A LETTER TO QUEEN MARY FROM HER SITER ELIZABETH
(16 Mar 1554)
This letter is remarkable for many reasons; it was written when Elizabeth was arrested and sent to the Tower of London for alleged complicity in the Wyatt rebellion. Unlike her other letters, her excellent penmanship is lacking - she was under enormous stress and her handwriting became increasingly scrawled and frantic. Also, she addressed Mary in familiar terms - "you" and "your" - and her language is often combative. This angered Mary; she was Queen and felt Elizabeth was not showing her the proper respect. At the bottom of the letter, Elizabeth was careful to draw several lines across the page - she did not want anyone to forge an addition.
If any ever did try this old saying, that a king's word was more than another man's oath, I most humbly beseech your Majesty to verify it to me, and to remember your last promise and my last demand, that I be not condemned without answer and due proof, which it seems that I now am; for without cause proved, I am by your council from you commanded to go to the Tower, a place more wanted for a false traitor than a true subject, which though I know I desire it not, yet in the face of all this realm it appears proved. I pray to God I may die the shamefulest death that any ever died, if I may mean any such thing; and to this present hour I protest before God (Who shall judge my truth, whatsoever malice shall devise), that I never practiced, counseled, nor consented to anything that might be prejudicial to your person anyway, or dangerous to the state by any means. And therefore I humbly beseech your Majesty to let me answer afore yourself, and not suffer me to trust to your Councilors, yea, and that afore I go to the Tower, if it be possible; if not, before I be further condemned. Howbeit, I trust assuredly your Highness will give me leave to do it afore I go, that thus shamefully I may not be cried out on, as I now shall be; yea, and that without cause. Let conscience move your Highness to pardon this my boldness, which innocency procures me to do, together with hope of your natural kindness, which I trust will not see me cast away without dessert, which what it is I would desire not more of God but that you truly knew, but which thing I think and believe you shall never by report know, unless by yourself you hear. I have heard of many in my time cast away for want of coming to the presence of their Prince; and in late days I heard my Lord of Somerset say that if his brother had been suffered to speak with him he had never suffered; but persuasions were made to him so great that he was brought in belief that he could not live safely if the Admiral lived, and that made him give consent to his death. Though these persons are not to be compared to your Majesty, yet I pray to God the like evil persuasions persuade not one sister against the other, and all for that they have heard false report, and the truth not known. Therefore, once again, kneeling with humbleness of heart, because I am not suffered to bow the knees of my body, I humbly crave to speak with your Highness, which I would not be so bold as to desire if I knew not myself most clear, as I know myself most true. And as for the traitor Wyatt, he might peradventure write me a letter, but on my faith I never received any from him. And as for the copy of the letter sent to the French King, I pray God confound me eternally if ever I sent him word, message, token, or letter, by any means, and to the is truth I will stand in till my death.
Your Highness's most faithful subject, that hath been from the beginning, and will be to my end,
I humbly crave but only one word of answer from yourself.
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