26th of May, 1522.
Dover, England. 26th of May, 1522.
The man that greeted the English procession at the docks did not look like an Emperor. He was finely dressed, yes, but there was something to his form that didn't shine with pristine physical health and constitution. He had a narrow, elongated face dominated by an aquiline nose and a heavy, protruding lower jaw together with thick, fleshy lips. His hair, which had been a light shade of blonde in his childhood, was now a dark tone of brown, covering both his head and his chin in a thick beard. He looked more like a merchant, plucked out from amidst the masses, than a ruler, chosen by God to govern over almost half of Europe. It was perhaps his Dutch ancestry that made him look so, or perhaps his culture, which was almost too French to be desired.
It seemed thus that the only thing showcasing his true status was his garments. He wore a golden doublet, with a fur-lined jerkin over it despite the sweltering heat of the English summer. In his hands, there were many rings and jewelry, and he wore a bejeweled cross over his heart, showcasing his faithful loyalty to the One True Church. At his back, men bore his standard with more blazons than the nobles could understand. They recognized some, such as the double-headed black eagle of the Holy Roman Empire, the golden castle of Castile, and the striped red and yellow of Aragon, but others were as foreign to them as the man before. Although they will never treat him as they treat others who come to their shores with sigils of continental rulers.
The man that met the riders sent by King Henry VIII is none other than Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, first King of a united Spain and ruler of large tracts of land all over the world. The nobles, led by Cardinal Wolsey, know it is their duty to welcome the young man warmly, as Charles of Austria is the nephew of Her Majesty, the Queen. He had been betrothed since November to Her Highness, Princess Mary, the only surviving legitimate child of the King, meaning there was a very probable chance that either he or one of his children would come to rule over them all. As if that wouldn’t make the Austrians more arrogant than they already are.
Thomas Wolsey walked forth, lowering his head and making a semi-bow. “Your Imperial Majesty,” he said, in French, one of the Emperor’s native languages, “Welcome to England.”
Charles, who was described by all who met him as a serious and pious man, bowed his head, “Cardinal, what a blessing.” He looked behind him, to the rolling sea, and smiled, “It seemed the Lord has agreed with my coming here. I have never seen calmer waves.”
“Your Majesty, we are all most pleased with your arrival, and to know that it was a safe journey is an answer to my prayers,” said Wolsey, placing his hands before his body, “We are here to escort the Emperor to Dover Castle, where you will meet with the King tomorrow. His Majesty is most anxious to see his beloved nephew.”
Charles’ smile wavered, but he still walked forward, accepting the hand offered by Wolsey, “And I am anxious to see him. There is much to discuss, much to be agreed.”
“Yes, of course,” Wolsey answered, “But still. No politics today, Your Majesty. Not until the King arrives.”
“Of course,” responded Charles. He raised an eyebrow, quizzically, “Is there some ale at Dover Castle, Cardinal? I fear my throat has become parched after breathing in so much salt air.”
“Of course, Your Majesty,” said Wolsey, “There’s plenty of refreshments at Dover Castle, where you will be able to rest until the morrow when the King arrives.”
--Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting to Her Majesty, Queen Catherine, bends her head forward as her mistress and the other maids of honor pray for the health of Emperor Charles V. Anne barely whispers her words, too distracted by her beads and her fervent wishes that she doesn’t notice how her voice rises a tone higher than the others, becoming prominent in the small private chapel of the Queen.
Although the other maids of honor balk at Anne’s boldness, Catherine of Aragon is in fact delighted by it, as she hears Anne asks the Lord to safe keep her much-loved nephew in his arduous journey over the English Channel. In her mind, there is no more loyal lady to her than Mistress Boleyn, as she has become known. For Catherine, Anne is nothing like her older sister, the other Boleyn girl, who was once the mistress of King Henry VIII, her beloved husband.
But Catherine doesn’t know that Anne prays for Charles not out of love for her, but for Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands for Charles himself, who once took her in when she was so young. The nineteen-year-old still has fond memories of her life in Mechelen, in the Netherlands, where she was under the tutelage of Margaret and accompanied by the other daughters of European ambassadors. Anne thinks about Margaret of Habsburg as she prays, knowing that the woman loved her nephew like the son she never had.
And she too thinks about the blonde boy she saw a few times, clever and pious, who once called her “la petite Boulin”. She thinks about him too, though she will never tell that to anyone.