A/N #1: So, I've finally decided to try my hand at writing my first Six fan fiction. As you can probably tell from the summary, this story has two major distinctions from those submitted by other writers. The first is that this composition will have more of an emotional and sullen tone as opposed to the more comedic works. I have nothing against comedic stories, in fact there are plenty of hilarious moments from the original musical that I can quote verbatim. I just have more of a flair for the dramatic and heartwarming elements of storytelling.
Plus, I don't have the kind of talent needed to come up with clever jokes and hilarious one-liners. That's the specialty of my sister, Emmalicious. Anyway, the second distinction is that this story takes place before the musical during a few moments in the lifetime of one of the queens (Jane Seymour to be specific) with some obvious creative interpretation. At first, I was somewhat hesitant about writing a fan fiction about a real historical character. But then I figured that if fans of Hamilton could do so, I could too. I'll explain the inspiration behind this story in a second author's note at the end because this one is already long enough.
Night had fallen, shrouding the room in a sheet of darkness. Not a sound could be heard throughout the palace. Although the night was still and serene, Jane lay in bed wide awake. Earlier in the day the midwife had informed her that her baby was due very soon, likely within the next few days. Every night since she found out that she was expecting, her mind was flooded with images of her baby and the moment she would finally get to meet him. She dreamed of feeling the weight of his tiny body in her arms and his soft hand grasping her fingers.
But, as her due date drew closer, more frightening and intrusive thoughts began to invade her mind. She heard stories of women who had endured hours, or even days, of agonizing labor pains. Some of them had even hemorrhaged afterwards, leaving entire rooms stained crimson red and completely robbing them of their strength. Then, of course, there was the dreaded childbed fever many had warned her about. Days after giving birth, seemingly healthy women would come down with a terrible fever and perish several days later, never being given the chance to see their children grow.
However, the stories which haunted her the most were those of the babies who had been born completely still and lifeless or had died just a few days after birth. The midwife had assured her that she would do everything in her power to provide the best care for her and the baby. Jane wanted to trust her, but how could she when it seemed all the odds were against her? Her dear friend Catherine had suffered through multiple miscarriages, stillbirths, and infant deaths. How could she be certain that her child would not meet the same fate?
Her racing thoughts combined with her sore, aching back and her baby's constant kicking made it impossible for her to fall asleep. She tossed and turned hoping to find a more comfortable position, but nothing seemed to help. With no other options, she decided that she would take stroll through the halls of the palace in hopes of clearing her mind and settling her baby down.
As she wandered through the halls she had walked through many times before, she could feel her baby's kicks grow less intense. Perhaps her movements were finally rocking him to sleep or perhaps she was too enveloped in her own thoughts to even notice?
She knew how desperately Henry wished for a son and she hoped that she could finally provide him with one. Nearly everyone had assured her that she was most definitely carrying a boy because she was carrying so low. That is, everyone except the midwife; who claimed that there was no way to know for sure until her baby was born. Since the day they first met, Henry had made it a point to remind Jane of his love for her. He had held her close to him and whispered sweet words in her ear.
But what if my baby is born a girl? she thought as she rubbed her swollen belly anxiously. Will he love me just the same? I mean, he has a good heart but I know it changes like a restless tide.
Then she remembered the women who wrote their wills upon feeling their babies' first movements and sewed their wedding gowns knowing they would double as a burial shroud. What if something terrible happens to me? Who would care for the baby? What would Henry do without me? What about Mary? She's growing up fast and has already faced much of her young life without her mother. I can't let her or Catherine down!
As she passed by one of the rooms, she suddenly heard a series of high-pitched cries and soft sobs. Although she tried to ignore them at first, she couldn't help but feel as though something was amiss. Eventually, she decided that it might be worth her while to take a brief look just to see what exactly was going on.
She crept lightly towards the door so as not to disturb anyone's slumber. The cries seemed to grow louder and more apparent the closer she came. When she peeked through the crack in the doorway, she saw a small, shadowed figure amidst the darkened room sitting upright and trembling. Jane placed a sorrowful hand over her heart upon seeing her young stepdaughter so distraught. Something inside compelled her to rush to the child's side and comfort her.
