Elizabeth Regina: Her Mother’s Memory

Elizabeth:  Her Mother’s Memory

Elizabeth at the age of two years and eight months upon the death of her mother, probably never had concrete recollections of her mother Anne Boleyn.  There is no evidence that Anne Boleyn was mentioned by any of Elizabeth’s household members during her childhood.  It is pure speculation as to which adults told the youngster about her mother and when she would have possibly learned about Anne’s execution and the scandalous reasons for it.  There are plenty of assumptions that Henry had placed a moratorium on the subject of Anne Boleyn which would not be implausible, but what is conjecture is based on the fact that Elizabeth was confined to her estate because Henry could not bear the sight of her and wanted no remembrance of her or her mother.  We know Sir John Shelton assured Cromwell on Wednesday 16 August 1536 from Hunsdon that he would ensure “the King’s pleasure that my lady Elizabeth shall keep her chamber and not come abroad, and that I shall provide for her as I did for my lady Mary when she kept her chamber” (Gairdner XI 312).  We know Elizabeth remained secluded at Hunsdon; we just do not know why—it could have been Henry trying to protect her from court gossip.

thomas cromwell
Thomas Cromwell

Lady Bryan, in August 1536, had already questioned Cromwell on the status of her charge.  “Now, as my lady Elizabeth is put for 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).  Obviously, there was some confusion in her household.  Even Elizabeth was confused; when a gentleman of her household, often identified as either Sir John Shelton or Sir Thomas Bryan, referred to her by the demoted title of Lady Elizabeth, she responded “how haps it, Governor, yesterday my Lady Princess, and today but my Lady Elizabeth?” (Hibbert 20).  An astute child such as this would have understood the danger of asking questions about her mother or even mentioning her.

There are only two recorded times when Elizabeth mentioned her mother in public.  One was when she was 20 and hinted to the Spanish ambassador that she was disliked by Mary because of the distress her mother had caused. The second was when she informed the Venetian ambassador that her mother would never have cohabitated with the king without the ties of matrimony (Weir The Children of Henry VIII 7).  Is this anemic display evidence that she did not have any feelings for her mother or that she did not want to be associated with Anne?  Probably not.  It would not have been politically wise for Elizabeth to be linked too often and too closely with Anne Boleyn so one can understand the lack of mention by an aware and intelligent child.  This did not mean complete elimination of connections and when she was more secure as queen, several examples are in evidence of her identification with her mother although the earliest example comes when she was about ten.

elizabeth 1 by scrouts
Princess Elizabeth 

This early example was when she wore the ‘A’ necklace in the painting,The Family of Henry VIII.”  Supposedly this was “one of Anne Boleyn’s initial pendants” that was inherited from Elizabeth’s mother (Weir Lady in the Tower 306).

Jewelry was one way that Elizabeth showed her relationship with her mother.
Anne Boleyn was said to have three pendants of initials; an “A”, a “B”, and an “AB”. The “B” necklace is the most famous and is in portraits displayed at the National Portrait Gallery and Hever Castle more readily validated as representative of Anne. The “AB” is perhaps in a less famous painting; one not completely authenticated as Anne, and is referred to as the Nidd Hall portrait.

Anne Boleyn B necklace
Anne Boleyn, National Portrait Gallery

Anne Boleyn Hever
Anne Boleyn, ‘Hever Castle Portrait’ a copy of the lost original painted in 1534
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Anne Boleyn, ‘Nidd Hall Portrait’ with the pendent of ‘AB’ hanging upon her gown
It is claimed that Elizabeth was wearing the “A” necklace in “The Family of Henry VIII” painting that hung in Hampton Court. (Weir Henry VIII: The King and His Court 187).  This blogger must disagree with some reports that she was wearing the necklace in defiance of her father.  He had full control of all of his public imagery.  I cannot imagine the artist risking his life, quite literally, by painting in the “A” if it was not sanctioned by Henry.   It is hard to imagine that Elizabeth would so blatantly wear this piece of jewelry without Henry’s permission.  This blogger could start an unsupported theory that this could be the cause of Elizabeth’s exile from 1543 to 1544 (see blog entry “The Fourth Step-Mother of Elizabeth, Katherine Parr” at https://elizregina.com/2013/06/04/the-fourth-step-mother-of-elizabeth-katherine-parr/).  This is clearly on a weak foundation considering the painting, according to Roy Strong, was completed between 1543 -1547. If Henry became incensed enough to banish his daughter for wearing an inherited item of jewelry from her disgraced mother, surely he would have ordered it painted out of the completed picture.  Perhaps allowing Elizabeth to display this necklace was a kind gesture on the king’s part or it was a tactic wanting everyone to associate the girl with her mother and her illegitimacy, in contrast to the legitimate heir next to him.
H8 Family
The Family of Henry VIII
BLow up M and E try this one
An enlargement obtained by Flickr of the princesses 

