As the daughter of George Brooke, 9th Baron of Cobham and Anne Bray, Elizabeth grew up familiar with court politics. Being born on 25 June 1526, during the reign of Henry VIII, she would have been around ten years old at the time of Anne Boleyn’s execution in 1536. Being at an impressionable age this should have been a great example to Elizabeth of what not to do as a woman at Tudor court, or one would think. Maybe she didn’t understand what was going on at the time.
It is believed that in 1543, that Elizabeth was at the court of Henry VIII – this was at the time when Katherine Parr was queen consort. It was the queen’s brother, William Parr, Marquis of Northampton that made the most impact on Elizabeth and they fell in love. The only problem was that William was still married. Even though he had repudiated his wife for adultery years earlier, he was married nonetheless, and that was obviously a road block for Elizabeth. Parr’s first wife, Anne Bourchier had reportedly eloped with her lover and then had a child that Parr was unsure was his. This was when they became estranged.
In 1547, Elizabeth privately married William Parr and they began living together. When those in power discovered this (Edward Seymour, Lord Protector) they were ordered to separate. Elizabeth was sent to live with the dowager queen, Katherine Parr who was at that point married to Thomas Seymour. Elizabeth stayed with the couple until April 1548 when her marriage to William was declared valid.
When the Edward Seymour was ousted in place of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, Elizabeth appeared to thrive at court:
Elisabeth dazzled as the marchioness of Northampton, hosting parties, charming ambassadors and being the light of the court. Still only around twenty-five, Elisabeth had reason to be very happy indeed. She had obtained a very high rank, and she was now an influential woman at court, the friend of the regent and the aunt of the King. As Northumberland’s wife had little interest in leading the court festivities, it was Elisabeth who performed the duties that usually went to a queen – and she performed them admirably.¹
Elizabeth appears to have been involved in the matchmaking which brought together the marriage of Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley – Elizabeth was friends with Frances Brandon and Jane Guildford. Some have stated that they believe that Elizabeth accompanied Jane to the Tower of London to await her coronation. A place she would never leave until her execution in 1554.
Things began to turn sour for Elizabeth when Northumberland was defeated. Her husband, William Parr, Marquis of Northampton was arrested, tried and eventually sentenced to death for his part in placing Lady Jane Grey on the throne after the accession of Mary I. He lost all his titles and land He was eventually pardoned but the damage had already been done – he had also lost Elizabeth by the repeal Act of 1552².
Elizabeth was forced to borrow money to survive. It is assumed that we moved back in with her mother or brother William.
When William Parr was released from the Tower for a second time in 1554, Elizabeth was reunited with him. It was noted that the two were godparents to Elizabeth Cavendish and that is how we know when they reunited because she was born in 1555. Unfortunately, the coupled remained rather destitute throughout the reign of Queen Mary I and didn’t come out of the darkness until after Elizabeth Tudor became Queen of England.
In 1559, Queen Elizabeth restored Parr as Marquis of Northampton and Elizabeth became one her closest lady friends. They were so close that when Elizabeth, Lady Northampton became ill the queen came to her side and spent the day with her.
In 1564, Elizabeth Parr developed breast cancer – she hoped to find a cure and even traveled to Antwerp in hopes of finding one. Unfortunately, they did not. Elizabeth died on the 2nd of April 1565 at the age of 39 and Queen Elizabeth was devastated and paid for her friend’s funeral.
¹ Wikipedia Page for Elisabeth Parr
² Emerson, Kate; Index to A Who’s Who of Tudor Women – Elizabeth Brooke
Emerson, Kate; Index to A Who’s Who of Tudor Women
James, Susan; Kateryn Parr: The Making of a Queen