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Here we go...
Chapter 12 : The Princess and the Concubine
Considering the dislike that existed between Anne and the Imperial Ambassador, Cromwell had presumed it would be difficult to convince the Queen of the need to receive Chapuys in audience, but it turned out to be a lot easier than expected.
He had requested to speak to her in private and was summoned to her rooms soon after, where she had just finished dining with the King.
Henry, seemingly pleased to see his Secretary, welcomed him graciously and asked him to sit with them. For some time they conversed amiably about this and that until the King rose from his chair.
"I'll leave you to talk in private," he said. He took his wife's hand and kissed it. "I wish to see you after you've spoken with the Queen", he added, turning to Cromwell.
"Your Majesty," Thomas bowed low, and Anne inclined her head gracefully in her husband's direction. They waited until he had left the room.
"Master Secretary," the Queen began. "You asked to see me. What can I do for you?"
Her tone was even and kind enough, and Thomas was sure they were on good terms these days. Their was an unspoken promise between them, not to move against each other in this time of renewal and change that had begun with the King's accident and its aftermath. And yet he could not help being cautious around her, carefully calculating his every word. He knew the power she wielded, now that she was back in the King's good graces, and he would never underestimate her. He could not afford to.
"Your Majesty," he said, "I hope I may speak openly?" When she nodded, he continued, "Altough the King still favours an alliance with the French these days, I deem it necessary for us all not to antagonize the Emperor, in case the King should change his mind, or anything should occur that would make a French alliance seem inadvisable. You and I both have an interest in securing the King's love and making the right choices."
Anne raised her slanting brows. "You know my sentiment towards France. I would much prefer an alliance with Francis to one with the Emperor, who has never made a secret of the fact that he considers my marriage to the King to be null and void. However," she added, curbing the anger that always bubbled up when she thought of Charles V, "I know what you mean, considering the fact that we do not know what the future might bring. And yet I do not know how I should appease the Emperor, knowing that he hates me like a scorpion," she finished mockingly. Inwardly she thought of Mary, wondering what Cromwell would think of her plan to try to make peace with the girl.
Cromwell smiled diplomatically. "I understand. Indeed, it may be true that the Emperor does not have any love for you - but that means nothing. Alliances are not about love, as your Majesty well knows. They are matters of state, ever in flux, and things change. Therefore I would like to suggest, if I may be so bold, that you receive Ambassador Chapuys in your chambers in order to reassure him that there is no hatred between England - the King and yourself - and Spain. It might prove useful in the end."
Anne frowned at this. She eyed Cromwell suspiciously, wondering what he was up to. But there was no lie in his eyes, and she realized that what he said made sense. Even if she hated the Emperor, and the Emperor hated her, it would be wise not to repel him in any way. Although she was secure in the King's love, she was still regarded by many as the Great Whore, a usurper and a harlot, and she still needed all the help she could get.
Her sharp mind also perceived the possibility to include Chapuys in her plans to get in touch with Mary, as messenger or otherwise.
"I am willing to receive him," she said, smiling inwardly at Cromwell's relieved expression. She did not know what his true interest was in her meeting the Ambassador, and whether or not there was an ulterior motive behind it, but she planned to find out sooner or later.
"But there are two things I must consider," she continued. "Firstly, is he willing to come to me? You know as well as I do that he disapproves of me. And, secondly, will the King accept my interfering in this matter, should I indeed reach out to the Emperor in a gesture of goodwill?"
Cromwell inclined his head in a respectful manner, appreciating her shrewdness and intelligence. Here indeed was a woman with a spirit worthy of a crown.
He said, "I have the King's support in this matter. As he loves you above all, he is ever desirous to prove to all that you are his true wedded wife and most beloved Queen. He would therefore welcome your reaching out to the Emperor, just as you have ever endeavoured to be on good terms with the King of France."
Anne realized that he must have talked about this whole matter with Henry before he came to her. But if this was indeed the Henry's desire, then she would do everything in her power to fulfill his wishes. She was determined to be the wife he wanted her to be, to save herself from falling out of favor once more.
"If it be his Majesty's pleasure, then I am ready to obey." She stated demurely. "Please arrange for an audience with his Excellency. I am sure I will find the right words to make it clear to him that although I shall always be bound to France in love and friendship, I also wish to maintain a good relationship with Spain, if that be possible."
Cromwell nodded, satisfied with the outcome of the conversation. He was about to bring up another issue, when Anne spoke up again.
"There is something I've been meaning to discuss with you for weeks. I have made my mind up to do something I should have done a long time ago."