However, Henry had warned her not to show Elizabeth too much attention or else she could risk spoiling her. But perhaps, in this moment, she deserved to be spoiled at least a little bit. Then again, she had already disobeyed Henry once and that hadn't turned out well for her.
"Your Majesty," a young man said "citizens from the North have been turning your people against you. How are you prepared to deal with these ruffians?"
Jane had heard all about the upheaval in the North. Although she didn't condone the riots against her husband, she couldn't help but pity the rebels. Many people were starving due to the poor harvest and many more had no place to shelter them from the wind and the rain. As Henry pondered his decision, she hoped that he would understand their pain and find some way to meet their needs.
"I will have their leaders arrested and brought before me." Henry said, his tone colder than ice. "Then, I will show them all the consequences of their retaliation."
"And how do you intend to do that?"
The room stood still for a few seconds before the king gave his answer. "Francis Bigod shall be hanged at Tyburn. As for Darcy and Hussey, I will have them both sent to the axe."
At that moment Jane decided that she would not stay silent. As long as these people were suffering, she knew that she could not go speechless.
"Henry! Please have mercy on these poor souls! They only riot because they're cold and hungry. Surely there must be something you can do for them?"
"This matter does not concern you!" he hissed.
"And why not?" she asked with a confronting tone "Am I not your wife? Have I not been by your side day and night since the day we first met?"
"You and your pity have no place in my political affairs! You don't have the knowledge to make such a decision!"
"I know," Jane admitted "but as your wife, I understand better than anyone and I know this isn't who you truly are." Henry glared at her, eyes brimming with fury. Still, she continued to stand strong. "I beg of you, don't throw away everything you have! These people may have hurt your dignity, but they haven't hurt your heart. If you do this, you...you have no heart!"
"Enough!" he retorted. "As my wife I expect you to know your place! Need I remind you what happened to the last woman who didn't mind her place? I can easily get rid of you just as I did with her!"
Jane's frail body trembled before the king as he towered over her, roaring like a fearsome beast. She sprinted out of the room with tears welling in her soft eyes as her husband's harsh words continued to whip her heart while she down the hall.
He later apologized to her, claiming that he'd had a rather strenuous day and he had no intention to get rid of her. She forgave him; but ever since then, she had found herself in constant fear of upsetting him again.
Now, she was faced with an agonizing dilemma. Should she step in to console Elizabeth and risk facing Henry's wrath? Or abandon the poor child in order to keep her husband calm?
Eventually, her cries became too much for her to ignore any longer. Without giving it another thought, she swung the door open and lit a lamp. As she approached Elizabeth's bed side, the tiny girl pulled the covers over her head, whimpering anxiously.
"It's alright, Elizabeth, I won't hurt you." Jane said softly. The princess slowly lowered the covers as Jane drew closer and closer. She then sat down beside the child and began to gently stroke her head as she clung to her tightly.
"There, there" she cooed, rubbing soft circles on the girl's back "I'm here, everything will be alright." As the princess continued to sob, Jane remained by her side trying everything she could to console Elizabeth. Eventually her sobs began to dwindle and her once trembling hands now began to stabilize. Still clinging to Jane's side, the child looked up at her with swollen, tear-filled eyes.
"Will you tell me what's troubling you, little one?" Jane asked.
Elizabeth briefly glanced down at the floor, rubbing her eyes and sniffling. She then looked back at Jane and sighed, trying to catch her breath.
"I-I had a dream that my mummy was holding me and singing a lullaby." She said shakily, wrapping her arms around herself as though she were cradling a baby. "But then a giant shadow came and-and took her away from me!" Her lip started to quiver and her grasp on Jane's dress tightened. "Then I-I woke up and I was-I was all alone!" she began to weep once more, burying her face in Jane's lap.
