Blanche Parry (1507/8–12 February 1590) was a personal attendant of Queen Elizabeth I of England, Chief Gentlewoman of Queen Elizabeth’s most honourable Privy Chamber and Keeper of Her Majesty’s jewels.
Blanche is properly called Blanche ferch Harry as she used this Welsh system of nomenclature that showed Harry was her father; later her name was anglicised to Parry or to Apharrie. Blanche came from prominent border gentry and nine bardic poems refer to her family: five by Guto’r Glyn and one each by Gwilym Tew, Howel Dafi, Huw Cae Llwyd and Lewys Morgannwg. She was born at Newcourt, Bacton, Herefordshire. Her parents were Henry Myles and his English wife Alice (a daughter and an heiress of Simon Milbo(u)rne). Henry Myles was Steward of Ewyas Lacy, Steward of Dore Abbey (Cistercian) and three times High Sheriff of Herefordshire. He was related to the Herbert family of the Earls of Pembroke. Blanche was bilingual in Welsh and English, though brought up in a Welsh cultural environment. There are strong indications of earlier family connections to the Lollards and Blanche's mother’s family were connected to Sir John Oldcastle. However, Blanche Parry and her sisters may have been educated by the Augustinian nuns of Aconbury.
At the Royal Court
Blanche Parry arrived at the Royal Court with her aunt, Lady Troy who was the Lady Mistress to Edward VI and Elizabeth I as children. Blanche Parry herself wrote in her epitaph in Bacton Church that she was the Queen's servant, "whose cradle saw I rocked", from Elizabeth's birth in 1533; Parry was then 25 or 26 years old. Thereafter she hardly left Elizabeth and almost certainly attended her in the Tower of London before she came to the throne. After Elizabeth's accession in 1558, and Kat Ashley's death in 1565, Blanche was appointed the Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber, and she was one of those who could control access to the Queen. She was in charge of the Queen's jewels from before Elizabeth's accession, the Queen's personal papers, clothes, furs and books, receiving the presents given to the Queen especially as New Year gifts. She received considerable sums of money on behalf of the Queen. She passed information to the Queen (including from John Vaughan, Blanche Parry's nephew, during the Northern Rebellion of 1569–1570, and Sir Nicholas White, Master of the Rolls in Ireland) and presentations of parliamentary bills. She also wrote letters on the Queen's behalf. In addition, she supervised the Queen's linen "and other things belonging to her majesty"; this included "our musk cat", probably a ferret.
Blanche Parry's position at the centre of the Royal Court was fully recognised at the time. She was friends with Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley. The Queen treated Blanche Parry as a baroness. Amongst the material rewards she received from Elizabeth were two wardships and she acquired lands in Herefordshire, Yorkshire and Wales. A meticulous lady, Blanche Parry commissioned the first known map of Llangorse Lake in 1584 to aid the deliberations in the court case in which she became involved. Lord Burghley supervised Blanche Parry's two Wills, and his notes in his own handwriting survive for her first Will of 1578.
Monument and Tomb
Thinking she might retire to the family property of Newcourt, Blanche commissioned her monument in Bacton Church. Dated to before November 1578, this has the first depiction of Queen Elizabeth I as Gloriana. The inscription on this monument said: "With maiden Queen a maid did end my life". Blanche Parry did not retire, however, staying with the Queen until her death, and was buried in St. Margaret's Westminster, the Queen paying all her funeral expenses. George Ballard saw her tomb in its original location in the 18th century.
Bacton Church, Herefordshire, where her heart was interred, has an altar cloth fashioned from an Elizabethan court dress, with an original design that is very similar to the Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.
- Richardson 2007, p 7, 133
- Richardson 2007, p 136
- Bradford 1935 discovered some of the English sources but he did not know the Welsh sources
- Richardson 2007, p 15-17, 20, 40–41, 167; this Elegy is one of the Welsh bardic poems and Lewys Morgannwg is highly regarded
- Richardson 2007, p 32-34
- Richardson 2007, p 39-46, 167
- Richardson 2007, p 75-78 as for instance on behalf of the husband of Elizabeth's wet-nurse
- Richardson 2007
- Borman 2009, p 346
- see Richardson 2007 and 'Blanche Parry & Queen Elizabeth I' calendar
- Richardson 2007, p 151-165; notes for Blanche Parry's first Will of 1578 still exist in Lord Burghley's handwriting and he was also supervisor for her Final Will of 1589
- Richardson 2007 and 'Blanche Parry & Queen Elizabeth I' calendar
- Blanche best person to know if Elizabeth was a Virgin – Blanche would have omitted this if she was not
- Ballard 1752
- Bradford 1933, p 163-165
- 'Blanche Parry & Queen Elizabeth I' calendar
NOTE: The calendar brings together portraits of Elizabeth I as Princess and as Queen, Lord Burghley, the frontispiece of the Welsh Bible, Blanche's monuments and places to do with Blanche.
- Ballard, George: Memoirs of several ladies of Great Britain..., 1752.
- Borman, Tracy: Elizabeth's Women; The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen, Jonathan Cape, London, 2009.
- Bradford, Charles Angell: Heart Burial, Allen & Unwin, London, 1933
- Bradford, Charles Angell: Blanche Parry, Queen Elizabeth's Gentlewoman, R.F. Hunger, London 1935.
- Richardson, Ruth Elizabeth: Mistress Blanche, Queen Elizabeth I's Confidante, Logaston Press, 2007.
- Richardson, Ruth Elizabeth: Blanche Parry & Queen Elizabeth I calendar, extended text on each of the superb pictures. Details on website: www.blancheparry.com (Everyone involved is a volunteer, expenses minimal and all proceeds go to help Bacton Church, Herefordshire.) Produced by Bacton Parish to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2012.