Lady Bryan: An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove

Lady Bryan:  An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove

Margaret, Lady Bryan, governess to the royal children of King Henry VIII, was born about 1468 in Benningborough, Yorkshire, England.  Her parents were Sir Humphrey Bourchier–who was killed fighting for Edward VI at the battle of Barnet (Wagner 180) and Elizabeth Tilney–related through the Plantagent line to Edward III.  Elizabeth Tilney remarried upon the death of Sir Humphrey to Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk.  She went on to have more children, notably the 3rd Duke who played a very prominent role in Tudor politics and Elizabeth Boleyn, mother to Queen Anne, thus making Margaret Bourchier a half-sister to Anne Boleyn’s mother.

Detail of a stained glass window at Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk depicting Elizabeth Tilney

The pre-contract that had been arranged with John Sands in November of 1478, did not impede her marriage to Sir Thomas Bryan in 1487.  It is known the couple had four children of which, most sources agree, two reached adulthood, Sir Francis Bryan and Elizabeth.

Francis Bryan did not care for Anne Boleyn and would take a role in her downfall.  He was referred to as the ‘Vicar of Hell’ by both King Henry and Thomas Cromwell for his lack of principles.  He had a “reputation for liking rich clothing and for gambling.  He was a popular courtier, skilled hunter and ouster, and lost an eye in a joust in 1526” (Ridgway xv).  Sir Francis was a very close friend to King Henry VIII and held positions on the Privy Council until eventually he became Lord Chief Justice of Ireland where he died in 1550.

Elizabeth Bryan married Sir Nicholas Carew.  The King did not forget his obligation to his loyal servants’ daughter. Accounts record a dowry, “Receipt 7 Nov. 6 Hen. VIII., from Sir John Daunce, by Dame Margaret Bryan, wife of Sir Thomas Bryan, on behalf of Mistress Elizabeth Bryan, their daughter, of 550/. Given ‘to her marriage, which by God’s grace shall be espoused and wedded to Nicholas Carewe, son and heir apparent to Sir Richard Carewe, knight, before the feast of the Purification of Our Blessed Lady the Virgin” (Brewer I 3419). Nicholas Carew was in high favor with the king and on May 3, 1516, a further wedding gift was recorded : “For NICH. CARUE. squire of the Body, son and heir of Sir Ric, and for ELIZ his wife, daughter of Tho. Bryan, vice-chamberlain to Queen Katherine. Writ to the Barons of the Exchequer, to make over lands …to the annual value of 40 mks., in part payment of 50 mrks. as a marriage portion” (Brewer II 1850).

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Sir Nicholas Carew by Hans Holbein, 1533

Sir Nicholas Carew, Master of the Horse, was very close to the king.  He had “at first been one of Anne’s partisans – they were cousins–but by 1532 she had alienated and angered him not only by her overbearing ways and her abuse of her position, but also by her unjust treatment of his friend, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and his brother-in-law, Sir Henry Guildford” (Weir Lady in the Tower 33).  Carew was executed in 1539 for treasonous actions.  Because his assets and property were confiscated, he left his widow and children destitute. Obviously, her mother intervened and wrote from Hunsdon an imploring letter to Thomas Cromwell in 1539:  “My lord, I most humbly thank your good lordship for the great goodness you shew upon my poor daughter Carew, which bindeth me to owe you my true heart and faithful service while I live.  She sendeth me word that it is the king’s pleasure she shall have lands in Sussex, which is to the value of six score pounds, and somewhat above, which I heartily thank his grace and your lordship for” (Wood 112).  It appears that the land did not have a house so Lady Bryan was requesting more suitable property for the widow and “her heirs males” upon which receipt it would “comfort two troubled hearts; for, my lord, unfeignedly you have, and shall have our true prayers and hearty service during our lives.”  Lady Bryan wanted to assure Cromwell that she knew that putting her trust in him and the King was the best she could do for her daughter who is “so kind a child to me as she hath been, I cannot for pity do no less” (Wood 113-114).

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Tomb of Elizabeth Bryan Carew

Margaret Bryan had been a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon from the time she married Henry VIII in 1509; she also attended Catherine at her coronation and was later listed as a chamber woman (Brewer I 82).  Sir Thomas was a vice chamberlain to the Queen Catherine’s household until his death sometime before 1517. Perhaps her widowhood is the reason for the king’s taking measures to assist this loyal servant.  A ledger entry for November 19, 1517, was not very comforting to a servant named Elizabeth Denton, but it certainly was for Margaret Bryan. “Marg. Brian, lady mistress to the King’s daughter, the Princess states: Annuity of 40 marks for services to the Princess, during the life of Eliz. Denton, widow, who has the fee of lady mistress to the Princess, and on whose death Brian is to have her office and fee” (Brewer II 3802).

Well-placed, Lady Margaret became governess to Princess Mary and was rewarded by Henry with her own title when she was made Baroness Bryan suo jure.  It is known that she stayed with Mary for almost six years and prior to being relieved of her duties was given a pension.  On July 7, 1519, “Margaret Bryan, widow of Sir Thomas Bryan, and now wife of David Soche, annuity of 50/, for services to the King and queen Katharine, and one tun of Gascon wine; yearly, out of the wine received for the King’s use” (Brewer III 361). Still known as Lady Bryan, Margaret had married her final husband David Zouche sometime before July 1519.

Lady Bryan, Margaret Bourchier

David Zouche is all but lost to history.  Some believe he died in 1526, others in 1536 shortly after Anne Boleyn was executed. Certainly, someone important to her died in the summer of 1536 as revealed in the beginning sentence of a letter Margaret wrote to Cromwell: “I beseech you to be good lord to me now in the greatest need that ever [was], for it hath pleased God to take from me hem (them) that was my most com[fort] in this world, to my great heaviness, Jesu have mercy on his soul, a[nd] I am succourless and as a redeless creature but for my great trust in the King and your good lordship” (Gairdner XI  203).

