Thursday, August 30, 2012

Theatre Thursday: Back to School in "As You Like It"

"Rosalind Gives Orlando a Chain"; a 19th century illustration by Emile Bayard from Shakespeare's As You Like It. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

To commemorate "back to school" time for children and adults continuing their education around the world, I bring you a quote concerning a reluctant schoolboy from Shakespeare.

"And then the whining schoolboy with his satchel, and shining morning face, creeping like a snail unwillingly to school. "
-Jacques, As You Like It

Coincidentally, The Globe Theatre (currently on tour) is performing As You Like It. They will also be doing a special showing of the play at Penrhyn Castle, only on Sept 1st.

This month I will begin working toward my Masters in History; my first course will be about The Wars of the Roses, and I am very much looking forward to it!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Recommended Article on Zuccaro's Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I and The Earl of Leicester

The ruins of "Leicester's Building" at Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire. Photo shared for public use courtesy of Lara E. Eakins.

Christine Hartweg, the author of one of my favorite blogs, All Things Robert Dudley, has put together a wonderful piece on the companion portraits commissioned by Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester in 1575 of himself and Queen Elizabeth I. 

Leicester hired the Italian artist Zuccaro to paint from life two full-length portraits as part of his last, and most elaborate attempt to get the Queen to marry him. Unfortunately for posterity, only the rough chalk sketches of these magnificent portraits survive, residing in the collection of the British Museum, London.

A sketch of Queen Elizabeth I of England, drawn from life by Zuccaro in 1575. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
A sketch of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, drawn from life by Zuccaro in 1575. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Ms. Hartweg has included wonderful details in her article, especially concerning the armor worn by Leicester in the sketches, and the fan held by the Queen, which was possibly a gift from Leicester himself. You can read her article, " Milord Lestre Favorito: The Zuccaro Drawings, 1575" HERE.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Queen Elizabeth & her Court Depart from Shaw House

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, c.1590, residing in Jesus College, Oxford. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan history, 1592, Queen Elizabeth and her court left Shaw Manor, Newbury, in West Berkshire. Queen Elizabeth's progress that year took her on a tour of the southern part of her realm.
Shaw House in West Berkshire has a new temporary exhibit centered around Queen Elizabeth I's royal progress in 1592. According to the Shaw House website, the manor enjoys the distinction of being one of only a few locations Queen Elizabeth I visited that is still standing! For more information on this family-friendly exhibit, visit: Monarch on the Move: Queen Elizabeth's Visit to Shaw House.

A view of Shaw House in West Berkshire from a modern paved road. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons courtesy of Julian Tubb. Image public domain.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Elizabethan Quote of the Day: "Affection is False!"-the Sordid Life of Mary Fitton

 "Affection? Affection is false!"-Queen Elizabeth I, 1600.
Queen Elizabeth I had long been observing the frivolous ways of one of her maids of honor, Mary Fitton, and she did not approve of what she saw. In June of 1600, Mary Fitton was leading a court masque entertainment for the wedding celebration of her fellow maid of honor, the Lady Anne Russell. Queen Elizabeth I attended the wedding festivities, and her arrival was famously captured in a painting by Robert Peake the Elder.

Queen Elizabeth Going in Procession to Blackfriars in 1601 by Robert Peake the Elder. This portrait depicts Queen Elizabeth I being carried by her maternal relatives in a litter, on her way to the wedding festivities of the Lady Anne Russell. The bride follows behind. You can read more about this painting, and the event it captures HERE.

Mary selected her mistress the Queen to take part in the dance, suggesting that Her Majesty should personify "affection" in the allegorical masque. When Elizabeth heard this, she scoffed, "Affection? Affection is false!"

Elizabeth was well aware of Fitton's reputation at court as a young woman who tempted even the most sensible of men, and she may have been giving her a public warning about the superficiality and fleeting nature of court liaisons. Also, Elizabeth's open skepticism to romance may have been informed by her own misadventures in love. In an case, Mary Fitton did not heed her mistress's warning, since she would go on to lead a life that defied societal expectations, becoming a mistress to a succession of powerful men at court.

A detail of a portrait of Mary Fitton, c. 1595, by an unknown artist. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain

Prior to the wedding of the Lady Anne Russell to Henry Somerset, later 1st Marquess of Worcester, Mary Fitton had entered the Queen's service just five years before. Mary's father, Sir Edward Fitton, had asked the Queen's kinsman and comptroller, Sir William Knollys, to recommend her and look out for her. Knollys, who was the son of Queen Elizabeth I's most beloved cousin and friend (or possible half-sister), Catherine Carey-Knollys, and her husband, Sir Francis Knollys, happily obliged. He told Sir Edward, "I will be as careful of her well doing as if I were her own true father." (Haynes, 44)

A 17th century engraving by Simon van de Passe of William Knollys, 1st Earl of Banbury. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

William Knollys's interest in his young charge was far from paternal, however. Though presently married to Dorothy Bray, Baroness Chandos, William fell in love (or lust) with Mary. William did not hide his interest in the young Mary from his peers, and he was lampooned throughout the court for his obsession (Haynes, 46).

Dorothy, the widow of Edmund Brydges, 2nd Baron Chandos, had five children of her own, but had been unable to provide her second husband with a child. Since Dorothy was more than 20 years her husband's senior, she may have been well past her child-bearing years. The 50-year-old William's infatuation with Mary may have been in part because of her youth, and thus her perceived ability to bear him a biological heir.

A portrait of a woman by John Bettes the younger, probably Dorothy Bray, Baroness Chandos c. 1578. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

When Dorothy Bray did die (in 1605) Mary still had no interest in the elderly William Fitton. He took another wife, Elizabeth Howard, the daughter of Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk. Thus, William Fitton's second wife was the granddaughter of Thomas Howard, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, who had been executed for high treason against Queen Elizabeth I in 1572.

A portrait from 1598 of Thomas Howard in his robes for the Order of the Garter. He was later the 1st Earl of Suffolk. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Mary Fitton left court briefly due to illness in 1599, returning in time to help lead the court entertainments for Lady Anne Russell's wedding. On this occasion, Mary was not only the subject of one of Queen Elizabeth's many witty, biting retorts; she also caught sight of the man who would change her life significantly: William Herbert, the eventual 3rd Earl of Pembroke.

A detail of a portrait by Daniel Mytens of William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, 1625. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

William Herbert was the son and heir of one of the leading figures in Queen Elizabeth's court, Henry Herbert, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke and his literary wife, Mary Sidney-Herbert, Countess of Pembroke.

