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.
-Title comes from a song called Candleburn by Dishwalla which features in an amazing fanvid by MistressQ that also helped inform the writing of this fic.
-Mercy, Mercy is taken from the letter that Thomas writes in The Tudors canon asking for clemency
-Nora & Grace = Thomas Cromwells two daughters who died (his older daughter was actually named Anne but for reasons of writers confusion I have decided she had a nickname - hence Nora)
Henry tells himself that he feels nothing at all [HENRY TUDOR MAKE BETTER LIFE CHOICES CHALLENGE]
Henry awakens in terror and decides, looking at Thomas sleeping against his chest and his wife curled against the other man that he was wrong. It is Jane he loves, it must be Jane he loves. Anne is outspoken and dark and she has not given him a son, just as Catherine had not. Even if she carries this pregnancy to term, he is sure she…it cannot be, he tells himself. He needs a new wife - a wife he loves, who knows her place and will not meddle and he will forget this passing fancy, for it is Jane who holds his heart.
Henry Tudor sneaks quietly away that morning, not looking back and seeks to find a suitable candidate to draw up the divorce papers. It must be sooner rather than later - so he can wed his Jane and he will brook no opposition. Not this time, for he needs a son and soon.
What happens is that, it is clear that no one but his beloved Jane and her family are happy with this turn of events but they all hide it and Henry, too caught up in visions of a sweet, obedient golden Queen and the sons they will have, does not notice. But he still feels a rush of disappointment when Anne, tears sparkling at the edge of her eyes tells him that if it is his wish she will obey, of course. He had expected his wife to fight (if there was one thing he has never doubted about Anne, it was that she loved him) but she is perfectly obedient and...Henry tells himself it cannot be that it troubles him.
It does not trouble him at all.
Anne will be known as Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Pembroke. She will keep the lands and funds he had bestowed upon her when he had gifted her the title and Elizabeth will remain legitimate. She will also reside with Anne, a condition he grants with reluctance but he knows that if Anne would resist anything, it would be losing her daughter and Henry tells himself he does not want a fight.
(He had hoped that Jane could become more of a mother to little Elizabeth - he felt she would be a better example of womanhood than Anne but it could still be true).
She signs the papers and Henry tells himself that he feels nothing at all.
When Thomas Cromwell comes to resign his office and to ask if he might reside with Anne at Pembroke as her secretary, Henry has to stop a moment. He stops. He tells himself that it matters not - it was a passing fancy he had, nothing more. It is merely that it stings that this man should bypass the advancement and favour of a King for...for Anne.
Henry tells himself it is nothing more than that, nothing more than the smarting loss of a lowly commoner who had had the great privilege of royal favour and had chosen to spurn it. It is nothing more than that.
He agrees and ignores the sense of loss in favour of seeking out Jane. For he has lost nothing, Henry tells himself. He has everything he could ever wish for now, but he still fumes that Thomas and Anne had not fought it. Had not fought for him, for all they claim to love him so much.
Henry watches his brother in all but blood disapprove silently, watches his sister do the same, watches his court and his people look coldly upon Jane and wants to scream. Why can they not all see that this is for the best - that Anne was never going to be able to give the country the prince it needed, that however much she might have been a good Queen it mattered not at all.
He tells himself he does not miss Anne or Thomas Cromwell at all, even as they keep their distance from him as Anne prepares to leave for Pembroke. It is then that the Seymour come to him with rumours they have heard from their sister Dorothy. Rumours about Anne and Thomas. Rumours about heretical books and about other things. Things that fill Henry with rage, because they are his. They have always been his and they should not seek to be otherwise. He will not have it.
Henry tells himself he feels nothing when he signs the arrest warrants.
Jane knows she is beautiful in it, knows she is the golden Queen of Henry’s heart as she has known nothing else in her life, because she has been noticed. She is loved and treasured and someone thinks she is beautiful.
Jane had been living in a golden dream, she knows that now but at the time? At the time nothing had mattered - she had felt as happy as she could ever remember being. She was to marry her Henry, was going to become Queen Jane. She had even dreamed about being named Good Queen Jane for restoring the Church to its rightful place - of being a Queen like the stories Henry had told of his mother Elizabeth of York.
She had barely noticed anything outside of her dreams - when Henry had said he wished for her to spend the months before their marriage in the country - ”It will take some time to organise a royal wedding my darling, I want you to have the time away from court” he had said and Jane had beamed, only thinking she was so blessed to have a husband to be who cared so for her welfare and would think to give her respite and rest before her life changed forever.
And so Jane spent those months in the luxurious surrounds of a manor house - there were picnics, boating and walks in the gardens as well as rides and on the days when it rained she would embroider or sew and her sisters would tell stories or her ladies would play for her. And Henry visited almost every day - he would dance with her or have musicians play or they would simply walk together in the gardens (”My sweet pure Guinevere” he told her, kissing her hand “Soon we will be together”) and Jane felt she was in a fairy story.
Henry gave her fabrics, jewels and a sweet puppy. It seemed she only needed to speak of something taking her fancy and he would indulge it - from roses and pearls for her hair to the finest thread for her embroidery, to sweets and a pretty pair of hair combs. And then there is her wedding gown - Jane had wanted it to echo the gown she had worn when they had first met so it is white - but this time it is white silk that almost floats it is so light, embroidered all over with pearls and shot through with gold thread.
Jane knows she is beautiful in it, knows she is the golden Queen of Henry’s heart as she has known nothing else in her life, because she has been noticed. She is loved and treasured and someone thinks she is beautiful.
And then one day in May her world comes crashing down and she stares at her sister Dorothy in horror.
“ I thought it would make them love you, Janie instead of Lady Anne - that they would see that you would be the Queen they needed!”
Jane is numb, numb - surely this cannot be her sister, who is speaking of such things but no, the words keep coming.
“Hasn’t it been worth it - you can marry the man you love and our family will rise and a half Seymour child will be a Prince - perhaps even King one day. We can stem the tide of heresy, Jane - isn’t that worth a small cost? Thomas and Edward told me - they were never going to accept a simple divorce, no matter what the Lady Anne agreed to - this way the Lady Anne won’t get her claws back into the King...”
Dorothy never finishes what she is going to say before she feels the slap and looks at her sister, her mild mannered sweet sister and can see the anger in her face. It shocks her into silence but not for long.
“Oh for heavens sake Jane, don’t play the innocent - you know they all hate you. You know what the people are singing in the streets about you - the shameless little slut who nearly killed the Queens child because she set out to do so. We had to do something.”
“Get out. Get out.” Jane almost screams it, almost throws something at her sister and stands there, the shards of her golden dreams at her feet.
-Jane's wedding dress design is half modelled off her gown in The Tudors S3.
-The author would like to note that she does not endorse the populaces attitude to Jane at all
-Basically, HENRY TUDOR MAKE BETTER LIFE CHOICES DOT GIF.
Anne admires herself for the way she only stumbles slightly on the word ‘kindness’ but she knows she cannot afford to be anything other than grateful - she and Tom know the cost of displeasing the King now and she will not chance anything other than gratitude, at least on the surface.
Henry had thought, at first that it was...that it was some kind of poorly timed jest, that his betrothed’s sister could not possibly be saying such things, especially to his sweet Jane. But as he listened further, he began to realise, with dawning horror that it was no jest, no dream or fancy.
(He had come with none of the usual fanfare that accompanied his entrance and only a few guards and had thus not alerted anyone in the manor to his presence as he had wished to surprise Jane and so when he stood in the doorway to her chambers, entirely unnoticed he had heard the entirety of the conversation)
It seemed that nothing was what it had seemed.
“I won’t leave Jane - I won’t have you ruining everything the family has worked for because you...”
“I fell in love with him Dorothy! He fell in love with me, he listened to me - do you understand. That’s all I wanted, to marry a man who loved me and you have all...how could you.”
“I did my duty” Henry had never heard the hateful tone in Dorothy Seymour’s voice before and he was taken aback at it. “Just as you will, you stupid girl - you will wed his majesty, you will smile and you will say nothing, do you hear me?”
Then her voice turned coaxing, almost gentle. “Come now Jane, surely this is no bad thing - you will have two little children to practice your mothering on and it’s not as though you are not getting everything you have ever wanted - is it so terrible that some blood must be shed for the greater good - after all it was what the King wanted...”
Henry, Henry stops then. He barely hears the rest of what Dorothy says, hardly hears himself ordering the guards to arrest the Seymours, hardly remembers making his way to the palace. Hardly remembers any of it.
They had thought he had wanted this. They had thought that he would wish to wed over the blood of the mother of his children and...his...and The Lord Chancellor. They had thought he wished to send...had he truly seemed such a monster, that the Seymours would think this was what he wished? Rage replaces numbness then. Rage and misery and...perhaps, he thinks, perhaps I can still marry my Jane - at least she loves me truly and had no knowledge of any of this.
He will give Anne and...he will give Anne and Tom every honour he had intended before the Seymours bought their accusations to him, he will give them an honourable exile, will even give Anne custody of Elizabeth and their new child, who has, to his surprise, lived to be born.
Perhaps, perhaps he thinks, it was The Lord sending me a sign of their innocence. Yes, this he could well do - pardon them and proclaim Jane innocent of her families schemes and then marry her as he had intended - the people and the court would come around when they realised how Jane had been maligned and misused by her family and then they would love her as they should.
Surely that is the right thing to do, Henry thinks. Surely that is what I want above all things - it must be what I want.
When Anne awakens to cold damp walls and narrow slits for windows her first thought is that this does not fell like heaven or hell - that perhaps she is merely doomed to be a ghost in the Tower until she fades away at last. Her second thought is to ask if her execution has been delayed.
“No your...my lady” Master Kingston says, stumbling over the title he feels is still hers and always has been. “The King has decreed that you and Master Cromwell are innocent of all charges and are to be released from the Tower.”
“I have always known our innocence Master Kingston but I thank you for your care and for informing me of His Majesties...kindness on this matter”
Anne admires herself for the way she only stumbles slightly on the word ‘kindness’ but she knows she cannot afford to be anything other than grateful - she and Tom know the cost of displeasing the King now and she will not chance anything other than gratitude, at least on the surface.
