NEW SEASON: Tracy Borman, Jane Boleyn and Lady Anne Clifford

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared my podcast with all of you – in case you didn’t know, I supplemented my website with a podcast in February 2017. I told a lot of stories about people and events in Tudor England, and then I moved to interviewing authors and historians. THIS season, I step it up with a 3-segment show! Please take a listen to my most recent episode featuring Tracy Borman. Adrienne Dillard answers listener questions about Jane Boelyn, Lady Rochford during ‘Ask the Expert’, and lastly, I tell you all about Lady Anne Clifford in ‘A Brief History’.

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Elizabeth, Queen of England (Part Six) – Two Queens, One Island

They were both female, both royal by birth and both queens in their own right, but being cousins is what caused the most havoc in the lives of these two women. I am of course speaking of Elizabeth Tudor and Mary Stuart.

It wasn’t only the fact that the cousins practiced different religions but that one was declared illegitimate in 1536 after the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn. Had Henry VIII legitimized both Mary and Elizabeth Tudor when he added them to the line of succession things may have turned out very different for Mary Stuart.

In this post I will not go into full detail on the cousins lives but will try to understand their relationship a bit better and show the differences in the two women.

On Facebook I asked the following questions: 

Do you believe that Elizabeth truly saw Mary as a threat to her throne?  Or was it her advisors who made her believe it?

Here are a few of the responses:

Lisa Pennington: ”Mary was a clear threat because Mary wanted to depose and kill her! Elizabeth knew this too, but hesitated to execute a regnant Queen.”

Nora C Conley: ”I think Mary may very well have been a threat but Elizabeth was also a tad bit paranoid. I think the backers of both women were the real problem. If Mary didn’t have a few powerful backers she would have hardly mattered at all.”

Gail Trusty: ”I think it was complicated enough to be a female ruler. Two of them competing, unheard of in memory. The men wanted them gone. They got one to kill the other, and rendered the other infertile by making every one she chose to marry, not qualified. And they got the job done.”

Bethany Morris: ”Elizabeth was not stupid. She knew she was a threat and learned information through her Advisors who of course knew that she had to make a choice over her life or risk her always being a threat. But that does not mean that she liked the choice in front of her. It weighed heavy on her conscience.”

Age When They Became Queen

Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland at only six days old, after the death of her father, King James V.

Elizabeth Tudor became Queen of England at twenty-five years old after the death of her sister, Queen Mary.

Elizabeth, nine years older than her cousin was Protestant, while the younger Mary was a staunch Catholic. Religion became the force between the two queens that would ultimately lead to the execution of Mary Stuart.

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland & France

Mary Stuart had been of queen of two countries, by birth Scotland, and by marriage France. Mary wed Francis, the dauphin of France on the 24th of April 1558 at the cathedral of Notre Dame. Something not many people know is that Francis was given the crown matrimonial upon his marriage to the Scottish queen. This made him the King of Scotland. Upon hearing this the very powerful Hamilton family in Scotland joined the Protestants to oppose the decision to make Francis the King of Scots. The Hamiltons were heir apparent to the Scottish throne should Mary die without issue – they had a vested interest in the matter. In the two years the young couple were married the Scottish crown never arrived in France.

Mary Stuart, Queen of England

During the last illness of Queen Mary I of England in November 1558, the Valois family in France, or King Henry II to be more specific, saw Mary Stuart and his son Francis as the Catholic heirs to the throne of England. As stated earlier, Queen Mary was Catholic while her cousin Elizabeth was a well-known Protestant. As the great grand-daughter of King Henry VII, King Henry II of France had convinced the young Queen that it was her right to inherit the English throne should Queen Mary die.

It seems that the 15 year old Mary did not fully understand how her claims to the English throne offended her cousin Elizabeth. By allowing those around her to claim the title of Queen of England she would start a battle with England that would end with her execution.

Scotland 1560 & Treaty of Edinburgh

In 1560, while Mary was still in France, a Protestant and anti-France uprising threatened Mary’s Scottish throne. English intervention on the side of the insurgents and the death of Mary’s mother, Mary of Guise, led to the Treaty of Edinburgh. With this treaty the French agreed to withdraw their troops that had been stationed in Scotland and agreed to recognize Elizabeth’s right to rule England. This left Scotland in the hands of a coalition that supported Protestantism.

Mary refused to ratify the treaty which marked the end of the first stand-off between the two young queens: Elizabeth came out of it triumphant, while Mary was humiliated and incensed.

Mary’s Return to Scotland

Then in December 1560, Mary’s husband, a young man who had only been King of France for seventeen months died. The death of King Francis II left Mary a childless dowager queen of France. Catherine de Medici, a woman who practically raised Mary, made it clear that her home was in Scotland and not France. This must have been a scary time for Mary, she was just a child when she arrived in France and Scotland would seem foreign to her – her only choice was to return to her homeland. 

Elizabeth, who had only been Queen of England for two years, was concerned about her Catholic cousin’s return. This was solidified by Mary’s refusal to ratify the Treaty of Edinburgh. Because of this Elizabeth was furious and in turn refused Mary a warrant of safe passage through English waters upon her return from France.

