To Be Queen
There came a quick knock at the old oak door. Elizabeth, surprised they would let someone in at this hour, rushed to open the door. In walked her loving nursemaid, who had taken care of her all throughout her childhood. The woman was much older; wrinkles curled around her lips and eyes. She still wore the kind smile Elizabeth remembered and the same tint of sadness in her eyes. Her hair had long grayed, but she looked as well as Elizabeth had last seen her. Beside herself, Elizabeth hugged the woman fiercely .
“My, don’t you look beautiful,” she whispered and gazed into Elizabeth’s eyes, “I am sorry to say I cannot stay long. Though, I do have something to give you,” the old woman grimaced as she reached into the worn satchel beside her.
“It was your mother’s. She wrote it just before she passed away.” She handed it to the daughter of the doomed queen without meeting her eyes.
Elizabeth was stunned. She had very few possessions of her mother’s. She knew a few flamboyant rumors and saw her portrait in the West Hallway, but had no memory of her. Anne had died when Elizabeth was only two. Eager for any information, she took the parchment in both hands.
“Read it carefully, Your Highness,” her old friend turned to go.
“Thank you. Go well,” Elizabeth replied. Once the door was closed, Elizabeth began to read.
I was a little girl once. Such a long time ago it seems. I remember seeing the king for the first time on his summer procession. The day was warm and I was waiting, but four years old in my finest dress. I waited in anticipation of even a glimpse of my king. The carriage finally came around the corner and in it was a glowing young man with hair made of fire. He shimmered with power that sent a shiver to my toes. He blazed in the crisp sunlight and into my heart. The Queen sat beside him in a sapphire blue gown. But suddenly, she sat by him no longer. It was me! It was me riding by. Aged several years, I sat in a silky black gown trimmed in pearls. My hair was pinned in a bun atop my head with curls escaping it in the front. I looked elegant, regal even! I blinked and the image was gone.
The idea was planted firmly in my heart now. It could not be erased from my mind. That moment locked me away more than the guard standing at the door now.
Elizabeth snapped up from the page. She felt as if she had walked in on a personal moment or seen something she should not have. She was diving into her mother’s mind: full of darkness and hate. Elizabeth’s chest squeezed tighter and she could barely breathe, but she could not tear herself away from the words.
I became of age and was sent to court to meet my sister and both wait on Queen Katherine. Years went by uninterrupted in dullness. I served the queen, ran errands, and observed the feasts and many dances thrown to entertain the people of court. But nothing could entertain me more than the admiration of the king that came to rest upon my sister’s shoulders that I so longed for. I waited. I knew one day the tables would turn and I would be in the spotlight.
I noticed, one day at court, how the king’s eyes lingered on the skin of my back and how he grew attentive every time I turned to speak. I saw his glances increasing more day by day. He seemed not interested in my looks, but in the way words rolled across my lips. The king began to send me notes and call me to his chambers. We talked on for long stretches of time. I could feel myself sink slowly into a love so deep I would never be able to escape. My world revolved around him. I received many love letters and returned them with glee. His honeyed words lifted my heart to the stars. I was kept awake many a night, intoxicated. The trance of love was dizzying. My love brimmed to the edge of my heart and I could see he felt the same. One day he wrote, “If you remember me in your prayers as strongly as I adore you, I shall hardly be forgotten.”
As our love grew, so did my impatience with his marriage to Katherine. He promised he would have it annulled and make me Queen, but my distress swelled. I could get what I wanted if I played the game right, and I wanted to be his Queen forever. One misstep and all would be lost. My love would be cast away and my hope of queenship would be dissolved.
I slept not, waiting for safety, waiting to be reassured. I put everything on the line for this engagement. I could not let everything I worked for go to waste now. I spent many nights like this over the next year.
At last we were married in 1533 and our love declared forever.
Elizabeth could see her mother, adorned all in white. Her hair flowed from the veil she wore and made her seem almost angelic. She moved with an easy grace that made every eye remain on her.
It seemed like she watched from above as she saw Anne make her way down the length of carpet. There was gold everywhere, hung from the ceiling in tapestries and woven into the statues around them. Their daughter watched in awe as Anne and Henry locked eyes. Love sparkled between them like rain on a summer’s day. The priest declared them husband and wife. The fantasy swirled out of focus and her chamber came back into view. Mesmerized, Elizabeth continued to read.