A miniature from around 1590 of Mary Sidney-Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. By Nicholas Hilliard. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Eventually following in his mother's footsteps, William would become involved in the literary world, helping to fund the publication of Shakespeare's First Folio in 1623.

The frontispiece of Shakespeare's First Folio, published in 1623. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

But as a young, unmarried man of around 20 on the precipice of inheriting his Earldom, William took up with the slightly older Mary Fitton. Given her previous experience of being the object of affection for a much older man, Mary may have been taking control of her own happiness, either consciously or sub-consciously, by having an affair with a younger man. Mary became pregnant with William Herbert's child; she also was likely carrying something else: syphilis, which it is suspected William had.

When William admitted paternity of his illegitimate child in February of 1601, but refused to answer for his indiscretion by marrying his mistress, he was thrown into Fleet Prison by the Queen. This was not surprising, since just one year ago, a writer observed of William Herbert that, "I don't find any disposition at all in this gallant young lord to marry" (Furnivall, 3). A month later, aged about 23, Mary gave birth to a son who died almost immediately (Furnivall, 3). Some modern researchers have suggested that the infant's cause of death could have been congenital syphilis.

Mary Fitton and her former lover were banished from Queen Elizabeth's court for their transgressions. Elizabeth had always punished those ladies in her service who had compromised their chastity very harshly; she likewise punished the men who impregnated her ladies if they refused to marry them.

Still as obsessed as ever, Sir William Knollys offered himself to Mary Fitton once again, even though she was in disgrace. Mary seems to have abhorred the idea of stability and defied convention at all costs, since she spurned Knollys once again to have an affair with the married Vice Admiral Richard Leveson. Leveson's wife was the daughter of Lord High Admiral Charles Howard, a cousin to the Queen. When the Vice Admiral died in 1605 at the age of 35, he left Mary 100 pounds.

A statue of Sir Richard Leveson at St. Peter's church, Wolverhampton, by Hubert Le Sueur. This statue was originally part of a larger group in the chancel, now in the Lady Chapel. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons courtesy of Siwells53.

Still having no interest in marriage, Fitton began a liaison with Captain William Polwhele, and bore him a son. Mary's parents had understandably had quite enough of their daughter's serial dalliances. Mary's mother, Alice Halcroft-Fitton, wrote to her other daughter, Anne, the wife of John Newdigate, in great distress:

"such shame as never had a Cheshire woman, worse now than ever. Write no more to me of her." (quoted in Haynes, 49)

Captain William Polwhele and Mary did eventually get married, but Mary was widowed by 1610. Presumably to provide for the two children she had had with her late husband, and to attach some respectability to her own name, Mary got married for the last time to another captain.

In 1890, Thomas Taylor was the first to put forth the theory that Mary Fitton may have been the mysterious "Dark Lady" of Shakespeare's sonnets. This theory relies heavily on the assumption that William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke was Shakespeare's "fair youth", whom Shakespeare urges to marry, though there are other candidates. William and his brother Philip made up the "incomparable pair of bretheren" to whom Shakespeare's First Folio is dedicated.

According to the Folio editors, the Herbert brothers had "prosecuted both them and their author living with so much favor". Other parts of the dedication imply Shakespeare was close to the Pembroke's. Shakespeare's sonnets are dedicated to "the onlie begetter of these insuing sonnets, Mr. W.H." These initials, of course match those of William Herbert. But "W.H." could just as well be an encrypted reference to Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton (DNB, 227-28).

A full-length portrait of Henry Wriothesley,  the 3rd Earl of Southampton, painted between 1594-1600. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Frank Harris also championed this theory in several of his books, as did A.L. Rowse.  Of course, since many Shakespeare scholars cannot even agree on whether Shakespeare really was Shakespeare, attempting to identify the subjects of his sonnets is almost futile. For all the evidence we have that suggests Mary Fitton was the Dark Lady, we have an equal amount of evidence that suggests she was not. One of the chief arguments against her is that the Dark Lady had to have been married to break her "bed-vow"(Furnivall, 5). Fitton was not married at the time of her affair with William Herbert.

Playwright George Bernard Shaw knew Thomas Taylor personally, and discussed his theory with him. Shaw was one of the first authors to build a strong case against Mary Fitton as the Dark Lady. Even so, he did use Fitton as the Dark Lady in a work of fiction!

While we will probably never know for sure who the Dark Lady was (and really, isn't it almost better that way?) we do know that Mary Fitton has been referenced in other Elizabethan poetry, and had at least one literary work dedicated to her. The comedic actor Will Kempe dedicated his account of his record breaking morris-dancing jig across the English countryside in 9 days to Mary; the work was entitled Nine Daises Wonder (Furnivall, 3). That being said, Kempe was so ill-acquainted with Mary that he painstakingly called her Anne Fitton in his dedication, confusing her first name with that of her married sister, Anne Newdigate! (Funivall, 3).

A woodcut of Elizabethan clown William Kempe dancing a jig across the English countryside. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Whether Mary is the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets or not, she certainly led a bold and fascinating life!


Haynes, Alan. Sex in Elizabethan England. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Limited, 1997. Print.

"Herbert, William, third Earl of Pembroke, 1580-1630". Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 8-23-2012. Electronic.

Furnivall, Frederick James. "Shakespeare and Mary Fitton". Cornell University Library Database.  Retrieved 8-23-2012. Electronic.
"Earl of Banbury". Leigh Rayment's Peerage pages. Retrieved 08-22-2012. Electronic

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Theatre Thursday: Publishing in Elizabethan England, and Other Topics

The title page of Shakespeare's First Folio, first published in 1623. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Today for Theatre Thursday I bring you a selection of a few interesting and informative articles on Shakespeare Online.  

Shakespeare Online if a content-rich site focused on the Shakespeare canon, and the the world of Elizabethan actors and the theatre-going public. All of the articles reproduced have been previously published in literary or historical journals, and are fully annotated.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Queen Elizabeth I Arrives at Tilbury

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth visiting her troops at Tilbury. Image acquired from, courtesy of Aniina Jokinen.