In a conversation with the English Ambassador Mary is quoted as saying:

“If my preparations were not so far advanced as they are, replied Mary, peradventure the queen, your mistress’s unkindness might stay my voyage; but now I am I am determined to adventure the matter, whatsoever come of it. I trust the wind will be so favorable that I shall not  come upon the coast of England; but if I do, then, Monsieur l’Ambassadeur, the queen, your mistress, will have me in her hands to do her will of me; and if she be so hard-hearted as to desire my end, peradventure she may then do her pleasure and make sacrifice of me. That casualty might be better for me than to live; in this matter God’s will be done!”¹

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley

In the summer of 1565 things became more heated between the two cousins when Mary took as her second husband, her cousin (and Elizabeth’s), Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. This new marriage did not please Elizabeth because he was also considered a possible heir to the English throne…which as she saw it (and her advisors) was a threat to her rule and her life.

For those not familiar with Darnley’s heritage: He was the son of Margaret Douglas who was the daughter of Margaret Tudor, dowager queen of Scotland and sister to Henry VIII. Henry Stuart was Elizabeth’s first cousin as well as first cousin of Mary Stuart. Henry VIII had excluded his eldest sister’s family in the line of succession for an unknown reasons, but it could easily be because of the rocky relations between the two countries or Henry’s fear that both countries, England and Scotland could be ruled by a Scot, or worse yet, a ruler from Europe.

By the following summer, the Scottish Queen became pregnant with who would later be King James VI of Scotland/James I of England. By this time Mary saw her husband for who he was: a drunk, womanizer and complete douchebag.

Mary, in her ever dramatic fashion, had never hid her misery about her second marriage to the enemies of her husband. She was even quoted as saying by Scottish historian David Calderwood that, “unless she were quit of the king [Darnley] by one means or another, she could never have a good day in her life, and rather than that to be the instrument of her own death.”² — I love how dramatic all of Mary’s statements were.

The Aftermath of Darnley’s Death

Then in February 1567, Henry Stuart was found murdered after an explosion at Kirk o’ Field. He had previously fallen ill with either smallpox or syphilis, depending on who you talk to, and was suggested by Mary to recuperate at Kirk o’ Field before returning to court.

The night of Darnley’s death, Mary was attending a wedding of a member of her household. When Darnley’s body and that of his valet were found outside they were surrounded by a cloak, a dagger, a chair and a coat. Darnley was dressed in his nightshirt which had suggested that they fled his bedchamber in haste.

Suspicion soon feel on James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell and Mary herself. Mary had been rumored to have a romantic relationship with Bothwell and Darnley’s death seemed far too convenient for many.

In pop culture we often see Bothwell and Mary as a love story, but according to author, John Guy, the Earl of Bothwell never loved the Queen of Scots, he only loved the power she brought him. The fact that he dominated the couple’s relationship did not seem to bother Mary – she appeared okay with allowing him with all her cares, something her cousin Elizabeth would never allow.

After the death of Henry Stuart, Queen Elizabeth wrote her cousin a letter (from Westminster) that contained a warning:

Madame, my ears have been so deafened and my understanding so grieved any my heart so affrighted to hear the dreadful news of the abominable murder of your mad husband and my killed cousin that I scarcely have the wits to write about it. And inasmuch as my nature compels me to take his death in the extreme, he being so close in blood, so it is that I will boldly tell you what I think of it.  I cannot dissemble that I am more sorrowful for you than him. O madame, I would not do the office of faithful cousin or affectionate friend if I studied rather to please your ears than employed myself in preserving your honor. However, I will not at all dissemble what most people are talking about: which is that you will look through your fingers at the revenging of this deed, and that you do not take measure that touch those who have done as you wished, as if the thing had been entrusted in a way that the murderers felt assurance in doing it. Among the thoughts in my heart I beseech you to want no such thought to stick at this point. Through all dealings of the world I never was in such miserable haste to lodge and have in my heart such a miserable opinion of any prince as this would cause me do. Much less will I have such of her to whom I wish as much good as my heart is able to imagine or as you were able a short while ago to wish. However, I exhort you, I counsel you, and I beseech you to take this thing so much to heart that you will not fear to touch even him [Bothwell] whom you have nearest to you if the thing touches him, and that no persuasion will prevent you from making an example out of this to the world: that you are both a noble princess and loyal wife. I do not write so vehemently out of doubt that I have, but out of the affection that I bear you in particular. For I am not ignorant that you have no wiser counselors than myself. Thus it is that, when I remember that our Lord had one Judas out of twelve, and I assure myself that there could be no one more loyal than myself, I offer my affection in place of this prudence.”³

When Queen Elizabeth discovered that her cousin had not heeded her advice and went and married Bothwell, she was horrified. She had warned Mary that her new marriage was a threat to her Scottish throne. Mary’s response to her cousin was that she, Mary, could not rule Scotland alone (like her cousin) because she did not have the same authority that Elizabeth held in England. Mary must have believed she needed a man to be an effective Scottish queen.

However, it wasn’t long before (it is believed) Mary Stuart saw the man before her for who he truly was, a man grasping for power. On the 24th of April 1567, Queen Mary was on her way to Holyrood after seeing her young son James, it was after that that she was forcibly taken by Bothwell to Dunbar where was “ravished”. Whether or not Mary was actually abducted and/or raped is still hotly debated. Everything about her relationship with Bothwell was unliked by her counselors and so if she wanted to make herself look better she very well could have made up the entire story.