Thankfully Nan Saville arrives with the news that a bath has been drawn for her and clean clothing has been bought for her, clothing that she had not bought into the Tower (I think I will have it all given away to the poor or burned and the jewellery melted down, Anne thinks) and so she is bathed in hot water and sweet herbs and flowers that wash away some of the cold and sweat and shock and dressed in a simple pale blue gown and dark blue cloak, her hair braided in a crown about her head.
I look exhausted, Anne thinks, looking at herself in the mirror. But I am alive, my love is alive. I will see my children and then, oh, then I must face Henry somehow, even if my heart quakes with fear at the thought. But first, first she wants to see Tom, to know that he is alive and he too, will leave this awful place, will see their children. That they can hold each other again.
She almost sleeps again but she wishes to leave the Tower as soon as possible and so they go out the same way she entered, through the river gate - Anne does not know that there are crowds cheering her release outside the Tower, does not think of much but her desire to see Tom and her children.
She does not even notice the rain that starts to fall as she steps out of the Tower. She does not notice it when she arrives at the house that holds Tom, notices nothing but her love standing there - how pale and tired he looks, how very thin. She does not notice anything but him, but how much the circle of his arms feels like coming home.
“The children are upstairs my star” he says and they stumble up together and, and...she finds Bess sleeping, her hair fanned out against the pillow and Anne, Anne cries over her silently, not willing to awake her and her son, her little Prince awake in his cradle.
“Our little Tommy” she says to Thomas, who is smiling through his tears as well.
Neither of them can bear to think of how they must, somehow face Henry. Instead, Instead in the peace of this private house, with no unfriendly eyes upon them, they merely hold each other in their great bed, with their children asleep around them.
1. So "He fell in with me" is somewhat of a paraphrase of something Anne says to her father in The Tudors S2.
2. Henry is making Slightly Better Life Choices. Can I get a Wahoo?
“What do you mean, I cannot marry the Lady Jane? Surely there can be no impediment - she is proven innocent of her families treason by my own witness after all?”
There was a dangerous note in Henry’s voice and none of the councillors at the table wished to be the one to dare it but eventually one of them did, though he was praying inside the entirety of the time, Audley knew it must be done.
“Your majesty, it is not that any doubt your word it is merely that the people...they will accept no other Queen but the Lady Anne, not after these events”
What goes unspoken is the fact that even if Anne agreed to a divorce the people would never accept it and they would certainly never accept Jane Seymour as Queen or any child of hers as a legitimate Prince. No, the King could not marry the woman - no one believed her claim of innocence and virtue (privately Audley, who counted Thomas Cromwell a friend and revered Anne as his Queen though it was disgusting she would even try to pretend otherwise) and certainly, not even Henry’s word would change it.
Henry Tudor’s fit of temper was something to be seen but he came to see it must be so. That he must yoke himself to a wife he no longer wanted for the rest of his days, while his darling Jane was maligned as a ruthless whore. I like it not, Henry thinks. I like it not at all.
But the lady...she cannot give me a son! Surely, surely even her most fervent partisans must realise that she cannot be Queen, not when the country needs a Prince? Yes, Henry thinks, perhaps if I can see her and...if I can visit them and see that the child is another girl I can make the country see that she is not what they need - that I cannot remain married to her and then in a few months perhaps when all this has died down, I can revisit the issue of my marriage.
So he goes to the house where his former...where his wife is now residing with what Henry tells himself is a clear heart and conscience. Surely he cannot be blamed for anything that has occurred, for he had no reason to doubt the word of his beloveds family? Surely Anne will understand and be reasonable.
When he is announced, Anne curtsies to him, every inch the obedient Queen and Henry wants to be pleased. Wants to rage at her for her pretence. Wants to feel smug that he has finally taught her her place. Instead he...he feels guilt. Feels sick, looking at how thin and drawn she is, how he has...how she is beaten down and subdued. He tries to banish the feeling, tries to feel indifference, tries to be angry that she is making him doubt himself (Anne and...they had had this effect on him and it stings, that he, a King, should be so beguiled). Tries not to feel pleased that he is seeing her again.
He had not wanted to look at her, in the months after the accusations were made. Had not wanted to think he might once again be taken in.
(He tells himself he is not unhappy that Tom...that Cromwell is not in evidence either).
Anne says something, thanks him for his kindness and it sounds hollow to his ears, that she should say such things and fear him enough to speak as though she means it. They stand there together in silence, when once they would have spoken easily, of so many things until..until he hears a soft cry from the next room.
“I am sorry your majesty o...may I go to him?”
Henry waves his permission with an absent hand, not registering the him as says “you may bring the child here - I would meet our newest child after all” and pretends he is not glad at her relief that he is acknowledging the child as his - for all there had been no accusations of adultery, he could see that Anne had thought there was a chance he would deny it. It angers him, to think that she could think he could be so cruel.
And then she walks in, carrying the baby in her arms.
“This is Thomas, your majesty. Your son. I named him after...I thought to name him for the man who helped to save him.” Anne says and there is an edge in her voice that dares him to object.
(The ‘as you did not’ is almost blatant but Henry chooses not to hear it).
The baby is Henry’s image. He can see that as he looks at him in Anne’s arms - can see he is a bright and healthy baby, already every bit the golden prince that he had always wished for. That he had talked of with Anne, dreamed of with Anne once. He thinks for a moment of how, how it could have been - a birth in the bright surrounds of Hampton Court instead of the confines of the Tower - of feasting and fireworks instead of silence. He can almost see it for a moment, the joy he and Anne and Tom would have in their new child, their new little Prince.
Then, then Henry tells himself...he is glad, of course he is glad that he has a child but did it have to be with Anne? Did it have to mean that he could not be with his Jane honourably, that he would, for the sake of his son have to stay with Anne the rest of his days? For he will, he knows, have to stay with her - he can never allow his son’s legitimacy to be questioned in any way and the thought makes him angry.
“I will make arrangements for you to return to Whitehall and then we shall talk further, my lady but for now I must leave you for I have an errand of great urgency.”
I must see Jane, Henry thinks. I must see Jane and it will all be well. Jane will not make me feel uneasy, Jane will understand and love me and not look at me as Anne does, as though I have something to apologise for.
Henry tells himself he does not see Anne’s tears as he leaves and that they do not wrench his heart. And that, that is when he sees Thomas Cromwell. His..his...the Lord Chancellor has always been thin but now Henry can see he is terribly so - he is gaunt and unusually pale and his eyes, his eyes are as haunted as Anne’s.
(“Was Master Cromwell not cared for in the Tower Master Kingston” he asks sharply later and Henry tells himself that the surge of anger he feels at the answer that the Seymours had given orders that he was to be deprived of food ‘at his majesties behest, so that he might confess’ is nothing to do with Cromwell personally. Nothing at all).
He goes to Jane, goes to chase away the ache inside himself.
When her father embraces her Anne can feel his fragility, can feel that her Papa, who has always been so strong has been aged by this ordeal and it breaks her heart anew. Makes her want to rage at Henry for what he has done.
“My darling, my little Annie.” he says, holding her as though he will never let her go. “My littlest girl, I am so sorry, I am so sorry I could not keep you safe my darling - I kept looking at the letters you sent home from France as a little girl and thinking, I should have let you stay there.”
She clings to him then, wishing she was still a little girl. Wishing she could go home to Hever and her family and never leave. Wishing she would not have to face Henry and Henry’s resentment and hate and the mess he has made of their lives. She wants to take Tom and their children and stay there in the Kent sunshine and heal and learn to smile again.
Anne, Anne knows they cannot. Knows she will have to return to a husband who seems to resent that she is alive and her heart quakes at the thought - that Henry hates her so much that he wishes she had died, it seems. That she and Tom had both died and he was free.
But I am the Queen, she thinks. I have my duty. I can find solace in that, in the others that love me. Perhaps I can even learn to smile as my heart breaks as Henry loves another woman in front of me. Perhaps Tom and I can both learn to do so, if we have each other.
George and Mary come to meet her too and they hold her too tightly but it is welcome, to be called little sister and darling and ‘my little Boleyn’ as she has not been for many months. It matters to her, to have her family around her as she prepares to return to court. To return to Henry.
She watches Tom hold on to his eldest son, both of them weeping without shame. She watches and her heart breaks, thinking of what was nearly lost. She watches her family and her friends gather around her and it warms her, it truly does.
She holds Tom in her arms and thinks, perhaps we can bear this together, somehow.
Henry knew that it was not honourable - especially not towards Jane, who was so pure and sweet and deserved to be feted as a wife rather than a mistress but he could not help it - he loved her - his sweet Guinevere and he wanted her as a man and though he could not make her his wife and Queen he could make sure she was the Queen of his Heart and give her everything in his power.
And perhaps, perhaps later on he could marry her in truth as John of Gaunt did Katherine Swynford and their children could be legitimised and make right what should have always been. He knows Jane loves him, knows that she will wish only to make him happy but he is still apprehensive when he goes to ask her because he knows that such things are not in her nature.
When Henry had asked her “to be my one and only mistress, giving yourself to me heart and soul - I swear Jane, I will be yours and yours alone and you will have everything you could ever desire” a part of Jane wants to say no - she has been taught all her life that she is only to give herself to her husband and the thought of giving truth to the rumours that have swirled about her makes her quail - it is hard enough already, the stares and the hatred and if she takes this step it will be worse.
But she looks at her Henry - sweet, hopeful Henry and thinks of the shattered remains of her family that is not in the tower - Elizabeth is, oh Lord help her Elizabeth is betrothed to Thomas Cromwell’s son, with whom she is very much in love and her parents are exiled to Wolf Hall and thinks, all I want to do is make my love happy - is it so bad, if I do not flaunt myself? We can be together and he will make sure our children are secure and I will be safe.
So she kisses him for an answer, despite her nerves.
I love him, she thinks to herself. I love him and it is right that I do this and Henry, Henry twirls her around in delight and tells her that she has made him the happiest man in England.
(For a moment Henry thinks of black hair - straight and curled and the the whirl of black and purple fabric instead of golden strands and white silk but he banishes it from his mind).
