The Life of Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset

As the only child of Sir Edward Stanhope and Elizabeth Bourchier, Anne Stanhope became the sole heiress of her father’s estate at the age of one. Through her mother’s side of the family Anne was descended from King Edward III of England through his son, Thomas of Woodstock.

After the death of Edward Stanhope, Anne’s mother eventually married again, her third marriage was to Sir Richard Paget, who was also well-connected to King Henry VIII. Paget was a gentleman of the Privy Chamber for King Henry and also Vice-Chamberlain in the household of Henry Fitzroy.

There is little evidence that remains about Anne’s childhood – it is, however, believed that she was a maid-of-honor to Katherine of Aragon.

It is believed that Anne Stanhope met her future husband, Edward Seymour while they were both in service at court in 1529¹ – Edward was in the household of Henry VIII while Anne was in service of Queen Katherine. At that time Edward was still married to his first wife, Katherine Fillol and the couple had just had their second son, Edward. Or what was believed at the time to be his son.

As the story goes, it was discovered sometime between 1527 and 1530 that Edward’s wife Katherine Fillol had an affair. The scandalous part is that it was a long affair with…yep, Edward’s father, Sir John Seymour. When Edward discovered the affair he was outraged, as any spouse would be after such a discovery, but he was enraged by the fact that the culprit was his own father.

After discovering what happened, Edward immediately sent his wife to a nunnery. While not knowing for certain the paternity of his sons, he disowned both of them — after all, how would he know if the boys were his sons, or brothers? How could he look at them without wondering?

There is no definitive proof that Edward’s father, Sir John Seymour was indeed the man who Katherine Fillol had an affair with, but many historians believe so, including Alison Weir. However, in Weir’s book, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” she states that all of Henry’s court was aware of what had happened with the Seymours. That statement, if true, leaves me wondering why Henry VIII would look at marrying a woman from a family with such a scandal. It is possible that a lot of people knew about it. It is definitely possible that they talked about it.

Only a few things point in the direction of Sir John Seymour being the culprit:

A handwritten note is recorded in the margin of Vincent’s Baronagein the College of Arms: “repudiata quia pater ejus post nuptias eam cognovit.” Roughly translated, it says, “Divorced because she was known by his father after the wedding.” It alleges that the affair Katherine was having was with her own father-in-law, Sir John Seymour.

In the book, The Seymour Family by Amy Audrey Locke, she states:

One story given by Peter Heylyn states that when the Earl, then Sir Edward Seymour, was in France, he ‘did there acquaint himself with a learned man, supposed to have great skill in magick; of whom he obtained by great reward and importunities, to let him see, by the help of some magical perspective, in what estate all his relation stood at home. In which impertinent curiosity he was so far satisfied as to behold a gentleman of his acquaintance in a more familiar posture with his wife than was agreeable to honor of either party. To which diabolical illusion, he is said to have given so much credit that he did not only estrange himself from her society at his coming home, but furnished his next wife with an excellent opportunity for pressing him to disinheriting of his former children.

Also noted should be the fact that Katherine’s father, Sir William Fillol adjusted his will:

Something happened during her marriage to Edward. In her father’s will, dated 1527, Catherine is excluded from inheriting “for many dyverse causes and considerations … Catherine nor hir heiress of hir boody ne Sir Edward Seymour hir husbonde in any wyse have any part or parcell’ of his manors or estatesInstead, Catherine is left an annual pension from the estate of 40£, provided she go and “virtuously and abide in some house of religion of women.” In other words, a convent.

Edward Seymour and Anne Stanhope were eventually married sometime before the 9th March 1535 and their first child, Jane (presumably named for the queen) was born on the same day Prince Edward, 12th of October 1537. Unfortunately, as was common for the time, little Jane did not survive. In 1538, a son named Henry (after the king, of course) was born but soon died as well. Their third child, a son called Edward (after his father) was born in 1539. Next, author Margaret Scard in “Edward Seymour” states that a son and a daughter were born in 1540, Margaret and Henry (presumably twins). The following year, in 1541, a daughter named Jane was born. The last of the children were Mary, Catherine, another Edward and Elizabeth. Anne Stanhope was forty years old when she had their last child, Elizabeth.

Sometime in 1538, most likely on Anne’s insistence, his boys by Katherine Fillol were excluded from Edward Seymour’s property and titles by Act of Parliament – she meant business, wanting her children to benefit from their father’s standing, not his supposed children from his first marriage.

