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Princess Elizabeth Writing That She Is Pregnant



The following is a reinterpretation of the circa June 1548 letter that Princes Elizabeth sent to Dowager Queen Katerine (Catherine) Parr.[1] This letter has been dated to the period shortly after Elizabeth left, or was sent away from, Catherine’s household at Chelsea to live in the household of Sir Anthony Denny at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, who was a close friend and political ally of Catherines. Denny was also married to the sister of Elizabeth’s governess, Kate Ashley.


In light of the circa June 1548 date assigned to the letter, which was shortly after she had been caught in Thomas Seymour’s arms by Catherine Parr and had leave for Cheshunt, the tone of the letter has baffled some historians because Elizabeth makes no apology for her past behavior. A subsequent letter from Elizabeth to Catherine, dated to July 31, 1548, could even be characterized as curiously light-hearted.[2]


The circa June 1548 letter reads:



Although I coulde not be plentiful in giving thankes for the manifold kindenis received

at your hithnis hande at my departure, yet I am some thinge to be borne with al, for

truly I was replete with sorowe to departe frome your highnnis, especially leaving you

undoubtful of helthe, and albeit I answered litel I wayed [weighed] it more dipper when you

sayd you wolde warne me of al evelles that you shulde hire of me, for if your grace

had not a good opinion of me you wolde not have offered friendship to me that

way, that al men iuge [judge] the contrarye, but what may I more say than thanke God for pro-

vidinge suche frendes to me, desiringe God to enriche me with ther [their] longe life, and

me grace to be in hart no les thankeful to receyve it, than I nowe am glad in wri-

tinge to shewe it. And although I have plentye of matter, hire I wil staye for I

knowe you ar not quiet to rede . Frome Cheston this present saterday.[3]



(Original spelling.)


Examining the facsimile image of Elizabeth’s letter, in her own hand, on the website of the National Archives,[4] in light of the content of the messages presented in elsewhere on this blog, a speculative hypothesis can be proposed, based on the following suppositions, to reinterpret Elizbeth’s circa June 1548 letter:


1. After Elizabeth’s amorous entanglement with Thomas Seymour, perhaps Catherine and Elizabeth suspected that Elizabeth was pregnant, but Elizabeth was not certain of this because she had not reached the point in a possible pregnancy to be certain.


2. Despite what had occurred between Elizabeth and her husband, Catherine cared about Elizabeth and wanted to protect her (if Elizabeth was in fact pregnant, the pregnancy would also constitute a danger to both of them, and to Thomas Seymour), so Catherine sent Elizabeth to Cheshunt under the care of close personal allies. She tells Elizabeth to write to her, in an agreed upon veiled manner, or perhaps in secret letter-writing style employed for sensitive personal correspondence, when Elizabeth is certain whether she is pregnant. (Possibly, both Catherine and Elizabeth were happy about the prospect of Elizabeth being pregnant.)


3. Once safely ensconced at Cheshunt, Elizabeth becomes certain that she is pregnant, so she writes to Catherine in the manner previously agreed upon. The following is a speculative re-interpretation of the letter (with explanatory comments):



Reinterpretation:


Although I could not be plentiful in giving thanks for the manifold kindnesses received

at your highness’ at my departure, yet I am some thing to be borne with al,[5] for

truly I was replete with sorrow to depart from your highness, especially leaving you

undoubtful of health,[6] and albeit I answered little I weighed it more deeper when you

said you would warn me of al evils that you should hear of me,[7] for if your grace

had not a good opinion of me you would not have offered friendship to me that

way, that all men judge the contrary,[8] but what may I more say than thank God for pro-

viding such friends to me, desiring God to enrich me with their long life,[9] and

me grace to be in heart no less thankful to receive it, than I now am glad in wri-

ting to show it.[10] And although I have plenty of matter, hire I will stay for I

