"Even if I thought he would, that wouldn't be a good thing. Now that the news of the debate has spread throughout England, if Bishop Fisher backs out now, it will only weaken our cause," More said sadly. "All we can do is wait and pray."

"That is all I ever do!" Katherine exclaimed, bolting out of her chair, a look of hopelessness on her face. "I have spent the past two decades: waiting and praying. First to be Queen of England, then for a healthy living child to be Henry's heir, then for Wolsey to stop turning my husband against me, then for him to tire of Lady Boleyn and return to me, and now for both the Pope and my husband to recant their decisions to forsake me and Mary."

More's expression was of pity and worry. The former queen had never lost control of her emotions before and while he could understand why she did, it was rather unnerving to see the usually composed woman fall apart so utterly.

"Thank you, Sir Thomas, for your counsel," Mary said gravely, sounding far older than a twelve-year-old girl. "I beg of you to give my mother and I some time alone to digest your words."

When Katherine did not refute her daughter's polite dismissal, Thomas More bowed to both of them before backing out of the room.

"Twenty years ago, I was a poor widow whose future was uncertain. When your father asked to marry me after his father passed away, I thought my troubles were over and I could never have imagined what trials I would face," Katherine murmured, looking out of the window, her eye glistening with unshed tears.

"Mama, you said it yourself, God is only testing our faith," Mary told her gently, taking her mother's hand in hers. The former princess did not add that she was beginning to believe that for the country's well being, she could not fight for the throne if her father did have a son even though it galled her to let the son of Anne Boleyn be King. "If it is His will that I am the future Queen of England than He will see it through."

"I know that but I just feel so helpless right now," Katherine said softly as she kneeled down to embrace her daughter. "But it is your destiny to be queen, Mary; of that I am certain."

Meanwhile in another part of the castle, Anne was in her apartments, chatting with her brother.

"It is remarkable, Anne, every time I go down to the nursery, Janey is awake and waving her little hands around as though she knows that I'm coming and is ready for me to coo over her. She must be the smartest baby in the entire kingdom aside from her sister of course," George amended, sounding like the proudest father in the world.

A part of Anne would have loved to rib her brother over the fact that up until a month ago, he hadn't even laid eyes on his daughters. But she decided not to bring that up as she knew that George was still dealing with the deaths of Jane, George and Thomas even if he was now in a better mood.

"And what of Andrew, how is he settling in?" Anne asked.

"Quite well and according to Wentworth, he is indeed a clever lad and he is excelling in the lessons of writing and reading. I am told that in a month or so, he will have enough skill to write the thank you letter he is planning to send you," George informed her with a smile.

"Well I'll be looking forward to receiving it," Anne said pleasantly, thinking that after her son was born she would send a letter to Andrew, thanking him for the ship that he had given to the soon-to-be Prince of Wales.

"The Earl of Wiltshire," the herald announced as Thomas strolled into Anne's apartments, frowning slightly.

Recognizing that her father was here with unpleasant news, the queen quickly dismissed her ladies, only requesting her mother, sister and brother stay behind.

"What is it? Is Henry all right?" Anne quizzed him, suddenly fearing that Henry had a relapse and become sick again. He was days from returning to her; surely God would not be so cruel to take him from his family now.

"The King is fine," Thomas assured her, sounding a bit concerned which only made the dread his daughter was feeling worse. "As you know I have spies in Wolsey's household and I was able to intercept a letter from His Majesty a few days ago. He has asked that, without annulling his marriage to you and not before your son is born, that the Cardinal find a way to declare Mary legitimate."

At first, Anne was aghast. With Fisher insisting that Henry should get rid of Anne and their children in order to return to Katherine and Mary, she was sure that her enemies would see this as King Henry preferring his oldest daughter as his heir over her half-siblings.

And when Mary was older and married off to a Catholic Prince, would she not use her legitimacy to try to claim England for her husband and sons? If her husband was powerful enough he could use his army to invade England and replace Anne's son with his wife once Henry had died. Even if the English people did not turn against their true King, it would still create another civil war.

How could Henry put their children in danger like this? How could he make such a decision without even consulting her about it?

"Anne, it will be all right. You have to time to convince His Majesty not to go through with this," Thomas assured her. His daughter's face was already pale and her eyes had enough fear in them to convince him that she knew of the danger a legitimate Princess Mary would cause.

"If you expect me to convince him to never reinstate my stepdaughter, I will not do so," Anne told him firmly, continuing before he had a chance to interject. "He feels guilty, Papa and he will start to resent me if I try to stop him. It would be better, if I can convince him to wait until I give birth to a Duke of York and of course we will need to be sure that she never marries a Catholic monarch."

The queen was well aware of the power she had over her husband and if she had a son, she had no doubt that Henry would take every word she said as the gospel truth. However, she knew that although he knew that he was right to annul his marriage to Katherine, he loved his daughter and believed that she was a victim of circumstance and did not deserve to be a bastard.

And if Henry was willing to make such a request of Wolsey despite the fact that it would look like he was agreeing with Fisher, that meant that his guilt had reached a point where he wanted to make amends. If he thought that Anne was so cruel that she did not want her stepdaughter to be anything other than a bastard, he would not be happy with her. Even if he knew that she was worried for their children, it wouldn't take long for his disappointment to turn into resentment, something that her enemies would be happy to use to drag her down.

Henry, of all people, knew that the lives of children were fragile and their son might not live to adulthood so it would be best if they at least had an heir and a spare if not more before making Mary a princess. Hopefully his fears of making England subservient to another country would be enough to convince him to wait.

Anne knew that she should not fear a twelve-year-old child and she certainly should not deny her father's love. But there was a difference between that and giving Mary the tools to take her down.

"I will simply urge him to wait," Anne decided, stroking her swollen abdomen. "That's all we can do, I suppose."

Thomas Boleyn could think of a few things they could do, none of which would be very moral. However, he saw sense in what his daughter was saying. It would be more prudent that they wait.

Once Anne had her son, it would be clear to everyone that God was on the Boleyns' side. However, if Bishop Fisher was any indication, a Prince of Wales might not be enough to completely silence the naysayers and that was what worried him.

August 31 1528

"Ma-ma," Annette gurgled when her nursemaid had placed her into her mother's arms.

"Hello, my darling girl, guess what: your papa is coming home today. Can you say Pa-pa?" Anne inquired.

"Ma-ma," the eight-month-old replied, causing some of the ladies-in-waiting to titter.

"I sincerely hope that she doesn't do that when he visits her," Anne giggled, fighting a smile as she thought of Henry's reaction when asking his daughter to say pa-pa, she calls him ma-ma instead.

"In her defense, the two words sound similar… in a way," George remarked, not even tearing his eyes from his own daughters.

Unlike Cathy and Hal, the three infants would be staying in the nursery while the court greeted King Henry. Mary was with her children now, making sure that they look presentable when their kingly uncle greeted them.

Anne could not help but feel a surge of sorrow for her niece and nephew. Hal was not even three and Cathy was only four and the death of their father had left their family in debt. Mary even had to sell jewelry in order to pay off the debt. If it weren't not for the pension Anne had procured for her sister, the Careys would be living in poverty with only the King's favor keeping them afloat.

"Your Majesty, a messenger has arrived to say that the King's carriage has been spotted in the streets of London," a guard informed them.

After saying goodbye to the three infants now back in their cribs, Mary, Anne and George walked arm in arm to the Great Lawn together to await the return of the red-haired monarch.

King Henry arrived at Hampton Court Palace with great fanfare, the common people cheering and the nobles bursting into applause once they saw him. Everyone was happy that he was back, healthy and strong. They pointedly ignored his pale and haggard appearance, not wanting to focus on the fact that he was ill but instead show their joy at his recovery.

However, Henry barely acknowledged his subjects and courtiers' happiness at seeing him. Instead he could only focus on one person. His wife never looked more like a queen than she did today. A jeweled diadem on top of her auburn hair, dressed in purple velvet and her throat, fingers and ears were decorated by the finest jewelry; but in truth it was the swell of her abdomen and the fact that she seemed to radiate elation when her eyes met his is what made her truly lovely.

When Henry started walking towards her, Anne broke out into a run and met him halfway, throwing her arms around his neck as he kissed her passionately.

It was as if the crowd did not exist and they were the only people in this world. Despite their countless letters they had written to each other, it wasn't until they were back in each other's arms did everything seem to be okay.

"Welcome home, my king," Anne whispered breathlessly.

"I have missed you, my queen," Henry murmured before wrapping his arm around her waist and turning towards the courtiers, his eyes searching for his two oldest children. When he spotted Mary, he walked towards her, with Anne still in his arms.

"Your Majesty," Mary greeted him, curtsying as did her mother who Henry didn't even seem to realize was there.

"No, not Your Majesty. I am your Papa always," Henry commanded, putting his hand under Mary's chin and lifting her up. "Are you well, my pearl?"

"I am now that you are here, Papa," Mary admitted, taking the initiative to embrace him, doubting he would mind her breach of protocol.

Henry briefly let go of Anne to give his daughter a full hug, kissing the top of her head. He then turned towards Katherine who looked happy and a little relived that he was acknowledging their daughter.

Despite the fact that he had lost most of the anger he felt towards her in this past year, Henry still felt the need to make sure that Fisher's nonsense had not given Katherine any sort of hope that he would forsake Anne and their children for her. After all, even though she was an intelligent woman, Katherine was far too stubborn and prideful to accept that she had lost.

"Sister, I am glad to see that you are well and I thank you for taking care of my daughters," Henry said pleasantly. If he had been feeling vindictive, he might have added the fact that when Anne had the Prince of Wales, he was sure that Katherine would be his favorite aunt. However, he had no intention of marring his return with words that were sure to hurt her.

If the look on Katherine's face was anything to go by, she had expected him to go further than simply calling her sister. Instead Henry simply laid a chaste kiss on her hand and their daughter's cheek before returning his arm around Anne's waist and moving on to Bessie Blount and Hal Fitzroy.

Henry, feeling that people would read less into his actions with Katherine if he acted the same way with the mother of his illegitimate son, took Bessie's hand and kissed it before embracing his nine-year-old son.

"How are you, my son? I hope you are feeling better. You gave us quite a scare," Henry said lightly, referring to the fact that the young duke had taken ill just when the sweat had began, causing his parents to fear for his life.

His former mistress paled at that thought and it looked as though she very much wanted to snatch Hal from his father's arms and never let him go. Hal, on the other hand, looked confused as if he had no idea why his father would be worried for him or perhaps he was thinking that if anyone had given anyone a scare, it was his father who had nearly died, leaving his country vulnerable to a civil war.

"I'm fine, Papa," Hal answered, taking a step back when Henry released him.

The King made sure to greeted Mary, her children and George in order to extend his condolences for their loses before turning towards the common folk who were crowded around the gates of the palace.

"My subjects, God has taken much from us and for that we will grieve. But we should be pleased that he has chosen to spare not only myself and my beautiful wife, Queen Anne but also my children!" Henry declared, resting his hand on Anne's protruding belly just in case they were confused about what he was saying.

Men like Bishop Fisher might be convinced that God did not want Anne or her son on the throne of England but he knew the truth: the Lord Almighty had spared them and when he died eventually, Anne's son would be the next king. That was God's will.

"Come Anne, I am eager to see our lovely daughter," Henry whispered in his wife's ear as the crowds applauded his words.

Anne's hand rested on his arm as they walked into the place with the courtiers following them inside.

Tomorrow, he would have a privy council meeting to discuss both foreign and internal affairs. In September, he would watch as Bishop Fisher and Master Cromwell debated over their views of the Great Matter. And in December, he would hopefully welcome the Prince of Wales.

But for now, Henry would enjoy time with his wife and children as the entire court celebrated his recovery from his nearly fatal illness and his victorious return.

September 18 1528

Most of the followers of Martin Luther did not like Anne Boleyn and they viewed the Great Matter as proof that the Catholic Church was corrupt which was quite understandable as it was almost certain that Pope Clement had only granted King Henry's annulment in order to get back at the Holy Roman Emperor whose troops had threatened to sack Rome.

However, Cranmer and Cromwell had been working to counteract that by insisting that God had stopped the army from invading Italy in order to set up events that would led to Queen Anne to bringing the true faith to England.

So far they were having an limited success-although there was no doubt that if Anne gave birth to a son, the reformers would flock to her. In the meantime, more people were warming up to Anne thanks to her acts of charity and the fact that despite the Mad Nun's prophecy, King Henry was alive and well. Hopefully, this debate would not only help the Boleyn's cause but it would also plant seeds of doubt in England's Catholic clergy.

The King might have no quarrel with the Pope for now but Cromwell hoped that at least some of the corrupt monasteries could be closed.

It was a rather cool day when the court convened in Blackfriars for the debate between Master Thomas Cromwell and Bishop John Fisher.

King Henry and Queen Anne sat on two thrones, acting as the judges of the debate with Wolsey standing by as the mediator. In the front of the room, sat the important nobles with the Boleyns and Norfolk sitting on one side with Princess Dowager Katherine, the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk, and Sir Thomas More sitting on the other.

It seemed those who were sitting behind the Boleyns supported their cause while those who supported Katherine sat behind her. A statement the King had not missed and he was clearly angry with the side More, the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk had chosen. The Lady Mary was not there as neither of her parents had thought that this debate would be a pleasant experience for her.

"Gentlemen, let us begin," Wolsey spoke loudly to be heard over the chatter. At once a hush fell over the room. "Your Eminence, His Majesty King Henry has decreed that you are to give your opening statement first."

"First, I would like to say that I have no quarrel with Your most gracious Majesty nor do I dispute the Pope's prerogative to grant papal depositions," Fisher began, bowing to Henry, ignoring Anne completely. "I thank you, Your Majesty for giving me the opportunity to hear me out. I am a godly Englishmen so it disheartens me to speak out in such a way but my conscious could not let me remain silent. I fear that His Holiness and His Majesty have been misled into making a grave mistake. There is simply no evidence that Infanta Katherine of Aragon was untruthful when she said that she was a virgin upon consummating her marriage with Your Majesty and I believe that her daughter is all the proof we need that God did not condemn your marriage."

With another bow, Fisher returned to his seat, oblivious to the anger flashing in King Henry's eyes. Luckily the red-haired monarch managed to keep his temper in check, nodding at Cromwell to give his opening statement.

Cromwell took a moment to shuffle through his papers, laying out two of them before making his way to the dais, being sure to bow to both Henry and Anne before he began speaking.

"I am but a lawyer with a simple background so perhaps I am too uneducated to understand how a man can say he has no quarrel with the King and yet he insists that the Mad Nun of Kent was right: that by taking Queen Anne as a wife, His Majesty has doomed England which was thankfully proven false. And is disagreeing with the Pope's decrees not blasphemy? After all, when Martin Luther said that the Catholic Church was being misled by bribery and power, he was labeled a heretic-"

"I am no heretic!" Fisher shouted, outraged at being compared to Luther. Murmurs of shock rippled through the spectators either at Cromwell's words or at Fisher's reaction.

"Sit down, Bishop Fisher! Master Cromwell let you speak and if you do not show him the same courtesy, you will be required to forfeit the debate!" Wolsey warned him, giving the man a stern glare.

"I do not pretend to know your true thoughts," Cromwell continued smoothly as his opponent bristled silently. "But I remain confused by your words as they contain some untruths. For example, you say that there is no evidence that Princess Katherine of Aragon laid with His Highness Prince Arthur and yet I have statements from several witnesses who are here today to back up their accounts that the late Prince Arthur of Wales and his wife did indeed consummate their marriage," he finished as he went over to the papers he had set out and picked them up as proof of his words, looking expectantly at the Bishop who was fighting to remain calm.

This prompted more gasps from the crowds and the Princess Dowager herself looked horrified.

Wolsey had excepted that the Great Matter would have a trial so the Pope could be assured of the justice of the King's case against his former wife and he had interviewed known members of Prince Arthur's household to be used against the former queen.

Even though they had not ended up having a trial, Wolsey had kept the accounts and then when he realized that Fisher would bring up Katherine's continued instance that she was a virgin upon marrying King Henry, he had given Cromwell those reports just in case he needed to produce them during the debate.

"Princess Dowager Katherine is not on trial here today as Pope Clement in his great wisdom did not need a trial to declare our marriage invalid. So unless the Bishop Fisher wishes to try that particular case, I see no reason to push this matter," King Henry decided wisely.

It would be better for all concerned if the debate was not too much about Katherine just in case people cleaved to Fisher's side out of sympathy for her.

However, if Fisher continued to insist that Katherine and his marriage was a true one, he would summon those witnesses Wolsey had found so they could provide testimony, proving otherwise.

The debate continued with both Fisher and Cromwell making strong points and rebuttals. It may have been wishful thinking but Henry could swear that his subjects were nodding their heads more when Cromwell spoke than when Fisher did.

Then after Fisher and Cromwell made their closing arguments but before Wolsey had a chance to speak, Queen Anne struggled to get to her feet, ignoring the shocked gasps as she went to the middle of the dais.

It was clear from the bewildered faces of Wolsey, Henry and Cromwell that this had not been planned.

"Good Christian people I know what you all think of me and I understand it as I would not think kindly of a lady who stepped into my shoes. I know that some see me a witch and a whore. Lutherans and Catholics alike condemn my marriage to the King. I know that I cannot be a queen like Katherine of Aragon who bravely defended us from the invading Scots on the Field of Flodden. It does not make me happy to unbalance an innocent girl who was born from a sinful union. When I gave birth to my dear daughter, I was afraid that she was a punishment from God for my arrogance, although she is darling girl. And when I nearly lost the man I loved with all my heart, I prayed to be taken instead for this realm needs its most gracious Prince. We can debate on who is right and who is wrong all we want but I for one would prefer to be thankful to God for sparing my husband. God save the King!" she proclaimed loudly.

Henry leapt to his feet and took her arm on his as they both descended the dais and walked past the stunned crowd.

"Warn me next time you are going to do that, Anne, I would have liked our dramatic exit be more prompt," Henry said with good cheer after they returned to her apartments. Although a part of him knew that Anne's little show might have negative consequences, he could not help but think that her earnest words might win people over.

"I didn't want anyone to think we rehearsed it, my love, I hope I didn't embarrass you or Cromwell," Anne said, knowing that while men might enjoy it when their mistresses spoke out of turn, it was another matter when their wives did it.

"Well you certainly had me looking like a gaping fool. However, I can't be too angry at you considering you all but stated that my health is more important than a silly argument," Henry jested, kissing her fingers.

"Well that was unexpected," Thomas remarked, looking far more stunned than upset at his daughter's actions.

"Did you see Wolsey's face?" George laughed. "He looked like he was about to fall over in shock. I wonder how long Anne was planning this little spectacle."

