Title: On The Edge Of A Golden World
Summary: Sometimes a small change can have a huge would have happened if Anne Boleyn had not miscarried her child in Episode 2.08? AU.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to 'The Tudors' and am not responsible for the creation of any of the characters that appeared on the show.
Author's Note: This story is, first and foremost, a work of fan fiction, by which I mean that it is based primarily on the characters and events in the show rather than on the historical personages and events that inspired it so, with regard to things like the characters' ages and appearances, the sequence of events, etc, I'll be going with the show's canon rather than real life.
Author's Note II: This story picks up towards the end of the eighth episode of Season Two.
29th January 1536
"Two knaves," Nan Saville announced, setting her cards down. Try as she might to focus her attention on the game, her thoughts kept drifting to the chamber next door, to the woman within and to the child the woman carried, saying a silent prayer that all would go well for her mistress and that she would be able to carry her child safely to term and present the King with a living son in the summer.
"Two queens and a king." Madge Shelton responded, displaying her own hand. Like Nan, she was merely going through the motions of playing cards, scarcely paying attention to the game, even when her opponent told her that she had won.
They weren't playing for money. It was merely a way of passing the time until their mistress awoke, one of the few quiet pastimes available to them besides reading or needlework. The ladies who had opted for the latter were no more successful at distracting themselves from their worries than Nan and Madge were and it was doubtful that they produced anything fit to be used but, at the same time, it would have been worse if they had had nothing with which to occupy themselves, nothing to do but wait and worry.
As a lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour should, strictly speaking, have been present, sharing the long hours of waiting with them, ready to tend to the Queen should she require anything, but she maintained enough tact and discretion to keep away, something that all of those who were loyal towards Queen Anne were glad of.
God knew that she had done enough damage already without her presence causing further upset.
Madge glanced back in the direction of the Queen's bedchamber and then leaned forward, her voice a hush as she asked, "Do you think I should go in and see her?"
"No," Nan responded immediately. "Let her sleep."
If she could sleep, if she could rest calmly and try to forget about what she had seen, then there might still be some hope...
A loud wail of mingled pain and fear interrupted these hopeful thoughts and Nan and Madge were on their feet in an instant, hurrying into the next room with their fellow ladies-in-waiting hard on their heels.
"What is it, Your Majesty?" Madge asked urgently, her hope that it might be a false alarm caused by a nightmare, or a minor injury or something equally trifling disappearing when she saw her cousin kneeling on the large, carved bed, crying out as she touched her bloodstained shift. "The baby!"
"My boy!" Anne's fear and anguish were etched on her face. She was as aware as any of them of the magnitude of this disaster for her and for her little daughter, Elizabeth. Her hands were warm and wet with the blood that signified that her son, her hope, was leaving her.
"Get some help!" Madge called the order to nobody in particular and one of the ladies fled, seeking a physician, a midwife, anybody who might be able to stop it.
"Hurry!" Nan urged.
"No, no, no, no, no, no!" Anne sobbed as she clutched her abdomen, pressing a hand between her legs in a desperate attempt to staunch the flow of blood, falling to her side and summoning every ounce of determination she possessed to keep her child rooted in her womb. "Please," her voice was soft and pleading as she spoke, her words addressed to the baby, hoping that he could hear her and that he would take strength from her words and hold on. He had to. "Don't leave me."
Anne's rooms were out of bounds to all save Dr Linacre, his assistants, the midwives who had been sent for in haste and a few of her ladies-in-waiting. All others who had gathered outside her suite when news of her condition began to circulate through the court were left to wait in the corridors, including her father, her brother and even her husband.
Dr Linacre was polite, his tone and words appropriately deferential when he explained to his King that he could do nothing to help them and that it would be best for all concerned if he remained outside and allowed them to do their work, unencumbered, promising that they would do all in their power to preserve the Queen and her unborn child, but there was a note of iron in his voice that dissuaded Henry from arguing with him. Linacre may not have said that he would only be in the way if he insisted on being in the room with them while they worked but Henry suspected that he was thinking it and that the sentiment was probably not unjustified, so he stayed outside, condemned to wait, like everybody else, unable to do anything.