know you are not quiet to rede.[11] From Cheston this present Saturday. [1] Princess Elizabeth to Dowager Queen Katherine, (c.June 1548 (SP10/2 f.84c)), The National Archives, https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/elizabeth-monarchy/princess-elizabeth-to-dowager-queen-katherine/ [accessed 12 Jun. 2020.] [2] Mumby, Frank Arthur. “The girlhood of Queen Elizabeth, a narrative in contemporary letters.” London: Constable, 1909, https://archive.org/details/girlhoodofqueene00mumb/‌page/37/mode/1up, p. 37. [accessed 12 Jun. 2020.] [3] Princess Elizabeth to Dowager Queen Katherine, (c.June 1548), https:// ‌www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/elizabeth-monarchy/princess-elizabeth-to-dowager-queen-katherine/. (At old-spelling transcript). [4] Princess Elizabeth to Dowager Queen Katherine, (c.June 1548 (SP10/2 f.84c)), The National Archives, https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/elizabeth-monarchy/princess-elizabeth-to-dowager-queen-katherine/ [accessed 12 Jun. 2020.] [5]I am some thing to be born with…”: Interpretation: I am pregnant; I am going to give birth to a child. [6] “[F]or truly I [am]…undoubtful of health…”: Interpretation: I am certain I am pregnant. Note that the letter “I” in the letter (see image) is the only ornate letter “I” in the letter and that it is positioned directly above the words “undoubtful of health.” The lower flourish of this ornate letter “I” looks like a reversed ampersand symbol (&), which is interpreted as meaning “include the words directly below this letter “I” to reach the true meaning” — I am certain I am pregnant. Furthermore, the words “undoubtful of heath” have always been problematic because they do not make sense in the context of Catherine’s health. Catherine’s health was not undoubtful, she was having a difficult pregnancy — her health was quite doubtful. [7] “[Y]ou said you would warn me of any evils that you should hear of me…” Interpretation: Elizabeth is, herself, sending Catherine an “evil” report. That her giving the news of her pregnancy to Catherine poses a danger or “evil” to both of them in that Elizabeth’s pregnancy would cause such an uproar that it would imperil both women and Thomas Seymour. The wording is also a clever way for Elizabeth to call on Catherine’s offer of advice and assistance with concealing her pregnancy. [8] “[F]or if your grace had not a good opinion of me you would not have offered friendship to me that way, that al men judge the contrary…” Interpretation: Here Elizabeth is essentially saying, “Because I know you love me, and are my friend, you promised to ensure that ‘all men judge the contrary’ about my pregnancy.” In other words, Elizabeth is saying that Catherine, out of her love for Elizabeth, said that she would help to hide Elizabeth’s pregnancy so no one would know or suspect anything about it. [9] “[B]ut what may I more say than thank God for providing such friends to me, desiring God to enrich me with their long life…” Interpretation: This is the most significant part of the letter and requires careful attention. The key element in these lines is insertion mark just above the word “with” in the phrase “God to enrich me with.” This insertion mark indicates that an insertion is to be made just to the right of the words “more say,” so that the word “than” can be inserted in the line, “but what may I more say (than) thank God….”). By transposing the words “more say” into “say more,” the name “Seymour” can be created. (“Say more” sounds like the name “Seymour,” and it is also found in the solution to the riddle on page 11 of The Tempest, shown elsewhere on this blog.) Thus, with the insertion mark and the name “Seymour,” a text at this point can be read: “God to enrich me with [a] ‘Seymour’ [baby].” Furthermore, the line “desiring God to enrich me with their long life” can be read: “[D]esiring God to enrich me with [my friends’ and my baby’s] long life.” [10] “[A]nd me grace to be in heart no less thankful to receive it, than I now am glad in writing to show it.” Interpretation: Here Elizabeth says, essentially, “God give me grace to be in heart no less thankful to receive [my baby], than I now am glad in writing to show [i.e., tell you about] it.” The word show has a double meaning here because Elizabeth is starting to “show.” [11] “And although I have plenty of matter, hire I will stay for I know you are not quiet to rede.” Interpretation: Here Elizabeth says that although she has more things she would like to write, she is going to stop writing because she knows that Catherine is “not quiet to read.” Elizabeth is alluding to the fact that Catherine was probably shouting for joy at hearing the news that Elizabeth was pregnant. The words “here I will stay” also alludes to the fact that Elizabeth will be “staying” in seclusion at Cheshunt.

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