"I have no idea. She never mentioned anything to me," Mary remarked, frowning slightly. She was a little hurt that her sister had not confided in her.

"I'm sure she didn't tell anyone because she knew we'd tell her not to," Norfolk remarked, his tone serious. He felt frustrated and angry at his niece's impulsiveness. He had no idea if Anne's speech would turn out well or badly for her.

If Katherine had made such a speech for her cause and then left abruptly, the common folk would have stood up and perhaps applauded her as she walked past them. While no one had reacted negatively to Anne-of course walking out with the King would have stopped them from booing her- they had not done anything more than politely doffing their caps and bowing as the royal couple passed them.

"As imprudent and aggravating it is that she chose to make a scene, I have a feeling that as long as Cromwell did his job at turning the people against Fisher and his men, it won't matter," Wiltshire stated with a thoughtful expression on his face.

After all, Anne's speech would not upset those whose were convinced by Cromwell's arguments and they would not sway those who were determined to hate her no matter what anyone said. Furthermore as long as the King was not angered by her bold words, he knew that Anne would not get in trouble for speaking out.

"What in hell was that about?" Mary Brandon wondered as she poured herself a glass of wine. "Is she so stupid that she thinks empty words is going to win anyone over?"

"The fact that she spoke at all, even bringing up Flodden Field, will at the very least give people the impression that she is at least humble enough to know that she can never live up to Princess Katherine," Charles pointed out, glancing at the former queen in case she was angry at him calling her princess instead of queen.

"And saying that she feared that her daughter was a punishment will make people feel more sympathetic to her as it would take a lot of guts to admit that," Katherine remarked, wondering if Anne was even aware of her daughter would feel if she ever learned what her mother had said.

Not that she didn't realize what Anne had meant by that. Katherine had apologized for Mary's birth, believing that she had failed once again even though Mary was healthier than the last babies she had birthed.

Putting aside Anne's speech, she could not help but feel that as More feared, her cause had suffered a blow today. Cromwell had all but called Fisher a heretic who despite his protests to the contrary was liar who did in fact believe that the Pope and the King were mistaken.

"So she got up, made a complete fool of herself and you think people will actually buy her fake words," Mary said in disbelief.

"Yes, after all, why would she say them if they weren't true?" Charles commented sarcastically with a disdainful snort.

Anne Boleyn was a skilled manipulator and it was entirely possible that she had chosen to make that speech of hers, knowing that it would look as though she was speaking from the heart earnestly and honestly and not trying to sir up sympathy for her cause at all.

"Did you notice how Cromwell kept bringing up Martin Luther without actually saying he was wrong?" Thomas More remarked the minute he entered Wolsey's chambers and they had exchanged polite greetings.

"That's because it went without saying," Wolsey pointed out, trying to pretend he didn't know what More was getting at "After all, the whole point was that Fisher's remarks were dangerously close to what Luther was saying."

"I'm telling you there was something about the way he was talking about Fisher's values that sounded almost Lutheran," More continued with a frown. "And surely you cannot be blind and have not seen Cromwell consorting with the Boleyns and that reformer Cranmer."

"As does King Henry," Wolsey said coolly. "I have already told you, Thomas, that as long the Pope supports the annulment, we do not have to worry about Queen Anne convincing His Majesty to look into such heresy as the works of Luther."

From what his own spies had told him, aside from the English bible, Anne Boleyn had not shown King Henry anything heretical and he hoped that with Luther and his followers labeling her as the King's concubine, she would lose her interest in the so-called religious reforms of her own volition.

"Yes but unfortunately Bishop Fisher has given the heretics of England a way to convince King Henry that the clergy is corrupt and to take action against our monasteries and abbeys," Sir More said, his lips pressed together thinly as he recalled Cromwell argued how Fisher and his fellow monks were trying to take advantage of the less educated folk, using their positions as men of God to manipulate them into believing whatever the clergymen wanted them to believe. He might not have come out and called them conmen but he might as well have.

"His Majesty has never had a problem with clergymen who were loose with their vows before," Wolsey commented, having the decency to look abashed as he thought of his mistresses and bastard children.

"For now. But that could change if Queen Anne and Cromwell managed to convince him otherwise," Thomas More hissed.

"All right, Sir Thomas, let's say you are right. That the King, who wrote a pamphlet against Luther and who has no reason to be angry at the Pope, decides to ignore our counsel and becomes a follower of Luther. What can we do about it? For there is only one way we can silence Queen Anne if she chooses to speak against the Catholic Church and it will have to be done before she gives birth least it is to a son. Are you prepared to do whatever it takes to stop her for it cannot be done morally?" the cardinal challenged, his voice was low and his eyes were narrowed.

After all, even if they had a mountain of proof that Anne Boleyn was heretic or even better a witch, they could not kill her legally or even get her banished as King Henry was so enamored with her that he would never believe it to be true no matter how reliable and true the proof was. The only other solution was to murder her through subtler means like poison.

Thomas More blanched at the implication, his eye wide in horror. "Never. I would never do such a thing," he stammered, glancing around the room afraid that someone had overheard and would use it to call them both traitors.

"Then there is nothing we can do about them," Wolsey informed him calmly. "However I will send a letter to Rome, expressing my worries that Cromwell might be giving the English people the wrong impression of the Catholic Church."

Anne had convinced the King to make Cromwell his secretary before he had become the orator of the debate, therefore robbing Wolsey the chance of firing the reformer he had unknowingly placed in his household.

Telling the Pope of Anne's interest in religious reforms would just be lighting a fire where he would most certainly be burnt in. However, if Pope Clement sent King Henry a letter that stressed his worries that Cromwell might not be acting in the interests of the Catholic Church, the King would hopefully become more mindful of the people trying to turn him Lutheran.

Wolsey wasn't not stupid enough to assume that some of Luther's ideas wouldn't interest a King like Henry but he prayed that between him, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, More, they could continue to stop the plague of heresy from corrupting England.

He could only pray that after Pope Clement was dead and gone that his successor would not give into the Emperor's demands and he would recant the Papal Bull declaring Katherine and Henry's marriage was null and void. God save them if that happened and King Henry had a few help them if that turned out to be the case. He was under no allusions that if the next Pope did do such a thing, Henry would be incensed and would cut ties with the Catholic Church immediately. It might not even matter if Anne Boleyn had given him sons by then, it would still anger him to be told that he should have been denied his annulment in the first place.

Wolsey prayed if this happened that he would not be around to see it. His health was not the best and the Cardinal doubted he would live for another five years. When his time came, he hoped that he would die in comfort as the King's most trusted advisor and he would never have to deal with the headache that would be coming.

November 1 1528

She was not supposed to give birth until December and yet on All Saints Day, a month early, the queen's labor pains began. In the coming years, people would claim that God has chosen such a holy day on purpose. For now, Anne was terrified that her child would not survive, the memory of her sister-in-law's death ever present as she pushed her second-born child into the world.

But her anxiety soon became euphoria when she had the child crying and her mother said those wonderful words, she had been praying to hear.

"It's a boy, Anne, you did it!" Elizabeth Boleyn shouted, as she brought the baby over to her daughter who was now propped up against her pillows.

Anne stared down at the bundle in her arms. Her son. He was finally here. Let her detractors call her a haughty whore or a concubine now.

Time had suddenly lost all meaning and she scarcely heard the shouts of joys and the sounds of the bells, cannons and fireworks. She was just content to stare into the blue eyes of her son.

She suddenly felt guilty, realizing that she had not felt such joy at Annette's birth and was about to order her ladies to have her daughter be brought to her at once when her husband strolled in, holding Annette in his arms.

"I thought our little girl should meet her brother," Henry laughed, grinning at Anne's surprise at seeing her daughter.

When he had learned that Anne had given birth to his son-a prince after so many years of waiting- he had ordered that the celebrations start at once. However, before he made his way to Anne's room, he decided to make a detour, feeling that Princess Annette might not understand what having a brother meant or that he was getting a bigger celebration than she had but that did not mean that she shouldn't be included as she was still their daughter.

"I think our son will be happy to meet you both," Anne said, smiling happily as kissed her son's forehead before looking back up at her husband and daughter. "Shall we switch?"

Henry laid Annette in her mother's lap before taking the newborn son from her arms, allowing Anne to cuddle their daughter who seemed to have fallen asleep the minute her father put her down.

"I cannot thank you enough for him, Anne," Henry murmured, admiring how despite his early birth, how big his son looked and how much of his appearance he shared with his father. "You should be the one to choose his name."

"Would you be upset if I didn't choose your name especially after you picked my name for your daughter?" Anne teased him, batting her eyelashes playfully.

"Sweetheart, you have given birth to the first healthy Prince of Wales since my time as my father's heir twenty years ago. I shall not be upset even if you named our son Francis," Henry told her, grimacing slightly at the thought of his son being named after his pompous French counterpart.

Anne giggled as she shifted Annette to a more comfortable position in her arms and moved over so Henry and their son could join them on the bed.

"Well he has born on All Saints Day so I suppose it would rather fitting if he was named after our patron saint," Anne suggested.

"And the fact that George just so happens to be your brother's name is just a coincidence, I suppose," Henry jested, knowing full well that Anne was more likely to name their son Thomas if she wanted to honor her family just because she knew she wouldn't hear the end of it from her father and uncle if she didn't.

"A marvelous coincidence, I must say," Anne remarked, her eyes twinkling.

"Anne and George," Henry agreed smiling. Before his eyes lit up, realizing something. "I have a Mary, Anne and George."

"Another marvelous coincidence," his wife laughed.

The fact that Anne had a brother named Henry who had not survived was not mentioned even though that meant not including Hal Fitzroy when they spoke of the King's children. Although aside from mentioning her once, Henry did not bring up his other daughter again even though Anne could guess that he was thinking of the assignment he had given Wolsey. She had convinced him to delay his proceedings a few months ago and he had agreed to wait until a Duke of York was born but that didn't matter right now.

The only thing that mattered was that at long last a Prince of Wales was born and God willing one day he would be King George the First.

Her mother was not here and Mary could not help but feel glad that she was not. Oh, she wished that she and Katherine could hear the news together so they could comfort each other and be each other's rock in this trying time. But she did not want to see her mother's reaction to the birth of her rival's sons as she was sure that her mother would try to be brave and would whisper comforting words, masking her own pain over the fact that her rival had just given birth to a healthy son. It would hurt her even more to know all of London seemed to be celebrating the birth of Prince George- Good God was Anne's control over her father so great that she even got him to name his son after her dratted brother.

Mary did not want her mother here because she knew that Katherine would be strong, coax her into seeing her brother and try to get her to not feel so sorry for herself.

Right now, that was all Mary wanted to do. Despite her vow that she would stand aside for Anne's son, that she would accept that he would be their father's heir, she found it very hard not to plead with God to let this be some sort of mistake. That Anne had not really given birth to a boy who would automatically displace her even if she hadn't been made a bastard.

After two hours of sulking, desperately trying to drown out the sounds of merriment downstairs, Mary finally got off her bed and proceeded to the nursery with her governess trailing behind.

The former princess hoped that once she saw her baby brother, it would be easier for her to love him just as she loved Annette and Hal. Speaking of her father's illegitimate son, Hal had also come to see their siblings.

He smiled at her when she entered, waving her over so she would stand next to him by George's crib. A part of Mary hoped that the new Prince of Wales looked more Boleyn than Tudor so that she could convince herself that her stepmother had been unfaithful and therefore had not given birth to her father's son. She could not stop the rush of disappointment that she felt when she saw that her new brother did indeed look like a true Tudor.

"Maree Maree!" Annette called, pulling herself up and standing on her crib as she reached out towards her older sister.

With a small smile, Mary picked her sister up out of the crib, managing to hold her despite how heavy the toddler was getting.

"Annie, who is that?" Mary asked, never liking to use the nickname Anne used for her sister. She pointed to George so the little girl would know who she was talking about. "That's your brother. That's George."

"Geroge," Annette tried, making her half-siblings giggle.

"George," Mary corrected, looking down at her half-brother and suddenly feeling a rush of love when the hours-old baby looked up at her.

I may never love your mother but I will never be your enemy, George. She vowed inwardly.

If it was God's will to make Anne's son a king than she would find a way to be okay with it. For she did not want to throw England into a civil war and she most certainly did not want to harm her half-siblings.

And if God chose to make her queen after her father died instead of George, she would not allow her siblings to be banished with the other Boleyns, instead she would treat them with the love and respect they deserved.

The Tudor family would remain united, no matter what happened. She would make sure of it.

Chapter Text

January 9 1532

Just where had the years gone?  Queen Anne wondered. It seemed like just yesterday she was holding her sweet baby daughter in her arms and today her little girl was four-years-old and growing up much too quickly. Of course, she was exaggerating as Annette still had most of her childhood to live through. However, in ten years, she would leave for France to marry the dauphin and Anne could not help but dread the day, her daughter would leave her.

"Make way for His Highness, Prince George of Wales, His Highness Prince Edward, the Duke of York and Her Highness Princess Anne," someone called from outside the queen's apartments causing the ladies-in-waiting to set down their sewing so they could greet the royal children properly.

The minute her children appeared, Anne kneeled on the floor, her arms outstretched, beaming as Annette and George ran into her embrace.

Thankfully it had not been too long since they had seen each other as Annette's birthday and the celebrations of Christmastide were weeks apart that there was no point in the children returning to their residence. But when court had left Greenwich for Whitehall, the royal children went back to Hatfield for a short time.

"How are you, my little ones?" Anne inquired, studying her children's appearances. Annette was growing like weed despite only being ten-months-older than her brother, she seemed to tower over her brother.

"We're good, Mama," Annette replied, smiling happily. Georgie nodded to confirm his sister's words, not at all upset that his sister had spoken for him.

"And how is my littlest one?" the queen asked rhetorically as she rose to take the Duke of York from his governess so she could coo over her youngest child, born last March to her and Henry's great delight.

After the royal marriage had been blessed with three healthy children, the English people no longer viewed Anne as an unworthy usurper and there was nothing Bishop Fisher and his small group of priests could say to change it. After all, Elizabeth Barton's prophecy had been disproven and Pope Clement stood by his verdict, making it clear that God did indeed favor Henry and Anne.

The double marriage betrothals between France and England had been finalized and now all they were doing was waiting for Georgie and Annette to become fourteen, legally able to be married to their older spouses.

A few months after George was born, it seemed that all of Europe, save for the Holy Roman Emperor, became eager to marry their daughters to the infant Prince of Wales. However, Henry and Anne remembered that after Annette was born, only King Francis had been willing to suggest a marriage between his son and the princess. And since he was the only one who seemed to view their daughter as worthy enough for his son then it would be only his daughter who was worthy of their son.

In ten years, her daughter would be the Queen of France and her son would be the future King of England and no one would ever be able to say that Anne was not truly Henry's wife. Perhaps then, even the Emperor would be eager to marrying his children off to the younger children of the woman he had once scorned.

"Where is my birthday girl?" Henry demanded as he entered his wife's apartments, ignoring Anne's ladies who curtsied when they saw him.

"Here I am, Papa!" Annette exclaimed as her father scooped her up and spun her around, causing her to giggling with glee. He placed her back on the ground before hugging his oldest son and pinching the cheek of his youngest son. He and Anne shared a chaste kiss on the lips.

Anne smiled softly as they sat in front of the fire, Ned still in her arms as Henry held both Georgie and Annette on his lap and he began to regale them with the tale of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

Six years ago, she had never imagined that her life would change so drastically. She could never have imagined how golden her world would become.


When Cardinal Wolsey died three years ago, King Henry had requested that More take his position of Lord Chancellor. At first, he had been tempted to refuse; unlike most Lords of the court, Sir Thomas was not ambitious and he did not want to deal with politics and all the backstabbing that followed.

However, with Cromwell as the King's secretary, Cranmer as the royal Chaplin and with the Boleyns whispering poison about the Catholic Church in Henry's ears, More feared that if he didn't accept the position, the Privy Council would be filled with heretics and Boleyn supporters.

So he accepted the job and along with Warham, he tried to keep the Catholic Church in tact. However, that was becoming difficult as Henry refused to sign the death warrants of heretics who refused to recant their blasphemy, even comparing them to Bishop Fisher who had yet to recant his own words against Queen Anne. He had also commissioned bibles translated into English to be distributed among the churches throughout England.

How was he and the Archbishop of Canterbury supposed to counteract heresy when their King was helping it spread? How could they condemn followers of Martin Luther, when the people King Henry was close, including his wife who had given him two sons, were most certainly amount those followers?

Wolsey was right that King Henry had no quarrel with the Pope and Henry even said that he was grateful that Clement had done God's work instead of listening those fools who tried to convince him to keep the English ruler shackled to his barren wife- undoubtedly a thinly veiled insult at the Emperor's expense.

A knock on More's door, shook the Lord Chancellor from his thoughts and he nodded at his manservant to let the person inside.

"Your Excellency, I feared that you had abandoned us," Thomas greeted the Spanish Ambassador with good cheer.

Nearly two years ago, Eustace Chapuys replaced Mendoza as the ambassador to England. Last year he had hoped to convince King Henry to place Mary back in the line of succession, stressing how happy the Emperor would be if he did so. Phrasing it that way had been a mistake on Chapuys' part as the King took umbrage at the implication that "he was to be the Holy Roman Emperor's dog, doing a trick in order to get a treat" and he refused to listen to reason about the matter even though More knew that he had hoped to reinstate Mary as a Princess once the Duke of York was born.

 "I tried to, my lord but I found that I was unable to leave Infanta Katherine and her daughter behind," Chapuys replied with a small frown. "They need my help in these trying times."

"Thankfully, there is some good news," More assured him. "King Henry has sent a letter to Pope Clement requesting that his daughter be declared legitimate as the marriage was done in good faith. However, Lady Anne has requested a stipulation be added: Mary can only inherit the English throne if all of her legitimate half-siblings die without giving birth to any children."

Chapuys' face quickly changed from elation to despair in a matter of seconds. "Surely, the King has not agreed to this?" he asked, his expression grim as he was already aware of what More would say next. Damn the harlot. It was bad enough that she had bewitched the King and Pope to turn against a great queen and princess but now she was forcing the true Princess of Wales to be put behind not only her bastard brothers but also her bastard sisters. Was there no end to her evil?

"I am afraid he has agreed to it," Sir Thomas replied gravely, keeping his face neutral.

Unlike Chapuys, he could not blame Lady Anne, at least not entirely, for making such a request nor could he truly blame the King for agreeing with it. After all, Emperor Charles was still trying to convince the Pope to recant his declaration, Bishop Fisher was still adamant that England was doomed and with Chapuys' faux pas all those months ago, they were lucky that Lady Anne had not convinced King Henry that it was too dangerous to have Mary be in the line of succession at all.