Apart from the wearing of one of Anne Boleyn’s necklaces, another piece of jewelry associated with Elizabeth and her mother is the Chequers ring.  Dated to around 1575 the Chequers Ring, thus named as it is now in the possession of that estate, clearly has a diamond encrusted ‘E’ and ‘R’ on the face. The locket opens to reveal a portrait of Elizabeth and an unidentified woman, usually and logically identified as Anne Boleyn; although, speculation ranges from it being a younger Elizabeth to Katherine Parr.  The history of the ring is too sketchy for this blogger to comfortably say that Elizabeth commissioned it as opposed to a courtier.  It is also difficult to agree with Weir, and many other writers who claim the ring “was only removed from her finger at her death, when it was taken to her successor, James VI of Scotland, as proof of her demise” (Weir Lady in the Tower 306). There is no definitive proof that Elizabeth constantly wore the ring or that it was the particular jewel taken to Scotland by Robert Carey.

Chequers ring to use
Chequers ring–this blogger was fortunate to see this locket ring at “Elizabeth:  The Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum” in Greenwich on August 8, 2003.

Another way Elizabeth linked to her mother was the use of her mother’s heraldic badge the crowned falcon upon a tree stump, surrounded by Tudor roses.  Although this was not implemented consistently as Elizabeth’s badge, there are several places it is displayed and on several items such as her virginal. The spinet “bears the royal coat of arms and the falcon holding a scepter, the private emblem of her mother, Anne Boleyn” (“The Queen Elizabeth Virginal”).  It is also speculated that Elizabeth adopted one of Anne’s mottoes, Semper eadem.  This is discussed on the blog “Said it, Believed it, Lived it” at https://elizregina.com/2013/06/25/said-it-believed-it-lived-it/.

virginals w falcon
Virginal of Elizabeth I, the Boleyn badge is on the left.

Elizabeth continued her links with her mother by promoting members of Anne’s household staff, Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury and relatives; notably the Careys, Knollyse, Sackvilles and even Howards until their alliance to Catholicism made it politically impossible.  Anne was also commemorated in a biography by William Latymer and in an unfinished treatise by George Wyatt (Weir, The Lady in the Tower 307-308).

A way in which Elizabeth kept her mother’s influence alive was in her understanding of the benefits and necessity of display. “Between Anne and Elizabeth there was an uncanny similarity of attitude towards the projection of monarchy, and of themselves as chosen by God to rule” (Ives 218).  It is estimated Anne spent £40* a month mostly on clothes for herself and Elizabeth (Ives 217).  Had Anne lived, her wardrobe would have “rivalled the 2000 costumes which tradition assigns to that most fashion-conscious of monarchs, her daughter Elizabeth” (Ives 253).  Catholic chronicler, Nicholas Sander, no friend of Anne’s, conceded that she “was always well dressed, and every day made some change in the fashion of her garments” (Sander 25).

Anne has been criticized for having such an active interest in her daughter’s wardrobe; one wonders if this was an area in which she could direct her wishes and so she did.  Taking an inordinate amount of care in the purchase of materials and the ordering of garments for her child was perhaps the method of bestowing attention that was socially and politically acceptable for Anne.