Anne Boleyn had been friend, older sister (not much older than Mary herself, in truth) and second mother all at once and and...Mary had thought she would lose her. She had prayed with her mama, prayed that The Lord would understand that Anne was no heretic - merely misguided and that that should not prevent her from heaven.
She had called her mother mama, mama and cried as she had not done since she was a very little girl and wondered how she was going to tell Elizabeth that their father had...what their father had done. And now she wonders again, how should she face her father who had been given his great desire and still turned away from his true wife.
The terrible thing was that it made Mary feel better a little - that it was not merely that her mother had not produced a son that had made her father turn away from her. It was not that Mary was not enough for him it was...it was that her father...Mary does not finish the thought, not even in her own head.
“The Queen has invited us back to court, should we wish to go” her mother had said, smiling over a letter from Anne before her smile turned sad “but she says that his Majesty is...that it is perhaps better we delay for a time until your fathers wishes are known”
It hurt, Mary thought, to know that her father has treated both of her mothers so cruelly that they now feared him.
Henry spends the night with Jane, unwilling to face a court that contains...no, it is merely that he wishes to spend time with his love, that is all. He leaves her with a promise that he will grant her a title of her own and soon he will invite her to court...when things have quietened a little.
(He tells himself he does not think of...he does not think of them at all, especially not when he bedded Jane).
When he does it is to a perfectly obedient Queen who asks him nothing of his affairs. It is exactly what he wished for and yet, yet it angers him that she does so because surely, surely his..surely she should yell and rage and fight but she does not (Because you have terrified her, because she knows there is no point in doing so says an inner voice that Henry ignores).
The one thing that melts her is their children, when they are presented and Elizabeth runs to hug them both and chatter about what her little brother has been doing (”mama, he smiles at me” “papa look, he looks like you”) and...and watching Anne with their children, Henry thinks perhaps at least in this he can be glad that Anne is still his Queen.
He sees her melt again, later. It is when he is walking through one of the passages that is only for the King and Queen and their most trusted servants and glances into a room and...Anne is gripping Thomas, her hands wrapped about his shoulders and her legs around his waist. They are not naked, not yet but they are close to it and Anne’s hair is tangled loose about her as she whispers something into Thomas ear.
It should not surprise Henry - he had told himself he would not care what Anne did - after all he no longer loved her and both she and Thomas would always be discreet and careful so why should it matter to him at all - he had Jane, after all and this way Anne would not bother him. Instead he feels..he feels...I feel nothing, he tells himself, turning on his heel.
(He does not mention that he is painfully hard, that the feeling is not merely lust but an ache in his heart. He does not mention that the two he beds that night are dark haired at all. If he did, he might have to think about the yawning guilt and pain. He might think that he wanted to join them, wanted to have Tom underneath him and Anne above and all three of them tangled together again).
Edward had always known his brother was an idiot but he had not thought he would have managed to charm Dorothy into his schemes - not to this depth, especially not when if they had merely done nothing then Jane would have become Queen - perhaps not mother of the future King but certainly mother of a Duke of York and if things had gone well, she could have made sure their family would wield influence as advisers regardless. Perhaps Edward might have even made sure the Queen would have lost her child - he cannot know if it would have been worth the risk, for surely the Seymour would have been the obvious suspects and as it was, they were already risen high and they would have been fools to risk it.
Then again, his brother always was a fool, Edward reflected from his rooms - he had only been sentenced to a term of house arrest but Thomas and Dorothy would die for their schemes, of that he was sure. He was just as glad he would not have to see it done.
When Jane tries to speak to Henry of her family he is harsh with her for the first time, telling her sharply not to speak of such things “I don’t want you to spoil things, my darling - I only want you to think of our love” and she drops the subject immediately but the apprehension remains. It is not that he does not wish to listen to me, Jane tells herself, he merely does not want to be troubled with such things and an obedient...I should be here to be a soothing presence for him, not to burden him.
She still wishes to go and visit Dorothy and Thomas in the Tower - they have committed treason, she knows that and she does not deny they deserve their punishment but they are still her family and she wishes to be there for them if she can. But she cannot think who she could ask about such things - Lord Cromwell is out of the question of course, as is the Duke of Suffolk, who hates her like poison and she does not think Chancellor Audley would listen to her and so Jane is left without the ability to go.
But she can see Edward, who has merely been confined to his rooms for a time. It is Edward who tells her, bluntly that there is nothing she can do for Dorothy and Thomas (”Sister, if you try to see them you shall be thought more guilty than you already are by the court and the country - indeed I think if you show your face outside you will be torn to pieces”) and that the best thing she can do is never mention them again.
It hurts though, that she cannot talk to her love about such things.
Okay I completely forgot to do notes for this and the last chapter so they will be combined here!
1. In chapter 5 the letters from France refer to a particularly ‘makes the author cry’ bit of real history in which Thomas Boleyn did in fact keep his youngest child’s childhood letters home - in fact they were so treasured we still have them.
2. The rain is a reference to historical Anne saying it wouldn’t rain until she was released.
3. Don’t spoil things is basically a paraphrase of something Henry says to Jane in S3 and the line about one and only mistress is a parallel to what he says to Anne in S1.
Jane had tried to banish the unease she felt - mostly she succeeds in the quiet of the manor house Henry has gifted to her which means she does not have be around the court and Henry can easily visit her every day. But it is there, sometimes at night, during times when she is alone.
What has happened to me, she thinks. What will happen to me - I have no family left to me here - Edward is banished to the country with our parents, Elizabeth hates me and Dorothy and Thomas are going to die and I can do nothing about it - I know they deserve it, but it still hurts to think of, that we have come to this.
She tells herself that all will be well - that Henry loves her, that he has given her this manor for her own, that they can be happy but in those night hours it sounds hollow in her mind. But she can lose herself in other things - drawing, embroidery, walking with Henry in the gardens or dancing together. She sews his shirts and smiles gently and tries to be everything he wishes her to be.
(It will never be enough, a voice inside her head tells her).
Coming to court? Coming to court makes it worse. Court is a reminder that no one but Henry wants her here. Court is...Court is the Queen. Court is the Queens children. The Queens son. Jane, Jane had dreamed about being a mother to them - Princess Elizabeth is a beautiful little girl and she had thought she could be a second mother to her as the Queen has been to Princess Mary. Prince...she sees Prince Thomas less, due to his age but she had seen him at his much delayed Christening - a beautiful, robust and healthy baby who is the image of his father entirely.
Princess Mary, Princess Mary hates her, that much is clear. And it does hurt, when Jane had always wanted Mary to like her but Jane, Jane knows she is hated now. She knows what people whisper behind their hands, knows that no one will ever believe she knew nothing about what her family had planned. Knows they think her grasping, unfeeling.
(”She’s a cheap little nothing, Charles!” she hears Mary Brandon hiss at her husband once and it stings but sometimes Jane welcomes it. Sometimes she thinks she deserves it, for what she is doing).
Because the Queen, the Queen does not...the Queen does not even look at her. Does not talk of her, does not scream at her. She does not have to wait upon her (Henry had thought perhaps she should but thankfully that had not happened) but Jane must sometimes be in her presence and it is painful. Sometimes she wants to hate Anne, who has children, who has a marriage and the love of so many and who is still gracious to Jane when she has no reason to be.
But then she remembers how Jane is sleeping with Anne’s husband. How Jane’s family had nearly killed her. How, how Henry had been, was being so cruel to his wife because he loved Jane and it makes her heart break, even though she tries not to think on it. She does not want to hurt anyone, she truly does not.
Sometimes, Sometimes Anne thinks it might have been easier to hate Jane Seymour. To simply blame her for enticing Henry, tempting Henry away from her and Tom but she cannot. It is Henry who has turned away from them, Henry who has decided to be cruel. Henry who seems to resent that she and Tom are alive at all, as though the mere fact that they are living reminders of his sins, of his discomfort is enough for him to hate them.
She also knows that he will want a Duke of York one day.
The thought of having to share a bed with him, having to be a wife in truth again? Anne cannot bear the thought, not now - she loves him still, God help her, she loves him still but she cannot bear the thought of being near him. So she loses herself - in her children, in her friends and her duties as Queen that do not include her husband. In her family and her Thomas. They do not see each other as much as they might but, but she cannot let him go.
“What has he done to us, Tom?” she asks him once and they both break into hysterical laughter because what has Henry not done, after all.
Henry cannot have Thomas Cromwell resume his position at court and yet, and yet he cannot not - the man is far too capable to be left out and so he is there again. But it is...it is not Thomas, Henry thinks once before firmly diverting his mind from such thoughts. But it is not Thomas, it is not his friend who would laugh only for him and Anne. It is not the friend who would gently tease him, who would debate and jest and tell stories of the world. (It is not, a voice inside his head whispers, his Tom who had lain against his chest, still in sleep and utterly at peace). He does not speak, though he does his work impeccably as always and he is still far too thin and the shadows around his eyes are deep.
Henry notices these things and tells himself he does not. Henry beds Jane and dreams of dark curls, of long black hair and two bodies against his own and tells himself he does no such thing at all. He is happy, he tells himself.
And yes, he will need a Duke of York but that is all - he will own that Anne’s children are perfect in every way but surely he simply feels apprehension because he feels he is betraying Jane by bedding another. It is not guilt, not at all, Henry thinks. I have nothing to apologise to Anne or...I have nothing to apologise for.
He does not convince himself. What angers him is that Jane, Jane does not soothe him as she had before - instead all he can think of is of Anne and Thomas Cromwell - of how happy they had been that night, before he had slipped away. Of how broken they had looked when he had first seen them. Of the tears in Anne’s eyes when he had gone away to be with Jane. Henry wants the comfort back, the certainty that he had always felt in Jane’s presence that he was doing the right thing, that his sweet Jane understood that he had done no wrong.
He tells himself it will surely return. That Jane will understand that she should not be upset about the executions that will come - surely she understands that they committed treason, family or no and that her love for him is so great that it will come before two traitorous Seymours. After all, she has not asked him for mercy for them, not after the first time when she had ventured to ask if she might visit them. And then and then she asks again.
“Jane, I would that you would be of good cheer - I only want to think of all that is good when I am with you” is what he says and it comes out sharper than he intends it to but...if only his mind would stop thinking of Anne and Cromwell. Of the doubts that he should not have and if Jane could be the sweet pure lady he knew her to be instead of meddling and bringing up things she ought not.