Lady Margaret’s exact role is not clear after she left Princess Mary.  Some speculate that she looked after Henry Fitzroy, the king’s illegitimate son.  She was granted a gift of plate in 1532 even though the Royal household may not have directly employed her at that time (Gairdner V 1711). When she was called upon to care for Elizabeth, Lady Bryan was over the age of 60.  Margaret took charge of Elizabeth at her birth and went on to setup her household at Hatfield three months later. On 2 December 1533, “The king’s highness hath appointed that the lady princess Elizabeth (almost three months old) shall be taken from hence towards Hatfield to remain with such household as the king’s highness has established for the same” (Strickland VI 6).  At Hatfield and Hunsdon is where the princess “spent much of her childhood although, like her parents, she traveled from house to house, staying in such places as Richmond, Eltham, Langley,and the More” (Warnicke 170).


Much of what we know from the childhoods of Elizabeth and Edward come from the correspondence from Lady Bryan to Thomas Cromwell concerning the households of the children.  In a much quoted letter to Thomas Cromwell soon after Anne’s execution, Lady Bryan lays forth the difficulties of the child’s household with her change of status, her lack of clothing and her method of eating, all to be discussed further.

Held in such esteem by King Henry VIII when his treasured male heir was born in October of 1537, Lady Bryan was installed as his governess and Kat Ashley nee Champernowne took charge as Elizabeth’s. As conscientious with the Prince as she was with Elizabeth, Lady Bryan wrote to Cromwell appraising him of her charge.  A letter survives from 11 March 1539 in which young Edward is praised and touted; “Pleaseth your lordship to understand that, blessed be Jesu, my lord prince’s grace is in good health and merry, as would to God the king’s grace and your lordship had seen him yesternight; for his grace was marvelous pleasantly disposed.  The minstrels played, and his grace danced and played so wantonly that he could not stand still, and was as full of pretty toys as ever I saw a child in my life; as Master Chamberlain and my lady his wife can shew your lordship when they speak with you, whom I assure your lordship giveth as good and diligent attendance as is possible” (Wood 112).

It is unclear if Margaret relinquished her duties prior to Edward’s becoming king.  She was not forgotten as there is a mention of an annuity to her in January 1545. A ledger entry reads for “Lady Margaret Bryane, the King’s servant.  Annuity of 20/ from the Annunciation of Our Lady last.  Greenwich, 16 Jan. 36 Hen. VIII” (Gairdner XX 125).  Once Edward succeeded to the throne, Lady Bryan maintained her title, but lived away from court at her estates in Essex, “where she enjoyed a generous annuity of £70 per year” (Wagner 180).

edward 6
Prince Edward by Hans Holbein, 1538

We do know Lady Bryan died in Leyton, a village in Essex; the year is a bit more elusive.  Various sources list her possible years of death as 1551, 1552, and 1554. One source confidently declared that Margaret “died in 1552, shortly before the proving of her will on 21 June” (Wagner 180).

When Anne Boleyn gave birth to Elizabeth in 1533, Margaret transferred her duties to become the governess of the newest royal baby.  Margaret held this post until Edward was born in 1537 when she moved to his household and Katherine Ashley took over duties with Princess Elizabeth.  Anne did not have much say in her child’s upbringing—that was for Henry and his council. When Lady Bryan thought Elizabeth should be weaned, she contacted Lord Cromwell and then he submitted the request to the Privy Council.

A response from Sir William Paulet, onetime Comptroller of the Royal Household and  Lord Chamberlain to Henry VIII,  to Thomas Cromwell on 9 October 1535 addressed the issue of Elizabeth’s weaning.  “The King having considered the letter to Cromwell from lady Brian and other of the Princess’s officers, has determined that she shall be weaned with all diligence” (Gairdner IX 568). Agnes Strickland gives us some sardonic imagery when she tells us that in order for Elizabeth to be weaned “the preliminaries for this important business were arranged between the officers of her household and the cabinet ministers of her august sire, with as much solemnity as if the fate of empires had been involved in the matter” (Strickland Life of Elizabeth 6).

NPG 65,William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester,by Unknown artist
Sir William Paulet

Having the charge of the royal children meant teaching them etiquette and proper manners—and displaying the children in the majesty expected. “Lady Bryan, who had brought Mary up until she was six, had been accustomed to treat her as the heiress to the throne for seventeen years. She must have been profoundly embarrassed when the girl was sent to share Elizabeth’s household with orders to ride behind the baby’s litter on progress and to cede the seat of honour even when the infant was still in the care of a wet-nurse” (Perry 19).  But as a stickler to her duty, it can be assumed she ensured the King’s wishes were fulfilled.

Chapuys, no friend of Elizabeth, shared with Charles V a meeting that took place on the Tuesday following Easter of 1534 between the French Ambassadors, La Pommeraye and Catillion and Elizabeth.  This visit was orchestrated to present Elizabeth as a fitting bride for a French prince and full-credit for its success went to Lady Bryan.  The Ambassadors “went to visit the King’s bastard daughter, who was brought out to them splendidly accoutred and dressed, and in princely state, with all the ceremonial her governess could think of”  (Gayangos V 40).