Only a few months later, in June of 1567, Mary was forced to abdicate her throne. After twenty-five years as Queen of Scotland she gave it all up. Her son was now King James VI of Scotland. After being threatened and forced to sign she was quoted as saying, “When God shall set me at liberty again, I shall not abide these, for it is done against my will.Mary did not know before signing that her cousin Elizabeth had been planning a war to defend her.

Mary was locked up at Lochleven Castle and was accused of adultery and murder and was said to be unfit to rule.

When Elizabeth was informed of what had happened she was furious. If one queen could be forced to abdicate, why couldn’t she be forced to do the same? Elizabeth immediately sent for Cecil and lectured him for not being able to help Mary. Elizabeth threatened to declare war on Scotland again because Mary was an anointed queen, accountable to God alone. She wanted to demonstrate that a similar action in England would not be tolerated. Cecil warned her that a war with Scotland may cause the those against Mary to assassinate Her- he also knew that Elizabeth’s anger over the matter would eventually subside.

When Mary eventually settled into her new way of life her ultimate plan was to get back all that she had lost. She spent her days at Lochleven Castle sewing, embroidering, playing cards, dancing and plotting.


After eleven months of captivity at Lochleven, Mary finally found her freedom with the help of some of those employed by her captors.

Mary raised an army that was larger than her brother, the Earl of Moray’s army, and she expected to defeat him and punish him for his greed. Unfortunately for Mary, it was her army that would be defeated. After riding for thirty miles at night she hid at the abbey in Dundrennan – it was there that she wrote an urgent appeal for aid from her cousin Elizabeth. With the letter she sent a diamond ring that Elizabeth had given her in 1563 as a token of love and friendship. Little did she know that Elizabeth had just purchased a bunch of Mary’s jewels from the Earl of Moray.

Mary grew impatient and couldn’t wait for her cousin’s reply, she hopped on a fishing boat to cross the Solway Firth, landing at seven in the evening, near Carlisle, England.

The following morning, Mary wrote a second letter to Elizabeth asking for her assistance in reclaiming her Scottish throne. Elizabeth was still sympathetic to her cousin’s cause but she also understood how dangerous it was to have Mary, a Catholic, in northern England.

A Guest of the Queen

Cecil understood all too well the danger of Mary being in England and as soon as he heard he placed her under strict guard at Carlisle Castle. Cecil was determined to see Mary not regain her throne and show that she was indeed responsible of adultery and the murder of Henry Stuart.

Within two weeks of her arrival in England, Mary understood that her future was in the hands of William Cecil, not her more sympathetic cousin, Elizabeth.

For nearly twenty years Mary would remain Elizabeth’s prisoner, under the supervision of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. She was moved from one castle to another. Mary had consistently requested a face to face meeting with her cousin but that day never come – the two women would never meet.

Mary’s downfall was the fact that she had become a figurehead for the Catholics in England. Unlike Lady Jane Grey with Queen Mary, it is believed that Mary had indeed involved in the conspiracies to remove the Protestant Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham had created a network of spies to intercept Mary’s letters. It was within those letters that Mary was caught plotting to kill Elizabeth.

Mary was found guilty at her trial on the 25th of October 1586 and it wasn’t until the 1st of February that she finally signed the death warrant of her cousin. The decision could not have been an easy one for Elizabeth, she always appeared sympathetic to her cousin but ultimately understood that she must protect her own throne from a usurper.

Conclusion of My Series on Elizabeth

On my journey to discover who Elizabeth truly was I can honestly say that the only thing that changed my mind a bit was that she appeared sympathetic to her cousin Mary and the situations she found herself in.

Do I now feel that Elizabeth was the best Tudor monarch? No. I still reserve that spot for Henry VIII. But I do understand a little better why so many of you do.


¹Strickland, Agnes. The Queens of Scotland: Abridged and Adapted from Strickland’s “Queens of Scotland. (1887)

²Hume, Martin. the love affairs of mary queen of scots. (1903)

³Elizabeth I. Elizabeth I: Collected Works

4Matusiak, John. James I: Scotland’s King of England (2015)


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Elizabeth, Queen of England (Part Two)

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In the last article of this series we ended with the death of Thomas Seymour in 1549, but before we move forward I’d like to step back a bit to get a bigger picture of what was to come in Elizabeth’s future.  

Listen to Part One Here:

Read Part One Here: Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England – Part One

When King Henry VIII died on the 28th of January 1547, Elizabeth and her brother Edward were both at Ashridge when they received the news. The children clung to one another and wept a great deal. Edward Tudor, the son of Henry VIII and the late Jane Seymour was now the King of England – he was only nine years old. From that point on the lives of the Tudor siblings would never be the same.

After all three heirs to throne received the news of their father’s death they were taken back to court. Mary and Elizabeth would not remain there long since the new king (Edward) was unmarried. It was considered improper to have unmarried ladies at court without a female household to serve. At least not until Edward was married and had his queen had a household. Then it would be okay. Imagine how boring things were without women at court. So instead of Mary and Elizabeth staying at court they joined the household of the dowager queen – a temporary arrangement as both girls were expected to eventually move to their own estates.

