The History of Leith

June 1, 2007

An unusual treasure

An unusual treasure in The National Archives of Scotland is a prayer book with a cover embroidered by the Princess Elizabeth Tudor (1533-1603), years before she became Queen Elizabeth I of England.

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Elizabeth created this cover when she was 12 years old, as a New Year’s gift for her stepmother Katherine Parr (1512-1548).

She also made a similar book for her father Henry VIII, which is now in the British Museum. Katherine was her fourth stepmother whom Henry had married in 1543, four years before his death.

Katherine became a companion and nurse to the dying King and is credited with bringing him closer to his children Mary, Edward and Elizabeth. After Henry’s death Katherine married as her fourth husband Thomas Seymour a brother of Jane Seymour.

Jane had been Henry VIII’s third wife and her son Edward VI was king at the time of Katherine’s marriage to Thomas. Katherine died in childbirth soon afterward. After the deaths of her half brother King Edward and half sister Queen Mary, Elizabeth reigned in England (although not, of course, Scotland) for 45 years.

James VI, King of Scotland, who became the first monarch of the two nations, succeeded her.

The book cover is worked in blue silk with a red and silver cipher in the centre; the cipher’s various elements combine to make up every letter in the name Katherine. There are raised heart’s-ease flowers at each corner.

The text inside is:

How We Ought to Know God, a translation by Elizabeth herself of Calvin’s original French treatise.

The Edinburgh antiquarian Walter Ross acquired the volume in the 18 th century. He gifted it to Robert Dundas of Arniston, Solicitor General of Scotland. The volume came to the national archives through his son William Pitt Dundas, who was Deputy Clerk Register from 1841 to 1880.

source-Scottish Executive

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