Elizabeth, Queen of England (Part Five)

Missed the previous parts in this series? You can find the previous four articles HERE and the podcasts HERE

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Elizabeth, Queen of England – Elizabeth’s Ladies

By mid-January 1559 Elizabeth had her household set, rightfully so, she was officially crowned Queen of England. Her group of tightly knit ladies were referred to as the “old flock of Hatfield”.

Instead of the Catholic ladies in Queen Mary’s household like Wharton, Waldegrave, Cornwallis, Babington, Dormer and Southwell, Elizabeth replaced them with her cousins, the ladies Carey, Knollys and Ashley; As well as the daughters and wives of those men who served her, such as the ladies Cecil, Throckmorton, Warner, Cheke and Benger.

Loyal Servants

Of course, those ladies who had served her throughout her life would stay involved now that she was Queen. Kat Ashley and Blanche Parry to name two. Blanche has been reported to have served Elizabeth from the time she was in the cradle until she died in 1590.

Ashley was almost immediately appointed her Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber – this position was the most prestigious post within Elizabeth’s household because it gave her complete access to the sovereign. Kat was nearly always by the Queen’s side, even at night she was right there sleeping on a pallet bed in Elizabeth’s bedchamber. Not only was she responsible for the care of the Queen but she was also responsible for overseeing all the other ladies of the privy chamber.

Blanche Parry was appointed second Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber and was also (due to her fondness for literature) the keeper of the Queen’s books.

There were two other ladies from Elizabeth’s time at Hatfield that found a place in her household as Queen, they were: Lady Elizabeth Fiennes de Clinton, who was appointed Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber and Elizabeth St. Loe or “Bess of Hardwick. Hardwick, who, at the age of thirty-one was one of the oldest member of the Queen’s household.

Lady Anne Russell was one the youngest ladies to serve the Queen, she was merely ten years old when she was appointed Maid of Honor.

Elizabeth didn’t only show favor to the women who had served her in the past but also some of the women who had served her stepmother, Kateryn Parr. Mrs. Eglionby was appointed mother of the maids and Elizabeth Carew was also given a noteworthy position as well.

No Women Allowed

Interestingly enough, if you were a woman and were not a member of the Queen’s household you were not welcome at court. Male courtiers were discouraged from bringing their wives to court because this would ruin the image that Elizabeth wanted as the most attractive and desired woman at court. This would explain why Amy Robsart was not at court with her husband Robert Dudley – it wasn’t only that the Queen was jealous of her relationship with her favorite, she felt that way about all the ladies except for the ones who were her servants.

Elizabeth even decreased the number of women who normally served the queen from twenty to only eleven. There were now only six maids of honor – the lowest number of female attendants in nearly forty years.

Various Positions in the Queen’s Household

I’ve had a few of you ask me on Facebook about the different positions that women held in the Queen’s household and what they were responsible for – here is an idea:

The ladies of the privy chamber attended the queen’s daily needs such as washing, dressing and serving at the table.

The queen’s chamberers would perform more menial tasks such as arranging bedding and cleaning the queen’s private chambers.

If you were a maid of honor to the Queen this meant that you were unmarried and attended the Queen in public and would carry her long train. A maid of honor was also responsible for entertaining her by singing, dancing and reading to her. These girls were supervised by the Mother of Maids.

The ladies in waiting to the queen were women who were sometimes connected to the privy chamber and held their position due to their experience or their husband’s position at court.

When these women joined the queen’s office they had to swear the ceremonial oath. This oath was used to form a bond of allegiance between the ladies and their queen.

Queen Elizabeth was very concerned about matters of personal cleanliness by the standards of the day. She was known to take regular baths in a tub that was specially made for her. This tub would travel with her from palace to palace – Elizabeth clearly liked to be clean. If for some reason her tub was unavailable, or time did not allow for it, her ladies would clean her with wet cloths that were soaked in pewter bowls. As far as dental hygiene I covered this in an article once and author Tracy Borman states that Elizabeth would clean her teeth with a concoction of “white wine and vinegar boiled up with honey which would be rubbed on with fine cloths.”

The duty of preparing the Queen each day would take hours – from bathing to dressing and hair, all had to be just right.

Elizabeth, like her father Henry VIII, did not handle illness well. In her lifetime, it had been noted that stress caused Elizabeth to suffer from headaches, breathlessness, stomach aches and insomnia. She was also known to rail against her ladies and doctors insisting she was fine because she perceived illness as weakness. This must have been hell for Elizabeth when she contracted smallpox in 1562.

It was at Hampton Court Palace on the 10th of October 1562 that Elizabeth began to feel unwell. After immersing herself in a bath and taking a walk outdoors (which resulted in a chill) Elizabeth took to her bed with a fever. A German physician by the name of Dr. Burcot was summoned to examine the queen. His diagnosis was smallpox even though she had no tell-tale spots on her skin. Elizabeth called him a fool and dismissed him.

Smallpox and Sickness

By the 16th of October the Queen was gravely ill. She was incapable of speech and would appear to pass out for stretches up to twenty-four hours. The royal doctors feared she would die and sent for Cecil.

The Queen’s cousin, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon persuaded the humiliated Dr. Burcot to return (some reported by dagger) to the Queen’s side. The doctor ordered that Elizabeth be wrapped in red flannel, laid on a pallet bed by the fire and be given a potion that he had created. Merely two hours later Elizabeth was alert and speaking. Clearly Dr. Burcot was no fool.

