Category Archives: Elizabeth I

On this day in 1562 – Queen Elizabeth I was taken ill with smallpox

On 10th October 1562 Queen Elizabeth I was taken ill at Hampton Court Palace with smallpox, Elizabeth became so ill with a dangerously high fever that her council began to prepare in case she did not survive the illness. As she lay recovering Elizabeth named Robert Dudley as protector of the kingdom and swore to her councillors that ‘as God was her witness nothing improper had ever passed between them.’

Fortunately the Queen survived, however, her nursemaid Lady Mary Sidney caught the illness from the Queen and was badly disfigured as a result. Mary’s husband wrote in his ‘Memoirs of Services’ the effects the disease had on his wife;

When I went to Newhaven I lefte her a full faire Ladye in myne eye at least the fayerest, and when I returned I found her as fowle a ladie as the smale pox could make her, which she did take by contynuall attendance of her majesties most precious person (sicke of the same disease)the skarres of which (to her resolute discomforte) ever syns hath don and doth remayne in her face, so as she lyveth solitairlie sicut Nicticorax in domicilio suo more to my charge then if we had boorded toether as we did before that evill accident happened.”

Although Elizabeth survived the disease relatively unscathed she did have some minor scarring and hair loss that she began to cover with the use of makeup and wigs. Elizabeth would go on to reign for another 41 years following her illness.

queen-elizabeth-iQueen Elizabeth I

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On this day in 1533 – Princess Elizabeth was christened at Greenwich

Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn was christened on Wednesday 10th September 1533 at the Church of Observant Friars in Greenwich.

The Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of Henry’s reign documents the events of Elizabeth’s christening;

The mayor, Sir Stephen Peacock, with his brethren and 40 of the chief citizens, were ordered to be at the christening on the Wednesday following; on which day the mayor and council, in scarlet, with their collars, rowed to Greenwich, and the citizens went in another barge.

All the walls between the King’s place and the Friars were hanged with arras, and the way strewed with rushes. The Friars’ church was also hanged with arras. The font, of silver, stood in the midst of the church three steps high, covered with a fine cloth, and surrounded by gentlewomen with aprons and towels about their necks, that no filth should come into it. Over it hung a crimson satin canopy fringed with gold, and round it was a rail covered with red say.

Between the choir and the body of the church was a close place with a pan of fire, to make the child ready in. When the child was brought to the hall every man set forward. The citizens of London, two and two; then gentlemen, squires, and chaplains, the aldermen, the mayor alone, the King’s council, his chapel, in copes; barons, bishops, earls; the earl of Essex bearing the covered gilt basons; the marquis of Exeter with a taper of virgin wax. The marquis of Dorset bare the salt. The lady Mary of Norfolk bare the chrisom, of pearl and stone. The officers of arms. The old duchess of Norfolk bare the child in a mantle of purple velvet, with a long train held by the earl of Wiltshire, the countess of Kent, and the earl of Derby. The dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk were on each side of the Duchess. A canopy was borne over the child by lord Rochford, lord Hussy, lord William Howard, and lord Thomas Howard the elder. Then ladies and gentlemen.

The bishop of London and other bishops and abbots met the child at the church door, and christened it. The archbishop of Canterbury was godfather, and the old duchess of Norfolk and the old marchioness of Dorset godmothers. This done, Garter, with a loud voice, bid God send her long life. The archbishop of Canterbury then confirmed her, the marchioness of Exeter being godmother. Then the trumpets blew, and the gifts were given; after which wafers, comfits, and hypocras were brought in. In going out the gifts were borne before the child, to the Queen’s chamber, by Sir John Dudle, lord Thos. Howard, the younger, lord Fitzwater, and the earl of Worcester. One side was full of the Guard and King’s servants holding 500 staff torches, and many other torches were borne beside the child by gentlemen. The mayor and aldermen were thanked in the King’s name by the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, and after drinking in the cellar went to their barge.”

Although Elizabeth was not the son that Henry had wished for her christening was still a lavish celebration of her birth.

Princess ElizabethPrincess Elizabeth as a teenager

On this day in 1533 – Anne Boleyn gave birth to Elizabeth

On 7th September 1533 at 3pm­ Queen Anne Boleyn gave birth at Greenwich Palace, the child was a girl and named Elizabeth after both of her grandmothers, Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth Howard.

Astronomers and philosophers predicted that Anne would give birth to a son and preparations had been made for the announcement of a son so when Elizabeth was born Henry was disappointed he had torn the country apart to marry Anne for her to give him another daughter.