That Lady Bryan took this portion of her duties seriously was again shown in her letter to Cromwell.  It is speculated this letter was written in response to Lord Chancellor Thomas Audeley’s proposed visit to baby Prince Edward in 1537.  Lady Bryan wrote:

“My lord,
After my most bounden duty I humbly recommend me unto your good lordship; and shall accomplish it to the best of my power…. The best coat my lord prince’s grace hath is tinsel, and that he shall have on at that time; he hath never a good jewel to set on  his cap; howbeit I shall order all things for my lord’s honour the best I can, so as I trust the king’s grace shall be contented withal” (Wood 68-69).

Her affection seemed sincere for her royal charges and her pride in them too. She could not help but brag on Prince Edward, informing Cromwell, “I thank Jesu my lord prince’s grace is in good health and merry, and his grace hath four teeth; three full out, and the fourth appeareth” (Wood 69).

 Lord Chancellor, Thomas Audeley

“Much of the future greatness of Elizabeth may reasonably be attributed to the judicious training of her sensible and conscientious governess, combined with the salutary adversity, which deprived her of the pernicious pomp and luxury that had surrounded her cradle while she was treated as heiress of England” (Strickland VI 12).  Elizabeth was brought up calmly in the way that Lady Bryan thought best, shielded from the gossip and temptations of the adult world.  Lady Bryan no doubt shielded Princess Elizabeth as much as she could from the gossip surrounding her mother and the inevitable slander that began shortly after Anne’s death concerning the paternity of her daughter (Weir, The Lady in the Tower 316-317).

The king’s order for Elizabeth to remain in seclusion could have been his attempt to protect her as much as the theory that it was his unwillingness to face the child.  To read further on this topic visit the blog entry “Elizabeth:  Her Mother’s Memory”  This blogger believes that Agnes Strickland judged the Tudor Era with the mores of her own time period when she exclaimed that when “Elizabeth was branded with the stigma of illegitimacy; she was for a time exposed to the sort of neglect and contempt which is too often the lot of children to whom that reproach applies” (Strickland VI 9).  Henry VIII did not neglect his recognized illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy, and perhaps he did not purposefully neglect Elizabeth in the summer of 1536.  He was embarking on a new life with his third wife, Jane Seymour, and was traveling the country.  We have seen how the final word of the organization of the children’s households rested with Henry.  His thoughts were on her to some degree so it could not be his indifference that led to the ‘crisis’ of her wardrobe and her household but perhaps more of benign neglect—administrative oversight.  That her position was diminished was obvious. “On 25 June 1536, an order reconstituted the households of Mary and Elizabeth.  It was certainly no coincidence, in that age when the number of servants in a household was a great status symbol, that Mary was given fourty-two servants, and Elizabeth thirty-two” (Ridley 26).  Below reprinted in chart form is the information from the 10th volume of Letters and Papers of Henry VIII concerning the structural changes made to the two households.

Personages appointed to attend on the lady Mary:—
Gentlewomen. Anne Morgan, Mrs. Finche, Frances Jerningham, Elizabeth Sydney.
Chamberers: Systile (Cecil ?) Barnes, Lucretia the Tumbler.
Gentlemen Ushers and Waiters: Richard Wilbraham, Robt. Chichester, Sir Ric. Baldwin, Walter Bridges, Thos. Burrows.
Wardrobe of Robes: Thos. Palmer, Nic. Newes.
Footman: Chas. Morley.
Laundress: Deachryche (Beatrice) Ap Rice.
Woodbearer: John Layton.
Keeper of Greyhounds: Christopher Bradley.
The Stable: Thos. Jene, yeoman; Ric. Hogg, Nic. Twydall, and Thos. Crabtree, grooms.
The names of persons attending upon lady Mary and lady Elizabeth:— i. On lady Mary:—
Gentlewomen: Susan Clarencyus, Frances Elmer, Mary Baynton Frances Baynan. “Chamberes:” Knyght, Syssele. Physician: Dr. Mychell. Gentlemen: Ant. Cotton, Wm. Chechester, Ric. Wylbram, Randale Dod, Sym Borton. Chaplain: Bauldewen. Yeoman: Geo. Mounge, David à Pryce, Chr. Wryght, John Conwey, Gray. Grooms of the Chamber: Thos. Borow, Walter Brydges, Thos. Palmer, Nic. Newes. Footman: Chas. Morley. Stable: Thos. Gent, yeoman; Thos. Bell, John Smith, and John Hyges, grooms. Laundress: Beatrice a Pryce. Woodbearer: William. Total, 42.
On lady Elizabeth:—
Ladies and gentlewomen: Lady Troy, Mrs. Chambrum, lady Garet, Eliz. Candysche, Mary Norice. “Chamberes:” Alys Huntercum, Jane Bradbelt. Gentlemen: Thos. Torrell, Robt. Porter, Ric. Sandes.Chaplain: Sir Rauffe. Grooms of the Chamber: Ric. Foster, Wm. Russell. Yeomen: David Morgan, Gabryell Tenant. Laundress: Agnes Hylton. Woodbearer: Christopher. Total, 32.
Personages appointed to attend on the lady Elizabethe, the Kinges doughter.”
Gentlewomen: Kateryne Chambernowne, Elizabethe Garret, Mary Hyll, Blanche ap Harrye.
Chamberers: Alice Huntercombe, Jane Bradbelt.
Gentlemen Ushers and Gentlemen Waiters: Rychard Sandes, Robert Power.
Chaplain: Sr Raffe Taylour.
Gromes of the Chambre: Willm. Man, John Acton.
Wardrobe of Robes: John Goughe, yeoman.
Lawndresse: Anne Hilton.
Woodberer: John Wyllycke
(Gairdner X 1187)

Lady Bryan’s letter to Thomas Cromwell in the summer of 1536, which was referred to earlier and has been recreated in full below, can be seen as a way to restore the prestige of and attention on Elizabeth’s household which was at Hunsdon. Cromwell’s response has not survived but Mistress Bryan’s concerns must have been addressed as there appears to be no further pleas on her part.  Her initial issue involved the altered status Elizabeth held.  Lady Bryan was searching for guidance when she wrote, “Now, as my lady Elizabeth is put from that degree she was in, and what degree she is at now I know not but by hearsay, I know not how to order her or myself, or her women or grooms” (Gairdner XI  203).