The death of King Henry only increased the tension between Mary and Elizabeth, and it only heightened after the two were separated. With that being said, at the beginning of the Seymour/Parr marriage the sisters had both agreed that it was too soon for the dowager queen to remarry.

Elizabeth appears to have “gotten over” the ordeal when she accepted Parr’s offer to live with her at Chelsea. Mary’s reaction to Elizabeth accepting Parr’s offer was with horor. She could only assume that her sister felt she had nowhere else to go. In turn, Mary offered Elizabeth a place in her own household, so the sisters could stand united against their stepmother. Elizabeth was too attached to her stepmother to leave her side to be with Mary. Parr was really the first mom that she had ever known and wished to stay. Mary, not happy with her much younger sister’s choice, left in disgust. This was what some would call Elizabeth’s first obvious defiance of her sister.

It was while Elizabeth was at Chelsea that she met another man who would make a great impact in her life, William Cecil. Elizabeth hit it off immediately with Cecil who had come to Chelsea to pay his respects. As with many Cecil  understood how important it was to be near those with a claim to the throne. After speaking with Elizabeth, Cecil agreed to take on the management of her estates and revenues. This task was one that Cecil was so good at that Elizabeth entrusted him with other matters. Cecil became the man who Elizabeth went to for advice and guidance on many matters, but especially matters of state.

In the meantime, the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth began to cool. The distance between the sisters appears to have put a strain on their relationship. Mary had been great at writing and replying to her sister’s letters while Elizabeth appears to have been too caught up with the activities at Chelsea to make the time correspond with her sister. This does not mean that Elizabeth did not care for her sister – when she heard that Mary had been unwell Elizabeth was genuinely concerned for her sister’s welfare. She wrote Mary to express her concern for her health, but that’s where it stopped. When one of Mary’s ladies requested that Elizabeth send one of HER ladies, Jane Russell to be specific, to help care for her ailing sister. Elizabeth stated that she could not send Jane Russell because her husband would not allow it. This was probably taken as a slight by Mary.

After the debacle with Thomas Seymour at Hanworth in early 1548, the dowager queen felt it best to send Elizabeth away to protect her reputation from rumors spreading about the tryst with Seymour. Elizabeth was devastated that she had disappointed her stepmother but understood it was for the best. A little distance from the situation would give Elizabeth the privacy she needed for the rumors to die down. It was while at Cheshunt that Elizabeth realized what a dangerous game she was playing with Seymour and was grateful to her stepmother for removing her from the situation.

While they appear to have made up, Parr and Elizabeth would never see one another again. Kateryn Parr died a few days after giving birth to a daughter by Seymour. They named her Mary, after Mary Tudor. The relationship between Kateryn and Mary had improved after Kateryn announced she was pregnant, and maybe this was Kateryn’s way of extending an olive branch to her stepdaughter.

In 1550, after the death of both her stepmother and Thomas Seymour, Elizabeth wrapped up her formal education. She was now believed to be fluent in French, Flemish, Italian and Spanish – as well as Welsh, Cornish, Scottish and Irish by the end of her life. Elizabeth was one of the best and most educated women in the realm – rightfully so, she was heir to the throne.

Anne of Cleves had seen her status diminished after the death of King Henry but that did not stop Elizabeth from visiting her former stepmother. Anne had established her household at Hever, which must have been comforting for Elizabeth to be there, near memories of her mother. It was there that Anne would catch up with Elizabeth to find out what was going on at court in the realm.

Elizabeth had now settled into her household at Hatfield and it must have been reassuring to know that she had something of her own. Her brother Edward, the King, favored Elizabeth over their Catholic sister Mary. It was during her brother’s reign that Elizabeth saw what happened when your religious beliefs did not match the monarch’s. This was something that would affect Elizabeth’s life as well. But, during the reign of her brother, she was safe.

During the remainder of King Edward’s reign the sister’s saw very little of one another. Letters were exchanged but that was really the extent of it.

In 1553, Edward VI became gravely ill and was not expected to survive. The symptoms described are consistent with tuberculosis. Young King Edward, along with his council, were gravely concerned that Mary would undo all the reforms put into place and return England to Catholicism. This was something they were adamantly against – in turn, the king devised a new Act of Succession. One that stated his cousin, the Protestant Lady Jane Grey would inherit the throne after his death.

Upon Edward’s death in July 1553 Mary sent  letters to the council claiming her right to the throne. What Edward had done had essentially been illegal. The devise for succession had not been approved by Parliament and could not stop Mary from claiming her rightful place. Where was Elizabeth during all of this? She was at Hatfield lying low. Ever the politician, she knew not to show favor one way or another. Less than two weeks later Lady Jane Grey was in the Tower and Mary was officially pronounced Queen of England. This is the moment when Elizabeth’s life would never be the same.

At the end of July 1553, prior to Mary’s triumphant ride into London, Elizabeth met with her sister, the Queen, at Wanstead. The sisters behaved as if there had never been a rift between them; Mary even gave Elizabeth a beautiful necklace made of white coral beads that were trimmed with gold and also a ruby and diamond brooch.

Elizabeth was now in a position that may have made her feel uncomfortable. After having quarreled and disagreed with her sister for years Mary now kept Elizabeth close. Afterall, Elizabeth was next in line to the throne – together they would show a unified front….at least by outward appearances.

