Friday, July 29, 2011

Moving House

Since I turned in my completed manuscript on Thursday, the duchesses have released me from bondage to blog again. I've decided, however, to move my blog over to WordPress. I like Blogger, but WordPress offers some features that Blogger doesn't. So hereafter, I'll be blogging at this address. I've already got a new post up.

You'll note that my new blog has a new title: History Refreshed with Susan Higginbotham. I thought "Medieval Woman" was too limiting now that I'm writing about the Tudors as well.

Because my first few blog posts didn't transfer over to WordPress, and since it will probably take a while for people to start following me at the new blog, I won't delete this blog.

Hope to see you over at the new address!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Blogging Hiatus: A Bulletin From the Duchesses

We, the Duchesses of Suffolk and Northumberland, wish to inform the gracious readers of this blog that until Susan Higginbotham delivers a completed manuscript about us to her publisher on or about August 1, 2011, she will not be posting on this blog.

(Even if it's something really interesting? Susan asks forlornly.)

(Nay, say the duchesses.)

So there you have it. Don't blame Mistress Higginbotham, please. Blame us.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Historical Novel Society--San Diego 2011

I'm back from the Historical Novel Society's fourth North American conference, held in San Diego this weekend. As promised, here's my recap, with the caveat that there was a choice of panel discussions offered and I can only report on the ones which I attended. (Sadly, I didn't take notes, as I was too busy enjoying the discussions, so I'm writing here from memory--if there's anything I got wrong, let me know.)

Friday night kicked off with a dinner banquet, with Harry Turtledove as the keynote speaker. Turtledove is primarily an author of alternative history, which isn't a genre I prefer, but I found him to be an engaging and lively speaker. I definitely plan on looking into his "straight" historical novels someday.

Since I've been pondering trying to write a young adult novel at some point, the first panel I attended Saturday morning was "Adult Versus Young Adult Fiction," moderated by Gina Iorio, a librarian, with Susan Coventry, C. C. Humphreys, Pamela Bauer Mueller, and Dori Jones Yang as the panelists. The impression I took away from the panel is that the only hard-and-fast rule about young adult fiction is that the protagonist has to be in his or her teens; otherwise, the fast-growing genre offers a lot of room for play and has a growing appeal for adult readers as well.

Next was "Making Characters Believable," moderated by Jess Wells and featuring Gillian Bagwell, Christy English, Tony Hays, and Kathryn Johnson. I found it interesting to see how a variety of authors accomplished this challenging task.

One of the hot-button topics in the historical fiction community has been the perception that in order to attract readers (and publishers), historical novels require "marquee names"--the Anne Boleyns and Eleanor of Aquitaines of the world, as opposed to lesser-known historical characters and ordinary folk. Mary Sharratt moderated the panel, which included Susanne Dunlap, C. W. Gortner, Vanitha Sankaran, and Margaret George, some who have chosen the famous for their protagonists, some of whom have not. This panel attracted a lot of audience questions. The consensus appeared to be that while there is a preference for marquee names, the well-written novel about lesser folk can find a home, provided that it tells a compelling story.

The lunch speaker was agent Jennifer Weltz, who stayed around to moderate an editor's panel on "Selling Historical Fiction" with Deni Dietz (Five Star), Shana Drehs (my own editor from Sourcebooks), Heather Lazare (Crown), and Charles Spicer from St. Martin's. I didn't stick around for the entire panel, as I had to primp for my own panel discussion, but there was a very interesting discussion on the e-book phenomenon.

Next up was "Whose Side Are You On? Turning the Antagonists of History into Sympathetic Protagonists," moderated by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon and featuring Emma Campion (writing about Alice Perrers), C. W. Gortner (writing about Catherine de Medici), Anne Easter Smith (writing about Richard III), and your friendly blogger (writing about Margaret of Anjou). We talked about how we went about portraying in a sympathetic light those who have been traditionally cast as history's villains.

Our keynote speaker at dinner was Cecelia Holland, who gave a very short and very successful speech on the role of the historical novelist, proving that one doesn't need to give a long talk to captivate an audience! The dinner was followed by a fashion show, spanning ancient times through the nineteenth century and emceed very entertainingly by Valerie Sokol. I was one of the participants, so I can't offer pictures, but I suspect a few will be appearing on the web over the next few days.

