Blanche Parry

A friend for a famous Queen

As celebrations across Herefordshire mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and with Her Majesty due to visit the county in July, Ruth E. Richardson has been studying a local link with the First Elizabeth. Here she tells the story of Blanche Parry from Bacton and Elizabeth I.

It is extraordinary to discover new information about Queen Elizabeth I, known so well from books, films and television, but that has been my privilege in researching Mistress Blanche and her aunt Blanche Herbert, Lady Troy. Blanche Parry, was with Queen Elizabeth I for 56 years, from her birth until after the Spanish Armada when Blanche died aged 82 years.

Lady Troy brought up the Tudor children, Edward (King Edward VI) and Elizabeth. Described as compassionate and 'full of grace', she was their Lady Mistress, 'the guardian of Henry VIII's household and his children...to King Edward she was a true and wise lady of dignity...' It was due to Lady Troy that the Tudor children, from a dysfunctional family, had a stable and happy childhood. Blanche Parry, born 1507/8, went to Court with her aunt. Her cultured father (he played the harp well) was twice Sheriff of Herefordshire, Steward of Ewyas Lacy and Steward of Dore Abbey. The family were related to the Earls of Pembroke and Blanche was Lord Burghley's cousin.

On Lady Troy's retirement, c.1546, Kate Ashley succeeded her. When she died in 1565 Blanche became Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber, and could control access to the Queen. Her remit included charge of the Queen's jewels, the Great Seal of England, books, furs, money and receiving information for the Queen. Meticulous and respected, her 'long and faithful service' was noted by the poet George Gascoigne who described her as a 'paragon'. Secure circumstantial evidence suggests Blanche facilitated the publication of the Bible in Welsh. About 26 years older than Elizabeth, Blanche's constant attendance meant she knew the secrets of the Court. Her Bacton Epitaph, which she composed, makes it clear that Queen Elizabeth really was a Virgin Queen: 'with maiden Queen a maid did end my life' (modern spelling). Blanche would have omitted this if it had been untrue, primary evidence ignored by those suggesting a consummated affair with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

More is in the limited-edition book, a collectable with beautiful pictures (in innovation–calendar–format) produced to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, 2012. Through the Queen's generosity it includes the gorgeous portrait of Princess Elizabeth, c.1546, in her red–gold dress. The other pictures show: the Rainbow portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, the portrait of Lord Burghley, Hatfield Old Palace, Blanche Parry's St. Margaret's Church (Westminster) tomb, Blanche's Bacton monument, Queen Elizabeth I's Presence Chamber, the frontispiece of the 1588 Welsh Bible, Llangorse Lake + 1584 map, the site of Newcourt + drawing of the house, Bacton Church and Dore Abbey. Details can be seen on blancheparry.com.

Sales benefit Bacton Church where Blanche worshipped as a girl and where her family are buried. Apart from printing, all work has been voluntary. Recently described as 'magnificent', 'gorgeous' and 'unique', it has sold throughout the UK and Europe, and from Alaska to Australia.... Further copies can be obtained from amazon.uk or directly from Ruth E. Richardson.

©Ruth E. Richardson 2012

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