Early Letter from Princess Elizabeth to Lady Knollys

Catherine Carey, Lady Knollys was the daughter of Mary Boleyn and William Carey. When Catherine’s cousin Queen Mary came to the throne they fled the country for fear they would be persecuted for their Protestant beliefs. This letter was written in 1553 making Elizabeth twenty years old. Elizabeth and Catherine always had a close relationship – is it possible because Elizabeth had a feeling they were sisters instead of cousins? We’ll never know for certain.

“Relieve your sorrow for your far journey with joy of your short return, and think this pilgrimage rather a proof of your friends, than a leaving of your country. The length of time, and distance of place, separates not the love of friends, nor deprives not the show of goodwill. An old saying, when bale is lowest boot is nearest: when your need shall be most you shall find my friendship greatest. Let others promise, and I will do, in words not more, in deeds as much. My power but small, my love as great as them whose gifts may tell their friendship’s tale, let will supply all other want, and oft sending take the lieus of often sights. Your messengers shall not return empty, nor yet your desires unaccomplished. Lethe’s flood hath here no course, good memory liath greatest stream. And, to conclude, a word that hardly I can say, I am driven by need to write farewell, it is which in the sense one way I wish, the other way I grieve.”

Your loving cousin and ready friend, COR ROTTO

Catherine came back to England in 1558 and served Queen Elizabeth as Chief Lady of the Bedchamber until her death in 1569.