Anne was acquainted with, if not friends with Anne Askew in 1546 – they shared the same reformist beliefs but the difference was that one of the women was willing to died for her beliefs and to protect those close to her. On the 16th of July 1546, Anne Askew was brought into Smithfield on a chair due to the fact that she was unable to walk or stand after her interrogation by Thomas Wriothesley and Richard Rich. It is possible, and some have said, Stanhope sent a man in a blue coat with 10 shilling to help her². Some have said that Stanhope was responsible for gunpowder being placed on Askew’s body to quicken her death.

During Kateryn Parr’s tenure as Queen Consort, Anne Stanhope managed to stay on good terms with both Princess Mary and Parr, but her religious leanings were Protestant. Even with that being said, Anne had a great relationship with Mary when she was Queen of England.

At the end of January 1547, Anne Stanhope’s life changed for the better. Previously, Anne had been in the household of Kateryn Parr, but now Parr was a dowager queen and Anne became Duchess of Somerset and the wife of the Lord Protector – essentially she was the most powerful women in England. This quick rise in social standing may have gotten to her head when she believed that the queens jewels belonged to her and not Kateryn Parr. Parr merely wanted the jewels given back to her that were gifts from Henry VIII and her mother. The topic of the queen’s jewels may be one of the topics that drove a wedge between Edward and Thomas Seymour. Whether or not Somerset had the right to possess and control the jewels that belonged to the king or were given by the former king – this is something that came back to haunt him later.

Anne Stanhope believed that Kateryn Parr forfeited her rights of precedence when she married the younger brother of her husband. Fortunately for Anne this feud would only last about a year – Parr died in September 1548 after giving birth to a daughter named Mary.

After the execution of Thomas Seymour, Anne’s brother-in-law in March 1547, his daughter by Kateryn Parr lived for a brief time at Syon House under the protection of Anne and her husband before being transferred to the household of Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk.

In October 1549, Somerset was removed from power and held in the Tower of London. In an effort at reconciliation, Anne and the earl of Warwick’s wife, Jane Guildford, arranged a marriage between Anne’s daughter, Anne Seymour, and Warwick’s eldest son, John Dudley, who became earl of Warwick when his father was elevated in the peerage to duke of Northumberland. Somerset was arrested again on October 16, 1551 and accused of plotting against Northumberland. This time he was executed. Anne was also arrested and remained a prisoner in the Tower of London until May 30, 1553, even though she was never charged with any crime.

During the downfall of her husband, Edward, Anne kept in constant with her brother Michael to stay up to date on what was occuring. Then Anne wrote Sir William Paget to ask for help. She hoped the Paget could find a way to smooth things over with the council members who had now turned against him. She asked Paget, “What hath my lord done to any of these noble men or others that they should thus rage and seek the extremity of him.

Under Mary Tudor, three of Anne’s daughters were at court. Her oldest son, Edward, was restored in blood. Anne was granted a number of Northumberland’s confiscated properties and Hanworth, Middlesex, where she chose to live. It was at Hanworth that a romance secretly blossomed between Anne’s son Edward and Lady Catherine Grey, younger sister of Lady Jane Grey. When the couple eloped in 1560 and were subsequently confined in the Tower of London, Anne was careful to distance herself from them.

The year after her son was sent to the Tower Anne married her late husband’s former steward, Francis Newdigate. Little is known about their life together.

When Anne’s son Edward was released from the Tower of London he was released into her custody as well as his eldest son with Catherine Grey.

On the 16th of April 1587 Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset died, she was about 77 years old. Anne was a reformer and a literary patron. She died at Hanworth Place and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Recumbent Effigy of Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset. Credit: “Plate 191: Recumbent Effigies. Francis, Duchess of Suffolk, Margaret, Countess of Lennox, Anne, Duchess of Somerset,” in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 1, Westminster Abbey, (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1924), 191. British History Online, accessed April 11, 2018,


¹ Kathy Lynn Emerson,
² Foxe, John. “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”


Abernethy, Susan. “ – Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset
Emerson, Kathy Lynn. “”
Foxe, John. “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”
Fraser, Antonia. “The Wives of Henry VIII”
Scard, Margaret. “Edward Seymour”
Wikipedia. “Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset

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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.


