“In thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered . . .”
In looking through her private papers, the Queen came across Lord Oxford’s angry letter. She read it again, and with great sadness, folded it and placed it deep inside her writing table. She expected Lord Burghley at any moment, and was sure the familiar sight of his son-in-law’s handwriting would only have added injury to his heavy loss.
Dr. Lopez had assured them that Anne’s death had been unavoidable. Her melancholia had evolved into full blown madness since Susan’s birth one year earlier. That, coupled with the deaths of other children and her husband’s hasty departure for the war unraveled the remains of her sanity. She slipped away from her caretakers in an unguarded moment, wandered over to the river and was swept downstream like a crumpled autumn leaf. Anne, Countess of Oxford, was buried in the Cecil family tomb at Westminster Abbey, her drowning ruled an accident resulting from her pathetically troubled mind.
Feeling anxious, the Queen reached for her Bible. The gilded pages fell open to the prophet Nathan’s parable, in which he chided King David about the slaughter of a poor man’s only lamb. When the King ordered the thief punished, Nathan pointed an accusing finger at him and said that David was the guilty one, who had taken a man’s wife and sent him to die in the war.
The Queen was sure the prophet’s rebuke was also addressed to her. For years, she had come between Oxford and his wife, and he was the only man the poor girl had ever loved. Their star-crossed marriage was an epic tragedy that would make the boards in the playhouses weep, if it ever played upon the stage.
As a royal child, having suffered the degradation of being set aside as a bastard, she had imagined her father King Henry VIII as resembling King David - a red haired, warrior-monarch guilty of arrogance, gluttony and abuse of power. She was sure she had inherited his sinful propensities, and swore once more to atone for them. She carefully folded Oxford’s Last Will and Testament and placed it between the pages of Nathan’s parable, hoping to mute the flagrant reproaches of both poet and prophet.
She thought of Lord Burghley, so distraught at Anne’s funeral, he could barely stand. He leaned on his staff of office, but lost his balance several times and his sons Robert and Thomas had to bear him up. The old man wept as if his heart would break when his daughter was laid to rest in the family tomb. Just steps away, seventeen years earlier, he had rejoiced at her wedding. The Earl of Oxford had been the love of her life, but her affection seemed unrequited. No one knew whether word of Anne’s death had reached him at sea.
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