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Handmaid (FFN Link) by PanBoleyn is a The Tudors For Want of a Nail Alternate Universe Fan Fic.

Official Summary: "Then Rachel said, 'Here is my maid Bilhah, go into her... and even I may have children through her.'" Gen. 30:3. In a world where a sonless king has options above and beyond annulment, two women's fates will be drastically changed...

Tropes:

  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Anne Boleyn. Since it's Katherine she's in love with, she treats her (and Mary) far better than she did in canon and never tries to abuse the influence she has on Henry, which helps with her reputation in court. She's also a lot more lenient on Henry's affairs as a result, putting less strain on their relationship.
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    • Henry himself is a lot more heroic here, treating Katherine, Mary, and Anne significantly better due to never breaking from Rome and thus avoiding all the political headaches that came with that decision.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Jane Seymour's naivete and pliability are played with a lot more negatively. Also, instead of Anne coming to hate Jane for taking away Henry's affections, Jane comes to (irrationally) hate Anne for her status as Henry's handmaid.
  • Adult Fear:
    • After Anne's "fall", Henry has his entire family put on lockdown, (correctly) fearing that the "fall" was an attack and that the rest of his loved ones were in danger.
    • As seen with Thomas' actions, the Seymours proved themselves willing to kill to get rid of Anne and have Jane take her place; this terrifies Mary, because it makes her wonder how long it would have taken them to go after her own mother when they decided they wanted Jane to be Queen instead.
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  • Altar Diplomacy: This was partially why the handmaid privilege was created — to avoid all the potentially catastrophic diplomatic issues that could come from annulling a royal marriage.
  • Alternate History: It is an Alternate Universe Fan Fic of a Historical Series.
  • Ambition Is Evil:
    • One of the reasons why the handmaid privilege fell out of disuse before Henry revived it. If the Queen predeceased the King and the Princess Consort, then the former was legally obligated to marry the latter in her place. For handmaids with particularly ambitious families, that posed a problem; history is littered with families executed for trying to elevate their daughters' newfound status through...dishonest means.
    • Thomas Seymour attacks a pregnant Anne so she can be replaced by the pregnant Jane. Despite whatever Jane believed, it becomes very clear that Thomas was driven by the thought of all he could gain by being the uncle of a prince/future king.
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    • Jane is an interesting case. She clearly wants to takes Anne's place, but also recognizes that desiring Anne dead to make that happen is an evil thought; instead, she tries to convince herself that she would be a superior handmaid to Anne, and thus things would be better off for everyone if Anne was dead. In short, she recognizes that ambition is evil, and so tries to convince herself that she isn't ambitious but righteous.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Anne being crowned Princess Consort after producing Edmund.
  • Broken Pedestal: Mary's opinion of her father wasn't all that great when he took a handmaid, though she eventually came around to the idea after realizing the necessity of it. It's when he takes on a mistress despite having essentially two wives (one of whom is carrying his child) that said opinion takes a sharp downturn.
  • Chosen Conception Partner: This is how the handmaid privilege works. If a Queen could no longer bear children for their King and the King is in need of a son, then either one of the royal couple could select a woman of noble birth (usually one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting) to bear children in her instead. The woman would then have five years to produce a son, with an extra two years added if their first child is female. If they succeed, then they would have a permanent position at court and crowned as a 'Princess Consort'. If they failed, they were dowered and wed off to a minor nobleman and usually replaced.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Thomas Seymour dies over two decades earlier, though he still dies a traitor's death and is executed.
    • His sister Jane dies four years earlier than she did historically. And instead of Death by Childbirth, she is also executed as a traitor.
  • Death by Despair: In the epilogue, this is believed to be the cause of Anne's death. While she wasn't young, she was still quite healthy for her age; however, the losses of Katherine and Henry in quick succession devastated her. Cecily in particular believes that her mother just didn't want to be alone.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Jane and Anne.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even people who don't particularly like Anne, such as Charles Brandon, are furious when someone attacks her—an innocent, pregnant woman. Eustace Chapuys, who was pushing for a match between Cecily and Philip, even briefly stops trying to haggle Henry for it, knowing how difficult the situation is for him and Anne.
  • For Want of a Nail: Two. One is the existence of the handmaid privilege, the other is that Anne falls in love with Katherine instead of Henry.