Next up was the issue of Elizabeth’s wardrobe. It was up to “the lady mistress to make certain Elizabeth looked and acted like a king’s daughter, and proper clothes were essential to the role” (Erickson 37).  Margaret was beside herself as she begged Cromwell “to be good lord to her and hers, and that she may have raiment, for she has neither gown nor kirtle nor petticoat, nor linen foresmocks, nor kerchiefs, rails (night dresses), bodystychets (corsets), handkerchiefs, sleeves, mufflers, nor begins (night-caps).  All thys her Graces must take I have dreven off as long as I can, that, be my trothe, I cannot drive it no lenger. Besseeching you, my lord, that ye will see that her grace may have that which is needful for her, as my trust is that ye will do” (Gairdner XI  203).

The condition of Elizabeth’s wardrobe “reflected the general penury of the household” (Erickson 38).  Money must have been tight as the final concern that Lady Bryan has mixes the role of the steward, John Shelton, with the need for economy.  Shelton, who was responsible for keeping up the supplies of food, drink and other items necessary for the household, wrote to Cromwell shortly after Lady Bryan did to complain that he was “running short of money and ‘could not continue’ without more.”  This may not have been easy to acquire as the king’s Secretary Brian Tuke “had made it clear only a week earlier that he hoped Mr. Shelton would not be appealing for additional funds, as he had little or nothing to give him” (Erickson 38).
Sir Brian Tuke by Hans Holbein, 1527

Lady Bryan’s tactic was to explain the poor judgment on Shelton’s part– who, she lets us know, “saith he is master of this house. ‘What fashion that shal be I cannot tel, for I have not seen it afore.’” (Gairdner XI  203)–and offer a solution.  Apparently, Shelton “would have my lady Elizabeth to dine and sup every day at the board of estate.”  Margaret explains that this is not good for a child and “she will see divers meats, fruits, and wine, that it will be hard for me to refrain her from. ‘Ye know, my lord, there is no place of correction there; and she is too young to correct greatly.’ I beg she may have a good mess of meat to her own lodging, with a good dish or two” which would be enough to feed 11 of her personal attendants which in turn would be more economical as less people would have to be fed in the great hall (Gairdner XI  203).

One theory for Mr. Shelton,  a relative of Anne Boleyn, actions could be that he “wished to keep regal state as long as possible round the descendant of the Boleyns” and with “perhaps an eye to ingratiate himself with the infant, by indulging her by the gratification of her palate with mischievous dainties” (Strickland VI 11).  Or, as this blogger wonders, could it be a way for him and his associates to be served elaborate meals at the King’s expense.
elizabeth 1 by scrouts
Princess Elizabeth

This letter, which gives us a peek into the politics of the household, ends with Margaret expressing sympathy for Elizabeth’s teething.  The governess realizes that witnessing the pain the child is in, “makes me give her her own way more than I would” yet excuses herself by assuring Cromwell that “she is as toward a child and as gentle of conditions as ever I knew any in my life….” Determined in her duties, Lady Bryan wanted to ensure that when the time came for Elizabeth to be “set abroad, I trust so to endeavour me that she shall so do as shall be to the King’s honour and hers…”(Gairdner XI  203).

Letter from Lady Margaret Bryan to Thomas Cromwell, June 1536
I beseech you to be good lord to me now in the greatest need that ever [was], for it hath pleased God to take from me hem (them) that was my most com[fort] in this world, to my great heaviness, Jesu have mercy on his soul, a[nd] I am succourless and as a redeless creature but for my great trust in the King and your good lordship. When your lordship was last here you bade me not mistrust the King or you, which gave me great comfort, and encourages me now to show you my poor mind. When my lady Mary was born the King appointed me lady Mistress, and made me a baroness; ‘And so I have been a governess to the children his Grace have had since.’

Now, as my lady Elizabeth is put from that degree she was in, and what degree she is at now I know not but by hearsay, I know not how to order her or myself, or her women or grooms. I beg you to be good lord to her and hers, and that she may have raiment, for she has neither gown nor kirtle nor petticoat, nor linen foresmocks, nor kerchiefs, rails (night dresses), bodystychets (corsets), handkerchiefs, sleeves, mufflers, nor begins (night-caps).  All thys her Graces must take I have dreven off as long as I can, that, be my trothe, I cannot drive it no lenger. Besseeching you, my lord, that ye will see that her grace may have that which is needful for her, as my trust is that ye will do.  Beseeching ye, mine own good lord, that I may know from you, by writing, how I shall order myself, and what is the king’s grace’s pleasure and yours; and that I shall do in everything?  And whatsomever it shall please the king’s grace or your lordship to command me at all time, I shall fulfil it to the best of my power.

Mr. Shelton saith he is master of this house. ‘What fashion that shal be I cannot tel, for I have not seen it afore.’ I trust to your lordship, who, as every man reports, loveth honour, to see this house honourably ordered,’ howsom ever it hath been aforetime.’ If the head of [the same] know what honor meaneth it will be the better ordered; if not, it will be hard to bring it to pass.

