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_I_Steven_Van_Der_Meulen
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.

erik_xiv_van_der_meulen
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
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).

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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.”

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

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

To understand the relationship between Elizabeth Regina and Philip II, a study must be made of the events of their association and the outcomes.  These include two attempts to place Elizabeth on the throne during Mary’s reign; the role Philip played in how Elizabeth was treated in the aftermath of each rebellion; and Mary’s view of her sister’s place in the succession.

Wyatt Rebellion, 1554
Sir Thomas Wyatt was the leader of a rebellion instigated in early 1554 by Mary’s proposed marriage to Philip of Spain.  Once she became queen, Mary repealed the act which declared her parents’ marriage invalid and herself illegitimate.  She was, as queen, a highly eligible match even though she was 37, certainly middle-aged in that era.  She assured Charles V she would be guided by him in her selection of husband, and low and behold his son, Philip, a widower at 26, was the most eligible prince in Catholic Europe.  Mary was determined to marry him.

thomas wyatt
Sir Thomas Wyatt

The Wyatt Rebellion caused her to take decisive action.  She went to the Guildhall and gave a speech to the populace assuring them that she married Philip only with the consent of her councilors and that she was firstly married to her kingdom.

Wyatt did enter London; Mary sent her troops after him.  She did not flee and, while she was praying for her country’s safety, Wyatt was captured.  The rebel said he took action being “persuaded, that by the marriage of the Prince of Spain, the second person of this realm, and next heir to the crown, should have been in danger; and I, being a free-born man, should, with my country, have been brought into bondage and servitude of aliens and strangers” (Strype 132).  Rebellion was saving England from the Catholic scourge by ‘the second person of this realm.’  Thus, Elizabeth was implicated although Wyatt never named her during his interrogations or on the scaffold.  Elizabeth was sent to the Tower for two months where she was held prisoner, questioned and intimidated.     

bloody mary     elizabeth 1 by scrouts
  Mary I                                           Princess Elizabeth 

Simon Renard, Ambassador to Spain, wrote to his sovereign, Charles V, 22 March 1554 that there was disagreement in the Council when “it was proposed to throw the Lady Elizabeth into the Tower, the Council expressed a wish to know exactly the reason, and the upshot was that the heretics combined against the Chancellor, and stuck to it that the law of England would not allow of such a measure because there was not sufficient evidence against her, that her rank must be considered and that she might perfectly well be confined elsewhere than in the Tower.”  Renard relayed that no one would “accept the responsibility of taking custody of her.”  Because of the councilors shying away from taking charge of Elizabeth, they “decided to conduct her to the Tower last Saturday, by river and not through the streets; but it did not happen that day, because when the tide was rising Elizabeth prayed to be allowed to speak to the Queen, saying the order could not have been given with her knowledge, but merely proceeded from the Chancellor’s hatred of her. If she could not speak to the Queen, she begged to be allowed to write to her. This was granted, and while she was writing the tide rose so high that it was no longer possible to pass under London bridge, and they had to wait till the morrow” (Tyler XII March).

Simon_Renard    charles v
  Simon Renard                                    A Youthful Charles V

Elizabeth had achieved her purposes: she had postponed her imprisonment in the Tower and had written to her sister.  This letter of March 16, 1554, one of Elizabeth’s most famous, was a marvel how she handled her sister and logically argued her innocence while writing under distressing circumstances. 

Elizabeth beseeched Mary to remember her agreement to Elizabeth’s request “That I be not condemned without answer and due proof.” Elizabeth wanted her sister to know that “I am by your Council from you commanded to go unto the Tower, a place more wonted for a false traitor than a true subject.”  Although she bravely declared that she will go and be proved innocent, she pledged to her sister “I protest afore God that I never practiced, counseled, nor consented to anything that might be prejudicial to your person any way or dangerous to the state by any mean.”  Elizabeth appealed for an opportunity to meet with the Queen to tell her in person of her innocence and asked her sister to pardon her boldness, excusing her actions “which innocency procures me to do, together with the hope of your natural kindness.…”  The evidence of a letter written by Wyatt is addressed by logically stating “he might peradventure write me a letter, but on my faith I never received any from him.”  Elizabeth completed the letter by making diagonal lines across the bottom so that nothing could be inserted and signed herself “Your highness’ most faithful subject that hath been from the beginning and will be to my end, Elizabeth”   (Marcus 41-42). 

