Annie Boleyn’s New Year by Mrs. H.S. Lachman (1880?)
This short story appeared on page 5 of Princeton, Minnesota’s Princeton Union on December 30, 1880, as part of their New Year’s edition, which featured numerous short stories and poems. The story is noted as having originally appeared in the Cincinnati Daily Times, which according to the Library of Congress website, ran from 1861 to 1871. Presumably the story appeared there at some point, but I have not been able to confirm this — it’s also possible that the story appeared in another Cincinnati paper; such mixups in attribution were not unknown. About the author I can discover nothing except that she seems to have been active in the 1870s, and wrote a number of historically-themed short stories for the Ladies’ Repository, all with a strong moralistic bent. (You can read a few of them here). I would be surprised if this story wasn’t originally written and published sometime in the 1870s, but since I have no firm origin date and 1880 is the certain terminus ad quem for its existence, I’m giving it tentatively to that year.
The story itself isn’t terribly good, more of a jumble of invented and real incidents loosely linked together, but it’s notable for several features, among them the de-emphasizing of her religious opinions, her strong connection to Thomas Wyatt (who is beginning to edge Henry Percy aside as the primary lost love of Anne’s love), and the descriptions of her physical attributes. While earlier Annes are often described as being very beautiful or charming, precise details of colouring and features are much thinner on the ground — here, however, she’s clearly described as having raven-black hair, more than thirty years before Reginald Drew was giving her fair colouring and light brown hair in Anne Boleyn (1912). Lastly, her creation as Marchioness of Pembroke on New Year’s Day suggests that the author was thinking of the New Year Honours, which were a Victorian innovation, not a Henrician one. Wiki says the New Year Honours have existed since at least 1890; if this story is any indication, they were in the air at least ten years earlier.
In transcribing the story, I’ve corrected obvious typographical errors, but where the intended word is ambiguous I’ve left it intact with a parenthetical note. Punctuation is as it was in the original.
Happy Boxing Day!
ANNIE BOLEYN’S NEW YEAR
Mrs. H.S. Lachman
More than three hundred years ago – on a cold evening in the month of November, a young and beautiful lady sat cowering over the dying embers of a wood fire in an apartment of Hener [sic] Castle; the backing had half burned across and the ends fallen upright; the longer end occasionaly emitted a tiny blaze, a few flashes, then died away in shadow. The lady regarded it earnestly, superstitiously linking her fortunes with its fitful life. “If now,” she said, “it should blaze again I shall be Henry’s wife, if not – ah!” she exclaimed springing upright. “What means this portent?” A sudden blaze had flashed through the entire crumbling, blackened log, brilliant as evanescent, fading as suddenly, in a shower of sparks, it fell into ashes. Again she resumed her seat.
It was one year since Anne Boleyn in compliance with the commands of her father had returned to the court of King Henry VIII, taking a place amongst Queen Katharine’s dames of honor. Four years of absence in France, in service for Margaret, Duchess d’Alencon, had imparted a dignity to manners they had hitherto lacked; it may be sorrow had matured them, as her regrets for loss of Percy, (afterward Duke of Northumberland,) had never ceased; he was the only man she ever loved and whom doubtless she would have wedded, but for the interference of Wolsey, creating against him a bitter grudge, that still remained unquenched, although dissimulation effectually veiled resentment towards her enamored sovereign, who had also contributed to break off the match. Anger appeared to have died out, if it were possible to judge by the manner in which she received his attentions.
During all this time the question of Henry’s divorce was pending, yet only spoken of as the “King’s secret matter.” Anne had been much disturbed in mind, although having little doubt of the ultimate result. Still her anomalous position at court was painful. She had not yet become indifferent to looks and innuendos. Many noble ladies held aloof, believing her to be the king’s mistress, while malice whispered of a child born privately; also many of the prominent leaders of the Protestant church publicly denounced her actions.
Yet withal Anne still retained her love of coquetry and admiration. Though apparently well pleased with the attention of her royal admirer, whose constant companion she now was, regardless of the scandal created, it was equally observed that ambition was the main spring of her nature, and that nothing less than the crown matrimonial would satisfy.
She had long sought, by every wile and blandishment, as well as the political influence acquired since recognized as the king’s favorite, to wickedly obtain the expulsion of her royal mistress from Windsor.
All her vivacity, however, failed to conceal a mind ill at ease. Care and anxiety ruled many hours. To escape from them, upon the day preceding that upon which our history commences, despite the importunities of the king to the contrary, Anne Boleyn departed from the court, seeking refuge in her childhood’s home.