“I am sorry your...Henry, I am sorry but I must speak for the great love that I bear you means that I only want all that is good in your kingdom and surely the...”
“For Gods sake Jane, can you really be so naive as to think I would entertain you consorting with two traitors? Do not speak of it again”
He leaves her abruptly then, telling her that he would return when she was of a better mind to know how she should conduct herself. I love her, Henry thinks and I know she only spoke because of her gentle heart but by God, can she not understand how it must be and not vex me so?
He finds himself, somehow, walking towards the Queens Garden - a private retreat he had built for Anne, far back in their courtship days when they had walked and danced there every day and in all weathers. Sees Anne, sitting under a canopy, laughing as she watched Elizabeth gather flowers and present them to Thomas Cromwell, who has his head in Anne’s lap. They are a pretty picture both of them in white and watching baby Tommy, who is happily laid in a basket.
Henry, Henry reminds himself that he does not miss them. Not at all. Not at all. He finds his feet almost carry him towards them despite himself.
The day that her brother and sister die Jane tries not to think on it but she cannot help but mourn, though she knows, she knows that they deserve their punishment. She knows they did a terrible thing - it still angers her, thinking of the lives that they have ruined but...but they are her sister and her brother and she cannot help but mourn them too.
She can say nothing of this to Henry of course, she understands that now. Her remaining sister hates her (”you selfish hateful bitch” Elizabeth had hissed at her “do you know how many lives you’ve ruined with your starry eyed daydreams”) and her parents do not wish to see her - their disappointment is palpable. I have no one, Jane thinks miserable. No one at all.
Yes, yes she has Henry and her manor and this suite of rooms at court and some friendly ladies, mostly picked from among her relatives but she knows she has no other friends. Knows that Henry had danced with her in front of the Queen and the court had glared its hate when he had gone and she had felt as though she was the worst of people.
But she prays for her brother, for her sister, for...”I am so sorry” she says to herself, looking up at at the altar. “I never meant to fall in with love this way and I never wanted this” I could be addressing the Queen or I could be addressing the Lord or both, Jane thinks as she rises from her knees to see that the Queen’s sister is behind her and to her surprise, to her surprise there is no condemnation, no hate in Mary Boleyn’s eyes.
“I know you did not Jane. I know you did not.”
“Why...why would you say that? You, my lady of all people?” Jane cannot believe she is being so bold but she wants to understand, wants to ask why, why would you, the loving sister to Queen Anne, think any good of me at all? Why would Mary Boleyn be anything but vicious towards her.
“Because...because, you know I was a mistress once?” Mary smiled sadly then. “I know what it is to live with and make no mistake, my heart breaks for my sister - but I know who is responsible and it is not you Jane, at least not entirely. It is the King who decided to break my sisters heart, who decided to believe your family and condemn her and...to condemn her the way he did. So I have decided to be kind to you, because I have been you, Jane.”
1. The author would very much like to say that she does not endorse the attitudes towards Jane Seymour and also that HENRY TUDOR CAN GET IN THE SEA (he is slowly getting a clue but VERY SLOWLY).
Jane does not see Mary Boleyn much after that visit but she knows she will always treasure it in her heart, however much she did not understand why the Queens sister would be kind to her - it had meant a great deal, that someone was kind to her especially as her beloved Henry seemed more distracted than ever of late. Jane has tried to be the soothing presence he wishes for but nothing seems to truly settle him, though he tells her she is doing nothing wrong and that he lives for her company.
Somehow it seems to ring hollow if Jane thinks on it too long so she does not - instead focusing on pleasing Henry and on her amusements and her embroidery - that has always been her great skill and she wishes to set an example for her ladies of the kind of suitable occupation they could engage in, along with her sewing. Jane even carefully sews the King shirts with her own hand, wanting to give her love a gift that she herself has made and he smiles at her gently but somehow, somehow she feels his disappointment.
He is not bored. He is not bored at all, Henry tells himself, looking at the pile of beautifully sewn shirts that Jane had given him - Jane was everything a man could wish for in a lover and a wife and he is delighted with her but, he admits that he wishes she knew more of the world than she does, even as he knows it is hardly fair for there are not many women who are educated to the degree that...to the degree that his Queen is, Henry finally admits. It is to Jane’s credit, Henry tells himself that firmly that she has the suitable qualifications of a wife and mother - how to run a household, how to sew and embroider and how to dance and play a little and read enough to know the Bible and manage a home without the further education that has made his wife forget her place.
Except it appeared that even Jane had forgotten her place still for she had still sought to talk to him about the Religious Settlement and he had disturbed his mood by having to rebuke her once more for her presumptions. Why, Henry thinks, can she not simply be the sweet lady she was - it had given him a headache and so he decides to walk in the gardens.
It is there that he comes upon Elizabeth and Anne and Tommy - Anne is laughing as Elizabeth throws a ball towards her.
“I want Tommy to catch it”
“He can’t catch yet my darling, but he will when he is older”
“I think I would like him to be older now mama so he can play with me”
It makes Henry smile to hear the determination in his little girls voice and he finds his feet carrying him towards his wife and children without thinking - Anne’s start as she sees him is a sharp shock but she recovers quickly as Elizabeth hesitates a moment - a moment that breaks Henry’s heart.
He has not thought much of his two younger children of late and he knows that Elizabeth is so bright and so quick that she must have had wondered what had become of her Papa. Henry had never wanted his children to fear him or doubt his love so he makes his voice as loving as possible as he opens his arms.
“It’s all right my little princess - will you give your Papa a hug?”
Her little arms around him and her sweet smile is a balm to his heart.
“How are you and your brother my jewel?” Henry asks, looking down at his son.
“Tommy cries but he smiles at me, Papa. And Mama has been teaching me French and P..Master Cromwell has been teaching me Italian.”
Elizabeth chatters on about her lessons and Henry listens but he also remembers her near slip. Papa Thomas. Papa Thomas. For a moment Henry feels sick with guilt that his daughter thinks there are things she cannot speak to him of. But he also feels, though he will not admit it, a surge of happiness at the thought that Thomas Cromwell is a father to their children.
(He does not even notice he has thought of them as the children of all three of them).
Eventually Elizabeth runs off to pick more flowers and Anne watches her with a fond smile before she turns to Henry, holding the bundle in her arms.
“Would you like to hold him, Henry?”
He can hardly feel himself nodding as Anne hands him, Lord, it is the first time he has held his own son in his arms - can he truly have been so absorbed in Jane that he had neglected his children for so long? Henry had always wished to be a loving father to all his children and he vows he will not neglect them so again.
Little Tommy is clearly a beautiful baby - everything he had ever wished for in a son and more - already he is waving his limbs about, interested in the world around him and this strange new person who is holding him - he does not cry but he does...
“He has your smile” Henry hears himself saying to Anne and his tone is a fond one, to his own surprise. Even more to his surprise Anne’s answering smile at her son (and half at him, perhaps) warms him as nothing else has done in recent times.
Anne knows not to hope - likely this visit was a whim of her husbands and nothing more and he will soon wish to return to his mistress but oh, oh she cannot help but be charmed by him, despite her hurt and anger - she would never have shown it before Elizabeth who had been so delighted to see her father that she could not have spoiled that for the world.
“I cannot understand it Tom, that I should both hate and love him - both wish that he would never come near me and yet it warmed me that he would come to see me. I wanted to scream, I wanted to ask him how he could neglect Elizabeth so - even if he hated me, how could he take against a toddler so? And yet, somehow...”
Anne sighs, letting her fingers run through Thomas’ hair who smiles up at her sadly.
“Somehow you are still enchanted by him? I know it well, my heart - perhaps he truly is Helios - we are warmed and yet burned by him all at the same time”
“You called me your star once Thomas - if I am an evening star and you are the moon of my life then we must remember that the sun gives way to the night.”
Thomas had laughed then, letting out her hair from its braid and there was no more talking in words.
The next time Henry Tudor encounters Thomas Cromwell it is when he meets the Earl of Norwich.
1. The author would like to note that embroidery, sewing and running a household are SKILLS and also she is way closer to 'traditionally thought of as feminine' occupations anyway.
2. Helios = Greek God Of The Sun
3. "Moon of my life" somewhat comes from Game of Thrones. "Evening Star" is a dorky homage to Lord of the Rings and Arwen/Luthien.
4. The author would also like to note that Jane Seymour Deserves Better Also.
I want to put a specific content note here for references to child sexual abuse and a look at the kind of person that would do that as well as some body horror/gore.
The Earl of Norwich does not recognise Thomas Cromwell when he comes to court but he would not, not in this world where Thomas Cromwell is merely one of the Kings Advisers who fade quietly into the background and a patron in the Duke of Norfolk who sees “the jumped up gutter rat” as having been humbled enough to satisfy him. No, the Earl has no reason to pay heed to to the figure in black with short cropped hair who the King does not look at it.
Thomas Cromwell of course, knows him. Knows him and all of him aches at it - aches and aches and hurts and he feels he is ten years old again or perhaps fifteen and terrified even as he runs as far away as he could from the man and his house. The man and his bed and his hands and his gold and perhaps, perhaps, Thomas thinks it is fortunate that he is not in favour with...he is not in favour with the King, because he knows the man he now knows as Norwich would certainly find him and wish to reclaim him.
It still hurts, despite everything, that the King, that Henry will not look at him as though he is truly truly tainted after all (Thomas tries not to think about the way Henry had looked at him that one enchanted day and night when he had seemed to stare at him as though he and Anne truly were the moon and the stars of his world. Of the way Henry had gently held him closer, had told him to stay with such love in his voice that it had made him tremble to think of).
He thinks of trying to find the words to ask why, why your majesty? Why Henry, did you throw us, did you throw me away and they stick in his throat because Thomas Cromwell cannot help but believe that it must have been him, it must have been some defect, some taint that Norwich has left on his soul after all.