Thomas bent forward, intigued. "You've made your mind up in what, your Majesty?"
Anne lowered her voice. "It concerns the Lady Mary," she said slowly, and Cromwell had difficulties hiding his surprise, for this was the exact matter he had been meaning to talk about too.
"I am determined to speak with her, and, if I can, to secure her acceptance of my title, so that I may reconcile her with her father." She breathed deeply, as if it cost her much to say this. "I fear we have been letting things slide for too long."
Cromwell nodded, albeit confused. He had expected that she would be desirous to simply secure Mary's submission, but it seemed as if Anne was eager to approch the King's daughter on a more personal level.
"I wish to make my peace with her," Anne continued, "not only as a queen with her subject, but as the woman who is married to her father. I want to let bygones be bygones, not only to secure my own position, but for the love of God and the Christian spirit of mercy and forgiveness. I have made a promise to God and I intend to keep it."
She seemed to be deeply moved by some emotion he could not identify. Promise? What promise? Thomas wondered. What had she promised to God?
Anyhow, if Anne succeeded in reconciling Mary with her father - which would be more than difficult - she would be able to strengthen her position as Queen immasurably. The people would rejoice to see Katherine of Aragon's daughter back in the King's good graces and would hail Anne as the negotiator of it all. Mary's faction too would approve of such a change, and might come to revoke their bad opinion of Anne.
And, most important of all, the King would hail her for her actions. He had no idea of Mary's existence, but would probably welcome his eldest daughter with open arms, if only Anne arranged everything with due care. Cromwell understood the urgency that seemed to be driving her, for they had indeed neglected the issue of Mary in all the excitement after the King's accident and the weeks of his recovery. No one had noticed anything so far because Mary had not been in the King's good graces for years, and nobody deemed it unnatural that he would not speak of her. But it was time to do something, or one day in the near future someone of Mary's faction would surely realize that something was amiss, and bring up Mary's name, which might set things in motion Anne wanted to avoid at all costs.
"I understand," he said evenly. "I'll do what I can to help you. I guess you will ask Chapuys to talk to her on your behalf?"
Anne nodded, glad that he understood her ideas so well. "I am planning to write a letter to the Lady and to ask Chapuys to give it to her. Then, in due time, I will pay her a visit at Hatfield, under the pretext of visiting my child." Elizabeth had returned to Hatfield a few days ago. Anne's plan was to tell Henry that she wished to see her child (which was true, of course), and then use that same visit to speak to Mary.
"A good plan." Cromwell nodded his approval. "Of course, none of this must ever reach the King's ear," he said more to himself than to her, but Anne immediately agreed, as if this thought troubled her as well.
"No, his Majesty must not know. If he learns the truth before I have achieved my goal, things might go ill. Therefore I bid you not to to allow Chapuys to get near the King's grace after I have spoken to him. No one must know of my desire to make peace with Mary before it is all settled and done."
"I don't think you have to worry about that. After he has accepted your letter, he will no doubt hasten to Hatfield to talk to Mary. And that is the weak spot of the plan. Even if the Lady should submit to you and accept you as Queen, how do we know it is not just a superficial gesture? How do we know Chapuys is not behind it, and that she will not turn against you?"
Anne laughed sharply. "I know. She hates me with all her heart, and perhaps she has reason to do so. And maybe this will be my downfall, for if she pretends to accept me and then turns against me behind my back, then God help me. She is a powerful enemy. Here at court she would be a terrible threat." Fear was visible in the depths of her blue eyes for a few seconds.
Rising from her chair and walking over to one of the grand windows, she sighed. "You don't understand, Mister Cromwell," she said, staring at the gardens outside. "Not completely." She laid a hand on her temple as she so often did when something troubled her. She knew it was foolish to lay bare before Cromwell her innermost thoughts, but, strange though it was, he was the only one she could turn to right now regarding the issue of Mary Tudor.
"There is more to it," she rambled on, and had she turned around she would have seen the barely hidden interest in his gaze. "I made a promise to God, and I must not betray Him who is Creator and Master of all things. I fear His retribution, should I not stick to what I have promised to do... to abjure hatred and vengeance. And I feel like this is a God-given opportunity to begin with it."
She turned around then, and, seeing the understanding in his eyes, she realized once more that he too was but mortal, with all the fears and insecurities that plagued any man or woman. And maybe he could see now that she had to approach Mary, that this was the will of God. That by doing so, Anne the Queen would get a chance to make up for the sins of the past.
But she also grew alert, fearful she had said too much. Cromwell seemed to sense this change in her, for he rose quickly, and, reassuring her that he would endeavour to help her and arrange everything with utmost care, he bowed low and left her to her thoughts.
