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Glossary - Document 1

Letter from Princess Elizabeth to her sister, Queen Mary I, 16 March 1554

(Catalogue reference: EXT 11/25)

Admiral / Seymour, Thomas

Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, held the post of Lord High Admiral of England from 1547 to 1549. The brother of Jane Seymour and uncle of Edward VI, he strove to gain a share of the power and authority enjoyed by his elder brother, Edward Seymour the Protector. Immediately after the death of Henry VIII in 1547, Thomas sought the hand of the Princess Elizabeth but this was refused. A few months later, he secretly married Henry’s widow Catherine Parr. Following Catherine’s death in childbirth the following year, Thomas again sought to marry Princess Elizabeth. Once more he was refused and Thomas received warnings about his conduct. He was summoned to an interview with the Protector but refused to attend. In January 1549 he was arrested and sent to the Tower. The bill of attainder against him was passed in February, his execution being held on 20 March 1549 on Tower Hill. He was buried within the Tower.

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Elizabeth I

Queen of England 1558-1603. Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. She was born at Greenwich on 7 September 1533. Elizabeth was extremely well-educated and was fluent in six languages. As princess, she became a focus for Protestant opposition during her half-sister Mary's reign and as such was briefly held prisoner in the Tower of London. Elizabeth came to the throne on 17 November 1558. She is said to be one of England's most popular monarchs. Elizabeth never married and died at Richmond Palace on 24 March 1603. She was buried at Westminster Abbey.

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'Frenche kinge'

Henry II, King of France 1547-1559, born 1519. His wife was Catherine de Medici.

'Harkene' (hearken)

To listen.

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Italic hand

The italic style of handwriting was brought to England from Italy c1500. It was instantly recognised for its easy legibility. It was favoured in particular by Cambridge scholars including Roger Ascham, a tutor of Elizabeth I. It existed alongside secretary hand and gradually replaced it.

Mary I

Queen of England 1553-1558. Mary I, a devout Roman Catholic, was the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. She was born at Greenwich Palace on 8 February 1516. She ascended the throne on 19 July 1553, aged 37 years, after the death of her half-brother Edward VI. Mary restored Roman Catholicism to England. She was given the nickname ‘Bloody Mary' for the persecution of Protestants - up to 300 Protestants being burnt in three years. On 25 July 1554, Mary married Philip who became the king of Spain in 1556. The marriage and the persecution of Protestants made Mary unpopular, and her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth became a focus for rebellion. Mary died childless on 17 November 1558 and was succeeded by Elizabeth. Mary was buried at Westminster Abbey.

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A period of intellectual, cultural and economic change in western Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries.

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Seymour, Edward

1st earl of Hertford, 1st duke of Somerset, 1506[?] - 1552. ‘my lorde of Sommerset' Document 1, line 31.

Edward Seymour, the brother of Henry VIII's third wife Jane Seymour and uncle of King Edward VI, was one of the most powerful nobles in the kingdom. He was one of the executors of the will of Henry VIII. Seymour's actions immediately after the death of Henry in 1547 have been described as a "coup d'etat". Henry's death was kept secret for several days, during which time Edward took charge of the new young king, having himself declared Protector of the Realm and Protector of the King's Person. Seymour immediately began to introduce radical Protestant reform in England.

In 1548, Edward's position was threatened by the intrigues of his younger brother Thomas, who was keen to share in Edward Seymour's power. Edward reluctantly assented to the bill of attainder against his brother, who was executed on Tower Hill in March 1549. In October 1549, Edward Seymour was himself sent to the Tower when the tide of political intrigue turned against him. He was deposed from the protectorate in January 1550. Although freed in the following month, Seymour was rearrested in 1551 and was returned to the Tower after further plots against him. He was beheaded on Tower Hill in January 1552. Seymour was buried between Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London.

Tower of London

The Tower of London was begun in the reign of William the Conqueror (1066-1087), with successive monarchs including Henry VII, the grandfather of Mary I and Elizabeth I, making further additions. From the 1530s, the Tower housed many religious and political prisoners including Sir Thomas More and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I's mother, who was accused of treason and executed at the Tower with her brother and others in 1536. Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife, met her end there in 1542, as did Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset in 1552 and Lady Jane Grey, the ‘nine days' queen' in 1554. Elizabeth I was imprisoned in the Tower for three months in 1554.

The Tower of London was also used to store important official records. Large quantities of records were stored in the White Tower - above a store of gunpowder. From the early 17th century visitors could visit the Tower and consult the records for a fee. During the 19th century the records were taken to the new Public Record Office in Chancery Lane in London. These can now be consulted at The National Archives at Kew.

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'Wiat'/Wyatt the Younger, Sir Thomas

1521[?] - 1554. 'the traitor Wiat' document 1, line 45. The son of the English poet, Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, Thomas Wyatt the Younger was said to be of a ‘wild and impulsive temperament' ( Dictionary of National Biography ). In the spring of 1554, he organised an insurrection against Queen Mary. Known as 'Wyatt's Rebellion', this followed the announcement of Queen Mary's plan to marry Philip, the future king of Spain. Wyatt had supposedly received a vague promise of help from the French ambassador and led a force of 4000 men to London. He reached as far as Ludgate before his forces began to desert, a circumstance that forced him to surrender. Wyatt was committed to the Tower of London and sentenced to death for high treason. He was beheaded on 11 April 1554, after having fully exonerated Princess Elizabeth.

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