The quiet and repose that reigned at Hener castle were at first particularly grateful, forming agreeable contrast with the slights and annoyances freely leveled at this unfortunate woman, who, in the progress of her perilous flirtation, had already taken many steps toward the scaffold and the grim headman.
She had, moreover, too long drank the intoxicating draughts of flattery; too long dwelt amid the dissipations of a court, to very long enjoy solitude. Upon the evening we speak of, the day had faded early in the incessant drizzle that had been falling since the morning; ennui had taken possession of the lady, whose thoughts were as gloomy as the weather. She rose from the richly-carved chair, in which she had been seated for the last hour, with no other employment than listlessly poking aside with the toe of her tiny slipper the reeds with which the floor had been freshly strewn in honor of her arrival, and rang for lights.
The attendant who answered the summons bore in one hand a massive silver candlestick, containing a tall, waxen taper, lighted; in the other hand he held a silver tray, upon which lay (she discerned at a glance) one of Henry’s curious specimens of a love letter. Without attempting to lift it, she bade the man deposit both upon the table beside her, a curiously beautiful one, inlaid with various woods, in elaborate designs, and feet carved in imitation of griffin’s claws. For ten minutes longer she continued her occupation of pushing the rushes aside and her interrupted train of thought, for she murmured: “I wonder if Wyatt will keep his word and come on the morrow – this dullness is unendurable, and here further to disturb, come letters from my Lord the King. I hoped to have been freed from the court service as well as its ceremonials when I came here, instead I must reply to letters I hold dull and uninteresting.” A moment later the letter was reached for and the seal, bearing the crown, broken: “Lonely already,” he writes: “the hours in their tedium seem weeks;” (certainly then, I must be missed; will visit me before the holidays;) “sweetheart, I cannot live without thy presence: (hum, hum), Christmas festival to be celebrated at Greenwich, and I to be prima donna of ball and tourney; alluring. Yet, somehow, there are times when I am disenchanted, when the fair future loses its charm; shadows appear to encompass me, and a weight drags on my spirits, when, as now, I long to cast aside etiquette and hold communion with friends, guided and governed only by the heart’s instincts and intuitions. They tell me that I am too fond of admiration. The king has several times upbraided me for coquetry. I have trembled at the expression of his anger; though the prospect of becoming queen consort is alluring, and a crown will well become these glossy raven braids, yet there are seasons like the present, when as if prophetically, my spirit shrinks from the honor; and the diamond circlet, only to be attained through a union with Henry, loses all value.
“How much happier would be my life but for the shadow cast upon it by the interference of my Lord Cardinal. Fate appears determined to crush me. I am sure Wyatt loves me, and were his hand not pledged to another, I might wed with him, and thus be saved from these other hateful nuptials. Why do these thoughts come to me to-night? I came here sorely depressed in mind; my father’s congratulations on my brightening prospects did not tend to dissipate my sadness. I will to bed, hoping sunshine may return with the morrow, and impart peace and security.”
Again the bell was rung, this time answered by the lady’s maid, who, in compliance with her mistress’ commands, preceded her, bearing the lighted candle up the lofty staircase to the chamber Annie usually occupied when at the castle. Here an hour was consumed in disorbing[?sic] and brushing the beautiful hair which, in its abundance, was the crowning glory of the proud beauty. All the details of the toilet being accomplished the lady was comfortably tucked into bed, between silken quilts, and left to solitude and sleep.
The morning dawned clear and bright, the sun’s rays streamed through the latticed casements, gilding the ornaments scattered around the apartment, as, in careless haste they had been thrown upon the dressing-stand or table, upon the previous night. A charming smile lit up the lady’s face, as the maid, who had just entered, remarked upon the beauty of the day. There was rather more time required for the morning’s toilette than for the night’s. Especial care, Marie was required to bestow upon arrangement of the hair, and a studied selection in the color of the robe, for Wyatt was expected to-day and the Lady Annie desired to look her best. When all the tiring was completed and a last look into the oval steel mirror assured her that her charms were irresistible, she slowly descended the stairs to the breakfast room, which was the last of a suite on the right side of the hall, its windows opening upon a lawn, that was still green, and upon this morn sparkled in the bright sunrays as if every blade and tiny spear of grass was set with diamonds; the rain drops left from the storm glittering like brilliants.
