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Lady Jane Grey

Personal Character

Accession To The Throne

The Invincible Armada

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Elizabeth In The Tower

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The Earl Of Essex

The Childhood Of A Princess

Elizabeth's Lovers

The War In Scotland

The Spanish Match

The Conclusion

Elizabeth In The Tower

Elizabeth's Mother

The Invincible Armada

Accession To The Throne

The Childhood Of A Princess


Elizabeth's condition at the death of her mother.--Her
residence.--Letter of Lady Bryan, Elizabeth's governess.--Conclusion of
letter.--Troubles and trials of infancy.--Birth of Edward.--The king
reconciled to his daughters.--Death of King Henry.--His children.--King
Henry's violence.--The order of succession.--Elizabeth's troubles.--The
two Seymours.--The queen dowager's marriage.--The Seymours
quarrel.--Somerset's power and influence.--Jealousies and
quarrels.--Mary Queen of Scots.--Marriage schemes.--Seymour's
promotion.--Jane Grey.--Family quarrels.--Death of the queen
dowager.--Seymour's schemes.--Seymour's arrest.--His trial and
attainder.--Seymour beheaded.--Elizabeth's trials.--Elizabeth's
firmness.--Lady Tyrwhitt.--Elizabeth's sufferings.--Her fidelity to
her friends.

Elizabeth was about three years old at the death of her mother. She was
a princess, but she was left in a very forlorn and desolate condition.
She was not, however, entirely abandoned. Her claims to inherit the
crown had been set aside, but then she was, as all admitted, the
daughter of the king, and she must, of course, be the object of a
certain degree of consideration and ceremony. It would be entirely
inconsistent with the notions of royal dignity which then prevailed to
have her treated like an ordinary child.

She had a residence assigned her at a place called Hunsdon, and was put
under the charge of a governess whose name was Lady Bryan. There is an
ancient letter from Lady Bryan, still extant, which was written to one
of the king's officers about Elizabeth, explaining her destitute
condition, and asking for a more suitable supply for her wants. It may
entertain the reader to see this relic, which not only illustrates our
little heroine's condition, but also shows how great the changes are
which our language has undergone within the last three hundred years.
The letter, as here given, is abridged a little from the original:

My Lord:

When your Lordship was last here, it pleased you to say that
I should not be mistrustful of the King's Grace, nor of your
Lordship, which word was of great comfort to me, and
emboldeneth me now to speak my poor mind.

Now so it is, my Lord, that my Lady Elizabeth is put from
the degree she was afore, and what degree she is at now[A] I
know not but by hearsay. Therefore I know not how to order
her, nor myself, nor none of hers that I have the rule
of--that is, her women and her grooms. But I beseech you to
be good, my Lord, to her and to all hers, and to let her
have some rayment; for she has neither gown, nor kirtle, nor
no manner of linen, nor foresmocks, nor kerchiefs, nor
sleeves, nor rails, nor bodystitchets, nor mufflers, nor
biggins. All these her Grace's wants I have driven off as
long as I can, by my troth, but I can not any longer.
Beseeching you, my Lord, that you will see that her Grace
may have that is needful for her, and that I may know from
you, in writing, how I shall order myself towards her, and
whatever is the King's Grace's pleasure and yours, in every
thing, that I shall do.

[Footnote A: That is, in what light the king and the
government wish to have her regarded, and how they wish her
to be treated.]

My Lord Mr. Shelton would have my Lady Elizabeth to dine and
sup at the board of estate. Alas, my Lord, it is not meet
for a child of her age to keep such rule yet. I promise you,
my Lord, I dare not take upon me to keep her in health and
she keep that rule; for there she shall see divers meats and
fruits, and wines, which would be hard for me to restrain
her Grace from it. You know, my Lord, there is no place of
correction[B] there, and she is yet too young to correct
greatly. I know well, and she be there, I shall never bring
her up to the King's Grace's honor nor hers, nor to her
health, nor my poor honesty. Wherefore, I beseech you, my
Lord, that my Lady may have a mess of meat to her own
lodging, with a good dish or two that is meet for her Grace
to eat of.

[Footnote B: That is, opportunity for correction.]

My Lady hath likewise great pain with her teeth, and they
come very slowly forth, and this causeth me to suffer her
Grace to have her will more than I would. I trust to God,
and her teeth were well graft, to have her Grace after
another fashion than she is yet, so as I trust the King's
Grace shall have great comfort in her Grace; for she is as
toward a child, and as gentle of conditions, as ever I knew
any in my life. Jesu preserve her Grace.

