Queen's Confidante - The Story Of Blanche Parry [Radio Wales]

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20180125

Huw Thomas tells the story of the Welsh woman who was a lifelong companion to Elizabeth I.

Life in the court of Elizabeth I was lavish, regal and ruthless. At its heart was the Tudor Queen, but at her side was the Welsh woman who raised the baby princess and became Elizabeth's closest companion. As chief gentlewoman of the bedchamber, Blanche Parry knew the Queen's most intimate secrets and acted as an adviser during some of the great crises and scandals of the Elizabethan age. But despite evidence of her closeness to the Queen, Blanche Parry's story has remained a footnote in historical accounts of the era. In this programme Huw Thomas sets out to discover the truth about her influence on Elizabeth.

He begins in the ancient Welsh border town of Bacton, which now lies 5 miles east of Offa's Dyke in modern day Herefordshire. Here he meets the locals who have campaigned to raise the profile of Blanche, and visits the church where a mysterious altar cloth had hung on the walls for centuries before Tudor experts suggested it may be the only surviving material of the Elizabethan era.

The cloth itself is key to understanding the admiration Blanche held for the Queen. It was a relationship that began when Blanche was summoned to help nurse the young Princess, but one which became so close that the pair would share a bed as the Queen grew more wary of her court, and closer to her most trusted advisers. At the end of both their lives the cloth would become a symbol of their loyalty for one another, but it also has a historical value greater than the modern residents of Bacton could ever believe.

With help from historians, poets and the conservators at Hampton Court Palace, Huw Thomas establishes the truth about the Welsh woman who was Queen Elizabeth's closest confidante.