On this day in Elizabethan history 1588, Queen Elizabeth I arrived at Tilbury to begin her visit with her troops. Tilbury, which had been built by Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, was England's foremost center of defense (Mattingly, 44). On the 18th, which was a Thursday in 1588, Queen Elizabeth departed London from St. James's via her royal barge, accompanied by her gentlemen pensioners and yeomen of the guard. Elizabeth's subjects watched their beloved Queen and her fully armored retinue from the embankment along the Thames, and from higher vantage points, hanging out of shoppe windows, and the windows above London Bridge (Mattingly, 342-43)

As Queen Elizabeth had hoped, the conflict with Spain had unified the English people in a way they had not been before. There was a feeling of English nationalism against the "other"; matters of religion seemed trivial when the threat of invasion was very real indeed. Petruccio Ubaldini, an Italian Protestant living in England at the time observed that, "it is easier to find flocks of white crows than one Englishman (and let him believe what he will about religion) who loves a foreigner." (quoted in Mattingly, 344)

Queen Elizabeth's lifelong favorite, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, was supervising the encampment at Tilbury as acting Lieutenant and Captain General. He was eager for his Queen to come and visit, but also nervous that the other competent officers who were supposed to assist him had yet to arrive (Mattingly, 343). Leicester spent his final hours trying to complete a "bridge" of boats that would connect Tilbury Fort with Gravesend; Gravesend was where the Duke of Parma and his troops were anticipated to arrive in the event that the English navy was unable to engage and defeat the Armada at sea.

A 16th century portrait of Alexandre Farnese, the Duke of Parma. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Queen Elizabeth understood the importance of appearing to these brave men, many of them mere foot soldiers or members of trained bands; she thought it essential to express her gratitude for their loyalty and for their readiness to lay down their lives for the preservation of her kingdom. Queen Elizabeth herself "was easy to upset but hard to frighten" and she found new purpose in the crisis with Spain (Mattingly, 347)

Many historians have argued, with much merit, that this was the defining moment of Elizabeth's career, and it was her conduct during this crisis and the peace that followed after that give us the legend of the illustrious Gloriana and Good Queen Bess that we remember  today. "It is a comfort to see how great magnanimity Her Majesty shows, who is not a whit dismayed" wrote Robert Cecil of the Queen's behavior during this time (quoted in Mattingly, 347).

A portrait of Robert Cecil by John de Critz, circa 1608, when he was Earl of Salisbury. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The number of men that stood ready to greet the arrival of the Queen at Tilbury is debated; it was probably more than five or six thousand, but less than the twenty-three thousand reported by the usually reliable antiquarian William Camden, who wrote The Annals of Queen Elizabeth. When the Queen arrived in all her glory she proclaimed her intentions to Leicester: she did not just wish to merely inspect the camp, she wanted to interact with the troops on a personal level. She had no desire to have armed guards about her, since she needn't fear her own people. As Elizabeth would proudly proclaim the following day, she had been advised to "take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes for fear of treachery" but that she did not distrust her "faithful and loving people."  This could not have been a surprise to Leicester or anyone who was close to the Queen, since she had always maintained a level of visibility and accessibility with her subjects, a practice that her predecessors had more or less avoided.

Walking before her in the procession into the encampment was the Earl of Ormonde, who bore the Sword of State, followed by two pages. Next came the Queen on horseback, riding with the Earl of Leicester. Following behind them on foot was Sir John Norris (Mattingly, 348)

A 16th century depiction of Queen Elizabeth I, preceded by a Sword of State. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

While contemporary accounts of the Queen's appearance are scare and may be subject to a certain amount of poetic license, it appears Elizabeth was clad in white velvet, wearing an armored cuirass embossed with mythical creatures (Mattingly, 349). Once in the thick of the soldiers, Elizabeth dismounted and explored every inch of Tilbury, speaking with the men. The Queen was cheered and praised wherever she went, and the experience was no doubt an affirmation of the role she had dedicated her life and soul to. As the 18th drew to a close, Queen Elizabeth decided she would visit Tilbury again the next day.

An representation of Queen Elizabeth I greeting her troops at Tilbury, clad in white velvet and wearing an armored breastplate. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The Queen and her yeomen and pensioners retired to a manor house four miles off, returning to the encampment on the 19th to see a demonstration of cavalry drills and to dine in Leicester's pavilion.  It is on this day that Queen Elizabeth saw fit to deliver one of her most famous, and certainly her most inspirational speech. Perhaps she had thought over exactly what she wanted to say the night before, but perhaps she spoke completely off the cuff. Either way, the "Tilbury Speech" is remembered, revered, and recited to this day.

My loving people,we have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes 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 safe guard 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 heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all, to lay down my life for my God and for my kingdom and for my people, my honour, and my blood, even in the dust. 

I know I have the body of a weak and 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; the 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, in the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. 

In the meantime my lieutenant-general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince 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 those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.

When word reached the camp that the Duke of Parma was getting ready to march on Tilbury, Queen Elizabeth asserted that she would indeed "live and die" alongside her men, like she had so boldly asserted. It took a great deal of effort from her advisers to convince her that she would be of more use to her people and the English cause against Spain if she were to remain alive, and it would not be considered cowardly for her to retreat to saftey (Mattingly, 351). After all, she had done far more than most monarchs would have been willing to do, putting in face time with the common soldiers and living amongst them for several days. 

In the end, the brave men at Tilbury never had to fight since the Armada was vanquished entirely at sea. The English did indeed have their "famous victory", which ushered England into a new era, The Golden Age.

The Armada Portrait, attributed to George Gower. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.


Mattingly, Garrett. The Armada. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1959. Print.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Theatre Thurs: John of Gaunt's Description of England in Richard II

A portrait of 14th century Prince John of Gaunt, painted circa 1593 for Sir Edward Hoby of Queensborough Castle, Kent. This portrait currently resides in the collection of a descendant of John of Gaunt and his third wife, Katherine Swynford,  the Duke of Beaufort. In addition to being the Duke of the vast and agriculturally rich duchy of Lancaster,  John of Gaunt was the titular King of Castile and Leon, (through his second wife) and Duke of Aquitaine, Earl of Derby, Leicester and Lincoln, and Seneschal of England. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

One of my favorite historical personages, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (14th century), was immortalized in Shakespeare's tragedy Richard II. In the play, Gaunt delivers one of the most famous descriptions of England in literature, in Act 2, Scene 1.

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,...
...This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death! 

The ruins of Kenilworth Castle. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons courtesy of Dave. Image public domain.