Elizabeth, Queen of England (Part Three)

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Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England (Part Three)

The last article in this series on Elizabeth was two weeks ago because of Christmas, and since then my research and writing has been at a minimum. As I discussed on Facebook I’ve been having a difficult time with this part of her life. The purpose of this series on Elizabeth was not only to share with all of you but to open my own eyes on the woman, the Queen, that I’ve had little interest in. My interest has always been with her father, Henry VIII. I’ve never been a big fan of Queen Elizabeth, only Princess and Lady Elizabeth Tudor. This series on her is a selfish one – one that will show me something about the adult Elizabeth that I was unaware of.

At the end of our last podcast we ended with Elizabeth under house arrest at Woodstock. At Woodstock Elizabeth was allowed to keep six of her own servants. Three men and three women. The women were with her constantly while the men could come and go. This made it easy for messages to be delivered.

Bedingfield was housing a woman who could easily outsmart his rules and there wasn’t much he could do about. While he was doing a job for the crown, Bedingfield understood that one day Elizabeth would be Queen and he would have HER to answer to.

As a prisoner at Woodstock it was Elizabeth’s responsibility to pay for her jailer, Bedingfield, and his staff. She had to pay for their food and drink – so they were dependant on Elizabeth for sustenance.

While Woodstock was better than the Tower, Elizabeth hated her time there – If she had wished to escape her jail, there were a couple of options at her disposal: A coup d’etat was an option but that wouldn’t be as easy as one would think. It was imperative to Elizabeth not to dethrone Mary or have her killed. Her biggest concern was the impact of repeated usurpation on the monarchy. First Lady Jane Grey and then Mary – an aggressive act on the part of Elizabeth could have caused doom for the Tudor dynasty.

The only other way out of her jail would have been to negotiate with her sister, the Queen. When Elizabeth told Bedingfield that she wished to send a letter to her sister he denied her request. As per the rules she was not supposed to communicate with anyone, including the Queen.

Bedingfield the smart man he was mentioned her request to write the Queen to the council. Their response, which obviously came from the Queen, was that she was pleased that Elizabeth should write.

The actual letter did not survive history but author David Starkey states that we know a broad outline from Mary’s response. Starkey states that Elizabeth professed her innocence. The Queen said that she was ‘most sorry’ for having been suspicious of her sister but copies of letters had been found in the French ambassador’s bag that appeared to implicate Elizabeth. Not only that’s but the fact that she had been used as a figurehead for Wyatt’s Rebellion did bode well for Elizabeth’s cause.

Queen Mary had been quoted as saying, “Conspiracies be secretly practised, and things of that nature be many times judged by probably conjectures and other suspicions and arguments, where the plain direct proof may chance to fail.”

It was the actions of Elizabeth’s that showed her sister her guilt. The Queen was tired of her sister’s ‘disguise and colourable letters’. She informed Elizabeth through a letter to Bedingfield that she must behave properly toward God which would eventually improve her behaviour toward the Queen herself.

When Elizabeth heard the contents of her sister‘s letter to Bedingfield her reaction was one of regret – she wished her letter would have had a better reaction from her sister. Just because she had a way with words did not ensure her safety and freedom. This had become obvious to her.

Eventually Elizabeth was given permission to approach the Council through the means of Bedingfield. Her plea to the Council was the she should be put on trial for the charges against her – and she wanted a face to face meeting with her sister. If both requests were denied than she requested the Council come to Woodstock to hear her case.

Elizabeth was an excellent lobbyist. The benefit for Elizabeth was that the Council was divided. There were those who understood that she could one day be queen herself, this meant the members of the council had to look out for themselves and their futures.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth would spend nearly a year at Woodstock. That is until she was summoned to court by her sister who was now married to Philip of Spain and believed to be with child. It was the 17 of April when Bedingfield received the letter. He was told by the Queen to bring Elizabeth at once.

Elizabeth arrived at court, which was being held at Hampton Court Palace sometime between the 24th and 29th of April. She did not have the grand entrance of a princess but was essentially snuck in the back door.

Mary had brought her sister to court to be there when she gave birth to her heir and to be present at the christening. Of course the heir would never come because she was not pregnant, only believed to be. But we’ll get back to that a bit later.

During Elizabeth’s time at court, Prince Philip saw an opportunity to keep Elizabeth under his thumb and essentially the Queen’s as well. He wished for Elizabeth to marry his friend the Catholic prince, the Duke of Savoy. Elizabeth refused to be a pawn and the marriage never happened. Instead the Duke of Savoy married the daughter of King Francis I of France.