A hit of the last conference was the "Saturday Night Sex Scene" readings, which were repeated (with new scenes, of course) for this conference. I confess that I missed these, however, since at that time jet lag was beginning to tell on me and my hotel room was looking awfully good. (There were also "Friday Night Fight Scenes" for the pugilistically inclined.)

On Sunday, editor jay Dixon, novelist Sarah Mallory, and librarian Barbara Sedlock offered a program on "Library Research." Sedlock gave us a brief rundown on ways to find repositories of primary source materials on line, complete with a nifty handout, which I'll be utilizing soon. Mallory reminded us that while research is essential for the historical novel, the author needs to avoid the trap of turning the finished product into an "information dump." Dixon gave us cautionary tales of the novelist who doesn't do enough research, and also offered some helpful reminders on British versus American usage and a cheat sheet for addressing the nobility.

The last session I attended was "Writing Biographical Fiction: How Much Fiction, How Much Fact?" moderated by Frederick Ramsay and featuring Margaret George, Cecelia Holland, Joyce Elson Moore, and Susan Vreeland as panelists. I have to say that this was my favorite panel of the conference, and I really regret not being able to recap what was said. The panelists offered a variety of opinions on such topics as to how one should treat pastimes that might offend modern sensibilities, such as bear-baiting, and the moderator asked good questions and drew out each of the authors (none of whom were showboaters). (Another reason I liked this panel was because every person on it was wearing spectacles. Glasses rule!)

One of the best aspects of the conference, however, was what took place before, after, and in-between discussions--getting to mingle with readers, bloggers, and fellow authors. I seldom get a chance to do this in person, so it was a real boon for me. I would mention some of the people I met, but I have a terrible head for names and faces, and I'm afraid I'd leave someone out. If I met you, it was a delight!*

I also enjoyed San Diego itself, though I didn't get to venture out much except for during a few hours on Friday afternoon. My hotel room had a fine view of the Santa Fe train depot, and there are few things I find more soothing than the sound of train whistles blowing in the night.

Looking forward to the HNS North American Conference for 2013!

*Unless you're the man who, when I mentioned at breakfast that I had thought I had seen you on a certain website, you responded, "Oh, I've been on lots of sites!" and shoved a multi-page handout about your prize-winning books in my face and told me to read it, without bothering to ask me anything about my own self or whether I was interested in seeing said handout. When you scooted off seconds later to speak to someone who was evidently of more use to you, there's a reason I let someone else have your seat next to me. You lost a potential reader that morning, dude, and you're not getting her back until you use the manners your mother taught you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Go West, Medieval Woman, Go West

On Friday at dawn, I'll be heading out to San Diego for the Historical Novel Society conference this weekend. This is my first time in attendance, as various things prevented me from going to the last several conferences, so I'm really looking forward to it! Some of my favorite writers and/or bloggers will be there, so I will have to be an extrovert for the weekend and meet and mingle!

I'll be a panelist on Whose Side Are You On? moderated by Elizabeth Keri Mahon. My co-panelists are C. W. Gortner, Anne Easter Smith, and Emma Campion, so I'm in good company! We'll be discussing what inspired us to write about historical figures who have traditionally got bad press, such as Margaret of Anjou in my case.

In addition to the panel, I'm also participating in a group book-signing and taking to the runway at the historical costume pageant on Saturday night.

I've figured out how to tweet from my cell phone, so I'll try to pass along Twitter updates as I attend the various presentations. I'll be blogging about my weekend once I return, as I know others will too, so it will be interesting to compare experiences.

See you on Monday!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Other Jane Seymour: A Follow-Up Letter

In my last post, I mentioned that after the execution of their father, Jane Seymour and three of her sisters came to live with their aunt Elizabeth, Lady Cromwell. As the following letter to William Cecil indicates, Lady Cromwell wasn't entirely happy about having four young girls (the oldest of the four, Margaret, was twelve) thrust into her care:

After the due manner of my most hearty commendations unto you, good Master Cecil, I dare not think any unkindness that my lady, your bed-fellow, and you did not, according to your promise, see the poor house of Launde. I ensure you it would have been greatly to my comfort, and I most heartily pray you, when you come into these our parts again, to take my poor house as your own, where you shall be so heartily welcome as my heart can think to the nearest friend I have in the world.