Interestingly, Kenilworth Castle, which Queen Elizabeth I gave to her life-long favorite Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester in 1563, was previously in the possession of John of Gaunt.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Death Could Not Separate Them: How Elizabeth I Connected to Her Deceased Mother

A composite image of Queen Elizabeth I and her mother, Anne Boleyn. Picture acquired through Flickr, created and shared for public use by Inor19/Kiki. Image public domain
 ~This article is dedicated to my dear friend Mia, who has been researching Queen Elizabeth I and already knows so much! Mia is now working on a program where she portrays the young Elizabeth Tudor in the first person for her local library; I look forward to supporting this bright young star at her first performance. Mia is only ten, and she already reads Alison Weir! :)~

It is often asserted that we do not know how Queen Elizabeth I felt about her mother, Anne Boleyn. And it is still widely written that Elizabeth was recorded as having only spoken of her mother twice in her entire lifetime. As a voracious researcher of all things Elizabeth Tudor, and a first-person historical interpreter of Elizabeth I, I am constantly asked how I believe Elizabeth felt about her mother, Anne Boleyn, who was executed when she was just two years and 8 months old.

Anne Boleyn in the Tower by Edouard Cibot, 1836. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

This is a very valid question, that gives birth to a variety of other questions. If we can ask, "how did Elizabeth Tudor feel about her mother?" then we must also ask, "how did she form that opinion?" Furthermore, we must examine how she rectified her feelings about her deceased mother with her relationship with the father that had her killed.

Using a surprising amount of contemporary evidence and a little bit of conjecture based on fact, I believe I have arrived at a formed opinion on the matter, and I am excited to share it with my readers. Hopefully you will discover things here that you did not know before, and upon finishing the article, share with others how Queen Elizabeth I really felt about her mother, Queen Anne Boleyn.

Queen Anne and Her Daughter

Elizabeth Tudor spent a very brief time with her mother. As was typical in 16th century royal families, Elizabeth was breastfed by a wet-nurse, (despite Anne Boleyn's protestations that she would breastfeed her daughter herself) and infrequently saw her mother. Still, Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII visited their daughter as often as their schedules would allow, and Anne kept up fervent correspondence with those she had entrusted with Elizabeth's care. And, since many of Queen Anne's personal records survive, we know that Anne took great care planning her baby daughter's wardrobe, personally selecting cloth and trimming. Had Anne and Elizabeth been allowed more time together, these two kindred spirits would have undoubtedly enjoyed a close bond. And, perhaps in Elizabeth's adolescence, they would have butted heads a little bit, given that they were so similar!

Despite the fact that Henry VIII had moved heaven and earth to marry Anne Boleyn, his passion for her had almost died out by the third year of their marriage. The qualities in Anne that had initially captivated Henry now irritated him greatly. Queen Anne had been informed that her husband's staff was now questioning members of her own household, and a cancellation of the couples trip to Calais was imminent. The Queen decided to confront her husband about the rumors that he was displeased with her. She must have known that her time was running out, and she appealed to her husband in the most dramatic way possible: through her daughter. The religious reformer Alesius was present at this tragic occasion on Sunday, April 30th, and he later retold the story to an inquisitive Queen Elizabeth I, saying, 

"Alas, I shall never forget the sorrow I felt when I saw the sainted Queen, your most religious mother, carrying you, still a baby, in her arms, and entreating the most serene King your father in Greenwich Palace, from the open window of which he was looking into the courtyard and she brought you to him. The faces and gestures of the speakers plainly showed the King was angry."(quoted in Denny)
Before Queen Anne was imprisoned in the Tower, she made provisions for her daughter's welfare. Just four days before the now-infamous May Day joust, Anne entrusted the Boleyn family chaplain, Matthew Parker, with her daughter's spiritual well-being (Weir, 5).  Matthew Parker would fulfill this duty, and upon Elizabeth's accession he was rewarded for his loyalty to her and her mother, being made Archbishop of Canterbury.

Parker preserved many of Queen Anne and her family members' letters and papers before their ruin; most likely he entrusted them to Queen Elizabeth sometime after 1558. These documents probably did a great deal to illuminate for Elizabeth the life of the mother she had barely known. Another Boleyn family friend, Thomas Cranmer, wrote a very long letter to King Henry VIII on Anne's behalf, in the hope that it would buy her some time (Denny, 279). Still, though, Cranmer's wording in the letter was heavily guarded, because he knew better than to go against the King's justice . After-all, Cranmer had been appointed the task of securing an annulment for the King from Queen Anne; Anne would die for adultery, having never been a wife (Weir, 242-45).

A detail from a Tudor portrait of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

There is evidence that Queen Anne may have been led to believe, at least for a short time, that she and her daughter would be allowed to go into exile in the Protestant countries on the Continent, provided they never returned to England. Cranmer likely fed Queen Anne false information in an attempt to get her to cooperate with an annulment. The Constable of the Tower, Master Kingston reported after Cranmer's meeting with Anne, "This day at dinner, the Queen said she should go to a nunnery, and is in hope of life" (Weir 245). But this, as we know all too well, did not come to pass.

Anne Boleyn Says a Final Goodbye to her Daughter, Princess Elizabeth by Gustaf Wappers, 1838. Picture acquired through InspirationNow's Tumblr, courtesy of aurora_von_g. Image public domain.

After The Fall of Anne Boleyn

After the execution of Queen Anne, the court was ripe with horrible slander against her, and given the crimes she had been convicted of, questions concerning her daughter's paternity were circulating (Weir, 316-317). Lady Margaret Bryan and Elizabeth's gentlewoman (and later Governess) Kat Champernowne, no doubt shielded Elizabeth I as best they could from what had really happened, given her young and impressionable age. Margaret Bourchier, Lady Bryan (who was the half-sister of Elizabeth Howard, Anne Boleyn's mother) and Katherine Champernowne (later Astley or Ashley) were both installed by Queen Anne to take care of the Princess Elizabeth (Weir, 314-315). Champernowne was some sort of a Boleyn family connection shown favor by Queen Anne, and she was likely to have always been indebted to her former benefactress. The women cared for Elizabeth as best as they could, given the King's lackadaisical interest in his daughter's upbringing, and provided her with some stability. But the walls of the nursery could not hide Elizabeth from the truth forever.

Since Kat became a surrogate mother figure to Elizabeth, serving her until her death in 1565, we can assume that whatever Kat thought of Anne Boleyn would have been shared, either purposefully or inadvertently, with Elizabeth, even though Henry VIII has forbidden anyone to speak to Elizabeth about her mother.

A detail of a portrait in the collection of Lord Hastings, purportedly of Katherine Champernowne-Ashley. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

We do not know when or how Elizabeth discovered her mother had been beheaded on the orders of her father, but we do know that she recognized the change in her status by the way people were addressing her. Elizabeth, as we know, was incredibly perceptive and precocious from the time that she could speak, and very soon after her mother's death she was recorded to have remarked, "How hath it, yesterday my Lady Princess, and today but my Lady Elizabeth?" 

