This is a great letter, the earliest of Elizabeth’s letters that have come down to us, written to Katherine Parr while Henry was off on his ill-conceived military campaign in France (risking men and wasting money to rekindle the glory he remembered from his youth). It is hard to believe Elizabeth was only ten years old when she wrote this, though it reminds us how graceful and mature she was (indeed, how mature children were expected to be back then…).
It is interesting that Elizabeth refers to her “exile” form court – some commentators have taken this to mean that she was out of favor for a time and banished, though others (including the editors of her Collected Works) believe that since she anticipates a speedy reunion, this is unlikely. I fall into this latter camp. Henry was terrified of sickness and insisted that people stay away from court until they were fully recovered from anything that ailed them, so I believe something like this is what prompted Elizabeth to use the term. Judge for yourself….
Inimical Fortune, envious of all good, she who revolves things human, has deprived me for a whole year of your most illustrious presence, and still not being content with that, has robbed me once again of the same good – which would be intolerable to me if I did not think to enjoy it soon. And in this my exile I know surely that your highness’ clemency has had as much care and solicitude for my health as the king’s majesty would have had. For which I am not only bound to serve you but also to revere you with daughterly love, since I understand that your most illustrious highness has not forgotten me every time that you have written to the king’s majesty, which would have been for me to do. However, heretofore I have not dared to write to him, for which at present I humbly entreat your most excellent highness that in writing to his majesty you will deign to recommend me to him, entreating ever his sweet benediction and likewise entreating the Lord God to send him best success in gaining victory over his enemies so that your highness and I together with you, may rejoice the sooner at his happy return. I entreat nothing else from God but that he may preserve your most illustrious highness, to whose grace, humbly kissing your hands, I offer and commend myself.
From Saint James on the thirty-first of July.
Your most obedient daughter and most faithful servant, Elizabeth.
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