December 9, 1539 – Gregory Cromwell Writes to His Wife

Elizabeth Seymour (probably), by Hans Holbein the Younger (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Today’s is a bit of a feel-good post. While Jane Seymour was Queen, Thomas Cromwell managed to create a brilliant familial link to his sovereign – he had his son Gregory Cromwell marry Jane’s sister Elizabeth. While Jane’s death tempered the political benefits of the alliance, it was still a very successful marriage. We can see glimpses of their closeness in this letter that Gregory sent to his wife in December 1539 – while he was off in Calais to welcome Anne of Cleves. Back when this fourth marriage of Henry’s showed incredible promise.

Gregory doesn’t say much, even remarks that she will probably have heard his news before she reads his letter. He really seems to be writing just to make a sweet connection with his “bedfellow”…

Bedfellow,

The day before the making hereof we received the just news of my lady Anne’s repair hither the same being appointed upon Thursday next coming; which thing, although it be now news, yet I fear that lack of expedition in the conveyance of these my letters shall be occasion the same to be old before they shall be of you received, forasmuch as such news are more swiftly set abroad by tongues than writing. It is determined that she shall remain here Friday and Saturday all day, and upon Sunday, wind and weather serving, take her passage into England. After she once entereth the English pale but she and her whole train shall be at the King’s charge. Hitherto she hath been at her own. There are in her company three hundred horses, whereof one hundred rideth before for provision, and two hundred wait upon her. My lord deputy, with all the spears and officers of the town, shall receive her at the English pale; my lord admiral, with all us accompanying him, a little without the town; my lady Lisle, with all the other ladies and gentlewomen, at the town gates.

I am, thanks be to God, in good health, trusting shortly to hear from you like news, as well of yourself as also my little boys, of whose increase and torwardness be you assured I am not a little  desirous to be advertised And thus, not having any other news to write, I bid you most heartily well to fare.

At Calais the 9th of December. Your loving bedfellow,

Gregory Cromwell

 

RESOURCES: Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain, by Mary Anne Everett Wood

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August 3, 1537 – Elizabeth Seymour Marries Gregory Cromwell

"Portrait of an Unknown Woman," said to be Elizabeth Seymour, by Hans Holbein (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

“Portrait of an Unknown Woman,” said to be Elizabeth Seymour, by Hans Holbein (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In March 1537, Jane Seymour’s sister Elizabeth, a widow in a somewhat impoverished state, had written to Thomas Cromwell hoping to be considered for an award of lands from one of the dissolved abbeys. Instead, Cromwell took advantage of the opportunity to propose that she marry his only son and heir, Gregory. For Cromwell, this would be a huge step – he would be related to the King (not directly, more like an uncle-in-law, but the guys was a blacksmith’s son for goodness’ sake!). With Elizabeth’s consent, he worked out the terms with his good friend Edward Seymour and by June everything had been agreed.

Cromwell set his soon-to-be daughter-in-law up at Leeds Castle in Kent pending the wedding. She wrote him the following letter from there, making it clear that she had been well-educated (which is interesting to note since the lack of letters from Jane Seymour suggested to some historians that she might have been illiterate – this would argue against that conclusion). Without further ado, a charming missive from a bride-to-be to her powerful new father-in-law:

To the right honorable and my singular good lord, the Lord Privy Seal:

In most humble wise, as your assured poor beadwoman, I cannot render unto your lordship the manifold thanks that I have cause, not only for your great pain taken to devise for my surety and health but also for your liberal token to me, sent by your servant master Worsley; and farther, which doth comfort me most in the world that I find your lordship is contented with me, and that you will be my good lord and father: the which, I trust, never to deserve other but rather to give cause for the continuance of the same. Pleaseth it your lordship, because I would make unto you some direct answer, I have bene so bold to be thus long ere I have written unto you. And where it hath pleased your lordship as well to put me in choice of your own house as others, I most humbly thank you; and to eschew all sayings, I am very loth to change the place where I now am, and where my brother my lord’s house shall remove, the which, if such need e, shall be at one Ambrose Wellose, a quarter of a mile from your lordship’s place, as master Worsely can inform your lordship more plainly thereof. And where it hath pleased your lordship to give me leave, and also commandeth me, if I want, to send to you, and that I may be bold to open my heart, I ensure your lordship my heart hath been a great time in such trust; and now this letter from you, with that I find in it, doth me more pleasure than any earthly good for my trust is now only in you, and if I have any need I shall obey your lordship’s commandment herein. And thus I shall daily pray unto God for the preservation of your lordship most prosperously in health to continue. Amen.

Prayeth your humble daughter-in-law,

Elizabeth Ughtred

A quick note: we have letters from many great Tudor ladies in which they refer to themselves as “beadwomen,” often at the same time as they refer to themselves as friends and servants. While I cannot find a firm reference, the context suggests that the “beads” refer to the rosary so that they were assuring their recipients that they were praying for them. If anyone has any information about this, I’d love it if you’d share in the comments below!

SOURCES:

Letters: Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain Vol. II, by Mary Anne Everett Wood – Chiefly from the originals in the State Paper Office, The Tower of London, The British Museum and other State Archives (Volume 2)

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