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   The letter Elizabeth wrote to Mary in March of 1554

Her collaboration in the rebellion was never proven.  Renard suggests that Gardiner “held documentary evidence of her [Elizabeth’s] active interest in the plot, but that he destroyed this because it also involved young Courtenay” (Queen Elizabeth 110).  Not having direct proof of her sister’s guilt, Mary was reluctant to condemn Elizabeth and so  released her to house arrest.  John Foxe informed “The xix daye of Maye, the Ladye Elizabeth, Sister to the Queene, was brought oute of the Tower, and committed to the kepyng of Syr Henry Benifielde… shewed himself more harde and strayte unto her, then eyther cause was geven of her parte, or reason of his owne parte.”  Foxe showed the surprise not in Bedingfield’s  bad treatment but in the benevolence shown by Elizabeth once she came to the throne.  Praising her for not taking revenge as other monarchs “oftentimes requited lesse offences with losse of life,” Foxe explained that Elizabeth did not deprive Bedingfield of his liberty “save only that he was restrained  for not comming to the court” (Foxe V 1072).

StephenGardiner    John_Foxe
  Stephen Gardiner                                               John Foxe

When she was released from Woodstock, it was to come to Court to witness the birth of Mary’s heir.  Sources differ on when Mary’s pregnancy was officially announced with some historians, such as Jasper Ridley, claiming it was in the spring of 1555 while we have an official document from January.  The Doge Francesco Venier of Venice did send his Ambassador Giovanni Michiel instructions 5 January 1555 to congratulate the King and Queen on the “certainty now obtained of the Queen giving an heir to the realm” (Brown VI January 5).  Further exclamations were extended for this “auspicious and desired event” concluding this was a “great gift conferred on the whole of Christendom” (Brown VI January  6). 

venier doge
Francesco Venier, Doge of Venice

Regardless of when it was officially announced, the impending event did affect Elizabeth.  On 29 April 1555, Michiel reported to the Doge, “that day or on the morrow Elizabeth Tudor was to arrive at Hampton Court from Woodstock.” Then on the 6th of May he informed the Venetian officials that when Elizabeth “appeared she was neither met nor received by anyone, but was placed in the apartment lately inhabited by the Duke of Alva, where she lives in retirement, not having been seen by any one, save once or twice by their Majesties, by private stairs” (Brown VIPreface 16).  

Elizabeth was housed with a “certain Sir Thomas Pope, a rich and grave gentleman, of good name, both for conduct and religion; the Queen having appointed him Miladi’s governor. I am told …they also assigned her a widow gentlewoman, as governess, in lieu of her own who is a prisoner, she herself likewise may be also said to be in ward and custody, though in such decorous and honourable form as becoming” (Brown VI June 514). No ifs, ands or buts about it, Elizabeth was still under house arrest.   Elizabeth’s release is credited to Philip’s influence on Mary.  Philip realized without an heir born of Mary, Elizabeth would be the successor.  To preserve Hapsburg interests, Philip realized Elizabeth had to be married to a Catholic prince: the intended bridegroom was Emmanuel Philibert, Prince of Piedmont and titular Duke of Savoy. 

Philip had plans for Elizabeth.  Antoine de Noailles wrote to the Queen-Dowager of Scotland in September 1555 informing her of Elizabeth’s popularity and the fact that “his Grace, the said Lord King, has shown a friendly disposition for her, and he has written several letters to the Queen, his wife, commending the Princess to her care”  (Queen Elizabeth I 200).

Dudley Conspiracy, Late 1555 -1556

Another rebellion against the reign of Queen Mary began in December 1555.  In a letter to Sir William Petre, Secretary of State, dated January 21, 1556, Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury and English Ambassador to France, wrote of information he had gleaned from an informant.  There was a “plot against the Queen which he said was devised by some of the best in England, and so many were agreed thereupon that it was impossible but that it must take effect; that the matter had been in hand about a year ago.”  The conspirators’ intentions were not to kill her Majesty “but to deprive her of her estate…” Wotton “did not think it necessary to write thereof to her Majesty lest she might suddenly be troubled with it, and conceive some greater fear of it than were good for her to do.”  Petre was to inform the Queen when “it shall not disquiet her Majesty” (Turnbull 285-286).  Mary was disquieted though and fearful for her life. 

WilliamPetre       Nicholas_Wotton
    Sir William Petre                            Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury

Called the Dudley Conspiracy for the main instigator, Sir Henry Dudley (a distant relative to John Dudley, the executed Duke of Northumberland and Robert Dudley, the future favorite of Elizabeth), its purpose became clearer as the investigation continued.   Mary and Philip were to be deposed and replaced by Elizabeth with her consort being Edward Courtenay. 

Imprisoned during the time of Henry VIII, Courtenay spent 15 years in confinement.  Released upon Mary’s ascension to the throne, he was created 1st Earl of Devon and sent on several diplomatic missions.  His hopes of marriage to Mary fell flat when she espoused Philip.  Courtenay then turned his attention to Elizabeth obviously seeing marriage as his way to the throne.  After serving more time in the Tower for the Wyatt Rebellion, the Earl of Devon was exiled to Europe until his death in September of 1556.  He found acceptance in Venice where he became the focal point for further conspiracies such as the Dudley Rebellion.