"I suppose making her a princess again is a start," Chapuys said grudgingly, his tone doubtful before he brightened slightly. "I have news from Rome. Pope Clement's health has been poor lately and Emperor Charles hopes that he can convince the man who will be his successor to be willing to undo the mess in England before it gets any worse."

He was surprised when instead of looking just as hopeful, Sir More instead looked aghast at his words.

"If the next Pope after His Holiness declares the King's marriage to Anne Boleyn invalid and forces him to return to Queen Katherine, I fear that will be the moment that His Majesty cuts ties with Rome permanently," Thomas hissed.

Four years ago, it would have been different as Thomas was sure that King Henry would not have dared to disagree with Rome's decision despite his infatuation with Anne Boleyn.

However, with two sons and a healthy daughter in such a short amount of time, no one could convince King Henry that he had been wrong. The only reason Katherine had not given in was because she refused to be called a liar and a whore. Privately she had told More that she had given up on Pope Clement and the notion that anyone could convince Henry to forsake Anne and the most she could hope for was that her daughter would be a princess and then someday queen of a different country.

If any Pope, including Clement, were to declare that the two sons, Henry had been hoping for since he became King, illegitimate, Henry would turn Lutheran within seconds.

"And who is to say, he won't anyway, there have been whispers that King Henry was taken to reading the Obedience of a Christian Man and has even invited the author back to England so he can learn more about certain aspects of the book," Chapuys pointed out. "As long as Lady Anne remains his wife, there will always be a danger of the King becoming a heretic. So unless we can get rid of-"

"NO!" Thomas exclaimed, shooting the man a stern look. "I am going to pretend I don't know what you are getting at and I think our audience is now at end."

Chapuys inclined his head politely before leaving More's office, leaving the Lord Chancellor to sink into his chair.

Perhaps Alice was right, he should retire before it cost him his head. He would inform Katherine of the conversation between him and the Spanish Ambassador just in case, he tried something foolish and inadvertently caused suspicion to fall on either her and Mary's head.

Then he would write a letter of resignation to King Henry and hopefully get out of court before he had to witness the outcome of whatever the Pope chose to do or get himself mixed up in a conspiracy that would with a bloody civil war.

He may look to God first before his King but Sir Thomas More was not about to be the cause of the end of stability and peace. Although he would never agree with Pope Clement's decision, he had to admit that after the sweat England had flourished and now the shaky truce between those who supported the Boleyns and those who supported Katherine was threatening to fall apart.


"A gift from the Dauphin of France to his future bride, Princess Anne," the French Ambassador announced, offering up quality French hood for the young girl's inspection and delight.

"It is lovely, send His Highness my warmest thanks," Princess Annette commanded, a bright smile on her face as she immediately discarded the small tiara she was wearing for her present, causing the courtiers to chuckle fondly.

"Be sure to tell Prince Francis just how happy our daughter is with her gift," Henry ordered, thinking that the French King would find the story of how excited the young girl had been that she refused to go a minute without wearing the headpiece quite charming.

King Henry watched as the courtiers presented their gifts to the birthday girl. He examined the gifts wearily, keeping an eye out for any slights such as a gift that cost the same the amount as something bought for Mary. No one dared to buy Hal Fitzroy a grander present than one they would buy for Prince George but sometimes Henry noted that if they thought they could get away with it, some of his courtiers would buy a gift befitting of a princess for Mary. Not that he was against his eldest daughter who he hoped would be called Princess again within the next few months be treated as such but Anne had brought up the dangers of Mary being treated better than any daughter of theirs and he would not tolerate it if any of his subjects treated Annette as though she ranked below Mary.

Speaking of Mary, she had not come to birthday celebration as Katherine was feeling ill and she had pleaded with her father to remain at Auckland Castle where she could nurse her mother back to health as her mother would do for her. She had sent Annette's gift early along with an apology letter.

Despite the age difference, Henry's four children were devoted to each other and it warmed the King's heart to see it. Just as Annette was her older sister's shadow, Georgie adored his older brother and Henry hoped that when he was King, Hal Fitzroy would be his most loyal advisor just as surely little Ned would.

"Does our daughter not look like a queen already?" Anne whispered in her husband's ear, taking care to keep her voice down. Even though she doubted King Francis would take offense at her saying so, it was still a bit rude to be discussing her daughter becoming queen when it would only happen if her husband's father died.

"I have no doubt she will be a queen with beauty and grace just like her mother," Henry complimented her, holding her hand in his, kissing her lips sweetly.

"And our sons will grow as handsome and clever as their father," Anne agreed, smiling at George who was sitting next to Annette, admiring her latest gift. Ned was too young to be awake for the entire celebration and was still in the nursery.

Henry smiled lovingly at her. In the past four years he had not looked at another woman, sharing Anne's bed almost every night, only sleeping in his own while his wife was carrying their children.

They were just beginning to root out the corruption that blackened the names of good clergymen while making religion more accessible to those who could not speak Latin. Henry was convinced that when their son became King, he would already have the golden kingdom his parents were envisioning.


Soon it was time to go to the banquet hall where a feast had been prepared in honor of his niece. The Earl of Ormond sat beside his daughters who were chatting with their cousin, Cathy Carey and her brother who the King had made the Baron of Hunsdon at the same time he had made Thomas Boleyn the Duke of Wiltshire.

"Your girls are growing into fine young ladies," Thomas remarked to his son. George quirked an eyebrow as he was sure that his father had other motives rather than just complimenting his granddaughters. "However, they will need a mother too teach them how to be a proper court lady."

"I'm sure you have a woman in mind," George guessed with a sigh, keeping his voice low, not wanting his daughters to overhear.

"One of the leaders of the Schmalkaldic League is eager to get England on board so he and I have been sending each other letters and he suggested that there should be a marriage between you and his wife's younger sister, Anne of Cleves," Thomas explained, smirking.

"And you think that the Duke of Cleves would be prepared to accept a marriage between his daughter and a mere Earl?" George questioned, his interest piqued.

While it was true that once his father died, he would be the Duke of Wiltshire, George still lacked royal blood.

"If the Elector of Saxony is to be believed, the Duke of Cleves is not opposed to the match and he has sent an ambassador to discuss the matter with King Henry," Thomas explained, smiling at his granddaughters. "If we play our cards right, Janey and Marian will have a stepmother by next year and hopefully they will get a baby brother soon afterwards."

There was a part of George that would have loved to roll his eyes but he said nothing. It had been almost four years since Jane's death. His father was right about one thing, his girls deserved to have a mother. He just hoped that Anne of Cleves would be a good stepmother.


January 20 1532

King Henry had never stepped foot in Auckland Castle, he never had a reason to before and after he gave to his daughter and former wife as their main residence. Speaking of whom, he had not seen the Dowager Princess of Wales since she had left court sometime after he recovered from the Sweat.

But today he rode out to Auckland Castle as he wanted to bring this news to his daughter in person so she would know how happy he was that he could declare her his princess once again.

She could never be the Princess of Wales and because of men like Fisher and Chapuys, it was too risky to put her before her half-sisters. However, that didn't mean he wasn't happy that once again, he could say that she was true princess. Hopefully, Mary would be just as pleased as he was.

When he arrived at the castle, Mary was standing at the entrance hall, draped in a lovely dress that made her look so grown up. Anne had thought that Anette was growing up so fast and yet Henry felt like it had been just yesterday that he held his firstborn daughter in his arms and now she was almost sixteen-years-old.

As he embraced his half-grown daughter tightly, Henry decided right then and there he would find a way for his pearl to be the queen she was meant to be.

"Mary, my pearl, I have missed you so," Henry murmured into her hair, before leading her to the sitting room so they could sit down.

"I've missed you as well, Father," Mary said as she took an adjacent seat to the one her father was sitting on. "I hope Annie wasn't too unhappy that I missed her birthday."

"Well she and Georgie certainly missed you but they understood that you needed to stay with your mother. How is she? Anne and I hope that she is getting better," Henry told her, squeezing his hand in hers.

Mary wondered if Anne really hoped that her rival would recover from her illness or did Anne hope that both Katherine and Mary would die so she could be assured that she had no rivals at all.

"She is feeling better. If you would like to visit her and see for yourself, I'm sure she would appreciate it," Mary suggested.

Four years ago, she would have been hoping that if her father spent just a few minutes with her ailing mother, it might rekindle the love he had for her. But she was not so naïve to believe that could happen. However, she had no doubt that her father's visit would mean a lot to her mother who had been rather depressed in the time after the birth of her half-brother and falling sick more often than the years before.

"I'm afraid that I won't have enough time for I must be getting back to court," Henry said apologetically. "I hope you will give her my well wishes."

"Of course."

"Good. Now Mary, the reason I am here is because I wanted to come in person to tell you that Pope Clement has agreed that you were born from a marriage made in good faith. Therefore you are a true princess of England," Henry announced, beaming at her, as if he expected her to weep in joy.

Had her father not been sitting in front of her, Mary might have snorted in derision at the thought of her weeping in joy over getting something she never should have lost in the first place.

She loved her father and acknowledged that he had been patient with her when he saw how his actions had hurt her but she could not understand how he could expect her to be happy that he had torn her world into several pieces and was only giving her a small portion of it back.

However, now was not the time to dwell on such unfairness. Now was the time to smile as sweetly as she could and feign sheer joy at the notion that she was no longer Lady Mary but once again Princess Mary.

"Oh Father, that's wonderful. Thank you so much for this," Mary said gratefully, kissing her father's cheek.

"It's the least I can do, my pearl. Now I hate to leave you but I must be getting back to court before it becomes to late to travel," Henry told her gently, kissing both of her hands.

After exchanging goodbyes with her father, Mary kept the smile plastered on her face until the horses carrying her father and his grooms had disappeared down the road. With that, she turned and went to her mother's bedchamber.


Katherine was sitting up in her bed, looking slightly disappointed, as she was probably just told that her former husband had arrived and left without a word to her. However, once she saw Mary's scowl, she opened her arms, beckoning her daughter to get on the bed and take comfort in her mother's arms.

"I am a princess again, I suppose that's something," Mary grumbled. "I just can't stop wondering why it has to happen like this. I know I'm not supposed to question God's plan but…"

"I know, sweetheart, and it isn't easy for me to admit that perhaps your father making you a princess despite his views of our marriage is the best we could hope for," Katherine said sadly, stroking her daughter's hair.

Gone were the days where Katherine could believe that Henry would forsake Anne and return to her. Gone were the days where she could delude herself into thinking that if the Pope recanted his decision to annul Katherine's marriage, Henry would listen to him. If she was honest with herself, those days had been over the minute Prince George was born.

She had spent a year or two after the birth clinging on to the hope that Pope Clement would change his mind and fix the mess he caused. But eventually she had come to terms that it was simply too late for anyone to do anything.

Anne's sons would succeed Henry when he died and now all she could hope for was that Henry would make a good marriage for her daughter. All she could hope for was that the granddaughter of Isabella and Ferdinand would be the Queen Consort if she could not be the Queen of England.

Mary was not the only one questioning God's plan but unlike her daughter, Katherine was too tired to be angry about it. All she could do was hold her daughter and promise her that no matter what she had a grand future ahead of her.

"If Anne Boleyn allows it, you mean," Mary sneered sourly, thinking of how because of her stepmother she had been put below her half-sister despite being ten-years-older than her.

She would never stop loving her half-siblings and while she knew there was no hope for her mother, she could not help but think she would be better off with a stepmother who was not a selfish heretical witch.

"If Anne is as powerful as you think she is then she could have done much worse. She could have refused to allow you to be a princess again, she could have coaxed your father into not allowing you to come to court," Katherine said sternly, guessing her daughter's thoughts. "She treats you kindly, Mary, despite any ridiculous suspicions she has of you. As bad as you may think she is, she could be a lot worse. Besides we cannot keep thinking that she is solely to blame for your father's actions."

Mary grimaced but she did not argue as she was fully aware that her mother had a point.


It was nearly dusk when King Henry returned to court. After changing out of his riding clothes, he headed to his wife's apartments, nearly colliding with a woman coming out of them.

"Forgive me, Your Majesty," she said abashed, falling into a deep curtsy, not daring to look up at him. Her blonde hair in loose ringlets.

"There is nothing to forgive," Henry assured her, his eyes tracing the girl's figure. "What is your name, my lady?"

"Eleanor Luke."

"And where are you off to, Mistress Luke?" the red-haired monarch inquired.

"To my quarters, Your Majesty, I have a headache and the Queen has given me leave to retire," she answered, her cheeks flushing in embarrassment, having to admit to the king that she wasn't feeling well. Queen Anne had only noticed because Eleanor had to leave her dance partner stranded as the lute was making her headache worse. Luckily her mistress was understanding and polite, assuring Eleanor that she would inform her dance partner that the queen had needed her elsewhere and that was why she had stopped dancing with him.

"Well, then I apologize for detaining you. I hope you will feel better soon," Henry told her kindly, stepping out of the way so she could go the shared bedchambers of the ladies-in-waiting without further delay.

As she left, he could not help but stare after her, thinking she looked fetching.

"Your Majesty," Charles greeted him, causing him to tear his eyes away from the young woman and greet his old friend. The Duke of Suffolk smirked playfully. "Should I send Mistress Luke a letter that when she is feeling better that you wish to see her in your bedchambers?"

Henry blinked, surprised by that abrupt question. Of course, he understood why Charles was asking him and he could not deny that perhaps his eyes had lingered just a little too long on Eleanor Luke's sharply body.

"I am afraid that I will not be in my bedchambers this evening even if she were to feel better. My beautiful wife will be keeping me quite occupied and I doubt that I shall leave her chambers till morning," Henry jested lewdly.

It might have been his imagination but he thought he saw disappointment in the Duke of Suffolk's eyes.

Deciding not to dwell on it, Henry entered Anne's apartments and joined in the merriment.

"My Lord, I was beginning to think you would never return to me," Anne purred as he cut in her dance with Sir Norris.

"How could I possibly stay away from such a tempting enchantress," Henry whispered in her ear, spinning her around.

"Mark, play a volta!" Anne commanded as she pressed her body into Henry's, causing his lust for her to grow.

Henry was seriously considered carrying his queen to her bedchamber at this very moment and make good on his words to the Duke of Suffolk.


While the King and Queen were enjoying themselves, Bishop Fisher was holding a sermon, once again trying to convince the English people that Anne Boleyn was leading the kingdom to heresy.

Of course he was very careful not to say the queen was a heretic but everyone there was fully aware who was to blame for the changes to the church of England. Fisher insisted that the English bible that was being distributed and the two monasteries that had been closed, albeit for legitimate reasons, was just the beginning. If the King did not get rid of certain people who were bewitching him, he would soon turn fully Lutheran, dragging all of England into hell.

Eustace Chapuys was pleased that despite the small number of men at the sermon, they seemed to full-heartedly believe in what the Bishop was saying. Surely the more people they convinced, they could get good Catholics like More and Queen Katherine to realize that their cause was not lost.

Even if they could not restore Katherine to her rightful title, at least they could find a way to bring the King's harlot down and replace her with a good Catholic Queen who would not only undo the heresy but also help the whore's brats grow up to be as faithful Catholic as their half-sister.

Although the Spanish Ambassador would prefer that George Fitzroy was not deemed legitimate and was instead replaced by the true heir Princess Mary, he knew that as long as Boleyn witch died, she would be unable to influence the King or her children, turning them away from the true faith.

"The witch should be burnt for her sins!" a man shouted from the pew.

"If only King Henry was not so infatuated, she would be," the man beside Chapuys grumbled.

The Spanish Ambassador glanced at the man sitting next to him, recognizing him as one of the King's grooms. His lips curved upwards as he realized just how valuable this man was too him.

Fearing that Cromwell's spies could be hiding here, Chapuys waited to approach the man after the sermon was concluded.

"Sir William Brereton, at your service, Your Excellency," Brereton introduced himself.

"A please to meet someone as like-minded as I. Together I hope we can bring the whore and her dratted family down before they destroy England forever," Chapuys said, extending his hand for the man to shake.

"It has to be God's will that the King's Concubine dies," Brereton agreed, shaking his hand. "I swear that I will not let you down."

Chapuys smiled. One way or another, Anne Boleyn's time would soon end and the evil spell she had cast would at last be broken.

Chapter Text

February 9 1532

"Victory is mine once again," Henry laughed as he displayed his cards for his wife to see.

"Ah, it seems that I am on a losing streak tonight, my love, I think I shall claim that I was distracted by your handsomeness," Anne decided with a smirk.

"Madam, if I didn't know any better I'd think you were trying to flatter me in hopes that I would become too flustered to concentrate on our next game," Henry teased her, grinning wolfishly.

"Whatever do you mean?" Anne giggled, fluttering her eyelashes at him as she redealt the cards.

They were about to begin their next game when a messenger came with a report from Cromwell. Henry scowled darkly when he read it.

"God damn that man. Can't he ever keep his mouth shut," the red-haired monarch snarled, crumpling the paper up and throwing it into the fire.

Anne signed, knowing instinctively who her husband was angry at. "What has Fisher done this time?" she asked, wondering what it was about her that the Bishop hated so much, he was willing to anger both the King and the Pope by disparaging her marriage to Henry. Surely his continued assault of her character was not just out of stubborn loyalty to the Dowager Princess of Wales and her daughter.

"He is holding sermons about how you are leading England and I astray," Henry snapped. "As if corrupt churchmen like him haven't opened my eyes to England's suffering."

Cromwell sent men to various monasteries and abbeys, some of them had gross injustices such as brothels and coining factories. Not even Pope Clement himself had made much of a fuss when Henry shut those illegal and ungodly institutions down even though His Holiness did caution the King to be careful that he doesn't start following the path of Luthor.

How could Fisher continue to blame Anne when she had given England two healthy heirs? And did he think that Henry was a weak man who could be used as puppet without any thoughts of his own?

"I grow tired of his foolishness. I think I shall send More to him with a warning that if he does not stop spewing such slander and nonsense against your good name, I shall have him sent to the Tower," Henry snapped.

"God willing that will be enough to shut him up," Anne said with a sigh. She smiled sweetly at him. "I think I shall forfeit the game and perhaps play you a tune on the lute. Would you like that?"

Henry grinned at her. "Nothing could please me more," he told her, taking her hand in his as they left the cards on the table and moved to a different room.

Although the red-haired monarch's angry was indeed soothed by the music and the song Anne sang, he still could not help but seethe over Fisher and his flock. They were becoming too loud and it would only be a matter of time before there was another attempt on Anne's life.

If that happened, Fisher would find himself a head shorter.

"Fisher calls for the removal of the Boleyns and the loathsome toad-I believe that would be Cromwell- before they send all of England to hell," Thomas Boleyn read as he scowled at the report in front of him. "According to Cromwell's spies, the number of people has increased slowly and surely with each sermon. We better do something about that loudmouth before he manages to convince every single Englishman to rise up against us."