By her side through it all (until she became ill herself) was Robert Dudley’s sister, Mary Sidney. Sidney’s case was much worse than the Queen’s and she was badly disfigured by her illness. Her husband, Sir Henry Sidney said:

When I went to Newhaven I left her a full fair lady in mine eye at least the fairest, and when I returned I found her as foul a lady as the smallpox could make her, which she did take by continual attendance of her majesty’s most precious person (sick of the same disease) the scars of which (to her resolute discomfort) ever since hath done and doth remain in her face, so as she liveth solitary like a night-raven in the house more to my charge then if we had boarded together as we did before that evil accident happened.

Mary Sidney is listed a one of Queen Elizabeth’s Gentlewomen of the Privy Chamber and makes one wonder if she was the one who attended to the Queen because of her closeness to Robert. Surely, in the big picture, this did not benefit Mary at all. She and her husband served the Queen for many, many years and felt this deserved more rewards than they received.

The Queen’s Activities

When Elizabeth’s health was good her favorite past time was dancing. She loved to show off her skills by performing such beautiful and complicated dances such as the galliard and volta. Elizabeth would spend long hours with her ladies rehearsing the steps until they were performed to perfection.

In the evenings, when Elizabeth retired to her private apartments, her ladies would attend to her every need. They would carefully unpin her hair, undress her and remove her makeup. The Queen undone was something only her ladies were allowed to see. This is why it was such a big deal years later when the Earl of Sussex (Lettice Knollys son) burst into the Queen’s bedchamber to witness her in this state.

Compensation and Treatment of her Ladies

To serve the Queen was not a lucrative career – it was mostly for the prestige and favor by the Queen. Their pay was considered moderate. Maids of honor and ladies of the presence-chamber were seldom paid at all, while ladies of the privy chamber and bedchamber receive an annual salary of roughly 33 pounds or the equivalent of around 7,000 pounds today.

Not only did they lack pay, or receive very little pay, but their meals usually consisted of leftovers from the Queen’s meals.

While most of the women in her household were unpaid or little paid they were regularly receive clothing, jewelry and other gifts from their mistress.

Their living quarters were also very cramped and uncomfortable. While sanitation was poor there were no bathrooms or flushing toilets available to them like there was to the Queen. The court, as a result, would have had a foul smell. When this would happen the Queen and her entourage would regularly move or travel to allow for a thorough cleaning of the palace to have the human waste disposed of before they returned.

Elizabeth was also noted as treating her ladies very similarly to how her mother had – if any of her ladies failed to perform any of their duties properly the Queen would fly into a rage and punish them with slaps or blows. Author Tracy Borman says in Elizabeth’s Women, “When one poor lady was clumsy in serving her at table, Elizabeth stabbed her in the hand” and that one foreign visitor to court observed: “She is a haughty woman, falling easily into rebuke…She thinks highly of herself and has little regard for her servants and Council, being of opinion that she is far wiser than they; she mocks them and often cries out upon them.”

Elizabeth had the temper of her father and all the charm and charisma of her mother.

Going Against the Queen

The downside of being a close servant to the Queen was that she controlled your fate. I’ve discussed this several times – that I find it completely selfish and unnecessary for Elizabeth to hate when her ladies married. One of the ladies who served Elizabeth learned the hard way to not cross the Queen – Elizabeth Throckmorton.

In 1584, at the age of 19, Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton went to court and became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Eventually she became Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. She was responsible for dressing the Queen. A very intimate job, indeed.

Bess and her younger brother, Arthur were both courtiers during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. “Bess” had been described by her contemporaries as “intelligent, forthright, passionate, and courageous”.

After six years at court (roughly 25 years old) the still single “Bess” met Walter Raleigh who was quickly becoming one of the Queen Elizabeth’s favorites. As a lady to the Queen it was necessary for “Bess” to get permission to be courted. The Queen must also give her approval of any man who wished to court one of her ladies because they were supposed to be seen as extremely virtuous women. Throckmorton and Raleigh clearly believed they would not get permission and began a secret and intimate relationship.

By July 1591, Bess Throckmorton was pregnant – she secretly wed Raleigh and understood the seriousness of getting married without permission from Elizabeth. If she did not marry then her child would be considered a bastard. So really, at that point, she didn’t have a choice.

“Bess” must have been aware of the danger in having the Queen discover she was pregnant AND married that she somehow obtained permission to leave court to stay at her brother Arthur’s home in London. It is there that she gave birth to a son in March 1592.

Not long after she returned to court only to have the Queen discover all that had happened behind her back. Both Throckmorton and Raleigh were thrown in the Tower of London. In October, at only six months old, the couple’s son died of the plague and Queen Elizabeth chose to release the couple from the Tower. She never forgave “Bess” Throckmorton for her betrayal and Raleigh was ordered not to be seen at court for one year.

The fate of “Bess” Throckmorton mirrors that of Lettice Knollys after her secret marriage to Robert Dudley. Both women fell in love with the Queen’s favorite, married secretly and fell from favor. However, both women appear to have found love despite the loss of favor from their Queen. This is something that the Queen would never have.

