Shortly after the execution of Anne Boleyn in May of 1533, the crown's representative in the household where Anne Boleyn's daughter lived, an uptight and tight-fisted type of guy, addressed the toddler Elizabeth 'as befitting the child's new, lowered status.'
Her answer to the man was reported to be as follows:
"How haps it, governor, that yesterday my lady princess, yet today but my lady Elizabeth?" - Elizabeth I, age 2 yrs/8 mos (guesswork.)*
|That's not my name, you know.|
The kid got it in one.
|"What'd you just call me?"|
It's cause to wonder if the buzzing swarm of energy over the execution of the queen, Elizabeth's mother, had seeped through whatever protection her day-to-day carers took to keep the information from their
The dawning horror that something involving her mother, and not in a good way, likely made the little girl hyper-vigilant to every tiny little thing in what she saw, heard, smelled, tasted, or touched.
Kids raised in dysfunctional families have always developed super-sensitive awareness to their environment and especially to the emotional states of the people surrounding them.
I believe we can agree that Elizabeth's family life qualifies as dysfunctional - and when it came to the form used to address her by the governor of the estate, Elizabeth smelled something, and what she smelled was her recent bastardization.
Being called Lady + Christian name was an entirely different place than when called Lady + Princess + Christian name.
The 'Lady' title meant she could have been anyone - as low in the pecking order of the peerage as daughter of an earl.
When acclimated to the idea of having as father the king of England, the drop to 'could be the daughter of one of any number of courtiers' rankled Elizabeth.
The 'Lady Elizabeth' vs. the "Lady Princess" issue was the unwelcome background music to every single one of her bigger problems in her lifetime.
For a person addressing you to drop to a lower form of address was to know the sting of having been denied previous access and favors.
As young children will do, Elizabeth I surely picked up on the emotional temperature of those caring for her in the days before her mother was executed.
Or perhaps not; if those caring for her were a little distracted during the pre- and actual-execution days she may not have taken much notice; no doubt the court was rocked by shocking scandal several times a year, if not a month.
Still - regardless if the little girl was querying in the peremptory manner of an entitled kid
who had to know everything, or in the "uh-oh-I-think-something-bad-happened" way, it demonstrates her acute awareness of the leaving out of that one little word, 'princess' when she was spoken to by the man who ran her household.
Elizabeth's precocious response made at just under three years old proves a theory held by mothers everywhere: a person is born as smart or dumb as they're going to be; how fast they use what they have to probe their world is a direct result of their intelligence or lack thereof.
|The Tide Letter from Elizabeth to her half-sister, Mary - demonstrates her smarts and her inheritance of suspicion from her grandfather, Henry VII.|
* Disclaimer: some say she didn't utter that phrase, but it sounds too good to not be true. To me, at least.