For Christmas, 1545, Princess Elizabeth was determined to give her stepmother and father something that would please them both. Elizabeth decided to take the published book by the new Queen, Prayers and Meditations, and transcribe it into Latin, French, and Italian. Elizabeth presented the gift at Christmas only to find her father irritated and annoyed. At the time, Elizabeth was barely twelve. For any person to perform such a feat at such a young age and embroider her own book cover–mind blowing. However, her father thought it was some sort of joke and seemed to be somewhat jealous of his wife. Why? One can only imagine what Henry was thinking. Knowing his temper, Henry was probably upset that Elizabeth had not translated one of his works into some lavish Latin based language — note: Henry never had a book published. Instead, Henry had yet another wife who aspired to be a great woman. Like Katherine of Aragon, Parr was highly educated. Her mother, the widowed Lady Maud Parr, who was close to Queen Katherine (of Aragon), was a mother of her time. As Princess Mary was being educated and taught to someday perhaps succeed her father, Lady Maud took note and used the same system Thomas More used, to educate his daughters. Queen Katherine Parr was given an enviable education which was only afforded to royals and top nobility. One of the top Tudor biographers, Dr. Starkey, has gone as far as saying that Parr was the most educated of all six wives. In the end, Parr would publish two books and her poems/prayers would be added to Prayer books later on.
Embroidered back cover of the trilingual translation by Elizabeth I. Parr’s monogram is in the centre. (Wikipedia)
Another manuscript beautifully written by the Princess Elizabeth about a year later is now at the British Museum. It is on vellum, and contains prayers or meditations, composed originally by Queen Katherine Parr in English, and translated by the Princess into Latin, French, and Italian. The title as given in the book reads, ‘Precationes … ex piis scriptoribus per nobiliss. et pientiss. D. Catharinam Anglie, Francie, Hibernieq. reginam collecte, et per D. Elizabetam ex anglico converse.’ It is, moreover, dedicated to Henry viii., the wording being, ‘Illustrissimo Henrico octavo, Anglie, Francie, Hibernieq. regi,’ etc., and dated Hertford, 20th December 1545.
It is bound in canvas, and measures 5¾ by 4 inches, the groundwork being broadly worked in tapestry-stitch, or some stitch analogous to it, in red silk, resembling in method the work on the ground of The Miroir of the Synneful Soul already described. On this, in the centre of each side, is a large monogram worked in blue silk, interwoven with silver thread, containing the letters K, probably standing for Katherine, A, F, H, and R, possibly meaning ‘Anglie, Francie, Hibernieque, Reginæ,’ but like most monograms this one can doubtless be otherwise interpreted. Above and below the monogram are smaller H’s, worked in red silk, interwoven with gold thread. In each corner is a heartsease of yellow and purple silk, interwoven with gold thread, and having small green leaves between each of the petals. The work which was once on the back is now so worn that it cannot be traced sufficiently to tell what it originally was. The designs of these two volumes, credited to the Princess Elizabeth, resemble each other to some extent; they both have a monogram in the centre, they both have heartsease in the corners and groundwork of a like character. They are, as far as workmanship goes, still more alike, similar thick silk is used for the ground, and threads and braids of a thick nature, with metal interwoven, are used on both for the ornamental work. Speaking of this British Museum book, the Countess of Wilton says, ‘there is little doubt that Elizabeth’s own needle wrought the ornaments thereon.’
Source: English Embroidered Bookbindings by Cyril James Humphries Davenport. Alfred Pollard Release, January 23, 2006 [EBook #17585]. pg 34-35.