With the birth of Elizabeth bonfires were lit across the country but there was little celebration for the Princess many of the jousts and banquets were cancelled. The proclamation announcing her birth had to be altered as it was written before declaring Henry had been given a prince an s was added before they were sent out to the country. It was traditionally for the birth of a daughter to be low key and a similar thing happened at the birth of Princess Mary.

A herald announced the birth of Henry’s first legitimate child whilst the choristers sang the Te Deum in the Chapel Royal.

Although Henry was bitterly disappointed that he still did not have a son it is reported that he said to his wife “You and I are both young, and by God’s grace, boys will follow.”

Upon her birth Elizabeth automatically became Henry’s heiress presumptive as Henry’s first daughter had been barred from the succession and declared ill­­egitimate.

Birth announcement of ElizabethThe announcement of Princess Elizabeth’s birth

On this day in 1588 – Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester died

On 4th September 1588 Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester died, aged 56 not long after the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Dudley’s health had been deteriorating for some time with complaints of stomach pains. At the end of August 1588 Dudley set off to Buxton, Derbyshire to take in the water, the spa water in the baths were believed to have healing powers.

As Dudley was travelling to Buxton he stopped at a house at Rycote near Reading, a place he had visited previously with Queen Elizabeth, who he had a close relationship with throughout his life. It was here he wrote his final letter to his treasured Queen. Dudley wrote;

I most humbly beseech your Majesty to pardon your poor old servant to be thus bold in sending to know how my gracious lady doth, and what ease of her late pains she finds, being the chiefest thing in this world I do pray for, for her to have good health and long life. For my own poor case, I continue still your medicine and find that amends much better than with any other thing that hath been given me. Thus hoping to find perfect cure at the bath, with the continuance of my wonted prayer for your Majesty’s most happy preservation, I humbly kiss your foot. From your old lodging at Rycote, this morning, ready to take on my Journey, by your Majesty’s most faithful and obedient servant,

  1. Leicester

Even as I had writ thus much, I received Your Majesty’s token by Young Tracey.”

After writing this letter Leicester continued his journey to Buxton stopping at Combury Park near Woodstock, Oxfordshire where his health failed even further when at 4pm on the 4th September he passed away. He was buried in the Beauchamp Chapel of the Collegiate Church of St. Mary’s, Warwick.

Queen Elizabeth was devastated at the loss of her ‘Sweet Robin’. An informer of the Spanish Ambassador reported that Elizabeth was so upset with grief that she locked herself in her chamber with no servants and refused to speak to anybody. It took the force of her council to break down her down and enter. Elizabeth kept Dudley’s final letter and when she died it was found kept in a box next to her bed with the inscription ‘His Last Letter’.

Dudleys last letterRobert Dudley’s last letter to Queen Elizabeth

On this day in 1588 – Queen Elizabeth delivered a speech to the troops at Tilbury

On 9th August 1588 Queen Elizabeth I visited her troops who were stationed at Tilbury, Essex during the Spanish Armada and delivered a speech that was designed to unite and rouse her army.

Elizabeth visiting Tilbury

Although the Armada had been defeated in the Battle of Gravelines 11 days previously, the Armada had headed up and around Scotland in an attempt to flee the English navy. It was unknown whether they would try a second attempt at invading England on the way back past or if the Duke of Parma would attempt to cross the channel and invade. Therefore troops were still on high alert at Tilbury.

Upon arrival at Tilbury, the Queen left her bodyguards and went amongst her subjects with an escort of six men. Lord Ormonde walked ahead of the group carrying the Sword of State followed by a page leading the Queen’s charge and another page carrying on a cushion her silver helmet. It is believed that the Queen wore silver armour and rode on a grey horse flanked by the Earl of Leicester or her right and the Earl of Essex on her left with Sir John Norreys following behind.

The Queen then gave her speech to the troops, many versions of her words are documented however, it is widely believed that the correct speech was written in a letter from Leonel Sharp to the Duke of Buckingham after the event. It read;

My loving people,

We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed Tilbury Speechmultitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear. I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heart of battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust.

I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you on a word of a prince, they shall be duly paid. In the mean time, my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince never commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over these enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.”

The Spanish Armada did not attempt a second invasion but instead travelled straight back to Spain following severe losses of the coast of Ireland but Elizabeth’s speech is remembered for uniting the country against the Spanish.

Elizabeth Armada paintingPortrait of Queen Elizabeth to commemorate the

defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588

On this day in 1544 – Princess Elizabeth wrote to Catherine Parr.

On 31st July 1544 Princess Elizabeth wrote a letter to Catherine Parr. Elizabeth was aged just ten years old but the letter was written beautifully in Italian to the current Queen who was acting regent whilst Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, was in France.