"Father, I think you are being paranoid. With Anne's acts of charity and her idea to turn the two monasteries that were closed down into a school and poorhouse, Fisher can talk all her wants but he can never hope to turn everyone against her. Especially not after the birth of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York," George pointed out.

"Yes, Anne's detractors have fallen into a minority but it takes only one man to shoot a gun. If Fisher manages to incite even a few men against Anne, the next trip she takes could turn into a riot," Wiltshire said gravely. Even if his daughter managed to escape unscathed, there would be bloodshed. "We have to silence the Bishop permanently before it is too late."

"And how exactly will we do that?" George inquired, his voice soft as he could guess the plan forming in his father's mind.

"Tell me, George, have you been writing to Anna of Cleves as I asked?" Thomas inquired, deciding the less George knew of his plans the better.

"Yes, Father, I have," George replied, thanking God that he, Anne and Mary had learned German from their time in the Netherlands. "She seems quite nice and she loves to hear about my daughters."

"Good, good," Thomas said dismissively, not really caring about what his son was saying. His mind preoccupied with thoughts of how to handle that troublesome bishop and his allies.

George decided it would be better if he didn't question his father and simply pretended that he hadn't noticed the abrupt subject change or the murderous gleam in his father's eyes.

February 18 1532

She was now sixteen-years-old and she was a princess once again. Not the Princess of Wales of course but no longer was she called Lady Mary. As much as she still felt slighted, Mary knew that her situation could be a lot worse: Her father could be still calling her a bastard, separating her from her beloved mother completely and doting on her half-siblings while neglecting her.

"Why do you look so somber, my dearest heart? Today is special day worth celebrating," her mother told her, kissing the top of her head. Her eyes became watery, making her look melancholic. "You look so grown up and it feels like just yesterday I was holding you in my arms."

"Oh Mother, stop, you'll ruin your makeup," Mary teased her lightly.

"I'm sorry but you are almost a woman fully grown and I just can't bring myself to believe it," Katherine remarked, wiping the wet corners of her eyes.

Before Mary could say anything, they both heard the familiar call to make way for the king.

Mary, Katherine and their ladies curtsied when Henry came in. The King barely seemed to notice anyone else as he went straight for his daughter, embracing her.

"My dearest peal, happy birthday," he told her sweetly, kissing both of her hands before turning to his former wife. "Princess Katherine, I'm glad that you are well enough to join us at court so we may celebrate this day together."

"I'm glad to be at court again especially on such a blessed day," Katherine agreed. Mary couldn't help but feel embarrassed and flattered by both of her parents' words.

"Come, your siblings are eager to see you," Henry commanded, offering his arm for Mary to take before extending the other towards Katherine. "Would you like to come, Katherine?"

"I would be honored," Katherine replied, a tight smile on her face as she laid her arm on his.

While Mary visited her half-siblings often and Katherine had always encouraged her to do, not wanting her to feel like she was betraying her mother by loving her half-siblings, the former queen of England had never interacted with the children of Anne Boleyn. Well she had spent some time with Annette when the baby and her older sister had to be far from the sweating sickness.

However, it had been different and perhaps easier for Katherine to be able to spend time with Annette even though she was proof that her husband had fallen in love with and married another woman. George and Edward, on the other hand, were the reminders of every son she had every lost. When she laid her eyes on their faces, she would feel nothing but the pain of what might have been.

Her son, her little Henry, Duke of Cornwell, would be twenty-one if he had lived. He would be already married and perhaps he would have made her a grandmother. And even if Mary was his only sibling, Henry would never have sought an annulment no matter what Anne Boleyn did.

Courtiers stared as the King walked towards the nursery with his daughter on one arm and his ex-wife on the other. Katherine wondered what they were thinking. Did they believe that this meant that the king was falling back in love with Katherine and would discard Anne Boleyn? If they did, they were fools.

She had no doubt that Henry's kindness came from the fact that he had won. He had gotten all that he wanted. If he had not, Katherine had no doubt that he would still be as cold to her as he was all those years ago.

When they arrived at the nursery Anne was already there, playing a game with Annette and George.

"MARY!" Annette shouted, running into the arms of her big sister, chattering excitedly. "I missed you so much! Happy Birthday!" The way she was talking, anyone would think she hadn't seen Mary in years instead of only a month.

While Mary fussed over her sister, Henry walked over to Anne and gave her a hello kiss, leaving Katherine feeling quite left out of this family moment. She studied the Prince of Wales, deciding that he did look very much like her husband and she had no doubt that her dead son would have had the same appearance.

"Thank you, Annie, I'm glad to see you too. I'm sorry I missed your birthday," she said apologetically, hugging Annette before embracing Georgie. Then she turned both of her half-siblings, getting them to face her mother. "I want to introduce you to my mother, Infanta Katherine of Aragon."

Using her mother's Spanish title was easier for Mary as she knew it would hurt her mother to be called the Dowager Princess of Wales. If King Henry complained about her using such a loophole later, Mary would tell him that she thought calling her mother the Dowager Princess of Wales might confuse Annette and George who were far too young to understand the complicated nature of the Great Matter.

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Your Highnesses," Katherine greeted them, making a shallow curtsy.

"My lady, it is an honor to meet my sister's mother," George said more formally than a three-year-old should be capable of. He bowed while his sister curtsied. They both smiled up at her in such a way Katherine could not help but smile back.

"Mama, Papa, can I show Mary the present I picked out for her?" Annette asked eagerly.

"I helped," George protested, unwilling to let his sister take all the credit.

"We will be giving your sister all her gifts in an hour, sweetheart, can't you wait until then?" Anne inquired, giving her daughter a stern look.

"Oh, I just want to show it to her, Mama. She can see it now and we'll present it to her later," Annette suggested.

"I would like to be surprised," Mary pointed out, smiling down at her sister. "Trust me, leaving it as a surprise always makes the gift much better."

"I guess that's true," Annette admitted grudgingly.

"Come, why don't I tell you and George a story to pass the time," Mary coaxed her as she sat down, letting her siblings sit on her lap, leaving the three adults to stand in the corner by the crib of the Duke of York.

The baby was lying in the crib, dozing peacefully, a sweet expression on his face.

"You know once the wet nurse was woken up to Ed crying and when she arrived, she found Georgie in his nightshirt, trying find out why his little brother was crying and what could he do to soothe him," Henry recalled, smiling lovingly at the baby in the crib. "Sometimes I wonder if Arthur was ever as protective over me."

Anne and Katherine exchanged a look, both unsure what he wanted them to say to that.

"Of course he loved you, Henry," Katherine assured him. "He would tell me so many stories about you and your sisters."

"I'm just glad that they have Hal and Mary. After all, even the Prince of Wales needs someone to look after him," Anne remarked, glancing at her stepdaughter who she knew her daughter and son adored.

"He has us as well," Henry pointed out, slightly amused by his wife's words. "Not to mention he is practically Annette's shadow."

"I just meant it's nice that they have siblings to look up to. Edward has George and George has Hal and Annette has Mary," Anne explained.

"I'm glad that they do. Mary loves her younger siblings especially Annette," Katherine remarked. When she met Anne's eyes, she knew that her hidden message had been received.

No matter what happened, in the past, present or future, their daughters would not be rivals. She would not fight her baby brother for the English throne. And for all for her hopes and dreams that she and Mary could reclaim their rightful positions, Katherine would never want her daughter to have to turn against her blood.

February 25 1532

John Fisher was dead as were the guests who ate dinner with him. It seemed that a cook had poisoned their food and despite the bishop eating very little, it was fatal enough to kill him.

Thomas More was unnerved and not only because he had meant to be at Fisher's dinner party and had only declined Fisher's invitation because he had a family obligation. By the time they had concluded which cook had poisoned the food, he had already fled with his family to parts unknown. Without him, whoever ordered the poisoning of Fisher would remain uncaught.

However, More was fairly certain that he knew who was behind it and it was unlikely that he would ever be punished for it. That didn't mean the Lord Chancellor wouldn't try to convince Henry of that vile man's guilt.

"It's very unfortunate, Sir Thomas, that innocent men should suffer a death like this. For all of his faults, Bishop Fisher was a pious man and I shudder to think that he should be taken so brutally," Henry said with a sigh was they walked down the corridors.

Thomas noted that he looked truly outraged. Perhaps he would punish Boleyn for his crime instead of letting him get away with it just because Fisher had been against Queen Anne.

"It's more than unfortunate, Your Majesty. Fisher's cook has fled and we are currently searching the countryside looking for him. When he is found, he shall be arrested and executed for his crime of course," More informed the king who simply nodded for him to continue. "But I must tell you that there are rumors abound as to the identity of those who plotted against Fisher and hired his traitorous cook."

"Who?" Henry demanded.

"Wiltshire has been named and well, some people even blame Queen Anne," Sir Thomas replied.

"Some people will blame her for everything! They blamed her for Princess Katherine's barrenness and my love for her. They blamed her for the Pope's decision and for the changes in England. They will blame her if it rains or if the rains fail. They'll blame her for the wind that destroys our crops and the storms that sink our ships. It's all the fault of Anne Boleyn. What about you, Sir Thomas? Do you blame her? Do you think she tried to poison Bishop Fisher?" Henry demanded, furious that More would even dare hint at Anne being responsible for such a crime especially when she believed it was best to let him squawk as the evidence that he was wrong kept building.

Your Majesty, I just think that Her Majesty's family had the most to gain," Thomas told him, wishing he had never brought up Anne in the first place. "Harry—"

"The time for Harry is over," Henry snarled before storming off.

As he watched the red-haired monarch stomp away, seething visibly, Thomas realized that he needed to resign from his position as Lord Chancellor immediately before it became the literal death of him.

Queen Anne was knitting clothes for the poor along with her ladies when her husband burst into her chambers, looking like an enraged wildcat ready to strike the first person who crossed him. With a wave of her hand, she dismissed all her ladies-in-waiting. The minute they left Henry went into an angry tirade about his discussion with Sir Thomas More.

"He dared to accuse you of committing such a heinous crime, I should have his head for this!" Henry ranted as he paced around the room, his feet were pounding so hard against the floorboards, it was almost like he wanted to break them in half.

Anne swallowed her own anger at More's gall to focus on calming Henry down before he did anything he would regret. It was entirely possible that it was not only More who suspected her or her family's hand in Fisher's death and if More was killed soon after-even if he died by the executioner's blade-all the work she had done to gain the love of the people would be for naught and the good will she had gained would vanish in an instance.

"Henry, it matters not what other say about me as long as you know that I would never call for anyone's death," Anne began, stubbornly ignoring the voice in her head that reminded her that the same could not be said for her uncle and father. "You do know that, don't you?" She of course knew he didn't but she knew by saying that it would shift his focus from his anger at More to his love for her.

At once the red-haired monarch relaxed and he went over to Anne, kissing her fingers before speaking. "Of course I know that but it angers me so when people blame you for things you have never done," Henry murmured, wishing he could protect Anne from those who spoke badly of her. "Regardless, I do not want him here if he is so suspicious of you. Later I shall tell him that he is to leave his position as my chancellor and advisor."

"If that is what you wish, Henry, then you should do so but for now, let us focus on happier things such as our little Ed's first birthday," Anne pointed out, knowing the mention of any of his children was sure to get Henry in a good mood.

It wasn't that she wanted More to continue to be at court but she feared that if Henry banished him and then he died of an illness, it would only make the dark cloud of suspicion hovering above her grow even bigger.

Meanwhile at Auckland Castle, Chapuys was just telling Katherine and Mary about Bishop Fisher's death. Although, they had not known the man personally, both women were grieved to lose such a loyal ally.

"Unfortunately, the cook who committed this foul act has yet to caught," the Spanish Ambassador was saying, a grimace on his face. "Despite this, there have been rumors around the country about who had the most to gain from Fisher's death."

"The Boleyns, you mean," Katherine said with a sigh. Of course the Boleyns would be the number one suspects, they were the ones Fisher spoke out about the most aside from Cromwell but barely anyone knew about him. "I don't pay attention to rumors. After all, it's entirely possible that the cook was a heretic and decided to silence one of our church's great protectors."

"Perhaps," Chapuys agreed, although his tone was doubtful. "But Your Majesty, I fear for you and you, Your Highness." The Spanish Ambassador smiled kindly at Mary, not wanting her to think that he was excluding her even if his words were directed to her mother. "If it was one of the Boleyns or one of the Howards who hired the cook to poison Fisher, they might try to do the same to you both."

There was no anger or deceit in his voice, just genuine worry.

"No, if they were to-" Katherine trailed off, grabbing Mary's hand in hers, squeezing it and then swallowing hard before she continued to talk. "They would be the most obvious suspects."

"Your Majesty, with all due respect. They are the most obvious suspects now but they have nothing to fear because the King would never allow anyone investigation let alone arrests to be made of his beloved's relatives. With such protection who knows what they might do; what she might do to be rid of her rivals."

"With all due respect, Your Excellency, your logic is flawed. She already has three healthy children in only five years of marriage. The people love her for the heirs she has added to the long empty nursery and all the charity works she has done for them," Katherine pointed out in a sardonic tone as it still hurt that the people who had once declared that they would never accept a Queen Nan, now celebrated her. "My daughter and I have few allies and are no danger to her or her children. As for Fisher, there were barely any men who listened to his sermons."

"Yes but those numbers have been increasing lately and that could be why the Boleyns decided to act now as they fear that more will start clamoring for your cause if their enemies are not silenced," Chapuys stated, a grimace on his face.

He had already been convinced that the whore needed to die but now he was even more certain. Brereton had an idea that might work but Chapuys feared that they had to attack quickly before she could use witchcraft or poison to destroy these two women who had done nothing but been her roadblocks to her complete control over England and the king.

Katherine's face paled as her thoughts raced. She was beginning to understand now. Whoever the mastermind was, be it Norfolk or Boleyn, they were fools. She realized what they feared would happen that Fisher would incite a more experienced marksman to shoot Anne or incite a rebellion. Those foolish men had killed a good if not misguided man and they had now made a martyr for his cause.

They thought they were eliminating a problem but Katherine had no doubt that the trouble had just begun.

"Thank you, Your Excellency, you may go," Katherine said calmly, extending her hand for him to kiss.

If Chapuys was offended by her cold dismissal, he did show it on his face. The pity in his eyes made it clear that he understood that she was afraid, although he was not right about why she was afraid.

"Mother?" Mary inquired after Chapuys had left and as Katherine knelt at the cross hanging above the mantelpiece. She joined her mother on her knees with her hands clasped together.

"If it was either Wiltshire or Norfolk who conspired against Fisher, then they might have just started a sequence of events that will spill much blood," Katherine whispered. "I hope that they will know this when their actions backfire."

"Mother, are you afraid for us?" Mary asked, unsure what her mother was so apprehensive of.

"No," Katherine replied vaguely not wanting to scare Mary with her thoughts.

If this ended as badly she feared it would, she knew deep in her heart that the end result would make King Henry more hot-tempered and more suspicious of Anne and their children's enemies than before. 

March 30 1532

Anne was in a particularly good mood this morning. Her children were still at Oatlands Palace and they would be there until the court returned to London. Ed had said his first word a few days after his first birthday. She had just watched her brother spend all morning playing the horse for Janey, Marian, Georgie, Annette, Ed, Hal and Cathy. King Francis had suggested that they come for a state visit in France, something both Henry and Anne were looking forward too.

While there weren't as many people on the street as Anne gave them money and she thought she saw one or two suspicious glares being thrown her way, the Queen was still in the best of moods as she continued her rout.

She had just stopped a few yards away from a priory when she heard a shout: "ALL HERETICS MUST BURN!" Then sticks that were lit on fire were thrown down to the streets.

Anne's guards surrounded her, trying to shield her with their cloaks as they weren't carrying any actually shields. Paralyzed by fear, Anne could not move even though she knew should be fleeing the fire that was raining down from above. The guards managed to get her and her ladies in the carriage as the chaos on the streets grew worse.

By God, what was happening? Why was this happening?

"KILL THE HARLOT! KILL SATAN'S MISTRESS! KILL THE MURDEROUS WHORE!" the same rabble rouser as before screamed as Anne's carriage tried to flee.

As Anne comforted her two ladies, she suddenly realized that one was missing. It always had been her, her sister, Nan and Madge who would go one these outings. George sometimes came with her but today he had chosen not to something that Anne was now glad for especially when she could not see her older sister anywhere.

"Where is Mary?" she demanded even though she doubted that either Madge nor Nan knew the answer. "Where is my sister?"

"She probably took shelter in the priory, Your Majesty," Nan assured her as she comforted Madge who was sobbing hysterically. "I think the most important thing is to get away while we still can and go fetch her later."

Unfortunately, Nan's words were drowned out by the ringing in the Queen's ears and her pounding heart. Adrenaline and fear coursed through Anne's veins, robbing her of common sense and she jumped out of the carriage, fully intending on running to her sister's side, no matter what danger she faced.

"Mary!" Anne screamed desperately as she tried to make it through the panicked streets. "WHERE ARE YOU! MARY!"

She could smell burning flesh and hear pained screams but she couldn't be certain where it was coming from. Everything seemed to be blurring together. She didn't even feel the people bumping into her as they ran for their lives nor did she feel the dagger stab her side.

Neither she nor the guards who ran up to her realized that she had been stabbed nor did they realize that the culprit had used the panic and madness in the street to disappear before he could be identified as the King's groom: Sir William Brereton.

All Anne knew was she couldn't see her older sister anywhere. It wasn't until she felt a pain on her side and when she touched it, her hands became stained with blood, did she realize she was hurt. Then darkness overwhelmed her senses and she fell unconscious.

Chapter Text

March 30 1532

King Henry glowered at the men responsible for the calamity in Surrey. These men had burn marks on their hands as they had not been careful when they handled the burning sticks they had thrown at the Queen and her people. At first, they were proud at what they had done, not even fleeing when the guards confronted them and arrested them. Now they shivered fearfully as they stood in front of their fuming king. Perhaps he would have pitied these pour souls if he had not been so angry.

"Are you aware of what you have done? Do you feel no guilt for your crimes?" Henry demanded, his eyes flashing as he recalled the Evil May Day that had happened a decade ago. Only this time there would be no queen to save the mob's necks. "You injured thirteen of your own countrymen quite badly and out of the thirteen, three have succumbed to their injuries. And if that wasn't bad enough, one of you stabbed my wife. Queen Anne has given England two heirs and you rewarded her with a knife to her hip. Thankfully, she survived, otherwise I would have killed you all with my bare hands. Despite my relief that my wife is alive, the fact remains that you have committed treason and harmed good and innocent people. Make no mistake, you will be executed for your crimes."

