August 15 – A woman who suffered Elizabeth I’s wrath

On this day in history, 15th August 1603, the burial of Lady Mary Scudamore (née Shelton) took place at Holme Lacy in Herefordshire.

Mary served as a member of Elizabeth I’s privy chamber and was one of Elizabeth’s favourite sleeping companions.

Mary was very close to the queen but this also saw her suffer the queen’s wrath at one point.

Let me explain…


On this day in history, 15th August 1603, just under five months after the death of Queen Elizabeth I and accession of King James I, Lady Mary Scudamore (née Shelton), a member of Elizabeth I’s Privy Chamber and one of her favourite sleeping companions, was buried at Holme Lacy in Herefordshire.

Mary was in her early fifties when she died, having been born c.1550/1551 to Sir John Shelton of Shelton Hall, Norfolk, and Margaret Parker. Mary was second cousin to Queen Elizabeth I. Mary’s paternal grandmother was Lady Anne Shelton (née Boleyn), sister of Thomas Boleyn, Elizabeth’s maternal grandfather, and in 1568, Mary went on to serve her relative the queen as a gentlewoman of the queen’s privy chamber. In 1571, she was promoted to Chamberer.

At court, she met Sir John Scudamore, a widower with 5 children and a Catholic. He was close to Sir James Croft, Comptroller of the Household, having been his ward in his youth, and Croft helped him to rise at court and become a gentleman usher to the queen. Mary and John asked Croft to find out if the queen would approve of their marriage match and when it was made clear that she would not, they were married secretly by a Catholic priest in 1574.

The queen was furious at their deception. In a letter written to Elizabeth I, Mary, Queen of Scots mentioned a story she’d heard concerning Elizabeth’s reaction to news of the Scudamores’ marriage. She wrote of Lady Talbot refusing to be in service to the queen
“because she should be in fear, that when you was in wrath, you would do to her as you did to her cousin Skedmur, one of whose fingers you broke, and made those of the court believe that it was broken by a chandelier falling down from above.”

Mary Queen of Scots also accused Elizabeth of attacking another lady who was waiting on her at table, saying that Elizabeth “gave her a great blow with a knife upon the hand.”

Another letter, written by Eleanor Bridges, one of the queen’s maids of honour, stated “The Queen has used Mary Shelton very ill for her marriage. ‘She hath telt liberall bothe with bloes and yevell wordes, and hath not yet graunted her consent.”

The Scudamores were eventually forgiven and continued in their rise at court, with Mary being one of Elizabeth’s closest confidantes at the end of her reign.

Mary became ill in 1602 and had to retire to her home at Holme Lacey. However, she was able to attend her relative the queen’s funeral. Mary died sometime in the summer of 1603 and was buried on this day in 1603

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