I agree with Weir's conjecture that Elizabeth probably found out what had really happened to her mother over time, having only initially been told a simplified version as a child, and then some placating half-truths as she questioned the story as she grew. Let us hope that she did not find out about the nature of her mother's demise by overhearing it when she was staying at Hunsdon House with her half sister, the Lady Mary Tudor; Lady Kingston visited the Lady Mary on May 26th, 1536, probably to give Mary a first-hand account of Anne's demise (Weir, 319).

However she found out, the "growing awareness of her bastard status must have caused the maturing Elizabeth recurring distress and enduring insecurities, and certainly affected her emotional development." (Weir, 320)

A portrait of the Princess Elizabeth Tudor by William Scrots, c.1546. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Most historians agree that her mother's death at the hands of her father, along with the other tragic fates of women in her family at the hands of men, was one of the primary reasons Elizabeth I resolved herself never to marry. The execution of her mother's cousin, and her young stepmother, Katherine Howard in 1542 for similar charges, likely brought Elizabeth's feelings about marriage and her mother to a fever pitch, along with her knowledge of the sordid and sometimes sad marriages of her paternal aunts. Elizabeth's lifelong favorite, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, would later recall his friend Elizabeth declaring at the tender age of 8, "I will never marry." The young Elizabeth had experienced family-induced trauma, and was trying to make sense of it all at a very young, and vulnerable age.

A sketch by Hans Holbein, supposedly of Anne Boleyn's cousin and Henry VIII's fifth wife, Katherine Howard. Picture acquired through Flickr, created and shared for public use by Inor19/Kiki. Image public domain

The Earliest Clues

By 1544 we have our first clue to show us what Elizabeth Tudor thought about her mother. This strong piece of evidence comes to us from the Whitehall family grouping, The Family of Henry VIII. Weir references the evidence and its significance to the bond Elizabeth was forging with her deceased mother in several of her books.

The Family of King Henry VIII, c. 1544. From left to right: A female fool, probably Will Sommers wife, Mary Tudor, Edward VI, King Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, and Elizabeth, followed by Will Sommers. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Around the year 1544, Henry VIII had a brilliant piece of Tudor propaganda commissioned to portray his ideal nuclear family, and to also re-iterate his Act of Succession of that same year. It now hangs in Hampton Court Palace. The young Elizabeth, aged about ten or eleven, is shown wearing around her neck a pendant in the shape of an "A." Initial pendants were popular in Tudor times, and we know that Anne Boleyn had at least three initial pendants made, the aforementioned "A", the famous "B" necklace, and an "AB", which she wears in the Nidd Hall portrait (Weir, 187).

The Nidd Hall Portrait, probably of Anne Boleyn. The portrait was done in the second half of the 16th century, and may have been copying an earlier original. One of the major clues that this portrait is of Queen Anne is that the sitter can be seen wearing one of her documented initial pendants, the "AB". Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Elizabeth was probably wearing this pendant that had belonged to her mother often enough for it to have been associated with her. And, I agree with Weir's conclusion that for Elizabeth to publicly display her connection to her mother by donning the pendant in the portrait was not only a quiet act of defiance, (which Henry VIII must have chosen to ignore, given he approved the portrait) but it proves that she must have already been told enough sympathetic things about her mother to have formed a good opinion of her. This means that the royal edict to never speak of Anne Boleyn in Elizabeth's presence was being ignored by more than a few people, and perhaps King Henry had accepted that his daughter had already made up her mind on her mother's innocence, and he was not going to fight the matter with Elizabeth, who was as stubborn as he was.

A composite image of King Henry VIII's daughters from the portrait The Family of King Henry VIII. Mary is on the left and Elizabeth is on the right. Take special note of the "A" pendant around Elizabeth's neck, which once belonged to her mother, Anne Boleyn. Picture acquired through Flickr, created and shared for public use by Kotomic Creations.

By 1548 the young Elizabeth was blossoming into an an ambitious pupil, thanks to the education and attention allotted to her by her loving stepmother, Queen Katherine Parr. Elizabeth choice of literary text to translate as a gift for Katherine Parr may be another early clue that Elizabeth felt positively about her mother. Elizabeth's choice to translate Margaret of Navarre's moralistic The Mirror of The Sinful Soul may have been purposeful, given that Anne Boleyn had been well acquainted with Margaret of Navarre, when she was known as Margaret of Angloume.

The cover to Elizabeth Tudor's translation of The Mirror of the Sinful Soul, which was given as a gift to her beloved stepmother, Katherine Parr in 1548. The young Elizabeth personally embroidered the cover as well, including her stepmothers initials, "KP" in the center. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn 

Alison Weir builds a convincing case that this miniature, previously thought to be Anne Boleyn at 25, is actually Mary Boleyn. As I have long suspected myself, the portrait commonly identified as Mary Boleyn can only be of a woman of noble birth, and Weir puts forth theories as to her identity, (one possibility if Frances Brandon) as well. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Besides Elizabeth learning about her mother from the usual suspects, (Kat Champernowne-Ashley, Lady Bryan, Matthew Parker, Thomas Cranmer) her uncle by marriage, William Stafford, may have supplied her with information. William Stafford had married Elizabeth's maternal aunt, Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary Boleyn, for love; and he was still employed at court in the years when Elizabeth would have been visiting her father off-and-on.

Though Elizabeth's initial visits to court were few and far between, they may have given Stafford the opportunity to interact with Elizabeth, or even pass information from his wife on to her niece, whom she had not seen since 1534. Mary and Anne were estranged at the time of Anne's fall, but Mary may have had some good memories she wanted to pass on to Elizabeth through her husband or other clandestine methods. Of course, this is all speculation, but in later years Elizabeth's relationship with William Stafford and his second wife, Dorothy, suggests an already established bond that perhaps had its origins in childhood (Weir discusses this topic at length in her book Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings).

Elizabeth Almost Shares Her Mother's Fate 

The Queen's House inside The Tower of London, where Elizabeth Tudor was imprisoned. This part of the Tower is not open to the public, as it is a private residence, and one can only tour the rooms with prior permission. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1554, when Elizabeth was 20, she came very close to sharing the exact same fate as her mother. One can imagine her horror when she was arrested at Ashridge and imprisoned in the Tower by her sister, Queen Mary I for three months on suspicion of treason. Elizabeth, along with four female attendants, (one of which was probably her illegitimate half sister, Ethelreda Malte) was imprisoned in the Queen's lodgings.

A photo of the The Tower of London as it looks today, with the missing Tudor buildings super-imposed and labeled. Picture acquired through Flickr courtesy of That Boleyn Girl.

