Fortunately, Henry remained irate with me the remainder of my eighth month. Unfortunately, however, I went into a semi-early labor and was still too mad at him to allow anyone to inform him that his second child was on its way. Second. I'm sure that someone informed him anyway. the King had power over all and I have power over all but the king. I had been reading a very interesting piece written by Luther that Cromwell had obtained for me. The contractions had started out quite small and relatively painless. I thought I had just had a small amount of gas or that the baby was kicking again. But they had gotten stronger fast and, though it was relatively normal to be having a baby a little early, I feared the worst. I had yelled out for Nan and Madge as calmly and patiently as I could, but they heard the distress in my voice anyway. They called for Dr. Linacre and birthing materials and got to work. Not too soon after my family was notified and this also told me that Henry already knew.
"Push Your Majesty! Push! I already see the crown!" a few of my ladies tittered nervously at Linacre's little play on words but stopped abruptly when I grabbed him by the collar and pulled him down to my angry, sweaty, strained face.
"Doctor, I dare you to attempt to push a living, breathing, human baby out of your private area. What is futile for you is difficult for me. So heed my advice when I say don't tell me to fucking pushwhen I'm pushing as hard as I possibly can." My eye twitched and he nodded slightly before I let him go and resumed pushing.
Finally out of the thin, crisp, September air I heard everyone's breath collectively hitch as relief flooded my body. It was over, and my baby was here. I pried my eyes open to gaze blearily at Madge. She was holding my baby, swaddling it in blankets and such as Linacre cut and cleaned my baby. I groaned slightly, feeling cold and empty, needing the warmth and joy that will come only with me holding my baby for the first time.
"'Tis only a girl, Your Majesty." One of the women farthest from me informed me boldly and clearly. I shot straight up furiously. My head whipped in the direction of the woman and I glared at her. Of course it had to have been Jane. My dear brother's wretched wife.
"Only, nothing, Lady Rochford. Do you even have a child of your own to speak of? No. She is the King's and my baby, and a baby of royal lineage. She is only an infant and already of higher ranking than you. Not only will you be banished from Court until further notice, but you will apologize to my little Elizabeth right this moment."
As soon as the name flew out of my mouth, unwarranted I might add, I knew it was the perfect name. I had been considering it a bit and saying it out loud simply felt…right. Elizabeth, the name that belonged to both her grandmothers, now belonged to her. My sister-in-law scowled at me unpleasantly before muttering a few insincere words to the babe I now held in my arms. She turned on her heel and left in quite the huff. Not too long after her departure Antoine flew in flanked by Henry and Charles. Henry sped up ahead of them both and reached me first. Reluctant to let his dirtily filthy cheating hands touch my pure, innocent, beautiful baby but knowing it'd only bring further repercussions upon myself I gently slid Elizabeth into his waiting arms and greeted my-his-friends, if only to avoid eye contact and conversation with him.
"She's gorgeous, just like her mother. She'll be Mary, after my dear sister." Henry boomed, pride tinting every word he spoke.
"Not quite, I've already named her Elizabeth." I managed to bite out at him, controlling my gag reflex as I did so. His eyes shot to me and he raised an eyebrow. The tension around us was palpable and the air in the room seemed as though it were buzzing, threatening to electrocute anyone who dared to test it. He seemed surprised that I had spoken a word to him, as I hadn't since the day I threatened to leave him.
"Oh is it now? I suppose that's alright as well, though if you'd given birth to a son I would insist that his name be Henry IX, but I won't bother to squabble with you about my firstborn's name." Henry replied crisply to me before turning his attentions back onto Elizabeth. Better they be on my baby than that woman, Jane Seymour.
Scowling momentarily myself, I dismissed everyone with the excuse that I needed some sleep, which I did. But instead of settling into my comforter and drifting off peacefully I stayed awake, crying and reflecting on my life. I shouldn't be married to a King, a Prince of Europe for God's sake. I shouldn't be the wife of an adulterous man and that woman he's been unfaithful to me with should not have been able to enter my thoughts at any point, in any way shape or form, and be able to ruin what was possibly one of the happiest days of my life thus far. I cried myself to sleep that night. When I woke up the sun was considerably bright and my ladies were buzzing around at the orders of Nan. Everyone was chattering away happily.
"Lady Shelton, what's going on? Why is everyone so…ungh." I made a gross noise of displeasure at the end, showing my disapproval.
"You have just given birth to Europe's most beautiful Princess, Your Highness. That's something to celebrate. Festivities that were being planned for the week after your due date have been put under immense pressure to begin working more quickly. Besides the festivities in honor of Princess Elizabeth, a few of your new Ladies are arriving today, ahead of schedule."
"Ah, I see. Thank you, Lady Shelton."