Your great gentleness, many ways shewed towards me, emboldeneth me to trouble you with these my letters, whereby it may please you to understand that, where it pleased the king's majesty and his most honourable council to will me to take into my tuition my four nieces, I thought it my duty, and the rather being moved by your friendly advice declared unto me by your gentle letters, to satisfy the council's honourable requests and not to refuse them; although, if I should have declared unto my said honourable lords at that time what charge and other cares I, being now a lone woman, am troubled with, I doubt not but it would have pleased them, of their honours, to have accepted in good part my reasonable cause to have refused them. Wherefore, considering with myself the weighty burden and care which nature bindeth me to be mindful of, as well for the bestowing of my own children, as also for such poor family as my late lord and husband hath left me unprovided for, enforceth me to require your help and advice, that hereafter, about Christmas next, or shortly after then, by your good means, my said honourable lords of the council may understand that, when my said nieces have accomplished a full year with me, then my trust is that they shall be otherwhere provided for and bestowed than with me: trusting that there be places enough where they may be, better than with me; and, as I do perceive by them many ways, much more to their own contentations and pleasings. And even as I was bold to write unto the king's highness' most honourable council, that I, being a lone woman, not nigh any of my kinsfolk, whereby I the rather am destitute of friendly advice and counsel, how to use myself in the rule of such company as now I am careful of, so now I am likewise bold to declare the same unto you, being not at any time either instructed by you or any other of my said honourable lords, how to use my said nieces; considering that I have, in some cases, thought good that my said nieces should not all wholly be their own guides, but rather willing them to follow mine advice, which they have not taken in such good part as my good meaning was, nor according to my expectation in them.

Trusting, therefore, so much in your worship, that you will so tender my aforesaid desire, as the same may so come to pass that my request herein may be satisfied in convenient time, and without any displeasure towards me for my good meaning. And thus I beseech the living God to send you continual health and much increase of honour. From Launde, the 25th of October, 1552.

Yours always assured to her power,

Elizabeth Cromwell.

To the Right Honourable Sir William Cecil, Knight, one of the king's highness' privy council,
Give these.

Though Lady Cromwell may strike us as rather coldhearted, it can't have been easy, suddenly having four bereaved young girls dropped into her household. Nor could the girls have been the most congenial of houseguests: their father was dead, their mother was a prisoner, and they had been torn away from the luxurious existence they had known as the daughters of the very wealthy Duke of Somerset. Moreover, Lady Cromwell herself was a widow; her husband had died in 1551, leaving her with five children of her own to support. Now instead of five young people in the house, she had nine.

Lady Cromwell's letter must have produced at least some of the desired effect: on November 1, 1552, the council, which had originally granted her 50 pounds per annum for each girl, increased this sum to 100 marks per girl. Whether this made relations between Lady Cromwell and her nieces more amicable is unknown, but in August 1553, Mary I released the Duchess of Somerset from the Tower, after which she presumably reclaimed custody of her children. Lady Cromwell herself ceased to be a "lone woman" in the spring of 1554: she married John Paulet, Marquess of Winchester.


John Strype, ed. Ecclesiastical Memorials, relating chiefly to Religion and the Reformation of it, and the emergencies of the Church of England under King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, and Queen Mary. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1822.

Mary Anne Everett Wood, ed. Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies. London: Henry Colburn, 1846.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Other Lady Jane

Tudor England possessed not one but two Lady Janes who were noted for their learning, whose parents aspired to marry them to the king, and who died tragically young. The first Lady Jane needs no introduction; the second probably will: Lady Jane Seymour.

Jane Seymour, niece to Henry VIII's queen by the same name, was born in 1541 to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford (later Duke of Somerset) and his wife, Anne Stanhope. She was the third of the couple's six daughters.

