Three letters by Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset and later Duchess of Suffolk, have been preserved in printed sources. Mary Anne Everett Wood, the nineteenth-century editor of Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain, knew of no others in existence. The letters appear in three separate sources: Samuel Haynes’ A Collection of State Papers Relating to Affairs in the Reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth (volume 1); Patrick Fraser Tytler’s England Under the Reigns of Edward VI and Mary (volume 1); and in Wood, volume 3.
The first two letters are addressed to the recently widowed Thomas Seymour, in whose household Jane Grey had been residing before the death of Seymour’s royal wife, Katherine Parr. Stunned by the death of his wife from what was probably childbed fever, Seymour had decided to send his ward, Jane, back to her parents, but had since regrouped and now wished Jane to continue in his household, where his mother would be living. After Thomas wrote to Jane’s parents and went in person to persuade them, Jane did return to Thomas Seymour’s household, but not for long, for Thomas was arrested for treason in January 1549 and executed on March 20, 1549. (The “lady of Suffolk” Frances refers to in the first letter was her stepmother, Katherine, Duchess of Suffolk.)
The recipient of the third letter, purely personal in nature, was Francis Talbot, the fifth Earl of Shrewsbury, born in 1500. Shrewsbury supported Lady Jane’s accession to the throne three years after the date of the letter here, but probably reluctantly; he quickly declared his allegiance to Queen Mary. Talbot was the son of George Talbot, fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, and Anne Hastings. Through his mother, Francis was the grandson of William Hastings, murdered by the future Richard III on June 13, 1483.
Frances to Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral of England, September 19, 1548:
Although, good Brother, I might be well encoragid to ministre such Counsaile unto you as I have in store, for that yt hath pleased you; not onlye so to take in worthe that I wrytt in my Ladie of Suffolk’s Lettre, but also to require me to have in redines suche good Advises, as I shall thinke convenient against our next metyng; yet considering howe unhable I am to doe that hereto belongithe, I had rather leave with that Praise I have gotten at your Hand, then by seking more, to lose that I have alredie wune. And wheras of a Frindlye and Brotherlie good Wyll you wishe to have Jane my Doughter continuyng still in your House, I give you most hartie Thankes for your gentle Offer, trustyng nevertheles that, for the good Opinion you have in your Sister, you will be content to charge Hir with hir, who promyseth you, not onlye to be redye at all Tymes to accompt for the ordering of your deere Neese, but also to use your Counsaile and Advise in the bestowing of hir; whensoever it shall happen. Wherfor, my good Brother; my request shalbe, that I may have the Oversight of hir with your good Will; and therby I shall have good Occasion to thinke, that you do trust me in such wise; as is convenient that a Syster to be trusted of so loving a Brother. And thus my most hartye Comendations not omytted, I wyshe the holle Delyverans of your Gryefe and Contynuance of your Lordshipes Helthe. From Broadgate 19th of this September.
Tour lowyng Sister and assured Frende,
To the right Honorable and my very good Lorde my Lard Admirall.
Frances to Thomas Seymour, October 2, 1548
Mine own good brother,
I have received your most gentle and loving letter, wherein I do perceive your approved goodwill which you bear unto my daughter Jane, for the which I think myself most bounden to you, for that you are so desirous for to have her continue with you. I trust at our next meeting, which, according to your own appointment, shall be shortly, we shall so communicate together as you shall be satisfied, and I contented; and forasmuch as this messenger does make haste away, that I have but little leisure to write, I shall desire you to take these few lines in good part: and thus wishing your health and quietness as my own, and a short despatch of your business, that I might the sooner see you here, I take my leave of you, my good brother, for this time. From my Lord’s house in Broadgate, the second of October.
Your assured friend and loving sister,
Frances to Francis Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, June 15, 1550.
After my most hearty commendations to you, my very good lord, forasmuch as at this present I have divers of my friends in Shropshire, whom I have cause to gratify with venison this summer, and, debating where I might be best provided for them, have thought good most heartily to desire you to bestow one stag upon me for this purpose, to be taken within your park of Blackmeyr, and to be delivered unto this bringer at such time as he shall farther attend you for the same. Your lordship’s favour wherein to be shewed, the rather at this my request, shall not fail the semblable requital thereof, at any time hereafter when occasion shall require. And thus I bid you right heartily farewell.
From Loughborough, the 15th day of June,
Your lordship’s assured friend,
To my very good lord, my lord the Earl of Shrewsbury.