The happiness did not last long between the sisters. Mary knew that her sister was a Protestant just as their cousin (and fallen queen) Jane Grey was. Mary was a Catholic and would not tolerate her sister’s religious beliefs. The problem? Well, Elizabeth was raised as a Protestant…it was all she knew. Like asking all of England to switch back to Catholicism, Mary was going to have a difficult time controlling her sister.

At the beginning of 1554, Thomas Wyatt the Younger raised an army of men to march toward London. These men were all against the Queen marrying Prince Philip and especially returning England to Catholicism. Wyatt’s Rebellion caused trouble in Mary and Elizabeth’s relationship as well – Mary and her advisors her believed that Elizabeth was responsible for the uprising.

Whether or not Elizabeth was involved in Wyatt’s Rebellion is unknown. Under interrogation in the Tower (after his capture and arrest), Wyatt insisted that Elizabeth had nothing to do with the uprising. Queen Mary and her advisors were not so certain.

Mary’s advisors, specifically Simon Renaud, and the Spanish, believed the best option was to marry Elizabeth to a Catholic outside of England and to get her out of the country.

Stephen Gardiner and his Catholic sympathizers thought it best to marry her off to Edward Courteney, Earl of Devon. Keeping her in England in the event of Mary’s death without issue was more important. Their fear was that the Spanish would end up ruling England in the event of Mary’s death.

Author Paul Johnson believed in his his book “Elizabeth I – A Study in Power & Intellect” that Elizabeth was certainly aware of Wyatt’s Rebellion and how it would affect her, however, I believe she would not have gotten herself involved with it – if successful it would set a standard. Just like later in life with the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. What would stop another from doing the same to her?

Any exchanges that Elizabeth had with Wyatt were verbal only. Her acquiescence was imperative to her survival.

During the investigation of Elizabeth’s involvement in the rebellion, Gardiner was unable to find any witnesses to testify they heard Elizabeth use words that could be construed as treason.

Did Elizabeth believe her sister was beyond her child bearing years? In 1554, the Queen was 38 years old – two years older than her former stepmother, Kat Parr when she died in 1548. Thirty-eight was easily considered middle age and highly unlikely to have children. It is possible that Elizabeth understood that it was only a matter of time before she ascended the throne. She would just need patience.

Regardless of Elizabeth’s guilt or innocence she became the prime suspect.

Mary summoned Elizabeth to court, at which Elizabeth feigned illness. She feared her rightfully paranoid sister would throw her in the Tower. Supposed sickness would only save Elizabeth for so long. Eventually, Mary sent Lord William Howard to Ashridge to escort Elizabeth to Whitehall, by any means possible. Howard also brought with him doctors to ensure that Elizabeth was well enough to travel the thirty-seven miles to the palace. The trip was done in stages and they arrived at their destination in about a week.

Upon her arrival some onlookers commented that Elizabeth look ill, while others thought she appeared defiant. Dressed in white Elizabeth wished to convey innocence to her suspicious sister and onlookers.

On the 25th of February, Sir John Bourne reported to Gardiner that after much questioning and torture that he was unsuccessful in getting Wyatt to confess that Elizabeth was involved in the rebellion.

At his trial on the 15th of March 1554, Thomas Wyatt stated that he HAD written to Elizabeth but that he had only received a verbal reply that was non-committal. Even on the scaffold, awaiting his execution, he insisted that he was the only one involved that was privy to the plot.

While all this was happening Elizabeth was safely held at Whitehall. You could probably say she was under house arrest, but on the day following Wyatt’s trial, Gardiner was able to force through the Council an order to have Elizabeth placed in the Tower. The only problem was the men could not agree on the charges that she be brought against her. Their biggest fear was that Elizabeth would one day be Queen and they would be held responsible for their actions.

On the 17th of March the Marquess of Winchester and Earl of Sussex were sent to escort Elizabeth from Whitehall to the Tower. When they informed Elizabeth of her fate she insisted on speaking with her sister, the Queen. Eventually it was agreed that she could write Mary. We will never know if this was planned or not but Elizabeth took so long to write the letter that the tide began to pull out. They would have to wait until the following day to  transport her.

Elizabeth’s letter was delivered and it read:

March I6, I554.

     If any ever did try this old saying, ‘that a king’s word was more than another man’s oath,’ I most humbly beseech your Majesty to verify it to me, and to remember your last promise and my last demand, that I be not not condemned without answer and due proof, which it seems that I now am; for without cause proved, I am by your council from you commanded to go to the Tower, a place more wanted for a false traitor than a true subject, which though I know I desire it not, yet in the face of all this realm it appears proved. I pray to God I may die the shamefullest death that any ever died, if I may mean any such thing; and to this present hour I protest before God (Who shall judge my truth, whatsoever malice shall devise), that I never practised, counselled, nor consented to anything that might be prejudicial to your person anyway, or dangerous to the state by any means. And therefore I humbly beseech your Majesty to let me answer afore yourself, and not suffer me to trust to your Councillors, yea, and that afore I go to the Tower, if it be possible; if not, before I be further condemned. Howbeit, I trust assuredly your Highness will give me leave to do it afore I go, that thus shamefully I may not be cried out on, as I now shall be; yea, and that without cause. Let conscience move your Highness to pardon this my boldness, which innocency procures me to do, together with hope of your natural kindness, which I trust will not see me cast away without desert, which what it is I would desire no more of God but that you truly knew, but which thing I think and believe you shall never by report know, unless by yourself you hear. I have heard of many in my time cast away for want of coming to the presence of their Prince; and in late days I heard my Lord of Somerset say that if his brother had been suffered to speak with him he had never suffered; but persuasions were made to him so great that he was brought in belief that he could not live safely if the Admiral lived, and that made him give consent to his death. Though these persons are not to be compared to your Majesty, yet I pray to God the like evil persuasions persuade not one sister against the other, and all for that they have heard false report, and the truth not known. Therefore, once again, kneeling with humbleness of heart, because I am not suffered to bow the knees of my body, I humbly crave to speak with your Highness, which I would not be so bold as to desire if I knew not myself most clear, as I know myself most true. And as for the traitor Wyatt, he might peradventure write me a letter, but on my faith I never received any from him. And as for the copy of the letter sent to the French King, I pray God confound me eternally if ever I sent him word, message, token, or letter, by any means, and to this truth I will stand in till my death.

