Elizabeth I: The Woodstock Verse

On 18 March 1555, the Princess Elizabeth was arrested on the orders of her half-sister Queen Mary and taken to the Tower of London to await interrogation.

It was believed by many, including Mary, that she was implicated in some way in Sir Thomas Wyatt’s plot to depose the Catholic Queen, and that if she played no part in organising the rebellion then she had at least been the standard bearer for the cause.

Under harsh questioning from a hostile Bishop Gardner, Elizabeth displayed dexterity of argument, subtlety of wit, and degree of obfuscation that would have impressed in a learned professor far in advance of her callow youth.

Nonetheless, Bishop Gardner demanded of the Queen that she try Elizabeth for treason.

After much consideration and a private audience with her sister Mary declined, for the time being at least, to place Elizabeth under interdiction and in May she was released from the Tower of London and taken to a country estate at Woodstock where she would remain under house arrest.

Despite her reprieve Elizabeth -knowing how mercurial was Mary and remembering the fate of Lady Jane Grey who had similarly been shown clemency only to be executed shortly after - feared for her life every day of her incarceration.

Whilst at Woodstock she wrote these words on a shutter that covered one of the windows:

Oh, Fortune! how thy restlesse wavering state
Hath fraught with cares my troubled witt!
Witnes this present prisonn, whither fate
Could beare me, and the joys I quitt.
Thou causedest the guiltie to be losed
From bandes, wherein are innocents inclosed:
Causing the guiltles to be straite reserved,
And freeing those that death had well deserved.
But by her envie can be nothing wroughte,
So God send to my foes all they have thoughte.
By Queen Elizabeth I

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