The men looked terrified by their king's words and some even dared to beg for mercy but Henry just glared at them with no sympathy in his eyes before he summoned the guards to take the prisoners away.

He had not decided whether or not they would simply be hanged or if they were to be burned at the stake instead. After all being burned alive would be symbolic after they had conspired to do the same to innocent people. No matter what the punishment he chose for them, he would make sure they were paraded through the streets and whipped severely before their deaths.

"Did any of them confesses to stabbing my wife?" Henry asked Cromwell who was in charge of interrogating the prisoners before they were brought before their enraged monarch. He wanted to be sure that the man responsible got the worst of the flogging than the other prisoners.

"No, Your Majesty, in fact they seemed surprised when they learned she was stabbed," Cromwell said, a frown creasing his brow. "Of course they could be trying to save one of their own's skin but considering they know that they will be executed anyway, I'm inclined to believe that they truly have no idea who stabbed the Queen."

"Is it possible that we simply haven't caught all the men who were part of this mob?" Henry inquired, hating the thought that the would-be assassin might escape from his just deserts.

"While a few did slip past of guards, using the fleeing crowd as cover, I fear we might not ever know who they are. These men barely knew each other aside from being followers of the late Bishop Fisher," Cromwell explained, his tone apprehensive, fearing the king might blame him. "I will continue to try to track down whoever was behind the attack but I would be a liar if I said I was certain that he will be caught. In the meantime, I believe that it might be better if Queen Anne refrained from walking through the streets anymore."

Henry nodded in agreement before dismissing Cromwell with a wave of his hands. If the traitorous knave was not among the captured prisoners and did escape justice, at least they could protect Anne from any further attacks.

He hoped that at the very least the death of these traitors would make those who wished to harm his wife have second thoughts, knowing it might be them facing the fire if they dared to commit treason.

"Mama, Mama!" Annette and Georgie cried as they ran into the bedchamber, climbing up onto her bed and hugging their mother tightly.

"Be careful, darlings, I'm a little sore," Anne told them softly, grimacing as Annette accidentally pressed against her recently bandaged hip.

"Sorry, Mama," Annette apologized, joining her brother on the other side of their mother.

"We heard that bad men hurt you and Aunt Mary with fire and knives. We were so worried," George explained, his arms around his mother's neck, a dark scowl on his face as he recalled how he and his sister had overheard Lady Hubert telling Lady Bryan what had happened in Surrey. He and Annette had been aghast when they heard both their mother and their aunt had been hurt.

"I apologize, Your Majesty, when Lady Hubert came with the news, I should have made sure that the children were out of earshot," Lady Bryan said, looking rather abashed at her thoughtlessness. She couldn't even scold the children for eavesdropping as she had known that they were there but made the mistake of assuming that she and the other governess were not being too loud.

"It's quite all right, Lady Bryan, you may leave us," Anne commanded, wanting some alone time with her children. Once the governess had left, the auburn-haired queen spoke gently to them, choosing her words carefully, not wanting them to become even more frightened than they already were. "There were some bad men who did attack us but your papa's guards managed to catch them and they will be punished for their crimes." She didn't add that these men had managed to injure eleven innocent bystanders as well as herself, a guard and her sister.

The guard had been hit in the face with one of the burning sticks as he and another guard tried to protect Mary when they had gotten separated from the rest of the group. By the time, they reached the priory for shelter and aide, the poor man was already in great pain and he died hours later before a physician could be summoned.

Another burning stick had landed on Mary's dress but thankfully the heavy fabric had stopped her from being burned too badly although she still had to be drenched in cold water once she arrived at the priory.

As for Anne, she had woken up in the palace where a worried Margery Horseman was dabbing her forehead with a wet cloth. Dr. Linacre arrived and told her that she had been stabbed, thankfully the attacker had not been able to drive the knife in too deep and had not managed to hit her vital organs. Her wound was free of infection and would heal in a matter of days.

After informing her that her sister was alive and well and answering her inquires about the wellbeing of the common folk and her guards, the royal physician told her that it would be best if she stayed in her bed for the next day or two as she had been through a lot both emotionally and physically.

Henry had visited her shortly afterwards, expressing relief that she was well and promising that he would be spending the rest of the day with her after he dealt with those responsible for the horrors of the day.

"Good. I hope they never get a chance to harm you again," Annette said firmly, kissing her mother's cheek.

"I will never let them or anyone else have a chance to hurt any of my family," Henry declared as he strode in the room, having heard his daughter's last sentence and knowing instinctively who she was talking about. He walked over to the bed, ruffling Annette and George's hair before giving his wife a chaste kiss. "Those traitors will receive the proper punishment for their actions, dearest. I have already made arrangements for the families of those who lost their lives to receive money and those who were injured will be put in the best hospital."

"I'm glad," Anne said, hugging both Annette and George to her chest. She pitied the families who had lost their loved ones but she was still thankful that it was not her or her sister who were among the unlucky few.

Mary usually shared her sister's ladies-in-waiting's chamber but for now she was lying in a chamber in the Boleyn's apartments, so she could be cared for by her mother and there would no fellow ladies around, gossiping about how badly she was injured.

"Her upper back and arms will be red and swollen for some time, I would suggest putting this cooling paste on them every hour until her skin is back to the normal color. However I've noticed that there are few places on her skin where the color is almost purple which might be an indicator that she will have some scars," Dr. Linacre explained, hoping that they would take comfort in that fact that she was among the people who got burned and still lived with minor injuries.

"I see. Thank you, Dr. Linacre," Thomas Boleyn said calmly, his tone dismissive, indicating he wanted the royal physician to leave them alone.

The doctor made a shallow bow before leaving the Boleyn apartments, probably off to tell the queen the same thing he had told her family.

Elizabeth Boleyn left to apply the paste to Mary's burns, leaving her son and her husband alone.

"This is all your fault, Father, you know that right?" George snapped, his eyes shooting daggers at his father.

"If you know what's good for you, you will not continue that line of thought," Thomas hissed, glaring at his son.

"Are you threatening me?" George demanded.

"Don't be a fool. I still need you to give me a grandson so my name doesn't die with you," Thomas drawled dryly, letting out a humorless laugh. Had this been any other time, George might have pointed out that his father had plenty of younger brothers, some of them had grown sons who would probably have sons of their own which meant that the Boleyn family name was not in danger.

"If it weren't for you, neither Mary nor Anne would have been attacked," George told him fiercely, struggling to keep his voice low in case anyone could hear him.

"Or they would have," Thomas contradicted. "For all we know Fisher could have incited a mob to attack Anne while she walked through the streets, handing out money, clothes and food to the poor. If she had behaved sensibly and foolishly let herself be so exposed, she would have never been in danger in the first place."

"Anne has been doing going out there for almost a year and Fisher has not been able to incite any sort of violence against her. Then a month after he is poisoned, a mob decides to listen to his nonsense. Fisher's death only inspired these brutes to act on his hateful words and it's all thanks to you," George whispered, loud enough for his father to hear. "Be glad that I care too much to hurt our family by revealing the truth because otherwise, I would inform the king of our little talk."

"You would do that to your own flesh and blood," Thomas demanded.

"Father, if it were me suspected of treason, I have no doubt you would sell me to the devil himself if it would save your reputation," George spat, his lip curled in disgust before he spun around and walked away.

Thomas Boleyn sighed. He knew his son was right but there was little he could do about it. After all, if he were to come clean now, it would only harm his daughter's reputation as the people would either think he was covering for her or she had to have known of his plans.

He was just glad that God had not chosen to punish him by letting his daughters die.

Meanwhile, the Spanish ambassador had traveled with the rest of the court to Oatlands Palace and was now using a secret chamber to discuss the day's events with his co-conspirator.

"What were you thinking!" Ambassador Eustace Chapuys demanded. "You could have been caught."

It was bad enough that the mob had managed to only harm five members of the whore's entourage and the one who died was an innocent guard instead of the Boleyn witch herself.

Had anyone recognized Brereton as the man who stabbed the false queen or worse if one of the men in the mob had learned the identity of the man who had convinced them that they would be doing God's work if they attacked Anne Boleyn, Chapuys had no doubt that Brereton would have been tortured until he named Chapuys as his partner in crime which would mean his downfall. And even though neither the Pope, the Emperor nor Katherine of Aragon knew or even hinted that they wanted Chapuys to try and kill the whore, he knew that their enemies would waste know time planting seeds of doubt in the King of England's mind.

"She was getting away, I had to do something," Brereton protested, remembering how angry he had been when it looked like the whore had gotten into her carriage and it looked as though she was about escape unscathed.

When she left the safety of her carriage, managing to run past her guards and into the hectic crowd, the groomsman thought this was God's way of giving him a chance to kill her. He knew that he had only one shot and he prayed that his dagger would strike her kidney and that by the time, she got medical attention she would already have lost too much blood.

As much as he wished that he could have slit her throat or at least stabbed her twice, he knew that if he did so, the guards would see him and capture him. While he would gladly die a martyr's death, having saved England from that vile witch, he was aware that if he was caught, it was entirely possible that her family might convince the red-haired monarch that Brereton and Chapuys were working under the orders of Queen Katherine and her daughter.

Unfortunately the groomsman learned that his knife had barely wounded the King's concubine and after leaving the Spanish Ambassador, he would go to the chapel and beg God for forgiveness for failing Him and England.

"I know I failed this time but I swear that next time, I will be successful, I will kill her," Brereton swore, his eyes gleaming with determination and hatred.

"You must be more subtle next time. In fact perhaps she should die the same way she killed poor Bishop Fisher," Chapuys suggested.

"Yes and perhaps I will kill her bastards in the same way," Brereton agreed, causing Chapuys to look startled. "She is Satan's mistress and they are Satan's spawn. They must die also or else her evil will forever poison England's mind against the true Queen and the true Princess of Wales."

The Spaniard hesitated, realizing that his conspirator had a point. Although he was loath to harm children, as long as they lived, they would be in between Princess Mary and the throne of England.

However, it was entirely possible that with the right guidance from Queen Katherine or if King Henry instead on calling her his brother's wife, a Catholic stepmother, Prince George would become a good Catholic monarch.

"No. Anne Boleyn is the one who needs to die not her children," he said firmly.

William Brereton did not argue but Chapuys could tell that he did not agree. He couldn't help but shudder once Brereton had left the room.

While he knew that if he felt it was absolutely necessary, Chapuys would agree that Boleyn's brats should die but he never would be so eager to want them dead.

May 1 1532

They would be leaving on progress to London in less than a fortnight but for today, they decided to put what had happened on that dreadful day in March behind them and celebrate Mayday.

"Anne, I don't know what to do, there are two beautiful ladies begging for my favor and I don't know who to choose," George complained in a stage-whisper.

"You could wear both of our favors, Papa," Marian suggested, giving her father a sweet smile, showing off her dimples.

"Then Uncle George will have two ribbons on his lance and it will look silly compared to the other knights," Cathy pointed out, she looked a little sad as she realized that there would be no one to wear her favor or her mother's.

"I have an idea, why don't we give you one ribbon and you can still win the tournament for the both of us," Janey suggested, giving her father a kiss on the cheek.

"A splendid idea, my dear sweet girls," George laughed, pinching both of his daughters' cheeks before expecting the ribbon, Marian tied around his lance. Then he went off to put on his armor as he would be competing next.

Anne searched the stands for Mary, wondering what could be keeping her. While the queen had been out and about, two days after her ordeal, determined to show that she was not cowed by someone trying to hurt her, it had taken Mary a little longer to heal from the emotional scars of watching a man die from his burns especially when the dark red marks on her back reminded her of what had happened.

After a few minutes of scanning the crowds, Anne saw her oldest sister talking a man wearing Henry's livery. She recognized him as one of the King's guards who usually accompanied them when they went into town, distributing food and clothes to poor personally.

Her sister soon finished talking to him and joined the Boleyn family in the royal box.

"Who was that?" Anne asked, keeping her voice low so their father would not hear and suspect that something untoward was going on.

"Who?" Mary questioned before realizing what her sister meant. "Oh that was William Stafford, he was the other guard who was with me when we got separated. I hadn't seen him since we were brought back to the castle so I would to express my condolences for his friend and thank him for trying to protect me."

It might have been Anne's imagination but she could swear that her sister's nonchalant words did not match her slightly flustered expression.

Before she could question her sister further, Henry rode up to her.

"My queen, I require something of yours," he told her playfully.

"Oh? Are you sure you do not want the favor of another lovely lady?" Anne inquired, nodding her head towards their daughter.

"May I, Papa?" Annette asked excitedly, not noticing the envy on her older cousin's face.

"How can I refuse you, my sweet girl. A knight can never refuse the request of a fair maiden," Henry declared, winking at his son who looked quite excited to be at his first joust.

Annette tied her handkerchief around her father's lance and clapped delightedly as he rode off to start the joust.

"Do you think your husband will wear your favor when you are during your visit to France, Annette?" Marian asked, sounding slightly envious. Despite being a few months older than Georgie, she and her sister were to stay behind in England while their cousins were going to be in France except for baby Ned.

"They're not married yet, silly," Janey giggled, finding it funny that her sister would think that Annette was already married despite her young age.

"I knew that, I just said the wrong word," Marian protested, sticking her tongue out at her sister.

"The dauphin is too young to joust, sweetheart," Anne explained gently, not wanting her nieces to get into a fight.

"I can't wait until I'm old enough. Then I'll be a knight just like Papa," Georgie declared, beaming as he watched his father win a match against another knight.

"I know you will," Anne whispered, stroking her son's hair, affection in her eyes. She just hoped he would be a good king and a good husband as well.

May 18 1532

On the journey to London, the royal family shared a carriage as they traveled down the roads. The events in Surrey weighed heavily in both Henry and Anne's minds and they did not allow their eager children to stick their heads out and wave at the cheering crowds.

But at the last nobleman's estates they were visiting, Henry decided that he wanted to show his family off when they entered the city of London until they reached Westminster Palace.

He decided that Annette, Edward and Anne would share a litter while he rode on horseback in front of them with Georgie in his arms. He hoped that the sight of the Prince of Wales, Duke of York and the Princess would remind his subjects of the three healthy heirs Anne had given England in just five years of being queen.

Anne was a little worried about having her children be so exposed but she knew that the guards surrounding the litter and Henry, would gladly take whatever a treasonous scoundrel decided to throw at them.

Luckily her fears proved to be groundless as the royal procession were greeted by nothing but smiling faces, cheering and shouting well wishes to them.

Anne held Ned on her lap, waving the toddler's hand for him. Princess Annette was practically bouncing up and down in her seat, throwing kisses to the people in the crowd, loving the attention she was receiving.

In front of them, the three-year-old Prince of Wales had seemed a little nervous when his father decided he was to ride the horse, which looked massive to the young boy, even though he knew his father would keep him safe.

Now Georgie seemed to be enjoying riding even pleading with his father to get the horse to gallop instead of simply trotting.

"If we did that we might trample the men in front," Henry told him before adding coyly: "But perhaps tomorrow after my meetings, we can have riding lesson just you and me. Would you like that?"

"I would, Papa," Georgie said excitedly, his eyes shining.

Henry smiled down at his son, pleased at the thought of teaching Georgie riding himself instead of leaving it to George's tutors like his father would have.

"God save our long hoped for Prince of Wales!" someone cried, their voice managing to be heard over the din of the crowd.

George waved to the crowd with a little less flair than his sister but no less enthusiastically.

"Papa, what does long-hoped for mean?" the little prince inquired, faintly remembering when he and Annette were brought to see Ned when he was just born, he had heard a lady-in-waiting say that after many years of an empty royal nursery, England finally had the heir and spare it had needed for so long.

"It means that your future subjects are very happy to have you," Henry replied, his tone affectionate. He hoped that answer would satisfy him because he really did not want to have to explain to a three-year-old about the Great Matter and how before him, everyone was afraid that there would be another civil war.

"Why? I'm not special," George said, his brow furrowed in confused and he sounded bewildered rather than modest or meek.

"On the contrary, you are a Tudor prince and more importantly my son which makes you very special," Henry contradicted, using the arm he had around George for protection to pull the boy closer.

"I'm Mama's son too," George pointed out, unwilling to let even his father forget that his mother was special as well.

Henry chuckled, turning his head slightly so he could glance back at Anne whose smile made her look even more radiant.

A decade ago, Katherine and he were still reeling from the death of their Prince Hal. Now his new queen had given him a Duke of York a few months after the ten-year anniversary of the death of his firstborn son.

Although some people might continue to demean and slander Anne, no one could dispute that she had given England two princes, saving the Tudor dynasty from dying out after only two generations of kings.

"That is true, my boy," Henry agreed, kissing the top of his red hair.

As the royal procession continued their journey, Henry thoughts drifted to the horrible events in Surrey.

The traitors had been reviled in the streets with people calling them wicked men, booing them as they claimed to be avenging the Bishop Fisher who had surely been killed by the Boleyn's orders.

Although they still had not located the man who stabbed Anne, Henry prayed that this would be last of the violent acts towards his wife. The man who shot her had missed and the man who stabbed her had not managed to kill her. But what if she wasn't so lucky a third time?

Henry shook his head, unwilling to let such horrible thoughts mar this lovely day.

May 23 1532

Thomas More had deemed it best to wait until the court had settled in Westminster before going to the King with his resignation. He was glad that the king seemed to be in a good mood when the herald announced his name.

"Sir Thomas, have you come to welcome me home," Henry greeted him with a pat on the shoulder, bidding him to rise from his bow.

"While I am most willing to do so, I have sought an audience with you for less happier matter, Your Majesty," Thomas said, keeping his tone carefully neutral.

"Say on."

"Your Majesty, I come to offer my resignation from my post as chancellor. I ask Your Majesty to allow me to withdraw from public life so that I may spend what time remains to me provisioning my soul, and in the service of God," Thomas began, holding out velvet bag for the king to see. "In this bag I carry the great seal of my office which I find now too heavy to hold."

"I discharge you, most willingly. In everything you have done for me, Sir Thomas, you have always been good and gracious both in private and in public affairs," Henry told him with a polite nod of his head. He did not mention that he had been thinking of sacking More anyway, only to be convinced by Anne to wait a few months. He had to admit that there was a part of him that was relived that his old friend was resigning and therefore saving himself the humiliation of being fired and banished from court.

"Majesty, I promise on my honor that I will never speak publicly of the changes you are making to the church. But now, in private I must confess to you, as someone who once enjoyed Your Majesty's confidence and friendship, my deepest belief that the people you view as your closest friends are leading you down a dark path into heresy. I beg of you to stop now and rid England of all of Lutheran's followers and ideals," Thomas implored him earnestly. "There. I've said it. Now my lips are forever sealed."

"Thomas, I will hold you to that promise," Henry informed him gruffly, clearly not moved by his old friend and tutor's words.

