Elizabeth Throckmorton: The Queen’s Permission


Elizabeth Throckmorton

Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton was born the 16th of April 1565, to  Sir Nicholas Throckmorton and Anne Carew. Nicholas Throckmorton was a diplomat and politician during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and was instrumental in the relationship between Elizabeth and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. He had befriended both queens, which must have put him in several awkward situations. One of those situations happened in 1565, when Queen Elizabeth sent Throckmorton to Scotland (as an ambassador) to stop the marriage of the Scottish Queen to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnely. As many of you know – he failed at his cause.

Peake, Robert; Portrait of a Lady; Maldon Town Council; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/portrait-of-a-lady-3028
Peake, Robert; Portrait of a Lady; Maldon Town Council; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/portrait-of-a-lady-3028

In February 1571, when Bess was nearly six years old her father passed away.

Throckmorton’s end was recorded by Robert Dudley;

We have lost on Monday our good friend Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, who died in my house, being there taken suddenly in great extremity on Tuesday before; his lungs were perished, but a sudden cold he had taken was the cause of his sudden death. God hath his soul, and we his friends great loss of his body.

In 1584, at the age of 19, Bess 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 was 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 to get permission to be courted. The Queen must give her approval of any man wishing to court one of her ladies as they were supposed to be seen as extremely virtuous women. Bess Throckmorton and Walter Raleigh had a secret and intimate relationship without the permission of the Queen.

Sir Walter Raleigh

By July 1591, Bess Throckmorton was pregnant – she secretly wed the father of her child, Sir Walter Raleigh. Bess understood the seriousness of getting married without permission from Elizabeth, but what was she supposed to do? She was pregnant with the child of the man she loved. She most certainly would have been aware of Elizabeth’s reaction to her secretly marrying one of her court favorites. As we’ve learned in the past (ex. Lettice Knollys and Robert Dudley) Elizabeth did not handle these situation well. Bess must have been aware of this. She left court to stay at her brother Arthur’s home in London and gave birth to a son there in March 1592 – he was named, Damerei.

Sir Walter Raleigh with son Walter - 1602
Sir Walter Raleigh with son Walter – 1602

Damerei Raleigh was baptized on 10th April 1592, with Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, Bess’ brother Arthur Throckmorton, and his wife, Anna Lucas as godparents. Damerei was then sent to Enfield to a Throckmorton relative while Elizabeth returned to court on the 12th April. (Source: Family Search – Elizabeth Throckmorton)

Not long after her return to court Bess’ marriage to Sir Walter Raleigh and the birth of their child was discovered by Queen Elizabeth. They were both thrown into the Tower of London. In October 1592, young Damerei died from the plague. After the death of their son the Queen chose to release the couple. Queen Elizabeth never forgave Bess for her betrayal and Raleigh was ordered not to be seen at court for one year. Bess never returned to favor. This is a similar tale to the one we heard about Lettice Knollys. She also never returned into the favor of her dear cousin, the Queen. It appears that a woman who was closest to the Queen must not fall for anyone the Queen dearly loved, or she would lose the love of her Queen.

The couple remained devoted to each other, although, according to Weir, Bess proved to be a domineering wife. Anna Beer, Lady Raleigh’s biographer, offers a different perspective, pointing out that due to Raleigh’s frequent absences, whether on expeditions, diplomatic duties, or in prison, Bess had to shoulder an unusual level of responsibility for a woman of her time. (Wikipedia: Elizabeth Raleigh)

In 1593, Throckmorton and Raleigh had another son, this one they named Walter. In 1605, Bess gave birth to another son named, Carew – after her mother’s side of the family. At the time when Bess gave birth to their son Walter Raleigh was in the Tower of London. After the ascension of King James I of England/James VI of Scotland, Raleigh’s enemies had found a way to convince the King that he was a threat and that is the reason he was imprisoned.

After many appeals by Bess, her husband was executed on the 29th of October 1618. Bess is said to have kept her husband’s embalmed head with her until the day she died. At which point it was reunited with its body.