We have a dispatch that Sir William Loke, mercer and merchant adventurer who supplied the king with clothes of gold, silver and other luxurious fabrics and performed diplomatic missions on his buying trips abroad, wrote personally to the king in February 1534:  “The sale of cloths by your subjects has been good, but money is scarce.  I trust I have done my best to provide such things as the Queen gave me commission for” (Gairdner VIII 197). Loke kept extensive account records (published in the text, An Account of Materials Furnished for Use of Queen Anne Boleyn and the Princess Elizabeth, by William Loke ‘the King’s Mercer’ Between the 20th January 1535 [27th year of Henry VIII], and the 27th April 1536.  Communicated by J. B. Heath) which reveal clothing being sent to the princess.  It was  obvious that the “king’s heir, who was not yet three years old, was quite properly to be dressed in fashionable and expensive clothing”  (Warnicke 170).

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An example of elaborate clothing worn by Elizabeth in the ‘Armada Portrait’.

In Anne’s account books of May 19, 1536, are entries for payment for “boat-hire form Greenwich to London and back to take measure of caps for my lady Princess, and again to fetch the Princess’s purple satin cap to mend it.”  Anne, apparently, was especially fussy about her daughter’s caps: this particular one required at least three journeys to Greenwich to get it right” (Ives 253). Included in the accounts was “an ell of ‘tuke’ and crimson fringe for the Princess’s cradle head.”  Added to this finery was “a fringe of Venice gold and silver for the little bed.” Included were more assorted caps, white, crimson, purple and a “cap of taffeta covered with a caul of damask gold for the Princess” (Gairdner X 913).

Queen Anne Boleyn never had a full say in her child’s upbringing. That was the business of the king and his council. Famously, when it came to decide if Elizabeth should be weaned, her governess wrote to Thomas Cromwell for permission (Warnicke 170).  We do know from William Latymer, chaplain to Anne Boleyn who wrote Chronickille of Anne Bulleyne during the reign of Elizabeth, reported that Anne “had wanted her child, as her elder half-sister had been, trained in classical languages” (Warnicke 171).  When Anne realized that she was in serious danger of losing her life she gave unto Matthew Parker, her devoted chaplain and later Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Elizabeth, the care of her child.  This move can be seen as her wish for Elizabeth to have not only a classical education but also a more evangelical religious upbringing.

Matthew_Parker
Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Elizabeth 

Besides directing Elizabeth’s wardrobe and directing her education, how else did Anne bestow attention on her daughter?  This is impossible to know. Following standards of the day, Elizabeth was removed from her parents’ household when she was three months old.  She was sent to her own residence, Hatfield, with a wet-nurse and her governess, Margaret Bourchier, Lady Bryan.  “Here and at Hunsdon in Hertfordshire 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).  Contemporary records indicate that Anne did visit regularly as we see from a letter written by Sir William Kyngston, courtier and Constable of the Tower of London, to Lord Lisle, Arthur Plantagenet on 18 April 1534.  “To day the King and Queen were at Eltham, and saw my lady Princess, as goodly a child as hath been seen and her grace is much in the King’s favour as goodly child should be, God save her”  (Gairdner VII 509).

The visits were not always private, as we would assume between a mother and her child as Eustace Chapuys mentions in a dispatch to Charles V on 24 October 1534. “On Thursday, the day before yesterday, being at Richmond with the little lass (garce) the Lady came to see her said daughter, accompanied by the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk and others, including some of the ladies, which was a novelty” (Gairdner VII 1297).  Besides these visits, Anne was in contact with Lady Bryan through letters concerning the care of Elizabeth (Ives 256).  A response to a request from Elizabeth’s household officers to the Council was sent in a packet with “letters to them, and one from the Queen to lady Brian” (Gairdner IX 568).