Sir Thomas More bowed and walked backs out of the room, his heart was heavy. He knew that great change was coming to England and he feared that soon King Henry would start cleaving his bounds to the Catholic Church one by one.

But there was nothing he could do. He could only prayer for Henry's soul and pray that it would not be as bad as he feared it would be.

God help them all.

August 31 1532

William Warham, the Archbishop of Canterbury was dead and Anne didn't need her father to tell her why this was a good thing.

For the past four years, they had slowly been turning the King towards reformation, pointing out the abuses of the monasteries, even pointing out that men like Fisher were using their positions as God's messengers to further their own agenda.

However, as much as Anne, Cromwell, and Thomas Boleyn were loathed to admit it, they all knew that they could not speak out against the Pope, at least not yet. After all, the reason why France was so eager to arrange English matches for two of his children-aside from it angering the Holy Roman Emperor- is because the prince and princess of England were accepted by the bishop of Rome.

Not to mention, if King Henry had separated from Rome during the early years of their marriage, Anne was sure that Pope Clement would have withdrawn his decision and the people of England would have cleaved to Katherine and Mary's side within seconds especially if Warham, a friend of the Pope's, spoke out against Anne.

Now that he was dead, Henry had sent a letter to Pope Clement, requesting that Thomas Cranmer be made the new Archbishop of Canterbury, recognizing him as a supporter and friend of Anne and a man with a strong grasp on theology.

Slowly but surely England was getting rid of the dogs that licked the feet of the Bishop of Rome and replacing them with good men who saw the abuses done by the clergy and were turning their eyes towards reform.

Anne wasn't sure when she began discussing the matter of Luther with Henry but one day she found herself showing him her copy of The Obedience of a Christian Man. To her delight, he was instantly enthralled by it.

"Listen to this, Anne, it says here: 'This belief that pope and clergy possess separate power and authority is contrary to scripture. The king is the representative of God on Earth and his law is God's law. The ruler is accountable to God alone and the obedience of his subjects is an obedience required by God. For the Church and the pope to rule the princes of Europe is not only a shame above all shames but an inversion of the divine order. One king and one law in God's name in every realm,'" Henry recited, growing more animated with each sentence he read. "This book is a book for me, and for all kings. And to think that this is forbidden."

In truth, Henry realized that this had not been the first time he had made such a hasty conclusion. While he did not agree with Luther about everything he wrote, he could see why the man had come to those conclusions about the corruptness of the Catholic Church.

It may have worked out splendidly but Henry was not so blind to realize that his request for an annulment had been granted far too quickly. He would have loved to believe that Clement had seen the justness of his case but he was rational enough to realize that had Emperor Charles actually managed to sack Rome and make the Pope his prisoner or if he never quarreled with the Pope in the first place, Clement might have been more inclined to side with Katherine in order to appease her powerful nephew.

"Well I believe that Wolsey and More viewed the book as dangerous and they wished to hide this one and other books like it detailing the abuses of the clergy from you," Anne pointed out, as she moved closer to the fire, feeling a bit chilly. "If they weren't so closed minded, they might have realized that there is nothing dangerous about these books."

Her husband nodded, his expression dark. "You know two years ago, Cranmer mentioned that because kings are set above the law and are answerable to God alone, who anointed them, my Great Matter was never a legal matter but a theological one," Henry said, closing the book, a thoughtful look on his face. "He said that if I had chosen to canvass the opinion of theologians at colleges around Europe, they would have most certainly found in my favor. I suppose that is an option we should keep in mind for later."

Anne grimaced, knowing what her husband was alluding to. There were rumors that Pope Clement was growing ill and might not live for another year. If Cromwell's spies could be trusted, the Emperor was already bribing cardinals to elect his candidate to be the next Pope.

"Surely they cannot be so stupid to annul our marriage. That will only make the Catholic Church seem as corrupt as Luther is saying it is," Anne remarked. Although a part of her knew that if this new Pope did state that his predecessor was wrong and that Katherine and Henry's marriage was in fact valid it would give them a perfect excuse to separate from Rome, she couldn't fathom the church worsening their credibility like that by changing their minds a third time.

"Unfortunately even without the Emperor's prodding Clement's successor might not feel he has a choice. There have been Catholic and Lutherans alike condemning Clement's decision, even comparing him to Pope Alexander VI," Henry informed her with a frown. "They believe that the only reason he has annulled my marriage to Katherine is because the Emperor attacked Rome and I helped defeat him. The worst part is I agree with them."

"Oh? Do you regret that he did so?" Anne could not help but tease her husband with a coy smile.

"Knowing that it would have taken longer to marry you and I would not have my Annette and George, I must admit that I am pleased that the Pope chose to spite the Emperor in this way," Henry agreed, grinning at Anne as he gestured with the book. "Although I am quite intrigued with the idea of being the supreme head of the church, I suppose I will pretend to be under Pope Clement's thumb for a little while longer. After all, you have taught me that good things come to those who wait."

With that said, he tossed the book aside and pounced on Anne, kissing her lips passionately. His wife shook off her cloak, no longer feeling cold even though her husband was stripping away her layers.

Miles away at Auckland Castle, Mary had just received a letter from court, an invitation to go with Henry, Anne, George and Annette when they made a state visit to France this Christmastide.

Although, the trip to France had already been decided upon months ago, it had taken a while for the two royal families to agree when they would go meet each other. To her father's credit, he had already hinted that he hoped she would come when he had first told her of his and Anne's plans. Mary supposed that he was only sending her a letter because she was not at court and so he thought to make a formal invitation.

"If I went, I would get to see my cousin Eleanor," Mary pointed out as she discussed the matter with her mother over dinner.

"Sweetheart, you know that I'm fine with you going to France especially when I know that your father and your siblings will love to have you there with them," Katherine assured her, thinking that Anne would probably not object but she might take umbrage if the French Queen chose to spend time with Mary instead of her and her children. A slight that might not be so imagined. "However, I fear that my niece might cause trouble believing she is helping us by being rude to Anne."

Mary frowned, not quite understanding where her mother was going with this. "What trouble do you mean, Mother?"

"Of the top of my head, she might ask you to dine privately with her, be more eager to talk to you than with anyone else, drop hints that you might be a better match for the Dauphin. She might not even do it to help us but to sabotage the French-Angelo alliance," Katherine explained.

"Do you really think a born and raised woman of royalty would act like so unseemly?" Mary inquired, slightly bemused. She would expect that sort of behavior from Anne whose bouts of temper were as legendary as her father's but not from a true queen especially one related to her composed and pious mother.

"No but I would rather be safe than sorry. I don't want Anne or Henry to blame you if things go wrong," Katherine said, her eyes downcast as inwardly kicked herself for speaking so brazenly to her daughter. Perhaps she was worrying needlessly or perhaps she was unconsciously trying to stop Mary from leaving her side. "Forgive me, sweetheart, these are just the worst-case scenarios and I don't want you to miss out spending time with your father."

"There will be other times for that, Mama," Mary told her gently. "Besides, perhaps we can go spend time with Ned while his parents and siblings are gone."

With Hal Fitzroy joining his father, stepmother and half-siblings on the trip to France, it would only be the baby Duke of York in England.

"All right, if you are absolutely sure that's what you want to do. I don't want you to stay because you fear I will be upset if you don't," Katherine murmured, remembering how Henry had once accused her of poisoning their daughter against him. While his statement was largely untrue, the Spanish Princess could not deny that there were times when she could tell that her beloved daughter made her decisions based on how she thought her mother would react.

"I'd rather stay here with you."

Chapter Text

December 24 1532


“Behave like a French Queen not like a Spanish bitch,” King Francis had whispered in her ear as he led her outside onto the snow-covered lawn.  


Queen Eleanor wanted to roll her eyes at him or slap him for that comment which she had no doubt was only said to upset her. Her husband enjoyed getting raise out of people especially her. He had to know that she was trained to keep her true emotions masked and would not treat Anne Boleyn like the concubine she was. He was baiting her, perhaps this was his passive aggressive way of reminding her that despite being the Emperor’s sister, she still had to act like a meek and obedient wife.  


Of course the fact that her sister-in-law and husband seemed so eager to see the English King’s concubine did not help her growing irritation. Not to mention that the entire French court seemed to be making such a spectacle to welcome King Henry, his whore and their two bastards to England was nothing short of shameful. Did none of them have any respect for the great Katherine of Aragon who had lost so much thanks to the Boleyn witch.


The royal English ship, Mary Rose, had already landed on the French shores and a sentry had spotted several carriages coming up on the road to the palace where the English men and women would meet their French counterparts as they began the celebrations.


King Henry and Queen Anne stepped out of their carriage, they were wearing their finest furs and they had bright and cheery expressions as their feet crunched on the snow. Their two children jumped out of the carriage, looking as though they wanted to run out in the snow and play but their mother caught both of them by their hands before they could, saying something that caused their father to laugh.


“Brother, welcome to our fair shores,” Francis greeted Henry, kissing both of his cheeks. “I am happy to see you again as I am to see your beautiful wife, Queen Anne.” With that, he kissed Anne’s cheeks as well.


“It is good to see you as well,” Henry said amicably, pleased by Francis calling his wife Queen Anne, a reminder that despite the Emperor’s best efforts, the French King knew what was right and just.  “May I introduce my children to you?”


“Of course.”

“My son, Prince George of Wales, Duke of Cornwell and Earl of Chester and my lovely daughter, Princess Annette.”

The four-year-old Prince George had golden-red hair and looked exactly like his father. He seemed a bit shy, not liking the fact that he was the center of attention but he bowed when his father brought him forward, keeping his eyes low and greeted King Francis politely.


Princess Annette (since she was to be a French Queen using her French-sounding nickname was apt) looked just as much like her mother as her brother looked like their father. She was clearly more outgoing, smiling as she curtsied not even having to be prompted to do so and greeted King Francis with girlish delight. She looked past the king to observe the French children, obviously trying to guess which of the three princes was her groom-to-be.


“Delightful and handsome children. Speaking of which, allow me to introduce my children. First, my dear Princess Annette, this my son the Dupain Prince Francis, Duke of Brittany,” Francis began, beckoning over a tall fourteen-year-old boy with a pale complexion. At once Anette straightened curtsying when she saw him, looking pleased that she would be marrying such a dashing prince. Francis bowed to her and kissed her hand, making her giggle before stepping back to his siblings. “Prince Henri Duke of Orléans, Prince Charles Duke of Angoulême, Princess Madeline and my youngest daughter, Princess Marguerite.” 


Nine-year-old Princess Marguerite stepped forward and curtsied to George who finally looked up and managed to smile at her before realizing that everyone was watching and quickly continued to avoid everyone’s eyes.


“They are a handsome bunch,” Henry complimented, clapping his son on the shoulder. 


“Lastly but no less important, I would like to introduce my wife Eleanor of Austria and you both know my sister Queen Marguerite of Navarre,” King Francis introduced. “Shall we go inside before we freeze to death?” he suggested after pleasantries had been exchanged.  


“Is it cold? I hadn’t noticed,” Henry jested as they walked into the place.


Francis laughed boisterously.


“Glad to see you haven’t changed a bit,” he declared, smiling widely.  Behind the two kings, Marguerite and Anne chatted in French about mundane topics.


Once inside the two parties separated to give the English time to settle in before the banquet started.


Eleanor dutifully followed Francis, giving him a rather annoyed look. 


“I didn’t see your English mare among the courtiers. Perhaps they left her at home for another rider,” Eleanor sneered coldly.   


“You were doing so well,” Francis said with a sigh. “But you just can’t help yourself by being vicious.”

“Oh? Says the person who called her his English mare in the first place,” Eleanor pointed out, feeling an ounce of sympathy for the poor girl who was publicly mocked by her lover. “And something tells me history might repeat in more ways than one after all neither you nor the English king will ever grow up.”


Francis chuckled, actually amused by his wife’s gall.


“Someday I might actually curb your tongue,” he warned her, an edge of desire in his voice.


“No you won’t. You’d hate to actually treat me like a wife as my cousin forced you to marry me,” Eleanor stated, smiling coyly.


“And yet there are some days where I am tempted to do so,” Francis said with a smirk before turning around and walking to his chambers, his groomsmen following close behind.


Eleanor shook her head in exasperation before going to her rooms, her ladies trailing behind her, discussing Queen Anne and how her appearance had not been what was predicated. 


In a few hours she would have to play nice with the Great Prostitute of Europe. She might not like Anne or Henry for that matter but she loved her stepchildren and she would never ruin their marriages even if she thought they could do much better than two bastards.


For now, she couldn’t help but enjoy listening to her ladies discuss whether or not Anne Boleyn really had a sixth finger or moles hidden on her body.





The banquet went off without a hitch with the two courts enjoying themselves with both the food and the entertainment. Francis and Henry seemed to behave themselves, only throwing light-hearted barbs at each other every so often.


Soon the tables were cleared for dancing. The fourteen-year-old Dauphin did not look happy to be dancing with his young fiancée especially when she had to stand on his shoes. Prince George looked terrified as his mother pushed him over to Princess Marguerite.


“Would you like to dance with me?” George asked while his mother translated his request in French.


“I would love to,” Marguerite replied in English causing George’s eyes to light up in delight either at the fact that she sounded so excited or that she had learned English meaning he could speak to her more easily.


Although he was a little clumsy, he still led Marguerite out with all the graciousness of a gentleman. Marguerite did not even seem to notice her dance partner’s nerves and talked energetically with him. Her jovial demeanor was infectious and soon George was much more relaxed and mirroring the smile on the older girl’s face.


“Oh, aren’t they just adorable?” the Queen of Navarre gushed, smiling at her niece who unlike her nephew clearly adored the company of her young betrothed. “I know they are far too young for anything other than friendship but I can’t help but think the seeds of romance have been planted.”


She and Anne giggled at thought of the two children growing up and being madly in love even before the French princess arrived in England. While many believed that romance had no place in arranged marriage, it still would make for a wonderful love story to be told to future generations.


“Well it wouldn’t be the first time, romance happened because of a dance. Henry and I were attracted to each other from the moment our eyes met during a masquerade,” Anne reminisced dreamily.


Although, she certainly had not fallen in love with Henry as fast as he had with her, she couldn’t help but remember how fast her heart had pounded when the red-haired masked man had declared her his prisoner.


There was some irony that the whole reason the fateful masquerade that brought the two of them together was being performed in the first place for the ambassadors of Katherine of Aragon’s nephew.


Queen Eleanor frowned, thinking how her poor aunt could never have predicted that instead of the masquerade being the start of the marriage agreement between Emperor Charles and the Princess Mary, it was the start of the so-called Great Matter where she would be unfairly downgraded to the title of Princess of Wales, forced to pretend that her title belonged to another woman: her own lady-in-waiting who was inferior to her in every way.


“He may be too young for romance but like his father before him, he has fallen for a lady a few years older than him and I have no doubt that no woman will come close to living up to her,” Eleanor remarked, making a thinly veiled reference to Henry falling in love with Katherine of Aragon when he was only the eleven-year-old Duke of York.


Anne’s smile became strained as she could guess her French counterpart’s meaning and she gripped her glass of wine tightly, trying not to lose her temper and make a scene at the banquet, shaming her children as well as her husband and the rest of the English court.


“Well I can only hope that he and the Princess Marguerite will be as happy and blessed as his father and I are,” Anne said sweetly. “I must say Your Majesty, King Francis seems to be an excellent dancer.”


“Yes, I suppose he is,” Eleanor muttered dryly, glancing over at Francis who was dancing with his mistress. “Men like our husbands seem to enjoy entertaining lovely ladies. Not that we can complain as it is their right to take mistresses whenever they feel the urge to do so. My husband was so infatuated with his previous mistress for a number of years but eventually he tired of her and moved on to another. As I recall your husband has done the same with women like Elizabeth Blount.”


“Eleanor, that’s enough,” Marguerite of Navarre hissed, knowing full well where her sister-in-law was going with that statement.


“What? I’m not telling her anything she doesn’t know,” Eleanor said innocently. 


“She is quite right, Marguerite, I do know that. Thankfully, my husband prefers my company as he has for the past eight years,” Anne pointed out, her words sickly-sweet. “And I’m sure my son will be just as devoted to his wife.” 


Feeling quite awkward and slightly worried that a fight was about to break out between the two queens, Marguerite quickly intervened, choosing a lighter topic that she knew Eleanor would have no interest in.


They chatted for several minutes before King Henry decided that it was high time for another dance with his wife. 


“Forgive me for not being able to keep my eyes on you but I can’t help but look at our daughter. I can’t believe how much she is growing to be a fine princess. God willing she’ll be a future queen,” Henry laughed as he twirled Anne around so she could catch sigh of their daughter.


“It is quite all right considering I am constantly thinking of both our sons,” Anne said with a loving smile, thinking of Ed who was all alone in England, not that the one-year-old would even notice.


“I can only hope that soon Edward will have a little brother of his own,” Henry remarked. He could picture it now: Prince George, Prince Edward and Prince Henry, the three sons of Tudors. Unlike the three sons of York, they would never lose their brotherly bounds.

“And what if the next baby we have is a girl?” Anne asked, keeping her tone casual with only the slightest edge in her voice.


“Then we shall have a Princess Elizabeth who will equal her mother and sister in beauty and grace,” Henry assured her. After all, he had his heir and spare, another healthy princess was just as good as having three princes.

God had blessed them so much in the past six years, how could a second daughter be anything else but a blessing?

Anne beamed at him, pleased by his answer.

Queen Eleanor was not the first person to hint that Henry would tire of her and there were times when Anne feared that would be the case. But she knew her husband well enough to understand that it wasn’t simply a matter of becoming bored of her.


As long as Anne was the mother of the three healthy children--- God willing she would have more than three--- Henry would never turn away from her.  Furthermore, he had often credited her with saving him from the sweating sickness.


Even if she only had daughters and no more sons, Henry would never be angry at her for she had given him his heir and his spare. No matter what her enemies thought, Anne had no cause to worry for her future was secure: as Queen and as keeper of the King’s heart.


December 31 1533


With the King and Queen gone to France with a few favored courtiers and servants, the Christmastide celebrations were rather subdued and there were only a few nobles at Whitehall Palace.


George strode through the nearly empty corridors coming to a stop when he saw a familiar face. 


“Andrew, I haven’t seen you since the day Cromwell stole you away from my household. How are you doing, lad?” George exclaimed, clapping the fifteen-year-old boy on the back, ignoring the stares he got from the servants who were unaware of the remarkable circumstances that brought the orphan to his household in the first place.


“Quite well, Your Grace,” Andrew said, smiling bashfully. Four years had passed since he had left the orphanage and while he could hardly be called invisible---just last month Prince George had sought him out to thank him for his favorite toy---he had assumed that once he transferred to being a ward under Master Cromwell’s tutorage, he would be treated as though he was just another lowly clerk, unworthy the time of a son of a duke let alone a queen. God knows enough people called him the Queen’s pet and refused to believe that he had actually had any merits of his own aside from the Boleyns’ favor. “I hope you are having a happy Christmas.”