Sensing that he would not thank them for engaging him in conversation and knowing that if he did speak to one of them, his temper was likely to be vile, the courtiers present avoided meeting his gaze and attracting his attention. Some of them, like Thomas and George Boleyn, were praying while others were speaking quietly amongst themselves, all of them leaving Henry alone with his thoughts... and his guilt.
He had no reason to feel guilty, he reminded himself firmly. God knew that he had done nothing wrong. Had he not promised Jane, mere moments before Anne walked in and interrupted them, that he would never again see her except in the presence of her relatives? Who could doubt that his conduct and his intentions were honourable? What harm was there in her sitting on his knee? Perhaps he ought not to have kissed her, but he had not planned to do it and who could blame a man for forgetting himself a little in the company of a pretty maiden?
Anne overreacted, imagining evil when there was none.
Katherine would never have reacted like that. She would have turned and walked away, as she ought to, and the matter would never be spoken of or even alluded to again. She would not have allowed herself to become so distressed about it and she would never have given way to such an unseemly display of anger and upset, especially if she was with child and knew that flying into a passion could harm the son she carried.
"Why are you doing this? Why did you have to do this?"
He would like to be able to forget the pain in Anne's voice, to tell himself that she spoke out of wounded vanity, her pride injured by the idea that he might prefer another woman to her but he could not make himself believe it.
She was truly hurt.
He had hurt her.
There was a time, not long ago, when anyone who dared to harm Anne, by word or deed, would have incurred his wrath and suffered the punishment for daring to hurt his sweetheart, a time when she was the only woman in the world for whom he had eyes.
That things had changed was undeniable but why had they changed?
Was she different? Was he? Were both of them?
What had happened to them since the time when they first fell in love, a time when he looked forward to their future together as husband and wife, as King and Queen?
They were married now, and God knew that it had taken them more than enough time and struggle to achieve this. They were the parents of a beautiful little girl, a child he could never look at without marvelling at her precocity and keen intelligence, already evident even at such an early age and a clear sign of what marvels could be expected of her brother for, if God bestowed such gifts on their daughter, he would surely be even more generous towards their son.
Anne promised him a son.
The day he first asked her to be his wife and his Queen, knowing that there was only one fitting place in his life for her, she promised that she would give him a son but all she had given him was a daughter, leaving him no better off than he was before he realized that his marriage to Katherine was invalid and sought to annul it. In fact, he was worse off now. When Mary was his heiress, she was accepted as such by the English people and by the other rulers of Europe but Elizabeth's rights were challenged abroad and accepted in England only after the administration of the Oath of Succession, the oath Master Cromwell devised to protect Anne and Elizabeth and which had already cost lives, lives that could have been saved if she had given him his son, since even those who disputed Elizabeth's right to succeed ahead of her older sister would surely have rejoiced to know that there was a healthy prince in the royal nursery, a fine boy waiting to follow his father as King.
When he believed himself to be married to Katherine, God showed his displeasure by denying them the son they craved, giving them five stillborn children, a son who lived less than a month and a single living daughter. Anne had given him a daughter but she had lost a child the previous year. It was known that, in some cases, a woman might lose a child, even when there was no blame to be attached to her for the loss, and still go on to bear other children, strong, healthy sons, with time and patience. In other cases, like Katherine's, they would never be blessed with a living son, no matter how hard they tried and how fervently they prayed.
Which of these applied to Anne? Had she simply been unlucky when she lost their second child, or was his marriage to her just as accursed as his marriage to Katherine and just as unlikely to be blessed with the son that all of England needed?
He would know the answer to that question if she lost this child, he decided. One miscarriage could be put down to misfortune but two miscarriages in succession would be a clear sign that he would get no boys from her and, if that was the case, he would have no choice but to end their union and take another wife, making a marriage that would not be disputed and fathering a son and heir whose rights could not be questioned.
