The Last Night on Earth by Cris Gomes

I cannot sleep. My ladies are all sleeping exhausted as they are of all that spying they have been doing on me. Their job is done: I am a condemned woman and, if I reach the window, I can see the scaffold the King’s men have prepared for me. My last meeting will be there, with the swordsman at nine o’clock in the morning.

I get up. Trying to sleep is useless to someone who will find her eternal rest in a few hours. I wash my face on the water basing and then look at the mirror: is it really me? I do not believe it. And perhaps, the old woman staring back at me is really me. I am only 29 years old, but I aged at least 2 decades during this Passion of mine. My braid is almost undone, locks of hair surround my painful face, my eyes are swollen with all the tears I have cried. I reach my hands to my long and beautiful swan-like neck: in a few hours it will be severed in two. The agony in my dark eyes is endless. I have suffered a 1000 deaths since I was sent here. He took everything from me: my good name, my reputation, my Brother, my friends, my daughter and he will take my life. Maybe he will be satisfied then.

I have no more tears to cry. It feels like the Fountain of Life I had inside of me has dried up. Now, all that I feel is the longing for Death, for my liberation of this endless woe. They told me he would pardon me and cancel my execution at the last minute, but I know he won’t. Inside his head, I’m already dead.

I get down on my knees and start to pray to my only Lord, to my Lord Jesus. He knows my heart and my soul. He knows how guiltless I am. The sins they accuse me of committing are fabricated lies meant to disgrace my memory and the life of my Lady Princess, my daughter, my Elizabeth.

“Sweet Jesus”, I pray, “give me strength to follow this thorny path till the end. Give me strength to proclaim that the King was always good and just to me, after I got at the top of the scaffold. Sweet Jesus, protect my daughter: don’t let my disgrace become hers. Sweet Jesus, allow me to rest in Heaven with my Brother…”

Memories are sharp and painful as they cross my mind: me, Mary and George,¬† still little children playing in Hever; the moment I arrived to the fascinating France so different from England in so many ways; my return to England to an arranged marriage to my cousin James Butler… But then, my Father and my Uncle decided another thing. And that changed mine and a whole lot of lives as well.

To seduce the King was the hard bargain they demanded of me, not caring about anything else than climbing the social ladder. They wanted power and riches, and since Henry noticed me they felt I was all they needed to get what they wanted. My own Father wanted me to become a prostitute. He wanted me to become the King’s whore.

But I didn’t want that, I refused that. I wanted more, I needed more. Henry’s lust was repulsive, he didn’t know anything about the courtly love professed in France. My Family’s lust for power was even more repulsive. I felt like a cow in the market: Henry giving me more and more presents to get me into his bed, my Family demanding more and more and commanding me to submit to his lust. And then, I broke the rules. I decided that I ¬†wouldn’t be the Kings mistress as my sister Mary before me had been and I wouldn’t be a pawn of neither the Boleyn’s nor the Howard’s: my life was mine to command. And if Henry wanted me, my price was just one: to be the Queen.

Surprisingly, the fool obeyed my desires: he did everything he could to get rid of his Spanish wife, just to be able to marry me, to possess me. He broke all the rules, he broke his bound to the Church itself just to be able to repudiate that old woman and get me in the Throne. Nothing would stop him, whatever it may cost him.

During 6 long years, our courtship proceeded: I was a cat playing with my prey. I was already called a whore and I had never slept with him! My honour was disgraced, so what was left to lose? I endured his harassment, the hate of the Spanish Woman, of they’re daughter Mary, of her friends and followers, I suffered the disgust of the People, the unnaproval of my Family. All of that, just to be Queen.

Henry was so pathetic in all he has done to have me, that my heart started to develop feelings for him: who wouldn’t when a man is willing to sacrifice anything just to have you by his side? The game changed: the cat had become the mouse and I finally gave into him. Being Queen wasn’t my primal goal anymore: all I wanted was to be his wife and to love him till the end of my days, to give him the so desired heir, to be a happy married woman. But I knew, I knew that the instant he had me I would begin loosing him. He is such a spoiled man, always was and always will be. Soon, he began having affairs with my Ladies and I could not stand it. How could I if I loved him? Henry broke my heart so many times, and now he will trade me for that Seymour thing, that meek and boring Jane. How can she be a companion to him like I was? I remember we used to talk about everything: Religion, Politics, Science, Philosophy…What are they going to talk about? Voids? I wonder…

All that time, my Brother, my George, was my most faithful companion: he was my best friend and our strong, pure and deep Brotherly love turned in this hideous accusation of incest! Sweet Jesus, tell me why this had to happen?! How can anyone be so dirty of mind and heart to accuse us of doing so?! And now…now…I can’t bear to say it, to think it! George, my adored and most loyal Brother is dead! His head separated from his neck, just like mine will be in a few hours! The witchcraft accusations, the adultery accusations, I can handle it. But incest with George?! Why?!

I almost loose my control, those damned tears are returning again. I hurry to the basin and wash my face again. The cool water douse the flames engulfing my eyes. I stare at the mirror, and murmur “le temp est vennu”, the time has come. But why so soon?! Lord Jesus, You know how I wanted to give the King a son! Why have You not allowed that? Was it a punishment? Was it so wrong to celebrate the Death of the Spanish woman? Her Death was the definitive release of Henry’s bond to her at everyone’s eyes. Why not killing me in childbirth? Why did I have to give birth to a dead boy? Why did I have to endure such terrible pain and the King’s ever growing disgust? I failed him when Elizabeth was born, failed him when I miscarried the 1st time, signed my Death sentence when I lost this precious little boy.

I smile: I can picture Elizabeth running to me, stretching her little hands to me, her lovely bronze curls bouncing with the movement. How I wish I could say to her how much I love her, how I wish to tell her how foolish I was when I cried with disappointment when the midwife told me “it’s a Princess”. She is and always will be my Princess, the Queen of my heart. I have this wild dream where I snatch her from Hatfield and run away with her towards France, the place I shouldn’t never have left.

Elizabeth: I love you. I will watch over you from Heaven, try to guide your steps and protect you from this World. What will your Father do with you, I wonder? Sweet Jesus, I beseech you, I implore you: protect my daughter from his insanity and from this mad World!

The dawn is breaking. My last sunrise…It came so soon…

One of the Ladies is starting to wake up. I must go. My Death awaits me and my Brother will be next to me all the way, guiding me to Heaven.

Beth von Staats

is the owner and administrator of Blogger of "The Tudor Thomases", Beth specializes in writing magazine articles, online historical articles, short stories, and flash fiction.

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