By The Sword

She stood in the straw of the scaffold, her magnificent sable hair dressed high to lay bare the slender neck. The crowd, surprisingly hushed, appeared almost reverent. It was eerily reminiscent of the previous day when her blameless brother, together with the innocent gallants condemned along with him, had faced ignoble deaths with a noble dignity.

At the twelfth hour, she had almost recanted...but the thought of her infant daughter had buoyed her spirits, lending iron to her will and steel to her backbone. There could be no doubt that she would now prevail, strong and stalwart, to the end. Elizabeth's future would be secured with blood.

Her dark eyes, bold beneath the silken lashes, looked with seductive approval upon the handsome, muscular young man before her, who bowed his head and begged her pardon.

"Regard well while you are still able," she reminded herself. "Soon, you will be sightless and dismally immune to all such earthly pleasures."

The gaze he returned was no less provocative and admiring. Even now, only minutes from meeting her maker, she found it difficult to resist the temptation of a last minute dalliance. Such had always been her nature, but the adulterous accusations of which she stood charged, and for which she would pay the ultimate price, had been without substance.

The trial itself had been little more than a farce. She knew in her heart, and was convinced in her bones, that posterity and the unquenchable annals of history would remember this event for the mockery that it was...notable only as a gross travesty of justice.

There was comfort in the knowledge that she remained youthful and attractive enough to turn the head of any man, be he young or old or somewhere betwixt the two...maintaining still the power to inspire a rising passion which caused the blood to surge, with a vital throb, within his veins. If it were necessary to die, then it was good to die thus...and she was unafraid.

Never considered a beauty, even her own mirror revealed that much, she was nonetheless possessed of an unfathomable air of mystery...a darkly exotic orchid among the fair roses in the sunken gardens of royal England. The simple black gown with its low, square-cut bodice, bestowed a rich, ivory bloom to the skin that many, in spiteful envy and hateful resentment, had often declared to be sallow as a wax taper. Few before her could claim to have been an enigma such as even smaller number would follow.

With the blindfold firmly in place, she knelt and gripped the sides of the rough wooden block with both hands, positioning her small, pointed chin into the crescent groove, worn smooth by centuries of both treason and martyrdom. There was a vague rustle from the straw as she threw her arms wide.

The French King had showered her with many favors during the course of their acquaintance. This would be his final one. A majestic death befitting her stately position as queen, rather than an uncivilized execution meted out by the barbaric English axe.

The keen blade of the expert Parisian swordsman skillfully met its mark with a stroke that was flawless, accurate and blessedly swift. Anne's lips were still moving as her guiltless blood spewed from the stump of her once elegant neck and her severed head rolled into the waiting basket.

"Merci, Francois," she murmured with her last breath.

The muffled boom of the cannons skipped somberly across the murky surface of the Thames to a hill on Hampstead Heath where, his bejeweled and giant form astride a grey stallion, the monarch of the land impatiently awaited the signal. He brandished his plumed cap of white velvet with a flourish, declaring himself a free man and overjoyed to be rid, at long last, of the damnable wench who had held him captive with her witchery.

Then, with a tug of the splendid, red Spanish leather reins, he eagerly spurred his mount to the north...onward to the home of Mistress Seymour and a fine Tudor son for England.

Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour

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