"I know you miss your mother." Jane said sympathetically. "I miss her too and I would give anything to bring her back."
Jane truly meant every word she had said to Elizabeth. Though she admitted to herself that she and Anne didn't always see eye-to-eye. In fact, one could say that she resented Anne at first. Anne's boisterous, tomboyish nature contrasted with Jane's humble and chaste values. The fact that Catherine had been sent away to make room for Anne only contributed to their silent tension. To her, Anne was nothing more than a shallow replacement.
Still, as her lady-in-waiting there was no way she could avoid her. As she was forced to spend more and more time with her, she slowly became more tolerant of her antics. When Anne revealed that she was pregnant for the third time, part of her wanted to be envious of Anne's impending motherhood. However, another side of her felt excited and even somewhat worried for her. Her last two pregnancies had ended in miscarriage and Jane could almost see the hope and desperation in her eyes as she delivered the news.
At that moment, Jane decided that she could at least be somewhat friendly with Anne although she couldn't imagine the two of them being close friends. So, she took her hand and told her that she could confide in her if ever she needed anything.
Then one day Anne approached Jane, pale and shaking.
"Oh Jane, I'm in terrible trouble!" she cried.
"What sort of trouble, Anne?" Jane asked, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
The moment she asked, Anne pulled her long, dark brown hair away from her face revealing a large, purple bruise which surrounded her eye.
Jane gasped at the sight and cradled her chin in her hand to more closely examine the bruise.
"Who did this to you?" she asked determinedly.
"Who do you think did this?" Anne snapped. "It was Henry!"
For a while Jane just stood there in complete disbelief. Sure, Henry had quite a temper but she believed he had a gentle heart underneath that hardened exterior. She never imagined that he would ever go this far. What was she supposed to say? She wanted to believe Anne but she still couldn't fathom how Henry could do anything to hurt someone he had initially held so close to him.
"Really?" she asked abruptly, not knowing what else to say.
"What? You don't believe me?" Anne accused.
"I don't know what to believe!" Jane exclaimed on the verge of tears.
"Well, it's true! He struck me after I confronted him about his affair and now, he wants me dead!"
"What are you going to do?"
The room fell silent for a few seconds before Anne said "There's nothing I can do… but perhaps you can."
"What?!" Jane gasped, her eyes growing wide. "Why me? You're the queen, he'll listen to you. Just apologize to him for giving him lip."
"I will not apologize for what I said! He needed to know exactly how much he hurt me. Besides, he's so blinded by his rage there's no way he would listen to me."
"But why would he listen to me? I'm just a lady in waiting."
"Surely you can't be this thick! He absolutely adores you! I saw the letter he sent you and I've heard his recollections of your chastity and grace." Anne paused briefly, releasing a defeated sigh. Then, she turned to Jane with a desperate yet sympathetic expression. "Look Jane, I know that we've always had our differences. I know that I'm asking quite a lot of you. But you were there for me during the last few weeks of my pregnancy, when I gave birth to Elizabeth, and even when I had my third miscarriage. Can I depend on you once more?"
As Anne recalled everything Jane had done for her, something inside of her seemed to change. Ever since she was a child she had been described as a meek and delicate beauty. A newfound sense of strength seemed to envelop her when she realized that she had not only settled her differences with a girl she had once resented but supported her during the most important events in her life and perhaps even grew to like somewhat. Still, she wasn't certain that Henry would listen to her even if what Anne said was true. So, Jane turned to the queen and said "Alright, I'll try."
Though try as she might, she could not convince him to spare Anne's life. Her execution date was set and the charges were made: treason and adultery. Knowing that there was nothing more she could do; Jane left the room with a heavy heart. When she delivered the news to Anne, they held each-other close as they wept until no more tears could fall.
