12 February 1554
Tower of London
I could feel them coming for me. They have already taken my husband, Guilford Dudley away. I saw them taking his body away. I imagined that I could hear the sound of the axe slicing through flesh, crunching through bone and eventually thumping on the wood of the executioner's block. Execution is nothing new to me. God knows that I've seen enough executions throughout my life at court.
Oh God, did it have to come to this?
In a way I am grateful for my imminent death, now soon. I just did not expect to die this way... How didI expect to die? Perhaps I had expected to die from childbirth. My death would not be of any loss to my family, especially if my child was a boy. A boy was always more valuable than a girl, I have come to understand early in life.
But Mother had always paid my sisters more attention than she did me. In my heart I know that she loved me in her own way. When I was a child, she wanted me to be her perfect child so that she could love me. But I could not... I could not become someone God did not create me to be.
I am me.
I think of my husband again. I wonder how he died. Was he composed, or did he suddenly weep and plead for his life as they lead him to the scaffold. Oh God, I don't want to think of him that way. I can't bear to think of any one, especially not a grown man, that way. It's not that I especially treasured him. But can I help that I was not ready for such a union when they made me marry him? Can I help that God made him so unfortunate as to be born into that Dudley lot? Can I help that God gave him that snake Northumberland as a father? They are a group of traitors that I came to fear very early in life.
It was my father-in-law, Northumberland, who made me queen against my better judgment. It was he who pushed me into this position unwillingly. Perhaps he had hoped that I would make his son, my husband, king. But I refused him that pleasure. He was furious, of course, but I don't care. God forbid that any member of a family like the Dudleys ascend the throne.
If I had the choice - if!- I would go away by myself to a place where I can serve God, not man. My life has been serving my family's and my husband's family's wishes and ambitions. And, Lord! look where it has come to.
The people of England did not support me as their queen. Perhaps they still have loyalty to the line of the Tudors. I, too, have Tudor blood running through my veins. Perhaps it was because of Northumberland that they refused to accept me. Perhaps they thought that I would be a puppet with Northumberland directing my every command from behind the throne. Any way, they declared my cousin Mary as rightful Queen of England. Even Parliament, which had been behind us - perhaps for fear -, revoked my proclamation as having been coerced.
She had Guilford and I imprisoned. Mary put us in the Gentleman Gaoler's apartments for high treason. At first, we were spared, although Northumberland was executed. I can not say that I was not relieved when they brought me news of his death.
Perhaps I can't blame the Dudleys for my death sentence. It was Sir Thomas Wyatt that had rebelled. They had called for my restoration as Queen. I was quite flattered. Wouldn't any one? But the rebellion failed, and that Spaniard Philip and his councillors convinced Mary to call for my death sentence so that no other supporters could rally an army to my cause.
She gave them her consent, and I was sentenced to death.
They sent a Catholic chaplain in a last attempt to convert me over to the "true" faith. His name was John de Feckenham. He spoke graciously and kindly to me. Each time he asked me Are you willing to renounce your former beliefs and embrace the one true Catholic church, I would answer in a cold, firm voice: We all serve the same God, Master de Feckenham, Catholic or Protestant. Can I help that God has lead me to the Protestant faith? And each time, he would give me a sympathetic smile and pat me gently on the hand.
For a while, I thought that he would pity me enough to speak to Queen Mary to pardon me. But that pardon never came, and I learned to accept my fate.
Perhaps it is better that way. I don't think I would like to live through life knowing that I owe something to someone. I do not like being pitied.
Queen Mary is kind, though, God bless her. I am to die on the Tower Green, inside the Tower of London. It's to be a private execution. Private executions only apply to royalty. Although I am glad I am not going to die a humiliating death before hundreds - thousands! - of people, I can't help but think how ironic the situation is. A death fit for a royal bestowed upon a woman who has never been proud of her royal blood.
All right, then. If they have given me a royal's death, I shall meet it like a royal. I will not cry and weep for fear of death. Why should I? My only crime is being married to an ambitious man with an ambitious family and an even more ambitious father. If I thought very hard about it, that is not a crime. Did God not tell us to submit to your husbands?
Behind me, someone knocked on the door. I turned around, smoothed my gown and made sure that I looked presentable. It was a young soldier. He had blue eyes, I noticed.
It's time, he says.
I lift my chin. I'm ready.
I feel a tremor of fear pass through me as I walk across the green towards the scaffold. In the early hours of the morning, I had heard them knocking the scaffold. Each pound brought the hour of my death closer and closer.
There is a small crowd already gathered there. On the scaffold I notice that my attendents already stationed there. Next to them, Master de Feckenham stands looking solemn and a little sad. The hooded executioner stood next to him. The silver blade of the axe gleams in the pale late winter sun, and I felt another tremor of fear pass through me. I pulled my shoulders back a little further and I tried not to think. When I do not think, I do not feel.
I ascended the scaffold.
You may say your last words, Lady Jane, Master de Feckenham says.
My bottom jaw trembled. I have to clench my teeth to stop the trembling. What shall I say? It will be the last things I ever say on this earth that any one will remember, if they do remember me at all. Oh God, inspire me. I closed my eyes. Then I feel my muscles relax.
Opening my eyes, I swallow. Then, I speak:
Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am codemned to the same. The fact, indeed, against the queen's highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day.
I close my eyes again. A slight murmur goes through the crowd as they wonder if I am finished.
I start to recite my favourite Psalm, almost like a prayer:
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart...
My voice fades. Some people whisper Amen, some cross themselves.
My attendents hand me a blindfold. I hold it tightly in my hands and find it rather amusing, suddenly, that the last thing I will see in this world is a white piece of cloth over my eyes.
As is the custom, the executioner asked for my forgiveness. I looked in his eyes and said with all sincerity I can muster:
A brief silence. No one is speaking. It is as if the world has stopped.
I hold up my blindfold and say in a trembling voice, Will you take it off before I lay me down? I may face my death without tears, but I am not so brave as to see the rise and fall of the executioner's axe.
No, madam, he says not unkindly.
Before I blindfold myself, I make sure I know where the block us. Then, keeping my eyes open, I blindfold to my eyes and secure it with a tight knot at the back of my head. It is as if I am going to play a child's game, where we have to cover the eyes of "It" while he searches for other children in the garden.
I fall to my knees. I stretch out my hands to find the block, but all I find is emptiness.
Something in me cracks. The fear and the panic that I tried to lock inside me suddenly breaks free like a water breaking out of a dam.
What shall I do? I cry. Where is it?
Have mercy upon me, O God!
A hand suddenly takes a hold of mine. I can feel that the hand has long fingers and smooth skin. It will be a beautiful hand. I should have liked to see that hand.
I lay my head upon the block. I feel the smooth, waxed wood beneath my cheek. I'm dying upon wood, just as Christ died upon a wooden cross.
For the first time that day, I felt fear genuinely crawl into my soul.
Lord! I cried to stem my fear. Into Thy hands I commend my spirit!
I was at peace when the axe came down.
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