"That's not all Your Highness." Madge was about to burst, I knew, so I nodded for her to continue. "The Lady Jane Seymour has been escorted back to Wolf Hall. Everyone is talking about it. The reason His Majesty was nearly late is because when he received the news that you were giving birth he stopped making out with Jane long enough to send her away because he didn't want to upset you. It's rather sweet." She prattled off to me happily. I suppose she was simply happy enough that she knew a piece of gossip that I didn't, or maybe just happy because it's such a nice day and there's been so much life at court, according to her.
"I see. Can you help me dress, Nan? I wish to visit some people before my new household members arrive." Nan nodded and barked out a few more directions at the other women before helping me slip into a rich purple dress with golden accents tastefully placed here or there. Nodding my thanks and approval, I left my chambers in search of Antoine.
I suppose by 'some people' Nan knew I meant Henry, Antoine, or Charles. I found him and his fiancé by a pond in the East Gardens with a few of their households not too far behind. They had what I liked to call an ideal betrothal and a perfect match. As far as I knew Antoine had only let his eyes go astray twice since meeting her. I bit my lip debating on whether or not to interrupt them. Yes I am Queen and I have the right to do it, but I do hate to be rude. Deciding against it I began to turn around and go in the opposite direction in search of Charles. Glancing back at the happy couple I saw Antoine lean in to peck her briefly on the nose. Thank heavens I didn't interrupt them. I found Charles bantering back and forth with a few of his friends as they played poker. He glanced smilingly in my direction before doing a double take and glaring at me wildly with concern.
"An-Your Majesty, should you truly be out of bed this soon? Even Elizabeth is still being checked over. The king is with her now." Charles stood abruptly tripping over my formal title but still remembering to bow rather low. He excused himself from his card game and strode over to me and gently led me out of the hall with a hand on my back. "Anne what are you doing out of bed? You just gave birth not twenty four hours ago."
"Is the Lady Jane Seymour truly out of my household?" I asked without turning towards him as he led me down some familiar hallways.
"Who told you? Henry wanted it to be a surprise. Yes, she is. She was sent back to Wolfhall yesterday and shouldn't be returning any time in the foreseeable future." Charles visibly tensed and stiffened.
"And why would he do that?" I asked casually as we strolled along. I placed a calming hand on Charles' shoulder. He relaxed and cleared his throat and tipped his head at a passerby.
"Well, doesn't it…does it not please you? She was," he coughed uncomfortably. "your only competition. Even if she wasn't much of it since he laid eyes on you, she had his eye for a bit before you arrived." He seemed genuinely confused, thrown for a metaphorical loop.
"No, I cannot say truthfully that it pleases me in the least. I'm wholly apathetic towards Henry, and anything involving him at this point, save for my daughter of course. Why should it make a difference to me whether or not his mistress resides here or a place of her own?"
"That's what His Majesty's twisted mind assumed you would see his gesture as him no longer feeling partial towards Jane, as he hasn't since you two were wed." my brow furrowed and my look turned highly skeptical. I shot Charles a questioning look before the nervous one he gave me in turn caused me to dissolve into loud, hearty laughter.
"That's just as ridiculous as the obvious notion he seems to have that I can simply be bought. Last week alone I received three golden brooches, an ornate emerald necklace, and a highly flattering portrait of myself." We walked along a minute longer before a smug smirk made its way onto my face. "So tell me, Charles. Does he think that showering me with gifts and pretty little trinkets will simply clear away all his betrayals and infidelities? I saw him with my own eyes in that garden."
"Yes, Nan, yes he does. It'd buy off any other woman in the entire kingdom. Henry's extravagance eclipses even King Francis'."
"Well, obviously not me. I sold the brooches and the portrait. The money from the portrait I donated half to a church and half to a poorhouse. The brooches were worth so much that I saved it. I plan on using it towards the bettering of the more destitute places in England." I mentioned lightly hoping I wasn't overstepping my boundaries as Queen. I have the right to be as philanthropic as I wish, as long as I have permission of my husband, since he has to procure the funds for me anyway.
"And the necklace?"
"I couldn't bear to part with it. It's insanely beautiful; I plan to give it to Elizabeth as a coming of age present. Of course she'll get more such as horses and such, but I feel that the necklace would have more sentiment."
"It will. No doubt as Henry's firstborn daughter he'll spoil her terribly. A necklace that won't simply be handed to her will surely be the most prized of her jewelry collection, which is bound to be large." Charles agrees with me before we stop abruptly in front of a large and very heavy looking wooden door. "As much as I'm dying to share with you, Anthony and I agreed that, as I found you, he'd tell you. So, please, darling rest your head."
He rapped on the door in an odd sort of rhythm and slowly and creakily the door was dragged open. He gently nudged me forward and left. Behind the door was a damp and narrow hallway. I was led further back by a servant holding a torch ahead of us for light. He handed me the torch silently and opened another door so that before I knew it I was in my bed chamber once more.