     Your Highness’s most faithful subject, that hath been from the beginning, and will be to my end,


     I humbly crave but only one word of answer from yourself.


The Tower of London at the time of Elizabeth’s arrest was nearly full, but even with that being said she was placed in a more spacious room on the second floor of the Bell Tower. The room she was placed in was the same one that Bishop John Fisher was housed in prior to his execution and was also the one above Sir Thomas More’s. Her prison had four chambers and the attention of a dozen servants.

There is a lot of history in the Tower of London.

Elizabeth’s time in the Tower would have been a terrifying time for her. Her mother had spent time there and been executed as well as her stepmother Katherine Howard twelve years earlier. Only a month earlier her cousin Lady Jane Grey was executed there. Elizabeth surely would have believed that her time was coming. It wouldn’t be long before she too was executed, because let’s face it – that’s what happened to people placed in the Tower. Very few walked out alive.

By the end of April the Council had decided that there was not sufficient evidence to charge Elizabeth with treason, so in turn they chose instead to have her removed to the country.

On the 19th of May, Sir Henry Bedingfield was charged with transporting Elizabeth to Woodstock. Woodstock was a dilapidated royal hunting lodge in Oxfordshire. Bedingfield orders were to treat Elizabeth as ‘may be agreeable to her honour and estate as well as degree’. Elizabeth was not allowed any conversations with strange persons without Bedingfield being present. Plus she was not allowed to write or receive letters or tokens, from anyone.

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. Like earlier, Bedingfield also understood that Elizabeth would one day be Queen and so he knew to tread lightly.

Read Part Three.


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)

Weir, Alison; The Life of Elizabeth I (1998)

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The Scandalous Life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Raised in the home of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Edward de Vere became a ward of Queen Elizabeth I. Edward was born 12 April 1550, at Hedingham Castle, England to John de Vere, 16th earl of Oxford, and Margery Golding.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

At the age of twelve, Edward’s father died and he inherited the titles of Lord Great Chamberlain and 17th Earl of Oxford.

Having grown up in the household of Lord Burghley, Edward de Vere eventually married his daughter Anne Cecil in 1571. Anne, who had originally been promised to Sir Philip Sidney, is said to have fallen in love with de Vere and that is why she married him instead of Sidney. It was around this time that he came to court and became a favorite of Queen Elizabeth.

The Beginning of His Trouble

In 1572, de Vere fled the English court after a failed attempt to rescue Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, his cousin. Norfolk was instead executed on the 2nd of June 1572. Not long after he was returned to favor at the English court – most likely because he was a favorite of the queen.

In 1575, he was granted travel to Europe and spent much of his time in Italy, later becoming known at court as the “Italian Earl” for his dress and affectations. Upon his return, he separated from Anne, believing she had been unfaithful.¹

After those years spent in Italy, de Vere became an advocate of Catholicism, which estranged him from his wife Anne and his father-in-law, Lord Burghley. Even so, de Vere did not lose favor with the queen.

Another Woman

Eventually, in 1581, Queen Elizabeth sent him to the Tower of London after it was discovered that he had impregnated Anne Vavasour – one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting. He was released from the Tower after he promised he would return to his wife, Anne Cecil.

Anne Vavasour

Never one to live a dull life, de Vere fought a duel with a cousin of Anne Vavasour – this duel resulted in the death of several servants.

Soon (after the marriage with Anne Cecil), however, Oxford neglected his wife, spending all his time at court flirting with the queen and with other ladies. He blamed his father-in-law for failing to obtain the freedom of his kinsman, the duke of Norfolk, who was executed in 1572, and by May 1573 there was open hostility between Oxford and Lady Burghley. Oxford swore “to ruin the Lord Treasurer’s daughter,” casting doubt on her honor. This careless talk came back to haunt him when Ann gave birth to their first child, Elizabeth (July 2, 1575-1627) while Oxford was abroad. Lord Henry Howard, Norfolk’s brother, stirred up more trouble, and Ann was unable to convince her husband that the child was his. Apparently, part of the trouble was that Oxford was convinced that the gestation period was twelve months rather than nine. Surviving letters testify to her efforts and reveal her continuing love for him.²

Second Marriage

Anne Cecil, Edward de Vere’s first wife, died of a fever on the 5th of June 1588 – she was only 31 years old.