I was finally Queen! I had everything I ever envied. I had clothes encrusted with jewels, people to wait on me, and most importantly: a babe on the way. The King was delighted! He had waited for a male heir to the throne for many years from Katherine, with no success. Finally, he had a chance. There were great feasts thrown for the incoming boy and dances in his honor. The people rejoiced at the thought of an heir.
But what if it was not a boy? My position at court would surely crumble if I were not to produce what the king wanted. I hoped with every fiber of my being that the child was male. I prayed each night it was so. Henry was already celebrating something of which one could not be certain. My days were filled with worry until the child was ready to be born.
Not fast enough did the hours of labor come, and not fast enough did they end. I waited to be at ease. All would fall into place when the ladies announced it a boy. But they did not. Not a peep came from any person in the room. Dread ate away at my heart and bit into my limbs. With tired eyes I looked upon the pink face of a small baby girl.
Hot tears wet Elizabeth’s face. That was her by her mother’s bed. That was her, an unwanted curse to the Queen. Her parents were disappointed with her from the moment of her birth when out came a girl, not a boy. Who would be so cruel as to make that so? She felt a tear make its way over the hill of her cheek, off the cliff of her chin, and splatter on Anne’s fine cursive. The tears dried to salt as Elizabeth continued:
Time did not wait for the King and me. Tension increased throughout our time together. My stress burst from me in in fits of quarrel with Henry coming more often. He let them pass, calling it sickness. I noticed the sensation of gooey warmth dim as the months wore on. The feeling of fresh, new romance withered, like roses gone unwatered. Mercifully, I was with child once more. It was another chance to please the King, and another day to be Queen.
I could not sleep nor eat in anticipation of the new arrival. Unease seeped from the cracks in the floors and crawled into my chest. Nothing was working the way it was supposed to. No comfort drawn from my title, nor the jewels or gifts, not even my Elizabeth could warm the cold panic that grew in me. Anxiety stifled the air and clogged my senses. The baby inside me was the answer. All would be well once I had a boy.
Pains struck me and with it, a stillborn baby boy.
My once beloved king began to drift. He let his eyes wander over the women of court and stray far from mine. I knew what was happening. He was tiring of me and would soon toss me aside, just a play thing he had outgrown. I strained for his attention; doing everything in my power to make him see me how he used to see me. When nothing came of it, I pretended not to see his disinterest. He soon took up with several other women in order to fill the empty space that was our marriage. I was enraged at his unfaithfulness! Anger billowed over me knowing I could do nothing about it. The King was the King and that was that.
I received one final chance, for I knew what could become of me in time ahead; I was pregnant for the last time. And after nine months of impatient wondering, the baby was stillborn again.
He no longer looked with love upon me. He no longer wrote long poems or gave me lavish gifts. He no longer wanted to see me, for he pressed charges of adultery, witchcraft and conspiracy against the King. He needed an heir and yearned for one more than anything. Now that I could obviously not provide him with one, it was time to do away with me. Our love had not died, but practicality came before all in the English court.
I was innocent and claimed myself to be so, but nothing could stop him. I was sent here, to the Tower of London in the same suite I resided in the night before my coronation. Ironic, is it not that I once slept right here with the steaming feeling of victory, and now all I am left with is repentance. I do not regret falling in love. No, falling so deeply in love is the one pure joy to the human kind. It is the one thing to warm the soul through the hardships of life. But I feel remorse over the ambition in my heart, the hunger for power that ached in my stomach. For now the ache has eaten me whole, and there is no stopping it.
The guard called for Elizabeth as soon as she had read the final word in her mother’s hand. She hurried to wipe the tears from her eyes and straighten the flowing train behind her. Carefully, she tucked the aged parchment into her bodice and picked up the sovereign orb and the jeweled scepter. Elizabeth opened the door to find the music already beginning behind the great closed doors the guard led her to. Her hands trembled on the wood as she pushed open the doors; the doors that led her to her coronation, the doors that led her to be queen.
Marin Hart is thirteen years old and attends Johnston Middle School in Texas. Marin previously published a short story in a school-wide anthology at Johnston.