The Death of a Queen

Kimbolton

The burden on Sir Edmund Bedingfield was more than he had expected. As Caretaker to the Dowager Princess of Wales, his job seemed more warden than anything. As Katherine of Aragon lay dying, Sir Edmund had done all he dared to make her comfortable, without angering his king. Now, as he bustled toward the gates of Kimbolton to investigate the source of the clamour the guards had advised him of, he had a decision to make. Maria de Salinas, Lady Willoughby, was Katherine’s oldest friend and she had travelled far on treacherous roads to see her former mistress. Bedingfield was to admit no one without a pass from the king, or Master Secretary Cromwell. The guards had informed him Lady Willoughby had suffered an accident of some sort below the walls of the castle, and Sir Edmund was a Knight of the Bath. No proper knight would leave a noble lady in distress, and his years with the Dowager Princess had left him somewhat fond of his dying charge. As the gates opened, Sir Edmund did what he thought best, and only prayed the king would not be too angry.

Maria de Salinas, Lady Willoughby

I am perched against the outer walls of the castle Kimbolton with my travelling party, fury building at my rightful queen trapped, in pain and Maria de Salinas   alone in this desolate part of the country. I push the indignation aside and ensure my  travelling companions are ready to play their part as Sir Edmund Bedinfield finally  emerges from the castle.

 I arrange my face in a look of intense pain, my foot risen and bundled up to ensure the ruse  of an accident.

“Sir Edmund, I thank you for coming out in this awful weather to meet me. I have had an  accident and have fallen from my horse and we cannot carry on. I entreat you, please let us  take refuge until I can travel further.”

Sir Edmund is a true Knight. Surely, he cannot turn away a lady in distress. My men and  and my sole lady in waiting stand protectively around me, my lady fussing to ensure I’m comfortable.

Sir Edmund bows with a flourish, “Welcome to Kimbolton Lady Maria, we were not expecting you. I hope you have not injured yourself grievously?”

I look up with a pained expression on my face. “Indeed Sir, I have tried to carry on, but as soon as we came upon your castle, the first we have seen since my fall….” Sir Edmund crouches by my side and examines my ankle. I flinch as he tries to lift it. Sir Edmund stands, as he thinks through the situation. He has clear instructions not to allow a person inside the castle without the authority of his Majesty. I allow my pride to drop and beg, whilst he struggles inwardly.

“Sir Edmund. Please. I know you have your orders, but you can see here I cannot travel with this injury. I have a letter on it’s way allowing my visit. I had planned to travel on until this permission had arrived- however, fate has seen otherwise. PLEASE.” I look up with such desperation. The cold wind assists, a tear forms in my eye to complete the look.

Sir Edmund sighs. “Of course Lady Willoughby. I could not in good conscious let you continue in such a condition. My men will show your travelling party through, I’ll have rooms for you shortly.”

Inwardly I sigh with relief, outwardly, I look grateful – which I am. I can see my queen. Sir Edmund helps me rise and assists me in through the gates to warmth and my dearest friend.

Queen Katherine of Aragon

I lay in my bed and cannot get comfortable. No matter how many logs are placed in the fire or how many furs they cover me with, I still shiver from the Katherine of Aragon death bedcold. My cough is deep and rattles, the pain in my chest gets worse each day. My attendants try to feed me a few spoonfuls of broth but I have no appetite. These are the women that Henry chose for me, none are my dear companions. I turn my head away and pull out a crumpled letter, wet from my tears. My Mary’s last letter to me. I never thought that Henry could be so cruel as to keep our only child away from me.

I clasp my rosary beads that belonged to my mother, a great queen in her own right. The beads bring comfort to me, no matter what Henry did to me, I would not admit or accept something that was not true. I am his true wife and the only Queen of England. I know that I am close to death and could have the comfort of my Mary if I just accepted Henry’s terms, but NOTHING could force me to declare that  I am not his true wife.