The first week of May brought more fear into Elizabeth’s life when she was summoned to the pregnant Queen’s rooms at ten at night. Elizabeth feared an assassination attempt. At this point she was aware that death could be around every corner awaiting her. This late night meeting with her sister was the first time in a year that Mary and Elizabeth had seen one another.

Little did Elizabeth know at the time but her new brother-in-law, Prince Philip was listening in on the conversation from behind a tapestry on the wall, he was very interested in how this all played out. You see, Philip’s interest was with Elizabeth- the much younger and prettier sister who could still provide an heir for England and Spain. His wife, Mary, the Queen of England had not yet given birth and many believed she had not been pregnant at all. But they dare not say it to the Queen.

Philip’s attitude toward the Protestant princess had recently changed. His eyes had turned from one sister to the other. Elizabeth…compared to her aging and less attractive sister was very appealing to Philip – he was a man nonetheless.

Philip had wed Mary to bring England on his side with Spain’s ongoing struggles with France and it had become obvious to Philip that his wife was not with child after all and that her womb only carried disease.

These were the things that made Elizabeth attractive to Philip. His fear was that if Mary died that the Mary Stuart, the Queen of Scots would inherit the Catholic throne of England. The Scottish Queen had extreme ties to the French throne through her engagement to the dauphin.

Elizabeth was fully aware of how the tide was changing in her favor and she took full advantage of the situation. While Elizabeth saw the events of the time turning in her favor, she also felt pity on her sister. The woman who once cared for her so much.

As the Queen’s pregnancy continued even her doctors believed she was still with child, they believed they had merely miscalculated her due date. This reminds me of her mother, Katherine of Aragon’s miscarriage when doctors believed she had been carrying twins and had miscarried one.

Even while her doctors continued to assume the pregnancy was valid, the women closest to the Queen knew that she was not with child at all. They had known her since childhood and had seen how Mary suffered during her monthly courses.

The Queen’s midwife and servant had witnessed her recently and were quoted as saying, “that the Queen’s state was by no means of the hopeful kind generally supposed, but rather some woeful malady, for several times a day she spent long hours sitting on the floor with her knees drawn up to her chin.” As we understand today that is not normal behavior for a pregnant lady. I could not imagine when I was at the end of my pregnancy bringing my knees to my chin. My belly was too firm and too big to do so.

We know that Mary’s womanly courses had never been normal and that she had suffered from a retention of her menstrual fluids and a strangulation of her womb. In my opinion, I believe Mary suffered from Endometriosis.

During her supposed pregnancy her body had swelled and her breasts had become swollen and produced milk – no wonder the doctors of the time believed her pregnant.

Four months after she had taken to her chamber Mary realized all was lost. At the beginning of August she snuck out of Hampton Court and slipped away to Oatlands Palace – the place her father had married Katheryn Howard…surely she was embarrassed that she had not been with child after all. She had let down England, Philip and herself.

Throughout all those months at Hampton Court while the Queen was lying-in, Elizabeth was by her sister’s side. She had witnessed the heartache of her pain and the sadness of her mental state. Not only had this broken the Queen’s spirit but it had also done great damage to the Queen’s reputation in public.

On the 18th of October 1555, Elizabeth was finally given permission to leave court and head back to Hatfield. As she traveled through London on her way out the crowds cheered loudly for her. Elizabeth understood the danger of the crowd’s reaction to her and instructed her men to quiet them for fear of the Queen finding out.

Once at Hatfield her life was indeed better than it had been while at Woodstock. Bedingfield was no longer her jailer and only a month later Kat Ashley was allowed to rejoin Elizabeth.

In the meantime, Philip was summoned by his father, Charles V to attend to business in the Netherlands. When Queen Mary found out about the summons she wrote Charles asking Philip to stay – she needed him. Her appeals fell on deaf ears. When no child appeared Philip prepared to leave England. He had requested that his beautiful sister-in-law be present to bid him farewell – something that upset the Queen dearly.

In July 1556, Elizabeth had been informed that her former stepmother and great ally, Anne of Cleves had died. Anne’s will declared that the sisters should receive her best jewels. She was the last of Henry VIII’s wives to die. Her death would have affected Elizabeth deeply.