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Richmond Palace, 1562

Speculation is futile regarding the feelings both mother and daughter felt for each other; no written records exist.  Anne, following the social dictates and court etiquette of the day, rarely saw her daughter.  Not only was Elizabeth reared by people other than her parents, she was physically removed from them, as was her siblings so some people placing emphasis on the fact she was taken to Hatfield at the age of three months was proof her mother was as disappointed as her father in her birth.  Henry’s treasured heir, Edward, was also reared in a separate household.  Evaluation of those persons surrounding the infant Elizabeth does lend itself to assume a strong influence of Anne.  Many had Boleyn connections: Lady Margaret Bryan was not only Princess Mary’s former governess but related to Anne as they shared a maternal grandmother; Lady Shelton, also from Princess Mary’s household and given charge of the combined establishment of Mary and Elizabeth was Anne’s Aunt; and Kat Ashley nee Champernowne was married to Anne’s cousin. After Anne Boleyn’s execution, Henry did not alter the positions of these people closest to Elizabeth.  He too must have trusted them and was not worried about how Anne would be portrayed to their daughter by ‘Boleyn’ servants.  Elizabeth would later comment that “we are more bound to them that bringeth us up well than to our parents… our bringers-up are a cause to make us live well in [the world]” (Marcus 34).

*£40 from 1535 would be £19,000.00 using the retail price index or£266,000.00 using average earnings based on calcualtions from the “Measuring Worth” website.

References:

Brewer, J. S. (editor). “Henry VIII: November 1517.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 2: 1515-1518 (1864): 1183-1198. British History Online. Web. 29 June 2013.

Burnet, Gilbert. The History of the Reformation of the Church of England. Vol.I Part I. London:  W. Baynes and Son, 1825.  Google Books.  Web.  3 July 2013.

Gairdner, James. (editor). “Henry VIII: April 1534, 16-20.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 7: 1534 (1883): 199-210. British History Online. Web. 29 June 2013. 

Gairdner, James (editor). “Henry VIII: February 1535, 11-20.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 8: January-July 1535 (1885): 75-98. British History Online. Web. 29 June 2013.

Gairdner, James (editor). “Henry VIII: October 1535, 6-10.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9: August-December 1535 (1886): 181-195. British History Online. Web. 29 June 2013.

Gairdner, James (editor). “Henry VIII: February 1536, 1-5.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10: January-June 1536 (1887): 82-98. British History Online. Web. 01 July 2013.

Gairdner, James (editor). “Henry VIII: August 1536, 16-20.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 11: July-December 1536 (1888): 130-138. British History Online. Web. 28 June 2013.

Hibbert, Christopher.  The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age.  New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1991.  Print.

Ives, Eric.  The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Print.

Marcus, Leah S. et al., eds. Elizabeth I: The Collected Works. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Print.

“The Queen Elizabeth Virginal.” V&A Images Collection. Victoria and Albert Museum, n.d. Web. 03 July 2013.

Ridgway, Claire.  The Fall of Anne Boleyn:  A Countdown.  UK:  MadeGlobal Publishing, 2012. Print.

Sander, Nicholas, and Edward Rishton. Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism. Trans. David Lewis. London: Burns & Oates, 1877. Google Books. Web. 28 June 2013.

Somerset, Anne. Elizabeth I.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991. Print.

Warnicke, Retha.  The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1989.  Print.

Weir, Alison. The Children of Henry VIII.  New York:  Ballantine Books, 1996. Print

Weir, Alison.  Henry VIII:  The King and His Court.  New York:  Ballatine Books, 2001. Google Books. Web. 30 June 2013.

Weir, Alison.  The Lady in the Tower:  The Fall of Anne Boleyn.  London:  Jonathan Cape, 2009.  Print.

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Said it, Believed it, Lived it

Said it, Believed it, Lived it:  Mottoes of Elizabeth Regina

A motto is a short sentence or phrase used to formally summarize or encapsulate the beliefs, motivations, intentions or ideals of an individual, group or institution. Often the motto can become a rule by which someone lives her or his life.  Although a motto can be in any language, Latin is the one mostly used in the Western world.

William Camden, an Officer of Arms under Queen Elizabeth who wrote a history of her reign at the suggestion of Lord Burghley, William Cecil, has become an excellent source for emblems and heraldic arms of the Tudor era although he does not always quote the motto nor offer explanations (Daly 5).  Camden has given his ideal of a motto accompanying heraldry.  He assures us that the picture is the body “and the Motto, which as the soul giveth it life.  That is, the body must be of fair representation, and the word in some different language, witty, short, and answerable thereunto; neither too obscure, nor too plain, and most commended when it is an Hemistich, or parcel of a verse” (Camden Remaines 366-367).