    • By taking Anne as his handmaid, Henry does not have to set Katherine aside, leaving Mary legitimate and easing tensions both at court and on the international field. Anne's own status at court is much more respected; while she isn't universally-loved, she isn't outright hated like she was in the show and in history. After Anne successfully delivers a son, securing her position, Henry has no reason to seek another spouse and remains with her and Katherine until his eventual death in 1547.
      • As a consequence, the English Reformation starts at a much slower pace, due to Henry having no need to break from Rome or disregard papal authority — taking a handmaid only requires the consent of the local papal legate, in this case Wolsey. The Sack of Rome isn't mentioned, most likely due to being less of a concern to Henry since he has no plans to divorce Katherine or annul their marriage.
      • Thomas Cromwell's own ascent is stalled due to Cardinal Wolsey never falling out of favor and Thomas More replacing the latter first after his death before his own resignation. When Cromwell finally does become chancellor, he deliberately stays neutral with the Boleyns despite suspecting they may have similar religious leanings to his, due to Anne's friendship with Katherine.
    • Since Anne starts coupling with Henry earlier, she has another daughter named Cecily before the historical birth of Elizabeth; who is born with a male twin named Edmund, who replaces Edward VI as Henry's legitimate heir. She also gives Henry a second son, named Owen.
      • As all of Anne's children are considered legitimate under the auspices of the Catholic Church, they're considered perfectly viable marriage partners by the rest of European Royalty straight from the beginningnote . Mary is allowed to marry the Duke of Bavaria since she has two younger sisters to make dynastic matches in her place and her children won't be threats to the royal succession. In turn, Cecily is engaged to the future Philip II of Spain, while Elizabeth is saddled with the Duke of Orleans. She later marries her childhood friend Robert Dudley after Charles dies soon after their marriage.
      • Edmund, Elizabeth's twin, is the one to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, instead of Francis II. Mary herself is implied to have been raised in Scotland rather than France, like she historically was.
    • Since Anne is in love with Katherine and not Henry, she never becomes jealous when Henry starts sneaking around with Jane Seymour; Henry himself is being a lot more discreet so as to not upset her during her pregnancy. This also means their relationship is much healthier, due to Anne not quarreling with him so much and only exerting her influence on him to either help her family out of the occasional jam or to convince him of something that Katherine can not on her own.
      • This has also a negative effect, in that Anne's lack of interference with the affair causes Jane to become pregnant with Edward far earlier and prompts her brother Thomas to attack Anne in hopes of killing her so she can be replaced by Jane. While Anne survives, it causes her to miscarry her and Henry's second child — the boy they and Katherine had all been hoping for.
      • Since his difficulties with Anne aren't as severe, Henry actually resolves himself not to blame her in case her "fall" was a genuine accident. After a barely lucid Anne wakes up and confirms that she was shoved, he has Cromwell and Suffolk interrogate everyone who might have motive, including Margaret, his sister and Suffolk's wife. This puts even more strain on the Suffolks' marriage, eventually causing them to briefly retire from court to fix their relationship.
    • Since his relationship with Anne isn't strained, Henry never truly attaches himself to Jane Seymour, viewing her as just another mistress but still feeding her false platitudes to keep her in his bed. Subsequently, after Thomas Seymour is revealed as Anne's attacker, Henry starts losing any fondness he once had for her, and after Jane accidentally reveals to Katherine that she knew about Thomas' guilt but decided to keep mum, he outright comes to hate her, going as far as to have her executed after she delivers Edward. This entire situation permanently ends the Seymours' ascent to power before it can even begin.
    • Since Margaret Tudor never contracted consumption, Charles Brandon never marries Catherine Willoughby. She instead joins Mary's household after her marriage to the Duke of Bavaria, eventually finding her own husband in Cleves.
    • Henry's other three historical wives have different (happier) fates as well:
      • Anne of Cleves marries the Duke of Lorraine and gives birth to his son. She also befriends Mary after meeting her during one of her visits to her cousin, Mary's husband, helping her with one of her pregnancies.
      • Katherine Howard is taken on as one of Anne's ladies-in-waiting after her ascension to Princess Consort before Katherine can be sent to Lambeth, preventing her from suffering sexual abuse from Henry Mannox or meeting Frances Dereham. As Henry has no need for another mistress or wife, this means she's completely free to marry Thomas Culpeper when they fall for each other. They later join Cecily's household after she departs for Spain to marry Philip.
      • Katherine Parr becomes one of Anne's companions after she becomes Henry's handmaid, and thanks to some happenstance, marries Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Their happy marriage manages to temper his impulses, and they become Duke and Duchess of Norfolk upon Thomas Howard's death.
