Sunday, April 26, 2009

Question from ? - Elizabeth's friends

Who were Elizabeth's closest female friends?


  1. Elizabeth had several close female friends. There have been a few attempts to rank the women in order of the intensity of their friendship with the queen, but they seem to stand on uncertain historical ground.

    The friendships for which we do have archival sources include:
    Katherine Carey Howard, lady Effingham, countess of Nottingham whose death the month before Elizabeth's deeply affected the queen. Some historians have attributed Elizabeth's death to the grief she felt at Katherine's death. Katherine was a maid of the court attending the coronation in January 1559. She served the entire length of the reign. (less the 1 month)

    Anne Russell Dudley, countess of Warwick was a close friend. She was the 3rd wife of Ambrose Dudley, Robert Dudley's elder brother.They married in 1565. Her niece Anne Clifford wrote that she was 'more beloved and in greater favour with the queen than any other woman in the kingdom'. I expect this sentence is colored by familial affection.

    Katherine Carey Knollys was a very close friend but died in 1569. As a sign of favor, and perhaps a bit of penance as Elizabeth had refused Sir Francis Knollys permission to leave off guarding Mary Queen of Scots to return to his wife's sick bed, Elizabeth took a maternal role in the raising of Katherine's youngest children including Anne Knollys who later married Thomas West baron de la Warre.

    Of course there was also Kat Astley and Blanche Parry who served Elizabeth before she came to the throne. Kat's relationship with the queen survived a bit of prison time for her involvement in promoting a marriage between the queen and Eric of Sweden. Blanche was also a good friend of John Dee who consulted with Elizabeth on the most propitious date for her coronation.

    Mary Dudley Sidney, Robert Dudley's sister who married Henry Sidney, was a close friend, nursing the queen through her bought of smallpox only to become disfigured by the disease herself.

    Dorothy Stafford who married her cousin William Stafford (2nd husband of Mary Boleyn Carey). The Stafford's were Marian exiles.When she returned to England she joined the queen's chamber staff and was a frequent sleeping companion of Elizabeth's. Dorothy Stafford was considered 'old nobility' because her mother was Ursula Pole.

    Dorothy Stafford's cousin, Elizabeth Sandys joined her in exile although she served Elizabeth before and after this sojourn on the continent. I don't believe either returned in time for the coronation.

    Other candidates would be:
    Lady Mary Shelton Scudamore, another Boleyn cousin, despite suffering blows from Elizabeth when her secret marriage to Sir John Scudamore was discovered.

    Frances Newton Brooke, Lady Cobham, at the coronation and served (mostly) till her death in 1592.

    Helena Snakenborg who married William Parr, marques of Northampton. She served Princess Cecilia of Sweden but stayed in England after Cecilia left.

    William Parr's previous wife, Elizabeth Brooke Parr who may have also been consigned to the care of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour (don't have a firm source on this)

    Elizabeth Fitzgerald Browne Fienes de Clinton countess of Lincoln also had her day in Elizabeth's sun. She served without wages. The 'Fair Geraldine'.

    Philadelphia Carey Scrope, a Boleyn cousin who served from at least 1580 (aged 17) through Elizabeth's death. The queen was her godmother and she probably was at court earlier. She also grew up some at Berwick-upon-Tweed where her father, Henry Carey, was in charge. She also served Anne of Denmark.

    Elizabeth Knollys Leighton, who the queen kept at court even though her husband wanted her to join him on Guernsey where he was governor.

    and so many more....

  2. kb, I had a question concerning William Stafford, relict of Mary Boleyn. You note that he married his cousin Dorothy Stafford (it appears to be a fairly distant cousinage) as his second wife -- how closely did he identify himself with the ruined Buckingham Staffords? Could there be any evidence that the reason Henry reacted so badly to Mary Boleyn's second marriage was his long-standing animus against the Staffords? Perhaps he felt that Buckingham's children would use the connexion as an opportunity to aggrandize themselves again -- and Anne, aware of his attitude and perhaps as a Howard and a Tudor equally wary of a resurgent Stafford family, embraced his hostility to a certain degree.

    Most sources seem to identify Stafford as a nobody, and Henry and Anne's attitude the result of Mary Boleyn "throwing herself away" on that nobody (although he was first cousin to Catherine Parr's second husband Latimer, according to -- and his marriage to cousin Dorothy, granddaughter of the Duke, is estimated "after 1543," perhaps when Catherine Parr was in the ascendant). But I'm curious as to whether the main Stafford clan recognized him as one of their own during the long years in the wilderness after Buckingham's execution.

  3. foose -
    I don't know. I've wondered about the Stafford issue for a while but have not had time to research it. our thesis is definitely worth further investigation. It is entirely possible that the historiographical treatment of Mary and Stafford's marriage veers radically from what happened...I just don't know.

  4. Thanks for that. I've heard a lot about her male friends but she obviously had a lot of close female friends too.


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