The meal was spread for only one, Sir Thomas Boleyn having eaten an hour earlier. The lady took a seat at her well supplied board, and as neither love nor care interfered with her appetite, breakfasted heartily upon the viands spread for her reflection [?refection], not neglecting even the draught of ale, drank by all classes at meals in those days. The repast ended, the lady summoned her maids, and all repaired to a room set apart for the making of garments, in embroidery, and other feminine uses. Each of the maidens had a task appointed for the day. Annie drew before her an embroidery frame, and from a basket of silks selected the different shades required to fill in certain portions of tapestry. Ere this employment had continued very long, her quick ear caught the sound of trampling hoofs on the gravelled road leading to the principal entrance; and for a moment her heart beat in unison, nor was she able to steady her hand (experienced actress as she was), before a cavalier entered the opening door, as the servant announced “Sir Thomas Wyatt.” A few heads were raised that a moment before had been bending over their work and curious eyes cast shy glances at the distinguished gentleman, whom their mistress welcomed so warmly. In no wise cured of coquetry, she was soon in deep flirtation with her visitor, totally forgetting or choosing to ignore all other engagements.
They laughed, they jested. Wyatt whispered love, Annie as tenderly responding; her French education had made her think the fault (if it was one) of receiving attentions from married men a venial one, so thoughtlessly and recklessly rushed on her fate, encouraging her admirer till Wyatt, intoxicated with her beauty, as he hung over her chair, his breath fanning her cheek suddenly twitched from her pocket a jewelled tablet, the silver chain which should have secured it hanging carelessly outside; hastily pressing his lips upon this, he quickly thrust it into his bosom, declaring in a whisper “he would never part with it.” This assurance did not satisfy the lady. This incident appearing to have reason and reflection; vainly she besought Wyatt to restore the trinket, assuring him it would bring her to sorrow; all entreaties and protestations were, however, disregarded, and she was obliged to be content with the position in which her own folly had placed her. The king finding Anne Boleyn resolute in her denial to return to court, and believing himself unable to live without her, wrote, announcing an intended visit; but even this announcement did not at once bring Anne to a sense of the threatened danger. The close attentions paid her by Wyatt during the past fortnight had created between them a close sympathy. Similarity of tastes was a strong and attractive bond which she felt unwilling to sever, even for a prospective crown. But when the king had really arrived, ambition once more roused, and resumed its sway. To see him at her feet, lavishing upon her costly gifts; to know her influence more potent with this might Prince than that of any other in England, could not otherwise than elate her pride, and animate every evil quality of her nature into forming a resolution to become the queen, and never again falter in this purpose, till her feet were on the steps of the throne. Alas! Could she have seen the spectre that stood behind it; but her folly and wicked passions rendered her blind.
The king now made frequent visits to Hener Castle, riding over from Eltham and Greenwich. Wyatt still hovered near, but in the king’s presence, much to his chagrin, she showed him no favor. There were few present to remark upon her conduct, or charge her with feminine indelicacy, so boldly she accepted the king’s attentions and often half caresses, raising him to a transport of exultation; in one of those hours of dalliance, during which they walked (contrary to all caution or propriety) in one of the covered alleys of the garden by moonlight – Henry throwing back the falling lace that habitually (according to a fashion of her own, covered her hand) – seized the fair waxen fingers, and wildly pressed them to lips, exclaimed, “sweetheart, how ardently I long for the hour when this precious hand will be legally mine own.”
“That hour, my liege, will make me the happiest of human beings,” responded the lady.
“Till then, dear one,” continued he, “give me this as a souvenir of this hour, hope for the future.”
As he spoke slowly he drew from off her finger a ring of rare beauty and curious workmanship. She nothing loth consenting, the next moment the ring was flashing from the king’s little finger. Assured by these flattering attentions and love speeches of her power over the sovereign, all things were fairly for the furtherance of her plans, to share the throne of England’s monarch, so soon as the royal Katherine could be dispossessed. Each visit she exerted more her wit and fascinations, till he could hardly wait for the sentence that would declare his former marriage invalid, to make Anne his wife.
This was the position of things when Christmas dawned. Its festival, as Henry had promised, was this year celebrated at Greenwich with the utmost splendor and magnificence. Anne Boleyn was the prima donna – opening the grand ball with the king, in her costly attire, looking well the rank she aspired; there were tourneys of which she was the queen, the king breaking a lance in her honor, decorated with her colors, by the lady’s own fair hand; banquets where were assembled the highest nobles in the land, where Anne’s wit and beauty shone pre-eminent. All went well. The king was happy – the fair Boleyn his by treaty of marriage; soon as the divorce from Katharine was obtained, to be publicly proclaimed his wife and queen; meanwhile he desired to show Wyatt that his triumph over him was complete. He had returned to Windsor. Wyatt also was there, and in a part of the grounds a party was made up for a game of bowls. It consisted of Henry VIII, Wyatt, the duke of Suffolk, and Sir Francis Bryan. Henry was in high good humor, playing with the zest of a school-boy. Wyatt was his competitor, and in the exuberance of his spirits the king declared his cast of the bowl was beyond Wyatt’s; this he denied, whilst Henry continued to claim it still good humoredly. Both Wyatt and his partner declared, “By his leave, it was not so.” The king really caring little about the mooted point, but caring much to display the ring he wore, (Anne Boleyn’s gift,) continued pointing with the finger which wore the ring, smiling significantly, and then to make it more observed, crying, “Wyatt, I tell the[e] it is mine.”