Mr. Shelton would have my lady Elizabeth to dine and sup every day at the board of estate. It is not meet for a child of her age to keep such rule. If she do, I dare not take it upon me to keep her Grace in health; for she will see divers meats, fruits, and wine, that it will be hard for me to refrain her from. ‘Ye know, my lord, there is no place of correction there; and she is too young to correct greatly.’  I know well and she be there, I shall neither bring her up t the king’s grace’s honour, nor hers, nor to her health, nor to my poor honesty.

I beg she may have a good mess of meat to her own lodging, with a good dish or two meet for her to eat of; and the reversion of the mess shall satisfy her women, a gentleman usher, and a groom; ‘which been eleven persons on her side.’ This will also be more economical.

God knoweth my lady hath great pain with her teeth, which come very slowly. This makes me give her her own way more than I would. ‘I trust to God and her teeth were well graft to have her Grace after another fashion than she is yet; so, as I trust, the King’s Grace shall have great comfort in her Grace. For she is as toward a child and as gentle of conditions as ever I knew any in my life, Jesu preserve her Grace. As for a day or two at a hey time or whansomever it shall please the King’s Grace to have her set abroad, I trust so to endeavour me that she shall so do as shall be to the King’s honour and hers; and then after to take her ease again. I think Mr. Shelton will not be content with this. He may not know it is my desire, but that it is the King’s pleasure and yours it should be so.’ From Hunsdon with the evil hand of your daily bede woman.
Apologies for her boldness in writing thus” (Gairdner XI  203).


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Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part IV

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part IV

The diplomatic accounts sent to Philip II by his Spanish Ambassador to England, Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, Count de Feria, will be quoted at length as they give such clear and vivid pictures of the events from spring of 1558 until the autumn.  Philip, convinced that if his wife Mary I died the preferred successor would be Princess Elizabeth, tried to preserve close ties with the princess while maintaining the upper hand.  He had quite a job for himself.

 Philip Turns His Attention to Elizabeth—1558

As everyone at Court, except for Queen Mary, realized her pregnancy was a delusion, Philip turned his attention to Elizabeth.  He did not have an easy task in convincing his wife to accept her sister as heir.  Ambassador Michiel wrote to the Doge of Venice on October 29, 1558, that King Philip had sent over his envoy, Count de Feria to visit the Queen and to convince her that it was better to arrange the marriage of Elizabeth now while they could “prevent the evils which might occur were Lady Elizabeth, seeing herself slighted, to choose after Her Majesty’s death, or perhaps even during her lifetime, to take for her husband some individual who might convulse the whole kingdom into confusion. For many days during which the confessor treated this business, he found the Queen utterly averse to give Lady Elizabeth any hope of the succession, obstinately maintaining that she was neither her sister nor the daughter of the Queen’s father, King Henry, nor would she hear of favouring her, as she was born of an infamous woman, who had so greatly outraged the Queen her mother and herself”  (Queen Elizabeth I 242-243).

This was to be done in utmost secrecy for Elizabeth could not be slighted if the Queen would not agree to it.  There was also the fear if the French found out it could jeopardize any marriage schemes as the “greater part of England is opposed to the Queen, and most hostile to King Philip and his dependants, and much inclined towards Miladi Elizabeth, who has always shown greater liking for the French faction than for this other” (Queen Elizabeth I 243).  As seen in a previous blog, “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part III” Mary and Elizabeth were both against a marriage for Elizabeth, albeit for different reasons.  Philip may have seen the writing on the wall concerning the Savoy and Swedish marriage proposals but he was not without schemes.  He knew he needed to keep Elizabeth in his favor.

When Charles V died in September, Philip wrote to Elizabeth himself to tell her about it.  She in turn wrote a reply to him.  “Sire and dearest cousin, The honour which your Majesty has done me by sending a gentleman to advertise me of the death of the august Emperor, your father of most glorious memory, agreeably reminds me that your Majesty continues to honour me with that generous good-will which you have been pleased ever to bestow on me, and from which I have felt so much advantage that, in calling to mind these Graces and favours, I can find no other fit means of evincing my gratitude than by earnestly remembering that the life I enjoy is equally the fruit of the Queen my sister’s goodness and of your Majesty’s magnanimous protection” (Queen Elizabeth I 239-240).

Charles v for part four
Charles V by Titian

Elizabeth went on to tell Philip that she was “employed at present in reading the history of his warlike actions, and his great feats of courage and valour, in order to redouble, by the glorious memory of the father, the veneration and esteem which I have for the son.

“I pray God that amidst the afflictions which such a loss causes you, he may load your life with prosperity and happiness; so shall I ever, with great satisfaction, assure you that I am your Majesty’s very humble servant and sister-in-law, Elizabeth” (Queen Elizabeth I 240).

Mary’s View of Elizabeth

Venetian Ambassador Michiel, who described Mary as “a very great and rare example of virtue and magnanimity, a real portrait of patience and humility,” also was aware of “her evil disposition towards her sister my Lady Elizabeth, which although dissembled, it cannot be denied that she displays in many ways the scorn and ill will she bears her.”

Michiel perceived that “what disquiets her most of all is to see the eyes and hearts of the nation already fixed on this lady as successor to the Crown, from despair of descent from the Queen, to see the illegitimate child of a criminal who was punished as a public strumpet, on the point of inheriting the throne with better fortune than herself, whose descent is rightful, legitimate, and regal. Besides this the Queen’s hatred is increased by knowing her to be averse to the present religion, that she has recanted, she is nevertheless supposed to dissemble, and to hold to it more than ever internally” (Brown VI May 1557 884).

