Experiencing a private moment in history
|The Filigree Ring
I walked languidly through the museum, dragging a red fingernail along the edge of a display case. I wished that I could touch the artifacts within. That’s why I like shopping so much—the feel of the fabrics, their textures against the tips of my fingers. Touch gives me a sense of the reality of something, placing the grooves of my fingerprints on the curves and threads show me the craftsmanship from whence it came.
It is an odd ability I have, I can understand the origin of an object by touch. I’ve never exactly understood it. My parents thought it was my imagination running wild as a child. When I understood that they weren’t the same—that they couldn’t understand objects in the same way I could, I ceased discussing it. I kept doing it, however, simply keeping my discoveries to myself.
As I worked my way to another case in the Elizabethan jewelry section, I noticed a curator opening a case to clean the glass. As he removed the contents of the case, my breath caught with the wonder of a child seeing a sparkler on a dark Fourth of July evening for the very first time. The ring was gorgeous.
The intricate, winding metal wound a sinuous, delicate path that wrested control of my eyes from me with its hypnotic pattern. I knew instantly that I needed to touch it, to feel it, to know its story. I staggered toward it, reeled as if by an invisible tentacle that it had used to pull me. I felt its hunger to show me its story. The desire to indulge it tingled along my spine, creeping into my fingers, which curled in anticipation.
My eyes found those of the curator, his eyes widening slightly as he saw the craving in mine. I glanced toward the ring, and his eyes followed mine. Our gazes met again. There was understanding in his eyes this time. He nodded slightly, almost imperceptibly. He seemed to understand my desire. Maybe he shared my ability?
I accepted his wordless invitation and reached out my hand to touch it. As my index finger felt the smooth chill of fine silver, I felt a scene unfold in my mind—not a vision, exactly, but more the etching of past experience, like a memory. It was as much a taste of emotion as a recording of sight, less exact than a video, but far more enveloping as I entered the sensory world of the ring’s memory.
I felt wetness on my cheeks. I was crying! The finger on which the ring rested was rising to wipe away the tears. I felt the pain of rejection, the ache of knowledge that others longed for my destruction. I leaned on an underlying foundation of strength, however—a certainty that what I was doing what just.
I tasted words on my lips.
"Video et taceo."
It was Latin. I knew what those words meant.
“I see but say nothing.”
I knew that the phrase was a fundamental belief I held. I wanted to avoid religious persecution in my territories. I didn’t want conflict between Catholic and Protestant factions in my kingdom. I was certain that God would not want blood shed in his name. I also knew that what I had just read was certain to do just that. Sadness squeezed my heart in its enervating grip. I felt parchment in my other hand. My eyes roamed the calligraphy.
Pope Pius V
Queen Elizabeth I, c. 1570
Regnans in Excelsis
We charge and command all and singular the nobles, subjects, peoples and others afore said that they do not dare obey her orders, mandates and laws. Those who shall act to the contrary we include in the like sentence of excommunication.
I cannot allow your heresy to continue. I have pleaded with you to see the madness of your course for twelve years. Unfortunately, I have come to realize that my efforts were in vain. You left me no other choice.
With sincerest regret,
Pope Pius V
My mind left the scene for a brief moment as meaningful realization washed over me. I was Queen Elizabeth I in the ring’s memory! She had been wearing this ring the moment she had been notified of her excommunication from the Catholic Church!
The scene pulled me back in, not yet finished telling its tale.
Emotions whirled inside me with a strength that I, in my real memory, had scarcely felt. I considered reversing my course and moving England back to its Catholic roots. I considered denouncing the Pope. I considered a full scale persecution of Catholics inside English borders. Those thoughts and a dozen others fluttered through my mind like butterflies.
But one thought returned to blast the butterflies away.
"Video et taceo."
I would do nothing.
I would not play this power game. I would not contradict God’s Will. I would live, and I would let live. That course filled me with certainty. I had faith that it was the way.
I moved the parchment over the flame the candle on my table and watched its edge turn dark with a tiny, rising snake of smoke. I held the document in a trembling hand, watching flame erase the words therein. I only wished it were so easy to erase them from my troubled thoughts.
When the document was nearly gone, I dropped it onto the table, the last vestiges of parchment disappearing as the flame created a scorch mark on the table. I felt Elizabeth grasp the ring with a finger and thumb and remove it, setting it on the warm, scorched spot on the table, a tiny monument to mark the moment.
My attention snapped back to the museum, to my own perception as I removed my finger from the filigree ring. My surprised eyes found the curator’s one more time.
He gave me a knowing look. His lower lip trembled. I understood.