Henry Tudor does not look at Thomas Cromwell. He tries not to look at his Queen either but it seems he cannot stop thinking of them, cannot stop the hollow place in his heart from aching even as he tells himself it does not, it cannot. He feels affection, he tells himself, that is all. It must be Jane he loves, it must be. Yet he still dreams of waking with two dark haired loves in his bed, still thinks of how he wants to talk to them of books, of politics and theology and everything in between. How he thinks of kissing Thomas, of kissing Anne, of the three of them dancing together in the moonlight.
I want you, a part of him wants to say to Thomas. I want to kiss every part of you, I want to see your smile, I want to watch you and Anne together and join you both. I want to see what our children might look like. I love you, I love you, a part of him wants to say to them both. I have always loved you both.
Instead he turns away, tells himself that he loves Jane - sweet, modest Jane who is everything he could wish for - golden and fair and adoring and perfect and tries not to dream. But he does, oh he does dream.
They are holding their heads in the arms and the lips speak.
“There was no pain - it was a relief, to be free of my pain and my fears and the cold of these past months but yet, all I could think of was the children I would be leaving behind.”
Anne’s head is smiling, the smile that had once gladdened his heart.
“Do you know, I hardly got to hold Tommy before he was ripped from my arms - but then, you would hardly care would you Henry? You had a new mother planned for him before Tom and I were even cold.”
“All I could think of was that Anne had died on this same scaffold that I was to die - that they had cleaned her blood from it before I would mount it. All I could think was, why, why Henry - what did we do to be thrown away like trash?”
The eyes on Thomas Cromwells severed head are blazing with hate in a way they never have in life but Henry can see the heartbreak as well.
“You have driven us to this Henry. You alone”
Henry wakes gasping their names before the apparitions get any closer but he cannot get the images out of his head for the rest of the night. Not even Jane can chase them away.
When Jane hears Henry gasp awake she only hears one of the names but it is an arrow through her heart that she tries not to show.
“...Anne please don’t I...”
Anne. Anne. Her Henry had called for the Queen and the longing in his voice makes her break but she knows she cannot show it and so, instead she wordlessly offers Henry what comfort she can give him and tries to remember that he is with her, that he has chosen her, no matter what names he calls out in the night.
But she cannot chase away the memory of the love and the longing she had never heard in Henry’s voice when he had addressed her and the next morning when she sees him playing with the Prince and Princess it is hard not to feel the sour taste of envy in her mouth.
She knows, oh she knows that Henry wants a child from her but there has been no child yet and Jane, Jane would love a child by the man she loves, a child to be proof of their love. A child to love and dote on. But it has not come to be and it hurts her heart, that emptiness. Especially as she had thought to have...Jane admits that she had thought to be a mother to the little prince - the only mother he would ever know and it makes her ashamed to think she had thought that, that she could be so callous as to think it at all.
What have I become, she thinks as she sews in her richly appointed suite of rooms and what, whispers another voice, has the King made you into?
Anne Boleyn is playing with her children in the gardens when the Earl of Norwich finds Thomas Cromwell. Henry Tudor is returning from them when he comes upon Norwich and Cromwell. Norwich has Thomas backed against the wall, gripping his arms hard enough to leave deep bruises behind and is whispering something into his ear. At first, at first Henry thinks it is a meeting of lovers and the surge of enraged jealousy surprises him but then he looks, truly looks at Thomas and can see nothing but that his...but that the other man is shaking with terror. That he looks so fragile against Norwich’s bulk.
“...my beautiful little gutter rat. I remember when I found you - ten years old and scrambling to survive but oh, your father would have given me to you for free, wouldn’t he? And then I gave you everything - a home, a bed, schooling and a place and you, you were so ungrateful as to run away.”
Henry can see Norwich’s smirk and suddenly, suddenly he realises the implications in his tone, in the other mans words. The rage he feels is beyond words but it is almost a delight in the clarity it brings. For how dare this animal presume to touch his Thomas, How dare this man have hurt him, have presumed to lay hands on what did not belong to him. No, Henry Tudor understands now, at least a little. He understands that he could kill Norwich with his bare hands, could have him ripped apart piece by piece or skinned alive slowly and it would still not be enough - for he had dared to put his hands on...Henry does not think 'my love' not now, but it is there, in a part of him.
I'm just going to add another additional content note for what is some fairly serious violence/violent imagery in the beginning of this piece and also to thank the friends who helped me wrangle my thoughts about this chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Henry could have said that a red mist descended upon him but in truth he feels nothing but clarity in his rage, clarity as he has not felt in a long time. It is with cold calculation that he pulls Norwich off Thomas and it is with the same cold calculation of exactly how much to hurt that he beats the man half to death and delights to see the blood, tears and snot that is running down the other mans face. Delighted to hear that he is begging and pleading.
It still does not feel like enough but there is a certain vicious satisfaction in it as he pulls the man up by the hair and tells him if that if he speaks any more then Henry will take his dagger and cut off the pathetic thing between his legs.
The silence and the telling stain is enough of an answer.
“You see, you attacked me, your King, unprovoked but brazenly and without madness. And further? Well I am sure there are many deeds to your disgusting name that will be found to condemn you but the first alone is treason, as you know. And you will die screaming, I can assure you of that.”
Henry can feel himself smile, viciously as he tightens his grip, hearing a groan of pain that only enrages him further for the way that this man thinks he has any chance of mercy.
“I do not believe you deserve the privilege of your noble title - I barely think you deserve the grace to be called a name at all but you will be stripped of your title and you will die like the hellspawn you are at Tyburn, though that is still more than your deserve.”
He leans down then, to whisper in the man’s ear and the last thing the man who was the Earl of Norwich hears before guards are summoned to drag him away makes the man tremble with fear.
(”You dared to touch that which is worthy only of a King and a Queen. And if you breathe a word I will have you tortured every day before you die”)
It is then that he turns to Thomas, looks at him fiercely because he will not have him harmed. He will not have it again and he turns to him, holds trembling hands gently, softly (it feels like coming home, a part of him sings) and talks to him with soothing words, he cannot remember what, but at some point he hears Thomas apologising and “...I am so sorry your...I am sorry Henry, that I am so tainted”
“Never. Never. That man is not worthy to empty your chamber pot Thomas. That man has not touched your soul, for it has a grace that is beyond him - it always has for I have seen it.”
And I have, Henry thinks. He had always thought that Thomas, like Anne had been marked somehow as one born to ascend to high estate (Born to wear a crown, a part of him thinks) while Norwich is lower than the worms for all the differences in their birth.
For a moment, for a moment, they stand there, the two of them and all Henry wishes to do is kiss him, take Thomas in his arms and say, I love you, my heart, forgive me but he does not.
He does not. Interrupted by the entrance of a guard, they move apart and Henry suddenly feels awkward all over again - that he has had this depth of feeling and merely waves off Thomas and his bow and thanks with an absent hand but he cannot stop the feeling of regret that courses through him that the moment has passed and he admits that he is short with the guard in question.
Thomas, Thomas does not, cannot understand why he would deserve such a defence. He cannot...it is a though he has suddenly been told that fish fly through the air such is the absurdity of the idea that the King of England would so fiercely tell him that he should have no shame.
Thomas thinks he might perhaps have believed it better if Henry had not himself signed his death warrant on heresy a short while ago - as it is he cannot...jealousy, yes, that he can perhaps comprehend though it is not as though I am especially appealing Thomas thinks as he sinks into the bath he has had drawn, hoping to wash off the feeling of Norwich’s hands but the fierce gentleness that Henry had said that he was not the one who was stained had almost, almost sounded like the Henry of that golden day who had held Thomas as though he was truly a precious thing.
Anne comes to see him as he is dressing and her hands are soft as she applies a balm to his bruises. She does not reproach him for not having told her (”Tom, my heart, how can I blame you for trying to protect me and yourself all at once”) but she does tell him that Henry is right.
“It is Norwich who should be shamed before the world for what he has done, not you though the world might say it otherwise - it is no stain on your soul or your body that he is an evil thing”
Thomas might even believe her, such is the conviction with which Anne Boleyn speaks but then, his loves are both persuasive in that way and Anne, Anne speaks with all the passion of the bright star that she is.
She tells him she will stay with him that night and Thomas is not ashamed to admit that it gladdens his heart that she will - that her touch and her scent and the feel of her arms will be a bulwark against the nightmares that he knows will come.
Henry can feel his feet carry him to Anne’s bedchamber without thinking about it. He finds himself standing in the door, feeling hesitant, feeling as though he should go but it is Anne who welcomes him, despite what he knows still lies between them.
They both cradle Thomas between them that night and somehow, somehow Henry feel content and guilty both. Feels as though he...I did not wish to lose this, he thinks before he falls into sleep and somehow the guilt is worse for it, however much he tries to put it from him, to find the anger and resentment he had before. Somehow it has vanished from him like mist and he has no idea what to grasp next.
No idea at all.
1. Henry GOT SOME FEELINGS (you know what that is? It's SOME GROWTH)
2. Okay so I saw the 'feel no shame' quote on Black Sails Gifsets a lot and it clearly stuck with me.
Jane cries herself to sleep alone when Henry does not come to share her bed and she hears that he has gone to the Queen. She knows, oh she knows she should not but it hurts because she loves him and wants him to keep loving her. She does not want to lie here alone and sad and thinking awful thoughts because a husband has decided to share a bed with his wife.
But she does not want him to. She wants Henry here, holding her in his arms and whispering sweet words and the knowledge that his heart is hers alone, no matter the cost. And yet a voice whispers to her that perhaps this is somewhat of what Queen Anne felt, once upon a time. Perhaps she is only suffering her due but...but no, no, Jane thinks. He loves me and he is only doing his duty to make sure the country has a Duke of York - he must bed the Queen but his heart is mine, surely it is. Surely it is.
Her doubts stay with her, despite herself. Especially when her maid brings her the gossip that the King had stayed all night with the Queen, had broken his fast with her and planned to go riding with her that day.
Jane wants to hide herself away in her bed so she does not have to face the sneers and the mockery but she knows that would only make it worse so she is dressed and leaves her rooms to walk in the gardens. It is on her way there that she sees Henry, her Henry, helping the Queen onto her horse with such tenderness that she can feel tears forming in her eyes.