Philip was up against a strong force. Mary truly wanted to be a loving and obedient wife, which would have meant following in with Philip’s plans of complete reconciliation with Elizabeth and, more importantly, announcing her as heir.  Mary preferred to wait and let events unravel.  She still held hope that she would have her own child or, if that would not be the case, then “referring the matter after her death to those whom it concerns either by right or by force” (Brown VI May 1557 884).  This was at complete variance with Philip who “it cannot be supposed will choose to delay until then, nor remain at the mercy of the English and their divisions, he would therefore wish to secure himself immediately and proclaim the heir” (Brown VI May 1557 884).  Yet, where Elizabeth was concerned there was too much anger, jealousy and distrust on Mary’s side to overcome.

Why were these feelings of Mary’s so difficult to submerge?  Let us return to Ambassador Michiel’s report. Elizabeth is described physically as very attractive and as “a young woman, whose mind is considered no less excellent than her person; and her intellect and understanding are wonderful, as she showed very plainly by her conduct when in danger and under suspicion.”  It is of Michiel’s opinion that “as a linguist she excels the Queen” speaking Latin, Greek, and Italian.  Perhaps Mary would not feel overshadowed by these skills, except as the Ambassador shrewdly related that everybody believed Elizabeth resembled King Henry VIII “more than the Queen” and “he therefore always liked her and had her brought up in the same way as the Queen.” This perhaps could have been easier to swallow for Mary, but she was aware “that she [Elizabeth] was born of such a mother,” and that Elizabeth believed she was no less legitimate than Mary was (Brown VI May 1557 884).

Elizabeth by Steven van der Meulen, 1563

Added to Elizabeth’s faults, was the fact that Mary had to be aware that as the years passed, “there is not a lord or gentleman in the kingdom who has failed, and continues endeavouring, to enter her service himself or to place one of his sons or brothers in it, such being the love and affection borne her” (Brown VI May 1557 884).  Michiel explained that Elizabeth was always in need of money “and would be much more so did she not steadily restrain herself to avoid any increase of the Queen’s hatred and anger”; therefore, she did not increase the number of servants or add expenditures of any kind.

When requested to take on household members, Elizabeth would decline pleading her relative state of poverty and “by this astute and judicious apology she adroitly incites a tacit compassion for herself and consequently yet greater affection, as it seems strange and vexatious to everybody that being the daughter of a King she should be treated and acknowledged so sparingly” (Brown VI May 1557 884).

An example of Mary’s anger we have seen in her frustration in having to give way to the daughter of Anne Boleyn and her jealousy showed in her annoyance of Elizabeth’s skills and popularity.  An example of her distrust is perfectly illustrated over Elizabeth’s professed religious convictions.  Ambassador Michiel, recognized the danger to Catholicism if Elizabeth succeeded as she would “reverse of what the Queen has done, this seeming to her a sort of revenge. Besides this, she would think that nothing could render her more popular, independently of her own interest through the restitution to herself and to the Crown of all those revenues amounting to upwards of 60,000l., of which the Queen has deprived it.  And “and above all she would withdraw the obedience to the Pope, were it solely for the sake of not seeing money go out of the kingdom” (Brown VI May 1557 884).

Perhaps Mary’s policy should have been to remove Elizabeth from her realm.  The Queen’s reluctance to acknowledge Elizabeth’s legitimacy via a diplomatic marriage kept her sister in the kingdom.  Maybe a reversal of her decision would have eased many of her concerns.  Below is a lengthy extract from a diplomatic dispatch between Count Feria, the Spanish Ambassador to England and Philip II explaining the events of May 1558.

May 1, 1558, de Feria to King Philip II
“An ambassador of the King of Sweden came here recently. He appears to be a learned man. Several days passed without his having audience of the Queen or even demanding it. His mission appears to consist of two parts: one about commercial affairs between England and Sweden, and the other to negotiate a match between the Lady Elizabeth and the King of Sweden’s son, for which purpose he brought a letter from the young man accrediting him to the Lady. Before he had been received by the Queen, he went to present his letter to the Lady Elizabeth. The Queen is writing to you on the subject; and as I have heard from her all I know about it I need say no more. She fancies herself very much where this matter is concerned. She was angry with me the other day when she knew that I was sending a servant of mine to Antwerp on my own business, thinking that I meant to write to your Majesty before she had done so about this matrimonial affair. She spoke to me very severely.

Eric XIV of Sweden by Steven van der Meulen, 1561 

“When this ambassador first arrived, the Queen was greatly distressed, thinking that your Majesty would blame her because the match proposed a year ago [to Philip’s choice, Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy] had not come off. Now that the Lady Elizabeth has answered that she does not wish to marry, the Queen has calmed down; but she takes a most passionate interest in the affair. She now realises that her pregnancy has come to nothing, and seems afraid your Majesty will urge her to take a decision (about marrying off Elizabeth). Figueroa and I think your Majesty ought to do this, grasping the occasion supplied by this ambassador and the pregnancy matter, but it must not be raised at the same time as the military affair, for that might spoil everything. I do not think the Queen will wish to prevent Elizabeth from succeeding, in case God grants no issue to your Majesties” (Tyler XIII May 1558 425).

Official Response to Swedish Proposals
While in Brussels, Philip wrote a response to de Feria on May 7, 1558.
“I am answering your letter in my own hand, as you will see.  You will also see that I am writing to the Privy Council about the four points raised by the Swedish ambassador on behalf of his King concerning trade between England and Sweden. As the terms he proposes are harsh and impracticable, you will try to get them to temporise, keeping me informed of anything they may intend to do so that I may signify my pleasure to them” (Tyler XIII May 1558 429) .

