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فصل 07

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Catherine Parr

We sat silently for a while. Outside it was beginning to get dark. Margaret looked at the floor, then at her hands, then at the floor again. I waited. I knew what she was thinking. Then suddenly she looked at me, and the questions came all at once.

‘How could you do it, my lady? How could you marry that terrible man? Weren’t you afraid? Why didn’t you hide… or… or run away?’

I smiled at her. ‘Listen to the full story, and then perhaps you’ll understand. I was very different to Henry’s other wives. I was thirty-one years old and Henry was my third husband. My first two husbands were old men too. They both died and I didn’t have any children with them. But Henry didn’t really want a wife, Margaret. He wanted a friend, and a nurse, and a mother for his three children.’

‘Oh, I see,’ said Margaret slowly. ‘He wanted someone to look after him. So how did it all happen, then?’

‘It began at a party at Hampton Court Palace. I remember it very well. While I was dancing with my friend Thomas Seymour, I turned round and saw Henry. His blue eyes were watching me. He was too ill to dance, but later that evening he asked to talk with me. I was a little afraid. I knew so many different stories about him. He was one of the most famous kings in Europe, and he was also famous for killing people who made him angry - Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, and many, many others. And of course, he was also very fat and ugly!

‘After that evening he began to send me presents, and he asked me to visit him at Hampton Court Palace.

‘At this time I was friendly with Thomas Seymour. He was a fine young man and I was in love with him. We talked about getting married. Then I got a letter from King Henry. He wanted to marry me. What could I do? I loved Thomas, but my family wanted me to be the Queen of England. And in the end, I had to marry Henry.’

‘But were you happy?’ asked Margaret.

‘Well, sometimes I was. I loved being Queen. I had beautiful clothes and expensive jewels. But it was also very difficult at times. Henry was often ill with his bad leg, and when his leg hurt, he became angry and shouted at me. Once he nearly sent me to the Tower. I said something about the Church of England, and he didn’t agree with me and got very, very angry. He didn’t say anything then, but a few days later his soldiers came to take me away.’

‘Oh no!’ said Margaret. ‘What did you do?’

‘I cried and cried. I told him that I agreed with his every word, and that he was my teacher and I was only a stupid woman. And then I cried some more, and said I didn’t understand anything about the church. I only talked to help him forget his bad leg.’

‘And was that true?’ asked Margaret.

‘Of course not! But I had to say something, and after that we were friends again.’

‘So you didn’t love him.’

‘No, I didn’t, but I learned to like him some of the time. He was a clever and interesting man - and he was the King of England!’

‘And what about his three children?’

‘I felt sorry for them. They had a difficult and lonely life. I tried to be a good mother to them all. I was friendly with Princess Mary, played games with Elizabeth and young Edward, and helped them with their studies in different languages. Of course, Henry and I didn’t have any children together.’

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. ‘Come in!’ I called. A young man walked into the room. He was holding some beautiful red and gold flowers.

‘These are for Catherine Parr,’ he said.

‘For me?’ I said. ‘Who are they from?’

‘There’s a note here.’ He gave me a piece of paper, smiled, and left the room.

I read the note quickly.

Dear Catherine, you are my true love. You are my flower. I think of you every hour. I wait for you. Tom.

‘What does it say?’ asked Margaret.

‘I can’t tell you,’ I laughed.

‘But who are the flowers from?’

‘Thomas Seymour.’

‘Oh, the young man who wanted to marry you before. Does he still love you? Are you going to marry him?’

‘I don’t know, Margaret. Henry only died three weeks ago.’ I was silent for a minute, and then I said, ‘It’s true, I still like Thomas. I often think about him. Some people say he’s only interested in two things: women and money. But I don’t believe them. He has enemies, you see, because he comes from a famous family. Jane Seymour was his sister, so Thomas is one of King Edward’s uncles.’

‘Will Edward be a good king, do you think?’ asked Margaret.

‘Yes, I think so. He’s a very clever child. He often writes me letters in different languages, and he’s only nine years old. But I’m worried about him because he’s often ill. England needs a strong king. Henry was a bad husband, but he was a strong king of England. If Edward dies, who knows what will happen?’

It was dark outside now. I looked at Margaret and said, ‘So, now you have heard all about King Henry and his six wives, and one day you can tell the story to your children and your grandchildren.’

‘I think that people will always remember King Henry because of his six wives,’ said Margaret. She opened the box and took out the letters. She looked at them, putting them back one by one into the box.

‘Divorced - beheaded - died - divorced - beheaded.’ She closed the box and looked at me. ‘And still alive!’

We both laughed.

‘What are you going to do with the letters, my lady?’

‘Nothing, Margaret. It will be our secret.’

Catherine Parr married Thomas Seymour in May 1547, a few months after Henry’s death. They were married for fifteen months. Catherine had a baby girl called Mary but six days after the baby was born, Catherine died. After her death, Thomas Seymour tried to become Princess Elizabeth’s lover. He was beheaded because of this.

King Edward was often ill, and he died just before his sixteenth birthday. Then Mary, Katherine of Aragon’s daughter, became Queen. She was Queen for five years. She married Philip of Spain, but did not have any children. Mary was a strong Catholic and she killed many people who were not Catholics.

Next, Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn’s daughter, became Queen. She was Queen of England for forty-five years. This was the time of Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh. Elizabeth was a very great Queen, but she never married, and had no children. Henry married six times because he wanted a son - and he wanted his son and his son’s sons to be Kings of England after him. But when Queen Elizabeth died, King Henry’s family came to an end, and a Scottish King became King of England.

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