Thursday, June 16, 2011

Coming This Monday...

     I will continue posting the letters and the speeches of Elizabeth Tudor on a regular basis, but I am aiming to give you, my valued readers, my first real article by this Monday! It will likely be divided into two or three installments that continue into the week.

     The first article will be examining the "Genesis" of Elizabeth; that is to say, the relationship between her parents, Henry VIII and Anne. As Julie Andrew's said in The Sound of Music, "Let's start at the very beginning, that's a very good place to start..." !

     While Elizabeth did not have Anne in her life beyond the age of three, I would argue (and will to prove to you through my researched examples) that her mother's legacy stayed with her throughout her life. I think you will be delighted to discover about all the ways in which Elizabeth kept her mother's memory alive, and how she redeemed Anne's reputation when she became queen.

     I am very excited about this upcoming article, so watch this space for Part One, coming no later than this upcoming Monday!

     Remember, you can follow me on Twitter @ERITudor

     As always, I am so grateful to you for visiting this blog, and for all of your positive feedback!

     Semper Eadem,
     Ashlie

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Tide Letter

After Wyatt’s Rebellion, a failed attempt to depose Queen Mary Tudor and replace her with her Protestant sister Elizabeth, Mary’s suspicion immediately turned to her half sister. Had Elizabeth had knowledge of the rebel’s plans? Had she given them her orders to attack? Or was she an innocent, with the rebels acting on her behalf without Elizabeth’s actual approval? Mary had her half-sister arrested as a suspected traitor. Elizabeth, stalling for time and craving an audience with the queen in order to prove her innocence, begged her captors to allow her to write one letter to the Queen before they took her to be incarcerated in the Tower. This letter, below, is now called ‘The Tide Letter’ because in the time it took Elizabeth to write her words, the tide of the Thames river had changed, so that she could no longer be taken by boat to the prison that day.

At the bottom of the original letter, there is extra space above Elizabeth’s signature. Knowing full well that her enemies would use the space to add a damning “post script’ to her letter, Elizabeth drew horizontal lines across to deter any additions. To see a scan of this remarkable letter, visit:


For a Transcript of its contents, see below. Despite the frenzied state of mind Elizabeth must have been in when writing this letter, she still manages to make a coherent argument requesting an audience with her sister. Please note some spelling has been corrected by me for the sake of clarity for modern readers:


The Tide Letter

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 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 practiced, counseled, nor consented to anything that might be prejudicial to your person any way, 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 councilors, 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. Which thing I think and believe you shall never by report know, unless by yourself you hear. I have heard in my time of many 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 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 blow 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, Elizabeth I humbly crave but only one word of answer from yourself

Your highness most faithful subject that hath been from the beginning and will to the end,

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Elizabeth Tudor's Letter to Katherine Parr (1548)

As promised, here is the first primary document for my
Being Bess readers

The primary mother figure for Elizabeth Tudor, save for her lifelong attendant and friend Katherine (nee Champernowne) Ashley, was undoubtedly Katherine Parr, the sixth and final wife of Henry VIII. A fellow reformist, Katherine and Elizabeth shared their faith and a dedication to higher learning. Elizabeth went to live with Katherine and her husband Thomas Seymour for a time (more on this time in her life in an upcoming article) after the death of her father. Katherine was responsible for facilitating Elizabeth’s superb education, and giving her motherly affection and guidance.

The letter below was written by Elizabeth to her stepmother a few weeks before Katherine gave birth to her first and only biological child, thought to be a girl. Unfortunately, Katherine Parr did not live long. Katherine became ill due to childbirth complications, and died shortly thereafter. Her child disappears from the records, so it is thought that she too died around the same time as her mother.