Anne Vavasour was Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth and the mistress of the Earl of Oxford, by whom she had an illegitimate son – Edward. Both Anne and the Earl of Oxford, for their offences, were sent to the Tower by the Queen’s orders. Later she became the mistress of Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley, by whom she had another illegitimate son – Thomas. This affair happened shortly after she had married her first husband, John Finch, a sea-captain. The Queen apparently was not as displeased with this affair as Anne and Lee entertained the Queen together at Ditchley.

Interestingly enough, Anne was charged with bigamy when she married John Richardson after she had already married (in c.1590) John Finch, who was still living. Her fine was Ł2,000 and she was spared from performing a public penance.

Frances Walsingham was Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth and the wife of Sir Philip Sydney. She was the daughter of Francis Walsingham, who was a trusted adviser of Queen Elizabeth. He is best known as Elizabeth’s “spymaster.”

In 1590, Frances married her second husband, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. The match caused great displeasure to the Queen Elizabeth, partly because Essex was the son of Lettice Knollys and partly because Elizabeth herself had a crush on Robert Devereux herself.

Then we look at Catherine Carey, cousin (or possibly sister) to the Queen. Catherine and her husband Francis Knollys were both loyal servants to the Queen. Francis was always at the will of the Queen, even when his wife was on her deathbed and he begged to be by her side – the Queen would not allow him to come home. Even Catherine requested her husband to be by her said, to no avail.

My Opinion of the Queen

Throughout my years of researching the Tudors I’ve always said that Elizabeth is my least favorite Tudor monarch and this article, in my opinion is the perfect example of why. I understand those of you who love her because she was a strong female ruler, or because she brought peace and prosperity to England. My response to that is: Sure, yes, she was all those things, but that does not mean she was a nice person. In my opinion, she was just like her father. She was selfish, moody and unjust.

The next article on Elizabeth will be my last in this series and I haven’t quite figured out where I’m going to go with that one yet. Stay Tuned!

Read Part Six HERE / Listen to Part Six Here


Borman, Tracy. Elizabeth’s Woman (Bantam Books, 2009)
MacCaffrey, Wallace T. The Shaping of the Elizabethan Regime – Elizabethan Politics, 1558-1572 (Princeton University Press, 1968)
Weir, Alison. The Life of Elizabeth I (Ballantine Books, 1998)

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The Tudor Society - Tudor History at your Fingertips

Elizabeth, Queen of England (Part One)

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Elizabeth Tudor has always been on the back-burner for me. While I love the fact that she was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn I’ve never been as interested in her reign as I have been in her father’s.

My views on Queen Elizabeth of England often make me an outcast in my own community. My believe is that the adult Elizabeth, the Queen of England, was not a very nice person. She shared a lot of the same qualities as her father. Now, before you start sending me hate messages please let me explain why I believe she wasn’t a very nice person. Like her father, Elizabeth imprisoned those who had a connection to the throne for marrying without her permission – that is understandable. What I do not understand is how, a woman who chose not to marry, would hold it against those closest to her?  I plan to write an article about the topic so I can’t go too much into detail but there is a reason so many close to her married secretly – they knew that the Queen would never approve their marriage…to anyone. Let’s just take Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and Lettice Knollys as an example. Leicester understood that as the favorite of the Queen that she expected to have him all to herself. Elizabeth had made it clear that SHE could not marry him and he knew that she would never approve a marriage, let alone to her cousin. Fortunately for Leicester, the Queen eventually forgave him but Lettice was not so lucky. Elizabeth never forgave her for falling in love with her Robin, her “Eyes” as she called him. Another one that comes to mind is Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton and Sir Walter Raleigh – Raleigh had also become a favorite of the Queen. They married in secret and both were punished.

So…with all that being said, I was curious: Why do you love Queen Elizabeth I? I posed this question on Facebook to help me understand and to be honest with you the answers were exactly as I had suspected. Here are a few:

Mary Harigan said: “…the labels, the loss of her mother, the rejection by her sister, etc … she remained strong, faithful, determined, courageous, bold, still believing in herself while committing herself to serve others.”

Kim Mary said: “She was intelligent and strong-willed and needed no man to rule in a time when women were considered nothing more than property..like her mother before her I greatly admire her courage and spirit.”

Jessica Forman said: “Because during all the turmoil and hatred she saw and grew up in, she persevered and overcome such adversity!”

Leslie Domler said: “She was queen in her own right. She was strong and unapologetic.”

These examples are only a few of the hundreds that came through when the question was initially posted on Facebook. The one thing in common with most of them is that Elizabeth was a woman, who needed no man to rule. Don’t hate me for saying this, but I feel like it’s merely a women’s lib thing. Was she really that great? That is the question that I will be exploring in my subsequent podcasts and articles. I hope in my journey to discover Elizabeth that, in the end, I feel the same as you do about her.

Another question I posed on Facebook was which actress do you think played Elizabeth the best. The choices that were given were:

Cate Blanchett, Anne Maria Duff, Anita Dobson, Vanessa Redgrave, Judi Dench, Flora Robson, Joely Richardson, Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson, Helen Mirren. After those the rest of them had a few votes here and there – there were also written in votes for Rachel Skarsten on Reign, Lily Cole and Quentin Crisp. You were all VERY passionate about your vote and I love it!

Elizabeth, Queen of England – Part One

Crowds gathered on the morning of the 17th of November 1558 around London to hear the news; Queen Mary was dead. Elizabeth was now Queen of England. But before we get to that, let’s start twenty-five years earlier.

