Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

August Books 27) Mistress Blanche: Queen Elizabeth I's Confidante, by Ruth Elizabeth Richardson

This book is about the woman who might possibly have been at the back of Richard Curtis's mind as he wrote the character of Nursey, played so memorably by Patsy Byrne in Blackadder II. Originally from the bilingual county of Herefordshire, from a long Welsh-speaking lineage (as were her cousins the Cecils) she happened to get assigned a position in the household of the baby princess Elizabeth when in her mid-20s, and by the time Elizabeth took the throne a quarter century later was basically the only survivor of the early days. She lived to her early 80s, dying in 1590, at the heart of the court to the end. She never married, and so amassed a substantial property empire, which provides a lot of documentation of her life.

The book is a local historian's labour of love: thorough in its research on documents (including several poems in Welsh about Blanche Parry's immediate ancestors) and also on artworks which may depict her and places with which she was associated. It does not have a lot of scholarly apparatus; there's little here about the nature of kingship or queenship, and I found the discussion of religion a bit confusing - Richardson suggests that Blanche Parry must have played an important part in getting the Bible translated into Welsh, but there is no smoking gun.

The Welsh link does intrigue me as an area where I would like to understand better what was going on. Apart from Blanche's family, and her cousins the Cecils, another Welsh family had made it big in politics a bit earlier - their home county of Hereford had seen the beheading in 1461 of Welsh knight Owain ap Tewdwr, whose grandson Henry Tudor took power in England in 1485 and was Elizabeth I's grandfather.

However, I was entirely satisfied about the one thing I really wanted to know - did Blanche Parry have any dealings with Sir Nicholas White in Ireland? As it turns out, it's absolutely clear from his surviving correspondence that she was his channel to the queen. His main contact in London was Cecil / Burghley, who he had known since they were both young men; presumably he had encountered Cecil's slightly older cousin as well. When he successfully raided the Earl of Desmond's treasure train, he sent the spoils to Cecil with instructions to split them with Blanche. (See previous entry.) So I got what I wanted from the book, even if it's not the most academically rigorous volume I have read on the period.
Tags: bookblog 2010, people: sir nicholas white, tudor history

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.