Around this time Philip had reluctantly returned to England – Mary was beside herself with happiness. The following summer he left once more and Mary once again believed herself with child.

In February 1558, Elizabeth visited her sister at Richmond Palace to give her sister well wishes on a safe delivery and probably to see for herself if Mary was indeed with child. Elizabeth presented the queen with baby clothes that she had made herself. A week later Elizabeth left Richmond to return to Hatfield.

Near the end of her life, Queen Mary once again reached out to her sister. Elizabeth returned to court per her sisters request. At court it had become obvious to everyone that the Queen was dying. She needed to name an heir and Elizabeth was the obvious answer, however, she was Protestant and this was difficult for Mary to acknowledge. Her husband even sent his confessor to Mary to persuade her to name Elizabeth as her heir. After much resistance she eventually gave in and told Philip that she was much pleased with his suggestion. While she agreed with Philip she did not formally acknowledge her choice.

On the 28th of October 1558, Mary updated her will and finally acknowledge that she would have no child and that crown should transfer to the next heir by law. She had not directly named Elizabeth but all knew who she meant. It wasn’t until a week later that Mary finally relented and named Elizabeth her heir. Mary’s favorite lady, Jane Dormer was sent to deliver the Queens final wishes to Elizabeth. That she was to uphold the Roman Catholic faith, to be good to her servants and to pay her debts.

Elizabeth, being as evasive as ever was careful not to promise to fulfill all her wishes – in particular religion.

On the 17th of November 1558, at four or five in the morning, Queen Mary I died. Elizabeth was now Queen of England.

So that’s where we’ll end this show…Queen Mary was dead and Elizabeth was now Queen of England.

Read Part Four: Click Here / Listen to Part Three: Click Here


Borman, Tracy; Elizabeth’s Women (2009)
Johnson, Paul; Elizabeth I – A Study in Power & Intellect (1974)
Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne (2001)

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A Kingdom in Crisis (Guest Post)

A Kingdom In Crisis

Guest article by Alan Freer

It was mid-morning on Palm Sunday in the year of Our Lord 1554. A young woman of 20 sat in a barge at the Watergate of the Tower of London. Under this dark, forbidding, stone portal so many had passed to end their lives on Tower Green at the executioner’s block. Her own mother had made the self-same journey some 18 years before. At first she refused to alight on the landing-stage but was informed by the Marquess of Winchester that she had no choice in the matter. As she stepped ashore she stated, “Here landeth a subject, being a prisoner, as ever landed at these stairs, and before Thee, O God, I speak it, having none other friend but Thee alone.” She turned to the assembled Tower Wardens and said, “O Lord, I never thought to have come in here a prisoner, and I pray you all, good friends and fellows, bear me witness that I come in no traitor, but as true a woman to the Queen’s majesty as any is now living; and thereon will I take my death.” Some of the Wardens broke rank and knelt before her saying, “God preserve your Grace!”

The evening before, Princess Elizabeth had managed to delay her journey down the Thames by writing to her sister, Queen Mary. By the time she had completed the letter the tide had risen to a height that made it impossible to go under London Bridge. She was pleading for her life.

The previous year had seen the death of her Protestant half-brother, Edward VI and Mary’s accession to the throne. Being half Spanish and the first female ruler of England, Mary turned for advice and support to Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. She had received the Emperor’s ambassador, Simon Renard, and installed him as one of her closest advisors. Charles proposed a match between Mary and his recently widowed son, Philip. This would bring England into the orbit of Spain and sink any prospect of an alliance with France. The marriage was very attractive to Mary as it provided her with a partner in the burden of rule and the hope of producing a Catholic heir to the throne. The visage of Spanish rule in England was far from popular with its people.

As a Catholic monarch, Mary re-established the Catholic Mass at Court. Conscious of her unwelcome position as a figurehead for Protestant hopes, and therefore the danger of her situation, Elizabeth complied with her sister’s wish that she attend Mass. Renard was sceptical of Elizabeth’s sudden change in religious sentiment and urged that she be confined to the Tower. Parliament was persuaded to reverse the statute that made Mary illegitimate (passed at the time of Henry VIII’s divorce from her mother). Although, by law, Elizabeth was also illegitimate, she was, by statute, next in succession to the throne should Mary die childless. Mary was tempted to have the line of succession changed to exclude Elizabeth but Sir William Paget advised her that Parliament would refuse. The House was relatively compliant, but not that compliant. The only other legitimate candidate to take Elizabeth’s place would be Mary, the child Queen of Scots. Spain was whole-heartedly against such a move as the child was betrothed to the heir of the French throne. Mary was stuck with Elizabeth, the only alternatives being the production of an heir or Elizabeth’s death.

