I’ve written about Lady Lisle before, about all the efforts she exerted to get her daughters placed at court: sending thoughtful presents to Anne Boleyn and then Jane Seymour (read that one here), and then trying to get them new places after Jane died (read that one here). She also sent presents to a lot of other women as well, many of whose names are rarely cited – for example, she sent coral beads to Jane, Lady Rigley. We know about these because she was doing this from a distance– and her letters were saved with the state papers because her husband was Lord Deputy of Calais. So we have this wonderful view of how a Tudor woman who was a bit of an outsider (if only because of geography) was able to leverage every contact she could to maintain her place in society.
But what gets lost is that people were doing the same thing to HER, looking for places in her household and offering up help and presents to get them. This is one of those letters that offers this other side. It’s from a woman named Felicia Hertford and try as I might I could not find another reference to who she was. No entries in Letters and Papers, none in the National Archives (I was hoping for a will!), or Kathy Lynn Emerson’s wonderful Who’s Who of Tudor Women (the site is an amazing resource from a great writer, by the way).
Whoever she was, Felicia wrote a great letter. Lady Lisle had been sick (I believe in connection with the birth of a child that did not survive) and this was an offer to help her through whatever it was….
Right honorable and my singular good lady,
I humbly commend (me) unto your ladyship, beseeching Almighty God to preserve you as much good life, long life, and honor, as your most noble and gentle heart can desire.
Madam, I have many thanks to give you for the manifold goodness that I have found in your good ladyship when I was your poor neighbor, lying at the Blackfriars in London; for that it did please you of your goodness to have me often in your most honorable company, the which goodness of you hath bound me to bear you my faithful heart and service, that is in my little power, and to be at your ladyship’s commandment.
Furthermore, I advertise your ladyship that I do hear say in what case your ladyship is in concerning the estate of your body, which I know your ladyship is not so much in comfort as you hoped in God to have been. Madam, I trust your great virtue will put all heaviness from your heart; and, though it hath thus chanced, your ladyship is not the first, but many more before you; and I myself have been in such case as your ladyship is now, and was so two years and more, with many great pains and torments; and yet I thank God I am as whole and as well in my body as any woman is. If I were with your ladyship, I assure you that I could advertise your ladyship farther in this thing than many other women, and what remedy I had for it. Wherefore I beseech your ladyship to be of good comfort, and, by my faith, if I wist that my coming to your ladyship might do you any pleasure, I will be at your ladyship’s commandment, if it please your ladyship to send for me, and to send my husband a letter. I know well he will give me leave to wait upon your ladyship.
And thus, Madam, I remain all yours, praying to Almighty (God) to have you in his keeping.
From London, the 19th day of December,
By your assured and faithful woman, Felicia Hertford
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please update us if you do find the mysterious Felicia.