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CHAPTER THREE

Anne Boleyn

Margaret carefully put the necklace back into the box, then looked at me.

‘So then the King married Anne Boleyn,’ she said. ‘Was Anne very special? Was she really very beautiful?’

‘Some people say that she was, and others say that she wasn’t. But she had beautiful long black hair, and the most wonderful black eyes. When men looked into her eyes, they fell in love with her.’

‘Tell me more about her,’ said Margaret.

‘Well, Henry was in love with her for about seven years before they married.’

‘Seven years!’

‘Yes, it took a long time to divorce Katherine, and Anne wanted to marry the King and be his Queen. She didn’t want to be just his mistress, like the other girls.’

‘Did the King have a lot of mistresses?’ asked Margaret. Her eyes were round with interest.

‘Oh yes,’ I said, smiling. ‘Kings can do what they like, you know. But people say that Anne was very clever. She said no to the King, again and again, and so he had to marry her to get what he wanted.’

‘And how long were they married?’

‘Less than three and a half years.’

‘Is that all?’ said Margaret. ‘King Henry broke with the Pope to marry Anne, and they were only married for three and a half years!’

‘Yes, Henry soon became tired of her. He wanted a son, but she only gave him a daughter, Princess Elizabeth. She nearly had another baby, but she had a miscarriage after only a few months. They could see that it was a boy. Henry was very, very angry, and three months later Anne was in the Tower of London. Henry was already interested in Jane Seymour, you see.’

‘So poor Anne went to the Tower because she didn’t give the King a son?’

‘Well, there were other things. Anne was a strong and sometimes difficult woman. She talked a lot. She liked to tell Henry what to do. In the end Henry became bored of this. Remember, he was the King of England.’

‘Did she really have lovers?’

‘Well, some people say -‘

Just then there was a noise outside. I looked out of the window and saw a man on a horse. He had grey hair and was wearing fine clothes. It was my Uncle William. A minute later he came into the room.

‘Hello,’ I said, kissing him. ‘I’m so pleased to see you.’ ‘Dear Catherine,’ he said. ‘It’s wonderful to see you, too. And who is this?’ he said, turning to Margaret.

‘I’m Margaret, my lady’s new maid.’

‘I’m very pleased to meet you,’ he said, smiling. ‘So,’ he went on, ‘what’s the news?’

‘Oh, we were just talking about Anne Boleyn,’ I said. ‘That black-eyed witch!’ said Uncle William.

‘Was she really a witch?’ asked Margaret.

‘Well, she was a strange woman,’ said Uncle William. ‘She had six fingers on one hand. I saw them myself.

Witches always have six fingers. Anne Boleyn was a wild and dangerous woman - but men liked her.’

‘So she did have lovers, then?’ said Margaret.

‘Of course she did!’ said Uncle William. ‘There were five of them - all wild young men. They were all beheaded before the witch, and a good thing too!’

‘Oh, Uncle,’ I said, ‘how can we be sure that they were all her lovers? One of them was her brother!’

‘Well, perhaps he wasn’t her lover,’ said Uncle William.

‘But I remember all those wild parties in the Queen’s rooms. There was dancing and laughing all night sometimes. She was a bad woman, I’m sure of it.’

‘I think that Henry believed the stories about Anne because he wanted another wife,’ I said. ‘A wife to give him a son.’

Little Margaret was listening to us with great interest. ‘So nobody was sorry when Anne died?’ she said.

‘No, many people were pleased,’ said Uncle William. ‘She had a lot of enemies.’ Then he looked at both of us. ‘But why are you talking about Anne Boleyn? That’s very old news.’

‘I found this old box of Henry’s at Whitehall Palace,’ I said. ‘Inside there were letters from each of Henry’s wives, and Margaret wanted to know all about them.’

‘Where’s the one from Anne Boleyn?’ said Uncle William. He opened the box on the table. ‘I want to read what she wrote to her dear husband. Ah, here it is. 18th May 1536 - that’s the day before she was beheaded.’

He began to read the letter aloud…

Tower of London

18th May 1536

Dear Henry

This is my last letter to you. Tomorrow I am going to die. When you open this letter and read it, I will be dead and buried.

During the last few weeks my life has been very hard.

I have been very afraid and very lonely. I have walked around my room, thinking of you. I wanted you to take me away from this terrible prison. But now I know that I am going to die, I feel calm.

They tell me that you have spoken angry words about me. You say I have had a hundred lovers, not just the five poor men who have died because of me.

But I did not have lovers, Henry. Not one, and you know it. I was a true wife to you, but you listened to my enemies, and that is why I am here.

I ask one last thing. Please be kind to our daughter Elizabeth. Do not be angry with her, because of me. She is so very young, not yet three years old. I am sending a gold necklace to give to her. It will help her to remember me.

I have only a little neck, so it will not be difficult for the French sword to cut through it tomorrow.

Tonight I will pray for God to forgive you.

Your wife Anne Boleyn

‘And was Anne beheaded the next day?’ asked Margaret.

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘With a sword. That’s how they do it in France.’

‘How terrible!’ said Margaret, holding her neck.

‘Well, I know that Henry did the right thing,’ said Uncle William. ‘Anne Boleyn was no good. She wasn’t a real Queen. Not like Katherine of Aragon.’ He stood up. ‘I must go,’ he said. ‘This is all very interesting, but I came here to talk to your brother. I’ll go and find him. Goodbye for now, ladies.’ He smiled and left the room.

‘Where’s the necklace?’ asked Margaret.

‘I can’t find it,’ I said, looking in the box. ‘Perhaps Henry gave it to Princess Elizabeth. Perhaps she looks at it sometimes and thinks of her mother.’

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