The countryside in Kent during the month of May is truly one of God’s greatest miracles and for a few brief seconds between sleep and wakefulness I have forgotten that these days have been the worst of my life. Even though the sun has risen and the birds are in full song, I cannot muster any thanks that the Lord has granted me another day of life.
My maid has opened the window and brought me a tray of bread and ale with which to break my fast. I uncharacteristically and in tempter push the tray away, growl at the girl “get out” and turn my face to the wall.
In common with all my female friends I have experienced the elation and the agony of my sex. I have felt the bitter sweetness of bringing my children forth into the world. As all good Christians must I accepted and resigned myself to God’s will even when he choose to take some of my little babies for his own. However if this latest travail is something that God thinks I can bear, he is mistaken.
As I stare vacantly at the wall the tears of despair begin to bubble up once more. Five days ago, my only son was convicted of high treason against the King and condemned to death. His conviction came shortly after my youngest daughter the Queen of England was tried, convicted and condemned to burning or beheading for the same crime.
Amongst the charges set against them both was that they had committed incest. This thought is too much for me to bear, my skin crawls and the tears are now accompanied by sobbing. I have obeyed God’s laws my whole life and know that no child of my raising could have stooped to such an appalling and unnatural act. Now the world will unjustly believe that I, Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire am the mother of two unconscionable and depraved monsters.
This brutal news arrived at Hever by way of a letter from my brother, Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk on Tuesday. As High Steward of England it fell to him to preside over the trials at the Tower of London and so I am further tormented that his description of the events is accurate. So I cannot even pretend or console myself with thoughts that it is a spurious version with exaggerations, omissions and mistakes.
I know that my brother and daughter had not been on easy terms lately, but judging by the tear blemished page, the blotched ink and the carefully worded note I can tell that even though Thomas is a battle hardened man, the duty of passing a death sentence on his own niece and nephew has cost him dearly.
Wary of another scolding my maid creeps stealthy round the bed. “Madam, excuse my intrusion your husband the Earl of Wiltshire is here”.
“My husband, Thomas is here”. Thoughts rush rapidly through my brain. Has he come bearing news that George and Anne have been released? That the King has uncovered the foul beasts that created these outrageous falsehoods for their own selfish ends. Perhaps George and Anne are with him or even on the road behind him. Cleared, out of the King’s favour but alive and well. I would care not if they have lost position or title. Never mind Queen of England and Viscount Rochford, just Anne and George would be enough for me.
Remaining on the bed I raise myself to my knees and swivel round to face my husband. On seeing his red raw eyes, his tear-stained cheeks and the exhausted haunted look on his face, I know…”NO, NO, NO, DON’T YOU DARE SAY IT” I howl out in guttural agony while thumping his chest. “Thomas this cannot be. My babies, my children, they cannot be dead. They are with you, yes!” I fly off the bed in my nightgown and start running down the stairs, still bellowing at Thomas who is running behind me. “They must be with you. Where are they Thomas? Where are they?”
I fly blindly from room to room, up and down stairs, through hallways and past servants. I even search in rooms where they hid from me when they were little. In every room I indiscriminately screech the same statement. “ANNE, GEORGE, WHERE ARE YOU?”.
After 10 minutes of running and with my energy spent I finally fall into a heap on the floor of Anne’s bedroom. My voice quivering, sobbing and desolate I plead once more “Please, please Thomas say they will be coming home to me.”
Unable to speak the truth and with his whole body trembling, he shakes his head from side to side. He is trying desperately for my sake to subdue his own grief. “Elizabeth, my darling, you are not fully recovered enough from your latest illness to deal with this now, come back to your own chamber with me.
I have no fight left to protest. My husband picks me up and takes me from my poor, sweet daughter’s room. The last thing I recall before losing consciousness is Thomas shouting down to the servants. ”Send for a physician, fetch us some food and ale. Then I want every single man and woman out of the castle till I issue instructions otherwise”.