The next day...
Jane Seymour let her eyes roam over the people gathered in the room with her, listening quietly to their animated conversation.
It was a strange assembly of different characters.
Her own father, so at least it seemed to Jane's untrained eyes, was in stark contrast to the other people present. He was a likeable man who only wanted what was best for his family. He had a goodly smiling countenance, and hardly ever spoke a harsh word to anyone. She had never thought of him as anything but a good-natured soul, for he had always been to her a gentle and loving father, cherishing and defending her even when her brother found fault with her demeanor.
Edward, calm and suave as usual, his voice ringing out pleasantly to her ears, was also a good man, she figured - in his own way. He did not have in his nature the inbred kindness their father possessed, could even be haughty and cold at times. She had no doubt of his ambitions, but he was still her brother, and she loved him.
Then there was the Lady Rochford, sitting elegantly in her chair across from Edward. To Jane, this lady was somewhat of an enigma, her thoughts and motivations not entirely clear to her. But she sensed a bitter disappointment in her, a smouldering hatred that was disturbing, bone-chilling even. And yet she felt pity for this woman, who was so obviously discontent with her situation, and she could relate to her desire to make a change.
But the most fascinating person of all who were present was the Ambassador. There was something about him that just drew you in. Wisdom and knowledge shone in his penetrating eyes that seemed to pierce into your very soul; his entire being radiated an aura of subtle astuteness. His impeccable manners and polite smile made him appear amiable enough, but even to someone as politically unaware as Jane it was clear that Chapuys was a shrewd and cunning man of considerable skill and influence.
He had just answered Edward's questions regarding Sectretary Cromwell, and dashed his hopes by making it clear to him that Cromwell had sided with the Queen once more. Edward was about to say more, when Sir John held up a hand to silence him.
"Now, Excellency," the head of the Seymour family said, "I beg you to tell us of your audience with her Majesty, which, if I'm informed correctly, took place but a few hours ago. What did she say to you?"
A silence fell.
Chapuys smiled slowly. "Ah well, that was peculiar indeed. Very interesting." Seeing how they hung on his lips, his smiled broadened. "In fact, I was rather surprised when Cromwell's messenger came to me with the Concubine's invitation. I was reluctant, of course, as to whether or not I should accept, but then I thought it would not do any harm. And my master, the Emperor, was eager for news of the Harlot and her position after the King's accident. So I went to her..."
The bow he made as he stood before her was more hinted at than genuine, but she did not seem to notice. She did not offer him her hand to kiss, but inclined her head respectfully before she invited him to sit down in a chair across from her. Two of her ladies were present, but they had obviously been told not to pay much heed to the conversation.
The two of them sat in silence for a few seconds, eyeing each other cautiously.
Eustace missed nothing, from the purple colour of her dress, a deliberate reminder of her royal status, to the defiant look in her eyes and her folded hands, resting in her lap as if she needed to restrain them from clawing at him. Yes, she was as poised and haughty as ever, her devilish spirit shining through, but he also sensed that something was different about her demeanor, and he could not pinpoint what exactly it was. She seemed grave, sincere, and there was more courtesy in her eyes than he had ever seen.
He eyed her pert little mouth as she began to speak at last. "Excellency, I thank you for coming. I hope you find yourself in good health?"
They had never really spoken to each other before, and it was awkward to see her address him so directly, sitting just a couple of inches away from him.
"Thank you, Madam," he responded, deliberaty avoiding the addage "your Majesty". He did not accept her as Queen of England and never would. "I am well, and I humbly thank you for your invitation." These last words were so full of mockery that it was almost comical, and he was not surprised to see a small knowing smile on Anne's lips.
"I'm very glad to hear it," she said in her deep voice which, despite the Ambassador's best efforts, sounded attractive to his ears. But he was on his guard, for he knew it to be the voice of an enchantress.
"And so is the King, I am sure." She continued. "He sets great store by your opinion."
Chapuys did not react to this obvious flattery. He said instead, "May I enquire after the King's health? How is he? I hear and see he is as vigorous as ever... a king reborn, one might say?"
The Concubine smiled generously. "He is indeed, and I am glad therefore. There is so much he wishes to achieve, so much he is planning to do yet, to the benefit of this blessed nation. And I shall endeavour to help him."
I can imagine that, Eustace thought wryly, but said out loud, daringly: "I hear his Majesty still favors an alliance with the French, and is even planning to propose to the King a marriage between the Dauphin and your daughter."