It is the earliest surviving letter in existence that Elizabeth wrote to her step mother. Translated it read;

Inimical fortune, envious of all good and ever revolving human affairs, has deprived me for a whole year of your most illustrious presence, and, not thus content, has yet again robbed me of the same good; which thing would be intolerable to me, did I not hope to enjoy it very soon. And in this my exile I well know that the clemency of your highness has had as much care and solicitude for my health as the king’s majesty himself. By which thing I am not only bound to serve you, but also to revere you with filial love, since I understand that your most illustrious highness has not forgotten me every time you requested from you. For heretofore I have not dared to write to him. Wherefore I now humbly pray your most excellent highness, that, when you write to his majesty, you will condescend to recommend me to him, praying ever for his sweet benediction, and similarly entreating our Lord God to send him best success, and the obtaining of victory over his enemies, so that your highness and I may, as soon as possible, rejoice together with him on his happy return. No less pray I God, that He would preserve your most illustrious highness; to Whose grace, humbly kissing your hands, I offer and recommend myself.

From St James’s this 31st July.

Your most obedient daughter, and most faithful servant, Elizabeth.”

Elizabeths letterA fragment of the letter Elizabeth sent to Catherine Parr

On this day in 1565 – Kat Ashley died

It is unknown when Katherine Champernowne, or Kat Ashley as she was later known, it is believed that she was born in 1502 and that her parents were Sir John Champernowne and Margaret Courtenay.

Kat’s early life is unknown and but she appears to have been appointed a waiting gentlewoman to Elizabeth in 1536, shortly after Anne Boleyn had been executed. Kat intended to keep Elizabeth’s mother’s memory alive with the infant.

After the birth of Henry VIII’s son, Edward, a new household was set up to care for him this included Lady Bryan who had been until then Elizabeth’s nurse. As a result in 1537 Kat was appointed governess to Elizabeth.

In her role as Elizabeth’s governess Kat would teach her young charge in every aspect from geography, astronomy, history, maths and many languages including French, Italian, Spanish and Flemish. Away from the classroom Kat would also teach Elizabeth dancing, riding, embroidery and needlework and by the time Elizabeth was six John Ashley husband of Katyears old she was able to sew a cambric shirt from her brother, Edward. Elizabeth said later in life that Kat ‘took great labour and pain in bringing of me up in learning and honesty.’ Kat played a huge part in shaping who Elizabeth would be in later life.

In 1545 Kat married Elizabeth’s senior gentleman attendant, Sir John Ashley, who was also a cousin of Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn

In 1543 with King Henry VIII marrying his sixth and final wife, Catherine Parr, Elizabeth began attending court more and more and Kat would accompany the young Elizabeth. With the death of the King, Elizabeth and Kat would go and live with Catherine and her new husband Thomas Seymour in Chelsea. However, it was not to be an easy time.

Thomas Seymour, despite his hasty marriage with the King’s widow, took a shine to Elizabeth and began a flirtation. Kat would witness Seymour’s attempts to potentially seduce the young girl and tried to stop them warning Elizabeth away from Seymour. Kat would eventually report her concerns to Catherine Parr, who instead of stopping it joined in and reportedly held Elizabeth down whilst Seymour slashed at the 14 year olds nightgown. However, things turned serious when Catherine caught Elizabeth in Seymour’s arms and Kat lectured Elizabeth on the need to stay out of trouble and protect her reputation especially as she was second in line to the throne.

These events would be eventually investigated by King Edward’s Privy Council when Seymour was being investigated for treason. On 21st January 1549 Kat was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London whilst the claims were investigated. Kat told the investigators everything she knew and protested Elizabeth’s innocence as well as her own and was eventually declared innocent and released in early March 1549.

Kat would return to Elizabeth who was now residing at Hatfield and would remain with Elizabeth until 1554 when Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower by her sister, Mary I. Elizabeth was later released and Kat rejoined her charge but it was short lived as in May 1556 Kat was arrested and sent to Fleet Prison after books that were discovered in her possession that was considered treasonous. Kat was imprisoned for just three months but on her release she was forbidden from seeing Elizabeth again.

Upon Elizabeth taking the throne the order was revoked and Kat returned to Elizabeth and was appointed First Lady of the Bedchamber and became one of the most influential people in Elizabeth’s court.

Kat Ashley died on 18th July 1565 and Elizabeth was left heartbroken at the loss of her long term companion. After Kat’s death Elizabeth would say of the woman who stayed by her side since she was four. ‘Anne Boleyn gave me life but Kat Ashley gave me love’.

Kat AshleyKat Ashley