The Tudor Society

15 December – Elizabeth I’s loyal servant dies of “sheer grief”

On this day in Tudor history, 15th December, 1560, Comptroller of the Household to Elizabeth I and Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, Thomas Parry died. The Spanish ambassador claimed that Parry had died of “sheer grief”. He was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Parry had served Elizabeth since 1547 and was a loyal servant and friend. So why did he die of grief?

Find out more about Thomas Parry, his background, life, and why he was upset in 1560, in today's talk.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 15th December 1558, Cardinal Reginald Pole, Mary I’s Archbishop of Canterbury and her chief advisor, was buried at Canterbury Cathedral. Coincidentally, Cardinal Pole had died the same day as his queen, on 17th November 1558.
Find out a bit more about Cardinal Pole, his background, death and burial, in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:


On this day in Tudor history, 15th December, 1560, Comptroller of the Household to Elizabeth I and Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, Thomas Parry died. The Spanish ambassador claimed that Parry had died of “sheer grief”. He was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Let me tell you a bit more about this Tudor Welshman who spent much of his life in service to Elizabeth…

• Thomas Parry was born in around 1515 and was the son of Sir Henry Vaughan of Tretower, Brecknockshire, in Wales, and his wife, Gwenllian. His grandfather, Sir Thomas Vaughan, had been executed in 1483 on the orders of King Richard III after he’d been apprehended while accompanying young King Edward V from Ludlow to London.
• Thomas Parry’s name comes from “ap Harry” which means “son of Harry”, his father being Henry or Harry Vaughan. He anglicised it to Parry.
• Little is known of Parry until 1536, when he was about 21 and he entered the service of Thomas Cromwell, who employed him to carry out visitations to religious houses during the dissolution of the monasteries. One abbot in Gloucestershire tried to bribe him.
• In 1539/40, Parry married Anne Reade, who’d been widowed twice. Her second husband, Sir Adrian Fortescue, had been recently executed for his opposition to Henry VIII’s religious policies.
• By 1547, Parry had entered the service of Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII by his second wife, Anne Boleyn. He became her cofferer in 1548 and helped Elizabeth manage and add to her assets.
• Parry was interrogated in 1549 following the fall of Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, regarding Seymour’s plans to marry the young Elizabeth and regarding Seymour’s rather inappropriate behaviour with the princess while she was part of his wife Catherine Parr’s household. Katherine Ashley, who also served Elizabeth, and John Harington, one of Seymour’s servants, were interrogated too. Parry told his interrogators that Ashley had informed him that Seymour loved Elizabeth and that Catherine Parr had been jealous of the two of them and “came suddenly upon them, where they were all alone, he having her in his arms) wherefore the Queen fell out, both with the Lord Admiral, and with her Grace also.” When Elizabeth found out that Parry had given information to the Crown, she is said to have called him a “false wretch”.
Seymour was attainted on a number of counts of treason and executed in March 1549.
• Parry was back serving in Elizabeth’s household by September 1549.
• In 1547, 1553 and 1555, Parry was Member of Parliament for Wallingford, and then for Hertfordshire in 1559.
• In 1554, following Elizabeth’s release from the Tower of London into house arrest at Woodstock, after being implicated in Wyatt’s Rebellion, Parry, as her trusted cofferer, stayed at the Bull Inn in the town, rather than with the princess at the palace. By doing this, he was able to not only manage her estates and business properly, but he could also pass messages on for her as he had to receive visits from members of her household and he could keep her up to date on news in England.
• In 1555, when Elizabeth was released from house arrest to her estate at Hatfield, he accompanied her, and when Queen Mary I was dying in 1558 Parry was busy building up a support network for Elizabeth in readiness for her taking the throne.
• In November 1558, just days after Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth I, she made him her comptroller of the household and a member of her privy council. He was also given a knighthood. Elizabeth also made Parry’s stepson, John Fortescue, keeper of the great wardrobe.
• The Spanish ambassador Feria described Parry as “a fat man” and one who, with William Cecil, Elizabeth’s principal secretary at the time, governed the kingdom.
• Parry became Master of the Court of Wards and Liveries in 1558 and in 1559 he was very active in Parliament, being recorded as sending at least 15 bills to the Lords and being a member of at least two committees.
• In February 1559, he was appointed to the committee which was considering a petition from the Commons that the queen should marry. It is thought that he one of the chief advocates for the idea that Elizabeth should marry Robert Dudley. However, his colleague, William Cecil, opposed the idea and Elizabeth did not, of course, marry Dudley.
• In November 1560, an ambassador recorded him being taken ill and being “half-ashamed of his doings for the Lord Robert.”. On 15th December 1560, Thomas Parry died of what the Spanish ambassador recorded as “sheer grief”. His lands were inherited by his son, Thomas, who went on to serve Elizabeth as an ambassador to France, and James I as a privy councillor.
• Parry was buried at Westminster Abbey in St John the Evangelist’s Chapel. The Latin inscription from his original brass memorial was recorded and translated in William Camden’s 1600 guide to the abbey as:
“Here lies Sir Thomas Parry Kt. [Knight], Treasurer of the Household, Master of the Court of Wards and Liveries in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, died 15 December 1560.
When Thomas Parry departed this life, the Court lost in him all that it is possible to lose by the death of one single man. Outstanding for his intellect, a gracious friend to his friends, he was a generous foster-parent of truly laudable enterprises. He held the honour of the Prince to be of the highest importance, and he placed the wishes of the people above his own profit. And so he was knighted and became Treasurer of the Household. He was himself a greater treasure to that Household. I look for the Resurrection.”

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