Good my Lord, have my Lady's Grace, and us that be her poor
servants, in your remembrance.

This letter evinces that strange mixture of state and splendor with
discomfort and destitution, which prevailed very extensively in royal
households in those early times. A part of the privation which Elizabeth
seems, from this letter, to have endured, was doubtless owing to the
rough manners of the day; but there is no doubt that she was also, at
least for a time, in a neglected and forsaken condition. The new queen,
Jane Seymour, who succeeded Elizabeth's mother, had a son a year or two
after her marriage. He was named Edward. Thus Henry had three children,
Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward, each one the child of a different wife; and
the last of them, the son, appears to have monopolized, for a time, the
king's affection and care.

Still, the hostility which the king had felt for these queens in
succession was owing, as has been already said, to his desire to remove
them out of his way, that he might be at liberty to marry again; and so,
after the mothers were, one after another, removed, the hostility
itself, so far as the children were concerned, gradually subsided, and
the king began to look both upon Mary and Elizabeth with favor again. He
even formed plans for marrying Elizabeth to persons of distinction in
foreign countries, and he entered into some negotiations for this
purpose. He had a decree passed, too, at last, reversing the sentence by
which the two princesses were cut off from an inheritance of the crown.
Thus they were restored, during their father's life, to their proper
rank as royal princesses.

At last the king died in 1547, leaving only these three children, each
one the child of a different wife. Mary was a maiden lady, of about
thirty-one years of age. She was a stern, austere, hard-hearted woman,
whom nobody loved. She was the daughter of King Henry's first wife,
Catharine of Aragon, and, like her mother, was a decided Catholic.

Next came Elizabeth, who was about fourteen years of age. She was the
daughter of the king's second wife, Queen Anne Boleyn. She had been
educated a Protestant. She was not pretty, but was a very lively and
sprightly child, altogether different in her cast of character and in
her manners from her sister Mary.

Then, lastly, there was Edward, the son of Jane Seymour, the third
queen. He was about nine years of age at his father's death. He was a
boy of good character, mild and gentle in his disposition, fond of study
and reflection, and a general favorite with all who knew him.

It was considered in those days that a king might, in some sense,
dispose of his crown by will, just as, at the present time, a man may
bequeath his house or his farm. Of course, there were some limits to
this power, and the concurrence of Parliament seems to have been
required to the complete validity of such a settlement. King Henry the
Eighth, however, had little difficulty in carrying any law through
Parliament which he desired to have enacted. It is said that, on one
occasion, when there was some delay about passing a bill of his, he sent
for one of the most influential of the members of the House of Commons
to come into his presence. The member came and kneeled before him. "Ho,
man!" said the king, "and will they not suffer my bill to pass?" He then
came up and put his hand upon the kneeling legislator's head, and added,
"Get my bill passed to-morrow, or else by to-morrow this head of yours
shall be off." The next day the bill was passed accordingly.

King Henry, before he died, arranged the order of succession to the
throne as follows: Edward was to succeed him; but, as he was a minor,
being then only nine years of age, a great council of state, consisting
of sixteen persons of the highest rank, was appointed to govern the
kingdom in his name until he should be eighteen years of age, when he
was to become king in reality as well as in name. In case he should die
without heirs, then Mary, his oldest sister, was to succeed him; and if
she died without heirs, then Elizabeth was to succeed her. This
arrangement went into full effect. The council governed the kingdom in
Edward's name until he was sixteen years of age, when he died. Then
Mary followed, and reigned as queen five years longer, and died without
children, and during all this time Elizabeth held the rank of a
princess, exposed to a thousand difficulties and dangers from the plots,
intrigues and conspiracies of those about her, in which, on account of
her peculiar position and prospects, she was necessarily involved.

One of the worst of these cases occurred soon after her father's death.
There were two brothers of Jane Seymour, who were high in King Henry's
favor at the time of his decease. The oldest is known in history by his
title of the Earl of Hertford at first, and afterward by that of Duke of
Somerset. The youngest was called Sir Thomas Seymour. They were both
made members of the government which was to administer the affairs of
state during young Edward's minority. They were not, however, satisfied
with any moderate degree of power. Being brothers of Jane Seymour, who
was Edward's mother, they were his uncles, of course, and the oldest one
soon succeeded in causing himself to be appointed protector. By this
office he was, in fact, king, all except in name.

