Prologue of Dear Heart, How Like You This?
Written at Allington, May, 1536.
My Anna was dark and lovely—full of life’s burning light. How strongly my love’s fire did blaze. Too strong, yea, too strong for this world. For her bright, burning light has forever been put out; aye, put out, and my life is eternally dark. Too dark tout de suite for me to ever see the end of my despair.
I knew my Anna and loved her from the beginning of my life. We grew up together as children, for we were also blood kin—being cousins—and lived our early lives as close neighbours. Then a day came when almost every moment of my childhood became a time to be shared with her. Gentle and sweet my Anna was in those early days, overflowing with laughter and the joy of living life.
I learnt to love her as I learnt to live, and loving Anna made her as much a part of me as the blood flowing in my veins. Anna grew to love me too. Not as much as I wanted her to love me. Not as I desired her to love me. But, for me, enough with to make do and take all my life’s joy.
Only once were we true lovers. If our merciful and gentle King Harry finally decides to allow me to live, then the memory of that one wet, summer’s day, those few short hours of bliss when my burning desires were at last led by her to a brief fulfilment will be all which remain of joy. No more. Nothing. All is so empty.
What is now my future but a stark, dark void in which to fall?
Oh, Anna! My burning light. My lovely girl. Dearest of hearts. My only beloved. To know that you lie dead. Oh, how dark has become my world! I cannot help but feel that the best of me is gone. It vanished instantly when your life was taken.
I curse the fates, cursing all the disappointments that caused you to first set your feet upon the road leading to such a terrible, bloody end. But most of all I curse the despot we call King. He so willingly and selfishly defiled your name and honour so to destroy all that was precious to me.
The King never knew you as I did. How could he? He never saw you as I did: growing up untouched by the world at Hever. So innocent. So in love with life. So believing in all life’s goodness.
From almost the beginning of our lives, you were always my good and constant playmate, even though more than three years separated our births. Aye—how I remember us: lying on our bellies in the meadows of your Kentish home, breathing in the sweet aurora of the wet spring grass, trying, with so much pure enjoyment, to outdo the other’s childish poetry. I think it was with you, my Anna, that I first became aware of the beauty one can create with words. I know it was with you, dearest of hearts, that I first became aware of all that love could mean: its joys that had you ascending near to Heaven, and its heartbreaks that left you sore and bleeding but, yet, painfully and utterly alive.
How could we have known then what life held in store for us? Never could we have imagined that the English Caesar would one day desire you. Indeed, desire you so much that he would cause the breakup of your first youthful love—when you gave your heart to Hal Percy—with the result that you, angry and torn apart, would plan to use the King’s lust as a way to gain revenge.
Oh, my lovely Anna! If only you could have known then the danger your scheme would lead you to. If only you had listened to me that dark day (when the cloudless sky served only to mock) so long ago, when we fought in the gardens!
I wish I could wake to find I have been dreaming all these desolate, hateful happenings. Even more, I wish I could wake and find that we could go back. Yea, go back to Hever and the green, rolling meadows of our childhoods, and begin our lives yet again. Oh, dear God—please, dear God—can we not begin our lives again? Aye, begin our lives again but this time, aye, this time fulfil the sunshine that once was?
Of all the thoughts which keep me company in this lonely room in my father’s castle, as much my dark dungeon as the cell in the Tower, the ones haunting me most are: If only your father had not seen fit to send you to France. If only he had seen his children as other than chattels to add to his worldly wealth. If only he could have seen that we two were soul mates and thus, in the best of loving wisdom, suited to be betrothed to one another.
If only! It would have saved both of us so much grief and agony. It would have saved you from dying on a scaffold. And I believe—yea I believe with all my heart—that you could have grown to love me as I have always loved you. Even now, when your earthly, headless body lies rotting in a disused box meant only for arrow shafts, do I profess my love; I will always love you until my last breath is drawn.
More unending tears roll down my cheeks. Grief imprisons my heart just as my love for you once did. How can my heart still thud in my chest when I am forced to live my life without you?
Yet you are such a part of me that I need but close my eyes to see you at almost every stage of your life. As a child you were a slight and tiny girl who loved to run and ride, but especially you loved to dance. Even when there was no music but what you alone could hear—music vibrating with every beat of your heart. I close my eyes and still see you, my Anna. A fairy child with long, loose ebony hair, wearing a heavy golden dress, spinning this way, spinning that way, always, always spinning. That is how I first became truly aware of you. One day I, a child of five, saw you, a child of two, with eyes shut tight and arms outstretched, dancing to your private and silent melody in a sun-drenched corridor. Full grown you were of middling height—so slight and graceful, with a swan-like neck, made even more bewitching and sensual by an upraised, brownish mole placed where one could feel the echo of your heartbeat. Hair so black it shone with vivid blue lights. Hair which, when loosened, flowed past your tiny waist. Bewitching brown eyes, beautiful eyes—drawing me into deep inside of you. Oh, Anna, how many, many times I thought I would drown into your eyes.
Aye—’tis true—many people said you had little true beauty, except for your eyes and wide, sensual mouth. (A mouth made for kisses. My kisses! Your mouth once so moist and soft, so hot and eager for my hungry lips.) Yea, so many people said that you had little of true beauty—rather there was something about your whole being that captivated. An aura surrounded you making you unforgettable; an aura that led you to such a dreadful death.
No, I am not blind nor am I deaf. I know living with fear on one side and the threat of death on the other made your temper fiendish at times. Indeed, many called you a shrew, therefore believed it was not surprising that the King became sick enough of you to seek any means he had to escape the savaging of your tongue.
Many also called you witch, taking as proof a slight deformity on your right hand, a hand that even so was beautiful. What use is it now, when you lie murdered, to say to them that they speak of what they know not.
You were no witch. Rather you had the gift of living deeply, touching people’s lives in one way or another. Most people never knew you; they only saw an exterior created by the King and his selfish lust. Inside you were still my lovely Anna; my Anna so terrified of the Pandora’s box she had opened.
As I sit here in my father’s home, not knowing for certain if I am to live or die, I slowly and painfully turn over the pages of my life. I find the only pages I desire to dwell upon at all are those emblazoned by your presence, Anna . . . my dark Lady. Even when you and I were separated, I carried the thought of you in my heart and took solace that my beloved walked on the same earth as I. And I . . . I cannot help wondering if the King decides I am to live, when he has brought death to so many others (so many others for no cause, yet ‘tis I alone he ought to have slain) how am I to live without you—without you, my Anna? Aye my life . . . a life where I will no longer hear your voice or laughter. A life that will no longer contain the joy of watching you dance so gaily to a song of your own creation. A life where my Anna no longer listens closely to my words, considering deeply what I say. Aye—you—Anna, my dear friend as well as my beloved. What has life now to offer me? These bloody days have broke my heart. By all the wounds of Jesus, I cannot yet think myself forward. Better that I go back to the time of our childhoods at Hever Castle. Hever Castle: more home to me than my father’s manor and heritage at Allington. Your Boleyn grandfather had it rebuilt as a statement of his improved status and wealth. Originally falling down with neglect and age, it had been lovingly converted into a fine home for his family and dependents. Surrounded by a moat and green, lush meadows, it was a perfect place for the children we once were. Aye—for the children we once were.