MY LADY VIPER releases on May 1st!!!
I could not show that I grieved for this young woman, cut down in the prime of her life. I had to be completely focused now on my husband, his family and moving us upward in the realm. Keeping us alive. Keeping us in power. Personal feelings could not play a factor. The king’s desires, Jane’s needs, and Edward’s love and approval were all I sought to concentrate on.
As heartily as I had prayed for the king to intervene, I was now no longer as shocked as I should have been at there being no pardon. I stood, my face now void of emotion, as the executioner held Anne Boleyn’s head for the crowd to see. Although, it was said they held the head for the opposite reason, so the one beheaded could see the crowd and their body, now headless on the platform, blood pouring from the severed neck.
Was her mind still alive? How long would it take for her to pass? Her lifeless black eyes staring out at the crowd indicated she could no longer be with us. Catching sight of the Howards—Anne Boleyn’s family, our rivals—I quickly glanced away. I could not look at them. Could not meet their eyes when their beloved was dead and they’d done nothing to save her.
I’d done nothing to save her.
Cannons fired, their loud booms making me jump slightly. The firing of the cannons would let the king and all the realm know the deed was done, the queen was dead.
Cheers resounded in my ears, which shook me. The people were now glad she was dead? All the tears and remorse they’d shown her while she stood there, pleading for God to have mercy on her… I glanced around and was relieved to still see a few with tears in their eyes.
I suspected that most of the cheers were likely from courtiers whose secrets she’d held, along with the power to dispose of their lives. They cheered with relief. No longer would they have to worry that Anne Boleyn would betray them. No, they’d done that themselves.
Backstabbers, the lot of them … and I suppose I was lumped in with them, now. A moment of disgust swirled in my gut but was quickly gone when I thought of my duties to our family, to the realm.
The crowd rushed forward, perhaps trying to cut off a bit of her hair, collect her blood. The vile creatures would keep it, sell it, whatever their whim.
But her ladies quickly jumped from their kneeled positions, tossed a white handkerchief over the queen’s prone head, and tried to protect her body from the pressing spectators. Perhaps in death what little compassion they’d had for her in life came forth. No one was there to pick up the queen’s remains. No coffin was waiting for her severed parts to be placed inside. The four ladies, speaking in hushed, frantic whispers, gathered her head and body.
I stepped forward, feeling as though I should help. Good God, for as much preparation that had gone into the execution—the building of the scaffold, finding the swordsman—so little had been done for her in the end.
My husband’s hand on my arm stayed my movement, and I watched in dismay as the ladies wrapped their queen in white linen, tossed bow staves from an old elm chest and placed her body in its depths. Where would they take her? Burial plans had not been made, either.
I could watch no more. I turned from the gruesome, troubling scene, my gaze catching sight of Jane Rochford. She’d been the one who said the heinous things that condemned Anne Boleyn. Sex between brother and sister—Anne and her brother George. Lies, all of it. But those lies had been to our advantage, so none of the Seymours said anything against it.
Perhaps that was the reason for the disgust I felt for myself, now turned on Jane Rochford. Evil, vile creature. I could scarcely look at her.
But when I did, a smirk turned the corners of her lips. She looked happy.
“Lady Seymour.” She nodded toward me.
I nodded back but did not try to hide the disapproval in my gaze. She’d single-handedly seen to the death of her husband and the queen. I supposed she wanted to be in the king’s bed.
I tried to keep my thoughts from my face as I turned from the crowd. Did not they all want to be in his bed? But now, Jane would be. Our Jane.
There were rumors that His Majesty was riddled with disease from some previous maid he’d bedded repeatedly only to find out she’d been bedding the entire court.
I shuddered slightly, rubbing my arms to ease away my horror of it all.
I found myself craving the comforting touch of my husband. Edward spoke in hushed tones to two courtiers and the Spanish Ambassador. My mind still reeled and I couldn’t concentrate on what they were saying. But I did notice the absence of the courtiers’ wives.
More horror clawed at my insides as I reflected upon the plain truth of our situation now.
Life in great King Henry VIII’s court was like walking a double-edged sword—one false step, and you were massacred. I had to tread carefully in all things. We would all have to tread carefully. What happened to Anne and her family could happen to us.
If my true objective was to secure our status, a realm of our own making, then we needed to learn from the past but also move forward without another backward glance.
Because the past was filled with transgressions aplenty.
MY LADY VIPER--coming May 1st in ebook/print and soon to audio!
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