“Do You Wish To Confess Your Sins, My Child?”
— Tribute to Alison Weir
For Alison Weir, in tribute to her book, The Lady in the Tower, The Fall of Anne Boleyn
I prayed for hours and slept not since I heard the news, my heart broken. Besides my beloved wife, now with child, and family, the three closest people in my life are His Majesty, dearest Thomas Cromwell, and my beloved Queen Anne. In my heart and soul, in my every fiber of my being, I know she is innocent, they all are innocent. I also know Queen Anne fell out with Thomas, and if she does not fall, he will. I know His Majesty longs for a male heir, and our realm is in desperate need of stability such would provide. And yes, I know deep down too that my beloved Queen is not beloved by the people, and as Thomas correctly argues, she and the Boleyns, my steadfast patrons and supporters to whom I owe all, stand in the way of our long awaited reformation. Thomas tells me he all but begged His Majesty to send Queen Anne to a priory, and I do believe him, but instead the King wants her dead. His Majesty King Henry is a God on Earth, Supreme Emperor of this blessed realm, Defender of the Faith. His command is law. God in heaven forgive me. As Archbishop of Canterbury I must find the King’s marriage at his command to Queen Anne null and void, thus bastardizing their blessed little princess begotten. Beyond that, all I could do was write to His Majesty and plead mercy, as I know he is a gracious king, a benevolent king, a gentle spirited king, a noble king and pray that his heart softens towards this woman I so cherish.
As I kneel in prayer in chapel, I feel a hand gently rest on my shoulder. I look up, and there stands my Margerete, the woman who risked all to be with me. “Thomas, you have been here for hours, love. God knows your heart. Do come break bread with me before you go to The Tower to see the Queen.” I nod, rise to my feet and hold my wife close. I draw my strength from her, truth be told. “Margerete, she is innocent. I know this in my heart and soul.” As I speak these words, Margerete steps back, looks deep into my eyes and says, “Yes, I know. Do what you can, what your heart speaks you to do, but also do what you must.” Such gentle wisdom, my wife humbles me. As we eat breakfast together, we remain silent, my wife holding my arm for support. When done, I look to her and say simply, “It’s time.” She nods, tears welling. We both rise, and as I head towards the door to leave, I turn back. She rushes me, and we hug close. I kiss her softly and then more passionately. “Pray for me that I find the strength, Margerete.” With love in her voice, I hear the words I need. “I will.” I step outside, and it’s a sunny spring day, the gardens at Lambeth beginning to bloom full. I breathe in the sweet smell of irises, and walk over and step onto my barge. As the barge floats on slowly to The Tower, my mind fills with memories of Queen Anne, our first meeting, our prayerful discussions of the Lord, her beautiful coronation, the birth of Elizabeth. I pray for her soul, that she finds acceptance, and that the Lord bless her with strength to do what she must do and then everlasting peace in heaven. I pray also for those poor men, caught up in the evil lies and innuendo that laid their ruin.
When the barge reaches the shores near The Tower, I see Sir William Kingston awaits. He helps me off the barge, and as we begin walking to the Queen’s chamber, I ask simply, “How is she?” He responds honestly, “Your Grace, when she first came, the Lady spoke quite wildly, making strange comments such as all crops will fail unless she is released, that no rains would come until she is vindicated, and so on. More recently, she has been completely preoccupied with preparing for her death, every waking moment in discussion of it. I do believe she is reconciled with the inevitable.” As we approach the chamber, the very place the Queen resided as she prepared for her coronation, I look to Sir Kingston and admit, “My heart grieves. I must bring her more pain.” With that, he unlocks the chamber door, opens it and announces, “His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury.” We both step in, and my heart sinks. There she is, my queen of hearts, dressed simply, as pale as a spook in the mist. She looks to me and smiles.
Queen Anne: *There he is… the comfort to my pain; for sure he will bring the blessing, the hope and the calm my heart needs to endure this. With the strength that is still alive in me, I walk towards him.* “Your Grace… is pleasing to see you”.
Thomas Cranmer: I bow deeply, as to me she will always be queen, if not here, then in heaven. I take a deep breath, and careful with my words as Sir Kingston and the ladies he assigned not by her choice hearing all, I say simply, looking to her with a slight nod knowingly,… “Your Majesty, I am humbled to be in your presence. It pains me to say what I must do. Please do sit, and I will explain all as gently as I can, and with God’s grace, you will hear me.”
Queen Anne: *I nod, I sit in a chair beside my bed… and his grace takes another, places it in front of mine, and sits. He looks troubled, sad, for sure he will bring me terrible news. I wonder….for how long I will be able to endure the misery of this?*
Thomas Cranmer: I look to my queen, and hold her hand. “Your Majesty, I must tell you that your marriage to the King is to be declared null and void based on scriptural doctrine that prohibits a marriage when close affinity with a person whom was intimate with one of the partners exists. I am so sorry, but this must be done.”