He watched with pleasure as an expression of anger flickered over her face for a split second at the mentioning of her daughter, who was referred to by everyone else as "Princess Elizabeth", but she curbed her emotions.
"Indeed it is so," she retorted. "His Majesty is ever desirous to appease France, so great a nation as it is." She seemed unable to bite back this small pun in his direction, as if to pay him back for what he'd just said, and her smile grew more confident as she watched him grimace. She continued more kindly, "And yet, Excellency, things are ever in motion, and I for one do not wish to offend anyone. Like his Majesty, I care only for England's best interests, and will act accordingly."
Chapuys, astonished, said: "Speak plainer, Madam, I beg you."
She opened her hands in a gesture of goodwill. "I am English, Excellency, and therefore I have a great love for all nations who wish to be on good terms with England, who is Mother to us all. You asked me to speak plainly, so I will." She eyed him gravely, and he thought he had never before seen such an honest expression on her face. "Often alliances fail, and new ones are made. It is therefore my wish, as is the King's, to assure those who still have an interest to side with England, that there is no old enmity between or us, nor any grudge or resentments."
This was a clear hint at the Holy Roman Empire and Spain, and Chapuys was aghast. She had made it clear that she was speaking in the King's name. He had never expected this.
"I am sure the Emperor would be overjoyed to reforge the friendship between England and Spain, Madam," he said honestly.
The Concubine smiled again, and to his surprise he was almost drawn in by that crooked little smile. With all his strengh he fought against it. This was the usurper Anne Boleyn, The Great Wore! But her offer was tempting. She was basically reassuring him that, should the alliance with France fail for whatever reason, England would be willing to ally with Spain. The Emperor would be outraged to hear that this came from the lips of the Boleyn whore, but he would still be intrigued, Chapuys figured.
"Personally," Anne said, "I know that some say I hate Spain, and perhaps in the past I have not always done enough to refute this opinion. It is my desire to assure you, and your master through you, that I, the Queen of England, harbour no hatred in my heart for that country which I am sure is very beautiful." That was a fluffy ending to a highly political message, but none knew better to read between the lines than Chapuys.
She was making it clear that, in her and the King's opinion, she was the rightful Queen, but also that she was willing to forget the past, in which the Emperor had always deputed her as a whore. Eustace found all of this very intriguing, but he knew very well that the Emperor would never accept the Concubine, not if fundamental things were to remain unchanged, and first of all the treatment of the Princess Mary.
"I understand, Madam," he began carefully, "and can only say again that I am sure my master would be pleased to renew the ties between Spain and this kingdom. And yet," he added, seemingly wistful, "I fear there are obstacles there which can not be removed, Madam. After all, my master is also but a cousin who cares for his relatives."
Of course, the Concubine understood immediately that he was referring to the Princess, and Eustace half expected her to fly into a rage, but she did nothing of the sort. To his horror she smiled pleasantly, shrewdly, as if she had known he was going to say something of the kind.
"I had hoped we would be able to talk about that issue," she said. "And since we have so far been nothing but honest to each other," she added with a hint of irony, "I shall continue in this vein. Excellency, you must know I desire nothing more than to make up for the tribulations and misunderstandings of the past. I wish to reach out my hand to those who have wronged me, and if ever in my life I did offend them, then I am ready to atone."
He was as perplex as never before, for these were words he had never thought to hear from the Concubine's lips in a lifetime. She was willing to atone for her ill treatment of the Princess? This was unheard of.
"Madam, Jesus asks us to forgive everyone," he said lamely, quite unusual for him.
"Indeed," the Concubine agreed, and, turning slightly away from him, she looked at her principal lady and held out her hand. The woman, whom Eustace knew to be Anne Seville, walked over to her mistress, curtsied deeply, and handed her a letter.
Accepting it and waving her servant away, the Concubine held the letter in her hands, facing the Ambassador once more.
"This, Excellency, is a letter from me to the Lady Mary, the King's own daughter. In it, I have expressed the things I just told you, and more. I am giving it to you in the hope that you will deliver it to the Lady."
He accepted it with a nod, staring in wonder at the small bold hand of the Concubine that read "To the Lady Mary Tudor". He was dying to know what she had written, but he would not find out until the Princess opened the letter.
"And now, Excellency, I bid you good day, for I am to meet with his Majesty very soon."
She rose elegantly from her chair, the silver tiara on her head catching and reflecting the tender rays of sunshine breaking through the windows. Eustace looked at her, thinking for the hundreth time that had she not been so proud, had she not usurped the crown of Katherine D'Aragon, he would have praised her as a woman of great poise, for in intelligence, attire and tongue she excelled them all.