(Friends to BeingBess Natalie Grueninger and Claire Ridgway have called to my attention that Anne was lodged in quarters close to the White Tower; these were the same apartments in which she stayed before her coronation. Unfortunately, these rooms have since been demolished. Seeing as the primary subject of my research is Elizabeth Tudor, I am always grateful for the feedback I receive from those who study her mother, Anne Boleyn, with equal intensity.)

A photo of the Tower of London as it looks today, with the missing Tudor buildings super-imposed and labeled. Queen Anne Boleyn's apartments are clearly visible in this view. Picture acquired through Flickr courtesy of That Boleyn Girl.
As a prisoner of royal birth Elizabeth was afforded a few privileges. She could take a daily, supervised walk, which unfortunately took her along the wall that overlooked the scaffold site before the House of Ordnance. Thus, if Elizabeth wanted fresh air and the opportunity to stretch her legs, she must repeatedly pass the exact place where her mother died, and where she, Anne Boleyn's daughter, might meet her own end (Weir, 321).

The inner courtyard seen from the wall-walk at The Tower of London. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Crux. Image public domain.
Years later, when Elizabeth was Queen, she divulged to a French nobleman that she had thought she would die in the Tower, and that she could not bear the thought of an axe hacking at her neck. So, she had resolved herself to ask for a French swordsman instead. That way she, like her mother, could be quickly dispatched (Erikson, cited in Weir, 321).

Elizabeth and Her Carey Cousins

While the young Elizabeth may not have remembered her aunt, and perhaps had only brief encounters, if any, with her uncle in childhood, she did enjoy a special closeness with her Carey cousins. Katherine and Henry Carey were the children of Mary Boleyn. Though their individual paternity is uncertain, they were her first cousins. Their relationship is another shining example that Elizabeth felt positively about her mother; had she believed in her mother's guilt, she would never have wanted to put her reputation at risk by associating with the immediate relatives of a convicted traitor and adulteress.

While Queen Anne had secured the wardship of her nephew Henry Carey and cared for him well during her brief time as Queen, Henry VIII continued to provide for him after her execution. This was not out of any genuine affection, or, as some have suggested, because he was Henry VIII's illegitimate child, but because it was his duty to do so as King. Henry VIII also provided for Katherine Carey, albeit in a much more generous and interested manner. Weir makes a very strong case that it was Katherine, not her brother Henry, who was Henry VIII illegitimate child by Mary Boleyn.

King Henry VIII by Joos van Cleve, circa 1535. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Elizabeth and her Carey cousins first came into acquaintance in childhood; we can imagine how delighted Elizabeth must have been to have finally made contact with a part of her life that had been forbidden to her for so long. Elizabeth probably first met Henry Carey when he was her father's ward, or possibly a short time after, when he had become a member of the King's household. There is some evidence that Katherine Carey spent some of her formative years time in the household of the Lady Elizabeth (Weir).

The cousins were certainly acquaintances by 1551, since Elizabeth's Hatfield accounts for the years 1551-52 show that she made a monetary gift "at the christening of Mr. Carey's child." (Weir, 259) This child was probably Philadelphia Carey, later the wife of Baron Thomas Scrope. She and her elder sister Katherine Carey-Howard (see my biography of her HERE) were to become two of Queen Elizabeth I's favorite Maids of Honor (Weir, 259).

While one or both of the Carey siblings could have been Queen Elizabeth I's half-siblings (she certainly would have heard the rumors, and likely had formed her own opinion on the matter) Elizabeth could never safely make any overtures that would suggest as much, as this would have been proof of the impediment concerning her mother and father's marriage; Elizabeth herself had been declared illegitimate in 1536 simply because of her father's affair with Mary Boleyn, despite a prior papal dispensation that allowed Henry VIII to marry the sister of his mistress (Weir, 259).

A portrait of Henry Carey, the first husband of Mary Boleyn and most likely the father of Henry Carey, later 1st Baron Hunsdon. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Siblings or not, the bond between Elizabeth, Henry and Katherine was unusually strong. After she became Queen, Elizabeth treated them both with a great deal less formality than her other intimates at court, and often laughed and joked with them boisterously, particularity in the case of her saucy cousin, Henry.

A portrait of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, maternal first cousin of Queen Elizabeth I. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Elizabeth's letters are a testament to their bond; in one letter, written in 1579, she referred to Henry Carey as "our cousin of Hunsdon." She also signed letters to Katherine as simply, "your loving cousin."

Upon her accession in November of 1558, Elizabeth immediately began assembling her maternal relatives around her in what I would call a makeshift family. Henry and Katherine Carey were her closest living blood relatives, aside from the problematic Grey sisters, Margaret Douglass, Countess of Lennox, and of course, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scot. The Carey siblings were Elizabeth's only direct connection to her own mother (Mary Boleyn had unfortunately died in 1543). And, unlike most of Elizabeth I's friendships and romantic attachments, her Carey cousins' devotion to her never wavered. Elizabeth never had to question their integrity or loyalty, and she found great peace, and perhaps even a feeling of saftey, because of it.

A detail from a portrait of Margaret Douglass, Countess of Lennox, who was the mother of Henry, Lord Darnley, and thus mother-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In addition to the many honors the the hard-working Henry Carey earned while Elizabeth was Queen, he was created 1st Baron Hunsdon. As Lieutenant General of the North, Hunsdon suppressed one of the most serious threats of Elizabeth's reign, the Northern Rebellion of 1569-70. When the rebel army was defeated, with Hunsdon driving Leonard Dacre back over the border, Elizabeth added a personalized note to the congratulatory form letter sent from the state, saying,

"I doubt much, my Harry, whether that the victory were given me more joyed me, or that you were by God appointed the instrument of my glory, and I assure you that, for my country's good, the first might suffice, but for my heart's contentation, the second pleased me...your loving kinswoman, Elizabeth R." (National Archives, cited in Weir, 263)

In addition to quelling the Northern Rebellion, Henry Carey, or Baron Hunsdon, was part of all the major political and military events of Queen Elizabeth's reign; most notably he was a commissioner at the Queen of Scots' trial, and commanded a force of over 30,000 at Tilbury Fort in 1588, where Queen Elizabeth had sent him "for the defense and security of our royal person."

A romantic interpretation of Queen Elizabeth I addressing her troops at Tilbury. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Still, Queen Elizabeth, not one for sycophancy like her predecessors, only gave accolades to those that had earned it. One of the many ways she kept her celebrated cousin Hunsdon in check was by never granting him his long-sought-after hereditary titles, Earl of Ormond and of Wiltshire. Hunsdon laid claim to these titles through their shared grandfather, Thomas Boleyn (Weir, 262).