The younger brother, who was an agreeable and accomplished man, paid his
addresses to the queen dowager, that is, to the widow whom King Henry
left, for the last of his wives was living at the time of his death. She
consented to marry him, and the marriage took place almost immediately
after the king's death--so soon in fact, that it was considered
extremely hasty and unbecoming. This queen dowager had two houses left
to her, one at Chelsea, and the other at Hanworth, towns some little
distance up the river from London. Here she resided with her new
husband, sometimes at one of the houses, and sometimes at the other. The
king had also directed, in his will, that the Princess Elizabeth should
be under her care, so that Elizabeth, immediately after her father's
death, lived at one or the other of these two houses under the care of
Seymour, who, from having been her uncle, became now, in some sense, her
father. He was a sort of uncle, for he was the brother of one of her
father's wives. He was a sort of father, for he was the husband of
another of them. Yet, really, by blood, there was no relation between

The two brothers, Somerset and Seymour, quarreled. Each was very
ambitious, and very jealous of the other. Somerset, in addition to being
appointed protector by the council, got a grant of power from the young
king called a patent. This commission was executed with great formality,
and was sealed with the great seal of state, and it made Somerset, in
some measure independent of the other nobles whom King Henry had
associated with him in the government. By this patent he was placed in
supreme command of all the forces by land and sea. He had a seat on the
right hand of the throne, under the great canopy of state, and whenever
he went abroad on public occasions, he assumed all the pomp and parade
which would have been expected in a real king. Young Edward was wholly
under his influence, and did always whatever Somerset recommended him to
do. Seymour was very jealous of all this greatness, and was contriving
every means in his power to circumvent and supersede his brother.

The wives, too, of these great statesmen quarreled. The Duchess of
Somerset thought she was entitled to the precedence, because she was the
wife of the protector, who, being a kind of regent, she thought he was
entitled to have his wife considered as a sort of queen. The wife of
Seymour, on the other hand, contended that she was entitled to the
precedence as a real queen, having been herself the actual consort of a
reigning monarch. The two ladies disputed perpetually on this point,
which, of course, could never be settled. They enlisted, however, on
their respective sides various partisans, producing a great deal of
jealousy and ill will, and increasing the animosity of their husbands.

All this time the celebrated Mary Queen of Scots was an infant in Janet
Sinclair's arms, at the castle of Stirling, in Scotland. King Henry,
during his life, had made a treaty with the government of Scotland, by
which it was agreed that Mary should be married to his son Edward as
soon as the two children should have grown to maturity; but afterward,
the government of Scotland having fallen from Protestant into Catholic
hands, they determined that this match must be given up. The English
authorities were very much incensed. They wished to have the marriage
take effect, as it would end in uniting the Scotch and English kingdoms;
and the protector, when a time arrived which he thought was favorable
for his purpose, raised an army and marched northward to make war upon
Scotland, and compel the Scots to fulfill the contract of marriage.

While his brother was gone to the northward, Seymour remained at home,
and endeavored, by every means within his reach, to strengthen his own
influence and increase his power. He contrived to obtain from the
council of government the office of lord high admiral, which gave him
the command of the fleet, and made him, next to his brother, the most
powerful and important personage in the realm. He had, besides, as has
already been stated, the custody and care of Elizabeth, who lived in his
house; though, as he was a profligate and unprincipled man, this
position for the princess, now fast growing up to womanhood, was
considered by many persons as of doubtful propriety. Still, she was at
present only fourteen years old. There was another young lady likewise
in his family, a niece of King Henry, and, of course, a second cousin of
Elizabeth. Her name was Jane Grey. It was a very unhappy family. The
manners and habits of all the members of it, excepting Jane Grey, seem
to have been very rude and irregular. The admiral quarreled with his
wife, and was jealous of the very servants who waited upon her. The
queen observed something in the manners of her husband toward the young
princess which made her angry both with him and her. Elizabeth resented
this, and a violent quarrel ensued, which ended in their separation.
Elizabeth went away, and resided afterward at a place called Hatfield.

Very soon after this, the queen dowager died suddenly. People accused
Seymour, her husband, of having poisoned her, in order to make way for
the Princess Elizabeth to be his wife. He denied this, but he
immediately began to lay his plans for securing the hand of Elizabeth.
There was a probability that she might, at some future time, succeed to
the crown, and then, if he were her husband, he thought he should be the
real sovereign, reigning in her name.

