Blanche Parry

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Blanche Parry’s Memorial effigy from her unused tomb at St Faith's church, Bacton.

Blanche Parry (1507/8–12 February 1590) was a personal attendant of Queen Elizabeth I of England,[1] Chief Gentlewoman of Queen Elizabeth’s most honourable Privy Chamber and Keeper of Her Majesty’s jewels.[2]

Early life[edit]

Blanche was the daughter of Harry ap Miles of Newcourt, and his wife Alice Milborne. Blanche[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

At the Royal Court[edit]

Blanche Parry arrived at the Royal Court with her aunt, Blanche Milborne Lady Troy, who was the Lady Mistress to Edward VI and Elizabeth I as children.[6] 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 (a collection which grew in quantity, magnificence and value) from before Elizabeth’s accession, the Great Seal of England for two years, the Queen’s personal papers, clothes, furs and books, receiving books presented 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 she received presentations of parliamentary bills for the Queen. She also wrote letters on the Queen's behalf.[7] In addition, she supervised the Queen's linen "and other things belonging to her majesty"; this included "our musk cat", probably a ferret.[8] Blanche was also associated with the publication of the Bible in Welsh.[9]

Blanche Parry's position at the centre of the Royal Court was fully recognized at the time.[10] She was friends with her cousin Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley and worked with him. 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.[11] Lord Burghley supervised Blanche Parry's two Wills. His notes in his own handwriting survive for her first Will of 1578 [12] and he was supervisor for her Final Will of 1589.

Bacton Monument and St. Margaret's, Westminster Tomb[edit]

Empty tomb, Bacton. Blanche Parry on left, kneeling to Elizabeth I

Thinking she might retire to the family property of Newcourt,[13] Blanche commissioned her monument in Bacton Church. Dated to before November 1578, this has the first depiction of Queen Elizabeth I as Gloriana and as such is of great importance. The inscription on this monument is primary evidence for the Queen remaining a virgin; it was composed by Blanche herself and reads: "With maiden Queen a maid did end my life".[14] Blanche Parry did not retire, staying with the Queen until her own death in 1590 (modern dating), 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.[15]

The evidence now proves that Blanche's body was not dismembered. Earlier it was asserted that her monument in Bacton Church, Herefordshire contained Blanche's bowels, which Bradford changed to her heart,[16] but neither is true. The monument in Bacton Church is not her tomb and contains no part of her.

Richardson recognized the importance of The Blanche Parry Embroidery / Bacton Altar Cloth which came to Bacton Church through its association with Blanche Parry. Taken to Hampton Court Palace in 2015 for conservation it is now recognized as very probably the only surviving piece of cloth from Queen Elizabeth I's extensive wardrobe. At present, 2015 onwards, it is the subject of detailed research which may lead to a major exhibition. Sir Lionel Henry Cust [17] noted the similarity with other dress designs shown in Portraiture of Elizabeth I of England but it was Richardson who first drew specific attention to the Rainbow Portrait in 2003.


  1. ^ Richardson 2007, p 7, 133
  2. ^ Richardson 2007, p 136
  3. ^ Bradford 1935 discovered some of the English sources but he did not know the Welsh sources
  4. ^ Richardson 2007, p 15-17, 20, 40–41, 167; this Elegy is one of the Welsh bardic poems and Lewys Morgannwg is highly regarded
  5. ^ Richardson 2007, p 32-34
  6. ^ Richardson 2007, p 39-46, 167
  7. ^ Richardson 2007, p 75-78 as for instance on behalf of the husband of Elizabeth's wet-nurse
  8. ^ Richardson 2007
  9. ^ Blanche Parry & Queen Elizabeth I, July, book-calendar, 2012
  10. ^ Borman 2009, p 346
  11. ^ Richardson 2007, p 116-119 and Richardson 2012, August
  12. ^ Richardson 2007, p 151-165
  13. ^ Richardson 2007 and Richardson 2012, May
  14. ^ . Blanche was constantly with her for 56 years and would have omitted this if it was untrue
  15. ^ Ballard 1752
  16. ^ Bradford 1933, p 163-165
  17. ^ 'Blanche Parry & Queen Elizabeth I' calendar: Cust 1918, onwards p 196-201


  • Ballard, George: Memoirs of several ladies of Great Britain..., 1752.
  • Lionel Henry Cust, 'Queen Elizabeth's Kirtle', The Burlington Magazine, vol.33, no.189 (December 1918), pp. 196–201, (altar cloth).
  • 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 book-calendar, 2012.
  • Lynn, Eleri: Tudor Fashion, in association with Historic Royal Palaces, Yale University Press, 2017.
  • Richardson, Ruth Elizabeth: Lady Troy and Blanche Parry: New Evidence about their Lives at the Tudor Court, Paper in the BULLETIN of the SOCIETY FOR RENAISSANCE STUDIES, 1 October 2009; reprinted by kind permission of the editors.

External links[edit]

Blanche Parry specifically named on TV[edit]

Dan Snow,"Armada: 12 Days to Save England". BBC. Retrieved 5 April 2016.