Monday, 18 June 2012

Blood On The Rose


Dorothy Davies

Ruby Grapefruit Juice

You see me not.
            How could you see me? I am no more than the morning mist which rises from the dewed grass as the sun touches it at dawn. I am no more than the fleeting touch of a spring breeze as it passes by your face and you reach out to touch it only to find it gone. I am no more than a name in history even if that name does resonate with you in your lessons on monarchs of the past. No one knows the truth but those who lived then, those who walked, talked, cried, laughed and loved. Oh, how we loved!
            The sorrow of it is, the heartbreaking truth of it is, we loved the wrong people.
            I loved the wrong person.
            It is 469 years now since I laid my head on a block and had it severed from my body. 469 years I have had to regret my actions – but you will note, you who seek the fleeting breeze and the touch of mist at dawn – I said I have had the time to regret, not that I do.
            It was my Uncle Norfolk’s fault, he encouraged and coerced and in the end, blackmailed and blustered me into attracting His Majesty’s attention. It was not difficult, a saucy glance, a bounce of curls, a hurrying away with breasts moving and thighs pressing the silks I wore, skirts lifted enough to show slender ankles, knowing his eyes were firm fixed on me and he was mine for the taking.
            But I didn’t want to take him.
            Know this; then he was not a fine handsome king but an old man, to me anyway, carrying much weight and much illness. The sore on his leg smelled as if a doorway to hell had been left open after the bodies had been in the fire for a while; his smile was an array of teeth and no teeth where the apothecary had removed the bad ones and all in all, I have to say, what was left to be considered was the fact he was King Henry VIII, that I could be queen and have endless clothes, jewels and money.
            Was it enough? I pondered this long into the night, tossing and turning in my bed until my curls were tangled and my bed a snarled mess of coverlets and pillows punched out of shape. In the end, family avarice overcame my scruples. It will not be long, they told me, he will die and you will be rich. And so will we.

You hear me not.
            I speak but the words are no more than the rustling of the grass or the crunch of the gravel as you walk. I can speak and I do now speak of my love, my Thomas, my life, my soul, who I had to reject to marry His Majesty and how I could exchange one huge body and stinking ulcer for the slender strength, the cleanliness and the arms of Thomas Culpeper is beyond me even now, as I think on it.
            Know this, though, I did my duty as wife and Queen. Did I not let him fondle my young body before others at banquets and the like, did I not control my face when he released the wind from his bad digestion and filled the room with a smell almost as bad as his ulcer, did I not let him lean on me when he could not walk well because the leg was paining him so? I did all this and so much more. Can you begin to understand how it felt to ride this gross body, to feel his thrusting, to know I could become pregnant by a man I had fast learned to hate with a deadly burning hatred?
            And yet he was kindness itself. He thought of me, he treasured me; he called me his rose without thorns. I had clothes and jewellery finer than any I had ever possessed in my life. I had fine apartments and servants and my Lady Rochford as companion, I had horses and squires and all would bow down before me and grant my every wish. And that of my uncle, too, soon the family had the honours they so wished. And I cried myself to sleep every night in longing for my Thomas.

Why do you not sense me?
            I am the presence that haunts the grounds of Hampton Court, where I could find happiness for a while, where I could walk with those I loved and feel the touch of their fingers folded around mine, see their smiles which were radiant and their faces which were full of love.
            Warn me not of the Lady Rochford. How naive was I not to think she would seek revenge for the killing of the Boleyns, how swiftly did she introduce the thought I could bed with Thomas and not let His Majesty know a thing. So I did and I had nights of pleasure and days of anxiety, fearing not for myself but for those I loved so dearly. I am right glad, even now, that she followed me to the block, for did she not corrupt my life and my thoughts entirely? Did she not lead me astray? And did I not go willingly, fool that I am?
            Of course he found out. Of course the court is nothing but the biggest gossip place in England and soon enough my husband, the king, was presented with a record of my infidelities.
            He sent that sour faced Cranmer to tell me I was confined to my chamber; he told me too that my beloved secretary Francis Dereham and my lover, Thomas Culpeper, were at the Tower. I knew all was lost for they would have been tortured – my love, my life, my Thomas, in the hands of the torturers! Was ever love such a painful thing?
            They moved me from here to Syon Palace but a prison is a prison for all that.
            They tore my lover’s body apart, hanged him and held up his guts before his eyes and that day I knew true desolation. That day I knew I wanted to die, that there was no reason to live, that even if I could have persuaded my husband the King to let me live there would have been no life in me. So why even try?
            Do you sense me now, oh visitor who comes to idle away the hours in a stately home beyond your imagining? For then we knew how to live, with magnificence and with wealth, did we not?
            The time between my imprisonment and my execution was a thousand years – in my mind. They tell me now I went bravely to the block, but when love dies, when your only love dies, what is there left to live for?
            Now tell me, visitor who knows me not at this moment, how do I find my Thomas? His body was cut into four and taken to the four corners of London. His head was impaled on a pike. But where is Thomas himself? I can find him not, though I search Hampton Court endlessly, endlessly, looking for him.
            I bid you, if you can at all see hear or sense me, be compassionate with this lonely queen who only sought love in the arms of the man she loved beyond all reason, help me find my one love.
            I can, at times, create a single drop on the perfect roses in the gardens.
           
Tell him he will know where I am by the blood on the rose.

Dorothy Davies lives on the Isle of Wight, a small island off the south coast of England.  There she works as an editor, writer and medium, channelling books from the rich (and not so rich) and famous from all eras of history, ancient through modern.  Her novels are available from Amazon. She edits and features in Static Movement anthologies.
 Her latest book, I Bid You Welcome, is available from
Check out my writing website:
www.notes-from-a-smaller-island.com

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