While Henry Carey was a leading figure in the public life of Queen Elizabeth, his sister Katherine Carey, or Lady Knollys, got to see the private side of their cousin. This was a privilege allotted to few. Katherine and Elizabeth were already very close by the time Mary Tudor sat upon the throne. Katherine and her husband Francis Knollys, an outspoken man whose religious convictions would later lead him to become a champion in Parliament for the Puritan movement, felt it best to flee abroad with their children rather than run the risk of persecution (Read my bio of Sir Francis Knollys HERE).

Elizabeth mourned her separation from her dear cousin, signing her farewell letter to her "cor rotto", or, "broken heart." (Weir, 270) Elizabeth must have experienced great fear and sadness, and perhaps a sense of betrayal, as the majority of the people she had trusted (such as the Knollys' and the Stafford's) fled abroad. As the sister of the Queen, Elizabeth was very closely monitored and never could have escaped herself, even if she had wanted to. Elizabeth may have permitted the dark thought that her sister's reign of terror would only continue, and that she would never see her friends and family again.

A portrait of a pregnant lady with her dog, most likely Katherine Carey-Knollys, by Steven van der Muelen c. 1562.

Upon Elizabeth I's accession, the Knollys' returned to England. Katherine was made a Lady of the Privy Chamber, her husband a Privy Councilor and Vice Chamberlain of the Queen's household, as well as Governor of Portsmouth. 

The French Ambassador Fenelon observed that Queen Elizabeth "loved Lady Knollys above all other women in the world." Besides the shared Boleyn/Howard blood running through their veins, Elizabeth was certainly drawn to Katherine's personality; she was reported to have been graced with "wit and council sound" and "a mind so clean [and] devoid of guile."

Upon the death of Elizabeth's childhood governess and surrogate mother figure, Katherine Champernowne-Astley in 1595, Katherine Carey-Knollys succeeded her as Chief Lady of the Bedchamber.

Katherine's devotion to the Queen and her duties as a wife and mother were often at odds; Elizabeth could not bear to part with her cousin for any substantial length of time, and Francis was just as attached to his wife as the Queen was. Elizabeth often refused Katherine and Francis's requests to visit one another.

The tomb effigy of Katherine Carey-Knollys' husband, Sir Francis Knollys. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In the end it was Elizabeth who was with Katherine Carey-Knollys when she died in 1569 at Hampton Court Palace while Francis was away on state business. Both would mourn Katherine's passing with equal intensity. Knollys lamented, "my case is pitiful" and that he was "distracted with sorrow." Queen Elizabeth assisted with her cousin's funeral, paying more for her burial that she ever had for any other relation; the sum reached the modern equivalent of 111,300 pounds!

Even the trappings of the memorial service were lavish, as there was a dispute between the clergy of Westminster Abbey and the College of Arms over who got to keep the furniture (Weir, 272).

Queen Elizabeth: Her Mother's Daughter

As we have seen, there is ample evidence which strongly suggests that Queen Elizabeth I felt positively about her mother. Still, many people continue to try to counter the evidence. Some historians, like David Starkey, believe that Elizabeth and her father has a mostly positive relationship. With respect to Mr. Starkey and his great contribution to researching Tudor history, I find this to be an over-generalization of a very complicated dynamic, and an examination of their relationship if worthy of its own article!

Why would Elizabeth, many have wondered, constantly assert that she was "a lion's cub" and her "father's daughter" etc., if she believed her father had deprived her of a mother by unlawfully ending her life on trumped-up charges? And why didn't Elizabeth I, like her sister Mary, push to have her mother's reputation restored and her parent's marriage declared legitimate?

Elizabeth I's half-sister, Mary Tudor. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The answer to the first question is very simple: Elizabeth was first and foremost a survivor, and her choice to stress her connections to her father, rather than to her mother was deliberate and strategic. With so much doubt cast on Elizabeth I's paternity, it was essential that she continue to stress, throughout her life, that she was the daughter of King Henry VIII. And, while her father was royal, a distinction that con-notated prestige and respectability, her mother was the daughter of an upwardly mobile nobleman, one of King Henry VIII's "new men." There was no reason to stress a connection that would politically gain her nothing.

While Elizabeth constantly stressed her paternity, she also did not hide away her pride in being her mother's daughter; in fact, she sometimes flaunted it! On her way to her coronation in 1559, Elizabeth passed through a triumphal arch in Gracechurch street during her progress through London to Westminster Abbey. One of the spectacles displayed en route in her honor was a very blatant tribute to both her father and her mother. The "Pageant of the Roses" featured life-size effigies of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn seated together on a dais:
"King Henry the Eighth with a white and red rose [Tudor rose] in front of him, with the pomegranate [symbol of their fertility, resulting in the birth of Elizabeth] between the, and Queen Anne Boleyn, mother of the present Queen, with a gold crown on the head and a gilt scepter, and in front of her small branches of little roses [and] the coat of arms and device of the same Queen." (Foxe, quoted in Weir, 322)
Above the effigy's of King Henry VIII and Queen Anne sat Elizabeth I's own figure.  There is also evidence to support the theory that the lighter crown worn by Queen Elizabeth after her coronation may have been the one originally made for her mother in 1533 (Arnold, cited in Weir, 322).

A rendering (probably by an eye-witness) of the coronation procession of Queen Elizabeth I, c.1559. Sketch from a document in the College of Arms. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Since Queen Elizabeth's decision to stress her paternity rather than play up the connections to her mother is understandable, the harder question to answer is why did Queen Elizabeth not do as Mary had done and reverse the legal rulings concerning her parents marriage?

There was, in fact, much debate early in Elizabeth's reign as to whether she should do as her sister had done. It would have been unwise to bring up and dissect old controversies surrounding her mother's conviction and execution; doing so would have certainly caused not only an uproar in England but also Catholic Europe, who watched Queen Elizabeth and all her decisions with great interest. To have re-hashed the past may have cast further doubt on the already precarious Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth's right to rule.

Queen Elizabeth ultimately chose to put aside her personal belief that her mother was innocent, instead favoring a more reasonable approach, which would help to ensure the stability of her realm. Instead of ordering a full-blown investigation, Queen Elizabeth took the advice of her Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, Sir Nicholas Bacon, who had pointed out to her that she was the lawful heiress to the throne of England under Henry VIII's 1544 Act of Succession, and no further validation was needed.