A cold wind billows through the room, blowing out the candles and torches. I can feel the cold all the way to my bones but I try to remember the warmth of the sun on my face as a child in Spain. So many memories, so much heartache. I watch the women try to light up the room again and as I look, I see a vision in the doorway. Now my mind is playing tricks with me because I imagine my closest friend Maria De Salinas, now Willoughby standing in the door way. I know when the torches are lit, the vision of my beloved Maria will be gone. But the vision speaks my name and holds my hand, trying to rub warmth into it.

“Dios mío, se esta María? My God is this María?” Tears spill from the corner of my eyes. If this is my imagination, don’t let it stop. ” Maria, is it really you? How did you ever get in here to see me?” She kisses my cheeks, ” Maria besides Mary there is no one else I rather have with me. Tell me it is really you. Gracias a Dios.”

Maria de Salinas, Lady Willoughby

I fall to my queen’s side- my dear dear friend, I have made it just in time. I take in her face, wasted from the illness and colourless. She is swamped in furs, the fires stoked high in an attempt to keep Katherine warm.

TeKatherine and Mariaars well in my eyes. “My queen, I am here. I could not be kept away from you during your time of need.”

I take my Queen Katherine’s hands- they are chilled and I wrap my hands around her small ones in attempt to warm them. I look about the dismal chamber. This is not how the true Queen of England should end her days. A burning anger wells inside me, knowing that the impostor of a “queen” Anne Boleyn is sitting in a grand palace in London, in Katherine’s palace. I swallow back that anger and keep my eyes on my true queen’s face.

I stroke her hair back from her face. “My dear queen. How can I make you more comfortable? I am here to serve you in anyway I can. I will not allow them to turn me out.”

Queen Katherine of Aragon

” Aye Maria, there is no other person I would wish to be with me besides Mary. ” I clutch Maria’s arm. ” What news have you of my beloved daughter? I know I will never see her again.” I can not hold back my tears when I think of my only child. ” Maria, it has to be that bruja, I cannot believe the Henry I knew capable of keeping mother and daughter apart. But nothing he does to me will ever make me utter the words he wishesRosary to hear. I am his true and legal wife, and Mary is the rightful heir to England. I will NEVER say otherwise, no matter what he does to me.

” I fear I do not have a lot of time left but your visit gives me strength. Come sit and tell me about your life with your husband. It makes me happy that you made such a good marriage here. ”

I shut my eyes and tried to envision Maria’s life. I hold my diamond and pearl rosary, one of  the few jewels left to me. It belonged to my mother and Henry would not dare to take that away from me, it belongs to Spain, not England. I smile as Maria fills me in on her life and what has been happening away from this damp fortress.

Maria de Salinas, Lady Willoughby

I chatter away about my husband, my child Katherine, named in honour of my friend and queen, about my household and our property. I see Katherine focus and brighten as I detail my life outside this god-forsaken vault. My heart is broken that the king, her beloved shining king, who rose us from poverty after the death of Prince Arthur, has become a tyrant. I try to hold onto the image of Henry of old – or I may begin a tirade of vehemence.

I address the reference to the Lady Anne. “Mi reina, it is the influence of the pretend queen. The reports from court tell of the great influence she has. It is certainly her influence that he will not allow the princess to visit you. You would be proud of your daughter, she is her mother’s daughter, she holds her head high, and is strong.” I do not care who hears me use my Spanish Princess’s true title. She will always be England’s true queen, as Mary is England’s true Princess.

I cast aside protocol and take Katherine’s hand. “Mi reina, colour is returning to your face. You will not depart this life just yet.” She cannot leave us. The Boleyn’s cannot be allowed to prevail. I smile brightly, pushing aside the dread in my heart.

Queen Katherine of Aragon

I smile as I listen to my Maria fill me in on her happy life. She did well for herself here in England. It brings joy to my heart to know that Maria Ruby ringand her English husband have such a good relationship. I pull the heavy, worn quilts up to my neck for there is always a chill that lives in the stone walls, it is always damp with a musty smell. I shiver and my coughing begins again. Maria begs me to eat some broth but her presence is all the nourishment I need.