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Coat of Arms of Henry VIII

An official definition of motto is as follows: “A sentence added to a device (Ital. –L) L. muttium, mutter, a grunt, a muttered sound; cf. mutire, muttire, to mutter, mumble” (Skeat 387).  Therefore, in heraldry, a motto is shown on a shield as part of a coat of arms.  In English heraldry in particular, the motto is not granted with the armorial bearings and can be changed. 

Members of Tudor upper society certainly embraced the custom of using mottoes and “subjects adopted them as expressions of loyalty” (Cannon 253).  Below are briefly the mottoes of Henry VIII, his wives and his children with expanded explanations on the mottoes of Elizabeth and her mother, Anne Boleyn to follow.

Tudor Mottoes                      

Henry VIII     Dieu et mon droit  —God and my right

Katherine of Aragon     Humble and loyal

Anne Boleyn     The Most Happy                                                                                                 
Jane Seymour     Bound to Obey and Serve

Anne of Cleves     God send me well to keep

Catherine Howard     Non aultrevolontè que le sinne  —No other will than his

Katherine Parr     To be useful in all I do

Edward VI     Dieu et mon droit  —God and my right
                      Modus et Ordo   —Method and Order

Mary I    Veritas filia temporis   —Truth, daughter of time

Elizabeth Regina     Semper Eadem  — Always the Same
                                   Video et taceo   —I see and say nothing

Royal British mottoes can be a bit confusing.  All Knights of the Garter may use the motto, Honi soit qui mal y pense, [Shamed be he who thinks evil of it] added to their heraldry.  Also, the sovereign will use, Dieu et mon droit, [God and my right] on a scroll beneath the shield of the royal coat of arms.  This motto has been attributed to Richard I Lionheart as a battle cry and has been used officially since the time of Henry V.  Obviously, this refers to the monarchs’ divine right to rule.

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Clock given to Anne Boleyn by Henry VIII at the time of their marriage.  The weights are engraved with the initials ‘H’ and ‘A’ and also the mottoes “Dieu et Mon Droit” and “The Most Happy”.

Alternatively, the Royal Arms may depict a monarch’s or consort’s personal motto and may appear on many buildings, possessions, documents, and in more modern times on products—those purveyors who have earned the Royal Warrant.  More on that topic in another blog entry.  Often its use is done for dynastic glorification as illustrated in the cup Henry VIII commissioned by Hans Holbein as a wedding gift to Jane Seymour.  Jane’s motto “Bound to obey and serve” is repeated on the lid and on the base.  The bridal pair’s initials adorned the cup. “Its submissive tone was fairly typical for queen consorts, but it also reflects Jane’s personality and helps explain why she was so attractive to Henry” (Doran Man & Monarch 189).

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Cup designed by Hans Holbein for Jane Seymour with her motto on the lid and base

Reigning between queens with mottoes conveying humility and obedience-Katherine of Aragon’s “Humble and loyal” and Jane’s “Bound to obey and serve”-comes Anne Boleyn whose motto was the bold “The most happy”.  Anne adopted this motto as her coronation approached.  She had reason to be “the moost happi”: she had married a supportive and affectionate Henry, she was expecting his child (convinced it was the longed-for male heir), and she had managed to institute several religious changes in the country.

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Anne Boleyn’s medal inscribed around with THE MOOST HAPPI ANNO 1534 and A.R. for Anne Regina next to her portrait

Although some sources attribute the motto “Me and mine” to Anne, this blogger never found true evidence of it.  One motto she adopted in 1530 before she was queen, Aisi sera groigne qui groigne meaning “Let them grumble; that is how it is going to be!” (Ives 141).  This motto had quite a story attached to it.

Paul Friedman was quoting Pascual de Gayangos’ Calendar of State Papers, Spain Vol. 4, Part 2, page 41, which stated that Anne, to show her “contempt for those who opposed her, chose a device which she had heard in France, but which she only partially remembered, Ainsi sera, groigne qui groign! was embroidered on the liveries of her servants” (Friedman 128).  Her arrogance and defiance did not last long.
To her mortification, and to Eustace Chapuys’ glee, she learned that she had “adopted the motto of her bitter enemies, the princes of the house of Burgundy.  ‘Groigne qui groigne’, she heard it repeated, “et vive Bourgoigne!’ The liveries had to be laid aside, and Anne’s servants on Christmas Day appeared in their old doublets” (Friedman 128).

