Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, Elizabeth Boleyn, Elizabeth I, a Lady
In a dimly lit birthing chamber lies Queen Anne Boleyn in her four-poster bed. She’s exhausted having just given birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I. She is attended by ladies, recovering and holding a baby bundle.
(A loud tapping. Henry’s large golden face pops into the birthing chamber from behind a door.)
Henry: Hello? It’s meeee. The new daddy.
Anne: (Nods, exhausted)
(A Lady opens the door and lets the king into the room.)
Henry: You see that? I knocked. I didn’t have to. I am the king and I could have barged right in. Do you see how I love and respect you?
Anne: Yes, husband, you are very good to me. You know how I dislike unplanned surprises.
Henry: Quite right. And as you know, I also dislike unplanned surprises.
(Beat. Henry looks pointedly at the little baby bundle that turned out to be a girl, not the boy they planned.)
Henry: (In too sugary a voice) So who do we have here?
Anne: Well, we have an entire handful of names to choose from, so it will be nice if we can decide together.
Henry: Excellent idea. Well, Edward and Henry are out. That leaves Anne, Elizabeth and Katherine.
Anne: Veto on the last name. The last few years have more than put me off.
Henry: (Guffaw) Yes, of course. Mary?
Henry: Really, why?
Anne: Your daughter Mary who hates me? How about my sister Mary who was your mistress? Your sister Mary who completely didn’t get me as a person at all. (Beat) May she rest in peace.
Henry: I was thinking after the Virgin Mary.
Anne: Oh I see. Yes, that would be beautiful. (Beat) Though, I was thinking – Elizabeth.
Anne: Yes, after my own loving mother. (Anne gestures to her mother who comes forward from the dim.)
Henry: (Whispers) You’ve made it awkward. (Louder) Hello, Elizabeth. My favourite Mother-in-law. Nice day for a birth isn’t it?
Elizabeth Boleyn: The finest, your Majesty. My daughter was amazing. It’s not easy delivering a child into this world, you know. We don’t yet know ice cubes from epidurals.
Henry: Yes, yes. No need for details. Once Anne is all cleaned up and her lady bits are ready for seeding again, she can rejoin me and not tell me anything about it.
Elizabeth Boleyn: As you wish, your Majesty. (Steps back into the dim).
Anne: So, can we name her Elizabeth?
Anne: What is it?
Henry: Nothing, nothing. (Beat) Alright, there is something. You see it’s just not fair.
Anne: Not fair? You must mean that while I have been suffering bringing our daughter into this world, you have been partying and hunting?
Henry: No, that’s not it at all. Now, I don’t mean to nitpick, but you said you were going to have a boy.
Henry: This is a girl.
Henry: So it’s not fair! I wanted a boy! You know that. The only one I have is illegitimate! Why did you do this to me? Is it because I didn’t buy you enough jewels and palaces?
Anne: It’s part of our divine path, Henry. I will still give you an army of boys. All in good time.
Henry: An army?
Henry: (Smiles) My Anne.
Anne: So, Elizabeth?
Henry: Divine path, blah blah blah. Main point is I wanted a boy and your body pushed out a girl. At the very least, I should get to choose the name. You owe me that much.
Anne: (Lies back, clearly exhausted from childbirth) Fine. Just not Katherine. Not in any of the variations of spelling.
Henry: Of course not. I was thinking (beat) Elizabeth.
Henry: After my own saintly mother. (Looks at Elizabeth Boleyn) No offence.
Anne: (Nods) Yes, it suits her just fine. After your mother.
(Elizabeth Boleyn comes forward and takes the baby. Anne winks at her.)
Henry: There will be some confusion when we come to name our army of sons. We might need to double up on names. Triple!
Anne: Yes, but that is a good problem to have.
Henry: Indeed, my love, indeed. You better rest. The future of England depends on your lady bits being healthy and free of nasty things.
Anne: Yes, you best leave then. (Beat) So I can rest.
Henry: Of course.
(Henry turns and bumps into a woman.)
Henry: Excuse you. Who are you?
Elizabeth I: I’m your daughter, Elizabeth.
Henry: Aren’t you a baby?
Elizabeth I: Haven’t you seen any medieval paintings? Baby’s are quite often born middle-aged. It’s no big deal.
Henry: Quite right. Well, carry on. Oh, just so you know, you seem amazing but as you are not a boy, you’re pretty much always going to be meh, in my eyes.
Elizabeth I: Oh, right. Well, sorry to hear that. Mom will love me though, yes?
(Henry looks at Anne who has now fallen asleep.)
Henry: She will love you for as long as she lives.
(Henry leaves. Lights dim on Elizabeth looking at a sleeping Anne who is unable to see her grown daughter).
Published May 22, 2022.