Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Elizabeth (1635-1650)

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ELIZABETH (1635–1650), princess, second daughter of Charles I, was born at St. James's Palace, 28 Dec. 1635. She had not reached the second year of her age when her grandmother, Mary de Medicis, proposed to arrange a match between her and William, only son of Frederick Henry, prince of Orange, but Charles at that time considered such a marriage to be beneath his daughter's rank. When in the spring of 1642 the Princess Mary was betrothed to Prince William, and Henrietta Maria accompanied her to Holland, Elizabeth had to part both from her sister and her mother. For the next few years she led a secluded life, with no other relation than her little brother, Henry, duke of Gloucester. In October 1642, when the commons made provision for her maintenance, it was proposed to cashier the principal members of her household, as being either papists or non-subscribers to the covenant. Greatly distressed at this proposal, Elizabeth ventured an appeal from the commons to the lords, to whom she dictated a touching letter (Lords' Journals, vi. 341 ). Her appeal was partially successful, the change was less sweeping than had been originally contemplated; but to balance this act of complaisance, the poor children had to listen twice on Sunday to the dreary oratory of Stephen Marshall and his kind, besides being catechised in true puritan fashion.

Always a delicate child, Elizabeth in the autumn of 1643, while running across a room, fell and broke her leg, which occasioned a long confinement. In July 1644 change of air was recommended, and the princess and her brother were removed to the residence of Sir John Danvers at Chelsea. During the weary years which she passed in separation from her parents and friends, Elizabeth sought consolation in the study of languages and theology. Her lessons were mostly received from a learned lady, Mrs. Makin, who professed herself competent to teach at least six languages. A tradition represents Elizabeth as being able to read and write Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, and Italian before she was eight years old. In dedicating to her a learned 'Exposition of the first five chapters of Ezekiel,' published in March 1644-5, the author, William Greenhill, after mentioning various instances of feminine precocity, extols her 'writing out the Lord's Prayer in Greek, some texts of Scripture in Hebrew,' her 'endeavour after the exact knowledge of those holy tongues, with other languages and learned accomplishments,' her 'diligent hearing of the word, careful noting of sermons, understanding answers at the catechising, and frequent questioning about holy things.' Three years later another erudite scholar, Alexander Rowley, in dedicating to the princess a vocabulary of the Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible, with their explanation in Latin and English, entitled 'The Schollers Companion,' 1648, gives as his reason the 'rare inclination of your highness to the study of the Book of books, and of its two originall languages.' On the death of her governess, the Countess of Dorset, in the spring of 1645, Elizabeth and her brother were transferred to the guardianship of the Earl and Countess of Northumberland, under whose care they passed a happy summer at one of the earl's country residences, probably Syon House, Isleworth, Middlesex. In September, when residing at St. James's, they were joined by the youthful Duke of York, to whom Elizabeth expressed her regret at seeing him in the hands of his father's foes, and repeatedly told him 'that were she a boy she would not long remain a captive, however light or glittering might be the fetters that bound her.' After a separation of five years Elizabeth was permitted to meet her father at Maidenhead, Berkshire, 10 July 1647, and spend two days with him at Caversham. A pretty anecdote is told of her graceful recognition of Fairfax, whom she here saw for the first time. Her gentle bearing towards her own and her father's opponents gained for her the name of 'Temperance.' On Charles being removed to Hampton Court, he paid frequent visits to his children, then at Syon House; but after his confinement in Carisbrooke Castle, and their own removal to London, Elizabeth took every opportunity of urging on the Duke of York to escape, according to their fathers wish, and it was probably owing to her ingenuity that he was enabled to do so in the guise of a woman on the evening of 21 April 1648. It is doubtful whether Elizabeth became fully acquainted with the events of the fateful autumn and winter of 1648. Her guardian kept her in the country, contrary to custom, during the winter, with a view perhaps of sparing her intelligence of proceedings which he himself refused to countenance. On 22 Jan. 1648-9 Elizabeth, it may be at her father's desire, wrote to the parliament requesting permission to withdraw to Holland, to her sister the Princess of Orange; but amid the pressure of affairs her letter received no attention. During his trial the king inquired of one who had been with his children how his 'young princess did;' the reply was that she was very melancholy; 'and well she may be so,' he replied, 'when she hears what death her old father is coming unto.' After sentence had been passed on the King Elizabeth lay prostrate with grief; indeed, she was everywhere reported to be dead. The parting interview took place on 29 Jan. When Elizabeth saw her father so sadly changed since they had parted only fifteen months before, she burst into a passion of tears, and it was some time before she could listen calmly to his last instructions. The conversation that ensued has been recorded by herself. 'Most sorrowful was this parting writes Sir Thomas Herbert, who was present, 'the young princess shedding tears and crying lamentably, so as moved others to pity that formerly were hard-hearted' (Two Last Years of Charles I, ed. 1702, p. 125). Elizabeth was taken back to Syon House. She never recovered from the effects of her father's death. In April she renewed her request to be allowed to join her sister in Holland without success. In June parliament assigned her to the care of the Earl and Countess of Leicester at Penshurst, Kent.

