Here we are again with another lovely post from Gail! If you haven’t read her first story and you’re interested, click here! This is an alternative historical fiction story, also, as a disclaimer, reader discretion is advised as there is a naughty comment from George Boleyn in here 😉
A Change of Heart by Gail Thomas
King Henry VIII walked slowly toward his chair of estate. As the courtiers moved away and bowed, Henry’s eyes rested on a striking woman dressed in black. “Lady Anne?” he said, as he raised her by the hand. Anne Boleyn looked up at him, and he was struck by the arresting beauty of her dark eyes. “I am deeply sorry for your loss,” he continued, never taking his eyes away from hers.
“Thank you, your Grace,” replied Anne, “and I am sorry for the loss of Queen Jane.” She kissed his hand. The touch of her lips on his skin sent a shock through him, and he caught his breath. He had felt nothing close to desire for anything or anyone since Jane’s tragic death three months ago; yet here was this grieving woman dressed in black widow’s attire and wearing a simple strand of pearls, awakening a stirring in him. Henry recalled their brief flirtation some years back, which was intended to occupy the court gossips whilst he secretly courted Jane, and remembered the enjoyable evenings they had shared.
“Lady Anne,” he said impulsively, “as a remembrance of your late husband Lord Harry Percy, would you please do me the honour of returning to court and dining with us Tuesday next? We can talk of Percy, and perhaps recalling pleasant times will aid you in your time of grieving.”
Anne looked at Henry gratefully. “Your Grace, I would be the one honoured. Thank you.” And at this, they parted.
The following Tuesday, Anne returned to court. She was led to the King’s privy chamber. Somewhat startled, she entered and gracefully curtseyed before the King, then kissed his hand. Henry raised her up, and gently kissed her hand. He then led her to a small table, and they sat down together.
“Your Grace,” Anne began, “this is very lovely, but so intimate. I thought we would be dining in the great hall…”
Henry smiled. “Yes, well – I felt this would be more conducive to sharing our memories of Lord Percy, and expressing our thoughts.” He realized as he spoke that he actually had no interest in discussing Percy at all, but held that thought in check.
The evening passed pleasantly, although not without some tears on Anne’s part. As she took her leave, Henry held her hand perhaps a moment longer than politeness dictated. “I think this evening has done us both a world of good. We should meet again soon, my lady.”
Something in his voice made Anne pause, and as she looked into his eyes, she suddenly realized that Henry was interested in more than memories of her husband. She covered her confusion with a curtsey and a hurried, “Yes your Grace, I should like that,” and turned to depart, adding, “Goodnight, your Grace, and many thanks.”
A few days later, Anne, who had been staying with good friends in London, was looking at a box that sat on a table, having just been deposited by a messenger from King Henry. Perplexed, she looked at him. “What is this?” she asked.
“A gift from the King,” he replied, and handed her a letter with Henry’s seal. She broke it open. “Dearest Anne,” it began. “When you have passed your mourning period, please accept this gift and wear it to court. Your presence there will delight us all, and we shall be very grateful. From the hand of one who longs to see you again, Henry Rex.”
Anne caught her breath. The meaning behind the words was unmistakably clear.
Henry wanted her. A hundred questions ran through her mind. She would have to wait for the answers.
Two months hence, her mourning period passed, Anne waited in the great hall as the page announced the King’s approach. Wearing a green satin dress made from the rich fabric Henry had sent, her slender neck encircled by a pearl and emerald necklace – another gift from the King, which had made her gasp in surprise when she received it – she attracted the attention of more than one man in the room.
However, Anne had eyes for only one – and as Henry strode into the hall, she met his gaze directly, then curtseyed. He stopped in front of her, and clasped her hand as he raised her up. “Lady Anne,” he greeted her happily. “I am delighted beyond measure to see you here at court.” Anne looked into his eyes and saw desire there, which belied the friendly tone of his words. A tiny thrill shot through her, but she smiled demurely and replied, “I am happy to be here, your Grace.”
“We will begin the dancing shortly – would you do me the honour of the first dance after I dance with Mary?” Henry asked. Anne felt a slight twinge of jealousy that he would be dancing first with his daughter, and was a little ashamed of the feeling. “Yes your Grace, I look forward to it – thank you.”
Anne mingled with the other courtiers, making small talk, while Henry danced with Mary. The next dance was a volta. Henry appeared at Anne’s side, and she took his hand. As they danced, he held her closely. She had not been this near to him before, and his physical stature enveloped her with a welcome feeling of security. They moved well together, though it had been long since Anne had danced, and she realized how much she had missed it. Then she heard Henry whispering her name.
“Yes, your Grace?” she answered. “You dance like an angel,” he replied, and she blushed. “My dearest Anne, would you please visit me in my privy chamber later, after we all dine?” She drew her breath in sharply, and met his eyes. “Why, my lord?” she asked. “Lady Anne,” Henry replied, “I have been struck with the dart of love, and must express my feelings to you in private. I have been counting the days until I saw you again, and wondered if I would have the same stirrings, and indeed, having seen you tonight, they are stronger than ever, as I have missed you so.”