Like their contemporary Jane Grey, Jane Seymour and her sisters received an excellent humanist education. In a letter that Mary Anne Everett Wood dates to 1548, seven-year-old Jane and her eight-year-old sister Margaret wrote to their cousin Edward VI, who would turn 11 in October 1548:

It cannot be expressed, O! king most serene, with what hope and joy that literary gift which we have received from your highness has overflowed our spirit, and what a sharp spur we find it to be, in order to embrace those things and to cleave with all labour and sedulousness to those studies wherein we know your highness to take so much delight, and to be so deeply learned; wherein we also, whom your serene highness wishes to see best instructed, hope to make some advancement. And these present tokens of your singular good-will, which no power of words can do justice to, show plainly how many thanks are due from us, more than many others to your majesty; should we attempt any act or expression of thanks, your deserts, always proceeding more and more in perpetual vicissitude, would not only seem to press upon us but would certainly oppress us: especially as we have nothing, nay, we ourselves are nothing, which we do not justly owe to your highness. Wherefore, while forced to fly to your clemency, we yet doubt not that a prince of such heavenly kindness, who has loaded us with so many and so great benefits, will also add this one, that he will not think that those things are bestowed upon ungrateful persons, which belong to a grateful spirit. Whereof these letters, which are wont to be substitutes for the absent, will be but a faint proof; while we pray for all happiness to your highness, with a long continuance thereof.

The most devoted servants to your majesty,

Margaret Seymour,
Jane Seymour.

Jane's parents encouraged the girls to correspond with religious reformers, as did the parents of Jane Grey. On June 12, 1549--a few months before her father, who had been named Protector for Edward VI, was imprisoned in the Tower for the first time--the eight-year-old Jane Seymour wrote this letter to Martin Bucer and Paul Faguis, who were living in exile in England and had taken up posts at Cambridge:

I have perused your letter, most reverend fathers, which has not only pleased, but highly delighted me. For I easily perceived therein your singular good-will towards me, a grace and eloquence equal to that of Cicero, together with a most abiding remembrance of me, which, as it is in most persons of very rare occurrence, I cannot sufficiently admire in you. But when I consider in what way I can recompense the sincerity of your friendship, I plainly perceive that this is quite out of my power; and that I can only offer you, as I shall do as long as I live, my warmest acknowledgments. I dare not presume to write to you how very acceptable were the books that you presented to my sister and myself, for fear lest my ineloquent commendation of them may appear impertinent. From your exceeding praise of the addresses of myself and my sister, which we might more truly be said to babble than to recite before you, I perceive your incomparable benevolence and friendship, abounding in such kind exaggeration respecting us. For neither my sister nor myself assume to ourselves a single atom of this commendation, nor have we any right to do so. My mother, thank God, is in good health: she desires her best respects to you both, and also thanks you for your salutations to her grace. Farewell, both of you, and may your life long be preserved! Dated at Sion, June 12, 1549.

Your attached well wisher,


Jane and her sisters were tutored by John Crane, as well as by Nicholas Denisot, a French humanist and poet. It was through the latter's efforts that Jane and her older sisters, Anne and Margaret, became published authors in 1550. Their book, published in Paris, was The Hecatodistichon, a collection of 104 Latin distichs commemorating the recently deceased Marguerite de Navarre. The following year, another edition, Le Tombeau de Marguerite de Valois, was published with translations from the Latin into French, Greek, and Italian. It was not until the twentieth century that the sisters' efforts were translated into English, first by Brenda Hosington and second by Patricia Demers. Demers' translation of the first three distichs appears below:

1. Ann. This holy urn covers the ashes of the queen of Navarre, an urn covering a great body with mean earth.
2. Margaret. Here the queen, the nurturing Margaret, who excels any woman of either a greater name or piety, lies dead.
3. Jane. Nurturing Margaret lies dead, but in body only; neither was she dor- mant in mind earlier, while she lived, nor does she only lie dead now.

The sisters' literary efforts attracted praise from the French poet Pierre de Ronsard, who wrote odes in the girls' honor, and from Nicholas Grimald, who composed five poems in honor of the sisters. The verses addressed to Jane, edited by Steve Spanoudis, can be found here and read in part:

"The worthy feates that now so much set forth your noble name,
So have inure, they still increast, may more encrease your fame."

