Elizabeth I’s last letter to her dying half-brother Edward VI

Letter excerpt from then-Princess Elizabeth Tudor (1533-1603) to her dying half-brother King Edward VI (1537-1553, r. 1547-1553).

Princess Elizabeth, second daughter of King Henry VIII, painted in about 1546, a year before her father's death and her half-brother's accession as Edward VI. Formerly attributed to William Scrots (fl. 1537–1554).

Princess Elizabeth, second daughter of King Henry VIII, painted in about 1546, a year before her father’s death and her half-brother’s accession as Edward VI. Formerly attributed to William Scrots (fl. 1537–1554).

This letter was almost certainly written in 1553, when the future Queen of England was 20 years old. Elizabeth’s letter reveals the personal costs behind the power struggles of the troubled Tudor dynasty. She tells her young half-brother, Edward VI, how she had tried to visit him during what would prove his final illness, but had been turned away.

Elizabeth's last known letter to her reigning half-brother King Edward VI.

Elizabeth’s last known letter to her reigning half-brother King Edward VI.

I have transcribed Elizabeth’s letter here (with modernized spelling):

Like as a shipman in stormy weather plucks down the sails tarrying for better wind, so did I, most noble King, in my unfortunate chance a [on] Thursday pluck down the high sails of my joy and cofer [comfort?] and do trust one day that as troublesome wane’s [winds] have repulsed me backward, so a gentle wind will bring me forward to my haven. To chief occasions moved me much and grieved me greatly, the one for that I doubted your Majesty’s health, the other because for all my long tarrying I went without that I came for, of the first I am relieved in a part, both that I understood of your health and also that your Majesty’s lodging is far from my Lord Marque’s chamber, Of my other grief I am not cafed [saved?], but the best is that whatsoever other folks will suspect, I intend not to fear your grace’s goodwill, which as I know that I never disarmed to faint, so I trust will still stick by me. For if your grace’s advice that I should return (whose will is a commandment) had not been, I would not have made the half of my way, the end of my journey. And thus as one desirous to hear of your Majesty’s health though unfortunate to see it I shall pray God for ever to preserve you. From Hatfield this present Saturday.

Your Majesty’s huble [humble] sister to commandment. Elizabeth.

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