Honor Thy Father:
After being proposed to by Thomas Seymour and rejecting his request, Elizabeth must have felt torn. It appears she would have accepted the proposal had it not been so soon after her father, Henry VIII’s death. There was, of course, a required mourning period and Elizabeth intended on honoring her father properly.
On the other-hand, Elizabeth’s step-mother, Katherine Parr didn’t appear to worry about honoring her late husband the way any queen consort was expected to. Less than six months after the death of the king, Katherine had married without consent of the Council.
While reading this letter that Elizabeth wrote to her sister Mary, I wonder if Elizabeth is more upset that her dear step-mother married the man that she wished to marry but could not since she was still in mourning. My impression of Elizabeth during this time is that she indeed had a crush on Seymour but understand her duty as the daughter of the late king – she needed to be in mourning, just as Katherine Parr should have been. Elizabeth followed the rules while Katherine Parr followed her heart.
Letter dated 1547 – would have been sometime after May of that year:
Princess, and very dear sister,
You are very right in saying, in your most acceptable letters, which you have done me the honour of writing to me, that, our interests being common, the just grief we feel in seeing the ashes, or rather the scarcely cold body of the king, our father, so shamefully dishonoured by the queen, our step-mother, ought to be common to us also. I cannot express to you my dear princess, how much affliction I suffered when I was first informed of this marriage, and no other comfort can I find than that of the necessity of submitting ourselves to the decrees of Heaven; since neither you nor I, dearest sister, are in such a condition as to offer any obstacle thereto, without running heavy risk of making our own lot much worse than it is; at least, so I think. We have to deal with too powerful a party, who have got all authority into their hands, while we, deprived of power, cut a very poor figure at court. I think, then that the best course we can take is that of dissimulation, that the mortification may fall upon those who commit the fault. For we may rest assured that the memory of the king, our father, being so glorious in itself, cannot be subject to those stains which can only defile the person who have wrought them. Let us console ourselves by making the best of what we cannot remedy. If our silence do us no honour, at least it will not draw down upon us disasters as our lamentations might induce.
These are my sentiments, which the little reason I have dictates, and which guides my respectful reply to your agreeable letter. With regard to the returning of visits, I do not see that you, who are the elder are obliged to this; but the position in which I stand obliges me to take other measures; the queen having shown me so great affection, and done me so many kind offices, that I must use much tact in maneuvering with her, for fear of appearing ungrateful for her benefits. I shall not, however, be in any hurry to visit her, lest I should be charged with approving what I ought to censure.
However, I shall always pay much deference to your instructions and commands, in all which you shall think convenient or serviceable to your highness’ sister.
Elizabeth Tudor: Artist – Unknown; Formerly attributed to William Scrots (fl. 1537–1554)
Thomas Seymour: Artist – Nicholas Denizot; National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Mary Tudor: Artist – Master John; © National Portrait Gallery, London; NPG 428
Katherine Parr: Artist – Unknown; The Melton Constable or Hastings portrait of Queen Katherine
“Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain, from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary”; by [Green], Mary Anne Everett (Wood), Mrs., 1818-1895, [from old catalog] ed; Published 1846 (Volume III)