On May 18, 1558, Ambassador Feria, ever the conscientious diplomat, informed his king of the merry-go-round of events in England. “They tell me that with this courier they are sending a report to your Majesty, with the reply they think of making to the Swedish Ambassador. What the Swede is trying to do will come to nothing.

“I have already written to your Majesty that I did not see the Lady Elizabeth when she was here. As my principal support in negotiating the matters I was sent here for was the Queen’s goodwill, I thought I had better avoid upsetting her, especially as your Majesty had not given me any special instructions” (Tyler XIII May 1558 435).

Feria clarified that he had sent word to Elizabeth that he had permission from the king to visit her and asked another courtier, referred to as Paget and it is assumed to be Charles Paget, to offer his excuses for not meeting her earlier.  It appears that Paget rather fumbled the job.  Feria explained that he had asked one of the women close to Elizabeth if Paget had done so and she told him “that he asked the Lady Elizabeth whether I had been to see her, and that when she said I had not, he expressed great surprise and said nothing further.”   Now in a bit of a tricky situation Feria decided, “I do not think that things ought to be left there, but that it would be well that I should go and see her before I leave the country; she lives twenty miles from here. As your Majesty is fully informed, you will send me instructions. If I am to see her, you must write about it to the Queen” (Tyler XIII May 1558 435).

Since Count de Feria appeared to be anxious about Mary’s reception to the news that he had gone to visit Elizabeth. It is obvious his commission dealt with the sensitive topics of either the succession or a possible marriage for Elizabeth.  Regardless, Philip did agree to Feria’s perception that Mary had to be informed of his actions with the unwritten idea that Mary would be angry at such an overture.  Several days later Feria received word from Philip saying “I approve of your intention not to leave England without visiting the Lady Elizabeth. I am writing to the Queen that I have instructed you to do so, and that she is to speak to you in the same sense. Thus I hope that the Queen will take it well.

“The Council have written to me how they intend to answer the Swedish Ambassador. Their reply seems to me satisfactory, except that I should like to have them add that they were not pleased with his going to make a proposal to the Lady Elizabeth without the Queen’s knowledge, and that in future neither he nor anyone else on his master’s behalf should come to negotiate such matters without informing the Queen in advance, for if they did, the Queen would greatly resent it and could not fail to show her resentment in some appropriate manner” (Tyler XIII May 1558 440).

Elizabeth Gripsholm
Elizabeth, in the ‘Gripsholm Portrait’ –a painting done specifically for Erik of Sweden.

Obviously, Philip had written Count Feria on May 27, 1558, and quickly sent off the missive.  On the same day, he received the message that Feria had written on the 18th.  Therefore, Philip wrote again on the 27th praising Feria that he was “glad to hear that you had gone to see the Lady Elizabeth. When you come, you will report what happened between her and you” (Tyler XIII May 441).  Again, the topic of conversation between Count Feria and Elizabeth had been too sensitive to commit to paper; the communiqué would be done in person to the King.  If the discussion concerned the Swedish marriage proposal, the diplomatic course laid down by Philip was followed by his faithful envoy.  Several months later Feria had the satisfaction to write, “The Swedish Ambassador was satisfied with the answer he received from the Council, and said that he wished to report to his master and wait here for an answer. When the Queen reproved him in presence of the Councillors and Petre for having made a proposal to the Lady Elizabeth without her knowledge, he put up a feeble defence, but then repeated his request. Her Majesty answered that she did not intend to proceed further in this matter. I believe she intends to write to your Majesty about what happened between her and the ambassador” (Tyler XIII July 1558 457).

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King Philip II by Titian, 1554

Regardless of what Philip and his envoy publically proclaimed, another meeting between the Spanish Ambassador and Elizabeth took place sometime in June of 1558 at Hatfield.  He kept Philip informed of the arrangements, letting him know “I am going to see the Lady Elizabeth on Friday, 16 miles from here, as your Majesty has ordered me to do. (Tyler XIII June 1558 444).  After the meeting, Feria continued with King Philip’s instructions for filling him in on the details in person and kept to a bare bones account that he wrote on 23 June: “I went to visit the Lady Elizabeth, as your Majesty instructed me to do. She was very much pleased; and I was also, for reasons I will tell your Majesty when I arrive over there. (Tyler XIII June 1558 451).  It appears that when Count Feria returned to Brussels he had information to share that would apparently satisfy Hapsburg interests.

The marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots and the future Francis II had taken place in the spring of 1558.  Philip understood the dangers of Mary’s claim to the English throne to his country.  Elizabeth herself must have been feeling more confident of her position as these international developments strengthened her case at home among not only the English, but also the Hapsburgs.  Philip needed Elizabeth, as she was well aware.

Count de Feria Meets His Match
Count Feria had returned to his master in Brussels and was sent back to England relatively quickly as news of the Queen’s ill-health reached her husband. The meeting between Elizabeth and Feria will be relayed extensively below due to the insightful nature not only of the event but also of Feria’s interpretation of Elizabeth’s character.  The basis for the bulk of the communiqué derives from David Loades’ materials with extended passages from various sources to emphasis other points.

14 November 1558
“I arrived here on Wednesday, the ninth of this month, at lunchtime and found the Queen our lady’s health to be just as Dr. Nunez* describes in his letter to your Majesty.  There is, therefore, no hope of her life, but on the contrary each hour I think that they will come to inform me of her death, so rapidly does her condition deteriorate from one day to the next.  She was happy to see me, since I brought her news of your Majesty, and to receive the letter, although she was unable to read it.  In view of this I felt that there was not time to waste on other matters and sent word to the council to assemble as I wished to talk to them on your Majesty’s behalf.  This I preceded to do ….I also declared your Majesty’s will on the question of the succession to the kingdom, and told them how pleased your Majesty would be to hear of their good offices with Madame Elizabeth on this matter, reminding them how your Majesty had sought to have this done much earlier, as they all well knew.  These councilors are extremely frightened of what Madame Elizabeth will do with them.  They have received me well, but somewhat as they would a man who came with bulls from a dead pope.

