I shall always remember the first execution I attended. It was a day to be seared forever in my mind.
It was a time of turmoil and treason for the royal family. King Henry VIII left in his death much division between the Catholic and Protestant churches, resulting in a division between his own children; the theatrics playing out during my young childhood. I was unaware of the seriousness of such matters as mother and father discussed the subject in hush tones, long after I fell asleep.
Upon the day of the execution, father woke me earlier than my usual time. I sat up in the bed I shared with my younger sister, Sara, and brother, Piers. Rubbing my eyes, I struggled to clear my sleep muddled mind. Father offered his hand to help me from the bed. I stood, shivering as my feet touched the cold dirt. Wrapping a blanket around my shoulders he guided me to the wooden kitchen table.
Mother had placed a freshly heated bowl of mutton on the table which served for meals and other household chores she and I performed together. I gathered the blanket tighter around my shoulders and sat staring at the bowl. Mother sat across the table, father following suit. Unsure of what I was to hear, I attempted to come up with my own conclusions. It was only three other times I’d been woken like this. Each time to share with me the coming of a sister or brother. Mother’s belly was already swelling against her threadbare dress, so it couldn’t be of that nature.
‘Eat, Margarett,’ Mother smiled, nodding at the bowl. ‘We’ve quite the day ahead of us. You’ll need your strength.’
Obediently, I picked up the spoon and began eating, tasting nothing. My heart began to do a skipping sort of race as I concentrated on my food. Mother and father remained silent, watching me.
‘Aren’t you eating if we’re to have a full day?’ I finally asked, becoming uncomfortable with the silence.
‘We’ve already had a bit to eat,’ father answered, taking mother’s hand in his. I stared at his calloused hand holding mother’s as if it were fragile. ‘There is something we need to explain to you.’
I nodded, placing my spoon on the table. My appetite, never fully awakened, had vanished. I stared, my eyes pleading for the announcement to be swift and to the point.
‘Queen Mary has ordered the execution of Lady Jane, I’m afraid.’ Mother spoke softly, tears moistening her blue eyes.
‘Why?’ I cried, standing. ‘Why would she do such a thing, Mother? Lady Jane didn’t want to be queen! Surely she knows this.’
‘Margarett, you know the royals have their own code of conduct,’ father explained gently. ‘Queen Mary believes Lady Jane to be guilty of treason. Therefore she has ordered her execution.’
I lifted my eyes to father’s face. Slowly, I realized why I was up so early; why they were telling me of this execution. I sat down, stunned. ‘The queen has ordered this to be a public execution to be witnessed by all in the kingdom, hasn’t she?’
‘That she has, Maggie,’ father answered, using his nickname for me. ‘It is to be carried out today in the walls of Queen Mary’s castle, I’m afraid.’
‘I don’t understand, Father. I thought royal executions were not meant to be for the commoners eyes.’
‘I’m afraid we have a bit of a different ruler in Queen Mary, Margarett. We will be seeing changes sweeping through our countryside.’
A slice of fear caused my body to shiver. I had a feeling mother and father would no longer keep their talks of the royals from my ears. A sense of doom settled over the table as we sat not speaking another word. I heard Piers begin his morning cries of hunger. Mother stood to tend to him before he woke Sara. Father and I remained at the table, both of us lost in our thoughts.
This week’s Bloggymoms Writing Workshop prompt is to write what you DON’T know. Add a scene to a work in progress that requires you to do a little research. Write a story from a different genre than you are comfortable with. Step outside your comfort zone, think outside the box, and write something new. And since I know we are all busy, let’s keep it simple with no more than 700 words.