The following letter was written by Lady Elizabeth Tudor to Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral (see note at the end of this article).
Upon the discovery of this letter my first reaction was disbelief and shock. After years of reading about Thomas Seymour and his inappropriate nature with Elizabeth Tudor I had never imagined something that would lead to this letter written by the Lady Elizabeth. To his…Indecent Proposal.
King Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547 — only a month later Lady Elizabeth wrote the following letter in response to one she received from Thomas Seymour. Elizabeth’s response was so mature for a thirteen year old girl. Thomas Seymour did not wait long after the death of the king to propose marriage to Elizabeth. We’ve heard over and over how Seymour desired more power. His brother Edward was Lord Protector of Edward VI and quite possibly the most powerful man in England. Thomas Seymour appears to have constantly strove to obtain as much, or an equal amount of power to his brother. Was it the curse of the younger brother always wanting more?
The question that plays over and over in my head is this: Did Katherine Parr know that she was his second choice? I’ve also wondered if this letter was actually written by Elizabeth or if he governess, Kat Ashley (who was a big fan of Thomas) had written it. It was not unheard of for Kat to transcribe letters for Elizabeth. The original document no longer exists and all we are left with is a translation of the original letter. If the original letter still existed we could see whose hand it was in.
My lord admiral,
The letter you have written to me is the most obliging, and at the same time the most eloquent in the world. And as I do not feel myself competent to reply to so many courteous expressions, I shall content myself with unfolding to you, in few words, my real sentiments. I confess to you that your letter, all elegant as it is, has very much surprised me; for, besides that neither my age nor my inclination allows me to think of marriage, I never could have believed that any one would have spoken to me of nuptials, at a time when I ought to think of nothing but sorrow for the death of my father. And to him I owe so much, that I must have two years at least to mourn for his loss. And how can I make up my mind to become a wife before I shall have enjoyed for some years my virgin state, and arrived at years of discretion?
Permit me, then, my lord admiral, to tell you frankly, that, as there is no one in the world who more esteems your merit than myself, or who sees you with more pleasure as a disinterested person, so would I preserve to myself the privilege of recognising you as such, without entering into that strict bond of matrimony, which often causes one to forget the possession of true merit. Let your highness be well persuaded that, though I decline the happiness of becoming your wife, I shall never cease to interest myself in all that can crown your merit with glory and shall ever feel the greatest pleasure in being your servant, and good friend,
Dated: 27 February 1547
Note: Historians have discounted this letter “found” by Gregorio Leti as a fake. This letter is not the only one that they believe he fabricated for his book.
Leti, while writing his Life of Elizabeth, had access to many original letters which are no longer in existence. The documents that were allegedly translated by Leti do not exist, and if documents did exist they no longer do.
The above letter was found in Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain – via LETI VITA DI ELISABETHA, VOL. 1 P. 171 Italian.