"Your Majesty?" Dr Linacre's voice cut into his musings. His expression was grave and, seeing him, Henry noticed for the first time that Anne's cries had stopped.
Seizing his sleeve, Henry drew his physician into a quiet corner, where they could have some semblance of privacy. His father- and brother-in-law followed him, remaining a few feet away but listening intently to what was being said. "Well?" He demanded tersely.
"The child lives, Your Majesty." Linacre told him, relieved to be able to deliver good news. "The Queen has not miscarried."
"Thank God!" Thomas Boleyn exclaimed in heartfelt tones.
"Amen." Henry seconded the sentiment, saying a silent prayer of thanksgiving. "How is the Queen?"
Dr Linacre hesitated a few moments before responding, choosing his words carefully to ensure that he did not cause offence by implying that his King might shoulder some of the blame for his wife's condition. He also had to take care not to give false hope by painting too optimistic a picture of the Queen's chances of carrying her child to term and delivering it safely, in case he could be accused of negligence if she miscarried at a later date. "It was difficult for her, Your Majesty. She lost a great deal of blood and I would be guilty of a falsehood if I claimed to be confident about her prognosis, and that of the child. It is little short of a miracle that we did not lose them both today. If she is to have a chance of carrying the child to term, then she must stay in bed between now and her delivery, with no exertion, no excitement and no distress, and with a good, wholesome diet and as much rest as possible."
Henry nodded, registering Linacre's advice and inwardly vowing that his instructions would be carried out to the letter, whatever it took to preserve Anne and the baby, but his attention had been caught by his use of the word 'miracle'.
When Anne was stricken with the sweating sickness years ago, before the trial at Blackfriars began and before Wolsey's death, she was not expected to survive but God spared her life, when thousands upon thousands were dying throughout England. He thought that it was a miracle, an omen that their marriage was meant to be. Perhaps this was their second miracle; their unborn son clinging to life against the odds.
If he did, it would be all the proof he needed that their marriage was blessed.
"May I see her?"
Dr Linacre nodded. "Of course, Your Majesty." He stepped aside to allow Henry to pass, bowing briefly before following him into Anne's bedchamber.
Anne's bed had been stripped and remade with fresh linens and her ladies had dressed her in a clean nightgown. Two of her attendants were busy bundling the bloodied sheets and shift together for disposal, as there was little chance that the stains would be able to be washed out, while a third, Madge, was holding a silver goblet steady for her as she drank.
"A calming draught, Your Majesty." Dr Linacre explained, following Henry's gaze. "To dull the pain and allow a quiet night's sleep."
Henry nodded comprehension, watching silently as Anne's delicate features contorted in a slight grimace at the bitter taste. Once she took the draught, Madge set the goblet down and helped to settle her comfortably in the bed, propping her up with pillows and tucking the covers around her.
Anne's face was pale and she lay there motionless as he sat down on the edge of the bed, taking care not to jostle her.
"Hello, sweetheart," he said gently, taking one of her hands in his. It was cold and slightly clammy to his touch, her grip weak as she closed her fingers around his hand. "How are you feeling?" She didn't answer and as soon as he asked the question, he chided himself for his foolishness. He did not need her to tell him; one look at Anne was enough to know that her ordeal had taken a terrible toll on her, sapping her strength, leaving her exhausted and in pain. Seeing tears begin to escape from beneath her half-closed eyelids, he automatically brushed them away with his free hand, cupping her chin for a moment and leaning forward to kiss her on the forehead.
"He lives." He tried to smile, to keep his tone cheerful and encouraging. "Dr Linacre tells me that we will need to take care of you both, and we will. You'll be fine, so will he. Everything will be alright."
Had he been asked, even Henry wouldn't be able to say whether he was reassuring Anne or whether his words were aimed at himself.