Elizabeth Tudor, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn wasn’t the prince the couple had expected, but she did have her father’s red hair and her mother’s features. King Henry was not angry with his wife, instead he comforted her by saying, “You and I are both young, and by God’s grace, boys will follow.” Henry announced their daughter would be named Elizabeth; It’s possible she was named after both of her grandmothers, Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth Howard, Lady Boleyn.

Alison Weir states in “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” that Anne Boleyn quickly bonded with her child and hated to let Elizabeth from her sight. This differs from those who believed Anne had very little bond with her daughter. Anne had also wished to breastfeed her child but the thought was quickly dismissed when the King discovered and informed her that was the job of a wet-nurse and not a Queen.

At three months old Princess Elizabeth was assigned her own household at Hatfield House. Lady Margaret Bryan was assigned Governess to the princess.

On the 23rd of March 1534, Parliament passed the Act of Succession. This act ensured the children of Henry and Anne would inherit the throne upon his death. It’s also around this time that the Queen went for a visit to Elizabeth and while there extended an olive branch of sorts to Mary. As we know Mary declined.

Born as a princess, Elizabeth Tudor’s fortunes changed overnight when her mother Anne Boleyn, fell from favor.

The day after her mother’s execution, King Henry ordered Elizabeth be moved from Greenwich back to Hatfield. That way he would not have to see her. I can imagine that Elizabeth reminded him of Anne, the woman he supposedly believed betrayed him with one hundred men.

Soon after his marriage to Jane Seymour Henry changed the Act of Succession. This time only his children by Queen Jane would be eligible to succeed the throne of England. Now Elizabeth, like her older sister Mary, was declared illegitimate.

Young Elizabeth had been quoted as saying, “Why, Governor, how hath it, yesterday Lady Princess, and today but Lady Elizabeth?” She was very intelligent, even at three to understand her life had changed, but no one knows for certain when she was told of her mother’s death.

Elizabeth’s Childhood

Elizabeth would certainly have attachment issues from all those around her that left or died. The same would go for the departure of Lady Margaret Bryan as her Governess. With the birth of Prince Edward her duty was with the future heir, not with a bastard daughter of the king.

At eight years old, around the same time that Katheryn Howard, her stepmother, was executed, Elizabeth allegedly told her friend Robert Dudley that she would never marry. This statement supposedly came directly from Dudley himself, later on in life, whether it was propaganda or the truth we will never know.

A New Stepmother – Kateryn Parr

In 1543 King Henry VIII married Kateryn Parr.  The marriage wasn’t a love match for Kateryn but she found a way to be an amazing stepmother to all three of the King’s children – Mary, Elizabeth and Edward.

Kateryn Parr was the only stepmother to truly fill a motherly void in her life. It was Parr who would take an active role in Elizabeth’s education. She found the best tutors to educate Elizabeth – men like Roger Ascham and William Grindahl. Both men were reformist and shared the views of the Queen.

Young Elizabeth’s tutors often complimented her intelligence. They would also comment on her remarkable memory.

Elizabeth was also taught what was the standard for royal woman, needlework, music and dancing. She practiced daily and was of course successful in all areas. She was a marvelous lute and virginal player, as well as singer and music writer, but Elizabeth’s true love was dancing.

Elizabeth was an excellent horsewoman and enjoyed the hunt as well.

Death of Her Father & Thomas Seymour

When King Henry VIII died in January 1547, she was taken in by the dowager Queen, Kateryn Parr. It is while at Chelsea that Elizabeth came into contact with Thomas Seymour, her brother’s uncle and a man who had only recently proposed to her by letter after the death of her father.

Here is her response to his proposal, written on the 27 of February 1547 when she was thirteen years old.

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,


Everytime I read that letter I imagine the teenager being extremely flattered by the attractive Thomas Seymour, however, she strongly understood that as the daughter of a king, a choice like that was not hers to make.

Not long after her eloquent rejection of Seymour, Elizabeth discovered that Seymour had secretly married her stepmother.

Elizabeth also received a letter from her sister Mary regarding the clandestine marriage. We don’t have Mary’s letter but here is part of Elizabeth’s response to it:

“You are very right in saying, in your most acceptable letters, which you have done me the honour of writing to me, that, our interests being common, the just grief we feel in seeing the ashes, or rather the scarcely cold body of the king, our father, so shamefully dishonoured by the queen, our step-mother, ought to be common to us also. I cannot express to you my dear princess, how much affliction I suffered when I was first informed of this marriage, and no other comfort can I find than that of the necessity of submitting ourselves to the decrees of Heaven; since neither you nor I, dearest sister, are in such a condition as to offer any obstacle thereto, without running heavy risk of making our own lot much worse than it is; at least, so I think.”

Continued Interest by Seymour

I’ve always believed that Elizabeth enjoyed the attention she got from Thomas Seymour. Seymour was considered very handsome and charming for his time and it’s understandable if Elizabeth had a crush on him. He was once described as fierce in courage, courtly in fashion, in personage stately, in voice magnificent.” 

The first sign of Thomas’s further interest in Elizabeth was a dramatic one. The story, told by Kat Ashley was that Seymour entered Elizabeth’s bedchamber early one morning as she lay in bed. He wished her “good morrow” before he made it appear as though he would climb in bed with her. Young Elizabeth was stunned by his actions which caused her to blush. She shrank deeper into the bed, ‘so that he could not come at her’. That visit, would be the first of many that were reported by Kat Ashley during her interrogations.

