Today I bring you part two of Sam Burnells The Tudor Heresy! If you haven’t read part one, click here! It’s also worth reminding you folks that the second ATWC short story contest deadline is approaching! Feb 13th! Be sure to get your piece in!
Chapter 5 January 6th 1549
Two nights hence indeed. The key to the postern gate was in his hand. Edward’s guards had already been scattered on his own orders an hour before and now he returned, as agreed with the young sovereign, to rescue him and restore him to his rightful Kingship.
Thomas Seymour entered via the postern gate. Outside, a small troop of his men waited silently with horses ready to speed their escape. The gate he left unlocked so as to hasten their passage when he returned with the young King. The corridor to the King’s bedchamber was empty, there were no guards. Thomas straightened his back, smiled and walked on briskly to the bedchamber door. Edward knew he was coming and had promised to be ready. He had just to take the boys hand, retrace his steps through the King’s private garden to the postern gate, then they would both be free of his brother’s yoke.
Thomas did not look down as he reached for the handle to the door, and his foot made contact with Bragge keeping guard outside his master’s chambers. The spaniel let out an angry howl, then began to bark incessantly.
“Bragge, be still,” Thomas said. He had a knife in his hand and the dog was quiet a moment later, his throat cut. The loyal hound had served his master well and Thomas could already hear feet pounding along the marble corridor towards him.
The bed chamber door flung open and Edward, dressed as agreed, stood on the threshold and howled with anguish. Thomas, the blooded knife still in his hand and the limp pup at his feet, couldn’t even think of a word to say as they reached him, grasped his hands and dragged him away from Edward.
Thomas would live in the tower for a little over two months before his own brother’s shaky signature at the bottom of the warrant sent him to the block. Even in the Tower, when he penned his final words, Thomas still believed he’d acted with nothing but honourable intentions.
Forgetting God to love a King
Hath been my rod
Chapter 6 March 20th, 1549
It was cold; the wind came in from the North and bore with it a fine rain that blanketed everything with its soaking cold touch. Feet were numbed by the cold ground and hands were pushed deep into pockets to keep them warm as the gathered crowd waited on Tower Green.
There had been no trial for Thomas Seymour, an Act of Attainder listing no less than thirty-three charges against him and signed by his own brother had brought him on his final journey. Included within charges were his plans to marry Princess Elizabeth and his plot to take control of Edward and steal the boy away from his brother’s control.
Richard watched from a distance. There was never any glory in an end made by the headsman’s axe and he barely recognised his former master as he was led to the scaffold. The oak platform stood four feet high, the block waiting for him in its centre and a hand rail running around the parameter of the platform at waist height. Thomas Seymour was not restrained: it was expected that the nobility behave with honour at their executions and Thomas’s face gave nothing away as he approached the steps to the scaffold. A cold day and they had allowed him his jacket, although the front was undone so he could shrug it off before he put his feet on the first step of the last six he would ever make. There was straw strewn on the platform and the wind whipped it cruelly in his face as his head drew level with the platform and his eyes could for the first time behold the block waiting for him.
Thomas Seymour swallowed hard, straightened his back and forced his legs to make the last four steps. He knew what waited for him, and it would not be long. The pain of waiting was at least now over. Eight paces to the block. He made them slowly, aware of the straw beneath the thin soles of his shoes, the creeping cold sticking his shirt to his skin. His eyes he kept on the block, his breathing he fought to keep level. Four paces to go and a surge of pure panic began to rise from within him. His heart, his poor heart, started to hammer in his chest and his throat closed. Two more paces. He could feel his knees were shaking now. He hoped it wasn’t visible: after all, his brother might be watching. One more pace. He’d made it. Gasping in a gulp of air through his constricted throat he sank gladly to his knees; knees that, had there been any further to go, would have stopped supporting him, he was sure. Fitting his face into the cut out, he felt the wet wood supporting his neck and he began to pray.
Something was wrong! The block must have tipped over. Thomas instinctively threw his hands out to save himself as he fell forwards, landing on his face in the straw. It had been so quick even he had not realised he was dead.
He felt little as the axe fell. He had he supposed, hoped for a sense of relief. It was after all an end, a final end to the man who had twisted a savage knife into the guts of his life and left him with the crippled wreckage. Richard watched for a few more moments. The crowd shouted. The platform became sticky with the blood still pumping from the severed carotid and jugular. It had been quick. Thomas had been lucky and a single quick strike had severed his life.
Elizabeth was at her house at Hatfield when she heard the news.
“Surely not?” Elizabeth said when Kate told her the news.
“Indeed, yesterday,” Kate confirmed.
Elizabeth let out a long breath, and sat down heavily. “There will be no trial. How could they condemn him as a traitor without a trial?”
“Let’s not worry about that. They have, and that means there’ll be no more enquiries, will there?” Kate said. Elizabeth had been questioned by the Privy Council over her relationship with Seymour and had been interred in the tower whilst the enquiry went ahead when his marriage plans for Elizabeth became public knowledge after Katherine’s death.
“There died a man of much wit and not much judgement,” Elizabeth replied sadly.
“You can’t feel sorry for him, can you?” Kate said looking askance at her. “Not after the way he treated poor Katherine.”
“He was a man trapped by his own ambition, but he was still a likeable man,” Elizabeth said.
That was true, Kate thought. His charm and looks had gained him a queen and a princess, and he’d lost them both.