It truly is a sombre day when blood is spilt by blood. Much more so, I suppose, as that blood is my own.
For months I have sat waiting, only moving when being transported from Castle to Castle, or dare I say prison to prison. The high walls of the cells that have become my home do nothing to make me feel protected from the lurking predators outside, nor do the vaulted iron doors. These places make me feel suffocated, I long to wander the woods and paddle my feet in shallow cerulean waters. To find you are a prisoner in a place you came for sanctuary rips all hope you once had from your being. Nevertheless I entertain myself with nothing other than prayers to the good Lord, though I can see now that have not been heard.
As I nonsensically pace around my inky and tenebrous cell I can see my rosary beads laying on my bed, waiting to be used during my last confession. A pitch-black dress rests next to them, foreshadowing my inescapable future.
I have been accused of treason and sentenced to an ugly death because of false evidence implicating me in a murderous plot to assassinate Elizabeth, Queen of England, my cousin. A chill shivers up my spine as I hear the words of the sentence play time and time again in my head. “Treason!” My mouth dries and I’m taken back to the day I was sentenced to certain death. Elizabeth sat on her oversized gold throne, the fur of a skinned lion draped lifelessly over the arm. She was a ruthless woman, but I had once called her a friend, family. This situation was bound to happen eventually, fated from day one that when the time came, one of us would have to kill the other. I am glad it does not have to be me. I never did think, however, that I would die the death of a traitor.
Although I am experiencing a plethora of contradicting emotions regarding my future, ones that make my head spin with confusion and hands shake with nerves, I do admire Elizabeth. Despite the blood on her hands, she has proven herself to be a strong and noble character – for as I married three times for the sake of my beloved Scotland’s safety, my cousin has spent her life as an independent ruler who needs not a man to help her rule her nation.
I once thought Elizabeth and I were bound both by blood and womanhood in a man’s world. I have always expressed to her my disdain towards our situation, I have always been transparent with her about never considering taking her throne. I have never truly considered, but a more callous and youthful version of myself may have. As I await afterlife, I wonder if I had not let death make me so feeble, would I have been the one to order Elizabeth’s execution? This thought alone sends an uneasy feeling through me, it is just not in my nature anymore to be so cut-throat.
My mind wanders to a distant memory.
My young, round face glows with rage. It had been three months since I had returned to French court and my marriage to the Dauphin had not yet taken place. The large, regal desk King Henry sat at, with breathtaking gold accents and a mountain of letters waiting to be read, an intricately designed magnifying glass perched atop them, made me – a Queen in my own right and equal to the man – feel small and insecure. His gaze levelled with my own, eyes cold and calculating, burning into my soul as I stood before him demanding a date to be set for my wedding, one that will align me with his son and Country.
I angrily pushed a hand through my dishevelled auburn hair, if the English learnt of my fragile engagement to Francis they would not hesitate to attack my dear Scotland. I could not take that risk.
The King’s eyes softened. Gone was his angry demeanour. Now I could see the man who had taught me almost everything I knew about ruling, my only Father figure. He knew the lengths in which I would go, he would go, to protect our nations. It was excruciating torture to sit and wait “for the right time”.
“Mary” his voice was clouded with a natural fatherly tone, “you and I both know that now is simply not the right time for France to solidify an alliance with your Country.”
Of course I knew he was right, but I would not listen to his reasoning. My blood boiled. I was passionate, loud and not afraid to speak my mind. “You won’t have a Country to align France with if we do not act now!” my voice had risen considerably with anger, I let my posture straighten and expression become icy.
We were at an impasse.
I realise now that I am in a similar predicament. It finally struck me, the feeling in my stomach that was unshakeable and so familiar. It was the waiting and knowing that waiting would come to no avail. I do not have enough fight left in me to campaign for my release and my countrymen are too preoccupied with their own civil war.
I cannot outrun my destiny.
Again I realise something, death has always been lurking just around the corner, and it is inevitable.
Francis, my Father, Mother, second and third husbands, and now myself.
Death has made me tired, soft-spoken and lonely. I am a mere shell of who I once was.
My green eyes move to the door opening to my left. An English guard stands at the entrance. His muscular form hunches slightly as he opens his lips to deliver word.
“Tomorrow morning, just after sunrise”
A peculiar sense of both hurt and relief flood me. When said morning arrives the hurt is gone and all that is left is the relief.
A small part of me wishes I could still be the woman who would fight, kicking and screaming as the guards drag me up to the execution post. But I do not. I calmly let them guide me, slowly lowering myself to my knees and await my kiss of death.
Images of my lost loved ones filter through my mind. Francis smiles at me, his blonde hair glistening in the brightly lit Notre Dame cathedral. Despite his constant ill-health, I recall writing to my Mother that on my wedding day I considered myself ‘one of the happiest women in the world’. Since the day he was taken from me I have wished nothing more than to be with him again.
As the executioner readies himself, I catch a glimpse of my harrowed reflection in the blade, yet there is a tranquil gleam in my eyes. I am startled by my own expression and a realisation sweeps over me; almost as forcefully as the blade that is about to fall.
My last wish, will be the first one granted.
A sweet release, an ending to a tragic story.
The blade rips down at a fleeting speed. An agonising pain fills me, but it is a reminder that I am almost there. I can feel Francis trying to grasp my hand, begging me to join him in Heaven. My eyes, wide with shock, snap to the English nobles gathered in front of me.
“Sweet Jesus” I whisper, and then the blade makes its final blow, sending me into an eternal bliss.