Such a blatant alteration of an Imperialist motto was hardly the way to win supporters at Court and gain Anne acceptance as the replacement of a highly-respected Habsburg queen (Ives 142-143).

The Anne Boleyn Cup. This 16th century gilded silver goblet was given to Dr Richard  Masters by Anne Boleyn, and Dr Masters presented it to the church.
The Boleyn cup 1535-36 in St. John the Baptist Church in Cirencester with motto “The Most Happy.”  Elizabeth inherited this beautiful from her mother and in turn gave it to her physician Richard Master who presented it to the church.

Another motto, Semper eadem, [Always the same], was said to be used by Anne (Weir 324). This blogger could not find primary source evidence to support Anne’s use of this maxim. It was a well-known motto adopted by Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth, when she became queen.  This particular motto appears to be associated with the quality of constancy.  Elizabeth’s constancy can be shown in her willingness to maintain a steadfast government during the transition between her reign and her sister’s.  See the blog entry  https://elizregina.com/2013/04/09/reigned-with-your-loves/ for a list of Marian councilors retained by Elizabeth. Perhaps Elizabeth adopted it for simply sentimental reasons to form a link to her mother.  Another view of this motto reveals it to be a pledge that Elizabeth would not change her religious faith (Collinson 1549).

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Coat of Arms of Elizabeth Regina with motto, Semper eadem.

With the childhood fraught with uncertainty and constant change perhaps this motto was a rule in which Elizabeth preferred to live.  It does imply an avoidance of any surprise, uncertainty or disruption.  Could a sovereign associated with such changes that supported exploration, encouraged the Arts and introduced religious reform prefer the status quo?

William Camden deemed Elizabeth’s main care upholding the Protestant faith and her “second care was, to hold an even course in her whole life, and all her actions: whereupon she tooke for her Motto, Semper eadem, that is, Alwayes the same.  The rest of her counsels consisted in these points” (Camden Annales 20). There is some disconnect between this motto and her well-known impulsiveness, indecision and secrecy.

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 Shield and motto of Queen Elizabeth I by Simon de Passe in the NPG Collection

NPG D42191; Queen Elizabeth I by Simon de Passe, after  Isaac Oliver
 Elizabeth I–obverse of shield and motto line engraving in the NPG collection

Elizabeth’s habit of covering her actions and motives was admired by Camden. When explaining her second motto, Camden discussed her methods “Which notwithstanding Queene Elizabeth dissembled and concealed with silence, according to that motto which she used, video et taceo, that is, I see and say nothing” (Camden Annales 307).

“I see and say nothing” has been termed a political motto used by Elizabeth.  With her impressive humanist education, this motto could be of ancient historical significance or it could be a practical methodology employed by Elizabeth.  No sources that this blogger has discovered definitively explain Elizabeth’s selection of this motto.  An examination of them suggests a link to the equation of Elizabeth’s style with Cicero’s, an acquired maxim from Lady Tyrwhitt, a reflection of her moderate religious policy or a connection to Francis Walsingham’s spy network. More recent authors have interpreted that the use of Elizabeth’s mottoes, Video et taceo, and Semper eadem “alludes to an important feature of prudence, which is that it encompasses the knowledge of when to speak and when to keep quiet” (Broad 34).

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The Plimpton “Sieve” Portrait of Elizabeth  I, by George Gower, 1579.  The sieve alludes to the myth of Tuccia, a roman Vestal Virgin who proved her virginity and prudence by carrying water with a sieve.  The coat of arms and the motto in the top right Honi soit qui mal y pense / Semper eadem [Shamed be he who thinks evil of it / Always the same] are the motto of the Order of the Garter and the personal motto of Elizabeth Regina.

