‘A king must have sons: strong, healthy sons to rule after him.’
On the unexpected death of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, his brother, Henry, becomes heir to the throne of England. The intensive education that follows offers Henry a model for future excellence; a model that he is doomed to fail.
On his accession, he chooses his brother’s widow, Catalina of Aragon, to be his queen. Together they plan to reinstate the glory of days of old and fill the royal nursery with boys.
But when their first-born son dies at just a few
months old, and subsequent babies are born dead or perish in the womb, the
king’s golden dreams are tarnished.
Christendom mocks the virile prince. Catalina’s fertile years are ending yet all he has is one useless living daughter and a baseborn son.
He needs a solution but stubborn to the end, Catalina refuses to step aside.
As their relationship founders, his eye is caught by a woman newly arrived from the French court. Her name is Anne Boleyn.
A Matter of Conscience: the Aragon Years offers a unique first-person account of the ‘monster’ we love to hate and reveals a man on the edge; an amiable man made dangerous by his own impossible expectation.
are in the garden when she accidentally dislodges her hood. I pick it up, but
before offering it back to her, I reach out for a glossy, dark strand that is
not as dark as I first thought. She stands, stock still beneath my touch, and
does not move when I untie her coif and bare her head.
I breathe, running my hands over her hair, barely touching yet making her hair
crackle and rise magically to meet my palm. It is not raven black nor merely
brunette but a mixture of shades: enlivened highlights of red and gold.
says it looks Rusty,” she says, in her dismissive way.
he is wrong. Shall I have him thrown in the tower, just to please you?”
she laughs, she throws back her head, and my greedy eyes fasten on her throat,
so long and white. I want to kiss her Adam’s apple, nibble the softness between
neck and shoulder, inhale her fragrance, and tangle my fingers in her hair.
I chastely kiss her knuckles, clutch her hand close to my heart.
Anne, would you …”
withdraws her hand and places it on my chest as if it is a defensive rampart
keeping me from her.
please … do not ask it of me. I can never be your mistress.”
blink in surprise. “It – it is usually considered an honour.”
know, I know it is, Your Majesty, a great honour and I love you above all
others but I – I have a dream of marriage, children, a house in the country. I
would marry for love.”
you are not still pining for Percy.”
name issues in a sneer, as if he is some peddling player and not the son of the
most powerful magnate in the north. She shakes her head with a pained
no. I am quite recovered from that but …I still harbour hopes of a loving
falls. I wonder if he had her. Shortly after she arrived from France her
name was linked with Northumberland’s son but Wolsey, who had other plans for
Anne, put paid to that as I later put paid to his plans for her marriage with
watch her pluck a leaf from the hedge and begin to shred it with her nails. I
had not expected a refusal, even from her. Nobody ever denies me. I frown,
clear my throat, to explain it further.
my official mistress, you’d be the highest lady at court, bar the queen.”
be a whore, Your Majesty. A royal whore but a whore nevertheless.”
She spins away, repeating the word over and
over as if to offend me but surely …even Anne would not go so far as to
purposely goad me.
am never sure what she will say or do next; perhaps that unpredictability is
her charm. I follow her along the path.
a whore, a royal companion, a helpmeet. Think of the good you could do, the
people you could help, the scholars you could encourage…”
halts, turns back.
do you mean? Scholars?”
thinks I know nothing of her Lutheran leanings but there is little that escapes
me in this court. My spies are everywhere, and I have discovered there are
already many who resent Anne for her radical ideas.
know you are curious about the new learning. You could meet some of the best
scholars in Europe face to face. Tindale is here in England now, you know.”
frowns, shakes her head.
that would be against the law … your law!”
know.” I snatch up her hand again. “I’d be prepared to turn a blind eye if you
were to become my mistress.”
should not have to stoop so low. In truth, I do not mean it. It is a snare to
know her price, to test if she can be bought.
kiss her fingers, one by one, my ardour increasing each time my lips meet her
queen would never let that happen,” she says, and she is right. Kate detests
the new learning; Heresy, she calls it and for once we are in agreement.
queen,” I lie softly. “Does as she is told.”
laughter is high and mocking.
never meekly accept an official mistress endorsing the new religion, Your
Majesty. Every one of her ladies that have ended up in your bed have ceased to
enjoy the queen’s favour. I have no doubt that no sooner had you bedded me, I’d
find myself sent back to Hever in disgrace.”
follow her along the path, back toward the hall. At the door we encounter
Brandon and my sister, arm in arm, about to take the air. They halt, bow their
Majesty. A lovely day,” Brandon says, while I kiss my sister.
know this lady, Mistress Anne Boleyn?” I open my arm to draw her forward and
while Brandon bows stiffly over her hand, Mary sniffs and looks the other way.
she says, as if I am introducing her to a snake. “I have had that pleasure. A
A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in Medieval Studies.
She lives on the
coast of West Wales where she writes both fiction and non-fiction based in the
Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical
women but more recently is writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself.
A Matter of
Conscience: Henry VIII, the Aragon Years
Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England
Arden: on the Pilgrimage of Grace
Bride: Book one of The Beaufort Chronicle
Woman: Book two of The Beaufort Chronicle
Mother: Book three of The Beaufort Chronicle
Winchester Goose: at the Court of Henry VIII
A Song of
Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York
Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr
The Kiss of
the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
The Song of
Judith is also a
founder member of a re-enactment group called The Fyne Companye of
Cambria and makes historical garments both for the group and others.
She is not professionally trained but through trial, error, and determination
has learned how to make authentic-looking, if not strictly HA, clothing. You
can find her group Tudor Handmaid on Facebook. You can also find
her on Twitter and Instagram.
Connect with Judith