Honor Grenville Basset, Viscountess Lisle, had two daughters that she was desperate to see placed at court. The truth was, every viscountess probably had daughters she was desperate to see placed at court – but Lady Lisle’s experience is fully documented because she was trying to do it all from a distance. Her husband was Lord Deputy of Calais – and so all of their letters have been treated as state papers and assembled as their own collection.
Lady Lisle began her place-the-daughters campaign when Anne Boleyn was queen – and to butter her up, sent her a caged bird and even a small dog, Pourquoi, who Anne adored. Unfortunately, Anne had no open places so the bribes didn’t work. Lady Lisle fared better with Jane – sent her quail when she was pregnant and craving them. In gratitude, Jane agreed to take one daughter (whichever was the more “sober and discreet”) and place the other with the Duchess of Suffolk (you can read the story in more detail here). And so Lady Lisle sent Anne and Catherine Basset off to England, where they were met by the Countess of Sussex (Lady Lisle’s niece) before being sent on to their assignments. It started off great: Anne was sworn to Jane’s service in September 1537 (I wrote a blog post about it here)…but then Jane died. Meanwhile, the Duchess of Suffolk didn’t take Catherine, and neither did Mary or Elizabeth. So the Countess was stuck with both Basset girls. And made it known that she was not happy about the situation.
So Lady Lisle had little choice but to push back and insist… and reiterate her intention to cover any expenses. Hence this somewhat defensive (and perfectly wonderful) letter…. Though I did mess with it more than I usually do because it would have been too hard to really “get” otherwise. I have included a link to the actual letter at the end if you want to plow through!
After my hearty recommendations to my good lord and you, this is to advertise you that I have received your letter, perceiving thereby your sorrow for the death of the Queen’s grace, whose soul God pardon; ensuring you the same is as much to me and other. Yet Her Grace was fortunate to live the day to bring forth such a prince; for the which we and all the King’s loyal subjects may rejoice and give thanks to God, praying daily for His Grace’s increase and prosperity.
And further, by the same [letter] I perceive my good lord and you have taken my daughter Anne you’re your household, until such time as she may come to have a place again; which, God willing, will happen soon and your good suit will help. If not, I would be sorry I sent my daughters so soon. Nevertheless, madam, if even your help will not see her placed, then I shall not fail to send for her and to recompense your charges. For I did not send my daughters to put you or any of my kin or friends to charge, but only to have them placed with the Queen. And where you write, as you have done often, that you would have taken Catherine but for your great charge of kin and other gentlewomen, madam, I must tell you that it was never my mind nor intent, I being of your kin, to put you to any charge. Indeed, if I were in England, you could send three or four to me and I would have been as glad to accept them and to do for them as mine own.
And whosoever have mine shall also be at no charge with them. I heartily pray you to prefer Anne if you may, when God shall send time, because she was sworn to the late Queen. If that were not, I would desire you to prefer the one as well as the other. And where it hath pleased my lord of Rutland and my good lady to take Catherine for a time, thanks to your suit, I thank them and you thereof, trusting that they be no loser therein. And for that your ladyship hath been at charges with them both, as well by gifts as otherwise, I trust shortly to recompense part thereof, with my most hearty thanks.
I am very glad to hear of your great belly, beseeching God to make you a joyous mother; and as shortly as I can I will send you your own [this refers to an ermine arras and other apparatus for the christening of a child that Lady Lisle had borrowed earlier in the year from lady Sussex]. I tarry in this only to have some good wine for my lord and you, which I trust you shall have three weeks before Christmas at the farthest. And thus I rest for this time, praying our Lord God to send my lord and you long lives, with increase of honor.
From Calais, the 14th day of November, by her that is now heavy that I have put you or other to trouble with mine.
Honor Lisle.Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies, Volume 2
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