” Maria, do you remember the happy days we spent as children in Spain? I have always missed Spain’s sunny days. I loved the feel of the warmth from the sun on my face. We would sit outside and pick the sweet, juicy oranges, the juice always trickled down your chin. I think about Spain a lot now, Mary loves her mother’s country just from all the stories I told her.”

I smile wanly and take off my ruby and pearl ring, the ruby is the size of a quail’s egg and has always been one of my favourite possessions. The gold filigree somehow makes the ring look dainty, even with the enormous stones.

” María, mi mejor amiga que siempre me ha gustado, you are my closest friend whom I have always loved. I want you to have this ring. When you look at it, always remember the good times we have had together. It is just a small token of the love I feel for you.” I put it into Maria’s warm hands and smiled at her.

Maria de Salinas, Lady Willoughby

My eyes well with tears as my queen gifts me the ring. A protest rises to my lips but fades away before they are verbalised. I cannot pretend that my dear friend does not have many days left. I close my fingers over the gift.

“Gracias, I shall treasure it til the end of my days. Every morning when I put on this ring, I shall think of you and Spain. Every visit with the Princess Mary I will tell her the stories of our youth, of the golden sunlight and sweet oranges. You will live on in your daughter.”

I squeeze Katherine’s hand, then fuss with the blankets, calling for a maid to bring more, demanding more wood. I demand to see the queen’s physician.

I do not wish to leave the queen’s side. I refuse all offers of hospitality after bowing to the king’s orders for so much time. I will do all I can to make my friend’s last days happy and comfortable.Maria on her deathbed

Queen Katherine of Aragon

“My dearest friend, I cannot let you sacrifice your well being by angering his Majesty with your visit here. Your company has cheered me up and I feel myself getting stronger. You know my love for you, but I beg you, if at all possible, look after my Mary. We have been apart for too long. I will rest easier knowing that you will do all you can for her.” I squeeze her hand and smile wanly. ” You must go Maria, I will not have the King’s anger directed towards you.”

Maria de Salinas, Lady Willoughby

“Of course, I will always be there and care for Mary. I will always advocate for her well being. As for my current location – I fear I cannot be moved, I have injured myself after falling from my horse.” I give the queen a mischievous smile and continue cheerfully. “Sir Bedingfield is kindly accommodating my travelling party, so I imagine we shall be here for a few days until I can continue comfortably. Until then, you shall have me for company.”

Katherine is comforted and squeezes my hand and I sit and we talk of sunshine and Spain and the golden days of the days when we were young and at Court. She takes a little broth and falls to sleep. Once I am satisfied that the queen will sleep peacefully I return to my own chamber and rest deeply until I am woken early the next day by my lady-in-waiting to tell me Chapuys has arrived. I breath a sigh of relief and prepare myself to see our old friend.

The Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys

Horses I arrive at Kimbolton and am sadden at what poor Katherine has been sent to. This home is not what a daughter of Isabel deserve. It is not for the true Queen. My heart aches for what has become to Katherine and I wish I could have done something more for her. I can only hope to somehow prevent poor Princess Mary from the same fate…I wait patiently for Lady Maria, in hope that she will tell me that Queen Katherine’s health has improve. But as she enters, I can tell that Katherine is still unwell. “ Lady Maria, I am glad to see you so unexpectedly. I have came to visit Katherine. How is she? I have been told very little about her health, however I have been led to expect that she is so very unwell and may die sooner than we wish.”

Maria de Salinas, Lady Willoughby

I curtsey to the Ambassador, relieved he has arrived. I know it will lift Katherine’s spirit instantly, however I dread revealing the state of her health to our old friend.

Maria and Chapuys“Bienvenida Ambassador, I am so pleased you have been able to visit the queen.” I am CERTAINLY not going to deny Katherine of Aragon her rightful title here, amongst her friends.”I fear however her condition is worse than I had imagined. I know however, she will be comforted by your company.”

I smile gratefully to Chapuys, direct a servant to take his belongings before leading him to Katherine’s rooms.