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Queen Elizabeth’s Explorers

Elizabeth I: The Phoenix Portrait, c. 1575, attributed to Nicholas Hilliard

We generally write about the people of court and their lives – not necessarily what was happening in the world around the time of their reign. However, when we posted our article,  The Legacy of Henry VIII, it opened a new door to the history of the Tudor Dynasty.

The more we research Queen Elizabeth, the more we realize how much she was like her father, King Henry VIII. Henry was always looking for ways to be remembered in history – whether it was wanting to claim the country of France as his own, or having built the most palaces during his reign, he wanted to leave a mark in the history books. Unfortunately for him, he is remembered more for his tyranny and having six wives, of whom he beheaded two. Elizabeth, on the other hand, did a much better job of being remembered as a great ruler and explorer of new lands.

The reign of Queen Elizabeth brought about great exploration of the New World and beyond. In fact, the short-lived colony of Virginia (1584-9), at Roanoke Island was named after the virgin queen herself.

In this article we will touch base on two of the most famous of Queen Elizabeth explorers, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake.

Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh

Walter Raleigh was born circa 1552 in England as the youngest of five sons born to Catherine Champernowne.

Walter Raleigh was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1585 – he was appointed warden of the stannaries. This means he exercised judicial and military functions in Cornwall. He was also named Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall and vice-admiral.

Sir Walter Raleigh was a known favorite of Queen Elizabeth’s and a great explorer during her reign. Raleigh was an early supporter of colonizing the new world, but Elizabeth would not allow him to leave her service. Instead, Raleigh invested in having others go in his place to establish a colony near Roanoke. Raleigh dispatched 107 settlers to Roanoke in 1585, under the command of Sir Richard Grenville. Raleigh would name the colony Virginia, in honor of his virgin queen.  This group was deterred by the Native Americans who attacked them regularly and so the colonists returned to England. On their return they brought back to England things the country had never seen before, potatoes and tobacco.

In 1587*, Raleigh sent another group of settlers – 150 of them to the new world to settle Roanoke. On this trip the people built houses and planned a longer, if not permanent stay.  Commander John White sailed back to England for supplies and had been delayed by the Spanish Armada. White finally returned in 1590 and the colonists had vanished. They are now referred to as the “Lost Colony of Roanoke Island” and the mystery is still investigated to this day.

Sir Walter Raleigh fell from the Queen’s graces when he secretly wed her Lady-in-Waiting,  Bessy Throckmorton in 1592. When Queen Elizabeth discovered the marriage she (as always) went into a jealous rage and threw both Walter and Bess into the Tower of London. They were only briefly imprisoned and Raleigh again voyaged for the Queen in 1594.

Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake

Francis Drake was born circa 1540 in England and was the oldest of twelve sons born to Edmund Drake and his wife Mary Mylwaye.

Francis Drake was involved in piracy and illicit slave trading before being chosen in 1577 as the leader of an expedition intended to pass around South America, through the Strait of Magellan, and explore the coast that lay beyond. Drake successfully completed the journey and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I upon his triumphant return. In 1588 he saw action in the English defeat of the Spanish Armada, though he died in 1596 from dysentery after undertaking an unsuccessful raiding mission.**

Sir Francis Drake was one of the most celebrated of Queen Elizabeth’s Explorers – he was instrumental in the seizure of Spanish gold from looting their ships on his voyage, in 1579. This made the Queen very happy. On this trip Drake anchored at what is now present day San Francisco and claimed it for Queen Elizabeth – he dubbed it “New Albion” or “New Britain.”

Drake continued to serve the Queen until his final day. During his final voyage for the Queen to obtain more of the Spanish gold in Panama he contracted dysentery and died 28 January 1596 from fever. Sir Francis Drake was buried in a lead coffin at sea near Portobelo, Panama. He was dressed in full armor. The search for his coffins continues to this day.***



*The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips, page 128 “Voyages of Discovery”
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips, page 128-129 “Voyages of Discovery”

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