Dead, Divorced, Survived
by Rachel Byrne aged 13 years
The air was thick with the sound of something being torn apart: a wrenching, screeching, groaning sound that made the earth tremble. The smell of smoke was so strong it caught in my throat and pooled like acid on my tongue.
It was scary - terrifying - but exhilarating. After all our work, it was finally happening.
August 6th 1537
My eyes with which I beheld Henry with, I confess with no guilt, were bubbling with tears. Pitiful, the doctor perused my expression, not quite placidly. People thought of my husband as ruthless so, consequently, he expected no kindness from me.
‘He shall live,’ he announced as I shook off my tears.
‘He may not recognise you or his recognition may not be correct. However, your treatment shall help him.
As he shuffled to exit, he must have felt the burn of my sorrowful eyes and spun. His face was creased; the man was frightened of me, or perhaps the woman he thought I was.
‘I don’t give treatment, doctor. That’s your job. I give him love.’
September 15th 1537
Two o’clock. What an hour to give birth to a child! A boy, yes, I thank God, that it was a boy.
Loving Henry watched over the peaceful boy’s cradle smiling, as if he had sunk into a dream however when I caught his eye, he screamed.
‘You are dead, Jane!’
In a panic, he threw the ivory sheets over my head as if I were a corpse, clasped his hands together sunk to his knees and began to pray. Like an animal, he would yowl after every few words and would not retreat from sobbing. Forcefully, I threw the sheets back and sat up.
‘I am not dead!’ I cried.
‘Do not haunt me, Jane!’ he trembled, turning back and then returning to his desperate, dolorous prayers.
‘Oh, Father, forgive and take this creature back to her grave!’ Declaring this, he grabbed a knife and held it to his neck. ‘Return to the underworld!’
At that maniacal moment when we both had tears rolling steadily down our soaking cheeks and chins, the doctor burst in to check on me once again, as the midwives had exited. He looked from me to Henry, immediately frantic.
‘Henry believes me to be dead, doctor! How can he think it when I stand before him?’ I pulled, hanging onto my husband’s hand as if it was all I had left.
‘You must leave, Jane, forever!’ the doctor ordered, ‘The populace must stay ignorant of his condition and he shall kill himself if you are not gone!’
Jane Seymour was dead to Henry. She would have to create a new name, a new life: Anne Von Cleve, of Dusseldorf.
1st January 1540
The bull-baiting outside my Dover window was a spectacle that made me wonder at the peculiarity of men. A woman would never have thought me dead!
As I pondered on their odd behaviors, a shadowy, red-faced man rushed into the room. He approached the window and I thought he might charge through it, like a livid beast. But as the man came nearer, so did familiarity. That was the moment when he threw me against the wall and kissed me. The kiss tasted of home.
‘Henry?’ I whispered, pulling away from the man slightly.
From that moment on, he favoured me less until our marriage was annulled. Yet, I was adamant that he could be so happy with me. So, my next character would be Catherine Parr, however Henry’s next wife would be a Howard girl.
13th February 1543
Once again, I had conjured up a past; it was an easy task for a woman like me with no distinctivity. Of course, Catherine Howard had been accused of betrayal so Catherine Parr could slither back to her true love, if she so wished.
Pensively I wandered, contemplating, contemplating constantly. Soon after I thought many a convulsing thought, a horse galloped up to me and off stepped a lady, younger than I, who uttered in a french manner:
‘ You are Catherine Parr, no?’ she asked me, gently leaning against her grey pony.
‘Excellement. I am Marguerite, daughter of late Edward de la pole who attempted to win ze crown. You know Sir Seymour, no?’ she questioned inquisitively. Her assumptions were correct as I had stayed in close contact with my brother so he knew of my plan. It was possible that I could be tried for treason if Henry found out so we had agreed, if I could not marry Henry again, we would marry so that no suspicion would be held and even pretend to have a child, all whilst disappearing into the shadows.
‘He is your suitor, no?’
‘Perhaps,’ I replied, quite vexed by this young girl’s curiosity.
‘And he does not wish to get revenge on ze king?’ she asked, pursuing her line of questioning.
‘Why should he?’ I exclaimed, stepping forward in indignation.
‘About his sister and the king’s pursuit of marriage! He beheaded his wife zis morning.’ Marguerite laughed, as if I knew nothing of the English royal family.
‘We are attempting to assassinate ze king for he is of Lancastrian blood and…’
‘You shall not give us away?’ she exclaimed, shocked.
And with that, she smiled as if her shrunken heart would live forever.
As I approached Marguerite’s house in the small hours of the morning. It was for Henry; it was for love that I held gunpowder.
Then, suddenly the air was thick with the sound of something being torn apart: a wrenching, screeching, groaning sound that made the earth tremble. The smell of smoke was so strong it caught in my throat and pooled like acid on my tongue. It was scary - terrifying - but exhilarating. After all our work, it was finally happening. The three wives’ work.