The young nobleman understood well his meaning, recognizing at once the ring, having frequently seen it on the lady’s finger, and jealous and irritated at this mark of preference, evidencing clearly the double game she played, paused a moment to rally his spirits, then with a bow, drew the tablet from his bosom. The king equally remembered the trinket, having often noticed its beauty when worn by Anne. Wyatt stooped as he cast a wicked look at Henry, and said: “And it may like your majesty to give me leave to measure the cast with this, I have good hopes yet it will be mine.” He then proceeded to measure off the space between the bowls with the silver chain of the tablet, and boldly pronounced the chain his. “It may be so,” replied the monarch haughtily, as he spurned with his foot the disputed bowl. “But then I am deceived;” and with a terrific frown of anger that carried dismay into the hearts of those present, broke up the sport. Wyatt understood the meaning veiled by this language, but to others present it seemed merely an ordinary dispute.
Henry VIII, however, fully resolved it should not so end; he would have an explanation with Anne; she must confess the meaning of her double dealing; declare who was the favorite. In pursuance with this determination, a pre-emptory message was dispatched to Hener Castle for Anne’s immediate return to court. She dared not disobey, and so the 30th of December, 1535, found her established in her beautiful apartments at Windsor, where the same evening the king visited her to question and upbraid. It is related the scene between the so termed lovers was violent and exciting. Henry giving full vent to his fierce wrath, and reproaching the fickle woman with inconstancy and falsehood, nor hesitating in threats of vengeance. “My heart,” said he, “I surrendered into your hands; do you hold it as a mere toy, delighting in squeezing to augment the pain your absence caused, which would have been intolerable, but for the confidence I had in your indissoluble affection towards me. I sent for you to remind you of these things, whilst asking if you have forgotten policy, as well as gratitude you owe me.”
“But my liege,” interrupted Annie.
“Not a word false woman, till I am through. By what right doth that fellow, Wyatt, wear boastingly your jewelled tablet?”
“My loving lord,” cried Annie, dropping on one knee, “permit me to explain.”
“No, no,” exclaimed the exasperated monarch, “I saw your gift drawn from his bosom,” and swearing a great oath, continued, “I will crush the wretch to death, and you also, false minion.”
“Hold, hold, my liege, believe me, I am not guilty. Wyatt stole the tablet, nor would restore it despite all my entreaties. He had no right to expose it, besides doth not my lord remember my gift to him, now still, as I perceive, upon his finger? Oh, forgive me, Henry, for that I am guiltless of. You may charge me with frivolity, imprudence, but never guilt; not once hath my heart swerved from its allegiance to you, sire.”
Thus she pleaded; yet hours passed before Henry’s anger could be appeased, before he was willing (great as was his infatuation) to believe in her innocence, truth and fidelity to himself; even then his resentment against the rash young nobleman continued, and while he clasped Anne Boleyn, forgivingly, to his breast, oaths, strong and dire, fell from his lips of future punishment to Wyatt.
Now that his sweetheart was fully restored to favor, the king was unwilling to part with her, but spent hours in her apartments, in repeating assurances of affection and uttering regal promises. Edmund Fox, the king’s almoner, having returned that night to England, from his conference with Pope Clement, and having in his possession the pontiff’s declaration (wrung from him), that Henry VIII’s marriage with his brother’s widow was prohibited by Scripture, was desirous of seeing the king and communicating the progress made. When this was made known, even then he was unwilling to leave his charmer; so Fox was directed to come to Anne Boleyn’s apartment. The following day was New Year’s Eve, and from an early hour the king was busied in the selection of gifts to bestow upon his favorite. So wore on the hours, until darkness enshrouded the light and Anne slept, to dream of the brilliant future before her.
