Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Women, A History: Katherine 'Kat' Ashley - Loyal Lady-in-Waiting


Katherine Champernowne Ashley
Loyal Lady-in-Waiting
(1502?-1565)


     This is going to be considerably shorter, because not much is known about Katherine Ashley except that she was governess to Queen Elizabeth I when she was a child and eventually became her most trusted lady-in-waiting. When Anne Boleyn was beheaded, Elizabeth went through several different governesses before she was put into the care of Katherine Champernonwne. Kat was a brilliant young women who was well educated and had a good reputation among the nobility. She cared for the little princess as if she was her own child. 

     Kat was also Elizabeth's tutor and instructed her in history, grammar, astronomy, mathematics, and taught her how to speak Flemish, Spanish, Italian and French. She was also supplementary in training Elizabeth in needlework, horseback riding and dancing. Elizabeth once commented that Kat worked tirelessly to bring her up as a proper young woman. Elizabeth and Katherine were inseparable and Elizabeth truly saw her governess as her own mother at times. In 1545, Kat married John Ashley who was a distant cousin of Anne Boleyn.
  
     As life in the King Henry's court became more and more complicated, Kat tried to shield her charge the best she could. However, it was difficult because Elizabeth tended to belligerent and independent. One such issue was Elizabeth's blossoming relationship with Thomas Seymour (brother to Jane Seymour). At first, Kat was excepting of their friendship, but then they were becoming to physical with one another and eventually Kat told Thomas to leave Elizabeth. However, Thomas was accused of treason against the king and due to his relationship with Elizabeth, Kat was arrested and called into questioning, but was eventually let go when they realized she knew nothing.

     After Henry's death, Kat stayed with young Elizabeth during Mary's reign of tyranny and was imprisoned with her in The Tower until Elizabeth was taken to court. When Elizabeth became Queen, she named Kat First Lady of the Bedchamber (or Lady in Waiting). Kat stayed with the Queen until she died of a rapid illness in 1565. 

     Kat was more than Elizabeth's governess, she was her mother, her guide and her friend. She stayed close to her Queen in good times and in bad, and never wavered in her loyalty. Anyone would hope to have a friend that loyal in life.
“We are more bound to them that bringeth us up well, than to our parents, for our parents do that which is natural for them, that is bringeth us into the world, but our bringers up are a cause to make us live well in it.”
     ~Queen Elizabeth about Katherine Ashley 

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