Three years later, in 1591, Edward married one of Queen Elizabeth’s ladies, Elizabeth Trentham – a court beauty. One could assume since he was a favorite of the queen’s that he would have been in contact with many of her ladies. Anne Vavasour was one of the queen’s ladies as well.  In 1593, his second wife gave birth to his only surviving son and heir, Henry.

Education, Death and Rumor

Edward was educated at Cambridge University, Queens’ College, St. John’s College, Cambridge University and became a noted Elizabethan courtier and poet.

De Vere died on the 24th of June 1604 of unknown causes.

In the 20th century, de Vere became a leading candidate for authoring the play that have traditionally been attributed to William Shakespeare.


¹Biography of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
²Emerson, Kate; A Who’s Who of Tudor Women


Encyclopedia of Tudor England
Biography of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
Encyclopedia Britannica – Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford
Wikipedia – Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

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Walsingham: Elizabethan Spymaster

Guest article written by: Alan Freer 

Francis Walsingham
Francis Walsingham

Throughout Elizabeth I’s reign England was in constant danger both from external and internal threats. Spain and France looked north and regarded the country as heretic and a potential enemy to their expanding empires. At home, the supporters of Mary Tudor, the late Queen, looked to another Mary, Mary, Queen of Scots, as a Catholic heir to replace the Protestant Elizabeth. In times of crisis a government needs good, accurate and reliable intelligence. That came from one man, Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster.

Walsingham was the only son of William Walsingham of Footscray in Kent, by his wife Joyce, daughter of Sir Edmund Denny. William died the year following Francis’s birth and his mother married Sir John Carey, a distant relation by marriage of Anne Boleyn’s family. Francis went to King’s College, Cambridge in 1548, but left two years later having failed to take his degree.

From 1550 to 1552 he travelled abroad and succeeded in becoming fluent in both French and Italian. Soon after he returned to England, Mary Tudor ascended the throne and Francis found himself on the wrong side of the religious tracks. Fearing arrest for his outspoken, Protestant views, he decided it prudent to return abroad. His mother’s family were strong Protestants and most of his tutors at Cambridge were of the same denomination, so he was a natural target for Mary and an equally natural supporter of her sister, Elizabeth. He is even thought to have been involved in a minor way in the anti-Catholic plots of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne.

Over the next nine years he travelled extensively in Italy and central Europe, studying law and politics. The methods he learnt at the various Italian Courts were to serve him well in the years to come.

Elizabeth, 1560

By 1560, with Elizabeth as Queen, he was back in England and in 1562 was returned as Member of Parliament for Lyme Regis. That same year he married a widow, Ann Carteill but she died two years later, leaving him without children. In 1566 he married the widow of Sir Richard Worsley and by her he had a daughter, Frances. She would later marry Sir Philip Sidney and, after his death, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex.

At the age of 36 Francis came to the notice of Elizabeth’s first minister, William Cecil, who offered him a position at Court. He soon took charge of the small network of secret agents Cecil had established and so started twenty-two years of loyal, unswerving service to his Queen. Elizabeth nicknamed him her “Moor” because of his swarthy complexion and habitual black clothing. She was occasionally his guest at his home in Surrey and although they did not always agree on policy, she trusted him implicitly.

In 1570 Cecil sent him as ambassador to Paris where he was involved with the negotiations for several treaties. He was in the city when the Huguenots were murdered in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew (August 24, 1572) which reinforced his hatred of foreign Catholic regimes. He was recalled from Paris in 1573 and appointed Secretary of State, a post he held until his death. The modern-day equivalent would be Foreign Secretary and head of MI5 and 6. He was the Elizabethan “M”. Walsingham’s two great hates were Spain and Mary, Queen of Scots; Spain as a threat to his country and Mary as a threat to his Queen. He was convinced that England could only be safe with the complete defeat of Spain and the removal of Mary.

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots

To this end he expanded the network of spies to over fifty agents, much of it paid for from his own pocket. He soon had agents in the courts of France, Spain, the Low Countries, Germany, the United Provinces and even in Turkey. He was like a black spider at the centre of a great web. Elizabeth was reluctant to move against her cousin, Mary, but Walsingham had no such qualms.

Late in 1585 a trainee Catholic priest named Gilbert Gifford, was intercepted coming from France through the port of Rye. He was taken to Walsingham who learnt that Gifford was to act as messenger between Mary and her supporters on the Continent. Walsingham turned Gifford and persuaded him to work for the Government. He was to tell Mary that a system for smuggling letters and papers between her and Europe had been set up. In fact the Spymaster himself constructed this route so that all correspondence passed through his hands before it crossed the Channel. Walsingham’s secretary, Thomas Phelipps, was an expert code breaker so all Mary’s communications were monitored.

In May 1586 Mary sent two letters, one to the Spanish ambassador, Mendoza, giving her support to an invasion of England, while the other was to a supporter, Charles Paget, asking him to remind Philip II of Spain of the urgency for invasion. Both passed through Walsingham hands. The following month Sir Anthony Babington and a Catholic priest, John Ballard, were heard discussing the proposed Spanish invasion and the plot to murder Elizabeth.

