She can feel his eyes on her as she suddenly becomes aware of the conversation and laughter across the pond. She had only wanted to take the air, but how could she have known she would encounter him here?
Mistress Anne is still new to court. Naturally she has seen the king, but from a safe distance, but here, now she feels like a fawn, cornered in the woods, vulnerable, terrified, marked as prey. Henry VIII: King of England and France, Lord of Ireland and Defender of the Faith is making his way towards her now, followed by his usual group of favorites. Anne drops into a deep curtsy, trying to avoid eye contact with this powerful man, whose fondness for the works of Erasmus, piety and prowess in the tiltyard are well known. She can feel her heart pounding in her chest as these realizations wash over her. She briefly wonders if his is how her sister Mary felt, the poor fool.
“Mistress Anne!!!” The king bellows “Taking the air are we?”
“Yes, your Grace” Anne sputters, still deep in her curtsy
"Please rise, Mistress Anne, sometimes I tire of such formalities. Will you join me for a walk?”
“Indeed it is my pleasure, quite so in fact. I grow weary of my stifling chambers and I find I rather enjoy the view.” Anne can feel her stomach flutter Don’t play the fool, she
tells herself. He certainly enjoyed the view of her sister and Bessie Blount, but apparently not his own wife, the pious Queen Katherine. However, Anne has no choice but to accept, refusing the king and risking his displeasure would bode ill for her family. She nervously takes his arm and they begin their walk as Henry’s favorites fall back to a respectable distance. As she looks over at the king, she begins to realize that this is the first time she can really see him. As he regales her with his plans to build a new ship, Anne is contemplating the face that looks back at her. He has shaven, his broad shoulders and chest made even more so by his doublet. Yes he is quite handsome indeed, Anne thinks to herself, but as she gazes at his face she can see the sorrow that is etched in it. Despairing over his lack of a male heir Anne thinks to herself. She has witnessed the Queen praying fervently, clutching her rosary, beseeching God for a strong, lively babe to fill her womb. It is at this moment that Anne can see the years of disappointment and anguish in his face. Anne knows that then king rarely visits Katherine at night. He obviously lays the blame at her door. Anne turns her attention back to Henry.
“So Mistress Anne, how do you find life at court?”
“Well your Grace I find that life at court is most err..lluminating”
“Well I can’t imagine that my dear wife Katherine offers you a chance for many diversions”
Anne detects a hint of contempt when he utters the words “dear wife”
“She is a most gracious and pious lady, Your Grace”
“Oh there is no need for such pleasantries, Katherine has become…quite dull, always praying with the bloody rosary and closeting herself up with her confessor”
Is that so Sir High and Mighty Defender of the Faith? Anne muses to herself, though she knows not how to respond to this. Mercifully, Henry breaks the silence
"I believe you have also been acquainted with my sister, Mary” Anne immediately regrets these words, however Henry only laughs.
“Ah, yes Lady Carey. She is a very sweet girl, very accommodating.”
Anne is stunned into silence, not knowing how to proceed in this matter. She knows that the king’s affections towards Mary have waned. Mary tearfully confessed this to her mere days prior.
Anne must break this insufferable silence.
“Indeed your Grace. I understand that her husband now keeps a watchful eye on her”
“Ha! That is understandable, considering her, how shall we say, talents. I wouldn’t let her out of my sight”
Oh, but haven’t you Your Grace. Poor Mary is all but an outcast now. Father will not even look at her.
Anne’s salvation comes when a messenger arrives with a message for the king. The king looks irritated and tears open the letter.
“Well Mistress Anne. I must express my gratitude for this lovely diversion, but I must attend to some important matters I trust you will remain and enjoy the view”
Before Anne can curtsy, Henry and his favorites have already turned and departed. Anne can finally collect herself. She takes a deep breath.
He just wanted to take a walk, think nothing of it.
Somehow Anne cannot put it from her mind.
Surely he couldn’t want to possess both Boleyn girls…