“I am. I was just on my way to see my darling daughters and I must not delay but here, some coins to buy you and your friends some drinks to keep you warm,” George said with a wink, taking out a few crowns and pressing them into Andrew’s hand before walking away before the flustered boy could stammer a thank you.


The Earl of Ormond’s mood only got better when he heard the laughter of his daughters coming from their bedchambers.


“Papa!” Janey and Marian exclaimed, rushing towards him as he kneeled down, his arms outstretched so they could run into his warm embrace.

“I’m sorry that I’ve been gone so long, my sweet girls but I promised your aunt that I’d go check on Eddie,” George apologized again. He had to admit that it annoyed him that Anne insisted that he check on her son when surely she knew that the toddler had an entire household to look after him. But he supposed being so far away from her youngest child, Anne felt surer of the Duke of York’s continued health if the report came from his own uncle. “He sends his love and wishes you both a happy Christmas.”


“I hope you wished him the same from us,” Janey said with all the seriousness of someone older than four.


“Of course I did,” George replied with mock-offense on his face. “He’s not the only one who wished you a happy Christmas. Anna wanted me to wish you a happy Christmas as well and I’ve told her how much you enjoyed her presents.” Janey and Marian exchanged nervous glances. Their father had sat them down weeks ago, explaining that by next year, they would be getting a new stepmother: Anna of Cleves. They were excited upon learning of the news; as much as they loved their governess, grandmother and aunts, having a mother would be rather nice. However now they seamed weary and almost worried. “What’s wrong, my little doves?”


“It’s nothing, Papa,” Janey deflected, looking down at her feet as she often did whenever she told fibs.


“Will we still be your little doves when the new baby comes?” Marian blurted out, ignoring the stern look her sister threw her. Her bottom lip was quivering and it looked as though she might burst into tears.


“Of course you will. Who told you differently?” George demanded, struggling to control his temper.


Thomas Boleyn had made it abundantly clear that he wanted a grandson and while George wouldn’t mind having a son (who would not have the name Thomas), he would never love his daughters any less.

If the Duke of Wiltshire had been heartless to stress the importance of having a grandson in front of his granddaughters, making them feel worthless, George would find a way to make his father pay for his cruelty.


“Hal said that you didn’t like us when we were born because our brothers and Mother died around the same time,” Janey explained, putting an arm around Marian who still looked to be at the verge of tears. After learning that they were getting a new mother, the Boleyn sisters had wondered what had happened to their old one and after getting no straight answer from the adults they asked, they went to their older cousins. While Cathy had been diplomatic when telling them the truth, the Baron of Hudson had let it slip that their father had avoided them for weeks after their birth until their Aunt Anne had intervened. 


“He said that?!” George exclaimed furiously before calming down, realizing it was not in the nature of his six-year-old nephew to be so unkind. Obviously neither Henry nor Catherine were old enough to understand what was happening four years ago and they must have gotten their information second hand. “Girls, what exactly did your cousins tell you?”


“Mama went into labor when everyone was really sick and she was giving birth to four babies. We lived but our brothers and Mama didn’t. You were so devastated that you didn’t want to even look at us,” Janey recalled then she asked in a small voice: “Did you blame us, Papa?”


George stared at them before bringing them back into his embrace, inwardly scolding himself for his previous actions. To think he was just fearing that his father had upset Janey and Marian when in truth, it was his own cruelty that troubled them.


“No, my darlings, never. You must understand that I lost three people in a very short period of time. I was afraid that I would lose you too so I kept away, thinking that my absence would protect you,” George murmured, embellishing just a little. He didn’t want to voice that he had actually stayed away because he thought if he didn’t see them, he wouldn’t be so sad if they died least that tempted fate. “But once I held you in my arms, I knew that I could never let you go.”


Her brother was not pleased when the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk had declined his invitation to accompany him to France. Luckily Mary was ill enough of the times that he believed Charles when he used it as an excuse to stay in England.


Oddly her illness did not stop the Brandons and their children from spending Christmastide at Auckland Castle with Katherine and Mary.


While Mary spent time with her cousin and Charles busied himself writing letters to friends and family, Katherine and the Duchess of Suffolk decided to catch up.


“I still can’t believe he chose Norfolk over you to be regent,” Mary grumbled as she sipped her wine. She didn’t remember how the conversation turned to the Howards but she was not about to stop grousing and venting her displease. “As if the concubine’s dratted relatives don’t have enough power as it is.”


“Oh come now, Mary, you know that Norfolk has been regent before,” Katherine pointed out. Of course she had been in France with Henry during that time but her point still stood that Norfolk being regent wasn’t out of the ordinary. Perhaps it was less about Thomas Howard and more about Mary’s husband not being chosen as regent.


“It’s not that by itself, Katherine. George Boleyn is marrying the daughter of the Duke of Cleves, Norfolk’s daughter is to be wed to Hal Fitzroy and from what I hear, Norfolk’s younger brother is trying to court Margaret’s daughter. Not to mention recently, Wiltshire approached my husband about a match between one of his granddaughters and my Henry,” Mary explained, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “What if they try marrying Mary off to a Howard as well? That way they can tie all those of Tudor blood to their insipid family.”


None of her children would marry the Boleyns’ brood if she could help it. Unfortunately, she was certain that if she and her husband flat out refused, Wiltshire might go to the King and Henry would probably be thrilled that his nephew, godson and namesake would be marrying one of his wife’s nieces and he would insist that such a match happened.

Mary hoped she would not live long enough to see it if that was the case.


“Henry has said that he will find a royal husband for Mary,” Katherine said firmly. Besides she was sure that Thomas Boleyn and Thomas Howard were more interested in their daughters being duchesses than truly caring that they were tied by blood to the Tudors especially when they would be the grandfather and great-uncle, respectfully, of the next king. “She is a princess and therefore he would never marry her to someone below her status.”

“Well unfortunately, I’m not so sure I trust my brother’s promises,” Mary scoffed, anger flashing in her eyes as she recalled the promises he had broken not only to her but also to Katherine.


While King Henry did love his daughter, he still had placed her behind her younger sister in the line of succession at Anne’s request. With two sons in the nursery, Mary could guess that Anne could request that her stepdaughter be married to one of her Boleyn cousins who didn’t even have a knighthood and Henry would agree to it especially if he thought people where still championing Mary over his sons.


“Your concern for your niece is touching but perhaps we should not mar your visit with talk about the Boleyns and the Howards,” Katherine suggested piously. 


“Forgive me, sister, but sometimes I feel that because I know you have already forgiven them, I should be angry at them for you,” Mary told her with a sigh, reaching over to pat her arm.



February 8 1533


Princess Annette had been so happy that she got to celebrate her birthday at the French court. They hadn’t intended to stay so long afterwards but there had been a snowstorm and her parents had not wanted to take the chance that the ship they sailed back to England would get destroyed by another storm. 


So they waited until the weather was far more pleasant to set sail for home. Francis had bidden her goodbye politely, kissing her hand graciously. Despite this, Annette knew he only saw her as a child but she hoped that when she was older, he would look at her much like her father looked at her mother.


For now, she was just happy to have gotten her first taste of the French court.


“To think in eight years, we’ll be in Calais again but I won’t be going back to England afterwards. Instead I’ll be the French Dauphine,” Annette gushed, before turning to her brother. “And Princess Marguerite will be your wife.”

Georgie grinned at the thought of his upcoming wedding to the pretty princess who would be eighteen by then. Unlike Francis, who was ten years older than his bride-to-be, she had never made Georgie feel like a child and had promised to write to him if he would write to her. She was nice to be around. There was just something about her that made him feel both intimidated and yet oddly peaceful when he spoke to her.


“Eight years is a long time, Nettie, are you sure you can wait that long?” Georgie teased his sister, hoping she had not seen his slightly colored cheeks in the dim candlelight.


“I’m going to be a queen, Georgie, I’ll wait for as long as it takes,” Annette declared, her eyes lighting up.


“Will you still come visit me when you are Queen of France?” George asked, not wanting his beloved sister who was partially his twin to gone forever.

“Of course I will, George, I’m sure Francis would like to see his sister from time to time,” Annette guessed. She already had a clear picture in her mind of marrying Francis and being queen but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t want to visit her brother or have him visit her.


Before George could say anything else, their governesses came in.


“All right, you two, it’s time for bed,” Lady Bryan announced sternly, extending her hand for George to take so she could bring him to his room.


“Wait, we want to say goodnight to Mama and Papa,” Annette said quickly, not wanting to go to sleep just yet. She was too excited. At least if they visited their father, she might be able to convince him to order Lady Bryan to stay up just one more hour.


“Please, Lady Bryan, can we just visit them?” George pleaded. He was unaware of his sister’s ulterior motives but he did want to say goodnight to his parents.


Their mother had been cooped up in her room since they got on the boat and he wanted to make sure was not sick and if she was, he was sure that a visit from her children would help her get better.


Lady Bryan exchanged a meaningful look with Lady Herbert before shaking.


“I’m afraid your mother is quite seasick, Your Highnesses, and your father is busy comforting her. You can visit them in the morning if she’s feeling better,” she told them gently.


Anne retched in a bucket which one of her poor ladies would have to carry to the top of the boat and dump her vomit into the sea. She gave Madge an apologetic look as she wiped the sick off her lips with a cloth.


“Perhaps we should fetch the royal physician, sweetheart. I’ve never seen you this sick before on a boat,” Henry said, rubbing soothing circles on her back with his free hand, holding her hair back with his other.


The queen could detect a hint of hope in his voice and could guess what her husband was most likely thinking of.


While there had been no storm when they traveled to France, the sea had been rather rough, violently jostling their ship to the point where there was some fear that they would be knocked off course. Despite the rough journey, Anne had not been seasick then and yet here she was emptying the content of her stomach since they had set off from the Calais port.


“Careful, Henry, it might be too early to get our hopes up,” Anne teased him, keeping herself dangling off the bed as the bile continued to rise in her throat. “Why don’t we wait until March before asking Dr. Linacre to check me.”


By then, she would know for certain if missing her courses last month was just a fluke or not. Not to mention if she kept throwing up even after getting off the boat or at the very least was only sick in the mornings, rather than all the time would also be a clue to whether or not she was with child.


Despite telling Henry not to get his hopes up, Anne couldn’t stop herself from getting excited. 


February 11 1533


It was a pleasant day in February (less cold and drizzly than it had been for the past fortnight) when the King, Queen, Prince and Princess returned to London, allowing the citizens to stand outside waiting for a glimpse of the royal carriage as they rode past them.


And while it was a delight to be welcomed back so lovingly, Anne could hardly care about the crowd of people as her thoughts were preoccupied with the Duke of York. He would be waiting with his aunt, uncle and cousins when his parents and siblings arrived at Greenwich Palace and Anne longed to hold him in her arms again. It had nearly been two whole months since she had seen him last.


The road to the place seemed to stretch on forever and Anne was sure she was not the only one feeling a little stir-crazy.  There had been a bit of bad weather that had delayed their journey from Dover to London just as there was back in France and it just felt as if it was taking them far too long to get back to court.


“According to Mistress Parr, Ned has been going through some temper tantrums, mostly due to teething,” Anne recalled as she craned her neck out the window, hoping that she could spot the palace from her seat. “I remember how upset he was when we left Hatfield in December. I hope he’ll be happy to see us.”


“He is a Tudor, my love, quick to anger and quick to forgive,” Henry assured her, knowing full well that he was quite a lot like Edward when he was a child, a little terror of the nursery.


Henry frowned slightly as he thought of his older brother who much like George was even-tempered and rather quiet (although Henry had no idea how his older brother acted when he was an infant). He hoped that the similarities between his two sons and him and Arthur wasn’t an omen of what was to come.


Shaking that rather dark thought from his head, he took Anne’s hand in his and gently squeezed it. Anne turned around to face him and kiss his lips.


“I love France but I’m very glad to be home,” she murmured.


“I agree. After all, not only do we have Mary’s birthday to celebrate, Edward will be two in a month and I look forward to reminding our daughter that France is not the only court who can throw such lavish feasts,” Henry said, throwing Annette a mock-admonishing look before grinning wolfishly at her, causing Annette to giggle and Georgie to smirk.

Anne smiled adoringly at her husband and children before remembering how there was a possibility that there might be a new addition to their family in the next seven months. And there was something sweet about her and Henry conceiving the child in a country they both loved.


When they arrived at Greenwich, they were greeted by George who was holding little Edward in his arms. As Henry suspected the toddler was happy to see them and squirmed until his mother held him and smothered him with kisses.



March 30 1533


Anna of Cleves felt rather nervous as she was summoned for an audience with the Queen. She had only just arrived at the English court (having landed on the shores a week ago) and was barely out of her traveling clothes when a lady was knocking on her door and handed her a letter---thankfully written in Anna’s native German---with the Queen expressing her wish to see her soon-to-be sister-in-law at her earliest convenience.


Anna had heard many stories of Anne Boleyn---some nicer than others. Some said the Boleyns were nothing but ambitious commoners who used witchcraft to make the king to their bidding. Others said that Anne and her family were good people who believed in the true faith and were eager to spread it throughout England.


She supposed it didn’t really matter what they were like---and the witchcraft angle seemed farfetched. After all, she was already a Boleyn by proxy and so their will was her own.


She just hoped that she would make a good impression. Her mother always said that she had not inherited the great beauty of her sisters and she knew very little English. Thank God, both her husband and his sisters knew German so she wouldn’t have to completely rely on her translator.


After making sure she looked presentable, Anna walked to the Queen’s apartments only to nearly bump into a man who was rounding the corner.


“Forgive me my lady, I was not looking where I was going,” the man said apologetically before doing a double-take as Anna’s translator whispered in her ear. She wasn’t sure if it was because he had never seen her before or because he recognized that she was not of English birth just by looking at her clothes. Perhaps it was both.


“There is nothing to forgive, good sir, I was just on my way to visit Queen Anne and I was clearly too preoccupied with my thoughts to even notice my surroundings,” Anna explained in German, hoping her translator would say that in a way that didn’t sound as foolish.  


“You must be Anna of Cleves. I must apologize again for my rudeness for that is certainly no way to greet my wife. George Boleyn at your service, my lady,” George spoke in German as he took her hand and kissed it. “As fate would have it, I am on my way to visit my sister. May I escort you to her apartments?”


Anna could not help at smile at such a charming display of chivalry. “That would be nice. And while we walk, I would love to hear more about my stepdaughters. Are they at court?” she inquired, wondering if she would get to meet them.


From George’s letters, she could guess that the two girls were hoping that she would be a mother to them and her heart arched for those two motherless girls so much that she had sworn that she would treat them as though she had given birth to them herself.


“I’m afraid they are at Grimston Manor presently but they cannot wait to meet you,” George explained as he laid Anna’s arm in his and led her through the halls of court to his sister’s rooms with her maid and translator following close behind.


By the time, they had arrived at Queen Anne’s chambers, Anna felt much more relaxed, her anxiety soothed by George’s playful demeanor.


“The Earl of Ormond and Lady Anna of Cleves,” the herald announced.


“Well I wanted to welcome you to England but it seems my brother has beat me to it,” the auburn-haired queen jested, standing up and putting her book down so she could greet both George and Anna. “Welcome sister, it is good to finally meet you.” She also introduced Anna to Mary Boleyn who greeted her with a hug.  


“You as well. I am happy to be welcomed so warmly,” Anna replied, this time choosing to speak in English as she knew that she would have to get used to speaking it as though it was her native tongue. She hoped that despite her heavily accented words, she had at least said the words right.


“I have a gift for you. I hope you will like it,” Anne said sweetly, signaling to her lady-in-waiting to present a garment to the German woman. “I have a B necklace and I’m planning on commissioning a T necklace for my daughter. I thought you might like this to remind you of your home.”


Anna smiled when she saw a silver chain with a jeweled C hanging off it.  “It is beautiful, Your Majesty, I thank you greatly.”


“Please, just call me Anne or sister,” Anne implored her. She had not been so welcoming to Jane and God forbid she made the same mistake with her brother’s second wife.


“May I?” George asked as he picked up the necklace. When she nodded her consent, he clasped the necklace around her neck.


“Thank you.”


“Come please sit with us, I shall like to get to know you and I’m sure George and Mary would too,” Anne requested, gesturing to the couch where her older sister had been sitting. 


“I would like that,” Anna agreed, pleased by how well this was going.

She hoped it was a good start to wonderful future.





May 1 1533


Queen Anne stroked her growing belly as she stared outside to where Lady Anna was playing with her stepdaughters. Despite the German lady knowing only a few English words, it was clear that she adored Janey and Marian and they seemed to love her just as much. Despite not even being eighteen, Anna had managed to become a mother to these girls despite only knowing them for less than a month.


It filled Anne with regret, knowing she could never hope to have such a close relationship with her own stepdaughter. Perhaps if Katherine of Aragon had died in childbirth, Mary would not be so averse to having a warm relationship with Anne. In fact, she might have even come to see her father’s new wife as the mother figure she never had.


Of course, if Henry had met Anne as a widower, it all would have been easier as no one would have objected to the marriage in the first place. Some people might feel that a common woman was not a good replacement for a Princess of Spain but not even Bishop Fisher would have grumbled so much.


There would be no fear that a new Pope would try to appease the Emperor by annulling Anne and Henry’s marriage. Annette and George would have had at least one older sibling. Princess Mary would never have been a bastard and Anne was certain that she would have been much happier as a result.


But it hadn’t and would never be that easy. At least, she, Katherine and Mary had some sort of peace between them. They seemed to have accepted that Anne was here to stay and that George was Henry’s heir.


At least, Anne could say one thing for certain while Mary would never truly accept her as her stepmother, she loved her half-siblings to a point where she would be cordial with Anne and that was something to be grateful for.


Still, there were days were Anne wished her stepdaughter would look at her the way her nieces looked at their stepmother.



Later that night, the court convened at the Mayday feast after watching a troop of actors performed a play about Robin Hood and Maid Marian.


“Charles, I cannot help but notice my sister’s absence. Why is she not at court?” Henry asked, feeling slightly annoyed at Mary’s continued snubbing of her sister-in-law. Everyone knew her opinion of Anne was far from kind--- if rumors were to be trusted, she had called Anne a cheap nothing---- but it wouldn’t kill her to make an effort to be polite.


“She is feeling unwell,” Charles told him, a silver of worry in his eyes. “She sends her apologies for not being able to come to court and hopes that you are well.”

“Tell her that I miss her and I hope she will be feeling better in time for my birthday,” Henry said, his tone lighter now that he knew that Mary was truly sick and not just using it as an excuse to get out of facing a woman she believed had supplanted Katherine.