Before she knew it, the dreaded day arrived. As Anne was dragged away to her imprisonment, Jane heard her cry out to Elizabeth one last time. When the time came for her to be executed, Jane forced herself to watch every second of the event. From the moment Anne was brought before the crowd, to the moment she spoke her final words. She couldn't remember much else beyond that as her vision went completely black the moment the executioner drew his sword. It wasn't until later when one of the servants informed her once she came to that she realized Anne was dead. Although she knew she couldn't have prevented her death, she still felt as though she was the one holding the sword that dealt the fatal blow.
Jane felt a lump form in her throat as she recalled these memories of Anne. It wasn't long before she felt streams of tears rain down her face. She placed a hand over her mouth in an attempt to muffle her sobs. She brought Elizabeth in closer and held her tight as they mourned together. Once several minutes had passed her stuttering breath slowly returned to normal. She wiped the tears from her eyes before turning to Elizabeth once more.
"Although we both miss her very much, it's only a matter of time until we see her again."
"But what if I forget all about Mummy before I can see her again?" Elizabeth asked concernedly.
As soon as she said this, Jane's gaze shifted to the small, square-shaped piece of cloth hanging on the wall across from them. She took the cloth down from the wall and then brought it back to the girl.
"Do you know what this is?" she asked as she studied the vibrant patterns and silky fabric.
"Nanny Alice said it doesn't matter what it is because it's for the baby and I'm not allowed to touch it."
"Actually, this is for you." Jane said, handing the cloth over to the girl.
"Really?" Elizabeth asked inquisitively.
"Yes, it's the blanket your mother made for you while she was on bed rest before you were born. She was so fed up with lying in bed that she practically begged me to help her find something to do. So, I taught her everything I knew about needlework and we sewed the blanket together. Every time I see this blanket, I think of her. Perhaps it will do the same for you."
"It feels like one of Mummy's pretty gowns," Elizabeth caressed the blanket against her cheek "and it even smells like her." Suddenly she stopped cuddling the blanket and extended it to Jane. "But what about the baby?"
"Nevermind that," Jane reassured her "your mother would want you to have it. Besides, Mary and I have been making a new one."
"Is that why you haven't been able to play with me?"
Jane froze upon hearing the dejection in Elizabeth's voice as she uttered these words. She recalled the numerous times Elizabeth had approached her, wide-eyed and eager to play. Nearly every time she had turned her away, advising her to play with the nanny or promising to play with her another time without following through with her initial promise. She had dedicated so much of her time to serving Henry and Mary that she had neglected poor Elizabeth. Although she had tried to be gentle with her response, that didn't minimize the fact that she had hurt Elizabeth.
"Alright, Jane," she said to herself "you have two choices: Either you can continue to dwell on your failures or you can step up and make things right." She then turned to Elizabeth, looked her straight in the eye, and placed a soft hand on her shoulder.
"Elizabeth, I'm sorry I haven't been there for you."
"It's alright," Elizabeth responded "Nanny Alice told me that you still care about me, you've just been distracted lately."
"No, it's not alright." She then took the girl's small hands into hers. "It's true, I have had to attend to quite a few people including your father and your sister and the baby. Still, that's no excuse for my negligence. You are just as much my daughter as Mary is and I want to prove this to you. So please tell me, what can I do for you?"
For a moment Elizabeth simply sat there pondering. Then she turned to Jane and asked "May I talk to the baby? There's so much I want to say to it!"
Jane hesitated at first. Knowing how curious and tactile Elizabeth was, she knew that she would be inclined to try and feel the baby. Up to this moment she hadn't let many people touch her. But she's only a child, she doesn't mean any harm she thought; Besides, this may help me understand what exactly is weighing on her mind. So, she obliged, placing the girl's hand on her stomach.
"Hello, little baby" the girl said, smiling widely "I'm your big sister, Elizabeth, and I can't wait to meet you! Daddy really hopes you're a boy but I'll be happy no matter what you are. All I want is someone to play with." Soon after she said this, her smile dropped into a sullen expression. "He says our family is perfect, but I know it isn't true. Daddy can be scary when he's cross and we're all a little sad. Our family is a little broken but we still want you to be part of it. Your mummy will give you lots of cuddles and kisses. Mary can be a bit bossy but she's actually rather sweet. And me, I promise to always love you and play with you and take care of you no matter what." She leaned in closer and gently kissed her belly. Suddenly, her eyes grew wide.