William Cecil, NPG
William Cecil

All this evidence still did not implicate Mary directly in a plot against Elizabeth. On 17 July Walsingham received what he had been waiting for – a letter, in reply to one from Babington, written by Mary giving her approval to the plot to murder the Queen. Walsingham moved quickly. Ballard and Babington were arrested and placed in the Tower of London. Others implicated in the plot were rapidly placed under lock and key. On 13 September the conspirators were tried and condemned and a week later Babington, Ballard and five others were dragged on hurdles to St. Giles Field, Holborn where, in front of a large crowd, they were hanged, drawn and quartered.

Despite Walsingham’s proof, Elizabeth was still reluctant to take action against Mary. In October both Houses of Parliament demanded Mary’s head but Elizabeth would not sign. She even pleaded that some way be found to deal with Mary without the need for execution. Both Cecil, by now Lord Burghley, and Walsingham were determined that this should not happen. Together, with the support of the Council of State, they brought constant pressure on the Queen until she eventually signed the warrant on 1st February 1587. Her intention seems to have been to hold the signed warrant as a threat against Mary but Walsingham would have none of it. At 8 o’clock on the morning of Wednesday, 8th February 1587 Mary, Queen of Scots was executed in the Great Hall of Fotheringhay Castle. On Walsingham’s orders the body was stripped of all clothing which was burnt, so that no relic survived, and encased in lead.

When she was told of the execution, Elizabeth was furious. Both Cecil and Walsingham were in extreme danger from their monarch’s temper. She refused to see them and, for a while, Cecil dare not go to Court.

Walsingham, meanwhile, was hard at work preparing for the inevitable invasion by Spain; an invasion, as we all know, through the skill of English seamen and the luck of the weather, never came. Cecil acknowledged the debt England owed this worker behind the scenes when he said, “you have fought more with your pen than many here in our English navy with their enemies.”

Cecil, Queen Elizabeth & Walsingham

Elizabeth was notoriously sparing with honours for her public servants. Only one, William Cecil, received a peerage. Francis Walsingham was knighted in 1577 and he received the honorary appointments of Chancellor of the Order of the Garter and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

When he died on 6th April 1590, the news was carried to Philip II of Spain via a letter from one of his agents in England. The agent wrote, “Secretary Walsingham has just expired, at which there is much sorrow.” Philip commented in the margin of the letter, “There yes. But it is good news here.”


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!!


Great Houses – The Age of Gloriana

The reign of Elizabeth I (the last Tudor monarch) is often associated with a golden age in English history – The age of Gloriana.

Burghley House

Burghley House - Photo Credit: Anthony Masi
Burghley House – Photo Credit: Anthony Masi
by Unknown artist, oil on panel, after circa 1585 © National Portrait Gallery, London

“Sir William Cecil built his extravagant ‘prodigy house’ on the Burghley estate, which his father, Richard Cecil, had purchased after it had been seized from Peterborough Abbey on the Dissolution of Monasteries under Henry Vlll. Construction too 32 years, from 1555 to 1587. During this period, Cecil proved an indispensable adviser to Elizabeth l, establishing himself as the leading politician of his day. Born in 1520, he had begun his career as secretary to the Protector, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, during Edward Vl’s reign; on Elizabeth’s accession in 1558 , he was appointed Secretary of State, then made 1st Baron Burghley in 1571 and Lord High Treasurer in 1572.” - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillps (p. 366)

Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle
Kenilworth Castle
by Unknown artist, oil on panel, circa 1575
© National Portrait Gallery, London

“In 1563, Elizabeth l granted Kenliworth Castle, a 12th century Norman stronghold in Warwickshire, to her great favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He built a gatehouse and elegant residential quarters to make the historic fortifications sufficiently grand for the Queen. She visited him at Kenilworth Castle in 1566, 1568, 1572 and 1575.”  - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillps (p. 368)

“From the 9th to the 27th July 1575 Elizabeth I stayed at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, home of her great friend Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. She had visited Kenilworth three times before but this was a special visit in that it lasted 19 days and was the longest stay at a courtier’s house in any of her royal progresses. We know a substantial amount about Elizabeth’s visit to Kenilworth because it was recorded in a letter by Robert Langham, a member of Dudley’s household, and in an account by poet and actor George Gascoigne, a man hired by Robert Dudley to provide entertainment during the royal visit” – Claire, The Elizabeth Files (Read More)

Hardwick Hall

Hardwick_Hall_in_Doe_Lea_-_Derbyshire“Famously declared to be ‘more glass than wall’, Hardwick Hall is celebrated above all for its west front, with its glittering array of symmetrically marshalled windows.” -  - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillps (p. 374)

"Bess of Hardwick as Mistress St Lo" by Unknown - Licensed under Public Domain via Commons
“Bess of Hardwick as Mistress St Lo” by Unknown – . Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Hardwick Hall was built by Bess of Hardwick who started from humble beginnings and grew through marriages to a position of great wealth. The architect was Robert Smythson. Bess was Grandmother to Lady Arbella Stuart – niece to Mary Queen of Scots.  Arbella’s uncle was Lord Darnley.

“It was the formidable Bess of Hardwick who first created Hardwick in the 1500’s. In the centuries since then her descendants, farmers, gardeners, builders, decorators, embroiderers and craftsmen of all kinds have contributed and made Hardwick their creation.” – via National Trust, Hardwick Hall