Grimald also praised young Jane's linguistic abilities, crediting her with knowledge of Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish.

The publication of The Hecatodistichon had coincided with an upswing in the Seymour family fortunes: the girls' father, the Duke of Somerset, had been released from the Tower and restored to the king's council, though not to his position as Protector. In October 1551, however, Jane Seymour's life took a tragic turn. Her father was once again arrested and sent to the Tower; this time, Jane's mother was imprisoned as well. Among the accusations against Somerset was that he was attempting to persuade Edward VI to marry his daughter Jane. Jehan Scheyfve, the Spanish ambassador, reported that Somerset had admitted as much: "This point he seems partly to have confessed, saying that history showed that the Kings of England had usually married in the country, and that he would have done nothing without the Council's consent."

Jane, however, was not destined to be a king's consort but a felon's daughter. On January 22, 1552, the Duke of Somerset, having been convicted of felony, was beheaded on Tower Hill. Because Jane's mother remained a prisoner in the Tower, Jane and three of her sisters, Margaret, Mary, and Catherine, were sent to live with their aunt Elizabeth Cromwell, a widowed sister of Somerset. The king provided four hundred marks per year for the girls' maintenance. (Elizabeth Cromwell was well situated to sympathize with her nieces' plight; her husband, Gregory Cromwell, was the son of Henry VIII's chief minister Thomas Cromwell, whose own career had ended on the scaffold.)

Following Mary I's successful fight for her throne, Jane's mother was released from the Tower. Jane's own fortunes improved: she went to court as one of the queen's maids. There she became friendly with another teenage maid of honor: Katherine Grey, the younger sister of the executed Jane Grey. There was an obvious basis for friendship: not only were the young women close in age and well educated, they had both suffered through the executions of their fathers and the blighting of their own prospects.

One day at court, Jane Seymour fell ill and was sent to her mother at Hanworth to recover. Katherine Grey accompanied her. There, Katherine caught the eye of Jane's brother Edward, Earl of Hertford (a title he had lost after his father's execution but would regain in Elizabeth's reign).

Jane then assumed the role that she is most famous for: that of go-between in the ill-fated romance of Hertford and Katherine. The couple carried their courtship from Mary's court into Elizabeth's. Although Katherine's mother, Frances, Duchess of Suffolk, approved of the couple's relationship and drafted a letter to Elizabeth pleading for her to allow them to marry, Frances died before the letter could be sent. As Hertford's own mother was opposed to the match, Hertford and Katherine were left with Jane Seymour and her servant Glynne, who carried tokens and messages for the lovers, as their sole allies. Finally, in Jane's presence, the couple agreed to marry the next time Elizabeth should go on an outing and leave the young women behind.

The three young people were taking an enormous risk. Katherine stood so close to the throne that her marriage was a matter of state. Youthful passion could explain Katherine and Hertford's actions, but what motivated Jane--affection for her brother and her friend, a romantic nature, a love of intrigue, or something else--is unknown. Perhaps after a childhood spent as a model pupil, followed by the downfall and death of her father, she had become reckless.

In November or December 1560, the couple finally had their chance to marry when Elizabeth went on a hunting trip, leaving her maids behind. Jane and Katherine slipped off the next morning to Hertford's house at Cannon Row, after which Jane hastened to find a priest to perform the marriage. Jane was the only witness to the marriage. Afterward, she gave ten pounds to the priest--the name of whom neither Hertford or Katherine knew--and dutifully offered the newlyweds "comfects and other banqueting meats." The couple, however, preferred to consummate their marriage immediately, after which Katherine and Jane returned to court.

Over the next few months, Hertford and Katherine continued to meet secretly, sometimes with the help of Jane, who went with Katherine several times to Cannon Row. The inevitable soon occurred: Katherine became pregnant.