July 31, 1548

Although your Highness’s letters be most joyful to me in absence, yet, considering what pain it is for you to write, your Grace being so sickly, your commendations were enough in my Lord’s letter. I much rejoice at your health, with the well liking of the country, with my humble thanks that your Grace wished me with you till you were weary of that country. Your Highness were like to be cumbered, if I should not depart till I were weary of being with you; although it were the worst soil in the world, your presence would make it pleasant.
I cannot reprove my Lord for not doing your commendations in his letter, for he did it; and although he had not, yet I will not complain on him; for he shall be diligent to give me knowledge from time to time how his busy child doth; and if I were at his birth, no doubt I would see him beaten, for the trouble he hath put you to. Master Denny and my lady, with humble thanks, prayeth most entirely for your Grace, praying the Almighty God to send you a most lucky deliverance, and my mistress wisheth no less, giving your Highness most humble thanks for her commendations.
Written with very little leisure this last day of July.


Your humble daughter,
ELIZABETH.


     The relationship between Elizabeth and her stepmother brings us many touching, intimate glimpses into Elizabeth’s young life, a childhood that was more often than not plagued with neglect, paranoia and disinterest from her father. One of my favorite stories of Elizabeth and Katherine Parr is appropriate to mention here:


     At the tender age of eleven, child prodigy Elizabeth translated from French The Mirror of the Sinful Soul as a gift for Katherine. For a comprehensive explanation of the incredible significance of this text for Elizabeth, Katherine Parr, and Anne Boleyn, please visit Claire Ridgway’s wonderful article at Elizabeth Files.

The cover of eleven-year-old Elizabeth's translation of The Mirror of the Sinful Soul. Elizabeth embroidered the cover with Queen Katherine Parr's initials, "KP". Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Elizabeth Tudor: Her Letters, Poems and Speeches

I am overjoyed at the positive feedback I have been receiving for BeingBess! Your love and support warms my heart and galvanizes me to do my very best!

Before I post my first academic article, I thought it fitting to publish on this site Elizabeth Tudor's letters, poems and speeches, so that, if you are interested, you can easily access these primary documents, all in one place: http://beingbess.blogspot.com !

I will provide an explanation with each of Elizabeth's writing samples, in order to provide historical context  so that you can better understand their significance. I think Elizabeth's voice is strong in all forms of her writing, and my hope is that through reading her words you will be able to "feel" or experience a small fragment of this remarkable and complex woman.

On occasion, I will provide an in-text  link to some wonderful trusted sites; I have provided them so that, if you want to know even more about the particular document, or view an image of the actual letter, you can with just the click of a button! Just remember to come back to BeingBess when you are done! ;)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Greetings, Valued Readers!

As I officially launch Being Bess today, I feel it is necessary to write an introductory post to orient the reader with the who, why, and how of this project.
I appreciate all who visit this site, and I look forward to your faithful reading. Most especially, I want to extend a thank you to my “built in audience”-my Twitter followers-I am humbled and honored by the fascinating array of individuals who choose to follow me, and partake in my mission of honoring Elizabeth.
            Nothing delights me more than having an array of published writers, re-enactors, politicians, hard-working college students, teachers, housewives, Tudor enthusiasts and travel guides following my queenly persona.
            Being Bess is as much your site as it is mine. In addition to my regular articles, I will be looking to you to submit articles for a “guest author” spotlight every couple of months.

            Semper Eadem
“Always the Same”
- Ashlie R. Jensen, A.K.A. ERITudor

Who: Recently graduated in May with a Bachelor of Arts, Summa Cum Laude, Ashlie R. Jensen is committed to making European history interesting and accessible to the public. Employed in museum education, her areas of expertise are the 11th through 14th centuries in medieval Europe, and the Tudor Dynasty, specifically the Elizabethan era. In love with modern British culture as well, all the evidence suggests that Ashlie has a British soul trapped in an American body!

Passionate about the Tudors, Ashlie became powerfully drawn to Elizabeth Tudor, initially relating to her tumultuous childhood and formative adolescent years. Ashlie was fascinated by Elizabeth’s survival in the fickle Tudor court, her struggle to remain relevant once written out of the succession by her brother Edward, and her close calls with death in the reign of her sister Mary. She then became overwhelmingly inspired by Elizabeth’s unlikely ascension to the throne, and her subsequent successful nearly 45 year reign.