Ashley also stated that Elizabeth, who was not a morning person, would wake early so as to be prepared for Seymour’s intrusion. This did not deter him, he would again appear in the doorway ‘barelegged and in his slippers’, before bidding her ‘good morrow’ and asking ‘how she did’.

It was noted that one time, as Elizabeth turned to move away, Thomas reached out and smacked her on the back and then her bottom. If this statement is indeed true (which if you know me I’ll be the one to stand up for Seymour), this would have been very uncomfortable for Elizabeth. She adored her stepmother and would do nothing to offend her.

It got to a point that Kat Ashley stated she informed Kateryn Parr of her husband’s actions. Parr didn’t appear too concerned at the moment but henceforth made sure to accompany her husband whenever he was near Elizabeth.

Kateryn Parr understood the importance of protecting Elizabeth’s reputation. She was, at that time, second in line to the throne. The most important thing for her was to be virtuous and to protect her virginity.

The Neglectful Governess

The teenager’s Governess, Kat Ashley, had been neglecting her duties of protecting her young charge. Leaving Elizabeth in her bedchamber alone. Which, if discovered, could have been disastrous for her reputation.

One can barely blame Kat for wanting to spend the evening with her husband. They had only recently married. The unfortunate thing is that Kat was being irresponsible. In her position it was her responsibility to protect Elizabeth’s reputation and she was failing. Miserably.

In June 1548, a year and a half after the death of her father, Elizabeth was discovered in an unsavory position with Thomas Seymour at Chelsea. Kateryn Parr caught the two in what has been described as an embrace. Many authors and historians have suspected that this involved kissing. Understanding that something like this getting out would cause disaster for her stepdaughter’s reputation, Kateryn sent Elizabeth away to stay with the Denny’s at Cheshunt.

Sent to Chesthunt

The move was smart for a woman who was concerned about her husband’s infidelity. Having the temptress out of the picture would surely bring Thomas’ focus back on her.

For the sake of appropriateness, Thomas accompanied Elizabeth part of the way to Cheshunt. There it had been arranged that she would stay. Elizabeth and Thomas would never meet again, but this was far from the end of the story for them.

Death of Kateryn Parr

Four months after Elizabeth was sent to Cheshunt, Kateryn Parr died. She was thirty-six years old. Thomas Seymour was once again available for marriage and set his sights on the teenager.

Elizabeth’s neglectful Governess, Kat Ashley had been pushing for her charge to marry the widower, however Elizabeth’s understood that as a person in her position she was not at liberty to marry without the Council’s permission. Thomas Seymour asked the Council if he could have their permission to marry “Madam Elizabeth”. Their answer was a resounding no. Had the council allowed the marriage of the scheming Seymour he would have been seen as a threat to the monarchy. The marriage could not happen.

At the beginning of 1549, Thomas’ luck ran out and he was arrested. He had been plotting a coup against his brother the Lord Protector and is rumored to have shot the young king’s dog while attempting to kidnap Edward VI. In addition to that, the fact that he was plotting to marry the King’s sister could have been the nail in his coffin.

There were 33 charges filed against him in all. Unfortunately for Thomas, he would not go free. Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley was executed in March 1549. Upon hearing of his death, Elizabeth said, “This day died a man of much wit and very little judgement.”

We’ll end this article with what has been described by Dr. Linda Porter as words written by Thomas Seymour while in the Tower. She suspects that he had come to terms with the fact that he was going to die.

“Forgetting God

to love a king

Hath been my rod

Or else nothing:

In this frail life

being a blast

of care and strife

till in be past.

Yet God did call

me in my pride

lest I should fall

and from him slide

for whom loves he

and not correct

that they may be

of his elect

The death haste thee

thou shalt me gain


with him to reign

Who send the king

Like years as noye

In governing

His realm in joy

And after this

frail life such grace

As in his bliss

he may have place.”

Read Part Two: Click Here / Listen to Part Two: Click Here


Ives, Eric; The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn

Norton, Elizabeth; The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor

Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Weir, Alison; The Life of Elizabeth I

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The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor (Guest Post)

The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor

Guest article by Elizabeth Norton

6 February 1559. In the great gallery at Whitehall Palace Elizabeth I, who had been queen for only three months, received a deputation from the House of Commons. Led by their speaker, Sir Thomas Gargrave, the politicians filed in. They had come, said Gargrave, to request that the queen marry, ‘as well for her own comfort and contentment, as for assurance to the realm by her royal issue’. Elizabeth, who was still only twenty-five years old, received their address courteously, thanking them ‘for the love and care which they did express, as well towards her person as the whole state of the realm’. She had, however, ‘made choice of a single life’ and was resolved to ‘preserve in a virgin’s state’. There was, however, a time that her virginity had been rather less surely guarded.

A little over a decade before – in June 1547 – the English court had been rocked by the news that the queen dowager, Catherine Parr, had secretly married. For her own fourth husband, the sixth wife of Henry VIII had chosen Thomas Seymour. Thomas was handsome and, as the uncle of the new king, Edward VI, highly eligible. He was also ambitious and, as one contemporary had it, ‘somewhat empty of matter’. He was already disaffected with an unequal share of power, which saw his elder brother become both Lord Protector and governor of the king. After first proposing matches with the two princesses, Mary and Elizabeth, he had settled on their stepmother, joining her household at Chelsea that month.

