I Pray You Pray for Me, Elizabeth the Queen
Sweet Saint Hildegard, pray for me.
Woman of virtue I must be
Although she maketh Me to shudder -
Our Lady, the King's Mother.
Thou wert ever obedient
When visions from thy God were sent
And so must I thus steady be -
She's the King's Mother, Our Lady.
Her actions always for my good,
But I'd escape them, if I could.
She's with Me everywhere I go
Like unto my constant shadow.
When I ride forth, meant to be seen,
Their gracious and beloved Queen,
Who has on a matching gown
And rides beside Me through the town?
Why never could it be another
Except Our Lady, the King's Mother.
Saint Hildegard, wise learnéd one,
Her goodness hath my wits undone.
Your visions guided in your head -
She doth write hers out instead.
With Ordinances she counts each thread
Twill go into my birthing bed.
Will My name grace mine eldest daughter?
No, but Margaret, the King's mother!
Pray for me, for lasting patience,
That I survive her influence
Upon her only son, Our King,
Whom she doth vex with querying
Until He from all ladies parts
And leaves Me to endure her arts!
Saint Hildegard, I pray at last
(For she's adjacent me in mass):
Bless me with thy unwav'ring resolve
To know her dictates as but love
And be with patient wisdom seen -
Though the King's Mother is with the Queen.
I composed "Our Lady, the King's Mother" for the Duke Gyrth Oldcastle Memorial Smackdown at the 2011 Kingdom Arts and Sciences Festival. That year, we each adopted a historic persona (mine was Queen Elizabeth of York) and wrote from her perspective. We were given the names of two other participant's chosen characters, and were to praise one entrant and "smack" a second. This is my poem praising Saint Hildegard von Bingen.
King Henry VII mother, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, was a powerful influence behind the crown. Although there are few records of the personal life of these nobles, it is clear from public records that just about any time you saw Elizabeth about, her mother-in-law was there, too, often wearing equally elegant clothing. Again and again the records describe "the queen and our lady, the king's mother." Lady Margaret went so far as to dictate completely what must be procured for her first grandson's birthing chamber, bedding, christening, and nursery in a set of Ordinances. Letters by a Spanish ambassador relate some (probably justifiable) irritation on the part of the queen when her husband's mother kept interfering with her affairs. The title of this poem is taken from an inscription in a devotional guide presented to one of the queen's ladies. (No surprise, I suppose, that Margaret Beaufort inscribed it right below the queen's signature.)
The poetic forms of the time period (1484 to Elizabeth's death 1503) were, to post-Elizabethan sensibilities, rough. Although they commonly formed rhymed couplets (AABBCC etc.) or quatrains (ABAB) and many poems had vaguely consistent syllable counts per line, the lines did not proceed with metrically consistent feet or patterns of emphasis. Some famous poetry of the time, when republished later in the sixteenth century, was "polished up" a bit, regularizing lines and meter.