A Child's Grace

Chapter One

In the beautiful afternoon with the sun shining and snow on the ground, the Queen of England Anne Boleyn walked the hallways of the palace determination in every stride. A small smile crossed her lips when she saw the varied intertwined H&A's on the walls, a small frown furrowed her brow as her eyes fell on a H&K that had been missed and she made a mental note to mention it to one of the servants to ensure that it would be taken care. Seeing the page standing outside her husband's chambers she smiled again and walked forward remembering her intention of asking if their daughter Princess Elizabeth could come to court.

The page came to immediate attention once he saw his queen and offered to announce her. Anne smiled but decline gracefully telling the page she intended to surprise her husband. She didn't notice the nervous way the page looked at the door, what did catch her attention was the way the page tried to insist on announcing her. Believing the poor boy was simply trying to maintain propriety Anne patted him on the shoulder and insisted on going into her husband's chambers unannounced.

Anne walked into King Henry's chambers a smile on her lips, her dark eyes bright with the hope of Henry saying yes to her request saying, "Henry is it possible for Elizabeth to join us at court". Anne's dark eyes surveyed the room not seeing her husband initially until she saw him sitting behind his desk. The smile died on her lips when she realized that her husband wasn't alone. There sitting on his lap, looking deceptively innocent with her blond hair and guileless blue eyes was Henry's latest conquest Mistress Jane Seymour. Anne felt as though she'd been stabbed through the heart, knowing Henry had mistresses was one thing but having it slapped into her face was something altogether different.

Before Henry could speak one word in his defense Anne was already hurrying out of his chambers. Normally Henry wouldn't care and perhaps would have even been glad that Anne hadn't thrown one of her infamous fits but the pain in his wife's dark eyes made something clench in his stomach. He wasn't feeling guilty it was his right as king to seek any pleasures he wanted outside of the marriage bed, it was his right. Knowing that Anne probably went back to her own apartments, Henry decided to let her calm down before he discussed anything with her. He turned his attention back toward the woman on his lap, preferring to enjoy her company and how she was so refreshingly different from his wife, all the while he ignored the clenching in his gut and the feeling that he truly should have gone after his wife.

Pain was beating on her like a drum. This was worse than before, Anne had known that Henry was taking mistresses and she railed against him for them but this was different. He'd never openly flaunted it in front of her before. She couldn't run through the corridors even with her heart breaking Anne strove to maintain a calm fa├žade. It wouldn't do for the courtiers to see their queen racing through the halls like a madwoman, the last thing Anne needed was to give her enemies more ammunition to use against her. Anne returned to her apartments and rested for a moment against her closed doors, her dark eyes closed against the oncoming tears. Her ladies took tentative steps towards her asking her if she needed anything. Anne shook her head not wanting even her own ladies to see her in the midst of the emotional storm she knew was brewing. Anne took two steps towards her bedchamber before a startling pain ripped through her abdomen. She collapsed onto the floor in pain holding her stomach praying for the life of her unborn child.

Lady Nan had been one of Anne's oldest and most faithful ladies-in-waiting. She had been with her even when Anne had only been the Marquess of Pembroke. The site of her queen and friend on the floor in pain scared her and she raced quickly to Anne's side. "Your majesty, are you alright," Nan asked as she reached down to run a comforting hand over the queens brow.

Anne looked up at Nan fear clouding her dark brown eyes, she grabbed her friend's hand tight, "Someone send for any midwife present at court because something is not quite right," Anne managed to gasp out pain and fear making her voice hoarse.

Lady Nan started giving orders immediately, "Lady Elizabeth find a midwife or a physician immediately," one of the blond ladies in waiting fled from the room, "Madge help me get her majesty to her bed chambers," Nan finished. Madge, Anne's dark haired cousin immediately came to Nan's side and helped the other lady lift her cousin back up to her feet. Then the pair helped escort Anne to her bedchamber.

"Two knaves," Lady Mary Linacare said laying down her cards and smiling up at her father. Dr. Linacare and his daughter Mary were the two physicians who had permanent apartments at the palace. Dr. Linacare had been Henry's personal physician for years since the king had just been a lad. Originally his wife had been the midwife assigned to the palace but after her death last year his daughter who had completed her training two years ago had become the palace midwife.

Before Dr. Linacare could lay down his hand the doors to his apartments flew open and a woman dressed in the uniform of one of the Queen's ladies raced in. "Her majesty, Queen Anne is suffering from stomach pains," the woman shouted her eyes filled with fear for her beloved Queen. Without exchanging any words merely sharing a long look Mary rushed out of the apartments running for the Queen's chambers with the distraught lady trailing behind her.

