Letters of Royal And Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain Volume 2 Letters CX to CIX is in Letters of Royal And Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain Volume 2.
Letter CXI. Elizabeth Lady Hungerford to Lord Cromwell
Around 1536. Letter CXI. Cotton. MS. TITUS, B. I. FOL. 388. Original.
Note. The present letter, being addressed to Cromwell (51) as lord privy seal, must have been written between 1536 and 1540. The writer (39) was the daughter of John lord Husee and the wife of Walter (33) the last lord Hungerford. He was afterwards attainted and beheaded at the same time with Cromwell; "which certainly," says the chronicler Hall, at the time of his death seemed to be very unquiet in his mind, and rather in a frenzy than otherwise. Perhaps his ill treatment of his wives filled up his cup of remorse.
Most piteously complaining and meekly beseeching your good and gracious lordship tenderly to consider the humble complaint and true intent of me, your most poorest and unfeigned beadswoman, Elizabeth Hungerford (39), now abiding as I have been long in captivity and as a prisoner within my lord's castle of Hungerford, where no creature is suffered nor dare come unto me at any time, what need soever I have or shall happen unto me, for my lord's displeasure, but all only such as is by him appointed at this time, which have not only heretofore sought all the means they might to rid me in secret out of my life, but yet daily doth, as it is not unknown to all this country, if it shall please your good lordship to inquire of any gentleman or yeoman dwelling about my lord. I will except none.
And whereas my said lord Hungerford (33) of late, unknown to me, obtained a commission of your lordship to the intent he would have been from me divorced for mine incontinency, as he damnably hath reported to my great slander and utter confusion in world, objecting such a crime of me unto your lordship and other as I never offended in, I take God to record; and now perceiving with himself that he could not, nor yet can prove, any manner of cause on my behalf to him given to be divorced, but that I may sooner object such matters against him, with many other detestable and urgent causes, than he can against me, if I would express them, as he well knoweth. And farther, that it pleased your good lordship of your goodness and charity to advertise him at the sending forth of your commission that I should have things necessary in every behalf, as it beseemed for his own honour, and that he should depart somewhat with me yearly towards my sustentation and living ; which things chiefly, as I suppose, is the very cause only at this time of his stay in this matter : for surely it may please your good lordship to understand that it will grieve him not a little to depart with one groat at any time, although I am not of myself owner of one penny, nor have any earthly friend more than your lordship in this world able to help me, or house to resort unto, or that any man will or dare speak or do for me towards your lordship, or any other, for fear of my lord's displeasure : by reason whereof now of his own presumption he hath discharged your lordship's commissioners assigned, without any exa- mination or amendment had or used of his demean- our towards me. And so am I, your most woefullest and poorest beadswoman, left in worse case than ever I was, as a prisoner alone, and continually locked in one of my lord's towers of his castle in Hungerford, as I have been these three or four years past, without comfort of any creature, and under the custody of my lord's chaplain, sir John a Lee [Note. Sir John a Leigh was made knight of the Bath in 1523, and died August 27th, 1543.— Har/. MS, 897,fol. 16.], which hath once or twice heretofore poisoned me, as he will not deny upon examination. And after that he heard say that your lordship's pleasure was that my lord Hungerford should give me yearly a pension for my honest sustentation, he then said and promised my lord that he would soon rid me for that matter, and so ease my lord of that money paying, if he might have the keeping of me again, as now he hath ; and I am sure he intendeth to keep promise with my said lord, if your good lordship see not remedy in this behalf shortly, for I have none other meat nor drink but such as cometh from the said priest, and brought me by my lord's fool continually, mine old servitor, as all men in these parts knoweth. Which meat and drink, con- sidering the priest's promise made unto my lord, and his acts heretofore done unto me, as my lord well knoweth, I have oft feared, and yet do every day more than otlier, to taste either of the same meat or drink ; wherefore many and sundry (times) I have been and yet am fain to drink water, or else I should die for lack of sustenance, and had, long ere this time, had not poor women of the country, of their charity, knowing my lord's demeanour always to his wives, brought me to my great window in the night such meat and drink as they had, and gave me for the love of God, for money have I none wherewith to pay them, nor yet have had of my lord these four years four groats.
And thus, my singular good lord, I am like to perish I fear me very soon, unless your good lord- ship, moved with pity and compassion, will command my said lord Hungerford, now being in London as I believe, to bring me before your lord- ship ; and also the said priest, sir John h Lee ; by whom your lordship, upon his examination, shall perceive many strange things of my lord's demean- our : and to the intent that I may, upon causes rea- sonable, be divorced from my said lord, or else require him to suffer me to come out of prison. And then will I come up on foot with some poor body unto your lordship, for the security of ray life, if it may please you to condescend thereunto, as I shall most humbly beseech your good lordship, for surely I will not longer continue this wretched life with him ; I had rather destroy myself, or beg my living from door to door. And therefore, on the reverence of Jesus Christ, let not his fair, crafty, and subtle tongue longer defraud your good lordship in this matter. But require his lordship to send for me, and safely to be brought before your lordship, without farther delay ; or else to command some other man at your lordship's pleasure to fetch me from him. And in so doing I shall be most bounden to pray, as I do evermore, to God for the preservation of your honourable estate long to endure.
By your most bounden beadswoman,.