EdwardCourtenayD1556
Edward Courtenay, 1st Earl of Devon

Several prominent supporters of the rebellion were Lord Thomas Howard, Sir Peter Killigrew, Henry Peckham and several members of the Throckmorton clan.  One cannot underestimate the organization of Dudley and his fellow conspirators.  They raised money, attempted to gain powerful allies such as the King of France and landed gentry, approached Courtenay and saturated England with anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish writings. It was subversive writings such as these that were found in the London residence of Kat Ashley, governess to Princess Elizabeth. 

Giovanni Michiel, Ambassador to England for Venice kept the Doge and the Venetian Senate informed of what was occurring.  Michiel reported on 2 June, “The number of persons imprisoned increases daily… Mistress [Katharine] Ashley was taken thither [to the Tower], she being the chief governess of Miladi Elizabeth, the arrest, together with that of three other domestics, having taken place in the country, 18 [Venetian] miles hence, even in the aforesaid Miladi’s own house [Hatfield], and where she at present resides, which has caused great general vexation.  I am told that they have all already confessed to having known about the conspiracy; so not having revealed it, were there nothing else against them, they may probably not quit the Tower alive, this alone subjecting them to capital punishment. This governess was also found in possession of those writings and scandalous books against the religion and against the King and Queen which were scattered about some months ago, and published all over the kingdom” (Brown VIJune 505).

katahsley
Kat Ashley

People close to Elizabeth knew about the plot — that has been well established.  How involved was Elizabeth? The only written link between her and the rebels occurred in February 1556 when Anne, Duke de Montmorency, Constable of France wrote to the French Ambassador, Antoine de Noailles that “above all restrain Madame Elizabeth from stirring at all in the affair of which you have written to me, for that would be to ruin everything” (Queen Elizabeth I 203).  Can this letter be seen as proof of Elizabeth’s willing cooperation with the Dudley plot?  Although it is damaging, it is not conclusive.  This could be a misinterpretation of information gathered by the Constable or wishful thinking. 

Constable of France
Anne, Duke de Montmorency, Constable of France

Noailles and King Henri II were implicated in the Dudley plot.  Because the international diplomatic scene had changed with the Vaucelles truce, Henri did not want to antagonize Charles and Philip so he “advised the conspirators to defer the execution of their plans” which they ignored (Acton 544).  The success of the plot depended on too many people and too many variables (this blog will not relay the details there are many sources available including contemporary diplomatic dispatches in the Calendar of State Papers-Venice Volume VI).  A conspirator, Thomas White, on staff at the Royal Exchequer was to ensure the robbery of funds to finance the conspiracy (Whitelock Mary Tudor 303).  Ambassador Michiel wondered if White came forward “either from hope of reward, or to exculpate himself… revealed the plot to Cardinal Pole” (Brown VI March 5 434).  White was rewarded as shown in the Originalia Roll (the fine roll sent to the Exchequer) for Mary and Philip because “of good and faithful service by our beloved servant, Thomas White, gentleman, in the late conspiracy against us, our crown and dignity attempted not long since by Henry Dudley and his accomplices” (Thoroton Society 52).  A known conspirator rewarded: what of Elizabeth? 

henri ii
King Henri II of France

Convinced that Elizabeth was aware of the plot, Mary sent her trusted courtier, Francesco Piamontese, to Brussels to consult with Philip on how to handle the situation.  Venetian Ambassador Michiel went further to explain that this issue was very sensitive because of Kat Ashley’s involvement “by reason of her grade with the “Signora,” who is held in universal esteem and consideration” (Brown VI June 505).  So not only is a trusted servant of Elizabeth’s in possession of seditious materials, it appears to be universally acknowledged that Elizabeth is very popular. Would it be wise to move against her too aggressively?  A tricky situation for Mary.

In June Michiel wrote to his superiors in Venice, “Finally, at the very hour when persons were departing, her chamberlain and the courier Francesco Piamontese returned” from Brussels to the Queen’s relief.  “As for many months the Queen has passed from one sorrow to another” (Brown VI June 525). 