“Mary would never miss your birthday, Your Majesty,” Charles told him firmly. “She misses you greatly when she is away.” He hoped that his words proved to be true as it seemed that ever since Christmastide his wife had been growing sicker by the day. Of course the Duchess of Suffolk was too proud to admit she was ill and would insist that she needed only a few days of rest and would be right as rain soon enough. Her husband was beginning to doubt her even though he didn’t dare to speak those words out loud or even suggest the possibility that she might not recover from her illness.


Henry smiled fondly, pleased that his favorite sister missed him as much as he missed her. Perhaps the news she would once again be an aunt would rouse her spirits to the point where she would get better quicker.


Impulsively, Henry took Anne’s hand as he stood up, holding his goblet up high with his other hand.


“My lords and ladies, I have some good news I wish to announce to you all. It seems that in late September, the Queen and I shall welcome another child to our family,” Henry announced, beaming down at Anne who stood up so the court could detect that there was indeed a small bulge that was almost unnoticeable unless one were to look close enough. “I hope you will all drink to the health of our newest prince, the future Duke of Bedford.”


The courtiers seemed to compete with each other over who could clap the most enthusiastically and who could give the warmest congratulations.


“Don’t you think you might be tempting fate by already picking out his Dukedom?” Anne teased her husband, keeping her voice low so not to embarrass him.


“Perhaps I am,” Henry replied jovially. “But if God wishes to prove me wrong, I shall not mind as another princess as beautiful as her mother would be a gift.”


His queen giggled at the compliment.


“Either a Henry or an Elizabeth, either will do,” Anne said delightedly.


As long as they are healthy Henry thought. He couldn’t help but remember that his brothers were healthy when they were born and yet they both died before reaching adulthood. 


But he shook his head, clearing it of those awful memories. God had blessed them, surely He would not take His favor away, not when everything was going so well.



May 16 1533


Mary Boleyn was nervous. She knew that what she was doing was risky but the only other thing she could do was marry Sir William Stafford in secret which would surely end in her banishment.


Not that she cared. William had been an ordinary solider when they first met and he was only knighted after what had happened in Surrey, along with the other guards who had protected the queen and her ladies. He had not cared about her reputation anymore than she had cared about his lower birth.


He was kind and loving, a true gentleman. She did not want to be with anyone else but him.


Mary hoped that because he was now a knight, Anne might be more willing to grant permission, knowing that their family was of a similar background when Thomas Boleyn married Elizabeth Howard.


She knew that Thomas Boleyn would not be so willing as he preferred to pretend that he was always a duke as though he was a duke since his birth and not because he was the grandfather of the future King of England.


Had he always been a duke, Mary doubted that Sir William Carrey would have been chosen as a husband for her or that the Earl of Northumberland would have been against Anne marrying his son.


Despite her anxiety, Mary couldn’t help but let out a derisive snort at the irony of Anne being seen as unsuitable for the son of an Earl and so instead she became the Queen of England much to shock of Hal Percy’s haughty father. 


“Are you all right?” Will asked, furrowing his brow in concern at his fiancée as they stood in the small group of petitioners, waiting for their turn to have an audience with the King and Queen.

Although they were truly seeking Anne’s blessing, they both knew they would need the king’s permission to marry as well.


“I’m fine,” Mary said in a quiet voice, ignoring the courtiers who were staring and whispering about her.


As a widower, she wore her hair up which often allowed people to see the end of her burn scar just peaking past the fabric of her dress. Sometimes when she stood up too fast her back would ache, reminding her of the dreadful day in Surrey.


She and William had both been standing next the guard whose face had burned off. The sight of burning flesh and the sounds of his terrifying screams would forever play in their memories.


The one good thing that had come from that day was the fact that it had brought them closer. Mary could not help but feel that she could confide in William because he had been there with her and could understand what she was going through better than even Anne or George could.


He eased her troubled mind and did not care that she was the mistresses of two kings nor that she had scars that marred her skin. He loved her and she loved him. That was all that mattered.


“Lady Mary Carey and Sir William Stafford,” the herald announced as Mary and William walked into the King’s audience chamber where the two monarchs sat on their thrones. William bowed as Mary curtsied, not daring to move or look up until they were ordered to do so.


As she curtsied, Mary could feel the King’s curious gaze and her sister’s suspicious gaze on her and she prayed for this to go well.


“Rise,” Henry ordered, wondering why his sister-in-law was with this guard. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw a look of dawning realization on his wife’s face.  


“Mary, what is going on here?” Anne demanded, feeling just a little bit anger as she could guess what was happening and it bothered her that her sister had chosen not to tell her that she was being courted. And if this meeting was what she thought it was, why hadn’t Mary told her in private instead of requesting a private audience with both her and Henry.


“Your Majesties, Sir Stafford has asked for my hand in marriage and I have accepted. We come here now in hopes you will give us your blessing,” Mary explained, meeting her sister’s eyes pleadingly.


Anne doubted their father would be happy about his eldest daughter marrying a lowly solider who had only become a knight a year ago. Although he had not bothered to find another husband for Mary since Sir Carey died, Anne had no doubt that while he could not possibly hope to get the same grand match he had gotten for George, let alone the one Anne had, he would prefer that Mary married someone with impeccable linage instead of a distant relation to the disgraced Staffords of Buckingham.


Even with the King’s blessing, he might still disown Mary, leaving her and her husband to fend for themselves. Anne knew he sister well enough to know she preferred the country life to court life but she still had her children to think of.


There were times when her father still grumbled about her and George acting as benefactors to Andrew and there was no doubt he’d be upset if Anne chose to support Mary’s marriage.


Well the days of listening to her father were long gone and if her sister wanted to marry William Stafford---who didn’t seem to have a drop of ambition in him--- then who was Anne to stand in their way.


She glanced over at Henry, silently asking for permission to respond. When he nodded, she turned back to her sister and the man beside her.


“Sir William, do you love my sister and promise to be a good husband to her and a good stepfather to her children?” she asked, keeping her tone carefully measured.


“I do, Your Majesty,” William replied earnestly, taking Mary’s hand in his.


“And you, sister? Do you love him?”


“Yes, I do,” Mary replied, a small blush coloring her cheeks and a smile lightening up her face.


“Then you have our blessing,” Anne decreed.




June 25 1533


It seemed that with good news, bad news must follow. After watching both his wife’s siblings get married, Henry’s sister passed away. The Duchess of Suffolk had not been in good health since her brush with the sweat all those years ago but everyone had assumed that she was too strong and too stubborn to die.


Henry had locked himself in his room when he received the letter from Suffolk, telling him that his favorite sister--- the one who would never miss his birthday---had died. He found himself regretting every argument he ever had with her, wishing he could go back in time and at the very least have given her permission marry Charles Brandon, forgoing Wolsey’s idea to marry her to old King Louis of France.


If he had done that, perhaps there wouldn’t have been a strain on their relationship. Perhaps she would have sided with him instead of Katherine when the Great Matter had happened especially considering Katherine had never approved of Brandon, thinking Mary would be better off marrying her nephew instead.


But it mattered not. His dear sister was gone and Henry wished quite desperately that he could see her one last time if for no other reason than to say goodbye.


With Margaret in Scotland and the rest of their sibling’s dead, it had been him and Mary for the longest of time. Together they mourned their mother’s death and then years later, the death of their father and grandmother.


Now Mary was gone and there was a great empty feeling, knowing that he had lost all of his younger siblings.


The door to his bedchamber opened and Henry’s head snapped up, angry that someone dared to disturb him. But the angry reproach died on his tongue when he realized the intruder was his wife.


Anne said nothing as walked over to him and wrapped her arms around him. Henry felt oddly soothed as he touched her stomach as though the child that grew inside of her was consoling him as well.


“What can I do?” Anne whispered as she ran her fingers through his hair. “Tell me what I can do for you.”


“Nothing, Anne, just stay here,” Henry murmured, glad that she had ignored his wishes to be alone. He needed her.


“I’ve sent for George, Annette and Edward. I thought we could tell them about their Aunt Mary together,” Anne informed him. “Your daughter and your son have been invited to court as well.”


Henry doubted that was why Anne had sent for their children considering they were far too young to truly understand death. She probably could guess that he wouldn’t admit that he needed comfort and so telling them of their aunt’s death was just a convenient excuse to bring them to court so they could cheer him up. The fact that she had invited Princess Mary and Hal Fitzroy made him almost certain that was the case.

But he wasn't going to call her out on it or stop her for that matter.


“Thank you."


August 12 1533


Despite being a Duke twice over, not many people paid attention to Henry Fitzroy that much anymore. Of course people paid attention whenever his father wanted them to or if the Prince of Wales was seen playing with him.


There was a time when many people wondered if their King would declare his bastard son his heir but now that George and Edward were born, he was barely of note, mentioned only in passing.


And yet, he was still important to his father who wanted to make sure that his son had a worthy bride, fitting his station. He had the blood of a Tudor king even though he was born on the wrong side of the blanket, he could not just marry anyone and his father had chosen Lady Mathilda Howard as his future wife.


“I wonder is your sister all right with marrying a bastard,” Fitz remarked as he and Hal walked in the royal gardens. The two boys had grown up together and had been boyhood friends since they grew up together at Windsor Castle.  


“Even if she did, I think my father is most pleased with the match,” Hal pointed out with a laugh.


“Oh I’m sure he is. According to Mary, the Howards seem to be making sure that each of their relatives are marrying a Tudor,” Fitz said, raising his eyebrow.


His half-sister had overheard a conversation between her mother and the late Duchess of Suffolk discussing how both Wiltshire and Norfolk seemed to have some grand plan tying their relatives with royalty.


While the Duke of Richmond and Somerset wasn’t so sure that there was some sort of grand scheme, he did think that there was no coincidence that his father had chosen a woman who just happened to the cousin of his wife as his illegitimate son’s bride. Whether it was the queen’s idea or her uncle’s, it was clear that they wanted to be sure that Henry Fitzroy was tied to their faction.

“Matilda is thrilled to be a duchess, Fitz, and she does think you are rather handsome,” Hal assured him, clapping him on the back, carefully steering the conversation away from his father’s ambitions. “Besides, I, for one, am happy to getting you as a brother-in-law.”

“Happy enough to give me advice about marriage life, I hope?” Fitz asked, rather bashfully.


The Earl of Surrey was only two years older than him and yet he was already a married man and by next year, his wife was due to birth their first child. 


Before his friend could reply, the sound of voices was heard around a shrubbery and when the two teenagers went to see what the noise was all about, they stumbled on a sweet scene.


George was dueling a dragon with Annette and Ned cheering him on. Surprisingly the “dragon” was King Henry who clearly was not even the little bit ashamed of bending down to mock roar at the four-year-old, playfully swiping at the wooden sword, the Prince of Wales waved at him.


It was always a shock to see his father act so carefree and Fitz could not help but think with a small bit of envy that he had never been played with like that.


King Henry scooped Prince George up, swinging the laughing boy around.


“Sir George, quickly, while the dragon is distracted!” Fitz shouted.


The minute his father stopped to turn and look at the newcomers, George heeded his brother’s words and slid his sword past his father’s armpit.


“Alas, I have been fatally wounded!” Henry cried as he collapsed on the ground. “Sir George has won the battle and slain me! Alas. Alack! I, the fearsome dragon, am no more!” 


“It was not just me. Sir Henry the Brave helped,” George declared, running to hug his older half-brother.


King Henry grinned as he stood up and dusted himself off before marching over to them both.


“He is not a knight until you have knighted him, my lord,” the red-haired monarch pointed, giving Fitzroy a wink before handing George his wooden sword and whispering in his ear.


“Kneel,” George ordered Fitz, smiling at him. Fitz theatrically bowed before kneeling on the grass. He felt the wooden sword tap both of his shoulders. “Arise, Sir Henry the Brave.”


“Me next!” Ned shouted, unwilling to be left out. He ran to his older brothers’ side, looking eager.


“You have to kneel,” George reminded him, waiting until the toddler did so before gently placing his sword on his shoulders. “Rise Sir Edward the…” He trialed off, unsure what title to give his brother.

“Loyal,” Fitz suggested.


“Sir George the Dragonslayer, Sir Edward the Loyal and Sir Henry the Brave,” King Henry agreed, a proud expression on his face. “What king could ask for finer sons?” he asked rhetorically.


Henry Fitzroy didn’t mind not being as important as George and Edward or even as Mary and Annette but when his father acknowledged him in such a way, he couldn’t deny that he had a feeling of pleasure.




September 7 1533


Anne was not due to have her baby until last week of September or the first week of October. But early in the afternoon, just as King Henry was in his privy council meeting, a page dressed in the Queen’s livery came bursting in, informing the red-haired monarch that his wife was in labor.


“I think that this time we will have no choice but to make the Emperor godfather, you tell Chapuys that if he drops him, it’s war!” Henry declared, half-jesting. However if that wily Spanish fiend who insisted on calling his true wife a concubine and a harlot and his true heirs bastards in his letters to his master did anything to upset the newborn prince, he would find himself thrown out of England, forbidden to return.


“As much as I would love to see what the Holy Roman Emperor to such a thing would be, perhaps King Gustav of Sweden or King Christian of Denmark would be willing to be godfather,” Thomas Boleyn remarked, a smirk on his lips.


James of Scots was chosen to Edward’s royal godfather with his mother being godmother to her nephew. And having chosen the French King and his sister to be George’s royal godparents, it was only right to chose a different European monarch for the third Tudor prince. As both Sweden and Denmark were interested in the religious reforms, it would be rather fitting to choose one of them which as a bonus would mean they could snub the pompous Spaniard altogether.


“King Christian does have a daughter around the Duke of York’s age, Your Majesty,” Cromwell agreed. Although he thought an Imperial alliance would benefit England greatly, he concurred with the Duke of Wiltshire that making ties with kings who believed in the true faith was prudent.


King Henry nodded, barely interested in such things, although it did make him feel slightly less uneasy to know that the ambassador who would stand in as proxy for his royal master would not be the one who clearly resented Anne and their children even though Katherine and Mary had long accepted their places. 


Speaking of his daughter, it felt as though it had been months since he had seen her as she kept mostly to Auckland Castle with her mother, only coming to court when he summoned her.


Mary was nearly eighteen and Henry had to admit that he had yet to start looking for a husband for him despite returning her to the title of princess last year. He made a promise to himself that the next time he had a meeting with his privy council that he would instruct Audley and Cromwell to start searching for a suitable bridegroom for his precious pearl.


But for now, Henry eagerly awaited the birth of his and Anne’s fourth child. Boy or girl, they would be celebrated. With the Duchess of Suffolk’s death still lingering in his mind, he couldn’t help but smile at the thought of his sons having a little sister to adore just as much as he had loved his little sister.


Henry had left the council and returned to his chambers where he played a game of chess with George. They had started their fifth game when Lady Madge Shelton ran in but before she could open her mouth, the King was already on his feet and he had run past her, racing towards his wife’s rooms.


He could hear the baby crying and he marveled at how strong their lungs were. Moments later, the crying stopped and when Henry entered the bedchambers, he found his wife cooing over the newborn in her arms.


“I take it that he stopped crying the instant you held him,” Henry jested, kissing the top of Anne’s head before planting a kiss on the baby’s soft forehead.


“She,” Anne corrected, looking up rather warily, wondering if her husband meant what he said all those months ago.


“Ah, so not a Henry but an Elizabeth,” Henry said, still smiling as he recalled the conversation they had when Princess Annette was born. He had wanted to prove a point by naming his daughter after his wife least people assumed the worst of him (which they had) but Anne’s suggestion of naming their daughter after their mothers had been a wonderful idea that he was more than happy to use. “Princess Elizabeth. For your mother and mine.” 

“Our Princess Elizabeth.”


Henry would always love his daughters and how could he not adore his pearl and his sapphire. However both Mary and Annette’s birth were surrounded by doubt that the Tudor line would end early. Thanks to her two older brothers, Elizabeth’s birth had no such fears surrounding her.


The Emperor and his minions could cry bastards all they like but they could not make it true. For the Tudor line was secure and his children were safe from those who would try to displace them.



Hours later, while Queen Anne rested and King Henry celebrated with the rest of court, the Tudor children stood around the cradle peering down at their newest sister.


“She’s adorable,” Annette said sweetly, feeling a rush of affection for her new little sister. “I hope I will be as good of a big sister as you are, Mary.”


Mary couldn’t help but feel a stab of guilt at the younger girl's words as she recalled how she reacted when Annette was first born. Bad enough that she had been hoping that her father would send her little shadow away but it wasn’t until much later did she feel sisterly devotion towards Annette. 


“Of course you will,” Mary murmured, stroking Annette’s hair as the girl beamed at her.


“Lisbet,” Ned lisped.


“Elizabeth,” George corrected his brother.


“Why don’t we just call her Bess like we call you Georgie,” Fitz suggested, thinking now was a good time as any to pick a nickname for their little sister.


“Well for one thing, people might mix her up with your mother,” Mary pointed out, giggling as she realized that he had not even made the connection as evidenced by his reddening cheeks.


“All right, what nickname do you suggest?” Fitz asked, wondering if Queen Anne, who treated him with nothing but warmth, would find him giving her daughter her husband’s former mistress’ nickname either amusing or offensive.


“I think Lisbet is rather cute especially when it could be name only we call her,” Mary suggested. “Like how only I call Annette Annie.”


“Lisbet! Lisbet!” Ned exclaimed either in agreement or because he was determined to remind everything that he came up with the name first.


Unfortunately, he was loud enough to wake Elizabeth who started crying loudly. Before Fitz could run to get the baby’s wet nurse, Mary scooped her up, sat down on a rocking chair and began to sing the Spanish lullaby her mother had always sung to her and still did whenever she had a nightmare.


Mary remembered how one night--- when she and Annette had stayed at Kimbolton Castle---she had found her mother in Annette’s nursery, holding the baby and singing that same lullaby.


At first, she had been jealous that her mother would sing that special song that was only meant for her. Then her mother had spotted her in the doorway and beckoned her over, saying that as godmother and big sister, it was Mary’s duty to comfort her young siblings so they should sing together.


It was a wonderful moment and Mary vowed to make her mother proud by doing just that. And with Elizabeth falling asleep in her arms along with the serene looks of George, Anette and Edward, Mary felt that she had done just that. 


“Mary, will you teach me that song?” Annette asked after her sister had laid Elizabeth back into her crib.


“Of course I will.”

“I think perhaps we should get Ned to bed first,” Fitz suggested, picking up the two-year-old whose eyes were in fact getting droopy.


“Goodbye, sweet sister,” Mary whispered, kissing the top of Elizabeth’s head before taking George and Annette’s hands in hers as they went to find their governesses.