Henry had wanted to run from this conversation, he owns. Part of him still does, part of him wants to rage that he is a King and he does not owe apologies or an explanation but, but something had changed in the night and he knows he owes to Anne and to Thomas to hear this. So they ride out - he and Anne, to a secluded spot by the river, with a few loyal guards standing some distance away where they cannot hear what is being said. To his own surprise it is Henry who breaks the silence.
“Can you forgive me?”
It is Anne who answers.
“Henry...Henry, I...I don’t know, candidly. You sent me..you sent us to The Tower. You signed warrants for our execution and you were going to replace us before our bodies were cold - I don’t think I can ever forget it.”
For once, for once Henry does not feel defensive or angry or anything but a horrified, shattered sadness for what he has ruined.
“But..I still love you. I do, though I understand it not. My heart and soul have always been yours and Thomas’ Henry, but you seemed to value it so little these past years that it broke me into pieces and..Henry”
Anne takes his hands then, almost gentle.
“Henry, I do not know if I can trust you again - perhaps not for a long time. I do not know if I can ever look at you without a shadow of fear and...Thomas, Thomas is terrified, Henry. He is terrified and he is so ashamed”
She waves away his protests that there is nothing he should be ashamed of, nothing at all and tells him that of course Thomas is - he is a commoner made a noble who has been sharply reminded that everything he has could so easily be taken away. Everything. That he had felt that he had displeased Henry and so should be thrown away.
“It was what Norwich told him every day Henry and you seemed to prove it true and no, he will not tell you this. He would have once, but I do not know if he will again.”
Henry. Henry. By God, he wants to scream his frustration, his horror at himself to the heavens, to pray to the Lord to take away what his mistakes have lead to. Wants to plead, wants to cry and beg and ask what he can do to fix it - surely he must be able to for he is a King. Instead he simply sits there, numbly as Anne untangles her hands from his.
“Henry, do not think I am not thankful for yesterday and the night we spent - we both are. But these...these are deep wounds, my love and the healing is long and when it is done I do not know that I can forget it, that Thomas can forget it. And I do not know that I can believe that you will be able to give us time enough to try, that you will not lose patience”
Henry starts to protest but then...it is true, he thinks. What have I become, what has fear and terror made of me that I should have come to this, that my loves are trembling before me with hurts that I have made.
Anne does not even ask him about the Lady Jane because...because she has learned there is no point, Henry thinks. She has learned to fear me and once I would have been glad that she has learned her place and now, now I am horrified. I have taught them to fear me when they should never do so.
“So...if you would seek our love anew Henry? Prove that you mean it truly. Prove that you have patience enough to wait.”
With that Anne turns to mount her horse and rides away, leaving Henry to his thoughts and to his doubts. He tries to summon anger, tries to summon indignation and...there is nothing. It is a hollow place inside him and all he has is his guilt and his despair that he has lost his most precious jewels and it is all his own fault. His alone.
When he beds Jane when he returns it only makes him feel worse and he sharply asks her to leave immediately after and cannot make himself apologise for it. He had hoped to forget for a time in Jane’s arms and nothing of the sort had happened, at least not afterwards. He had enjoyed the physical act of bedding her, that he did not deny but all he is left with now is the feeling that he wants Thomas. Wants Anne. And the idea that he has a right to take a mistress? He tells himself he does, that it is merely about the physical relief, that it can have no bearing on his relationship with Anne and Thomas but he knows, oh he knows that that rings hollow.
He had been cruel to them long before he had signed warrants for their execution. Henry resolves that he will do better. His feet carry him to Anne’s rooms that night and he asks her, quietly if he might share her bed that night, aware that she had once asked him that hesitantly and he had refused her curtly, not wanting to look at her.
Anne’s shake of the head makes an agony of his heart, of his soul. That night he does not send for Jane at all. He had thought about it, had thought perhaps he could lose himself in her for a time but he found he could not. Not now.
Jane cries herself to sleep in a lonely bed.
-We have a TURNING POINT. But just, Oh Jane :/. Oh Jane :/.
-There is a parallel here in which Henry is suddenly in the position of being the one who is begging to share Anne's bed that I definitely did deliberately.
Anne had been terrified when she had talked to Henry - had thought perhaps of being less candid than she had been of saying very little, of continuing to be the perfect marble Queen that he had seemed to wish to see from her, if he wished anything of her at all. In the end she could not - for herself, for Thomas, for their children and even for Henry, who she thought deserved the honesty that he had promised could always be between them.
But she was still terrified. It could have gone so horribly wrong, she knows that but he had listened. Had even seemed to understand, at least a little that this was not something that he could easily fix. And he had not screamed at her.
When she hears he had spent the night in his bed alone she had not expected it to last. Henry had after all, often told her that he was a King and a man and men had needs and if their wives could not satisfy them then it was their right to divert themselves with a willing lady and Anne was not to object. No, Anne does not expect his celibacy to continue - though once she might have believed that he loved her and Thomas alone she cannot, not now.
Henry realises that he cannot expect Anne or Thomas to trust him - after all he had shown them both that they could not in recent times and so he knows that it will take time. What is harder is that his lust for Jane does not abate - he can see that it is not love now but he does desire her and her golden fair prettiness. And yet, yet there is nothing else - Jane is sweet and gentle and perfectly ideal and...he does not love her.
It is a painful thing to realise that he would have been willing to consign his true hearts to death for a woman he now sees he does not love. He has tried to tell himself that he cared for her at least but Henry has tried to divest himself of delusions about himself of late and he knows that what he felt was lust, fondness and the grasping of what he thought he should want that he had convinced himself was love.
And he finds himself more and more irritated with Jane, though he knows it is not fair. Jane who went along with his cruelties, though she owed her Queen better. Jane who had been willing to be with him while Anne was pregnant with their son. Henry does not deny his own responsibility but surely, surely Jane had her own part to own and thus, he looks at her differently.
When Elizabeth comes to see her Jane is sure she has come to gloat but instead, instead Elizabeth holds her hands and tells her that though she cannot condone her actions, her father in law has spoken to her and said she should not hold Jane to blame and so...”I will try for if he can speak of forgiving you, when he has so many reasons to hate then I can try for the sake of the older sister I loved”
And once again, Jane does not understand. Why, why would Thomas Cromwell of all people speak of kindness, of forgiveness to her. She does not ask her sister for more details, the peace too fragile between them to do so but she does wonder.
When the letter arrives, written in the King’s elegant hand Thomas Cromwell feels his hands tremble as he reads its contents.
“My dark haired love - I write not in expectation of an easy forgiveness nor any idea that you should have to return affections to me once more but merely because I wish to court you as I should have long ago...”
Thomas is no longer ashamed to admit that he cries at the contents, beautifully written by a man who he knows hates to write letters at all. And it is true - there are no demands - neither open nor hidden and...truthfully he is touched, though he knows that the sore place in his heart remains.
I want to trust you, he thinks to the Henry in his head, I have always wished to have my heart and soul safe in your hands and Anne’s but you have made me wary and shamed and I do not know if it can be repaired. And I do not know if you truly have the patience to try for however long it may take or to accept that you may have shattered it beyond repair.
Henry writes a letter to Anne as well but as well as words he has made sure to send gifts - not dresses or jewels but books that have been carefully picked out for her and Thomas. He also gives them the space to simply be, with a patience that makes Anne wonder if perhaps, perhaps she might begin to look towards him again as she once had.
But Henry is still bedding Jane Seymour. Anne...there is a part of Anne that thinks of the woman who had danced with her husband while Anne was mourning her own child, while Anne was pregnant. Who had bought her whole smug family to court and watched as Anne and her love had nearly died. Who had wanted to replace her as a mother to Anne’s children. There is a part of Anne that wants to do nothing but hate her.
But of course, there is a part of her that looks at Jane and pities her - she had clearly been beguiled by Henry, by her family and by the stars in her own eyes and her dreams and for that, for that she can ask Elizabeth Seymour to talk to her, can find kindness in her heart even if she can never be comfortable with Jane.
”She was...she was living in a dream Anne - she was so sheltered and her family encouraged her in it and then everything crashed down upon her and truly, she has no one, not really” was what Mary had told her after confessing she had gone to see Jane. “And truly she wanted none of the cruelty”
No Anne knows that she cannot blame Jane Seymour, not really.
Henry dismisses Jane Seymour when his oldest daughter and his former wife return to court.
1. Henry historically hated writing letters
2. I am thinking of putting some of my internal meta thoughts about what the characters are thinking on my tumblr if people want to ask questions about things?
When he tells Jane that she will have to leave court she gapes at him for a moment and Henry feels a flash of irritation that she does not understand that of course she will have to leave - he cannot have her here, not if he wants to have a chance of repairing what he has lost with Anne and Thomas.
There was a part of him that had thought of keeping her as his mistress - he had enjoyed their time together in bed and he certainly still lusted for her, especially now when she was dressed to emphasise her prettiness and perhaps he could simply install her in an out of the way manor house until he tired of her at last but looking at her now, Henry knew he could not. He would always look at Jane and be reminded that for her, he had been willing to murder the two he loved most in the world. That he had been cruel to them because he had believed himself in love with her.
No he would dismiss Jane, find her a husband who would not reproach her and would not mind that he would not be able to come to court and then he could begin to repair what he had broken. He would not be unkind to Jane, who he still felt a fondness for but their relationship certainly could not continue. Not now.
It is Anne who welcomes them to court and Mary is gladder than she can say to see her - she can see it in the face of her Mama too, as she embraces her fellow Queen (though Katherine has been formally known as Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Derby for some time now in honour of her title as Princess of Wales, for many in the country she will always have been a Queen). It is hard for Mary to see how thin Anne still is, how much fear shadows her eyes.
It hurts her heart to think that it was her father who had put it there but it does not surprise her. She loves him, she always will but she knows now that he is capable of being cruel in a way that Mary would never have known as a child - or perhaps it is merely that he is capable of being cruel if he is convinced that he has been betrayed.
(Mary’s mother had once told her that her father was not angry at Mary but that he thought that Mary was being influenced by her and what he was angry at was Katherine and that, not Mary herself but Mary thinks of the months of being separated from her mother and thinks that the intent did not matter).