So what was to become of Elizabeth?  What guidance had Philip given his wife concerning the suspicions of her sister?  What Mary received was pro-Hapsburgian advice. Despite Michiel’s predicitons, none of Elizabeth’s household members were executed nor was she punished. Although there was strong evidence that those around her were involved in treasonous activities (Kat Ashley being in posession of the seditious materials was enough cause for punishment beyond time in the Tower) and questions concerning what Elizabeth knew, any action against her would threaten her succession.  “There is little doubt that it was the King’s influence which prevented Elizabeth herself from being again arrested on this occasion and sent to the Tower with the four other members of her household.  It is difficult otherwise to account for Mary’s leniency” (Queen Elizabeth I 209).

tower of london
Tower of London

Hapsburg interests demanded that Elizabeth be heir to the throne of England over Mary, Queen of Scots.  Mary had the surest position of inheritance after Elizabeth and as the fiancé of the dauphin of France, could unite Scottish, French and English dominions and interests which would threaten the power of Spain. Hapsburg interests prevailed.  “Piamontese returned to London with an unequivocal message from the king: no further inquiries should be made into Elizabeth’s guilt, nor any suggestion made that her servants had been implicated in the plot with her authority” (Whitlock 307).  Philip was more than willing to be lenient with Elizabeth.  By 1556 few people believed that Mary would produce an heir and looked toward Elizabeth to be the next queen.  It probably was wise on the part of the councilors not to antagonize Elizabeth.  She was considered the preferred heir, and her smooth succession could halt potential civil conflict or French interference to place Mary Stuart on the throne—both good enough reasons to leave well-enough alone.

So, astoundingly, Elizabeth remained free.  Protestations of ignorance about her household’s activities were enough.  Mary probably did not believe her but allowed the stories that Elizabeth’s name had been used without authority to be circulated.  This blogger cannot help but feel for the position in which Mary was placed.  Her motto, ‘Truth, Daughter of Time,’ seemed to be jeopardized as she did her husband’s bidding; although, with most of Mary’s submissiveness it was up to a point. 

According to Michiel, in June of 1556 Mary sent two of her gentlemen, Sir Henry Hastings, and Sir H. Francis Englefield, to Elizabeth with a “message of good will…with a ring worth 400 ducats, and also to give her minute account of the cause of their arrest, to aquaint her with what they had hitherto deposed and confesssed, and to persaude her not to take amiss the removal from about her persons of similar folds, who subjected her to the danger of some evil suspicion; assuring her of the Queen’s good will and disposiiton, provided she continue to live becomingly, to Her Majesty’s liking.  Using in short loving and gracious expressions, to show her that she is neither neglected nor hated, but loved and esteemed by Her Majesty.  This message is considered most gracious by the whole kindom, everybody in general wishing her all ease and honour, and very greatly regretting any trouble she may incure; the proceeding having been not only necessary but profitable, to warn her of the licentious life led, especially in matters of religion, by her household” (Queen Elizabeth I 210).

henry hastings
  Henry Hastings 

Ambassador Michiel let on that Elizabeth’s household would be made up of persons the Queen believed to better serve her.  It is assumed Mary thought her sister guilty and urged Elizabeth “to keep so much the more to her duty, and together with her attendants behave the more cautiously” (Queen Elizabeth I 210).

Mary feigned that she believed Elizabeth had been in danger of “being thus clandestinely exposed to the manifest risk of infamy and ruin.” So, the solution was for the Queen to remodel Elizabeth’s household “in another form, and with a different sort of persons to those now in her service, replacing them by such as are entirely dependent on her Majesty; so that as her own proceedings and those of all such persons as enter or quit her abode will be most narrowly scanned” (Brown VIJune 505).

Assigned to Elizabeth’s household was “Sir Thomas Pope, a rich and grave gentleman, of good name, both for conduct and religion; the Queen having appointed him Miladi’s governor, and she having accepted him willingly, although he himself did his utmost to decline such a charge. I am told that besides this person, they also assigned her a widow gentlewoman, as governess, in lieu of her own who is a prisoner, so that at present having none but the Queen’s dependents about her person, she herself likewise may be also said to be in ward and custody, though in such decorous and honourable form as becoming” (Brown VI June 514). 

tpope
  Sir Thomas Pope

Pope was commissioned by Mary’s Council in July of 1556 to keep Elizabeth informed of the activities confessed by the Dudley conspirators “how little these men stick, by falsehood, and untruth, to compass their purpose; not letting, for that intent, to abuse the name of her Grace, or any others” (Queen Elizabeth I 213). 

Elizabeth did write to the Queen in careful phraseology about the information she had received from Pope.  “Of this I assure your majesty, though it be my part above the rest to bewail such things though my name had not been in them, yet it vexeth me too much …as to put me in any part of his [the devil] mischievous instigations.  And like as I have been your faithful subject from the beginning of your reign, so shall no wicked persons cause me to change to the end of my life.  And thus I commit your majesty to God’s tuition, whom I beseech long time to preserve … from Hatfield this present Sunday, the second day of August. Your majesty’s obedient subject and humble sister, Elizabeth” (Marcus 43-44).

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