She offered him her hand to kiss. He faltered for a moment, unwilling to honor her thus, but decorum demanded it. He looked into her eyes, smouldering yet clear in their intensity, and such was their power that he surrendered, and before he knew how, he bent over her hand and kissed it lightly. Straightening himself, he expected to see a malicious smile on her lips, but instead she smiled benevolently.
"Madam," he answered, and, without another word, turned around and left her chambers. He needed to get away from this sorceress before she bewitched him utterly.
Edward Seymour raised his brows.
"A letter to the Lady Mary? What exactly does it say?" He looked as if he was about to tackle the Ambassador and search him for it.
Jane saw Chapuy's expression and thought he looked annoyed. It was true, Edward was being too rash. He certainly had no claim on a letter written by the Queen to the Lady Mary.
"I am sure," the Ambassador said calmly, "that in it the Concubine expresses the wish to atone for the wrongs she has done to the Princess, and the possibility of reconciling her with her father, the King. Whatelse is said in it I could not possibly know without opening the letter myself, my lord," he finished sardonically.
"But this is impossible!" John Seymour flared up. "The Queen hates the Lady Mary with a vengeance!"
Chapuys shrugged. "That may be so. I cannot believe that she has a true interest in atoning for her sins, for we all know her to be a worthless character. I am equally sure that she has no love for the Princess. But it does not matter. The fact is, Sir John, that she wishes to talk to her. I think she will urge her to do all the King has always wanted her to do, so that she may be reconciled with him and return to court."
"You mean to accept the King as Supreme Head of the Church of England and denounce her mother's marriage to his Majesty as unlawful, thus admitting her own illegitimacy," Lady Rochford threw in, speaking up for the first time.
"Exactly," Chapuys nodded. "And that is our chance." He looked at them all, and a sense of conspiracy grew on them.
"What do you intend to do?" Sir John asked.
"I will urge the Lady Mary to accept the Queen's offer," the Ambassador said, not heeding their outraged expressions. "It will break her heart to denounce her mother's marriage as null and void, God bless her. Nevertheless, I will try to persuade her to swear whatever the King commands, reminding her that she could sign the document and then secretly forswear her submission before witnesses."
Sir John shook his head animatedly, "But she is the rightful heir to the throne, and she is very loyal to her blessed mother's memory. She must not submit!"
"We all took the Oath, didn't we?" Edward threw in sardonically. "You, Father, as well as myself, and all others who were unwilling to lose their heads, have sworn an oath that Elizabeth is the King's only legitimate heir, and Anne Boleyn his rightful wife."
Sir John pressed his lips together. "That is true. But the Lady Mary is of far greater importance than we are, Edward. If she submits, it will weaken her claim to the throne immeasurably."
"And yet," Chapuys said, "if she wants to return to Court, there is no other way. If she was reconciled with her father, and pretended to befriend the Concubine, things would be set in motion that might benefit us all."
"In what way?" Jane dared to ask.
Chapuys looked kindly at her. "In many ways. Without a doubt, the Concubine means to strengthen her own position by reconciling Princess Mary with the King. She means to appease the Princess's faction and thereby erase their resistance, for as the negotiator of the reconciliaton, the Concubine would be praised by many."
"And if the Concubine thought herself safe and out of reach of her enemies, that would make her weak," Edward concluded, guessing Chapuys' thoughts. He inwardly admired the Ambassador's shrewd mind.
Lady Rochford nodded. "I understand. I presume you are going to visit her soon and deliver the Queen's letter?"
"That is what I intend to do, yes," Chapuys answered. "In fact, I am going tomorrow. The sooner the better."
"Do you really think the Lady Mary will play along? As far as I know, she hates and despises the Queen," said Sir John.
"I think she will," Chapuys answered. "After all, who could have greater interest in destroying the Concubine than her? If that witch is crushed, Mary will be restored to the succession."
"But what part do we play in all of it?" Jane dared to speak up again.
"My dear girl," her father turned to her, addressing her kindly, as if she were the only one who did not grasp Chapuy's plans immediately, "you must redouble your efforts in seducing the King. Before that accursed accident happened, everything was going well... I do not know what has changed, but it seems to me that the King is once more besotted with her Majesty."
"She has bewitched him once again," Edward agreed. "Jane, it is your duty to do everything in your power to make the King love you once more. You owe this to your family."
Something stirred in Jane's mind, a voice that urged her to protest, to revolt against the unfairness of their expectations. It was obvious to her that the King had no interest in her whatsoever, and she did not know how to change his mind. Furthermore, there was no real love for him in her heart, and she still clung to the hope that one day, she would be reconciled with the one she truly desired. Also, the teachings of Christianity forbade her to take advantage of another person and exploit someone else's misery, and she did not know if she had the strength and will to move against Anne Boleyn.
