The Queen, the Princess, and the Impatient Countess

I’m coming up for air after a busy couple of weeks, and haven’t had time to prepare much of substance for the blog, but I thought you might enjoy seeing these two letters written on June 3, 1544, one from the Lady Mary (i.e., the future Mary I), one from Katherine Parr. Both are directed to Anne Seymour, then Countess of Hertford.

At the time the letters were written, Anne’s husband, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, was serving in Scotland. Hertford had been corresponding regularly with his wife and receiving news from his servants about her welfare as well as that of the rest of his family. On April 19, 1544, he wrote in a draft letter to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, “My most hearty thanks for your lordship’s kindly message to my wife in my absence.” In a postscript, he added, “My wife begins to bring my grounds and walks at Sheene to greater perfection than I left them in.” (The earl then added crisply, “Your lordship might show me no little pleasure by ordering the speedy removal of the bricks, slate, &c. of the ‘celles’ which you bought there.”)

Despite keeping herself busy in the garden, however, the countess was evidently impatient for her husband’s return, as the letters from Mary and Katherine Parr show. Mary’s letter reads:

Madame, after my mooste herty comendacons this shalbe to advtise you that I have receyved yor lres [letters] and I hertely thanke you for yor kynde remembaunce and the desire ye have of my healthe I have byn nothing well as yet thes holydayes wherfore I praye you holde me excused that I write not this to you wt my hand. I have delyved yor lres unto the Queues grace who accepted the same very well. And thus, good Madame I byd you mooste hertely well to fare. At Saynt James the iii daye of June.

Your assured frend to my power duryng my lyef


The queen’s letter:

Madam, my lord youre husbandes comyng hyther is not altered, for he schall come home before the Kynges maiestye take hys journey over the sees, as it pleasyth hys maiestye to declare to me of late. You maybe ryght asseuryd I wold not have forgotten my promyse to you in a mater of lesse effect than thys, and so I pray you most hartely to thynke. And thus wt my very harty conïendations to you I ende, wyshiug you so well to fare as I wold myself.

Your asseuryd frend,

Kateryn the Quene, K.P.

As promised by the queen, the countess got her wish about her husband: Hertford returned from Scotland a few weeks later and remained in England until August, when he joined Henry VIII in Boulogne.


Barrett L. Beer, ‘Seymour, Edward, duke of Somerset (c.1500–1552)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2009 [, accessed 23 March 2012]

Historical Manuscripts Commission, Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Honorable the Marquis of Salisbury, K.G., Preserved at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, Part I (1883).

Historical Manuscripts Commission, Report on the Manuscripts of the Most Honourable the Marquess of Bath Preserved at Longleat, Vol. IV (1968).

Janel Mueller, Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondence.  University of Chicago Press, 2011.

3 thoughts on “The Queen, the Princess, and the Impatient Countess”

  1. I can almost hear the voices as portrayed in HBO’s ‘The Tudors’…such a fascinating peek into 400 year old correspondence. I noted with interest(being in Chicago) that the latest reference was published by the U of Chicago press. Am so glad I discovered your blog!

    As I rush to finish final polish on my 2 12thc historical mysteries, I can appreciate the lack of time for frequent posts!

  2. I enjoyed reading these letters and am somewhat surprised that Mary was on such friendly terms w/Eward Seymour’s wife…as he became Protestant under Edward’s rule. And I didn’t know Queen C would have had relations w/her…makes it all seem more of a connected community, which, as I consider, it truly was. Thanks!

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