Picture of Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth imprisoned at Woodstock

  • Interesting Facts and information about Elizabeth imprisoned at Woodstock
  • Elizabeth imprisoned at Woodstock
  • Journey to Woodstock
  • House Arrest at Woodstock
  • Letter to Queen Mary and Release

Picture of Queen Elizabeth I


Elizabeth imprisoned at Woodstock

After two months of terror at the Tower of London Elizabeth was finally released on Saturday 19 May.  However she was not given her freedom. She was placed under the equivalent of 'house arrest' at the Royal residence at Woodstock. Her 'jailor' was to be Sir Henry Bedingfield.  imprisoned at Woodstock. Elizabeth had not expected to be released and was suspicious of the circumstances surrounding her release from the Tower.


She believed that she was still in mortal danger. She stopped at Richmond Palace on the way to Woodstock and called her few servants to pray with her. She was convinced that she was going to die that night.

Journey to Woodstock
The journey to the Royal Manor at Woodstock in Oxfordshire took four days with overnight stops at Richmond Palace, Windsor, West Wycombe and Rycote. Elizabeth was escorted by Sir John Williams, Sir Leonard Chamberlain and Sir Henry Bedingfield with his company of one hundred men. His men were all dressed in a blue livery. The journey to Woodstock was seen as a Royal procession.


All along the route Elizabeth received an enthusiastic reception by the common English people. She was greeted with shouts of good wishes and encouragement. Elizabeth was given small gifts of flowers and sweets. She was more popular than her sister Mary. Elizabeth clearly had the support of the English people which must have raised her spirits considerably and allayed some of her fears. Elizabeth eventually arrived at Woodstock on 23rd May.

The Royal Manor at Woodstock
The great Royal Manor at Woodstock had been an English Royal residence for many hundreds of years. The meeting point of five massive forests it was a perfect site from which to hunt. It was therefore used as a grand hunting lodge, housing royal guests and their entourages. The Royal Manor was first used by the Saxon kings and then favored by the Plantagenets. The residence was continuously expanded and modernised evolving into a rambling palace complete with a gatehouse. At one point it housed a great royal menagerie containing a range of exotic animals. Elizabeth's grandfather and father had used the palace as a base for hunting.


The royal residence included  several chapels. But much of the residence had fallen into disrepair. Elizabeth was housed in the Gatehouse at Woodstock. She was allowed some personal servants, although Kat Ashley was not given permission to accompany her. Accommodation at Woodstock was limited and the faithful cofferer Thomas Parry, who was responsible for the accounts of Elizabeth, was forced to take lodgings at the nearby town of Woodstock. He did all he could for Elizabeth, harrassing Bedingfield with various requests on behalf of Elizabeth and sending various books for Elizabeth to read ( all of which had to be read in advance and many of which had to be returned by Bedingfield )

Elizabeth at Woodstock
Elizabeth was a virtual prisoner. All her movements were carefully watched and monitored and the health of Elizabeth deteriorated. Her spirits were extremely low and she was still frightened of what her fate would be. Her sister refused to allow any contact with her and the Catholics at court were still making moves to rid themselves of the Princess. Elizabeth was still in great danger. Writing materials were restricted. Elizabeth scratched the following words on a window in Woodstock:

Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be,
Quoth Elizabeth prisoner.

House Arrest at Woodstock
The official position of Elizabeth was confusing. She was neither a prisoner, nor was she free. Sir Henry Bedingfield was ostensibly her jailor, although he was not referred to as such. Queen Mary had ordered that Elizabeth should be treated with honour but watched closely. Elizabeth was allowed to read, receive visitors and send letters but these were all closely monitored. Some visitors were allowed provided they received the approval of Sir Henry Bedingfield. She was allowed to take exercise in the grounds of Woodstock but always under the close watch of Sir Henry's guard. Sir Henry Bedingfield was a conscientious and strict man but Elizabeth soon realised that he was not her enemy. Her close confinement by Bedingfield also protected Elizabeth from possible assassins. Elizabeth was eventually given permission to communicate with her sister and to members of the Privy Council.


The Letter to Queen Mary
After several weeks at Woodstock Elizabeth was finally given permission to write to her sister Mary on 7th July. The letter was dictated to Sir Henry Bedingfield who wrote the letter on behalf of Elizabeth contained the following words.

'her long imprisonment and restraint of liberty, either to charge her with special matter to be answered unto and tried, or to grant her liberty to come unto her highness's presence, which she sayeth she would not desire were it not that she knoweth herself to be clear even before God, for her allegiance.'

Elizabeth requested that the letter to her sister was also to be shown to the Council. The letter was carefully worded by Elizabeth emphasising her position as neither a captive nor free and make a reference to the fact that she was next in line to the throne of England by referring to "the Will of the King's majesty, her father".


Elizabeth sent many more disconcerting letters to her sister Queen Mary and the Council asserting her position of a royal princess of England. Queen Mary refused to read the letters from her sister...

The Marriage of Queen Mary
On Wednesday 25 July 1554 Queen Mary married Philip, Prince of Spain at Winchester Cathedral. The wedding was a huge event attended by the greatest nobles of England and Spain. Processions, fine apparel, the sound of trumpets, cloth of gold and a magnificent wedding feast. Princess Elizabeth was not invited.

Philip and Elizabeth
Queen Mary fell deeply in love with Philip. She did everything she could to please her husband. And Philip proved to be an unlikely ally of Elizabeth. Spain was at war with France. Philip wanted English money to help finance his troops in Spain - which Mary provided. He was also aware that although Elizabeth was a Protestant the alternative heir to the English throne was Mary Queen of Scots. And Mary Queen of Scots was closely allied to France. Elizabeth was therefore the 'less of two evils' and Philip slowly persuaded his wife to reconcile with her sister.

Elizabeth leaves Woodstock
Elizabeth was eventually allowed to leave Woodstock in April 1555 - after nearly one year of confinement. She was accompanied, under heavy guard, to the Palace at Hampton Court where Queen Mary and Philip were holding court. Mary was torn. She was a dutiful wife, madly in love with her husband who she obeyed but she hated and distrusted her sister. She refused to meet Elizabeth but shrewd Philip did. He eventually persuaded Mary to a guarded reconciliation with her sister. In October 1555 Elizabeth was allowed to return to her home at Hatfield. The Catholic Queen Mary ruled the country...


Queen Elizabeth I
Details, facts and information about the life of Queen Elizabeth I can be accessed via the Elizabethan Era Sitemap.

Elizabeth imprisoned at Woodstock

  • Interesting Facts and information about Elizabeth imprisoned at Woodstock
  • Elizabeth imprisoned at Woodstock
  • Sir Henry Bedigfield
  • Journey to Woodstock
  • House Arrest at Woodstock
  • Letter to Queen Mary

  • Release from Woodstock

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Elizabeth imprisoned at Woodstock


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