“My Good Christian People”, by Mercy Alicea Rivera

19th of May 1536

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I wake up, and it is still dark. The silver rays of the moonlight shine for the last moments, since the dawn will soon be here.  My last dawn, my last day here on earth.  I walk towards the window. The sky is beautiful, and I am sure the morning will be glorious.  God will bless me with a precious day.  And soon,  I will be with you my dear brother, in eternal peace.

I hear whispers. My ladies are finally awake. It is time, so I must prepare.  I leave the window, and I walk towards my oratory. I kneel and I start to pray, but this time I will add more to my last prayers:  “I do not know why I deserve this death, but I pray you O Lord to keep me away from a long agony, since you know I have done nothing to deserve this punishment. Bless my daughter. Keep her safe. Allow her to grow up and show the world she is the daughter of a King, worthy more than enough of the throne of England.  I finish my prayers and stand up. I turn to see my ladies and with a nod I let them know that I am ready to dress and wait for the time to face my death.

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My ladies help me to wash, to dress; I watch my reflection in a dusty mirror for the last time; while I hear the soothing words of my chaplain reading the Word of God; time runs slowly, making the wait more painful; but the sun is now shining in the sky, the warmth rays of light are finally seen through my window.  I can not help to think… what is Henry doing right now?  Does he have a little thought about me? Any regrets?  Is he now with her while I am here waiting for my death?  For sure she is celebrating my dark fate; my crown will be hers.  And Elizabeth… my beloved daughter; where are you now my darling?  I hope you stay unaware of all this; May God Bless you and keep you my sweet child. 

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Suddenly my thoughts are interrupted. Master Kingston has arrived. I know it’s him. Then I hear his voice: “Madame, the hour approaches. You must be ready”.  I slowly turn around and calmly respond: “You can discharge yourself for your duty, since I am prepared.”

Then he shows me a purse of money. “The King commands you to take this, there are 20 pounds in it; to pay the swordsman for his services, and to distribute alms to the poor”. 

I walk towards Kingston, and I take the purse from his hand; 20 pounds…. the cost of my death for him. I look at Kingston: “Thank You” Finally, he gives the order: “You and your ladies please follow me”.   I nod to Master Kingston, as well to my ladies and my chaplain.  I take a deep breath and I start my last walk.

While I walk trough the dark corridors of the cold tower, my fear increases. I have the urge to cry out loud and scream to the top of my lungs that I am innocent, but I control myself. This is not a test from the King anymore. I am going to die, and since this will be my last performance as Queen of England, I will make it the best. After all, I have nothing to be afraid of. I am innocent. God is on my side, and  He will guide me to Heaven after the blow of the sword ends with my life.

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The doors are finally open. I feel the summer breeze in my face, but there is no time to enjoy it.  Many have gathered to see me die. There is the scaffold, my last scenario. I start to walk again. I am not looking at the people at my sides, but I can hear their voices. From the corner of my eyes I can see them crossing themselves. They touch me, like saying goodbye to me somehow. They are showing me respect after all.  I am now on the steps of the scaffold. It is hard for me to climb but I do it, calmly, showing that I am a brave woman — but inside, I am consumed by fear and sadness.

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 Finally on the scaffold, I look around and I see familiar faces. I see Secretary Cromwell. He looks somehow disturbed. His conscience is probably working against him. I  also see the Duke of Suffolk, cold towards me as always. For sure this day is a day of joy for him. My stepson, Henry Fitzroy is beside him. He looks like he does not care.  Enough of looking around, I walk towards Kingston. I need his permission to say a few words:  “Master Kingston, I pray you not to give the signal for my death until I express what I need to say”.

With an elegant chivalry Kingston nods, allowing me to speak.  Slowly the crowd calms down, and silence takes over; I take a deep breath, and I begin with my last speech:

Good Christian People, I have come hither to die, according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it.  I am here to accuse no man; or say evil things to those who judge me and sentenced me to die.  I yield myself to the will of the King, my lord.  And if  in my life I ever did offend the King’s grace,  then surely with my death I do now atone.  I pray, and beseech you all, to pray for the life of the King, my sovereign lord and yours; who is one of the best princes in the face of the earth; who always treated me so well.  And if someone will take on my case, I only ask only to judge it kindly.

I am not done, but it’s necessary for me to prepare for the sake of the executioner and the rules of the time.  I nod to my ladies. They come to me, and help me. I  take off my rings, while one of my ladies takes off my necklace, and another one places a bonnet over my head to keep my hair in place and my neck free of obstacles.  I smile to them. I appreciate their tears for me, and I trust they will take care of my remains with respect and kindness.  They walk away.

My angel of death comes towards me. I can see pain in his eyes. He seems touched by my presence, or maybe he can feel in his heart that he will kill an innocent woman.  He kneels before me, and with a trembling voice, he says:  “Madame, forgive me for what I must do; since is my duty, and I am ordered to do it.”

I look at him, touched by the sadness of his words.  “Gladly and here is your purse.” 

My angel of death takes his purse and with elegance. He allows me to continue.  I look at the crowd for the last time. There is nothing but silence, a long silence.  I wasn’t expecting tears from the crowd, but many of them are crying for me. I am not hated after all. In my death, I earned their love.  I will now say my last words to them:

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“And thus I take my leave of the world and of you… I heartily desire you all to pray for me”.

With that I kneel. It is over. All is over and now I can not hold my tears, but again I control myself and I begin to pray: “Jesus receive my soul, to Christ I commend my soul, Jesus Christ receive my soul…”

 Suddenly I look behind. I need to look at him, to see if he is going to kill me before I am ready, but he is just there, looking at me, with merciful eyes. I fear that if he do not find the courage to take my life, he can make a mistake and… No, I must pray, I must pray for a quick and painless death as Kingston promised me. “Oh Lord God have pity on my soul, to Christ I commend my soul, Jesus Christ receive my soul; to Christ I commend my soul…

I can not help it. I keep looking at him, but nothing…. The sword is not yet in his hands… My God what is he waiting for? Is not that I desire death but…this fear is painful. And then, I hear the dreadful words:  “Boy, fetch my sword!”

I look forward, no more fear. When I can not see movement in front of me…I know he mercifully lied to me. God Bless him for that, because now I know the painful wait is over.  I look up to the blue sky. Heaven waits for me. My brother waits for me. I will be free…. Then I feel a piercing fire… just for seconds; all goes blurry and… I can feel no more.

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FAREWELL.

Tie the strings to my life, my Lord,
Then I am ready to go!
Just a look at the horses —
Rapid! That will do!

Put me in on the firmest side,
So I shall never fall;
For we must ride to the Judgment,
And it’s partly down hill.

But never I mind the bridges,
And never I mind the sea;
Held fast in everlasting race
By my own choice and thee.

Good-by to the life I used to live,
And the world I used to know;
And kiss the hills for me, just once;
Now I am ready to go!

— By Emily Dickinson–

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Video: Mercy Alicea Rivera (She owes none of the contents.)

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