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The Great Tudor Cover-Up
concerning the Children of Queen Elizabeth I

Court life in sixteenth century England was a web of rumour and intrigue. Any whiff of scandal would bring all the honourable gossips flocking to the Royal arena. You can, therefore, imagine the scenes had the following story become widely known.

It all began one still silent night in London. An old midwife was awoken from her sleep by a loud rapping at her door. Though used to such disturbances in her line of work, she could not help but be a little annoyed. Why did babies always have to arrive in the middle of the night? Still half asleep, she stumbled out of bed and down the stairs to her front door. She opened it just a crack. Peering into the darkness, her eyes were greeted by the sight of a well dressed man of obvious importance. He pushed the door wide open and barged his way inside. The midwife had no time to protest. “You must come at once,” the man demanded haughtily. “Your services are needed urgently. You’ll be well paid. Just do exactly as you’re told and don’t ask questions.” The old woman was startled into action and quickly gathered together the tools of her trade. The impatient gent bustled her out of the door into a waiting coach, and they were quickly off out of sight.

Through the otherwise quiet London streets the coach clattered, then out into the surrounding countryside. It hurriedly threaded its way along both major routeways and down narrow tracks. The journey was fast and furious, but also lengthy. Though the old lady could see everywhere they went, she rarely ventured outside London, so did not recognise the scenery. It wasn’t long before she had absolutely no idea where she was.

At length, they trundled through a large gateway with imposing wrought iron gates. On up the driveway they travelled, before a huge magnificent palace rose up before them. The midwife had never seen such a wondrous place. A servant came running out to meet them as the carriage pulled up. “Thank goodness you’re back, Master McDorrell. Hamstead Marshall has been a-wash with worry!”

The old midwife was helped down from the coach still gawping at the splendour before her. “Now remember,” whispered her employer, evidently Master McDorrell, “you must do just as I say, and tell no-one of what you see here tonight.” She was puzzled by such secrecy but did as she was bid. Into the house and up the stairs, she followed her McDorrell. Here, he revealed a secret door and led her through to a small bed chamber where a young lady lay in labour. The midwife was told most vehemently that she must save the young mother, no matter what happened to the child.

In fact, the instructions were not needed. The lady gave birth to a fine baby daughter, and she herself could not have been in better health; but before the midwife was able to hand over the baby to its mother, she was ushered into a side room. A blazing fire roared in the fireplace: the heat hit her as she entered. Then came the most extraordinary demand of the evening. “Throw the child into the fire,” proclaimed McDorrell, turning away. The midwife couldn’t believe her ears. She just stood and stared at her employer. When he repeated himself, she backed away. He started towards her. She screamed protests at him, clutching the baby tightly to her breast. It began to cry. There was a struggle. The midwife fell to the floor and the child was wrenched from her arms. Then, as she watched helplessly, it was cast into the consuming flames.

Sobbing bitterly, the old woman was shown out of the room. Another door was used. She did not see the young mother again. As she descended the staircase, a bag of gold was pressed into her trembling hands. If she had not been in such a state of shock, the midwife would have thrown it back in the face of her taskmaster. As it was, she didn’t know what she was doing. On leaving, she was given a cup of wine. “Drink this. It will help calm your nerves,” a servant told her. Grateful for any small kindness, she drained the cup in one. She entered the coach once more and it clattered away down the drive towards London.

Six days later, the old midwife was dead . . . poisoned. But not before she had told her story, and identified the young mother as Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth I!

Next: Discussion of the Legend
On to: Places associated with the Legend


    © Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.