The two women left behind Doctor Linacre unsure if he should follow or not. The look he had exchanged with his daughter had made him believe that he should remain in his apartments in case there was something the king needed after all he was the royal physician at the King's pleasure. Plus if it turned out to be something that his Mary couldn't handle she would send a page to fetch. Pleased with his thoughts Linacare turned his attention back to the discarded card game and began to clean up.

The trip from her father's apartments to the queen's was accomplished in record time. Anne's guards who had been alerted to the trouble stepped back to let Mary pass through. Elizabeth the lady in waiting who had gone for the midwife followed her in through the sitting chamber towards the bedchamber wringing her hands fretfully.

Mary looked at her fearful queen who had a lady in waiting on either side of her holding her hands and mopping cold cloths on her forehead. "Your majesty, I must examine you to see if the child in your womb is alright," Mary said calmly as she went to Anne's side and began to probe the swell of Anne's stomach. Next she went to the base of the bed and lifted her queen's skirts to check there as well.

A few moments later, Mary sighed, "Your majesty, it appears to be that you are experiencing the pains of childbirth as you are currently almost five fingers already." The queen's wail of denial went straight to Mary's heart for she knew as well as the queen that the child was early and by being early the chances of survival dropped significantly. Whatever happened now the child's life was in god's hands. Mary called forth Anne's ladies-in-waiting "Gather as many towels and bowels of water because it shall be a quick birth. However, Lady Elizabeth please inform my father of this development because the child if it is to be born alive, we are going to need his assistance"

With the others gathering the supplies that would be needed for childbirth and Elizabeth informing Doctor Linacre of the new developments, both Nan and Madge tried to comfort Anne when the pains came, attempting to do something to make their beloved Queen feel better.

Elizabeth was once again running through the halls to the Linacre apartments to inform Doctor Linacre that the Queen was in childbirth.

Elizabeth flew through the door to the doctor's apartment to find the doctor reading a medical journal. Her breath came out in soft pants, "Her majesty, is currently in childbirth. She is currently almost five fingers when Lady Mary examined her."

Linacre surged to his feet as soon as Elizabeth had said that the queen was in labor. A child born this early would need both his and his daughter's help if it was to survive. He started gathering materials that he might need from his apartments before sparing a glance at the lady who still was hovering in his apartments out of breath, "Return to her majesty's chambers and inform my daughter that I will be there after informing the king of these developments."

Elizabeth curtsied to the doctor in acknowledgement before racing from his chambers once again eager to return to her queen's side. Linacare was only slightly behind her hastening to inform the king that it was possible that his heir was on its way.

Henry smiled at the picture of femininity sitting before him as she daintily selected a card. He opened his mouth to comment when one of his pages rushed in announcing that Doctor Linacre was there. Henry gave the page leave to escort the royal physician in.

"Your majesty, I bring news," said Doctor Linacre bowing before his king. When the king gave him leave to rise he continued. "Her majesty the queen is in labor."

At the word childbirth, Henry's head jerked up, "What are the chances that my son will survive childbirth alive," he asked his voice tight with worry. Henry tried to convince himself that the worry was only for his son, he looked across the table at the blond beauty before him and couldn't help but think that his worry was for his wife as well.

Knowing of the King's temper, Linacre weighed his words carefully, while he didn't want to bring the king's anger down on his head at the same time he didn't wish to give his majesty false hope, "Your majesty, the midwife who confirmed that the Queen was with child told you that the babe should have been borne in the late spring. That being said, the chances that the child will survive is in the hands of God."

Jane's eyes flew to the doctor's, up until that moment the blond woman had been the picture of a docile girl. When her eyes met the doctor's Linacare could see the thinly veiled hope in them causing the good doctor to barely suppress a shudder. Everyone at court knew that the blond had aspirations on the queen's crown just as every courtier knew that this pregnancy was the Queen's last chance.

Henry nodded more to himself than to the doctor, "Doctor Linacre, you are to return to the queen's chambers to await the birth of the child." Henry inwardly debated going to Anne's chambers and awaiting the birth of his son. A part of him desperately wanted to go; the part of him that despite everything still loved Anne very deeply was ruthlessly suppressed. Why would he want to spend time with his wife's family awaiting another stillborn child when he could instead be spending time with the blonde beauty that sat in front of him, "After the child is born send a messenger to me with the news. I shall be here with Mistress Seymour."

Linacre knowing an order when he hears it bowed low again, "Your majesty, I shall be honored with this task and I shall send word with any news," before he took his leave hurrying to his queen's side leaving the king behind to continue his card game with Mistress Seymour.