402
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English Literature, History, Children's Books & Illustrations

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Queen Elizabeth I
LETTER SIGNED AT THE HEAD ("ELIZABETH R"), TO VISCOUNT HEREFORD,
ordering him to "prepare yourself with all the force yow can possiblie make to convey the Scotttes Queene from Tytbury whe[re] she now remayneth, unto our towne of Coventrie and there to see hir safely kept and garded untill wee shall signify our farther pleasure unto yow", further informing him that she has written to the Earls of Shrewsbury and Huntingdon to accompany him, 1 page, folio, Windsor Castle, 22 November 1569, integral address leaf ("To our right trusty and right welbeloved Cosin the vycont Hereford"), later docketing, folded with four pairs of vertical slits for "locking" the letter, seal tear, small tears strengthened, some spotting and staining, attached to and enclosed within a modern transcript
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Provenance

This letter possibly descended to the Dukes of Northumberland through Dorothy, née Devereux, (d.1619), daughter of Walter, 2nd Viscount Hereford, and wife of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland.

Catalogue Note

A crucial order from one of the most dangerous moments in Elizabeth's reign, requesting the urgent removal to safety of Mary, Queen of Scots. After Mary, Queen of Scots, had fled from Scotland in 1568, Elizabeth had settled on the royal castle of Tutbury as a suitable residence for her cousin as it was in an easily defensible position that was suitably remote both from Scotland and South-East England, which ensured that she could be kept relatively isolated from potential followers and disaffected courtiers.

The presence in England of the Catholic presumptive heir to the throne acted to destabilise the nation's delicate political balance; there was soon talk of Mary marrying the Duke of Norfolk, the most powerful magnate in the land. The possibility of establishing a solidly Catholic succession (or even an alternative claimant to the throne) was a powerful lure to the great ancient families of northern England, especially the Percys, Earls of Northumberland, and the Nevilles, Earls of Westmorland, who were strongly committed to the old faith, had a relatively weak attachment to the Tudors, and nothing but disdain for the new men, most notably William Cecil, who were the Queen's chief ministers. On 8 November 1569 Northumberland and Westmorland wrote to the Pope requesting the excommunication of Elizabeth, the following day they came out in open rebellion, and on 14 November they entered Durham Cathedral, pulled down the communion table and said Catholic mass. The ability of the great Northern landowners - and pre-eminently the Percys - to raise large numbers of loyal followers, even against the crown itself, meant that this rebellion was a profoundly serious threat to the Elizabethan settlement.

It was clear that the rebels intended to free Mary, Queen of Scots, and this was the reason for the Queen's order on 22 November that Mary be moved south to Coventry, where she could be kept more securely under royal control. The man Elizabeth charged with undertaking this duty was Walter Devereux (1539-1576), 2nd Viscount Hereford, whose seat, Chartley Hall, was only twelve miles from Tutbury. Hereford was an ambitious courtier who seized the opportunity to display his loyalty to his Queen. Mary was safely moved to Coventry and Hereford then returned north to play an important role in suppressing the Northern Rebellion. The rebellion was crushed by January 1569 and hundreds of rebels were executed, although Northumberland and Westmorland escaped into exile in Scotland. In 1572 Hereford was created Earl of Essex and he spent his last years leading an attempt at colonisation in Ireland. His son, Robert, 2nd Earl of Essex, went on to be the Queen's favourite in the 1590s but became disaffected, eventually coming about in rebellion and ending his days on the executioner's block.

English Literature, History, Children's Books & Illustrations

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London