Protocol required a Tudor queen to “take to her chamber” a month before the expected birth of her child. The chamber of course would be luxurious, though somewhat stifling – covered entirely in rich cloth of arras (all but a small piece of one window), and isolated from the court. The Queen would stay there with only her women around her until the baby was born, then receive the court there afterwards in her great bed of estate.
This was an eagerly anticipated day for Henry VIII and the recently-crowned Anne Boleyn – everyone “knew” the child would be the promised son and heir. After all, Henry had abandoned his illegal marriage to Catherine of Aragon, he had created an entirely new Church that knew what was best for the country and that had anointed this new wife so that their son could be born in full wedlock. Now Anne Boleyn was embarking on the final leg of the journey, her confinement.
What was she thinking? I think she must have been nervous, but I suspect that her nerves were more about the pain she was about to endure, or what her husband might be up to in her absence. I don’t think it would have occurred to her to worry about the child’s gender – not after God had allowed her to triumph as she had, smoothing the path as soon as she became pregnant.
Such irony, that Elizabeth was such a disappointment at her birth, but ended up becoming England’s greatest monarch. Of course, it was adversity that formed Elizabeth’s character and ruling style, reminding us not to judge circumstances in the moment but rather allow them to unfold as they will…
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