Letter: Princess Elizabeth to King Edward VI


While looking through old letters I came across this one and was struck by how it stated that Elizabeth’s letter was accompanied by a portrait of herself for her brother, the King – King Edward VI. When I read that I started to think about all of the portraits of Elizabeth that I’ve seen over the years, in particular ones during the reign of her brother, Edward (1547-1553). I could only think of one around that time and it would have been circa 1546 – a portrait that Elizabeth had made for her father when she was thirteen.

The Letter

The Princess Elizabeth to King Edward VI with a present of her portrait:

Like as the rich man that daily gathers riches to riches, and to one bag of money layeth a great sort til it come to infinity, so I think your Majesty not being sufficed with many benefits and gentleness showed to me before this time, dothe now increase them in asking and desiring where you many bid and command, requiring a thing not worthy the desiring for it self, but made worthy for your Highness request. My picture I mean, in which if the inward good mind toward your grace might as well be declared as the outward face and countenance shall be seen, I would nor have “taried” the commandment but prevent it, nor have been the last to grant but the first to offer it. For the face, I grant, I might well blush to offer, but the mind I shall never be ashamed to present. For thought from the grace of the picture the colors may fade by time, may give by weather, may be spotted by chance; yet the other nor timewith her swift wings shall overtake nor the misty clouds with the lowerings may darken, nor chance with her slippery foot may overthrow. Of this although het the proof could not be great because the occassions have been but small, notwithstanding as a dog hath a day, so may I perchance have time to declare it in deeds where now I do write them but in words. And further I shall most humbly bessech your Majesty that when you shall look on my picture, you will vouchsafe to think that as you have but the outward shadow of the body afore you, so my inward mind wischeth that the body itself were often in your presence; howbeit because both my so being I think could do your Majesty little pleasure, thought myself great good; and again because I see as yet not the time aging thereunto I shall learn to follow this saying of Horce, “Feras non culpes guod vitari non potest.” And thus I will (troubling your Majesty I fear) end with my most humble thanks. Beseeching God long to preserve you to his honor, to your comfort, to the realms profit, and to my joy.

From Hatfield this 15 day of May.

Your Majesty’s most humble sister, Elizabeth

The Portrait

Provenance: Probably painted for Henry VIII, c. 1546. First recorded in the 1547 inventory of Edward VI. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

In 1547 Princess Elizabeth sent a portrait of herself to her brother (the future Edward VI) accompanied by a letter. This was probably not this particular portrait, but the sentiment in the letter indicates the princess’ attitude to having her portrait painted. She described the portrait as ‘the outwarde shadow of the body’ and expressed a wish that her ‘inwarde minde’ could be more often in her brother’s presence. - Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016


Original letters, illustrative of English history : ser.1-3; Author – Ellis, Henry, Sir, 1777-1869
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016


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Lady Margaret Bryan: Governess of Prince Edward


Lady Margaret Bryan is best known as Governess to Princess Mary, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Edward. She was given a very important charge – the care of three future monarchs. In this article we are looking at who Margaret Bryan was and letters from her time as Governess of Prince Edward.

Lady Margaret Bryan

Born Margaret Bourchier, about 1468, in Yorkshire, she was the daughter of Elizabeth Tilney and Sir Humphrey Bourchier who was killed at the Battle of Barnet. The Battle of Barnet took place in 1471 and was one of many battles during the Wars of the Roses.

Elizabeth Tilney served as a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth Woodville and later, Lady of the Bedchamber to Elizabeth of York.

Margaret was the middle child of her parent’s three children. She had an older brother, John who later became 2nd Baron Berners and a younger sister, Anne who later became Baroness Dacre when she married Thomas Fiennes, Baron Dacre.

After her father died in 1471, her mother, Elizabeth Tilney, married Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey. Because of this marriage Margaret Bourchier became the half-sister of Thomas Howard (future 3rd Duke of Norfolk) upon his birth in 1473 and Elizabeth Howard (mother of Anne Boleyn) when she was born in 1480, among other half-siblings.

Sometime before 1490, Margaret wed Sir Thomas Bryan and together they had two children that made it to adulthood: Sir Francis Bryan and Elizabeth Bryan (who married Nicholas Carew).

Both Margaret and her husband served Katherine of Aragon at court – Margaret as a lady-in-waiting and Thomas as vice-chamberlain.

Surrounded by nobles at court and within her family – Margaret would have been very familiar with  the customs, training and etiquette it would take to govern the young royals.

Prince Edward

As Governess of the future King of England Margaret was responsible for his person. She was to make sure that when visitors arrived that they saw the young prince in all his glory.

This letter is dated June 30, 1538 in Letters and Papers and discusses things the young prince would need and also updates Cromwell on his wellness:

My Lord,

After my most bounden duty I humbly recommend me unto your good lordship; and according to the king’s grace’s commandment and yours shall accomplish it to the best of my power with such things as here is to do it withal: which is but very bare for such a time. The best coat my lord prince’s grace hath is tinsel, and that he shall have on at that time; he hath never a good jewel to set on his cap; howbeit I shall order all things for my Lord’s honour the best I can, so as I trust the king’s grace shall be contended withal; and also Master Vice-Chamberlain and Master Cofferer I am sure will do the best diligence that lieth in them in all causes.