A copy of another relevant document, the Oath of Allegiance from 1534, which required all of Henry VIII's subjects to swear an oath that they believed in the validity of their King's marriage to Anne Boleyn. This oath would also by default also confirm their belief in the Princess Elizabeth's legitimacy. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Parliament drew up a sparsely worded, to-the-point statute confirming Elizabeth's right to be Queen of England. Elizabeth then had a separate act passed declaring that she was her mother's sole heiress, enabling her to inherit her mother's property, which had been forfeited to the crown upon her death (Ridley, Neale, cited in Weir).

Elizabeth did not move her mother's body from the Royal Chapel in the Tower for the very same reason: she did not want to court controversy. Also, there was the problematic technicality that Anne Boleyn had died in the Catholic faith, having been a reformer of the Catholic religion, and not a Lutheran as she is sometimes called. It would have been quite difficult to determine the appropriate funeral rites for re-burial.

Queen Elizabeth never forgot the grisly death of her mother at the hands of her father, and she often referenced the tragedy that had come to pass, even if it was somewhat indirectly. In 1561 Elizabeth told a Scottish envoy that marital conflicts and disastrous ends in her own family (without referencing her mother specifically) had led her to doubt the stability of the institution of marriage, saying,

"Some say that this marriage was unlawful, some that one was a bastard, some other, to and fro, as they favored or misliked. So many doubts of marriage was in all hands that I stand [in] awe myself to enter into marriage, fearing the controversy." (Weir, 320)

A portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn at Hever Catle, the Boleyn family ancestral home. This portrait is probably a copy of a now-lost 1534 original. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1565, the Queen expressed her fear that, if she were to marry, her husband might "carry out some evil wish, if he had one," and that she "hated the idea of marriage every day more, for reasons which she would not divulge to a twin soul, if she had one, much less a living creature." (First quote delivered to a French diplomat, recorded in Relations Politiques de France avec l'Ecosse, quoted in Weir, 320-21. Second quote from the Spanish Calender, quoted in Weir, 321.)

The Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, the eternal Virgin Queen, c. 1600-02. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Even Archbishop Parker could not sway her opinions on marriage; when he had spoken to the new Queen, per the request of William Cecil, about the benefits of the estate of matrimony, Parker reported her taking the occasion, "to speak in bitterness of the holy estate of matrimony." He told Cecil that "he was in a horror to hear her." (Weir, 320)

A detail of a portrait of Archbishop Matthew Parker. To learn more about him, read my biography on him HERE. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Elizabeth's aversion to violence, (a most un-Tudor-like quality) in particular decapitation, especially when it had to do with relations, (such as Thomas Howard, 4rth Duke of Norfolk and Mary Stuart) was probably due in large part to her childhood traumas and her own near-death experience in the reign of her sister. Queen Elizabeth always made a great effort to spare her people of the frequent violence she had personally experienced, and that they had endured under the rules of her family members.

A portrait of Mary,Queen of Scots, which resided in the Blairs museum. Queen Elizabeth I had to make the very difficult decision to execute her cousin for actively plotting against her life and planning to steal the throne of England. However guilty Mary Stuart may have been, Elizabeth I experienced genuine distress over ordering her execution. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

After Elizabeth I was excommunicated by the Pope in 1572, she had Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, track down and study the papal bull of dispensation from 1528 that had sanctioned her parents marriage. Queen Elizabeth wanted to have the document on file in case she needed to prove her legitimacy, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to Catholic Europe.

SEMPER EADEM and Shared Heraldry

Another way we know how Elizabeth felt about her mother was that she chose to adopt her mothers heraldic emblem and motto, and display it publicly. Queen Elizabeth used one of her mother's motto's, SEMPER EADEM, which is Latin for the phrase, "Always the Same."

She also adopted her heraldic badge of a crowned falcon upon a tree stump, surrounded with Tudor roses. The falcon is the heraldic charge standing for "perseverance," a quality that both Elizabeth and Anne embodied.

The crowned falcon badge of Queen Anne Boleyn, later adopted by her daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. In addition to adopting her mothers heraldic badge, Elizabeth also used her motto, SEMPER EADEM, which is Latin for "Always the Same." Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

At St. Margaret's Church in Norfolk, the tympanum, dating from 1587, displays the Tudor arms and Queen Elizabeth I's achievements. If you look closely, you will be able to see the crowned falcon badge painted below the Tudor family heraldic shield!

This tympanum is part of the lavishly painted interior of St. Margaret's Church, Norfolk. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain courtesy of Evelyn Simak.
Amongst Queen Elizabeth I's many virginals, there is a set one that bears the Boleyn coat of arms, and may have once belonged to Anne Boleyn herself. The pair of virginals are now part of the collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Weir, 324).

The Chequers Ring

30 years after a ten- or eleven-year-old Elizabeth had defiantly donned her mother's "A" initial pendant in the portrait The Family of King Henry VIII, she commissioned a unique piece of jewelry herself. Even if you disregard all the other evidence presented, this ring alone proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Elizabeth believed in her mother's innocence.

The exterior of Queen Elizabeth's locket-ring, commissioned in 1575 and now known as the Chequers ring. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1575, Queen Elizabeth I commissioned a gold locket ring, which was covered in diamonds that formed the letter "E", for Elizabeth, and had the letter "R", for Regina in blue enamel. The locket's secret compartment opened to reveal the painted miniature reliefs of her mother and herself, side by side.

The interior of the Chequers ring, commissioned in 1575 and worn by Queen Elizabeth I until her death. The interior reveals the cameo reliefs of Elizabeth I and her mother, Anne Boleyn. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

From 1575 until her death, Queen Elizabeth I never took the ring off of her finger; it only left her person after when it was taken to her successor, James VI of Scotland, as proof of her death. The ring is now in the Chequers collection, from which it derived it's name, and is currently on display in the new exhibit, Gold: Power and Allure.

If you have the opportunity, I hope you will go and see this stunning testament to the eternal bond between England's greatest monarch, Elizabeth I, and the enigmatic mother she barely knew, Queen Anne Boleyn.


Weir, Alison. Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings. New York: Ballantine Books, 2011. Print.

Weir, Alison. The Lady in The Tower. New York: Ballantine Books, 2010. Print.

Weir, Alison. Henry VIII: The King and His Court. New York: Ballantine Books, 2007. Print

Denny, Joanna. Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen. De Capo Press, 2006. Print.
(Please note this biography has been scrutinized as being too partial to Anne; Denny never says a single bad thing about her subject, and her work is considered extremely biased. That being said, I agree with the way Denny synthesizes the evidence at hand, and I do like that she cites many primary sources which are often overlooked.)