Elizabeth was staying as Ashridge at the time. Mary ordered her to Court, presumably to keep a closer eye on her. Elizabeth replied on about the 23 January 1554 declaring ill health as excuse not to attend. Two days later Sir Thomas Wyatt, with a small force from Kent, raised rebellion against the Spanish marriage. The London militia were sent to oppose them but promptly joined the rebels, taking Southwick on the south bank of the Thames. London Bridge was closed and Wyatt’s men were forced to march to Richmond Bridge to cross the river; by which time a force, loyal to Mary, had been organised and the rebels were easily defeated. It was this action that so endangered Elizabeth’s life for Wyatt had intended to place her on the throne. The prejudice against Elizabeth made it impossible, in the eyes of Mary’s councillors, for her not to have had knowledge of the plot. Despite Wyatt’s denial that she was innocent of any involvement, Mary was determined to bring her sister to book. She sent physicians to Ashridge to ascertain Elizabeth’s state of health. She had indeed been ill, her body all swollen – a complaint she suffered throughout her life at times of extreme stress. Despite her condition, Elizabeth was brought to London by litter and lodged at Whitehall behind guarded doors. Her household and anyone connected with her were examined in an effort to incriminate her. Elizabeth, herself, was interrogated by the Council and Bishop Gardiner encouraged her to place herself at the mercy of Queen Mary and ask for pardon. She replied that to do so would be a confession of crime – let them prove her guilty, then she would seek a pardon! No direct link could be established between her and Wyatt, or none that stood up to close scrutiny. Despite a lack of firm evidence both Mary and Renard were convinced of her complicity. The Queen felt she had no alternative but to confine her sister to the Tower.

Elizabeth’s incarceration failed to alleviate Mary’s problems. London, ever the Protestant city, began to voice its protest in favour of their martyred Princess. There is the strange story of the “Spirit in the Wall.” Thousands flocked to a particular wall where they cried “God save Queen Mary,” to which it replied nothing. They then cried, “God save the Lady Elizabeth,” to which it said in reply, “So be it.” When Parliament met on 3 April, the streets were strewn with handbills and pamphlets in support of Elizabeth. Three days later Wyatt was executed, protesting Elizabeth’s innocence from the gallows. On 17 April a London jury acquitted Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, an associate of Wyatt’s, of treason and on the same day, Wyatt’s head was stolen from the gallows on which it had been staked. A few days later a paper was discovered in the Queen’s kitchen threatening both Mary and Bishop Gardiner, and stating that Philip of Spain must look to his life when he landed in England for the proposed marriage.

Mary was at her wits end. She could not keep her sister locked in the Tower indefinitely nor could she set her free. The only course of action was to place her under house arrest outside London. It was decided to keep her at the royal manor of Woodstock under the custodianship of Sir Henry Bedingfield. On Saturday, May 19, after two months imprisonment in the Tower, Elizabeth left by boat for Richmond and her journey north. As she travelled under escort, crowds gathered to cry, “God save your Grace.” Cakes and tokens of affection and support were handed to her and at Wheatley and Stanton St. John the whole village turned out to cheer her.

Woodstock was well guarded and no one had access to her without the express permission of Bedingfield. Elizabeth’s servant, Thomas Parry, was given the duties of feeding and paying the household staff, though he was not permitted to stay in the house. He established himself at the Bull Inn at Woodstock and the place became a miniature Court – adding to Bedingfield’s problems. Sir Henry, a conscientious though slow-witted man, found his duties a great burden. He eventually found it safer to refer all matters to the Council; even to the extent of what books Elizabeth should be allowed to read.

Philip of Spain landed at Southampton in July 1554 and he and Mary were married at Winchester five days later. With the new king came a vast retinue. One Londoner noted, “At this time there was so many Spaniards in London that a man should have met in the streets for one Englishman above four Spaniards, to the great discomfort of the English nation.” Tempers were short and affrays frequent and there was even a rumour that the archbishopric of Canterbury was to be given to a Spanish friar.

