The Tudor Society

17 March – Elizabeth I’s famous Tide Letter

On this day in Tudor history, 17th March 1554, two members of Queen Mary I's council turned up at Whitehall Palace to escort Elizabeth (future Elizabeth I) to prison at the Tower of London. Elizabeth was able to stall things for one day by writing a letter to her half-sister, the queen.

In today's video, I share Elizabeth's famous letter and explain how it prevented the men from taking Elizabeth to the Tower that day.

You can see the letter at

Other videos mentioned:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1473 – Birth of James IV, King of Scots, at Stirling in Scotland. He was the eldest son of James III and Margaret of Denmark, the husband of Margaret Tudor and the father of King James V. James' reign lasted from June 1488 to 9th September 1513 when he was killed at the Battle of Flodden.
  • 1565 - Alexander Ales (Alesius, Aless), theologian and reformer, died in Edinburgh (some sources say Leipzig).
  • 1570 – Death of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, soldier, courtier and landowner, at Hampton Court, aged sixty-three. Herbert was married to Anne Parr, sister of Catherine Parr. Herbert served Henry VIII as an Esquire of the Body, a 'gentleman spear' and a Gentleman of the King's Privy Chamber. When his sister-in-law Catherine Parr became queen, he was even more favoured, was awarded various grants and offices, and was promoted to be Joint Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. He was also named as an executor of the King's will. Herbert was made a Knight of the Garter in Edward VI's reign and won favour with Mary I by helping to put down Wyatt's Rebellion in 1554. He continued to be in favour in Elizabeth's reign.
  • 1612 – Death of Thomas Holland, Calvinist scholar and theologian, at Exeter College, Oxford. He was buried in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, in the chancel. Holland, with six other scholars, helped to translate the prophetic books of the “Old Testament” for the “Authorised Version of the Bible”, and held the positions of Rector of Exeter College and Regius Professor of Divinity.

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  1. R

    I am glad you pointed out that Elizabeth wrote her famous Tide Letter from Whitehall as you often see her writing it from the steps of the Tower, which no matter how dramatic it looks, would be impossible.

    There is one clever thing Elizabeth did after she had finished half way down the second page because she she thought someone may have added untrue words to it, is she ruled lines down the page, right down to a small space at the bottom, before signing off. Although Mary didn’t reply, this letter may have saved Elizabeth’s life as the Council pressed Mary to treat her half sister as a traitor. Mary was in a difficult position because Elizabeth was implicated in a dangerous plot against her life, this was a wise move under the circumstances. I can see where Elizabeth is coming from, if Mary would see her then there is a greater chance of her life being spared. However, it could also be argued that if Elizabeth had have obeyed the Queen back in January, then she would not now be in this predicament. Nonetheless, yes, her hand is beautiful and the letter eloquently put. Whether in luxury or not as she was, because these same apartments had seen the triumph and last days of her mother, Anne Boleyn, it must have been a frightening experience.

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17 March – Elizabeth I’s famous Tide Letter