At Chelsea, Thomas found his wife’s thirteen year old stepdaughter, Princess Elizabeth. When Queen Catherine married Thomas, along with the promise in the conventional marriage vows that she would be ‘buxom’ in bed, she vowed to obey him. The fact of her marriage allowed him dominance over every aspect of her person for, as a married woman, she ceased to exist independently in law. Everything that married women owned, down to the clothes on their backs, passed to their husbands, to whom wives were utterly subject. As well as regularly helping himself to his wife’s generous widow’s pension, Seymour also arrived at Chelsea as the house’s new master.

The first sign of Thomas’s interest in Elizabeth was a dramatic one. One morning, he entered her bedchamber as she lay in bed, pulling back the bed-curtains. Leaning into the bed, he called ‘good morrow’, before seeming to pounce, as though he would climb in with her. Stunned and blushing, Elizabeth shrank deeper into the bed, ‘so that he could not come at her’. It was to be the first of many such visits with the girl, all of which are recorded in the testimony of her closest servants.

Sometimes, the princess who was (as she admitted) ‘no morning woman’, made an effort to rise early, not wanting to be caught by surprise. Yet, he still came, appearing in the doorway ‘barelegged and in his slippers’, before again bidding her ‘good morrow’ and asking ‘how she did’. Once, as Elizabeth turned to move away, Thomas reached out to smack her on the back and then ‘familiarly’ on her buttocks. For a girl who blushed even to brush hands with her stepmother’s husband when dancing, this was startling. She fled to her maidens, but Seymour followed, speaking playfully with the girl’s attendants as if nothing were amiss.

The danger to Elizabeth’s reputation was very real. Her lady mistress, Kate Ashley, who had once encouraged Seymour’s suit, recognised this. She had earlier moved the pallet bed from Elizabeth’s bedchamber at Chelsea so that the girl slept dangerously unchaperoned. This had probably been done so that Kate could share a bed with her husband, rather than constantly supervising the girl, but it looked suspicious. As Seymour’s visits increased, Kate confronted him in the gallery at Hanworth, where the household moved later in the summer. Berating Thomas, she stated that ‘these things were complained of, and that My Lady was evil spoken of’. Seymour was having none of it, swearing fiercely ‘God’s precious soul!’, before declaring that ‘he would tell My Lord Protector how it slandered him, and he would not leave it, for he meant no evil’. There was little else she could do.

Catherine Parr, too, failed to protect Elizabeth from Seymour’s growing interest. He was rumoured to be an ‘oppressor’ in his domestic arrangements, and Catherine, though she loved him, dared not vex him. She joined in some of the early morning romps herself, perhaps in an attempt to convince herself that all was as it should be. Nonetheless, she also admonished Kate to keep a closer eye on her charge while, in the autumn of 1547, she left Elizabeth behind at Hanworth when the household moved to London in time for the opening of parliament. She could not keep them apart indefinitely, however. On finding the pair locked in an embrace in June 1548, she finally sent the girl away.

For propriety’s sake, Thomas accompanied Elizabeth part of the way to Cheshunt, where it had been hurriedly arranged that she would stay. While the pair never met again, this was far from the end of the story of his temptation of Elizabeth Tudor. On 5 September 1548, the thirty-six year old queen died in childbirth, leaving Thomas Seymour, once again, ‘the noblest man unmarried in this land’. He had no plans to remain that way for long, with his thoughts – and his ambitions – turning squarely towards Elizabeth.

In a little over six months, he would be dead, while Elizabeth found herself under interrogation. As the embarrassing details of her relationship with Thomas began to emerge, she remained composed, infuriating her interrogator will her failure to ‘cough out matters’. For the rest of her brother’s reign, Elizabeth kept away from affairs, dressed in sombre black. She would never again allow her heart to rule her head, commenting only when she heard of Thomas’s execution that ‘this day died a man of much wit and very little judgment’. Yet in all her long life, it was Thomas Seymour who came closest to being her husband.

Further Reading:

Norton, Elizabeth;The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen (2017)

About the Author:

I have loved history and, particularly the Tudor dynasty and the queens of England since first picking up a book about the kings and queens as a child. I got into archaeology as a teenager and studied Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, focussing particularly on the medieval period.

During my degree I was awarded two scholarships by my college, New Hall, for my work and eventually attained a double first class degree. After leaving Cambridge, I completed a masters degree at Oxford University in European Archaeology. The focus was again on the medieval period, with my dissertation on the Anglo-Saxon sculpture of the South Saxon kingdom.

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Understanding Young Elizabeth Tudor

Through my constant research of Thomas Seymour I’ve been led on an unexpected journey to discovering the young Elizabeth Tudor. From those who read my blog often you know that I tend to write mostly about the reign of Henry VIII because, well, that’s where I started and there is so much to tell! This is why I’ve decided to write this piece about my current understanding of Elizabeth Tudor – undoubtedly a monarch I still have a lot to learn about.

Born on the 7th of September 1533, Elizabeth was not the son that her father (Henry VIII) and mother (Anne Boleyn) had expected. From the beginning all of the royal physicians and astrologers, save one, had predicted that Anne would indeed have a prince. When Elizabeth was born there was a disappointment by both parents but Henry assured Anne that sons would soon follow and Elizabeth had a splendid christening that was fitting a princess.

