It was some small consolation that the people, that even the court were behind her - she might be going to her death, she might no longer be a Queen but at least Anne would know that her children would grow up hearing well of her.
From everyone but their father, came a poisonous thought and Anne feels her heart break all over again. Henry believed it, believed she and Tom had betrayed him, even though he claimed to care nothing for them. It seemed, she thought bleakly, we must be Henry’s or we must be no ones, no matter if he still wants us or not.
The charges had been absurd. Of course they had - absurd enough that the court convened to try them had refused to show their faces and then in the end, there had been no trial. Merely the word of the Seymours and an act of attainder. Henry, Henry had signed it. Her love, the father of her children, had decided she was to die.
Anne has tried not to think of it. Of her children, of Thomas, of Henry, of her earthly life but she finds she cannot stop, even now, as her weeping maids dress her for the scaffold. A scaffold. A French Swordsmen. A final mercy, she is told and perhaps it is - that she and Tom will die by the same blade - painless and in an instant.
That is all I have now, Anne thinks, but it is comforting, somehow and at least she is dry eyed, her voice steady when Master Kingston tells her it is time. Lord, I am ready, Anne thinks - I trust in you that my love and I may go in peace.
It is strange, to walk out on to Tower Green to die but to still notice the sun and the green of the trees. To feel spring, when you will soon be gone from the world. Anne hardly notices the weeping crowds, hardly notices herself handing out alms. She is thinking of the warmth on her skin, of how she is glad that at the least, her family is not here to see this - that they are safe and far from here. She thinks of Bess - her little girl, of Tommy, who had been in her arms so briefly after his birth - she wonders what kind of people they will grow into. The Lord will surely let Thomas and I watch over them, she thinks, for the Lord is kind.
Anne thinks this through her speech, through comforting her sobbing maids, through seeing Charles Brandon’s tear filled eyes, through the removal of her jewels, of her robe. Through her kneeling. She cannot think of Thomas being here after her. She cannot think of him dying like this. She cannot think of him, of her children but it is all she can think of and Anne wills herself to calm - though she knows on the outside nothing shows.
I will die as a Queen, she thinks. Let my children have that, at least.
She does not notice Henry, at first, not even through the stirring of the crowd and when she does, she feels herself tremble - surely, surely he cannot be so cruel as to watch them die? Surely not. His words hardly register until she hears the words “innocent of all charges” and then, then the world goes black for a moment.
Mercy. Mercy. Thomas Cromwell would use all his eloquence for Anne, would beg upon his knees that she might be spared but it would do no good. Not now, at this last. He had written anyway - had written pages that Master Kingston had taken with a sad look that they both knew meant it would never be delivered. They would never chance Hen..the Kin…they would never chance that it might be read.
It could have been the noose and the butchers knife for him but no, Thomas thinks, he gives this last mercy - a French Swordsman and this last cruelty, to watch Anne die before him. To know that they would clean her blood from the scaffold before he would ascend it. To know that he could not give Anne the comfort of being by her side in her last moments.
He hurts, in every part of him and there is a side of him that thinks, perhaps, perhaps my ghosts were right - I am nothing but a grasping gutter rut who has reached beyond his station and made others pay. Perhaps I should have stayed where he told me I belonged, except I cannot find it in myself to regret loving Anne or…I cannot even find it in myself to not love Henry, though I should not, not after this. And yet, I cannot dislodge him from my heart, even now.
Thomas Cromwell is not allowed to watch Anne die after all. He prays instead, silently inside his head, not wishing to give the world any more of his soul. This love, this last testament to his beautiful bright star of a Queen, to…to their children is for the Lord alone and no other. Thomas Cromwell will not have priests, will not have Latin verse or confession. He will have these prayers, he will have the memories and perhaps he can lose himself in happy dreams until the blade does it’s work.
Nora, Grace - my oldest girls - I will see you soon - I hope the Lord will see that I know you, even if you may have grown in heaven. Liz, I know you will smile at me for my worries. Anne. Anne. My own heart, my star. I hope there was no pain, at least. He cannot think of Gregory, of Bess, of his own namesake child because then, Thomas Cromwell thinks, I will break into pieces so he thinks on nothing at all.
Except. Except. Henry. Henry. Henry. It echoes through him, even when Master Kingston comes with the news of a pardon for them both and Thomas Cromwell almost shatters with it's delivery.