The Words upon the Window Pane by Peter Davidson

Peter Davidson

The Words upon the Window Pane


In 1554 or early 1555, the future Elizabeth I, under house arrest during the reign of her half-sister, Mary I, used her diamond ring to scratch these words on a window pane of Woodstock Manor gatehouse: ‘Much suspected by me,/Nothing proved can be,/Quoth Elizabeth prisoner.’

The inscription, though now lost, was attested to by John Foxe in his Acts and Monuments of 1563, better known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and was recorded by a number of later visitors to Woodstock. It is an odd and poetic thing to do, to write on glass with a diamond: the letters are there and not there, barely visible except when the light shines through the window. To write words or a name on a window pane is near to magic, changing the essence of a room, recording and preserving a moment of presence.

Mary Ward (1585–1645), founder of an English order of nuns and a dauntless Catholic in Protestant England, is said to have written her name in 1617 on the window of an anteroom in Lambeth Palace when the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot, was away from home. This may be

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