So she is glad to avoid him for the moment - glad to dote on little Elizabeth and baby Tommy (”I know it is a common name but it is one that has not been used for a Prince of Wales so he will always be the first and it seemed right to name him for my father” Anne tells them, cradling her baby son in a way that makes Mary feel both yearning and an apprehension at own future motherhood) and spend time among a friendly court.
She is glad that she does not meet her fathers mistress for she does not think she can bear to look at her - though her loathing is almost nothing to her mothers, who sees another Bessie Blount but worse.
Mary, Mary looks at her little sister and hopes that Elizabeth does not remember any of this. That she will never have to have the pain that Mary has had and that Mary can protect her and Tommy from it. She never wants them to fear their father the way she does.
Thomas Cromwell does not dance, not in public or at least not often. He is dancing now, because Anne had asked him and Henry, Henry almost cannot breathe at how beautiful they are. He had come upon Anne and dismissed her maids, asking softly if he might help her dress for the feast and had asked if Thomas might join them.
It had felt right, to kneel at their feet as he clothed them and now watching them together, Thomas not in his customary black for once and Anne radiant in purple makes him feel awed and sick all at once. He could have lost this, could have thrown this away for lust and his own fears.
Thank the Lord it will be done soon and he can simply focus on how he must treasure them, how he must with all his heart and soul, rebuild what was lost. And if he cannot, he still must try because Henry Tudor knows now that he cannot stop loving these two. Cannot even imagine it, when once he had deluded himself into thinking that he could because he had been so terrified of losing it, of losing them.
He will never make such a mistake again, Henry vows to himself.
Jane gaps at Henry because...because she cannot believe it. He had shared her bed only the day before, had spoken to her affectionately and apologised for his irritation the day he had returned from riding with the Queen. She had thought that they might renew their love, especially with the news she had to share with him. Her courses were late and while she could not be sure Jane had wanted to tell her love that they might have a child, hopefully another son, sooner than he had thought. She had dreamed in her heart that he would hear it with joy.
Henry couldn’t dismiss her. Not now. Not when they could renew their love, not when there was so many of her dreams coming true (not all of them, it was true - Jane wished with all her heart that this babe would be born legitimate). She knows her Henry would not do such a thing, not with such evidence of their love.
That is why she gapes at him, when he tells her so indifferently that a husband will be found for her and she is to be married immediately after she leaves court- she has no position there but that in Henry’s favour and heart so there is no reason for her to stay unless he wishes.
“Henry, Henry...you can’t, love, not now. Not when...I’m with child, Henry, my love, we can have a new start, don’t you see? This is a sign!”
1. Jane Deserves Better :/ (I'm not saying Henry isn't Trying it's just...HENRY TUDOR YOU CREATED THIS ENTIRE MESS UGH)
2. Characters Opinons/Takes On Jane Do Not Reflect The Authors Who Thinks She Deserves Better.
I also want to put an additional note for homophobia and victim blaming attitudes
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Henry stares at Jane in horror instead of delight and once again she finds herself on the edge of tears as he asks her if she is sure. The relief in his eyes when she says that she is not yet as her courses could merely be late is painful. More painful is that she is to leave court immediately - her wedding to be arranged regardless of whether there is a child in her belly or not and she is not to breathe a word to anyone of her suspicions.
It hurts that Henry wants to hide her away like a dirty secret. It hurts that it seems to be for rebuilding his relationship with his Queen - how can it be, Jane wonders that he goes from professing his eternal love and devotion to me, looking at me as though I hang the moon and stars in the sky to shunning my presence for the Queen he had seemed to hate so very recently? And then a part of Jane thinks, perhaps he only told himself he hated her and loved me but no, Jane cannot think that.
Henry must love me, she thinks. He must. After Jane orders her maids to pack up her things - for she is to go to her manor house until a husband is found for her she goes in search of Henry to say...to say goodbye, she supposes. Goodbye and perhaps, perhaps she can make him see that he does not want to send her away, that it is Jane he loves. It is when she is at the edge of Henry’s bedchamber, through a passage that he had shown her when their love was at it’s height, while telling her to never show it others that she hears Henry, speaking softly to someone who she cannot see.
“Look at me, if you would, my heart. If I could, if it were in my power I would take this shame from you, I would take back the mistakes I have made these past months and I would hold you in my arms and never let you go - not for the world. But now, now I needs must start anew - may I hold you, Tom?”
Jane, Jane can hardly believe it. Henry, her Henry, is speaking words of love to...Lord, he is speaking words of love to a man. A grasping sodomite who she knows has corrupted Henry into this vice, has made him stray from Jane. She can feel poisonous hatred in her heart, can feel her hands balling into fists that this sinner has taken everything from her with black arts.
She storms away, more determined than ever that she will win Henry back, will break the dark magic that has clearly beguiled him away from her. A child will make sure of it, Jane thinks, holding a hand to her still flat stomach.
Henry looks down at Thomas, whose head is in his lap and feels as though he is home, especially with Anne sleeping in the great bed beside them and thinks he will soon have the passage he showed Jane blocked off, because he cannot stand the thought that his mistakes will taint what should be, what he wishes to rebuild with Anne, Tom and their children.
Surely, surely the Lord cannot begrudge me this, cannot begrudge us this love - not when it has bought joy when I embraced it and sorrow when I turned away. And that, that is why he has decided what he wishes to give Thomas. A Dukedom. But more than that, he wishes to give him a Dukedom that cannot be taken away, that he will swear upon the host and by the Lord that whatever may happen, Thomas will not die in pain. That his family will be safe, even if Henry should be so shortsighted as to repeat his recent mistakes. Because he understands now, that trust will take time to be rebuilt, if ever it can but this way, this way he can give Thomas something to hold on to.
He can swear, with a witness that Anne will always be safe and will always be able to be with their children. I can do that much, Henry thinks, even if they can never share my bed and my heart again, I can give my loves this much.
It is something to hope for. It is something to guide him truly, when he had been so misled by false paths and idols.
Anne wants to believe. Wants to, desperately and yet she curses herself for doing so, because had she not learned enough from the harsh lessons Henry had taught her and Thomas? Was not even the threat of the blade enough to cure her heart of trusting her husband? It appeared not and Anne was displeased with herself. She had thought perhaps she could be the perfect Queen that Henry had professed to wish for, that she could keep her heart for her children, her people, her family and her Thomas and could make sure that Henry had none of it. But...it was so hard, when Henry seemed so much like the Henry he had been on that golden day. The Henry who had courted her and the Henry of the early years of their marriage, before she lost her second child.
When he hands her the documents for Thomas’ Dukedom and her own guarantees in law Anne, Anne cries. She cannot help it for the wall around her heart is shattering. This, more than anything else - more than words and gifts and letters has made her think that perhaps, perhaps her heart is not wrong after all. That perhaps Henry can truly be the man he had been to her and Tom. That perhaps they can rebuild after all.
“Thank you, Henry. I...thank you love” she says. Settling into the circle of his arms feels right, although not without a twinge of pain. Even the kiss she gives him feels right, somehow, even if it is tinged with grief.
Henry twirls Anne around in a flash of purple silk and black hair and opens his arms to Thomas, who walks into the room with a soft smile on his face upon seeing them together and he takes Henry’s hand, softly and hesitantly but...oh, Henry thinks, it is truly as though my soul is home.
“Do you know, my hearts - I would wish to lay you both on this bed and then perhaps, I might hold you and kiss you until we are breathless.”
Jane’s upset that she is to marry William Parr is perhaps as great as that of his family that she is to be his wife - no matter what titles or funds have been thrown at William as compensation none of them wish to welcome the woman who had nearly killed their beloved Queen and the Lord Chancellor who had done so much to advance the cause of the Religious Settlement. His youngest sister Catherine even declares that she will not attend the wedding, she is so angry.
“I will not treat her cruelly - it would not be well done as a gentleman.” William said firmly. “She deserves the chance to be welcomed, no matter the past and I’m sure it cannot be an easy thing, to be sent away in such a way”
He looks at his younger sister with a sigh, seeing the stubborn set of her mouth and knowing that Cate was clearly unconvinced and then looked at his mother, who was still clearly angry that her son had been given another man’s castoffs. Even a kings.
William himself had not been entirely delighted that he might end up giving his name to a child that was not his and a wife who was no virgin but he also had no wish to start married life by making it a misery for the Lady in question - what was done was done and he would not reproach her.
“Just...just try to give her a chance, that is all I ask.”
What happens is that neither Jane nor Maude nor Catherine take to each other at all. Jane thinks they are hateful, determined to hide her away like a dirty secret and Maude and Cate think Jane is a shameless, pride filled woman who seems to still believe the King in love with her and seems to have no remorse for the damage she has caused.
It is only Anne Parr, the youngest of the family, who takes the time to befriend Jane and talks to William about her truly (the women of the family have been sent to keep Jane company before her wedding to William).
“She’s sweet and kind Will - she truly is, but she’s so naive and I think her shyness can come off as pride when it is nothing like that and she does believe the King loves her but she is not unaware of what that love has cost and truly, she is so sorry for it.”
Jane is glad for the kindness Anne Parr shows her even if the name Anne makes her uncomfortable. Even she is determined to get out of marrying her brother, however good William might be. She needs to break the spell that the sodomite has placed over Henry. If it requires sacrifice then, well, the Lord has commanded that sacrifices be made for the greater good and Jane, Jane will see it done.
She slips away from her keepers and orders the carriage to head back to court, where she knows the royal children are.
1. Hi everyone meet Unexpected Cate Parr (who in this universe is born slightly later as her brother is born slightly earlier) - I was pondering who Jane might marry and um, this came to me.
2. Oh Jane :/. Henry however is Getting There (mostly???)
3. One of the things I really wanted to articulate, I think was that, okay some of it is 'fuck it it's my AU verse and there will be acceptance from at least some people and also NONE OF THE BOLEYN FAMILY IS STRAIGHT ;)' but some of it is I genuinely, genuinely wanted to show that none of the OT3 think of their children as illegitimate. They think of themselves as married - not in the Church but before the Lord (G-d approves!) and actually, it's somewhat echoing of the medieval marriage rite which didn't actually require a church wedding. I wanted them to not have angst about being Not Straight and have, okay not all the people closest to them but at least a certain number (the Boleyn Family, Gregory Cromwell, eventually Mary and her husband) because well, self indulgence and also There Were Not Straight People In History And They Could Be Happy.
