Mary Tudor was seventeen when Henry VIII erased her legitimate birth and sent her to live in the household of her infant sister Elizabeth, then his only daughter acknowledged as a princess.
Intelligent, Mary spoke Latin, French and Spanish fluently. She—also like her younger sister — loved to dance and inherited her father’s musical gifts. She likely did not burden Elizabeth with the shame of her mother’s death in these early years. Fond of children, desiring marriage and motherhood, Mary may have been one of Elizabeth’s earliest teachers. In 1536, Mary wrote to her father, ‘My sister Elizabeth is well, and such a child toward, as I doubt not your Highness shall have cause to rejoice of in time coming’ (Borman 2010, p. 49).
Blanche Parry was another woman part of Elizabeth’s early life—claiming she had rocked Elizabeth’s cradle. A woman proud of her Welsh blood, Parry never married, but served Elizabeth from infancy to long into her reign. Close to the queen and one of the four women who served Elizabeth in the royal bedchamber, Blanche may have been the reason Elizabeth gave permission to translate the Bible into Welsh in 1588 (Richardson 2007).
Catherine Champernowne, better known as Kat Ashley, was another of these women who were with Elizabeth from her childhood. Kat, as Elizabeth called her, was Elizabeth’s governess and first teacher. Thomas Seymour‘s grooming of her teenage charge and his subsequent execution led to Kat’s imprisonment in the Tower for a time, but she was still the woman closest to being Elizabeth’s mother figure.