Jane could be of no help to her, for on March 19, 1561, at age nineteen, she died at court. It has been suggested that she had been ailing for some time, but her death at court, instead of at her mother's home, suggests to me that her illness was a sudden one. Unaware of the intrigue in which her maid had been involved, Elizabeth gave Jane a grand funeral:

The sam day of Marche [March 25, 1461] at after-none at Westmynster [was brought] from the quen('s) armere my lade Jane Semer, with [all the quire] of the abbay, with ijC. of (the) quen('s) cowrt, the wyche she was [one] of the quen('s) mayd(s) and in grett faver, and a iiiixx morners of [men and] women, of lordes and lades, and gentylmen and gentyllwomen, all in blake, be-syd odur of the quen('s) preve chambur, and she [had] a grett baner of armes bornne, and master Clarenshux was the harold, and master Skameler the nuw byshope of Peterborow dyd pryche. [She was] bered in the sam chapell wher my lade of Suffoke [Frances, Katherine Grey's mother] was.

Later, Hertford erected a memorial table to his loyal sister Jane at Westminster Abbey:

The Noble Lady Jane Seymour, Daughter to the renowned Prince Edward, Duke of Somerset, Earl of Hertford, Viscount Beauchamp, Baron Seymour, and to the Right Noble Lady Anne Dutchess of Somerset, his Wife, departed this Life in her Virginity at the age of nineteen Years, the nineteenth of March, Anno 1560 [1561], in the second Year of the most happy reign of Queen Elizabeth, and was honourably buried in the floor of this Chappel: to whose Memory, Edward Earl of Hertford and Baron Beauchamp, her dear Brother, hath caused this Monument to be made.

Katherine at last revealed her secret marriage several months after Jane's death. Both Katherine and Hertford were imprisoned in the Tower, where Katherine gave birth to the couple's first son; afterward, the lieutenant allowed the couple to visit privately, resulting in the conception of a second son. Katherine died in 1568, having spent her last years in the custody of various individuals. Hertford was luckier: having likewise been entrusted to the keeping of various people, he was finally released in 1571 and eventually remarried.

Tragic as her death at age nineteen was, Jane Seymour at least was spared the disillusionment of seeing the marriage she had done so much to promote turn out so sadly. She also avoided the consequences of Elizabeth's wrath, which surely would have fallen on her as go-between as well. Instead, she received one last poetic tribute, this one by Walter Haddon, a lawyer who also composed Latin verses. Translated by George Ballard, it reads:

On the Death of Lady Jane Somerset.

For genius fam'd, for beauty lov'd:
Jane bade the world admire:

Her voice harmonious Notes improv'd,
Her hand the tunefull Lyre.

Venus and Pallas claim'd this Maid,
Each as her right alone,

But Death superiour pow'r display'd
And seiz'd her as his own.

Her Virgin dust this mournfull Tomb,
In kindred Earth contains,

Her Soul which Fate can ne'er consume
In endless Glory reigns.


George Ballard, Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain Who Have Been Celebrated for Their Writings or Skill in the Learned Languages, Arts, and Sciences. Oxford: W. Jackson, 1752 (on Google Books).

Patricia Demers, "The Seymour Sisters: Elegizing Female Attachment." The Sixteenth Century Journal, Summer 1999.

Susan Doran, ‘Seymour, Edward, first earl of Hertford (1539?–1621)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2010 [, accessed 4 June 2011]

Susan Doran, ‘Seymour [Grey], Katherine, countess of Hertford (1540?–1568)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 4 June 2011]

Harleian MS 6286

John Gough Nichols, ed., The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London, from A.D. 1550 to A.D. 1563. London: The Camden Society, 1848.

Hastings Robinson, Original Letters Relative to the English Reformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1846 and 1847.

Jane Stevenson, ‘Seymour, Lady Jane (1541–1561)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 4 June 2011]

Mary Anne Everett Wood, ed. Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies. London: Henry Colburn, 1846.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Letters of Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset

Three letters by Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset and later Duchess of Suffolk, have been preserved in printed sources. Mary Anne Everett Wood, the nineteenth-century editor of Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain, knew of no others in existence. The letters appear in three separate sources: Samuel Haynes' A Collection of State Papers Relating to Affairs in the Reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth (volume 1); Patrick Fraser Tytler's England Under the Reigns of Edward VI and Mary (volume 1); and in Wood, volume 3.

