FIT FOR A QUEEN
By Alana Hoare
It is a lovely day and for the first time in ages, I’m outside in fresh air. Two birds fly above, mocking me with their freedom. The laces of my bodice stretch in protest as my upper body turns to follow the birds. I close my eyes and inhale.
Salt air. I tilt my head back so the warmth of the sun can bathe my face. Mother doesn’t approve of being in the sun. “Girls of good standing maintain fair complexions to ensure good matches.” Though we aren’t overtly wealthy, my father always works to improve our good fortunes. Our home, Hever, is a day’s ride from London and two days to Dover shores.
My father is usually at Court but returns when he isn’t needed, or the King is on progress. I heard my parents arguing about Court in the Great Hall the night before we left for Dover. I crept down the gallery in my nightshift to hear better. Father said something about raising our prospects and Mother was frantically shaking her head. They must have resolved the issue because there is no indication they were ever cross. They stand further from the sea as my siblings and I walk toward the water’s edge. I can’t help but think about how different we are.
George loves to play the part of jester and is easily forgiven any transgression. As the only son and heir, not much is expected from him other than to produce heirs when the time comes. All he must do is consent to an advantageous match and marry her. Until then, he is free to do as he pleases. George and I have always been fond of each other. He is the eldest, then me, then Mary.
Mary, however, is a quiet, sweet girl; nothing like George or me. She is not gifted with intelligence and wit like I am, or personality like George, but she is good natured, kind and rather pretty. She has blonde hair, blue eyes and the sweetest temperament; the opposite of me. Father always says she will make a good wife one day, but I am the one he has placed his hopes on. I was sent away for my education, then was appointed as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary in France. The French Court provided me an education far beyond any I could receive in a schoolroom. My time there was invaluable, but my father wrote and instructed me to return home. England was where my destiny awaited, and the time had arrived to set it in motion he said. That was all he would tell me. Within a fortnight of returning from France, we were taking an unexpected trip to the sea.
Mary and I remove our silk slippers and set them further up in the sand, so the salt water doesn’t damage them. We bound towards the water, giggling, as we feel our toes sink into the sand. I bunch up a handful of the skirts on my dress and raise them slightly as my feet hit the water. I yell out in surprise at the coldness. George sneaks up behind and grabs me by the shoulders, pretending like he is going to push me in. I shriek in protestation at him as he laughs and goes for Mary next.
I turn back towards my parents and see they still are deep in conversation. I walk over to where I had laid my shoes, pick them up and continue to where my parents are standing.
“Good, you’re here. I have some news,” my father says to me with a smile on his face. My mother is keeping her eyes down and pretending to be interested in something in the sand.
“Yes, father,” I reply to him. Maybe I was finally going to be told what was going on, why they argued, why I was brought home from France, anything.
“Your uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, has secured you a position as lady-in-waiting to the Queen at Court. The King has tired of Elizabeth Blount, his mistress. You will be on display so this your opportunity to catch his eye, intrigue him...”, he trails off hoping I understand.
My education, sending me to France to learn the art of flirtation and charm, becoming an accomplished musician, dancer and conversationalist, fluent in three languages: all in preparation of placing me, no, dangling me before the King. What about my honor? I begin to object but the look my father gives means I should acquiesce.
Thinking, I sit down and reach for the food the Inn Keeper wrapped in a cloth. Amongst the bread and salted meats, I spot and choose an apple. Father’s eyes still on me, I sink my teeth into the apple and begin chewing. This was it, the beginning of my destiny.
“Forgive my hesitation, I’m your devoted and obedient daughter” I say as I smile at my thoughts. I am no common whore. I have a proper education; I am too intelligent to just lay with a man as his mistress only to be cast aside later. No, I have a plan of my own. I am meant for greater things.
“Boy, fetch me my sword!”
My eyes fly open as I turn my head, frantically looking for the boy. My punishment for being falsely accused and found guilty of witchcraft, adultery and treason is to be beheaded. Every moment’s delay feels like additional cruelty, calling for the sword the worst part. I feel a breeze on my neck. It’s the executioner’s sword, smartly hidden under some burlap sacks, as it comes down swiftly.
I was tricked, generously given a relatively painless end. The King is acknowledging my royal rank in this final act and his guilt in ordering it. I am being given a Queen’s death, my place in history solidified. My name will be known for centuries and I, Anne Boleyn, will continue my destiny through my daughter, Elizabeth; greatness personified.