But she was a woman, and a woman had no say in such matters. "Bound to obey and serve" was the motto she had chosen long ago, and she knew it was her duty and responsibilty to be an obedient daughter and sister. Edward was right, she owed this to her family. All noble daughters were expected to play their part in advancing their families' fortunes.
And yet the nagging feeling remained...
"Jane!" Edward's voice pierced through her thoughts. "Are you listening?" He threw up his hands in a gesture of exasperation.
"I am listening. I'll do what I can, Brother," Jane rebuffed him with all the courage she had.
"I hope so," said Edward. "We need to know why the King is so besotted with the Whore once more, and whether or not he truly loves her. And he has to fall for you again. He simply has to. Do you no longer wish to be Queen instead of her?" he finished suggestively, as if offering a piece of cake to her.
Does he not understand, Jane thought, that this is dangerous? Does he not realize how much there is at stake for me? Is he really so blind that he does not see that my true heart belongs to another?
But she did not voice her objections, saying instead, "I can only say again, Brother, that I will do what I can to make myself pleasant to his Majesty."
"And you, my lady," Chapuys said, looking at Jane Rochford. "May I ask you to investigate the Boleyns and find out all you can about their plans? Surely they must know everything of the Concubine's wishes."
"I will," Lady Rochford assured him.
Jane was glad when her father and brother finally rose from their chairs and paid their respects to the Ambassador. A sense of unease still tormented her, and she wanted to be alone. She curtsied to Chapuys, and then quickly followed the others out of the room. As the door closed behind her, she breathed a sigh of relief.
Chapuys exhaled too, as if glad to be rid of his guests. He was a cynical contemporary who did not easily acquire a liking for most people, and but for political reasons he would not normally have spent time with the likes of the Seymours. Sir John was likeable, but he did not have the shrewdness of a trained courtier - unlike his son, who was as sharp as a knife, but cold and haughty. Lady Jane, on the other hand, gave the impression of being modest and obedient, with no opinion of her own, but he sensed her carefully hidden intelligence. He had his reasons for supporting her family's wishes to put her on the throne. She was like a steel magnolia: sweetly feminine, winsome and submissive, but with an ambition as great as Anne Boleyn's. What she did lack, though, was a proper education, and she was not on a level with the sophisticated women the Ambassador usually dealt with. As for the Lady Rochford... One could find more cheer in a graveyard than in that sour expression of hers.
Nevertheless he was very pleased with this meeting. Things were now getting under way that would have far reaching consequences, for better or for worse. If all should fail, then the Concubine would most likely have their heads and rise to unknown heights of power.
But if they reached their goal...
Then the Lady Mary would be known by all once more as "Princess", the memory of Katherine of Aragon would be cherished, and England restored to the true faith. Anne Boleyn would fall, and with her the evil of the heretics, all that was sinful and vile, would come to an end.
If they succeeded, it would bring about a golden world.
this is to advertise you of the great desire I have to amend the wrongs comitted on all sides in the past, and to offer you most graciously my hand both in forgiveness and friendship, in forgetting and atonement. I pray you, Lady, to heartily accept this gesture of goodwill toward your person, and likewise to forget all wrongs I may have done to you in the past. I crave nothing more than the dissolution of any ill feelings that have ever stood between us, for the sake of Christian charity and love.
I would reconcile you with your father, and welcome you back to court, if you will only accept me as Queen.
But if for whatever reason you can still not find it in you to do so, I beg you with all my heart to reconsider, not only for your own sake, but for the sake of England and the tranquility of his Majesty's realm.
I attach a document permitting you to visit the burial place of your late mother, the dowager princess of Wales. Furthermore, a brooch which once belonged to her that came into the hands of the Crown upon her death, and was given to me. It is not part of the Jewels of the Queens of England, and therefore does not belong to me. I have no need of it, but I am sure you will have much joy and pleasure in receiving this token which is rightfully yours.
Very soon, I shall journey to Hatfield House to visit my daughter, and trust I will find you there, so we may speak.
With all my heart I hope you will consider the things I am asking of you, and pray we shall come to an understanding.
But if indeed this letter does not touch your heart at all, and I am right in thinking that, even after reading it, you still won't approve of me and my cause, my Lady, I ask you only to judge me kindly.