Anne gaped at him, trying to speak, but no words came. Henry drew her in closer to him. She noticed some of the crowd were openly staring at them. She nodded, not knowing what to say, but wanting desperately to remove herself from the center of attention.
“My page will seek you out and bring you to my chamber,” Henry murmured into her ear. Then the dance ended, and he kissed her hand and led her to her place at the table.
Anne scarcely touched her food, but fortified herself with wine. At the appointed time, the page appeared before her. She excused herself from her companions, aware of the curious stares as she followed the young man to Henry’s privy chamber. “Lady Anne,” the page announced, and then
departed. She was alone with Henry. Anne curtseyed, and waited for him to speak. He approached her, raised her up, and clasped her hands in his.
“My lady,” he began, “please ease my mind and tell me if my suit pleases you.” Anne saw that despite the forthrightness of his words during their dance, the look on Henry’s face now was one of uncertainty. “My lord, I know not what to say,” she said. “Do you remember that we once had an affair that went no further than courtly love and past-times together?”
Henry nodded. “Anne, I do not know exactly what has changed, or how, but I am burning with desire for you. You have captured my heart and my love, and I want you, body and soul.”
“My lord,” Anne cried, “I cannot be your mistress! I am a widow of less than a year, and the scandal would be outrageous.”
“My darling Anne,” Henry smiled, “I mean to crown you my Queen. Nothing less.” The sincerity in his voice made Anne suspect that he was entirely serious. Although she knew in her heart that she did not have the love for Henry that she had for Harry Percy – only that of a subject for her sovereign – she had to admit that nonetheless, his sheer physical presence and obvious feelings for her had aroused her interest in and attraction to him.
Henry was waiting for a reaction from her to his pronouncement. Anne looked at him. The prospect of becoming Queen of England and staying at court was strongly tempting. She was tired of Northumberland, especially with Percy gone. Without him, it was a lonely and unexciting place. And as for not being in love with Henry – she had already lost the love of her life, and who would expect to be blessed with another such love in one lifetime? Anne took a deep breath.
“Well my lord,” she replied. “I am honoured, and slightly dumbstruck!” She gave a low laugh and moved closer to him. As she gazed up at him, he bent down and kissed her. She felt a warm surge of desire, and whispered, “Oh my lord…my Henry.”
At this, he swept her up and carried her through the room to his bedchamber, as his servants in there quickly and silently left the room. Anne knew she was going too far, but the months of loneliness without Percy, combined with the aftereffects of the wine she had generously consumed, overtook her; she also felt she could trust her intuition, which told her that she would soon be wearing a crown.
So that night, they became lovers. Anne could scarcely believe that she was in the King’s bed – until pleasure overtook them both…and then again…and afterwards they fell asleep, entwined together. Before dawn, Anne was led discreetly to rooms that had been readied for her. Henry had also assured her that she would soon be getting her own rooms at the palace that would connect to his.
True to his word, she was given beautifully appointed rooms of her own within days. She was also allowed to choose the many ladies in waiting that befitted a soon to be queen and wife of the sovereign. Henry’s advisers, as well as the rest of the court, were astounded to learn that he planned to wed Anne within the month.
When Anne broke the news to her mother and father, they were cautiously happy for her. She assured them that although things had moved quickly, Henry was perfectly serious in his intentions. She then revealed to them the details of the relationship that she and the King had had some years back, as no one but Henry and Anne had been privy to the real reason for the affair. Her family was at first shocked,
but then understood that Henry’s feelings for Anne had developed into love, so they were excited both for her and for what it meant for all of them. No one actually asked Anne how she felt about Henry…and for once, Anne was thankful her feelings were ignored.
Her brother George was amused. “Having the royal cock in hand puts one in high favour, does it not, my dear sister?” he asked wickedly. Anne blushed and made to strike him, but her eyes were merry. “You know very well that our entire family will enjoy favour now,“ she said sweetly, and continued, “He pleases me, George. We did enjoy each other’s company long ago, you know.” “And now he enjoys much more,” George teased. Anne replied, smiling, “Indeed he does, dear brother!”
Because both Henry and Anne had lost their spouses within the year, their wedding was a simple ceremony, with only Henry’s friend Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and Anne’s mother, father, and brother George present. Anne wore an elegant blue gown, with a matching sapphire and pearl necklace. Henry could not take his eyes off her.
At one point, Anne thought briefly of Jane, for whom Henry had divorced his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. It was almost as if she had never existed, based on Henry’s behavior towards her, Anne. Of course, there was the baby Prince Edward, the son Jane had sacrificed her life to produce, as a reminder that she had indeed lived as Queen. Henry did dote on the child. But he was entirely in the care of his nurses, and Henry was so obsessed with Edward’s health that he was kept from court, and rarely seen by anyone except the nurses and Henry himself.
Anne brought herself back to the present, as Henry placed a beautiful pearl and ruby ring on her finger and pledged his troth to her. Then she did likewise pledge her troth to Henry, and the priest blessed them both. They were wed.
With a start, Anne realized that soon she would be formally crowned Queen at a lavish coronation ceremony, and this overwhelming thought made her feel faint. “Henry my love,” she said, as she grasped his arm. “I am here, dearest wife,” he replied tenderly. She recovered and smiled at him, a smile that held the promise of a spectacular wedding night…