October 18 – Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Elizabeth, is finally free

Posted By on October 18, 2022

On this day in Tudor history, 18th October 1555, in the reign of Queen Mary I, Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was finally given permission from her half-sister the queen to leave court and travel to her own estate at Hatfield.

Previously, Elizabeth had been confined in the Tower of London and then kept under house arrest in Woodstock.

The twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth had spent the last 18 months being watched or imprisoned, so this must have been a huge relief for her.

But why had Elizabeth been watched and confined?


On this day in Tudor history, 18th October 1555, Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, finally received permission from her half-sister, Queen Mary I, to leave court and travel to her own estate at Hatfield, rather than return to house arrest in Woodstock, where she’d been confined previously.

Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth I, had been treated with suspicion by Mary and her council since Wyatt’s Revolt in early 1554. Historian David Starkey says the revolt: “led to the most dangerous and difficult time of her life when she feared imminent execution or murder. She even expressed a preference as to how she should die: like her mother, by the sword, rather than by the axe.”

Elizabeth had been arrested and taken to the Tower of London in March 1554 following the failure of the revolt. She was imprisoned in the royal apartments of the Tower’s royal palace, the same apartments in which her mother had spent her last days in May 1536. She was interrogated several times by members of Mary’s council but never implicated herself and kept affirming her innocence. When rebel Thomas Wyatt the Younger went to the block in April 1554, he exonerated her in his execution speech, “And whereas it is said and whistled abroad that I should accuse my lady Elizabeth’s grace and my lord Courtenay; it is not so, good people. For I assure you neither they nor any other now in yonder hold or durance was privy of my rising or commotion before I began. As I have declared no less to the queen’s council. And this is most true.”

Elizabeth was released from the Tower on 19th May 1554, the anniversary of her mother’s execution, but she was not a free woman. She was escorted to the Palace of Woodstock in Oxfordshire and kept under house arrest. She was treated well but she was not to converse with any suspicious person or be allowed to send or receive any correspondence. Elizabeth managed to stay connected with the outside world through her loyal servant, Thomas Parry, who was in charge of her accounts. He’d been removed from the palace on the queen’s orders, but didn’t move far, staying at the Bull Inn in Woodstock. Elizabeth’s servants would visit him on the pretext of discussing household business with him, and, of course, they could carry information between him and Elizabeth.

In April 1555, Elizabeth was summoned to court to attend the queen, who was expected to give birth soon. The baby never came, it was a false alarm. The sisters were able to reconcile and it was Elizabeth who was at Mary’s side as she tried to keep up the pretence of her pregnancy and when her husband, Philip of Spain, deserted her to take up the reins of his abdicated father, Charles V.

Finally, on this day in history, 18th October 1555, after over 18 months of being watched by her sister and her council, Elizabeth was granted permission to go to Hatfield. Hatfield was her own estate, and she’d spent most of her childhood there. At Hatfield, Elizabeth could be her own woman and surround herself with people she loved and trusted. Thomas Parry joined her, as did her former governess, Kat Ashley, as soon as she was released from house arrest. We can only imagine Elizabeth’s relief and happiness. Since March 1554 she had lived under the shadow of the axe, fearing that she would be executed as a traitor or assassinated, it had been a stressful and frightening time, but it was over.

It is said that in November 1558, Elizabeth was sitting under a tree in the park at Hatfield reading when she learned of her accession to the throne. According to one account, on hearing the news of her accession, Elizabeth uttered words from Psalm 118. The Latin she said that day translates to “this is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes”. One of her first acts as queen was to call together her first council of state, which she did in the banqueting hall of Hatfield, and that banqueting hall is still standing today. You can also visit the oak tree in the grounds, although it’s not THE tree, that sadly died, but it was replaced with a new oak planted by our present queen, Elizabeth II, in 1985. A plaque at the site reads “This oak tree was planted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 22nd July 1985 on the site of the original oak tree under which Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth I heard of her accession to the throne.”

1 thought on “October 18 – Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Elizabeth, is finally free”

  1. Christine says:

    The first meal Elizabeth partook in her beloved childhood home of Hatfield after being released must have tasted the best in the world, the fresh air on her face and the soft grass under her feet as she climbed out of her carriage on arrival to gaze at the mellowed walls of Hatfield could not have felt sweeter, when one has faced death in the most feared prison in England, the same prison where her mother had lost her life, then lived for nearly two years under house arrest must have hardened her spirit considerably, and had an effect on this remarkable young woman’s character which in turn, helped to mould her into the great ruler she eventually became, it was said however that Elizabeth never forgave her sister for treating her like a traitor and it caused a festering resentment that never went away, there had not been any proof that Elizabeth was involved in Wyatt’s plot but because she was a focal point for rebellion Queen Mary had her incarcerated in the Tower, then kept under house arrest at the home of Sir Henry Bedingfield whom Elizabeth referred bitterly to as her jailor, her beloved Parry and Kat Ashley joined her at Hatfield and how they must have laughed and chatted as they drank their wine and commiserated on the past, while in Bedingfield’s house, Thomas Parry had lodged nearby in an inn and had communicated with the princess and how those letters must have gladdened her heart, both Parry and his wife stayed in her service all their lives,proof of their mistress’s deep love and trust in them both, at court Elizabeth was called upon to attend her sister as sadly, the queen believed she was pregnant, in fact what she was experiencing was most likely the symptoms of stomach cancer, what did the two sisters say to each other? The reception Elizabeth received from Mary must have been rather chilly to say the least but maybe she was also glad of her company since her unfeeling husband was away,Elizabeth must have been relieved when she was excused from duty, Queen Mary had at least one phantom pregnancy and after that her women did not hold out much hope for her, she was no young bride but a woman in her fortieth year, dangerously old in Tudor times to be experiencing motherhood, this second time it was in fact one of her women an older member of her household who told her quite bluntly there was no baby in her womb, Mary must have been despondent, her heir was the irritating Elizabeth her much younger half sister Nan Bullens brat, who she believed was really the bastard offspring of Mark Smeaton, not her saintly father the great King Harry, she mentioned once that Elizabeth had a look of the tragic musician but no one believed it, now Mary faced a predicament she must have known by now she would never be a mother Philip was still abroad and she was feeling ill, Elizabeth was Protestant and Mary wished the country to remain Catholic, in the November of 1588 the deadly influenza was making its annual round of the country, which Mary in her weakened state could not fight of, she took to her sick bed, she wished her sister to upheld the Catholic religion something which Elizabeth had no intention of doing, but she was not a zealot about her religion as her sister and brother had been, she had no wish she declared to make windows into men’s souls, let her subjects worship how they wished in secret, in that she was a most tolerant monarch, Mary’s death was as sad as her life, but she died believing she could see children like angels singing to her, her death had been expected for some time and Elizabeth was by now not at court, but residing at her beloved Hatfield, part of the old palace still remains and the remains of the legendary oak are kept in the cafeteria, the charming tree which Elizabeth 11 planted on the old site looks beautiful and will last no doubt as long as the first Elizabeth’s.

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