Written by the hand of her who trusts shortly to see you,
Anne the Queen
Hands shaking as she clasped her mother's gold brooch, Mary put down Anne Boleyn's letter, completely shocked at what she'd just read. She was allowed to visit her mother's grave! Speechless, she looked up at Chapuys who had been standing nearby in a corner of the small room at Hatfield that Mary called her own. He looked as if he was guessing the content of the letter, and with a silent gesture she invited him to read it. While his eyes were busy scanning Anne's small, bold handwriting, Mary shook her head in disbelief, lost in thought.
When, finally, Chapuys had finished reading, no doubt surprised at the Concubine's courteous tone, Mary spoke up.
"I cannot believe it, Excellency. What on earth moved her to write this letter?" She asked incredulously, picturing Anne as she wrote the words that, had any other person written them, Mary would have described as nothing but polite, thoughtful and sincere. But this was a letter from the Concubine, her mortal enemy, usurper of the crown of Katherine of Aragon... Surely there must be malice behind it.
Chapuys looked at her with his usual respectful and grave expression. "Princess," he began, "I am afraid no Christian soul will ever know all of her motivations, God save us. But I am convinced that she wishes to strengthen her own position by reconciling you with your father, the king."
Mary raised her delicate brows. "She told me before, shortly after Elizabeth's birth, that she would reconcile me with my father, and welcome be back to court, if I accepted her as Queen." She gave a short, mirthless laugh, looking the Ambassador straight in the eye. "I told her I knew of no Queen but my mother... and to that I hold."
She raised her chin in defiance, and in her eyes Chapuys saw in all clarity the deep hatred for Anne Boleyn she had nurtured for so many years. And she had every reason to do so, for she had lost so much at the hands of the Concubine. Still, it was his desire to urge her to accept the harlot's offer, so that they may move against her and destroy her for good.
"I know, Princess," he said, nodding his agreement. "She usurped your mother's crown and bewitched his Majesty. Nevertheless, you can not let this letter go unnoticed. It would anger her, and most likely your father, too. After all, she grants you to visit your mother's grave, and sends you that brooch in a gesture of goodwill."
Mary twisted the brooch in her hand and smiled wistfully. "Yes, she has granted me this favor... and if it were anyone but her, Excellency, I would be grateful. More than grateful. Indeed, if she were another, perhaps I would find it in me to forgive and forget the harm she has caused me, and accept her as the true and rightful queen. But she's the Boleyn whore, and I hate her." Her eyes glistened fiercely.
She looked up at her old friend and confidant. "Don't you hate her? Or has she bewitched you, too?" She ended cynically, reminding herself that Anne had personally presented the Ambassador with the letter.
Chapuys shook his head. "No, Princess. She has not. And believe me that I am on your side and understand your concerns. I do not support the Concubine."
Mary cast her eyes down. "I know, Excellency. Please forgive me. I know you care for me and my matters, perhaps more so than anyone else in this country. But, it just seems so strange to me that she would write so politely to me, asking me to judge her kindly and to pardon her. There must be some ulterior motive behind it. Or do you really think she wishes to make peace with me in order to save her soul?"
Chapuys frowned as if pondering her question. "When she gave me the letter she seemed genuinely sincere, assuring me that she was desirous to atone for what she did to you. But she is not to be trusted." He unwillingly recalled the Concubine's serene expression as she told him of her desire to appease Mary. He'd felt the lure of her eyes then, the power they wielded, almost manipulating him into believing her that she was serious about this entire affair. But that could not be. She was the Great Whore... She was no good.
Mary nodded in agreement. "But what exactly is her purpose? She hates me! What would she gain from reconciling me with the King?"
"As I said," Chapuys answered, "I presume she wants to strengthen her claim to the throne. As the initiator of a reconciliation, all would hail her; she knows that. She thinks it would pacify you, and us, your supporters, who have always been against her."
"And you don't think it would pacify us?" Mary asked pointedly.
"No, Princess. At least, not if we take this chance to destroy her once and for always. That is, not if you are still willing to destroy her and all her faction."
Mary thought about this for a moment.
Two things stood to the fore. One the one hand, she knew that she hated Anne Boleyn with all that was in her, and would do anything to revenger her mother, Queen Katherine. And yet, Mary, being a girl whom emotion deeply stirred, could not deny that the Harlot's letter had affected her, even if only a little. Anne's words rang with sincerity, honesty, even regret. "I ask you only to judge me kindly..." God wanted his children to forgive everyone, and, surely, if Mary accepted the Harlot's offer, she would be reconciled with her father, whom she loved and missed...
But, if she did so, she would disgrace the memory of her sainted mother, and she could not do that. With an effort, Mary pulled herself together. What was going on with her? She could not let the Concubine's fake regret win her over! She must be strong.