The first two letters are addressed to the recently widowed Thomas Seymour, in whose household Jane Grey had been residing before the death of Seymour's royal wife, Katherine Parr. Stunned by the death of his wife from what was probably childbed fever, Seymour had decided to send his ward, Jane, back to her parents, but had since regrouped and now wished Jane to continue in his household, where his mother would be living. After Thomas wrote to Jane's parents and went in person to persuade them, Jane did return to Thomas Seymour's household, but not for long, for Thomas was arrested for treason in January 1549 and executed on March 20, 1549. (The "lady of Suffolk" Frances refers to in the first letter was her stepmother, Katherine, Duchess of Suffolk.)

The recipient of the third letter, purely personal in nature, was Francis Talbot, the fifth Earl of Shrewsbury, born in 1500. Shrewsbury supported Lady Jane's accession to the throne three years after the date of the letter here, but probably reluctantly; he quickly declared his allegiance to Queen Mary. Talbot was the son of George Talbot, fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, and Anne Hastings. Through his mother, Francis was the grandson of William Hastings, murdered by the future Richard III on June 13, 1483.


Frances to Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral of England, September 19, 1548:

Although, good Brother, I might be well encoragid to ministre such Counsaile unto you as I have in store, for that yt hath pleased you; not onlye so to take in worthe that I wrytt in my Ladie of Suffolk's Lettre, but also to require me to have in redines suche good Advises, as I shall thinke convenient against our next metyng; yet considering howe unhable I am to doe that hereto belongithe, I had rather leave with that Praise I have gotten at your Hand, then by seking more, to lose that I have alredie wune. And wheras of a Frindlye and Brotherlie good Wyll you wishe to have Jane my Doughter continuyng still in your House, I give you most hartie Thankes for your gentle Offer, trustyng nevertheles that, for the good Opinion you have in your Sister, you will be content to charge Hir with hir, who promyseth you, not onlye to be redye at all Tymes to accompt for the ordering of your deere Neese, but also to use your Counsaile and Advise in the bestowing of hir; whensoever it shall happen. Wherfor, my good Brother; my request shalbe, that I may have the Oversight of hir with your good Will; and therby I shall have good Occasion to thinke, that you do trust me in such wise; as is convenient that a Syster to be trusted of so loving a Brother. And thus my most hartye Comendations not omytted, I wyshe the holle Delyverans of your Gryefe and Contynuance of your Lordshipes Helthe. From Broadgate 19th of this September.

Tour lowyng Sister and assured Frende,

Francys Dorsset

To the right Honorable and my very good Lorde my Lard Admirall.


Frances to Thomas Seymour, October 2, 1548

Mine own good brother,

I have received your most gentle and loving letter, wherein I do perceive your approved goodwill which you bear unto my daughter Jane, for the which I think myself most bounden to you, for that you are so desirous for to have her continue with you. I trust at our next meeting, which, according to your own appointment, shall be shortly, we shall so communicate together as you shall be satisfied, and I contented; and forasmuch as this messenger does make haste away, that I have but little leisure to write, I shall desire you to take these few lines in good part: and thus wishing your health and quietness as my own, and a short despatch of your business, that I might the sooner see you here, I take my leave of you, my good brother, for this time. From my Lord's house in Broadgate, the second of October.

Your assured friend and loving sister,

Frances Dorset.


Frances to Francis Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, June 15, 1550.

After my most hearty commendations to you, my very good lord, forasmuch as at this present I have divers of my friends in Shropshire, whom I have cause to gratify with venison this summer, and, debating where I might be best provided for them, have thought good most heartily to desire you to bestow one stag upon me for this purpose, to be taken within your park of Blackmeyr, and to be delivered unto this bringer at such time as he shall farther attend you for the same. Your lordship's favour wherein to be shewed, the rather at this my request, shall not fail the semblable requital thereof, at any time hereafter when occasion shall require. And thus I bid you right heartily farewell.

From Loughborough, the 15th day of June,

Your lordship's assured friend,

Frances Dorset.

To my very good lord, my lord the Earl of Shrewsbury.