The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen
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A power-hungry and charming courtier. An impressionable and trusting princess. The Tudor court in the wake of Henry VIII’s death had never been more perilous for the young Elizabeth, where rumors had the power to determine her fate
England, late 1547. King Henry VIII Is dead. His fourteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth is living with the king’s widow, Catherine Parr, and her new husband, Thomas Seymour. Seymour is the brother of Henry VIII’s third wife, the late Jane Seymour, who was the mother to the now-ailing boy King.
Ambitious and dangerous, Seymour begins and overt flirtation with Elizabeth that ends with Catherine sending her away. When Catherine dies a year later and Seymour is arrested for treason soon after, a scandal explodes. Alone and in dreadful danger, Elizabeth is threatened by supporters of her half-sister, Mary, who wishes to see England return to Catholicism. She is also closely questioned by the king’s regency council due to her place in the line of succession. Was she still a virgin? Was there a child? Had she promised to marry Seymour?
Under pressure, Elizabeth shows the shrewdness and spirit she would later be famous for. She survives the scandal, but Thomas Seymour is not so lucky. The “Seymour Scandal” led Elizabeth and her advisers to create of the persona of the Virgin Queen.
On hearing of Seymour’s beheading, Elizabeth observed, “This day died a man of much wit, and very little judgment.” His fate remained with her. She would never allow her heart to rule her head again.
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ambassador to visit.35 But it was not Van der Delft who arrived one day in early June, for he was caught up with affairs in London. Instead, a servant dressed in the Lord Admiral’s livery trotted into the stable yard and made his way to the princess. Although Catherine had already thrown off her coarse black mourning clothes for dark silk and stylish French hoods, Thomas’s servant found the princess and her household still sunk in the deepest gloom.36 He passed no fewer than six private messages
poverty, for although a gentleman he had no independent means.12 He came to Cambridge to study under the renowned Ascham, who loved him dearly, calling him his ‘most familiar friend’. Grindal was particularly celebrated for his knowledge of Ancient Greek, but the paucity of his wages at Cambridge had given him ‘neither heart for study nor a sufficiency to live on’.13 The position of royal tutor was, by contrast, a lucrative one, and much sought after, with rewards on top of the salary that could
sought to take advantage. *5 Mary was the daughter of James V of Scotland and grand-daughter of Henry VIII’s elder sister Margaret Tudor. She had inherited the Scottish throne in 1542 on the death of her father when she was less than a week old. The Treaties of Greenwich (1543), agreeing a marriage between the infant Mary and Edward, were repudiated by the Scottish Parliament later that year, and instead Scotland maintained its traditional alliance with France. English attempts to coerce the
more interested in Thomas’s suit than in keeping her thoughts ‘under control through work or holy thoughts and conversations’ as contemporary writers thought proper for a young lady.14 In London, Parry showed Kate’s letter to Thomas the next time he saw him. As he read it, Seymour let show a rare crack in his composure towards the cofferer. As always when he was emotional, his face coloured, and in outrage he demanded to know why he might not come to Elizabeth as well as he did to Princess Mary,
patience, for now I think it shall be assayed.’40 Thomas declared: ‘I think no. I am sure I can have no hurt, if they do me right; they cannot kill me, except they do me wrong: And if they do, I shall die but once; and if they take my life from me, I have a master that will once revenge it.’ Even in extremity, he was boastful. He had no cause to be. During the hours of 17 January, Westminster Palace had been abuzz with talk of the Admiral.41 Sitting down together at last, the Protector and the