Charles stood with the rest of the crowd, watching as Anne Boleyn, a white cap covering her hair, was escorted onto the scaffold. To one side stood the priest, and to the other stood the hooded executioner holding his sword. All became deathly quiet as Anne began to speak.
"Good Christian people, I come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die. I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul."
Anne's ladies removed her cloak, and Anne removed her white pearl earrings and necklace. She handed the executioner a small bag, and then a blindfold was tied around her eyes. A single strand of hair peeked out from beneath the white cap; the executioner gently tucked it back under. Anne's lips moved swiftly, almost silently.
"To Jesus Christ I commend my soul. Lord Jesus receive my soul."
As Anne waited to die, all Charles could think of was Katherine. Katherine sleeping alone in her cold bed night after night while her husband sampled the delights of other beds in the palace. Katherine kneeling at her prie dieu, clutching her rosary and begging the Virgin to grant her request for a son. Katherine hearing for the first time that her marriage was cursed by God, that her daughter was a product of incest and therefore a bastard. Katherine being forced to leave the only home she had known since leaving Spain all those years ago. Katherine being told that she could never see or even write to her own daughter again. Charles felt such overwhelming tenderness for his wife that he could think of nothing else.
The sword performed its deadly task. Anne's lifeless body lay bleeding in the straw. Charles crossed himself.
Katherine waited for him in the field as he rode home, her gently rounded belly seeming more beautiful than ever to Charles.
"Is it done?" she asked.
Katherine crossed herself. "I shall pray for her soul."
"As shall I," Charles said quietly. His arms closed around her body and he stood there for a long time, just holding her.
"Are you all right?" she asked.
"Yes." He tilted her chin so that he could look into her eyes and gently kissed her lips. A chaste but affectionate kiss. "I love you, Katherine."
"I love you too, Charles." Together they turned and went inside.
Charles held his wife's body extra close in bed that night.
The twins, Arthur and Edward, were born a few months later. Katherine looked tired but radiant, sitting up in bed and holding one baby in each arm. Charles' heart swelled with love for her.
"They're beautiful," he said softly. "I'm so proud of you."
Lottie was fascinated by her new baby brothers, constantly wanting to touch their delicate skin and their soft, silky hair. Charles and Katherine found it a real challenge to avoid dampening her enthusiasm while at the same time urging her to always be gentle around the babies. She invited her little playmate Thomas to join her in admiring them.
"You have two babies and I don't have any babies," Thomas complained.
"Maybe your Mama will have a baby, too. Or two babies, like my Mama did," Lottie said cheerfully.
At Whitehall Palace, Henry was unable to hide his displeasure when Charles told him of the happy event. Henry's new wife, Jane Seymour, still showed no signs of being with child even after several months of marriage.
"I thought that she was no longer able to conceive, yet now she has given you not one, but two sons," he said sourly.
"God has indeed blessed us," Charles agreed.
"They should have been mine," Henry said softly.
Charles, stunned by his friend's brusqueness but of course not daring to respond in kind, said nothing more.