I motion for Chapuys to pause in the hallway, away from the bustling staff and lean in so none may hear my words. “It is appalling the conditions the queen must live in. She is terribly ill, she cannot sit up and complains of a pain in her stomach.” I pause as a servant passes by, and we resume our path to the queen’s rooms, Chapuys looking very grave. I feel nervous, I know there are many spies and I do not want to raise the ire of the king – nor Cromwell.

The Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys

My hearts drops in light of Maria’s update. “I wish I could help her, but alas, there is nothing I have not already tried. It saddens me greatly to see The Queen living here.” I whisper to Maria has we approach Katherine room. I could smell the stench of sickness before entering to dreary rooms of the Queen. I stare at the patient’s bed and barely recognise see the royal figure that was beloved by all of England. Before me, I see a woman who’s face shows her illness, her body wasted and the lines of  age etched into her weary face.  Sadness overwhelms me and makes me pray that my plans for Princess Mary succeed, that this will not happen to her daughter. I approach Katherine’s bed, as she dismisses her servants, glad that no spies will be able to hear are conversation.

Queen Katherine of Aragon

I open my eyes which feel heavy as if they are weighed down with sand. I can hear Maria whispering to someone as I try to sit up. Maria comesIMG_2660 to my side and fluffs my pillows, helping me to ease into a sitting position. As I cough I put my hands to my chest and stomach. The pain is almost unbearable but I try not to cry out for I see my other beloved friend. The Imperial Ambassador speaking to Maria.

” Do my eyes deceive me again? ” I slowly hold out my hand to Eustace Chapuys who quickly takes it. ” Today must be a very special day because I am in the presence of my most cherished friends. Tell me, I most know. How is my Mary? Tell me everything and do no spare my feelings for I must know the truth. ” The cough starts again and I cannot stop till Maria gives me a cup of wine with herbs and honey. But it seeps my energy. I whisper to the ambassador and pray he has some good news for once. I feel each lapis bead on my rosary as I silently ask God to help Mary. ”Come my friend, tell me all you know and help me with your wise council.”

The Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys

My hearts breaks a little further as I see how ill my beloved queen is. I hold her hand steady and push back my emotions from the surface. “Mary, prays for you everyday. She is strong in her pride and stands by your claims. She is a faithful Catholic. But I’m afraid her father is neglectful to her, The whore has his mind poisoned. But there are rumours that he is growing tired of her ways and is drifting away from her.” I look closely at the queen and see her determination  in her face. “Please do not worry about the Princess, I have seen to it that she will be cared for. One day she will rule England, she will be a mighty Queen.”

Queen Katherine of Aragon

I pat his hand and smile happily at Maria and the Imperial Ambassador.
” You bring me good news, I know my Mary will be a great queen like my mother. She will lead England back to the true religion, she still is his Majesty’s pearl. All the Boleyn woman has done is given him another girl. He knows in his heart that Mary is his only heir. Once the influence of the Boleyn’s wan then he will reconcile with our daughter. ”

” Sir Chapuys, tell me about my nephew, what news do you have about him. I know you are disappointed that he did not come to England to restore me to my rightful role as queen. But the pope stayed on our side. You have been such a good friend to me and Mary. I do not know if I could have survived this without you. But as God as my witness, I am the true Queen of England and when I die, I will still be the Queen of England. ”

I keep hold of Chapuys hand. ” Maria, I feel my appetite returning and would like some soup and bread now. See? My friend’s are all the medicine I need.” I look at them both and give a most cheerful smile as I feel much more invigorated. I rub the soft fur of the blue fox quilt that keeps me warm in this draughty castle. Sunlight seeps through the windows and I am much cheered.

The Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys

I smile at Maria with renewed hope and vigour. The return of the Queen’s appetite and the colour in her face give me hope for a recovery. “Your Chapuysnephew the Emperor wishes only for your health to improve. He has been saddened by the news of your cruel treatment by his Majesty. He only wishes he could show his Majesty the error of his ways. He will make sure to help Princess Mary in any way – except for invading England’s shores. He cannot spare any more men due to his soldiers being in Italy and his conflict with France.” I wishI could tell her Majesty about the plans we have for Mary, I know we would give her cheer, however I must try to hide my smile.