Queen Anne: I give a smile, but my heart is sinking in pain.* “So that is how it will end…years of love, devotion, I gave him the best of me; and even when he… desires my death to give life to his desire.. I have no regrets.” *I hold my tears the best I can.* “What about my daughter?”
Thomas Cranmer: “I promise with all my heart that I will do everything I can to keep her safe and close, but Your Majesty, if there was no marriage, the poor child will not be viewed as legitimate.”
Queen Anne: *This is too painful. My fear of death is little compared to my fear for the fate of Elizabeth. She will have to face this world without me. She will probably live with her heart full of doubts about me and… how she will deal with the King her father? What if he refuses to love her, to give her protection? What if he ends placing Mary in favor… and keeps my baby girl abandoned… rejected?* “Please your grace… do you think it would be possible for me to see my daughter? At least for a moment only to… to place a last memory of me in her mind.”
Thomas Cranmer: Oh my, I so feared she would ask me this. Her pain, it’s crushing, and the love she holds for her babe, so touching. I look down at my feet a few seconds, then look up and speak softly… “Your Majesty, please forgive me, even if His Majesty would consent, I can’t support you in this request. I must look to my heart and to God, and think first of the child. What you suggest… it would frighten her… the ride on the barge, the walk through traitor’s gate, being carried through the damp halls of this place, exposed to disease, and then the emotion she must endure in parting with you. Please forgive me. If I pledge to keep her close and safe, I start now and say no. I am so sorry.”
Queen Anne: *He is right… and I am so selfish. Of course is not fair for her but…God, I miss her…Alas, keep her away from me and from this nightmare, is indeed the best.* “I agree… even when is painful to me. But please… promise me something… If someday, if someday she asks about me, tell her that I loved her since the moment I heard her cry… No matter what people can say… she must know that she was the center of my world from the beginning. I have faith and I know that God will place her in the throne of England one day. She will rule this land with honor, grace, virtue and honesty. The world will bow in her presence… I can feel it in my heart. Please…tell her”.
Thomas Cranmer: Elizabeth queen? God makes miracles, but none so large as that. I place my hand on the queen’s and state simply, “Yes, of course I will. The child will know her mother loved her.”
Queen Anne: “Thank you.” *I give him a smile, while my tears fall like drops of agony.* “Now your grace… I need you to hear my true and last confession… Since the time of my death is getting closer, I need to clean my spirit and receive the blessing of the Lord”. *As soon as I said this words, I see Constable Kingston standing up and facing the door to leave, I can not allow that.* “Master Kingston… I pray you to stay…I want you to witness this moment and hear my confession.”
Thomas Cranmer: I look over to Sir Kingston and nod. He takes a seat. I turn back to the queen. “Do you wish to confess your sins, my child? If so, I will hear them now.”
Queen Anne: *I will open my heart… and I will confess the truth that the King and everyone refuses to hear, to believe… they want me dead, but I will make sure they carry the chains of my innocence in their minds… forever.* “Here… in the presence of Almighty God… I confess my innocence. I never was unfaithful to my Lord and husband, and I never used my body and soul against him. Is true that sometimes I acted forced by feelings of jealousy… and I know that I did not always showed him the respect and obedience that he as my sovereign lord so gracefully deserved. But I take God as my witness that I never betrayed him in any other way. Think not I say this in the hope to prolong my life… God has taught me how to die and He will strengthen my Faith. As for my brother… and the others who were unjustly condemned, I would gladly accept many deaths to deliver them, but since I see it pleases the King… I will accompany them in death, with this assurance… That I will live and endless life with them… in peace.” *There… I confessed the truth..*
Thomas Cranmer: I take a deep breath, and bless the queen by crossing on her forehead. “In the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit.” I finally have my chance to help my beloved queen as a last confession carries great weight among the faithful. I call over to Sir Kingston…. “Sir Kingston, I desire that you report to all Her Majesty’s last and true confession, so all the world will know it.” He stands, bows, and replies, “Yes, Your Grace. I shall.”
Queen Anne: *I close my eyes, and breath easy for the first time since this nightmare started… the world will know, the King will carry this burden for the rest of his life and… my Elizabeth will know… she will know her mother died as a martyr… and innocent. I feel in peace…all that waits for me… is to endure and wait.*
Thomas Cranmer: I rise. Forcing composure, I say, my voice breaking, “Your Majesty, I must go now. I promise I will be there to bear witness, and I will pray for you.”
Queen Anne: *Fear takes control of me again after he finishes that sentence, I grab his arm and stop him.* “Your grace… please… it could be possible that even in these last moments the bishops can intervene for me? They can… give council to the King maybe… do you… do you think it could be possible?”
Thomas Cranmer: I look down at Her Majesty, her desperation tearing at my very soul. “No… no… I am so sorry… no.” I gently tug my hand out of hers, it now trembling. “I must go…” As I hear her speak words to me of reassurance that of course such is not possible, with shame in my heart, I leave her chamber. The guard slams the door shut, and locks it tight. I startle upright. “Oh God, please forgive me. I beseech you. I have sinned most egregiously.”