As far as her life prior to her mother’s execution, I can confidently say that Elizabeth had little memory – just as you and I don’t necessarily remember what happened when we were two and a half years old. My son was three years old when his father and I finally married and while he remembered it for a few years after, now at 13 he doesn’t remember it at all. The same can most definitely be said for Elizabeth.

Historian David Starkey states in Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne that “there is no evidence that Elizabeth met her father’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, during her six months of marriage to the King.”


It was Katheryn Howard’s marriage to her father that most likely had the deepest impact on her future outlook on marriage. I recently read that after the execution of Katheryn Howard that Elizabeth told her sister Mary that she would never marry. Now, please forgive me because I cannot recall which book it was but it was most likely, The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser or The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor by Elizabeth Norton. I was surprised when I read it because it was also a scene is Showtime’s The Tudors. Robert Dudley was also reported as saying that Elizabeth told him at the age of eight that she would not marry – they may have coincided with the execution of Katheryn Howard as well.

When we move forward to the woman I would consider her favorite step-mother, Kateryn Parr, we see a woman who had a great influence on Elizabeth. Katheryn was like the mother that Elizabeth never had and she encouraged Elizabeth to study what she believed to be her mother’s faith – the Protestant faith. Nowadays, many historians and authors are quick to say that Anne Boleyn was a Reformist and not a Protestant. Anne wished to see changes in the church but before her death was concerned at how far Cromwell was taking it.

When I think of young Elizabeth I am often reminded of how she must have felt…no mother, a father who had declared her illegitimate and practically abandoned her for many of her formidable years and English subjects who had looked at her only as the daughter of the “Great Whore”. It all seems so unfair by today’s standards. These things made Elizabeth the person she became, just as our own pasts have made us into the people we are today.

After the death of her father, King Henry VIII, Kateryn Parr took Elizabeth into her household – something Elizabeth would have been extremely happy about. It is while in that household that young Elizabeth experienced her first crush. Thomas Seymour was a very attractive man with a lot of charisma.

Elizabeth’s attraction to Thomas Seymour is unmistakable. He was considered an attractive man who was easy to like – Elizabeth, like any young lady, enjoyed the attention she received from him. My gut tells me that it was his proposal to her (soon after her father’s death) that initially ignited the flame.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII Mug

The Six Wives of Henry VIII Mug - Designed by Rebecca Larson

When Kateryn Parr caught Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour in an embrace she was livid. What exactly is meant by “embrace” is unclear – whether it was merely a hug between the two is uncertain, but one could assume it was more than hug. I know this isn’t popular opinion but I get the impression that Thomas kissed Elizabeth and she didn’t pull away – letting her teenage hormones get the best of her. Unfortunately, by succumbing to her feelings she temporarily severed her strong relationship with the woman who meant so much to her, Kateryn Parr. Fortunately, Kateryn was smart enough to know that the prudent thing to do was to send Elizabeth away.

The only people who knew about the embrace were Parr, Seymour, Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s governess Kat Ashley whom Parr told. In order to protect Elizabeth’s reputation she wrote Kat Ashley’s kin, Sir Anthony Denny and his wife (Kat’s sister) Joan to invite Elizabeth into their home. This was to cover up the fact that Kateryn Parr wished to separate her from her husband. Even Elizabeth’s cofferer, Thomas Parry could not remember if Elizabeth “went of herself, or was sent away”.

Word began to spread of the “affair” and speculation arose that Elizabeth was pregnant with Seymour’s child. These rumors were compounded by the fact that Elizabeth who, now housed with her new wards, became ill and took to her bed. This was once again, like so many times in her youth, an example of how Elizabeth’s health was associated with traumatic events in her life. These rumors became so bad that Elizabeth felt the need to write the Lord Protector (Edward Seymour) to tell him that she had heard the rumors and would like to come to court to prove them wrong.

This is just a taste of the things about young Elizabeth and I plan to continue with a Part Two.

Further Reading:

Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne
Norton, Elizabeth; The Temptations of Elizabeth Tudor
Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII
Porter, Linda; Katherine the Queen
Ives, Eric; The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn

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Book Review: “The Bastard Princess” by G. Lawrence

Jane Seymour (21)

After much time on the back-burner I was able to read this wonderful book – Book One, of the Elizabeth of England Chronicle by Gemma Lawrence: The Bastard Princess.

I’m always interested in reading books about Elizabeth’s early years since it helps me see other writer’s view-point on her relationship with Thomas Seymour and her mother. This book did not disappoint.


Book Summary:

February, 1603? In Richmond Palace, London, the last Queen of the Tudor dynasty, Elizabeth I, is dying. As Death hovers at her elbow, waiting for her to obey his call, the aged Queen looks back on her life, and on the trials, victories and sorrows which brought her eventually, to the throne of England. Not quite three years old when her mother, the notorious Queen Anne Boleyn, was arrested and executed on charges of adultery and treason, Elizabeth became a true princess of the Tudor era, in a time when the balance of power, politics and passion were fragile? and the cost of failure was death. Her childhood and teenaged years were fraught with danger as competing factions and ideologies sought to undermine and destroy her in the bid for power at the Tudor court. This is the story of Elizabeth Tudor, last daughter of Henry VIII, and her journey to the throne of England. Told from her own mouth? the tale of the Bastard Princess, who would, one day, become England?s greatest Queen.

