Elizabeth BROWNE

(C. Worcester)

Born: ABT 1502, Bechworth, Surrey, England

Died: 20 Apr 1565 / 23 Apr 1565 / BEF 23 Oct 1565

Father: Anthony BROWNE (Sir)

Mother: Lucy NEVILLE

Married: Henry SOMERSET (2° E. Worcester) BEF 1527

Children:

1. Anne SOMERSET (C. Northumberland)

2. William SOMERSET (3º E. Worcester)

3. Lucy SOMERSET (B. Latimer)

4. Eleanor SOMERSET

5. Thomas SOMERSET

6. Charles SOMERSET

7. Francis SOMERSET (d. 10 Sep 1547, in battle)

8. Jane SOMERSET

9. Mary SOMERSET

¿10. Henry SOMERSET?


Elizabeth Browne was born approximately in 1502 and lived in Bechworth, Surrey, England. She was the daughter of Sir Anthony Browne and Lucy Neville; half-sister of William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton, and sister of Sir Anthony Browne. Married by 1527, as his second wife, Henry Somerset, 2nd earl of Worcester.

Her mother’s will, dated 20 Aug 1531, includes "Item I bequeath to my daughter countess of Worcester for a remembrance to pray for my soul a pair of bedys of gold with ten gawdies"

A lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn and seems to have been a friend of Anne’s. After Anne’s coronation, a large feast was held. To the Queen’s right stood Anne Howard, dowager Countess of Oxford, and to her left, Elizabeth Somerset. As her lady-in-waiting, Elizabeth’s duties included on several occasions, during the dinner, holding a fine cloth before the Queen’s face when she wanted to spit.

Elizabeth was on of the chief mourners in the funeral of Catalina of Aragon, with Maria de Salinas, Lady Willoughby; the Countess of Surrey and Frances Brandon.

On 8 Apr 1536, she borrowed £100 from the Queen, a debt that had not yet been repaid when Queen Anne was arrested and sent to the Tower. An unsubstantiated story has Elizabeth taken to task for immorality by her brother, Sir Anthony Browne and responding that she was “no worse than the queen”. One variation on this story identifies Elizabeth as King Henry VIII’s former mistress and has her specifying that her brother should talk to Mark Smeaton and one of the Queen’s gentlewomen called Marguerite for details on the Queen’s misconduct. Another version has Lady Worcester issuing the reprimand and an unidentified woman comparing herself to the Queen. The source appears to be a poem dated 2 Jun 1536 and written by Lancelot de Carles, a member of the French embassy to England. All that is certain is that gossip prevalent at the time of Queen Anne’s arrest did mention Lady Worcester as a source of some of the accusations against her, but without specifics.

On 24 May, writing to Lady Lisle, John Hussee identified 'the fyrst accuser, the lady Worserter, and Nan Cobham with one mayde more... but the lady Worseter was the fyrst grounde'. A day later he wrote: 'Tuching the Quenys accusers my lady Worsetter barythe name to be the pryncypall'.

Comments Queen Anne made during her imprisonment give no indication that Anne thought Elizabeth had turned on her. Anne became concerned about her former lady-in-waiting’s difficulties during pregnancy even as she remained locked up in the Tower. Sir William Kingston, the Queen's gaoler, sent Thomas Cromwell reports of what Anne, obviously distressed, had been saying she much lamented my lady of Worcester… because that her child did not stir in her body... for the sorrow she took of me". That suggests that Lady Worcester had recently miscarried, but in fact, according to G. W. Bernard’s 'Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attraction', she gave birth to a daughter, Anne (perhaps in memory of Anne Boleyn), in the year ending at Michaelmas 1536, according to the accounts of George ap Thomas, bailiff of the Earl of Worcester's manor of Monmouth and Wischam: ap Thomas and his wife (who was to be wet-nurse) had incurred expenses in connection with the baptism and their lodging in London. If this daughter is the same Anne Somerset whose birth date is usually given as 1538, she went on to marry Thomas Percy, 7° Earl of Northumberland and help lead a Northern Rebellion against Queen Elizabeth in 1569.

Bernard, whose premise is that Anne Boleyn was guilty of at least some of the charges against her, theorizes that the Countess of Worcester and others of Anne’s ladies were aware of her love affairs and only escaped prosecution for their complicity by giving evidence against the Queen. That the Countess of Worcester was pregnant is interesting. If the father were someone other than her husband, that would explain why she reacted by making similar, but still more serious, charges against Anne. If Worcester thought the child might not be his, there is no indication of it in family records.

As for the loan of £100, Elizabeth wrote to Cromwell on 8 Mar 1538, thanking him for his kindness in that matter and asking that he not mention it to her husband, since the Earl did not know she had borrowed the money, and she did not know how he would take it. Bernard’s book includes the suggestion that the father of Elizabeth’s baby was Cromwell himself.

According to the Spanish Chronicle, William Brereton was named by Mark Smeaton in his confession. Did the Countess of Worcester accuse him? Brereton had married the sister of the Earl of Worcester. Warnicke says that the Countess, beside her belief that Brereton sexual appetites were excesive, would have been the most likely one of the ladies to have recalled any meetings he had with Anne.

Elizabeth’s children, all generally accepted as her husband’s, included William, Thomas, Charles, Francis (d. 1563), Eleanor (d. ABT 1584), Jane, Anne, Lucy, and Mary.

She died between 20 Apr 1565, when she made her will, and 23 Oct 1565, when it was proved. Her effigy is at St. Mary's Church, Chepstow, Monmouthshire.

Sources:

G. W. Bernard’s 'Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attraction'

Fox, Julia: Jane Boleyn: The true story of the infamous Lady Rochford

Warnicke, Retha M.: The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn

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