Elizabeth had in her household two persons, a certain Mrs. Ashley, who
was then her governess, and a man named Parry, who was a sort of
treasurer. He was called the cofferer. The admiral gained these
persons over to his interests, and, through them, attempted to open
communications with Elizabeth, and persuade her to enter into his
designs. Of course, the whole affair was managed with great secrecy.
They were all liable to a charge of treason against the government of
Edward by such plots, as his ministers and counselors might maintain
that their design was to overthrow Edward's government and make
Elizabeth queen. They, therefore, were all banded together to keep
their councils secret, and Elizabeth was drawn, in some degree, into the
scheme, though precisely how far was never fully known. It was supposed
that she began to love Seymour, although he was very much older than
herself, and to be willing to become his wife. It is not surprising
that, neglected and forsaken as she had been, she should have been
inclined to regard with favor an agreeable and influential man, who
expressed a strong affection for her, and a warm interest in her

However this may be, Elizabeth was one day struck with consternation at
hearing that Seymour was arrested by order of his brother, who had
returned from Scotland and had received information of his designs, and
that he had been committed to the Tower. He had a hurried and irregular
trial, or what, in those days, was called a trial. The council went
themselves to the Tower, and had him brought before them and examined.
He demanded to have the charges made out in form, and the witnesses
confronted with him, but the council were satisfied of his guilt without
these formalities. The Parliament immediately afterward passed a bill of
attainder against him, by which he was sentenced to death. His brother,
the protector, signed the warrant for his execution, and he was
beheaded on Tower Hill.

The protector sent two messengers in the course of this affair to
Elizabeth, to see what they could ascertain from her about it. Sir
Robert Tyrwhitt was the name of the principal one of these messengers.
When the cofferer learned that they were at the gate, he went in great
terror into his chamber, and said that he was undone. At the same time,
he pulled off a chain from his neck, and the rings from his fingers, and
threw them away from him with gesticulations of despair. The messengers
then came to Elizabeth, and told her, falsely as it seems, with a view
to frighten her into confessions, that Mrs. Ashley and the cofferer were
both secured and sent to the Tower. She seemed very much alarmed; she
wept bitterly, and it was a long time before she regained her composure.
She wanted to know whether they had confessed any thing. The protector's
messengers would not tell her this, but they urged her to confess
herself all that had occurred; for, whatever it was, they said that the
evil and shame would all be ascribed to the other persons concerned, and
not to her, on account of her youth and inexperience. But Elizabeth
would confess nothing. The messengers went away, convinced, as they
said, that she was guilty; they could see that in her countenance; and
that her silence was owing to her firm determination not to betray her
lover. They sent word to the protector that they did not believe that
any body would succeed in drawing the least information from her, unless
it was the protector, or young King Edward himself.

These mysterious circumstances produced a somewhat unfavorable
impression in regard to Elizabeth, and there were some instances, it was
said, of light and trifling behavior between Elizabeth and Seymour,
while she was in his house during the life-time of his wife. They took
place in the presence of Seymour's wife, and seem of no consequence,
except to show that dukes and princesses got into frolics sometimes in
those days as well as other mortals. People censured Mrs. Ashley for not
enjoining a greater dignity and propriety of demeanor in her young
charge, and the government removed her from her place.

Lady Tyrwhitt, who was the wife of the messenger referred to above that
was sent to examine Elizabeth, was appointed to succeed Mrs. Ashley.
Elizabeth was very much displeased at this change. She told Lady
Tyrwhitt that Mrs. Ashley was her mistress, and that she had not done
any thing to make it necessary for the council to put more mistresses
over her. Sir Robert wrote to the protector that she took the affair so
heavily that she "wept all night, and lowered all the next day." He said
that her attachment to Mrs. Ashley was very strong; and that, if any
thing were said against the lord admiral, she could not bear to hear it,
but took up his defense in the most prompt and eager manner.

How far it is true that Elizabeth loved the unfortunate Seymour can now
never be known. There is no doubt, however, but that this whole affair
was a very severe trial and affliction to her. It came upon her when she
was but fourteen or fifteen years of age, and when she was in a
position, as well of an age, which renders the heart acutely sensitive
both to the effect of kindness and of injuries. Seymour, by his death,
was lost to her forever, and Elizabeth lived in great retirement and
seclusion during the remainder of her brother's reign. She did not,
however, forget Mrs. Ashley and Parry. On her accession to the throne,
many years afterward, she gave them offices very valuable, considering
their station in life, and was a true friend to them both to the end of
their days.

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