"What is it, Elizabeth?" Jane asked.
"I felt something press against my hand!" Elizabeth answered, excitement ringing in her voice.
"It must be the baby's way of saying 'thank you', it's probably excited to meet you too." Jane began to lean in closer to Elizabeth when she felt the weight of the girl's head resting on her arm. She laid her down softly, pulled up her covers, and dimmed the light; planting a delicate kiss on her head.
"Jane?" Elizabeth asked sleepily "Will you be my mummy?"
Jane looked back at her and said "I can't replace your mother, but I will do anything for you."
"Will you play with me tomorrow?"
Jane paused for a moment. She thought, and then said "…Yes."
She then made her way towards the door but then stopped to look back at Elizabeth once more. She saw the girl was now resting peacefully, clutching the beloved blanket.
Poor Elizabeth she thought as she made her way back towards her room, she knows so much more than I initially thought. If only I could have taken her place, I could have spared her from such heartache. I must find a way to make good on my promise!
As she climbed back into bed, she could at least take comfort in knowing that her baby would be in good hands. Regardless of how Henry would respond, she looked forward to the day she would finally meet her baby. Even if something were to happen to her, she knew she could depend on Mary and Elizabeth to care for him. Besides, she would always be by his side because her love was set in stone.
A/N #2: Before I explain my inspiration behind this story, let me make one thing perfectly clear. Please do not take any of the themes I have used in this story as confirmed historical facts. Next to math, history was one of my weaker subjects in school. I'm sure that many readers will understand this, but I've decided to mention this just as a precautionary measure. Some people have different ideas of what really happened and what certain people said way back when whether they're official historians or self-proclaimed experts on the internet who read a biography or saw a program on the History channel. History is a complicated subject and it isn't always easy to tell exactly what happened.
Being in quarantine has given me a lot of free time which has been both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it's given me a lot of time to conjure up new ideas for future fan fictions and check out some new musical cast recordings, which led me to Six. On the other hand, being left to deal with my own thoughts has resulted in numerous cases of overthinking and over-analyzing. This in turn has left me feeling very anxious during the day which in turn has resulted in many restless nights.
One specific example of this was an incident which happened to me fairly recently. I was scrolling through my Pinterest feed one day when I came across a post detailing the different ways Henry's wives showed strength. When I saw what the poster had to say about Jane Seymour, I was absolutely thrilled! Ever since I've gotten into Six, I've admired Jane's kindness and selflessness. I then posted a comment sating that it takes a great deal of strength to show kindness to others knowing that you won't receive anything in return. However, someone replied stating that Jane in real life severely neglected Elizabeth because she devoted so much of her time to Henry.
Although this person probably wasn't trying to be mean, I felt very hurt and anxious. It soon turned into a downward spiral as I began to feel ashamed of myself for admiring someone who may have been a terrible person. I knew I had to do something because I didn't want these feelings to take over my life. So, I decided to take a moment to sort through my thoughts and change my perspective on the situation. For one thing, I'm not exactly sure whether or not this was true. Even if it was true, people are usually much more complex that the labels "good" and "evil" can describe. Perhaps she had a difficult time bonding with Elizabeth since she was practically a stranger to her. Or perhaps the way she raised her would be considered neglectful by today's standards but was acceptable at the time since knowledge on child development was very limited
As I thought about this more and more, I started coming up with new ideas and eventually everything started coming together like pieces of a puzzle. The point of this story is to try and offer myself and other readers a greater understanding of what may have been on her mind and what may have driven some of her actions. I'm not trying to garner sympathy or demand that anyone feel sorry for me. I'm simply trying to explain how this story came to be. I originally planned on having just this one chapter but the ideas just kept on coming to me. So, I plan on writing a few more chapters. I would love to hear what you think about my story and any advice you can give would be very helpful.