Here she was again fortunate in the choice of a tutor, a descendant in the female line of the Sydneys, named Lovel, who proved also a faithful friend. Lady Leicester, while complying in the main with parliamentary instructions, treated her ward with kindness, even tenderness. 'Her forlorn situation, combined with her reputation for learning, her profound melancholy and meek resignation,' remarks her biographer, 'interested many a heart in her fate.' John Quarles, son of Francis Quarles of emblematic fame, dedicated to her in April 1649 his 'Regale Lectum Miseriæ' as to 'that patronesse of Vertue...the sorrowfull daughter to our late martyr'd Soveraigne.' A more elaborate panegyric occurs in the dedication by Christopher Wase of a translation of the 'Electra of Sophocles: presented to her Highnesse the Lady Elizabeth; with an Epilogue, shewing the Parallell in two poems. The Return, and the Restauration,' 1649, to which an anonymous friend of the author, H. P., added some verses strongly expressive of his abhorrence at what he considered to be her unworthy treatment. When in the summer of 1650 the news came of Charles II having landed in Scotland, it was resolved to remove the royal children to Carisbrooke Castle. Horrified at the prospect of passing her days in what had been her father's prison, Elizabeth vainly petitioned the council of state to be allowed to remain at Penshurst on the plea of her bad health (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1650, p. 261). Within less than a week after her arrival at Carisbrooke she was struck down by fever, the result of a wetting, and died on the afternoon of 8 Sept. 1650. On the 24th she was buried in St. Thomas's Church, Newport, in a small vault near the communion-table. For two centuries the initials 'E. S.' cut in that part of the wall nearest to it served to mark the spot; but in 1856 a white marble monument by Marochetti was placed in the church to her memory by command of the queen. Three days before she died the council of state had agreed to recommend the parliament to accede to her request to go to her sister in Holland, and to allow 1,000l. a year for her maintenance 'so long as she should behave inoffensively' (ib. pp. 327-8).

The only authentic portrait of Elizabeth now known to be in existence is at Syon House. An engraved portrait of her, in the mourning which she never laid aside from the day of her father's death, is prefixed to Wase's translation of the 'Electra;' it is without name, but is believed to be by Francis Barlow. There is also a quarto engraving by Robert Vaughan, representing her at the age of five, at p. 13 of 'The true Effigies of ... King Charles,' &c., 4to, London, 1641; and another by W. Hollar.

[Green's Lives of the Princesses of England, vi. 335-92; Kelly's Hampshire Directory (1885), p. 1049; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649-50; Granger's Biog. Hist, of England (2nd ed.), ii. 100, iii. 4; Bromley's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, p. 67; Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, i. 113, ii. 141; Lowndes's Bibl. Manual (Bohn), i. 415.]

G. G.