What does come to mind to this blogger is the ‘Rainbow’ portrait of Elizabeth with the eyes and ears embroidered on her gown.  The poet John Davies refers to the ears and eyes as how the Queen uses her servants for a sketch he wrote during the Queen’s visit to William Cecil’s house, Theobalds, in 1591.  When asked what use Elizabeth makes of her servants the reply was “She makes the same use of them as the mynde makes of the sences.  Many things she sees and heares through them; but the judgment and election is her owne” (Nichols 77).  Elizabeth clarified her right to rule and have good counsel early in her reign, “I shall desire you all, my lords, (chiefly you the nobility, everyone in his degree and power) to be assistant to me that I, with my ruling, and you with your service, may make a good account to Almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity on earth.  I mean to direct all my actions by good advice and councel” (Marcus 52).  Through further research I discovered this idea of Elizabeth’s relationship with her advisors and her motto was further explored by Mary Thomas Crane.

Elizabeth_I_Rainbow_Portrait
The “Rainbow” portrait attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, 1600-1603.

Professor Crane begins her article “Although one of her mottoes, ‘semper eadem,’ seems to claim a fundamental unity of character, Queen Elizabeth I nevertheless presents us with an array of poses and personae” (Crane 1).  How true.  Students of Elizabeth Regina are familiar with her paradoxically presenting an image of absolute patriarchal power and one of a ‘weak and feeble woman’. How did Elizabeth maneuver within the Privy Council composed of men whose views were the by-products of a time period when authority and advice-giving were the realm of males?  This was an era that considered “Kings were creatures defined by ancient custom; but queens, however loved and admired, were unpredictable” (Loades 318).

The use of the term ‘video’ assures that Elizabeth will listen and evaluate the advice to make up her own mind, as opposed to ‘audio’ that implies she will “accept blindly her advisors’ spoken counsel” (Crane 2).  In an era when women were to remain silent and obedient, ‘taceo’ insinuates that “as queen, she will maintain the silence thought suitable for a woman …” (Crane 2).  The motto encapsulates the fine line Elizabeth struck between asserting her authority and accepting advice from her Council.

She could be silent and allow her statesmen such as Burghley the role of respected advisor and she could be vocal and affirm her authority.  Crane sees Elizabeth’s motto, Video et taceo, as more of the way she uses the political system and her “use of the paradigm of advice-giving reveals a woman who was less completely bound by male structures than some critics have argued” (Crane 2).  Elizabeth “despite her motto, did not always remain silent….  Her skillful use of the humanist rhetoric of authoritative counsel allowed her to break silence and speak the language of authority as a uniquely powerful woman in a man’s world” (Crane 12).

One can suppose she did not believe her own contradiction to her motto when she  teasingly responded to the French Ambassador after he had praised her linguistic skills,  “There is no marvel in a woman learning to speak, but there would be in teaching her to hold her tongue.”

References

Allison, Ronald and Sarah Riddell, editors. The Royal Encyclopedia. London: Macmillian Press, 1991. Print.

“Arms of Tudors; Arms of Henry VIII; Arms of Edward VI.” Victoria and Albert Museum Collections. Victoria and Albert Museum, n.d. Web. 17 June 2013.

Broad, Jacqueline and Karen Green. Virtue, Liberty, and Toleration: Political Ideas of European Women, 1400-1800.  Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2007. Google Books. Web 21 Jun 2013.

Camden, William, Robert Norton, Nicholas Hillard, and Francis Delaram. Annales or the History of the Most Renowned and Victorious Princesse Elizabeth Late Queen of England, Containing All the Important and Remarkable Passages of State, Both at Home and Abroad, during Her Long Ans Prosperous Reigne. Trans. R. N. Gent. 3rd ed. London: Harper, 1635. Google Books. Web. 21 June 2013.

Camden, William. Remaines concerning Brittaine: But Especially England, and the Inhabitants Thereof: Their Languages, Names, Syrnames, Allusions, Anagrammes, Armories, Moneys, Empresses, Apparell, Artillerie, Wise Speeches, Prouerbes, Poesies, Epitaphs. London,: Simon Waterson, 1605. Google Books. Web. 21 June 2013.

Cannon, John and Ralph Griffiths. The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1988. Print.

Collinson, Patrick. Elizabeth I. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Google Books. Web. 16 June 2013.

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