    • Thanks to the Boleyns' increased status in court, George never marries Jane Parker due to conflicts over the dowry. Eventually, he publicly stays a bachelor while carrying on a secret relationship with Mark Smeaton.
  • In Spite of a Nail:
    • Anne still becomes Marquess of Pembroke, though in this case it was Katherine's idea (largely as an act of spite to Thomas Boleyn for his poor treatment of Anne).
    • Anne still suffers a miscarriage for her second pregnancy. However, instead of being poisoned, she was pushed down a flight of stairs by Thomas Seymour.
    • Edward, Henry's son by Jane Seymour, is still born. However, he is unambiguously a bastard and didn't reconcile with his father and siblings until he was twelve due to his mother and uncle being considered traitors. He's also born several years earlier, which is presumably why Jane survived his birth.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Henry is furious with himself after learning that Thomas Seymour attacked Anne so she could be replaced by his sister Jane, Henry's latest fling. It's purportedly bad enough that he refrained from having affairs for a decent while.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: As Mary points out, Anne's attack could've been avoided if Henry had never taken Jane Seymour as a mistress.
  • Open Secret: Despite Henry's best and genuine efforts, everyone in court (including his wife and handmaid) are perfectly aware of his courting of Jane Seymour. While some are unhappy with the situation, the two women in question don't really care: Katherine is used to Henry's cheating, while Anne is more interested in Katherine and is happy to ignore it as long as he doesn't flaunt the affair openly. If anything, she's more insulted by the fact that Henry genuinely believes he's fooling anybody.
  • Pride: The reason why Katherine had Anne seduce Henry instead of choosing her to be a handmaid outright. She knew that Henry, proud as he was, would never stand having his wife making such a choice for him.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Despite it being her idea, Katherine is still has some initial jealousy when Henry takes Anne as his handmaid and openly flaunts his newest relationship. It takes Anne calling her out on it and declaring her loyalty to Katherine for her to get over it.
    • Katherine is much less open to the idea of a Spanish match for Cecily due to her nephew reneging on his original betrothal to Mary. The betrayal hurt her on a political and personal level. It takes repeated assurances that Charles intends for this match to go through for her to give her support.
    • Despite resolving herself to only loving Katherine, Anne cannot help but start caring for Henry on a deeper level, due to being the father of her children and his clear and genuine love for her. It was losing Katherine and him that caused her to die of a broken heart.
    • While Anne's children are legitimate, that doesn't change the fact that she is the daughter of an elevated knight. Many of the queens of Europe are reluctant to marry her children to theirs since they only have strong royal blood from one parent. The kings are much less peeved, since they are more focused on alliances that benefit their kingdoms, their primary concerns being legitimacy, fertility and reputation, not blood.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After learning Anne was attacked, Henry has everyone who had even the slightest motive to try and kill her and/or their son interrogated by Cromwell and Suffolk, including his own sister.
  • Spared By Adaptation:
    • A lot of people in general survive past their historical death dates due to the political and religious situation being a lot less turbulent.
    • Both Katherine and Anne survive long past their historical death dates. Katherine died around the same time as Henry (though it's not clarified who died first), while Anne died a year or so after they did.
    • Margaret Tudor never gets consumption, and so manages to survive much longer than she did in canon.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Thomas Seymour, as lampshaded by his brother Edward.
    • His sister Jane isn't all that bright either.
  • Triang Relations: Type 12. Henry loves both Anne and Katherine. Katherine loves Henry; Anne cares for Henry, but only truly loves Katherine. Later becomes a Type 6, after Katherine falls for Anne.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • The reason why Katherine chose Anne to be Henry's handmaid — Anne's loyalty meant she would never try to displace Katherine, and would keep the ambitious Boleyns in line.
    • In turn, Katherine Parr to Anne. This is one of the reasons why she and her husband take in Edward Fitzroy — so they can raise him to be loyal to his half-brother Edmund, Anne's son and Henry's legitimate heir.
  • Unknown Rival: Anne barely acknowledges Jane Seymour's existence, because in this reality she couldn't care less about her status as Henry's mistress. This comes back to bite everyone. Hard.
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: One of the reasons why Jane thinks she would be a better handmaid than Anne is that she would try to be kind to Cecily (Anne's daughter). As Katherine coldly points out, there's nothing noble about trying to be kind to a toddler that has done nothing wrong to you.
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