Queen Elizabeth I's
A Difficult Childhood
Lady Elizabeth with her family
After the disgrace and execution of her mother, Elizabeth's life was never to be quite the same again. She was probably far too young to be greatly effected by her mother's sudden extinction, but her lifestyle changed considerably. The marriage of her father to her mother was annulled, and she was made a royal bastard. Later, she was stripped of her title of Princess, as her sister had previously been, to become simply, the Lady Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a very bright child, and this change in her name did not escape her. She exclaimed "how haps it governor, yesterday my Lady Princess, today but my Lady Elizabeth?" Within days of Anne's death, Henry had married again, this time to Jane Seymour, a young woman who had been a maid of honour to Anne, just as Anne had been a maid of honour to Catherine. Although Elizabeth still had her own household, her governess found that the young child's needs were being neglected, and she felt obliged to write to the king asking him to ensure that Elizabeth was provided with all the clothes she needed, as the ones she had were too small.
Jane Seymour died a few days after giving birth to Henry's longed for son, Prince Edward. The King was devastated at her loss and gave her a royal burial at the Chapel of St. George in Windsor Castle. Like Elizabeth, Edward too had to grow up motherless, and from an early age, the two children formed a close bond. Although Elizabeth was getting along well with her half sister, Mary, the sisters were never close. They were of different religions, Elizabeth a Protestant, Mary a Catholic; of very different ages, Mary being seventeen years older; of different family connections, and they had very different personalities. Edward and Elizabeth, however, were closer in age, of the same religion, and both shared a passion for learning. They were both given a very impressive education.
From an early age they were taught Latin, Greek, Spanish, French, as well as all the other requirements of a classical humanist education; history philosophy, mathematics. When Elizabeth was four years old, Lady Bryan was replaced as governess by a young woman called Katherine Champernowne. Katherine was a sweet, motherly, well educated lady, who came to love her young charge dearly. She became an important figure in Elizabeth's life, to all extent and purposes her mother figure, and Elizabeth affectionately came to call her "Kat". She later married Elizabeth's cousin, John Ashley (or Asteley), which tied her even closer to the young royal. As well as Kat Ashley, Elizabeth's immediate household also included a Welsh woman named Blanche Parry, and Thomas Parry (possibly Blanche's brother). Blanche remained a close friend and confident of the Queen throughout her long life, and was given an elaborate tomb by Elizabeth when she died in the late 1580's. Blanche also taught Elizabeth some of her native Welsh language. Elizabeth was a gifted student and her talent was appreciated by those who had the privilege to teach her. Roger Asham, a well known scholar of the day responsible for tutoring other talented students, regarded Elizabeth as his brightest star. Besides reading and writing, Elizabeth also spent her time learning to play musical instruments, which she came to do with a degree of proficiency, and also learnt needlework and art.