Ashlie has independently researched every aspect of Elizabeth’s life. While Ashlie relies on primary documents first and foremost, she also values the informed opinions of David Starkey, David Loades, Eric Ives, Alison Weir, Tracey Boreman, Sarah Gristwood, Garret Mattingly, Giles Tremlett, Leanda de Lisle, and more.

Ashlie historically interprets Queen Elizabeth I in first person perspective, dressed in fully researched and accurate Elizabethan garb. Ashlie garb are based on the patterns by Margo Anderson, and lovingly sewn by her mother, to whom she is eternally indebted! Ashlie Elizabeth I presentations vary in content, but always include a first-person monologue and conclude with an in-character question and answer session.

Ashlie at the end of her original program, Elizabeth Addresses the Troops at Tilbury presented in March at her work for Women in Armor month.


Ashlie next to a 3 Quarter Armor suit of armor, belonging to Elizabeth I's contemporary Henry Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. This armor is in the collection at the Museum where she works. 


A work in progress, this entirely accurate (authentic fabric and construction) gown is based on what sparse references we have on what Elizabeth I wore on her visit to Tilbury in 1588.
While I prefer to don my Elizabeth wig for program appearances, Elizabeth supposedly wore her hair loose on this occasion in history, so I went without.
I have since added a hand-embroidered Pelican in Her Piety badge to the dress, and plan on adding two Phoenix rising, one on each bell sleeve!

ERITudor plans to continue her education as time (and money!) allow. In the meantime, she will continue to work at her fulfilling job, and lovingly tend to http://BeingBess.blogspot.com !

What: If you ask most people who the most famous queen of England was, most likely they will say Queen Elizabeth I. But beyond the name, many struggle to recall why she is so famous.

For me, Elizabeth I is not merely a name, or an iconic image of a red-haired, bejeweled monarch in a lace ruff collar-she is the most inspirational, empowering and moving historical figure I know of.  She has always personally touched my soul, and driven me to become better than my surroundings and achieve my potential.

But she is not just a personal icon- I believe she is a relevant historical figure for today’s tumultuous times. Modern women (and men, too) can learn much from Elizabeth’s financial strategy and economic stimulus. Religious radicals could learn from Elizabeth’s moderate religious stance, and more tolerant views (in comparison to her three immediate predecessors, excluding the “reign” of Jane Grey). Diplomats could draw ideas from her foreign policy.

I am committed to highlighting Elizabeth’s seemingly divine strengths, as well as her human weaknesses. Her groundbreaking reign brought economic stability, peace and abundance to a previously bankrupt, weak and fearful nation. In conjunction with my articles on Elizabeth, all properly annotated for those who want further reference, you can also look forward to articles on her “supporting cast”-Influential confidantes and courtiers such as Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, Sir Francis Walsingham, William Cecil, Edward De Vere, Katherine Ashley, Katherine Parr, Anne of Cleves and many others.

How: Through this blog, my historical interpreting work, and my various side-writing projects, I aim to bring Elizabeth, her world, and her legacy to the masses. Regular articles will be posted on Elizabeth’s childhood, (i.e. education, parental relationships, sibling relationships) her adolescence, (i.e. care under Katherine Parr and the Thomas Seymour scandal, and her persecution during her sister Mary’s reign) and her adult life, ( ascension, early founding years of Elizabethan policy, religious tensions, relations with Spain, and the Spanish Armada,  Mary the Queen of Scots, her lifelong partnership with Robert Dudley, the  “marriage question”) and much, much more!

    While I have a general idea of what order I will be writing and posting theses topics, I will occasionally ask you, my faithful readers, to submit a topic you would like me to research and divulge to you next. I want my readers to be involved and engaged in Elizabeth’s fascinating history with me.

Also, I will periodically appeal to my readers to submit a potential article of their own that they would like to see featured on this site. Of course, their will be certain criteria, chief among them properly documented references to ensure accuracy, but I want to highlight the knowledge and creative talent of my fellow amateur historians.

Thank you for reading this introductory. I look forward to the growth of this site and my friendships with you all! Keep checking back frequently!

Also, you can follow me on Twitter:
@ERITudor