My lord, I thank Jesu my lord prince’s grace is in good health and merry, and his grace is in good health and merry, and his grace hath four teeth; three full out, and the fourth appeareth. And thus fare you well, my own good lord, with as much joy and honor as your noble heart can desire.

From Havering, with the hand of her that is your true beadwoman, and will be during her life,

Margaret Bryan


Here is a quote from Lord Chancellor Audley to Cromwell after his visit to the prince on the 8th of September 1538:

Posthumous portrait of Thomas Audley (c.1488–1544)
And I assure your lordship I never saw so goodly a child of his age – so merry, so pleasant, so good and loving countenance, and so earnest an eye, as it were a sage judgemental towards any person that repaireth to his grace; and as it seemeth to me, thanks be to our Lord, his grace increaseth well in the air that he is in, and albeit, a little his grace’s flesh decayeth (he is thinner), yet he shotyth out in length (has grown), and wexith firm and stiff, and can steadfastly stand, and would advance himself to move and go, if they would suffer him, but as me seemeth they do yet best, considering his grace is yet tender, that he should not strain himself, as his own courage would serve him, till he come above a year of age.

In the letter, Audley also states that he is glad to hear the King will remove Edward from Havering for the winter for the house will be very cold. The conditions at Havering are much better for the Prince’s health in the summer.

Later in March 1539, Lady Margaret Bryan wrote Cromwell again to tell him that Edward was in good health and merry and that she wished that he and the King had seen Edward the previous night. While the minstrels played young Edward “danced and played so wantonly that he could not stand still…”

Although Lady Bryan retained the title of lady mistress even after Edward’s succession in 1547, her last years were spent not at court but at her estate in Essex, where she enjoyed a generous annuity of Ł70 per year.

Margaret Bryan writes as a mother would – talking of accomplishments of her young son. I can imagine that for little Prince Edward that she was the closest thing to a mother that he could recall.

Lady Bryan died in 1552, living long enough to see Edward on the throne of England.

Through her daughter, Margaret was the great-grandmother of Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton, Lady Raleigh, wife to Walter Raleigh and chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I.


Loach, Jennifer; “Edward VI”

Wagner, John A., Walters Schmid, Susan; “Encyclopedia of Tudor England, Volume 1”

Everett Green, Mary Anne; “Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain: From the …, Volume 3”

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Timeline of a King: Edward VI



  • October 12 – Prince Edward was born at Greenwich Palace. His mother was Jane Seymour. He was the only son of Henry VIII to survive infancy.
  • October 15 – The baptism of Prince Edward was performed at Hampton Court. Both Mary and Elizabeth participated in the ceremony. Edward was declared Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester.
  • October 24 – Edward’s mother, Jane Seymour, died from child-bed fever a fatal form of septicemia.
  • Later this year – Lady Margaret Bryan was moved from Elizabeth’s household to Edward’s as his Lady Mistress.
  • November 12 – Edward’s mother was buried in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor.


  • January 6 – Edward’s father, Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves, his fourth queen consort.
  • July 9 – The marriage between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves was annulled.
  • July 28 – Edward’s father, Henry VIII married Katherine Howard, his fifth queen consort.


  • November 23 – Queen Katherine Howard is formally stripped of her title and was to be referred to as Lady Katherine Howard.


  • February 13 – Lady Katherine Howard (former queen consort) was executed at the Tower Green.


  • July 1 - Treaty of Greenwich was signed, it betrothed Prince Edward to Mary Stuart  daughter of the late James V of Scotland
  • July 12 – Edward’s father, Henry VIII married Katherine Parr, his sixth and final queen consort.
  • December 11 – Scottish Parliament broke the Treaty of Greenwich which led to an England-Scotland conflict called the Rough Wooing. Led by Edward’s uncle Edward Seymour.


  • January 28 – Edward’s father, Henry VIII died at Whitehall and young Edward succeeded him as King of England at nine years old.
  • January 31 – Earl of Hertford (Edward Seymour) was named Lord Protector of the Realm and Governor of the King’s person during Edward’s minority.
  • February 16 – Edward’s father, Henry VIII was buried beside his mother, Jane Seymour in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor.
  • February 20 – Coronation of Edward VI.
  • Spring/Summer – Edward’s step-mother, Katherine Parr married Thomas Seymour within six months after the death of Henry VIII.


  • February 7 – Young Mary, Queen of Scots flees Scotland to the safety of France to avoid capture by the English. This ends the War of Rough Wooing.
  • September 5 – Katherine Parr died from child bed fever after having her only child, Mary with Thomas Seymour.


  • March 20 – After plotting against Edward VI his uncle, Thomas Seymour was executed.
  • Edward introduced a uniform Protestant service in England based on his Book of Common Prayer.


  • October 8 – Edward’s grandmother, Margaret Wentworth died, she was mother to Queen Jane, Edward and Thomas Seymour all listed above.


  • Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset was executed after being deposed by John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick.


  • John Dudley arranged the marriage of his son to Lady Jane Grey and then convinced the ill Edward VI to name Lady Jane Grey as his heir.
  • May 25 – Lady Jane Grey was married to Guilford Dudley.
  • July 6 – Edward VI died and in his will he changed the succession by naming Lady Jane Grey and her male heirs in his line of succession.