Oxford Shadows Online - Marion Croslydon

Author’s Note

IF ANYONE MENTIONS the name of Henry the Eighth to you, you are meant to grow pale and have those familiar visions of a red-bearded ogre, a nasty, cruel, and not-so-sweet Shrek. And it is true that the man was responsible—directly or indirectly—for breaking countless hearts and having a terrifying number of pretty heads chopped off.

That said there is more to the king than this gruesome legend. He was a true man of the Renaissance, an artist, a linguist, a poet …

He married six times but I am convinced that his truest and most passionate love of all was Anne Boleyn, his first real victim. One of my favorite melodies, “Greensleeves,” is rumored to have been composed by Henry himself to court Anne, although historians have contested this fact. They might be right … but not according to Oxford Shadows and Liliana’s tragic tale.

To help put the story in perspective, I have selected a few important dates relevant to the events in this book. It must be noted that until Henry acceded to the throne in 1509, his father kept him out of public life. He was rarely seen at court.

28 June 1491 ~ Birth of Henry Tudor, son of Henry the Seventh.

November 1501 ~ Marriage of Arthur, Henry’s oldest brother and future king, to Catherine of Aragon, youngest surviving child of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile.

1502 ~ Death of Arthur (aged fifteen) after only twenty weeks of marriage. Henry becomes Duke of Cornwall, then Prince of Wales.

23 June 1503 ~ A treaty was signed for the marriage of Henry and Catherine. They were betrothed two days later.

1505 ~ Prince Henry (aged fourteen) rejects Catherine. She remains in England as an ambassador of her father, King Ferdinand.

22 April 1509 ~ Death of Henry the Seventh.

10 May 1509 ~ The new Henry the Eighth announces he will marry Catherine of Aragon after all. The marriage is kept low key.

23 June 1509 ~ Coronation of Henry the Eighth, with his wife Catherine at his side.

February 1516 ~ Birth of a girl, Princess Mary, after three previous miscarriages, stillbirths, or early deaths.

June 1519 ~ Birth of Henry’s illegitimate son, Fitzroy.

1 June 1533 ~ Catherine formally stripped of her title as queen, and Anne Boleyn crowned queen consort.

7 September 1533 ~ Birth of Elizabeth of York (the future Elizabeth the First).

1534 ~ Henry the Eighth becomes the head of the Church of England. Start of the English Reformation.

19 May 1536 ~ Anne Boleyn executed at the Tower of London.

29 May 1536 ~ Marriage of Henry the Eighth with Jane Seymour.

12 October 1537 ~ Birth of Prince Edward.

24 October 1537 ~ Death of Jane Seymour.

6 January 1540 ~ Marriage with Anne of Cleves.

9 July 1540 ~ Annulment of the marriage with Anne of Cleves.

28 July 1540 ~ Marriage with Catherine Howard.

23 November 1541 ~ Annulment of the marriage with Catherine Howard.

13 February 1542 ~ Catherine beheaded.

12 July 1543 ~ Marriage with Catherine Parr.

28 January 1547 ~ Death of Henry the Eighth, aged fifty-five. His son, Edward, becomes Edward the Sixth.

6 July 1553 ~ Death of Edward the Sixth.

Prologue

Florence ~ June 1533

THE RIVER ARNO swallows my body. I float, I fly, I fall. I do not try to move or fight. The stream engulfs the pleats of my billowing dress and drags me closer to the darkness. My arms are spread wide; my eyes stare at the unknown.

Whatever—whoever—awaits me on the other side, I will bow and curtsy. I will bid farewell to the despair that has wrecked my hopes, trampled on my love. The wait has been so long, so lonely, and in vain.

He did not come back for me but wedded another. A prettier one, a younger one, a luckier one. With fading strength, I unclench my fingers and let the lily drift away. The flower vanishes in the tumultuous waters. My sight has become blurred, and my chest burns until the pain disappears.

Death is an escape.

Death will be my new beginning.

1

Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford ~ Today

MADISON STARED at the man, her eyes glued to the blood smeared across his face. His lips mouthed words that the music of the orchestra rendered silent. Dread wrapped a heavy blanket around her heart and numbed her brain. Her fingers dug into her thighs. She forced herself to swallow, only for her mouth to turn bone dry.

He wasn’t real. He couldn’t be.

Rupert, by her side, hadn’t reacted to the apparition. His stepmother, Camilla, over whom the bloodied man hovered, didn’t even