Looking at Chapuys, she nodded. "I am still willing to do so. How could I not be? She's the one who destroyed my mother's life. And mine," she added sourly. "But, even if I returned to court, would we have the power to harm her? Did you not tell me two weeks ago, when you last came here, that the King was besotted with her, that she was more powerful than ever?"
"It is true," Chapuys agreed, "she is very powerful. I do not know what happened, but the King loves her as if he had never fallen out with her, as if he had never been in love with Mistress Seymour. And no matter what, the Concubine is never to be underestimated."
"I don't doubt it," Mary said, grudgingly admitting that, for all her flaws, Anne was indeed a power to be reckoned with.
"And yet," the Ambassador continued, "her faith in her abilites, her belief that she's secure in the king's love, may also proof fatal. Perhaps she overestimates her power, her influence. And perhaps, which is my greatest hope, she overestimates the King's love. Princess, something must have happend after his Majesty's accident that changed the King's mind about the Concubine. And I am determined to find out what it was."
"How? And what else are you planning to do?" Mary threw in, intrigued.
"You have many friends at court, Princess Mary. I have already spoken to the Seymours, and they are still more than willing to help us. They will do anything in their power to rekindle his Majesty's affection for Jane, and to undermine the Concubine. Also, the Lady Rochford, a member of the Boleyn family itself, is on our side. I asked her to find out as much as she can about the accident and the events surrounding it. There must be more to it. And I, for my part, will continue to endeavour to find allies, and instruct them of my plans to bring down the Concubine."
Mary, weighed his words carefully. "So you want me to accept her offer, to accept her as Queen?"
"Yes, Princess. I know you hate her, and that you could never see her as the true Queen. And of course she is not. But think of the advantages your acceptance of her title would bring you. Reconiliation with your father, lodgings at court. Powerful friends, and the possibility to destroy the Concubine, one way or another."
"But is that not hypocrisy?" Mary retorted sharply. "To sign all the documents and accept that harlot as my mistress, thus besmirching the memory of my mother? And what would the Emperor think of it?"
"The Emperor hates the Concubine as we do," Chapuys said calmly, "and if indeed your formal acceptance of her title would eventually lead to her downfall, I am sure he would approve. And as for your mother, she above all people would want you to be happy. Your mother is gone, but you have a father who, I am sure, still loves and cares for you."
Mary saw him before her mind's eye, her boisterous and formidable father, whom she feared almost as much as she loved him. Yes, it would be nice to see him again, to find comfort in his strong arms. He was the only parent she had left. It would be heavenly to live at court once more, to leave Hatfield and the duty of serving Elizabeth behind...
But this could only be achieved by accepting the accursed Concubine, the woman her own mother had rightfully referred to as the 'scandal of Christendom'.
She needed to think about this alone, no matter how much she appreciated the Ambassador's counsel.
"I need some time to think this over," she said out loud.
"But, are you willing to at least meet the Concubine? She will press for a meeting," Chapuys commented.
Mary nodded. "I am ready to talk to her. I'm sure that by the time she comes here, I will have made up my mind."
"Very well, Princess. I am sure you are desirous to visit your mother's resting place at Peterborough Cathedral as soon as possible?"
"Yes, I'll go tomorrow." She had been deprived of the right to communicate with her mother after Anne Boleyn's marriage to the King, and after her death had not been allowed to mourn her properly. The King, no doubt under Anne's influence, had even prevented her from attending the funeral. Oh, how she longed to be where her mother lay, to fall to her knees beside her grave and weep the tears of sorrow and grief she should have wept that day they laid the Queen to rest!
"I just hope the Lady Bryan will let me go," she mused.
"She has no say in the matter. But, if it pleases you, I will tell her of the Concubine's letter, and inform her that you are allowed to go," Chapuys offered, and once more Mary felt gratitude surge through her.
"Thank you, Excellency. For everything," she stated simply, hoping that her words would convey to him just how much she appreciated his loyalty and friendship.
"Always, my Princess," he said, bowing low before her.
She escorted the Ambassador out of her room and looked after him for a moment as he walked away to find Lady Bryan.
Eventually, she turned away and locked herself in her chamber. Gazing out of the small window at the blue sky above, she pondered over an endless stream of questions.
What was going to happen? How should she decide?
Should she accept Anne's offer or not?
Sighing, she turned away and sat down on her bed. She had a feeling that this decision would make a great impact on her life, that it would change her future, for better or for worse. The consequences of her choice would be far-reaching.
And if she made the wrong decision, she would never forgive herself.