On this day in Tudor history, 12th February 1590, Blanche Parry, died at the age of 82. She had served Queen Elizabeth I loyally from Elizabeth's birth in 1533,and had been a constant in the queen's life.
Find out more about this interesting lady and how she served her queen in today's talk.
Book recommendations - “Mistress Blanche, Queen Elizabeth I’s Confidante” by Ruth E Richardson and Anna Whitelock’s book “Elizabeth's Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen's Court”.
Bacton Altar Cloth videos:
Also on this day in Tudor history, 12th February 1554, Lady Jane Grey and her husband Lord Guildford Dudley were executed. You can find out more in last year's video:
Also on this day in history:
- 1567 – Death of Sir Thomas White, founder of St John's College, Oxford, and former Lord Mayor of London, at his property in Size Lane, London. He was buried in St John's College Chapel.
- 1584 – Executions of five Catholic priests, including James Fenn. They were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. Fenn was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.
- 1611 – Probable date of death of Sir Henry Lee, Queen's Champion from c.1580 to November 1590. He was buried at Quarrendon in Buckinghamshire.
On this day in Tudor history, 12th February 1590, Blanche Parry, died at the age of 82. She had served Queen Elizabeth I loyally as Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber, Keeper of the Queen Jewels and Furs, and Keeper of the Queen’s Books.
Here are some facts about this woman who was also a mother figure, friend and confidant to the queen:
• Blanche was born in around 1507/1508 and was the daughter of Henry Myles of Bacton, Herefordshire, Sheriff of Herefordshire, and his wife, Alice Milborne. Her family were of the gentry class from the border between England and Wales. Her paternal grandparents were from Glamorgan in Wales, her grandfather being Miles ap Harry, i.e. Miles son of Harry.
• Blanche was related to the Herbert family and the Earls of Pembroke, and William Cecil, Lord Burghley, was her cousin and a good friend.
• In 1533, she was one of baby Princess Elizabeth’s rockers, i.e. a lady who rocked the princess’s cradle. She went on to serve the princess as a lady-in-waiting.
• Her appointment to the princess’s household is thought to have been due to the influence of her maternal aunt, Blanche Herbert, Lady Troy, who was the Lady Mistress in charge of Elizabeth’s household.
• Blanche spoke Welsh and English, and it is thought that she may have taught the young Elizabeth Welsh.
• Blanche Parry was appointed a gentlewoman of the privy chamber when Elizabeth became queen in 1558, and she succeeded Katherine Ashley as Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber after Ashley’s death in 1565. It is not known when she became the queen’s keeper of the jewels, but she served in that position until 1587. She was also in charge of the books presented to the queen.
• Her position in the queen’s household meant that she was intimate with the queen, helping her wash, dress and sleeping with her in her chamber. She also wrote letters on behalf of the queen.
• Blanche’s close relationship with the queen meant that she was often used as an intermediary for those wanting something from the queen, and she certainly was able to help her relatives.
• Blanche never married.
• She lost her sight towards the end of her life, which forced her to pass on the responsibility of looking after the queen’s jewels to another lady, Mary Radcliffe.
• Blanche died on this day in 1590, and was buried in St Margaret's, Westminster, on the evening of 27th February. The queen, whom she had served for 57 years, paid for her funeral and she was given funeral rites which were usually reserved for a baroness. The chief mourner at her funeral was her great-niece, Frances, Lady Burgh.
• She has a marble and alabaster monument in St Margaret’s and the inscription on it reads:
“Hereunder is entombed Blanche Parry, daughter of Henry Parry of New Court in the county of Hereford, Esquier, Gentlewoman of Queen Elizabeth’s most honourable bedchamber and Keeper of her Majesty’s jewels, whom she faithfully served from her Highness’ birth. Beneficial to her kinsfolk and countrymen, charitable to the poor, insomuch that she gave to the poor of Bacton and Newton in Herefordshire seven score bushels of wheat and rye yearly for ever with divers sums of money to Westminster and other places for good uses. She died a maid in the eighty-two years of her age the twelfth of February 1589.”
As she died before Lady Day, 25th March, the start of the new calendar year, in Tudor times, her death is recorded as being in 1589 rather than 1590.
• Blanche also has a stone and alabaster monument in Bacton Church, her home village in Herefordshire, which features the figure of Elizabeth I with Blanche kneeling beside her and holding a book. It bears an inscription of twenty-eight lines of verse, thought to have been written by Blanche herself, recording her long service to her beloved Queen. It includes the line “With maiden queen a maiden did end my life.”
• In her will, which Lord Burghley helped her write, she left her best diamond to the queen along with “a pair of sables garnished with 8 chains of gold”. Her bequests show that she was a wealthy woman at her death.
• The Bacton Altar Cloth which is on display at Hampton Court Palace until 23rd February 2020 is thought to be part of the dress worn by Queen Elizabeth I in the famous Rainbow Portrait and is thought to have been sent to Bacton Church by order of the queen in memory of Blanche.