With the Queen and her new King established in London, the full force of a counter reformation began. Heresy laws were passed and the stake and faggots were soon in use. This holocaust of religious fervour soon brought the Queen the epithet “bloody” and even disgusted the Imperial, Venetian and French ambassadors – Catholics all.

November saw the return of Mary’s religious mentor, Cardinal Reginald Pole, and she took the opportunity to announce her pregnancy. All was going in Mary’s favour – a husband, the hoped for Catholic heir and a compliant Council to reinstate the True Faith. She felt safe enough to allow her sister to be moved to Hampton Court. The two of them met, Elizabeth protesting her innocence, Mary ever suspicious.

Months passed and the time came for Mary to give birth. At one point rumours circulated in London that the child had been born and the church bells were set ringing. April became May, and May, June and still nothing happened. The “pregnancy” became a sick joke. The Polish ambassador arrived in London, complete with a speech of congratulations on the new child. Unfortunately nobody warned him and he read the speech out at Court, adding to the comic farce. At the end of August 1555 Mary and Philip travelled down river to Greenwich, Mary’s favourite palace. In early September Philip left England for Flanders on Spanish affairs.

In the meantime, Elizabeth had also been moved to Greenwich. She was now in a much stronger position. With Mary’s phantom pregnancy and the religious persecution, Elizabeth’s enemies knew of her popularity. Her greatest danger now was being married off to serve Spanish interests. In October Mary returned to London for a meeting of Parliament and Elizabeth moved her household to her manor at Hatfield.

In the course of the winter Elizabeth had to face a new danger. A party was founded in the House of Commons to resist all Catholic legislation. The Council placed a bill before Parliament against Protestant refugees abroad.

The Protestant hot-heads, who met at an eating-house in London called Arundel’s, managed to gain the keys to the House, locked the Catholic supporters of the bill out, forced a vote and defeated the measure. A number of Elizabeth’s servants and supporters were arrested and placed in the Tower but no evidence was found to connect her to the action and no charges were brought. For three months Elizabeth was kept under house arrest in the congenial care of Sir Thomas Pope. Sir Thomas was the opposite of Bedingfield in that he was a man of intelligence and wit and the founder of Trinity College, Oxford. Elizabeth and Sir Thomas, prisoner and jailer, became friends and passed the time discussing plans for the development of the college.

Mary longed for the return of her husband for her biological clock was in overdrive and hopes of an heir were fast disappearing. Philip was in no hurry to occupy the bed of his prematurely aged wife.

By the spring of 1557 Elizabeth was released from restriction and visited her sister at Whitehall. The two women seem to have declared a truce and there was a brief period of reconciliation. Meanwhile Elizabeth’s greatest fear was being realised. Philip was actively trying to find her a husband. The prime candidate was his kinsman, Emmanuel Philibert, heir to the Duke of Savoy. Elizabeth refused. Others were suggested and all refused. There was even a proposal that she marry Philip’s 11-year-old son, Don Carlos.

In March 1557, after an absence of nineteen months, Philip returned to his wife. He stayed long enough to get England involved in a war with France that ended with the loss of Calais.

The beginning of 1558 saw Mary failing in health, probably from cancer of the ovaries. Once more she thought herself pregnant, but it was wishful thinking. By the end of the summer her time was fast running out. The country was divided over religion, the treasury was empty and England’s only overseas possession had been lost. At Hatfield Elizabeth was quietly building her own Court. Men of skill and intellect gravitated to her, among them a man of thirty-eight named Sir William Cecil. He was to prove her anchor through much of her reign – a true servant of his beloved Queen.

On November 6th Mary bowed to the inevitable and recognised Elizabeth as her successor. At seven in the morning on 17 November Queen Mary died, with few tears shed at her passing.

According to tradition, Elizabeth was at Hatfield, walking in the park. The members of the Privy Council found her sitting under an oak tree. They knelt on the grass before her and presented her with Mary’s coronation ring. She cast her eyes to heaven and spoke the words, “A domino factum est et mirabile in oculis nostris” (“God has done it and it is marvellous in our eyes.”). Thus the reign of Gloriana began.

Elizabeth became Queen of an impoverished, divided minor kingdom on the northern edge of Europe; she left it, forty-five years later, a world power and on the edge of greatness.

