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Letter, Princess Elizabeth to her sister, Queen Mary I (detail). 16 March 1554. Cat ref: EXT 11/25. By permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Detail from letter

Document 1: A letter dated 16 March 1554 from Elizabeth I, as princess, to her sister Queen Mary I

(Catalogue reference: EXT 11/25)

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About this document

The handwriting is in a style called italicLinks to glossary - opens in a new window, the forerunner of modern handwriting styles. It is easier for us to read than the handwriting used by many of Elizabeth's contemporaries. See, for example, document 3 written 34 years later. The italic style of handwriting was developed in Italy during the RenaissanceLinks to glossary - opens in a new window period. Elizabeth's use of it would have shown how modern and educated she was and would also have ensured that her message to Mary was as clear and easy to read as possible.

At the time of writing this letter, Elizabeth was under house arrest, on suspicion of treason, having been implicated in the abortive rebellion of Thomas WyattLinks to glossary - opens in a new window. Elizabeth claims her innocence, pleading to be allowed to prove herself to Mary and be saved from being sent to the Tower of LondonLinks to glossary - opens in a new window.

Elizabeth was sent to the Tower of London on 18 March 1554. However, soon after, she was fully exonerated by Thomas Wyatt and no further evidence was found. Mary released her from the Tower of London, first to house arrest at Woodstock and then to Elizabeth's own manor at Hatfield.

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