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PARRY, AP HARRY, APARRY, APPAREY, BLANCHE (1508? - 1590), gentlewoman to queen Elizabeth

Name: Blanche Parry
Date of birth: 1508?
Date of death: 1590
Parent: Alice Parry (née Milbourne)
Parent: Henry Parry
Gender: Female
Area of activity: Royalty and Society
Author: Robert Thomas Jenkins

Born in 1508 or 1507 at Newcourt, Bacton, in the Dore valley, Ewias, Herefordshire, daughter of Henry Parry and his wife Alice. The pedigree of this wide-branching family is given by Theophilus Jones in Hist. Brecknock (3rd ed.), iv, 2-3. Guto'r Glyn sang (200-4 and 216-20 of the University of Wales edition of his poems) to ‘Harri Ddu o Euas,’ Blanche's great-grandfather; her grandfather, Miles ap Harri, was married to Joan, a daughter of Sir Harry Stradling of S. Donat's, Glamorganshire, and as Joan's mother was sister to William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, the Herberts too come into the complex. Besides all this, there was kinship between the Parrys and the Cecils of Allt-yr-ynys (which is not far from Bacton); the William Cecil who continued to live at Allt-yr-ynys was in his youth a friend of Blanche Parry 's, and was married to Olive Parry of Poston (see Parry, James Rhys), who was descended from Harri Ddu's younger brother. The relationship of the Parrys and the Cecils was recognised even by the great William Cecil lord Burghley — Blanche Parry calls him ‘kinsman’ (not, more vaguely, ‘cousin’); he drew up her will, and was her chief executor. Again, the Vaughans and Morgans of Gwent and Ewias and Ystradyw intermarried with the Parrys.

On the other hand, there seems little ground for thinking that the conspirator William Parry, who was executed in 1585, was of this family. Nor, again, are the arms of bishop Richard Parry of S. Asaph satisfactory proof of his kinship with the family — to the contrary, see J. E. Griffith, Pedigrees, 387. And there is not the slightest ground for calling Thomas Parry the ‘queen's cofferer’ (died 1560), Blanche's ‘father’ (at other times he is called her ‘husband’) — in fact, his real surname was Vaughan (of Tretower) — though he may well have been distantly akin. Again, some have made overmuch of her alleged kinship with John Dee, but in fact Dee refers to her only three times — it is true that she acted (by deputy) as godmother of one of his children, and that on that occasion he calls her his ‘cousin,’ but the relationship has not been established. Still less has any basis been discovered for the belief that such a relationship was the means whereby Blanche Parry attained the queen's favour. Indeed, her influence over the queen has probably been exaggerated.

Her career has been elucidated in detail by C. A. Bradford, who has also dispelled many legends about her. It is fairly certain that it was her kinswoman ‘lady Herbert of Troy ’ who first brought her to Court. She herself asserts that she saw Elizabeth ‘in her cradle,’ but the princess was three years old (1536) before Blanche became officially her ‘gentlewoman.’ In 1558 she became ‘second gentlewoman,’ and in 1565 ‘first,’ but she never held a ‘noble’ post at Court. Yet, her office was very profitable, what with her salary, maintenance, gifts, grants of privileges and indeed of estates, and grateful legacies from persons aided by her. Her name recurs very frequently in official records, and there are references to her in contemporary literature. Toward the end of her life she became blind. She died, unmarried, 12 Feb. 1589/90. She had at one time erected a tomb for herself at Bacton, but afterwards changed her mind, and was actually buried in S. Margaret's, Westminster, where her grave can now be seen — but there is a confused story that her entrails (or perhaps her heart) were interred in the Bacton tomb which still survives. In 1811, Mrs. Burton, wife of the then vicar of Atcham, near Shrewsbury, and a descendant of the Newcourt family, had the stained-glass window commemorating Miles ap Harri removed from Bacton to Atcham, and at the same time put up there a window to Blanche Parry. Blanche left liberal legacies and charitable bequests - her will was privately printed (1845) by Sir Thomas Phillipps. It is known that her religious opinions were conservative — indeed, she is thought to have been a Roman Catholic.

Blanche Parry touches Welsh historiography at one point. Sir Edward Stradling, on William Cecil's suggestion, had written a tractate on the Norman conquest of Glamorgan, and had sent it to Cecil. It is clear that Cecil passed it on to Blanche Parry — perhaps for the queen, for Blanche kept the queen's books. But when David Powel was in London, probably to see about printing his Historie, Blanche Parry handed Stradling's work over to him — Powel describes ‘the right worshipfull Mistres Blanch Parry,’ as ‘a singular well willer and furtherer of the weale publike’ of Wales. Powel printed the tractate in full in his Historie — on this matter, see G. J. Williams, Traddodiad Llenyddol Morgannwg, 197-9.

Author

Published date: 1959

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