About the Author

CaptureI am Alan Freer and live in the small village of Byfleet, Surrey, England. Edward, the Black Prince, spent much of his final years in Byfleet. I have been an amateur “historian” since the age of seven, when I purchased my first history book in 1955. Indeed, it was anticipated that I would become a history teacher, but a brief conversation just before I was due to go to university directed me to the banking industry – more lucrative but, perhaps, not so satisfying! History lead me into genealogy and I have my own website detailing the Descendents of William the Conqueror ( ). A never-ending project! When I retired from the bank in 1999 I started to write and have had a number of articles published in US history magazines or on magazine websites. Primarily I wrote for the amusement of my colleagues in my second occupation as a civil servant. I count myself most fortunate to have been born in England and would not wish it otherwise – except, possibly, Italy!!

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Monthly Recap of Articles #1: Latest Posts on

meHere at I try to put out new a article at least every other day, but sometimes it doesn’t happen and sometimes I publish more. It’s just the nature of the beast when I have a full-time day job. I’ve decided to start publishing a newsletter that will highlight the last 5-10 posts in case you’ve missed them.

Here is newsletter #1 with the 10 latest posts on You can click on the article name or picture to be directed to the post. Enjoy!

Articles listed from oldest to newest:

11 May 2016

Elizabeth’s Hand Fans 

Have you ever looked at portraits of Queen Elizabeth I and noticed in many of them she’s holding a fan? This was something of interest to me and I had to look into it further.


12 May 2016

Anne Boleyn: What Did She Really Say?

The 19th of May marks the anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn. It is an event that history will not soon forget. No matter how hard Henry VIII tried to wipe her from history her story remains as one of the most well-known in English history.


15 May 2016

Katherine of Aragon: Near the End

As we talk about the end of Anne Boleyn we cannot forget the end of her rival, Katherine of Aragon only a few months earlier in January 1536. Katherine is often over-shadowed by Anne’s execution, but she was an interesting queen nonetheless. This piece show what her life was like near the end and how her fellow Spaniards would do anything for her.

Katherine of Aragon, NPG

19 May 2016

The Unpopularity of Anne Boleyn

Today we remember Anne Boleyn. Today is the anniversary of her execution. During our countdown to her execution on our site we haven’t really looked at the reasons people didn’t like her at the time.

This guest post will shed some light on why it seemed so easy for some to dislike Anne.

RIP Anne

Anne boleyn 12

21 May 2016

The Relationships of Lady Mary Tudor: Henry VIII and his Consort Katherine Parr (Part 1)

Throughout the reign of Henry VIII, as many know, he had six different wives. As you already know, his daughter Mary lived through all of his wives…she had five stepmothers.

This guest article by Meg McGath covers her relationship with Henry’s last wife.

mary kat

23 May 2016

Tudor Marys

There are so many women by the name Mary in the Tudor period. Guest author, P. Deegan gives us a breakdown of the most popular (and not so) Marys during the Tudor period.

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25 May 2016

Queen Mary’s False Pregnancies

Whenever I think about Mary’s false pregnancies a great sadness overcomes me. I know people in my own life who wanted children so badly but were not able to have them, for one reason or another.

This piece covers Queen Mary’s false pregnancies – the first in particular. Was Mary as delusional as the reports in this post made her seem?


27 May 2016

The Relationships of Lady Mary Tudor: Henry VIII and his Consort Katherine Parr (Part 2)

Throughout the reign of Henry VIII, as many know, he had six different wives. As you already know, his daughter Mary lived through all of his wives…she had five stepmothers.

This guest article by Meg McGath covers her relationship with Henry’s last wife.

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29 May 2016

Lettice Knollys: Cousin vs Queen (Part 3)

The soap opera of Lettice/Dudley/Elizabeth continues on as Lettice Knollys’ flirtation and subsequent marriage to Queen Elizabeth’s favorite, Robert Dudley, saw her banished from court in 1569 and again in 1579. Lettice had been forgiven once, but the Queen was not inclined to forgive her cousin again. Dudley, on the other hand, was summoned back to court in a matter of weeks since Elizabeth banished him to Wanstead Hall (his estate in Essex).

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31 May 2016

Tudor Katherines

Following on from my piece on the various Marys that were notable figures in the Tudor period, I now intend to do a article on another name that crops up a lot during this period: Katherine or Catherine. Both forms of this name were used in this period and sometimes it is possible to find both forms used for the same person when different historians write about them.

Guest article by P. Deegan

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this first newsletter!  If there is a topic, or a person you’d like to see us write about please feel free to let us know in the comment section below.