She is halfway through her journey when Jane realises that she has almost no chance. How can I hope this would work, she thinks to herself - I am only one woman with no one I can trust and while the Lord might have charged me with saving the Henry’s soul surely he cannot expect me to do it all alone, with no resources?
Perhaps, Jane thinks I should simply go back, claim a non existent visit to my remaining family called me away and be content with the marriage I have been given. I could find another way to pull Henry away from that sodomite without exposing him, I could bide my time and be content. But then she thinks of the child that might even now be growing inside her, thinks of how that child could have been welcomed with love and joy inside of a hushed secret if only Henry had not been so corrupted.
If only Henry had not turned away from her. No, Jane thinks, I must do this, no matter the cost. I must do this for his own good and in time my love will thank me for opening his eyes and saving his soul. In time, he will understand.
It is when she is exchanging clothes with the servant she has bribed that Jane feels blood running down her legs and realises that her courses have come after all. There was no child and she feels rage through her tears, sure that it was that sodomite cursing her so that she would not be blessed with a child. Perhaps that was why there had been no child in the months she had spent with Henry, for they had certainly had every chance to have one and her prayers can only have been thwarted by something evil. Someone evil, she thinks, her resolve strengthening.
No, she must do this. If she does not, then the Lord knows what will happen to the baby Prince and the Princess if she does not act. And Jane knows she is the only one who can. Her hands do not even tremble as she adds the sleeping draught to the food she brings to the ladies who tend the the royal childrens nursery. She knows she is doing the right thing. She knows it.
No one notices that Jane is gone - her sister in laws and mother in law to be had left for the day to attend to matters back home and indeed no one had thought they would need to guard her - Jane they all agreed, was many things but she was obedient to a fault and they were sure she would stay quietly in the manor and not flee. And even if she would try, where would she go? Certainly not to her remaining sister, whose sympathies did not lie with her or to her parents who felt that she had disgraced them or her remaining brother who was too shrewd to indulge any of her fancies about making the King love her again.
No, it was safe enough to leave the woman with the servants.
Jane waits to make sure the women are sleeping before she picks the little Prince out of his cradle, praying he will not wake up. Princess Elizabeth is not there and Jane has no time, though her heart shudders at the thought of leaving an innocent little girl in peril from the man who has committed so many evils there is no choice. She can only hope that she will be kept safe from him, though it does not seem like enough, not really.
“Hush, hush, little one. Hush”
The little Prince’s eyes are fluttering open and Jane desperately rocks him, hoping he will return to sleep. Hoping that the noise of the palace around them will cover his cries if he does. She has to succeed. She has to keep him safe, she has to do this and make Henry listen so she can break the evil hold on him and this, this was the only way she could think to make him listen to her.
“Hush, hush sweetling.”
The little prince stays asleep but only with the help of a little of the sleeping draught she has left over and eventually Jane can return to her carriage - she has a little money - enough to find a place for both of them that cannot easily be found. As she looks down at the sleeping Prince she finds herself dreaming that he is her son, her and Henry’s - this sweet little golden prince who would be the expression of their love and who had been so welcomed by the country. She had carefully printed out a note for Henry - she had not wanted him to worry, had wanted him to know that they were safe but that he needed to listen to her and this was the only way she could think of, for he would not have paid her any heed otherwise.
She knows Henry will understand. Even the Queen will, once everything is settled. Jane knows the Lord will make sure of it and will make sure that the grasping sodomite who has forced her into this will die for his sins.
The King was not screaming, no, but it was far more terrifying than that, Audley thought to himself. It was the kind of icy rage that chilled all who beheld it, the kind of rage that reminded you that for all Henry Tudor was known as an affable King he was still a King and a great one at that. And his wrath was still terrible - Lord hope that I am never on the receiving end of it, Audley thinks as Henry looks down at the badly printed note once again.
The Queen is not in evidence. Nor is the Lord Chancellor.
Jane Seymour does not expect Queen Anne to walk through her door.
-Jane historically did not get pregnant until around January 1537. I am, how does one say, Extremely Bad At Time (some of it is just me going 'idek magic throwing up my hands here') but I did know that 1536 has not yet ended and so, there ended up being no baby Edward or Margarey Fitzroy.
-Also Jane is...honestly in a really bad place at this point :/. (She's in love or at least genuinely believes herself to be in love with someone who was the first person to really actually cherish her, she's been pretty sheltered in a lot of ways, she's being married off into a family who mostly Does Not Like Her, the child she thought she might have had hasn't happened after all and basically 'evil sodomite corrupted my true love away from me' is something that makes sense :/. She is really really not herself and okay, my heart hurts for her).
Anne isn’t sure of much, in the hours after she finds out her child has been kidnapped by her husbands former mistress but she is sure that she is glad that Henry is not present - because she is not sure what she would have done. On the one hand her anger is sharp like a knife - that Henry had been the one who had allowed the woman into their lives, that Henry had once thought that she might have been a mother to Anne’s children but on the other? Anne does not wish to say something unwise.
The other part of her? The other part of her is somewhere between scared for her baby son and furious at Jane Seymour. She thinks if Tommy has been harmed, has been scared in any way she might kill the woman herself. Looking at Thomas she thinks he might help her - for all that her Thomas was a gentle soul he was not so when those he loved were threatened. Not at all.
“I..what if he isn’t wrapped up well? He needs me to feed him, Tom - what if he’s hungry and crying and no one pays him any heed? What if...”
Anne is glad that Thomas doesn’t say anything about how her baby can’t be dead because no one can know what might go through Jane Seymours mind or what she might do. She is glad that he can understand that she does not want empty reassurances. Even if it breaks her into pieces to think of Anne would rather face what she must because even if it does not help at all, her baby boy will not face it alone - she will be there as his mother and so will his Papa.
Both his Papa’s, she adds to herself. Because Henry, in the glimpse she had of him had looked angrier than she had ever seen him - at Jane and, she thinks, at himself.
“I may know where she might have gone”
Elizabeth Seymour goes straight to the point and Anne is glad of it - she could not bear any delay for formality now. It turns out that the Seymour family have acquired a small house and surrounding lands not far from London which had been rented out but the tenants had briefly left to visit their new grandchild- the important thing being that it is private and well concealed enough to be overlooked and has store enough of food and firewood to keep an occupant for a long while without needing to purchase more supplies.
Anne refuses to stay behind to hear that it is impossible that she should go and she is glad that Thomas merely goes with her - though he asks that she takes guards and it is Thomas who sees to the precautions. Anne is glad she had thought of that and that Thomas had the ability to organise it because much of her mind was focused merely on getting her baby back. And perhaps, strangling Jane Seymour with her bare hands.
Henry was angry at himself - Charles could see that but he could also see that the scales had fallen from his eyes and he saw the Seymour bitch as she really was. Charles wishes it had not taken such extremes for it to happen. Especially this. Especially when Henry finds his wife has gone to find her son herself.
“I have to follow them...Charles, please, let me finish this. It is my mistakes that have led to this and as a man, as a knight, as a king I needs must fix it as best I can and I do not want Anne to be harmed any more than she has already been. If you love me...brother, if you love me please, allow me to go.”
Charles does. Of course he does, he cannot do otherwise and besides he is fairly certain that his beloved Queen will likely have dealt with the Seymour woman before Henry arrives. Bright, kind and beautiful Queen Anne may be but she was truly a lionness - especially when her children were threatened.
“Lord, let him live.” Charles finds himself saying under his breath, as his wife holds his hand. They are both praying for their nephew, their brother and their sister as much as the Prince, the King and the Queen. More than, even.
Jane clutches the baby tighter. The Queen can’t have him. She can’t, Jane thinks - she doesn’t know how to keep him safe, how to keep Henry safe if that heretical sodomite wormed his way in to their lives. Jane has to keep him because she was the only one who saw it truly - and the Prince was meant to be her son.
“Jane, he’s crying”
When she hears Thomas Cromwell she sags in relief. Surely he will understand, when he had been nothing but kind to her and for all he is a Lutheran she knows him to be devout.
“I have to...I have to keep him safe. I’m not going to hurt him - I’ve taken care of him! He was going to be corrupted by evil, just like his majesty and I needed to keep him safe. I needed his majesty to listen to me and he...”
Jane can feel the tears in her voice as she clutches the babe to her chest.
“He would not so I had to...I had to make sure he was safe.”
Thomas voice was gentle, almost as Jane remembered her fathers might have been when she was very young but sweeter.
“I know you wouldn’t hurt him Jane. I know that but he needs his mother, Jane, can you understand that? He needs to be fed and he needs to be home safe in his cradle - I know you never meant for this to happen but you are hurting him.”
It stings Jane. It truly does but..she is sure if she can just make Master Cromwell understand, if she can explain that she can be...
“Please, I can be his mother. I can - he needs a mother who can keep him safe from the corrupt heretical sodomite who has drawn the King into such practices Master Cromwell. Her Majesty has not and I was so scared that...”
Jane does not look at the Queen, who had moved to stand behind Cromwell so she had not seen her creeping around behind her.
“Lady Seymour - would you give me the babe? I promise, I will not be the one to take him away but you need to rest, I can see it. Would you trust me? To make certain that the little Prince is cared for?”
Jane...Jane stops because....she is so tired. So very tired. Her arms are so heavy but she cannot give him up. She cannot.
“Will you at least take a draught?”
She nods. That, that surely she can do without endangering the baby and so she takes the flask Master Cromwell gives her without suspicion. It tastes wonderful on her parched throat and as he promised he does not move to grab the Prince and Jane begins to have hope - perhaps she can....but then she feels her eyes growing heavier and heavier, can feel her grip loosing on the baby.
The last thing she sees before her eyes close is Queen Anne’s face as the Queen plucks the baby from her arms.
1. Do not underestimate an extremely motivated Gryffinclaw/Slytherpuff team up (i.e. Anne and Tom Cromwell)!
2. I would like to shout out the music of Karliene Reynolds who provided the soundtrack for the writing of this chapter as well as various friends who have provided support and love and gifs of adorable baby animals.