“The day after I arrived, I went to a house belonging to a gentleman some twenty three miles from there, where Madame Elizabeth is staying.**  She received me well but not as joyfully as she did last time. She asked me to dine with her and the wife of Admiral Clinton who was there when I arrived was also invited.  After dinner she rose and told me that should I desire to speak with her I might now do so, for she was giving orders that only two or three women who could speak no other language than English should remain in the room… I gave her to understand that it was your Majesty who had procured her recent recognition as the queen’s sister and successor, and not the Queen or the council, and that this was something your Majesty had been trying to secure for some time, as she no doubt realized, for it was common knowledge in the whole kingdom; and I condemned the Queen and the council severely… She was very open with me on many points, much more than I would have expected, and although it is difficult to judge a person one has known for a short a time as I have known this woman, I shall tell your Majesty what I have been able to gather.  She is a very vain and clever woman.  She must have been thoroughly schooled in the manner in which her father conducted his affairs, and I am very much afraid that she will not be well disposed in matters of religion, for I see her inclined to govern through men who are believed to be heretics, and I am told that all the women around her definitely are.  Apart from this it is evident that she is highly indignant about what has been done to her during the Queen’s lifetime. She puts great store by the people, and is very confident that they are all on her side—which is certainly true…

Brockett Hall

“I have been told for certain that Cecil, who was King Edward’s secretary, will also be secretary to Madame Elizabeth.  He is said to be an able and virtuous man, but a heretic…

“Last night they administered extreme unction to the queen or lady and today she is better, although there is little hope of her life. Our Lord etc., From London, 14th November 1558” (Loades Mary Tudor 200-202).

mary for part four
Mary I by Hans Eworth, 1555-1558.

If the Ambassador thought his advice would be listened to meekly, let alone followed, he had another think coming.   When the discussion emerged about the Privy Council members, Feria counseled Elizabeth to show restraint and not seek revenge.  Elizabeth told him that she wanted to make the “councillors who had wronged her admit they had done so” (Perry 126).  She acknowledged Philip’s support when she was detained by her sister and how Philip “had shown her favour and helped her to obtain her release. She felt that it was not dishonourable to admit that she had been a prisoner; on the contrary, it was those who had put her there who were dishonoured because she had never been guilty of having acted or said anything against the queen, nor would she ever confess otherwise” (Porter 405).

What a gal!  Faced still with a tremendous amount of uncertainty and with no true internship in the halls of power, Elizabeth’s courage and sangfroid are astounding.  A baffled Feria shared with Philip, the person who Feria felt was solely responsible for obtaining the throne for Elizabeth, that she “puts great store by the people who put her in her present position, and she will not acknowledge that your Majesty or the nobility of this realm had any part in it, although, as she herself, says, they have all sent her assurances of their loyalty…. There is not a heretic or traitor in all the kingdom, who has not joyfully raised himself from the grave to come to her side. She is determined to be governed by no one” (Perry 125).

Feria claimed that Elizabeth had not received him as ‘joyfully’ as before— the change could be easily explained.  Her position as future queen was much more secure; her sister had recently acknowledged the succession which was linked back to her father’s actions.  The Third Act of Succession of 1544 gave the act of law to the last will and testament of Henry VIII.  In 1546, Henry spelled out exactly how the succession should proceed if his son Edward died childless and if his daughter Mary did as well.  Mary used that Act as her claim to the succession over Lady Jane Grey yet was loath to enact it for her half-sister.  In the autumn of 1558 Mary acknowledged the fact that she might die without issue and so on 28 October she added a codicil to her will—written in March of that same year.  She left the “government, order and rule” of the kingdom to her “next heir and successor, according to the laws and statues of this realm” (Alford 28).  Mary consciously did not mention Elizabeth by name nor did she accept her as her heir willingly. Christophe d’Assonleville, the Imperial envoy from Brussels, wrote to Philip that the Privy Council had persuaded Mary to “make certain declarations in favour of the Lady Elizabeth concerning the succession.  Her Majesty consented; and the Comptroller and the Master of the Rolls are being sent to-day on her behalf and that of the Council to visit the Lady Elizabeth and inform her that the Queen is willing that she succeed in the event of her own death” (Tyler XIII November 1558 498).  Good news for Philip as he was in full support of Elizabeth as heir— there really was no choice in his eyes—and Feria had the delicate task of dealing with Elizabeth as the soon-to-be-Queen while diplomatically presenting the belief that Mary would recover.  This interview could not have been easy for the Count.

While giving praise for Philip’s support, Elizabeth did not hesitate to imply that Mary had hurt her realm by “sending large sums of money and jewels out of the country to her husband” (Porter 405). “She then went on to discomfort him further by observing that her sister had lost her subjects’ affection by marrying a foreigner, to which he had relied, punctiliously but untruthfully, that on the contrary Philip had been much loved.  She was grateful for Philip’s support but set no particular store by it, placing all her confidence in the English people, who were she was convinced, ‘all on her side’.  This, Feria concluded ruefully, ‘is undoubtedly true’” (Loades Mary Tudor 199).

JOanna regent of spain
Joanna, Regent of Spain

*Luis Nunez was a Portuguese physician practicing in the Netherlands, sent over with de Feria.

**Most likely Brockett Hall, home of Sir John Brockett, who was one of her Hatfield tenants.

For references, please refer to the blog entry “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part I.”