“You will always be the true Queen. Once your health improves and the King tires of his putan. He will restore you and Princess Mary to your rightful titles. All of England will rejoice on that great day.” I watch as a small frown forms on her face. All could see that she had clearly given up any hope of the King returning to her. Who could blame her? It is due to his vile treatment and ruthless behaviour towards my beloved Queen. It is a tragic situation more befitting a Greek tragedy then a lady as kind and virtuous as her Majesty. But the King is not to blame. The putan has caused all this torment. Hoping to give her encouragement, I put a smile upon my face to give her inspiration. “I am very happy to have been able to help and comfort you and the Princess Mary. It is a great honour to be considered a friend. I will devote my life to doing all I can for you and the Princess Mary. ”

Queen Katherine of Aragon

I hold out my hand to the Imperial Ambassador, he has been a true friend. Trying to lift my spirits when I was despondent, as I tried to lift his when he was in despair. We have made quite a team. I hope that I will see him once again for this pain in my chest does not cease. Maria lays another sable fur to keep me warm. How the cold seeps through all the mortar of this godforsaken place. I smile wanly at my true and trusted friend.

” No one could ask for a better friend then you have been to me. I ask you to always watch out for my Mary. She must be a good daughter to her father but she must serve God first. I can do nothing to help her in this prison. ” Removing my treasured emarald ring that my mother gave to me, I hand it to the Imperial Ambassador.

” Please give this to Mary, when you see her next. Tell her how much I love her and I pray we will be reunited soon. This ring belonged to my Dying Katherinemother, a true warrior queen. One day Mary will follow in my mother’s footsteps and reign over England. Also, tell my nephew that I pray for him and hope a day will come when he is able to visit me again.”

My eyes grow heavy and I must shut them for a few minutes. I hear Chapuys whispering to Maria that he must return but I am too tired to wish him a safe journey. The heavy oak door closes with a creaky, thud and I know he has left. I wish I would have asked him when he would see Mary next.

” Maria, the broth has revived me but I feel tired and wish to sleep. Can you close the drapes and ask for more wood to be put in the fire? No matter how many rich sables you cover me with, I still cannot get warm.”

Today has been a good day, I have seen my closest friends. I should have known that a army would not keep Maria away. It gives me comfort that she has married well and will always be provided for. The heavy, blue, brocade drapes with with the gold fringe, keeps the sun light out. I close my eyes and think of the happy days I spent in Spain as a child with my family, as I drift off to sleep.

Maria de Salinas, Lady Willoughby

I bustle around the room, building the fire myself, ensuring the room is properly sealed. I kneel beside my queen and take her hand and kiss it. She is sleeping, a slight smile curves upon her lips. I kiss her hand, tears begin to well in my eyes. I take one long, last look at my friend and

reluctantly leave her to her dreams. “Sueño bien mi amigo.” It has been quite a journey we have had in England. I rush to my own rooms to compose myself.Katherine and Maria

*****************************************************************************************************************************************

I pace my rooms restlessly, ignoring my Lady-in-waiting who remind me in a low voice to keep up the pretence of my sprained ankle. After two hours, I make a break for the door and rush down to Katherine’s rooms, I have a feeling of dread and I will not rest until I see Katherine’s chest rising and falling as she continues to breathe.

I vaguely take in the dark, dank hallways, a chill racing down my spine and I shiver. I can hear footsteps hurriedly trying to keep up. As I close in on the entrance to the queen’s rooms, the queen’s Chaplin emerges from the door, followed by the ladies that were in the pay of the Boleyn witch.

Suddenly my heart is in my mouth. I am not ready for this post-Katherine world. The look the Chaplin gives me is despair. The women behind him have a glint in their eyes.

I drop to my knees and a moan escapes my lips. I am aware of people rushing about me as hot tears pour from my eyes. I know I am sobbing, I care not how I look. My truest friend is gone. I am alone. My world is shattered. I can hear bells tolling and horses racing from the god-forsaken castle. Soon, that whore will be celebrating the death of our true queen.

Leave a Reply