I took advantage of an English short story assignment to summarize the life of Anne Boleyn from her point of view.
For background information and the full story of Anne Boleyn and her world, visite queenaboleyn.blogspot.com, a history blog.
The day I met King Henry VIII instantly and dramatically split my life into two like some great divide. I had known love before, I had seen it thwarted by the cold and ruthless ambitions of enterprising men near to the crown, I had seen a woman, my own sister, left in utter ruin and with two bastards to care for – but still they thought me an utter fool to spurn him and refuse a place in the king’s bed as his mistress.
I am Anne Boleyn, a woman with a mind sharper than that of any man of my time, a young lady groomed at some of Europe’s most premiere courts, the most graceful dancer at this court in England; I could sink into my curtsy in that provocative French manner and melt even the most frigid of hearts, they said to look into my eyes, two dark hooks to the soul, was to be seduced, utterly entranced. Aside from this there was my musical gift so uncommonly found in women my practiced tongue at Latin and French, come from translations, careful practice and a sharp ear.
My secret inclination toward the new religion had been adapted from a beloved former mistress of mine, Marguerite of Navarre, my ambitious politically-bent mind, my father, but the fierce wit upon my tongue, the allure like dark honey which attracted so many admirers, could not be credited to any other.
Sometime as she carried his illegitimate son in her belly, sometime before his bed had grown cold from her absence, he visited the family castle where my sister was confined late into her pregnancy, and saw me high and hunting on my mount, black tresses in the wind, long arched neck like a swan’s glistening with the sweet perspiration exerted from the exhilaration of youth, eyes a pair of black stars in the sunlight, slender legs open and buckled round my horse’s neck, and, it would be modesty to say that he was not enthralled utterly in a heartbeat.
And so I was brought to the court, a second Boleyn harlot, servants jeered. Henry’s standard was not known to be high; it was just a cycle of beautiful or dull, but always voluptuous women brought to him, all fair-haired, fair-skinned and blue-eyed, and then came me, with my black locks and jet eyes, caramel skin and slender body, who became famous for saying ‘Your wife I cannot be, your mistress I will not be’. It mattered not at all how many love letters with their scribbled court argot and skilled lover’s jargon he sent me; it was those very words that changed the game entirely.
He was on his knees pleading for my hand soon enough, begging Rome to give him leave of his marriage to bitter Catherine of Aragon, mother of a daughter which was not good enough for the king, to annul it based on the denotation of some words in scripture. There were practically Holy Wars to keep us apart, for Catherine was a Spanish princess with foreign support, and in England I was despised, regarded as nothing but the king’s grasping concubine; through failure and frustration in legatine divorce courts, my only comfort, consolation, was the love I bore for Henry which no one thought to be genuine. A common idiom I found applied to us: he was my other half, he was what made me whole, and it only happened that he was a king, so why should I protest with being made a queen?
But the years were passing like water under the bridge; six, it had been, and we soon gave up hope that ever would the cowards in Rome, too afraid of angering Catherine’s royal relatives, free the king of his long estranged marriage. I risked it all in my next move showing to Henry a heretical tract, Tyndale’s The Obedience of a Christian Man, but the gamble gave fruit and Henry accepted what burnt Protestants had: that the king was both King and Pope in his own land, and should have to answer to no Pope for decisions in his kingdom.
A new Church of England would be created, a replacement Archbishop of Canterbury who was my most steadfast supporter would be installed, and I was made the wealthiest and most influential woman of my time set up as Marquess of Pembroke, a title great as Duke, in my own right despite my sex. He took me to England’s grand meet with France as his consort, and that night, for the first time in our almost seven year romance, he found me in his bedchamber, dozens of candles lit, awaiting him.
“My mind, heart, and soul have been yours, and at last this night and forever always my body shall be too,” I said, the breath in my throat catching like fire.
I did not have to ask him to come to me; he did not have to ask me if I was sure. Our passions for each other were at their zeniths that night, and even today, after everything has changed and gone so terribly wrong, his touch, a flame which emblazoned every inch of me, has left a brand on my soul which reminds me that once there was a time when his love was the most heated the world ever knew.
Every word I have ever uttered has been switched around to the most negative of connotations. I am no better than Queen Catherine for I gave the king and England no son , which, as it turns out was all Henry ever truly wanted from me, the woman who loved him above all else in one wretchedly ill-lived life. They are right to say that I was insensitive and reckless in my ambition, they are right to say I was a cruel stepmother to Catherine’s indifferent Papist daughter, they are right to say that I made mistakes – but they are wrong to put me on trial for witchcraft, claiming I bewitched the king, for treason, claiming I plotted his death, and worst of all, for adultery, lying wickedly to themselves and the world that always I have been a whore, though God knows I have been more faithful than the notoriously philandering Henry, and that I have sinned with five other men, among these, my own beloved brother. My only true fault was that I born a daughter, the sweetest girl there ever was, and suffered miscarriages, so it is the will of my husband the king that I am beheaded for this.
I always wanted a brave man after the lover of my youth, trembling in the face of his father’s anger, cast me aside to preserve his royal favor and inheritance. I found this trait in Henry, who defied the continent to marry me, and I find this in him again in his fearlessness to dispose of me. The peers of the council who judge me are experts in the study of semantics, they could twist every word to annul my marriage and persecute me, but they underestimated my wit. I fought and even bested their arguments as I stood on trial, but I knew nothing could save me, for my executioner had already been called a week earlier to begin his journey here from France, and the court was prepared for little more than the sake of appearances and justice that does not exist.
I have been taught to die with grace, for I know that so his son by the lady preparing her wedding gown as I am imprisoned will have an unquestioned claim to the throne I must cease to exist, and it is my only regret that five innocents must lose their lives because I fell in love with a monster. I will go to the scaffold an accomplished lady, a woman who saw to the end of Rome’s corrupt hold on England, a patroness of art, music, poetry and philosophy, a queen who quarreled with spiteful, greedy men to see moneys from destroyed monasteries put to charity and education, and ultimately, the lady who changed her times by saying ‘no’ to an all-powerful man.
Alas, as it turns out, Henry’s promise to me of an eternal love was a lie, but this night which is my last on earth, I wrap myself warm in the blanket that is this single, and final, true assurance: that which was between King Henry VIII and I, Queen Anne Boleyn, was a historic love.