The Princess Elizabeth of England and Scotland (28 December 1635–8 September 1650) was the second daughter of King Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France. From the age of six until her early death at the age of fourteen she was a prisoner of Parliament during the English Civil War. Her emotional written account of her final meeting with her father on the eve of his execution and his final words to his children have been published in numerous histories.
On the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, Princess Elizabeth, along with her brother Henry Duke of Gloucester, were placed under the care of Parliament. In 1643, the seven-year-old Elizabeth was moved to Chelsea with her brother. She was tutored by the great female scholar Bathsua Makin until 1644, by which time she could read and write in Hebrew, Greek, Italian, Latin and French. Other prominent scholars dedicated works to her, and were amazed by her flair for religious reading. In 1647, Elizabeth, James Duke of York and the Duke of Gloucester were permitted to travel to Maidenhead to meet the King, and spent two days with him. A relationship was established. This came to an end when the king was forced to flee to Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.
Elizabeth was called “Temperance" in the family for her kind nature. The turmoil under which she had grown up had produced a young woman of unusual character. When she was eleven, the French ambassador described the princess as a “budding young beauty” who had “grace, dignity, intelligence and sensibility” that enabled her to judge the different people she met and understand different points of view.
The king was captured and sentenced to death by Oliver Cromwell and the other judges in 1649. On 29 January a highly emotional final meeting occurred between Elizabeth, the Duke of Gloucester and her father. Elizabeth, who was then thirteen, while her younger brother was eight years old, wrote an account of the meeting that was found among her possessions after her death: “He told me he was glad I was come, and although he had not time to say much, yet somewhat he had to say to me which he had not to another, or leave in writing, because he feared their cruelty was such as that they would not have permitted him to write to me.” Elizabeth was crying so hard that her father asked her if she would be able to remember everything he told her. She promised never to forget and said she would record it in writing. Her father told his sobbing daughter not to “grieve and torment herself for him”. He also gave her a bible.
In 1650, Elizabeth’s brother, the now titular Charles II journeyed to Scotland to be crowned king of that country. Elizabeth was moved to the Isle of Wight as a hostage. This move was probably the cause of her death. The Princess complained that her health was not equal to moving, but it went ahead anyway; she caught a cold, which quickly developed into pneumonia, and died on 8 September 1650. Some accounts say that Elizabeth was found dead with her head on the Bible her father had given her.
Her grave was left unmarked, with the exception of her carved initials, until the 19th century when Queen Victoria commanded that a suitable monument be erected to her memory. A white marble sculpture was commissioned for her grave that depicted Elizabeth as a beautiful young woman, lying with her cheek on a Bible open to words from Gospel of Matthew: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Above the sculpture is a grating, indicating that she was a prisoner, but the bars are broken to show that the prisoner has now escaped to “a greater rest” The plaque reads: “To the memory of The Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King Charles I, who died at Carisbrooke Castle on September 8, 1630, and is interred beneath the chancel of this church, this monument is erected as a token of respect for her virtues and of sympathy for her misfortunes, by Victoria R., 1856.”