Then the new year was ushered in with ringing of bells; every face in the palace wore smiles. The monarch’s restoration to good humor was a talisman in its influence; all, down to the lowest officer in the king’s kitchen, were well pleased. Anne Boleyn had just risen, and notwithstanding the general gayety, the sounds of which reached even her apartments, a gloom rested upon her spirit; she had so recently experienced the terrors of Henry VIII’s anger, the expression was so vivid soon to fade, although upon the previous day he had been all that a lover could be, parting from her with devoted tenderness; yet a mysterious circumstance had occurred that night, influencing even her dreams and casting a sombre shadow over her waking hours.
Her principal attendant, Ann Saville, had just entered the room in answer to the summons of the bell; Anne Boleyn, propped by pillows, resting on one arm, called, “Come hither, Nan, see, here is a book of prophecies; I found it on my dressing table last night; you had thrown over it the scarf I wore; see, here is the king and this is the queen, wringing her hands and mourning, and this is myself, with my head cut off. What do you think of the picture?”
“If I thought it true, I would not, myself, have him, were he an emperor.”
“Tut, Nan! I think the book a bauble, and I am resolved to have him, that my issue may be royal whatever may become of me. So, prithee, dress me quickly, that the gloomy pictures be dissipated; for to-day, new honors are promised, and I would forget all that is disagreeable.”
(The book, that by some unknown agency had been placed in Anne’s apartment, was a sort of oracular, hieroglyphic almanac upon its pages “appeared certain figures marked with the letters H and A and K,” meaning the king and queen and Ann Boleyn –- predicting her destruction if she wedded the king.”[)]
With the first stroke of noon, Anne received the gratulations of Henry VIII, on the fair New Year. Pride and tenderness were mingled in his countenance, as forgetting royal estate, he gallantly bowed a knee before her – the lady of his love – presenting a costly set of cameos and some miniatures by Holbein, magnificently set in jewels, as ornaments for her person; then rising to receive the exultant caress in return (for her superstitious fears were all flown,) he drew her attention to the entrance of several attendants, bearing “costly gifts of gold, silver and parcel-gilt plate, consisting of cups, flagons, bowls, trenchers, goblets with covers, spoons, salts, chandeliers, and chafing dish, all bearing the royal arms emblazoned thereon on shields; the strongest proof the royal lover could give of his ultimate intentions, as soon as divorce left him free to carry them through. He related that to convince the world how precious she was to him, how beloved, he had signified his desire to have introduced in all the royal architecture then under progress, their initial ciphers entwined with a true lover’s knot. (“This can still be seen in Cambridge, as also the arms of England impaled with those of Boleyn.”) These donations made, Henry further informed her that the day, almost that hour, he meant to invest her with the royal of title of Marchioness of Pembroke, thus more entirely identifying her with his own family; that immediate he would precede her to the State apartment, or presence chamber, and all preparations having already been made for this unexpected and gracious recognizance of his affection, she, with the ladies, waiting for the ceremonial, would follow. For a moment, gratified ambition so completely overpowered the lady, she could only look her thanks. Ere she could speak them, the king was gone.
An hour later, “attired in an inner garment, called a surcoat, of crimson velvet, lined with ermine, the short sleeves displaying her exquisitely rounded arms, her hair hanging loose about her shoulders,” she entered the royal presence attended by a great train of courtiers and nobility; both lords and ladies garter, king-at-arms, bore the king’s patent of nobility, then came the Lady Mary, daughter of the duke of Northumberland, cousin german to Anne Boleyn, carrying on her left arm, a robe of state of crimson velvet, furred with ermine and in her right hand a coronet of gold. Elizabeth, countess of Rutland and Dorothy, countess of Sussex, walked on either side of the recipient of the royal favor, who, when she approached the royal seat whereon sat the king, thrice made obeisance, and when arrived, knelt. The charter was then presented to the king. He delivered it to his secretary, by whom it was read aloud. When he came to the words “mantilla inductionem,” the king took the robe of state from the Lady Mary and put it on Anne Boleyn’s shoulders. At the words “circuli aurei,” he reached for the coronet held by Lady Mary, and tenderly placed it on the brow of the new made marchioness. He then presented to her the charter, with another, securing to her a pension during life of £1,000, to maintain the dignity.
Gracefully Anne murmured thanks as with the flashing coronet on her head, and the gorgeous robe of state trailing behind her, to the sound of trumpets, she retired from the presence chamber.
All readers of history are familiar with the sad finale of this unfortunate lady, who through vanity periled her soul and lost her life. Could she, at the close of that eventful New Year’s day, have pierced the shadows of the future, and see the scaffold and the headsman to which Henry’s fickle fancy doomed this afterward helpless queen, with what horror would she have shrank from the honors heaped upon her, preferring to remain a private gentlewoman and to die quietly in her bed. – Cincinnati Daily Times.