My Review:

The life of Elizabeth Tudor, whether she was Princess Elizabeth or Lady Elizabeth was often filled with drama. But with that drama she always had someone in her inner circle whom she felt she could trust completely.

Of the women whom she felt she could trust the most were her step-mother, Katherine Parr and her governess, Kat Ashley. As it turns out in this story, both of those women would ultimately abandon the young Elizabeth for their own reasons and in their own ways. Katherine, to save her marriage and to stop any rumors from getting out and Kat Ashley, who when being interrogated implied that Elizabeth may have done things that were unsavory, if given the chance.

There are two things about Elizabeth’s life that always get my attention and leave me wanting more.

1. How Elizabeth did feel about her mother?

2. What happened between her and Thomas Seymour?

In this book we get those questions answered. Kat Ashley, being the one closest to Elizabeth, was able to shed light on Anne Boleyn for Elizabeth while Katherine Parr could sneak her the best gift she could ever receive of her mother’s.

Then there is the relationship between Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour. I’ve always subscribed to the theory that nothing inappropriate happened between the two, even though there were confessions made by Kat Ashley to say otherwise. This part of the story pulled me in. What can I say, I’m a woman who likes a romantic story line when ‘the forbidden fruit’ is tasted.

I felt like the author did a very tasteful job of explaining the emotions of a teenage Elizabeth. It reminded me a lot of when I was a teenager, first feeling new emotions for a man and how those feelings can lead to an obsession,?wanting to always be near that person.

The book begins at the end of Elizabeth’s life and then reverts back to late April 1536 and ends in late 1553 when her sister became the first Queen Regnant and Elizabeth heir to the throne.


In conclusion, I’d rate this book 4 out of 5 stars. The story line pulled me in and left me frantically flipping pages to find out what was going to happen next. There were only a couple of areas where I lost interest, but in all fairness I tend to get that way with Elizabeth’s story anyway. If you’re a fan of Elizabeth Tudor I would highly recommend reading this book. At 302 pages it really does not take that long to read. I am looking forward to starting Book Two, The Heretic Heir.

Interested in buying this book?

Amazon – US orAmazon – UK

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Similar Fates: Anne Boleyn and Thomas Seymour

This will not be the first time I mention this idea and it won’t be the last – Anne Boleyn and Thomas Seymour had very similar fates.

The thought came to me one day when I was reading one of my many primary sources about Thomas Seymour. If you did not know already I’ve been researching and writing a book about Thomas Seymour since 2016 – a book to show a side of Thomas Seymour that no other author has dared to write about. I’ve even started a separate website and Facebook page just for him because I feel that he is unjustly vilified.

Similar Fates

Let’s look at the things that these two prominent court members had in common. Both had close relationships with the King of England, both had testimonies against them that sealed their fate and both were executed, unjustly.

What gets me the most is the fact that we all know Anne Boleyn was innocent of the charges put against her. In my opinion the charges against Thomas Seymour were falsified or exaggerated so the council, Lord Protector and King Edward would feel confident in sending him to the scaffold because he dared to speak his mind and stand up for what was his. Isn’t that the same thing Anne Boleyn did?


During the interrogations or questioning of those close to Anne Boleyn we know that Mark Smeaton was tortured. There is no evidence even proving that Anne was in the locations Mark says that they slept together. Mark confessed to something he did not do to (we can assume) make the pain stop.

Now, if we look at those who were questioned about Thomas Seymour we have to focus on Kat Ashley. Kat had been part of Elizabeth’s household for many, many years and actually liked Thomas Seymour. At one point she wanted Elizabeth to marry him after the death of Katherine Parr. When Kat Ashley was questioned it was only two years after Anne Askew, a woman, was tortured and executed.

It is commonly believed by many who have read Kat’s testimony that is untrustworthy and inaccurate. Some have thought that since Kat Ashley had pushed for Elizabeth marry Seymour that Kat herself had a crush on Thomas, or she at least thought he was innocent enough. What was in it for Kat had Elizabeth married Thomas? That is something else we must consider.

I believe Thomas had a way with women. He had a charisma that was attractive to many women. But, with that being said, he didn’t always get his way. So why would Kat Ashley turn on him in the end? I’d like to suggest, to save herself.

Name Calling

During her life, and after, Anne Boleyn had been referred to as a “whore” whereas Thomas Seymour gets labeled a “molester” or “pervert”. All this name calling is unfair for all parties included. Anne Boleyn was not a “whore”, she was a queen consort, a mother, a sister and a daughter who was bold enough to speak her mind and eventually marry Henry VIII, only to lose her head for it. She was framed so Henry VIII could rid himself of his second wife to marry his third and so Thomas Cromwell could continue his reformation work without Anne breathing down his neck.

Thomas Seymour was definitely not a “molester” or a “pervert”, he was the uncle of the King, Lord Admiral, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, brother of the Lord Protector and late Queen Jane. Both of these people do not deserve the name they are often called. Thomas Seymour was framed because those in power feared what he would do to get the power he so rightfully deserved. Their response was proactive, not reactive. We do not have proof that Thomas attempted to kidnap Edward. We do not have evidence that HE shot Edward’s dog to quiet it. If his case was held in today’s court of law he would easily be set free – the evidence is circumstantial.

In closing, please remember that we cannot judge these two people or the situations by 21st century standards. Doing so is unfair to both parties.

Thank you,



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