Elizabeth Lucar

Elizabeth Lucar (Elizabeth Withypoll) (1510 – 29 October 1537) was an English calligrapher.[1] In addition to her calligraphic skills she was fluent in Latin, Spanish, and Italian, and was an accomplished musician, needleworker and algorist.[2] A member of a prominent and wealthy mercantile family holding royal favour and civic office, her marriage united common interests within the Company of Merchant Taylors.


Elizabeth Lucar was born and died in London and is largely known from an inscription on her tomb in St Laurence Pountney church, London, written or commissioned by her husband Emanuel Lucar (1494–1574). This was recorded by John Stow.[3]

"Every Christian heart seeketh to extoll
The glory of the Lord, our onely Redeemer:
Wherefore Dame Fame must needs inroll
Paul Withypoll his childe, by love and Nature,
Elizabeth, the wife of Emmanuel Lucar,
In whom was declared the goodnesse of the Lord,
With many high vertues, which truely I will record.

She wrought all Needle workes that women exercise,
With Pen, Frame, or Stoole, all Pictures artificiall,
Curious Knots or Trailes, what fancy would devise,
Beasts, Brids, or Flowers, even as things naturall:
Three manner hands could she write, them faire all.
To speake of Algorisme, or accounts, in every fashion,
Of women, few like (I thinke) in all this Nation.

Dame Cunning her gave a gift right excellent,
The goodly practice of her Science Musicall,
In divers tongues to sing, and play with Instrument,
Both Viall and Lute, and also Virginall;
Not onely upon one, but excellent in all.
For all other vertues belonging to Nature,
God her appointed a very perfect creature.

Latine and Spanish, and also Italian,
She spake, writ, and read, with perfect utterance;
And for the English, she the Garland wan,
In Dame Prudence Schoole, by Graces purveyance,
Which cloathed her with Vertues, from naked Ignorance:
Reading the Scriptures, to judge light from darke,
Directing her faith to Christ, the onely Marke."

"The said Elizabeth deceased the 29 day of October An. Dom. 1537. Of yeares not fully 27: This Stone, and all hereon contained, made at the cost of the said Emanuel Merchant-Taylor."

After the destruction of St. Laurence Pountney church in the Great Fire of London of 1666, the brass plate inscription was moved to St. Michael, Crooked Lane.[4]

"Curious Calligraphy"

In a work published in 1904, D.N. Carvalho referred to an essay on the subject of calligraphy written by Elizabeth Lucar in 1525, at the age of 15, entitled Curious Calligraphy.[5] This, he claimed, was the first English essay on that subject, and this claim has been repeated elsewhere. However, the work is not extant and Curious Calligraphy is nowhere else cited. The term 'calligraphy' itself appears anachronistic for English usage of that date.[6] Ballard, in his 1752 Memoir of Elizabeth Lucar, does not mention an essay but described her as 'a curious calligrapher'.[7] It is possible that Carvalho, reading the line of her epitaph 'She wrought all Needle workes that women exercise', interpreted it to mean 'she wrote (of) all needle workes'. The duality of meaning of 'wrought' and 'wrote' has been recognized elsewhere, but in either sense, that line may only mean that she herself delineated the patterns which she afterwards rendered in needlework. The line 'Three manner hands could she write, them faire all' does however indicate that she could write beautifully in three different scripts.[8]

Reformist connections

Elizabeth Lucar's date of death is noted (as an interpolation) in the Calendar of the 15th-century Book of Hours known as The Beaufort/Beauchamp Hours.[9] A closely similar text is annotated into the Calendar of a 1535 printed copy of William Marshall's Prymer[10] (which incorporated English texts of the Psalms translated from Martin Bucer's Latin, disguised by being printed parallel with the Vulgate Latin).[11] The textual identity of the inscriptions in these two calendars indicates that they belonged to someone deeply interested in Reformation psalm-readings to whom Elizabeth was well-known.

Elizabeth's father Paul Withypoll's patronage of religious art is illustrated by the Withypool Triptych, a devotional painting of the Virgin and child with Saints Catherine and Ursula, including a portrait of Paul Withypoll. An attendant female figure is shown playing the lute. This masterpiece was commissioned by Paul from the Italian artist Antonio Solario and completed in 1514.[12]


Elizabeth was the daughter of Paul Withypoll (c.1485–1547),[13] Master Merchant Taylor, Alderman and M.P. for London[14] and his wife Anne, daughter of Robert Curzon of Brightwell, Suffolk. Paul was the third son of John Withypoll of Bristol and his wife Alyson, daughter and heiress of John à Gaunt of Cardiff; that John Withypoll of Bristol was the son of Robert Withypoll of Wythipool in Shropshire, origin of the surname.[15]

Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich, built by Edmund Withypoll in 1548-50 on the site of the former Holy Trinity Priory, purchased by his father Paul Withypoll.

Elizabeth was the sister (possibly the only sibling?) of Edmund Withypoll, M.P.,[16] who, after their father had purchased the site of the Holy Trinity Priory of Augustinian canons in Ipswich, built Christchurch Mansion as a private house there in 1548–50.[17] Edmund Withypoll of Ipswich and his wife Elizabeth Hynde had 18 children (several of whom did not survive infancy) to whom Elizabeth was aunt.[18] In 1532 Elizabeth received a bequest of £50 from her extremely wealthy uncle Robert Thurne or Thorne, merchant of London and Bristol (who had married her aunt Ellen Withypoll).[19] The Thorne and Withypoll families (between whom there were older ties of kinship) were engaged in an international trading syndicate and were conspicuous collectors of precious objects.[20]

Elizabeth married Emanuel Lucar (born Bridgwater, Somerset, 1494, died London 1574), the great-grandson of Richard Lucar, Steward to the Duke of Exeter in the time of Henry VI of England (brother of William Lucar, Forester of the Forest of Exmoor to Henry VI), from John Lucar of Bridgwater, son of John Lucar of Wythecomb.[21][22] Elizabeth's children – Emanuel, Henry, Mary, Jane, and another daughter – and those of her husband's second wife Joan Turnbull or Trumball[23] are shown in the 1568 Herald's Visitation of London.[24]

A painted portrait of Elizabeth Lucar is referred to in the will of Emanuel Lucar.[25]


The following arms are recited for Elizabeth in the 1568 Visitation:

Quarterly. 1 & 4, Per pale or and gules, three lions passant in pale within a bordure counterchanged. 2. Azure, three bars or, over all or a bend engrailed gules three pheons argent. 3. Azure, a cross moline between four crosses patté or.


  1. ^ G. Ballard, 'Elizabeth Lucar', in Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain (W. Jackson for Author, Oxford 1752), pp. 36-37.
  2. ^ "Brooklyn Museum: Elizabeth Lucar". www.brooklynmuseum.org. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  3. ^ J. Strype, A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster (1720 edition, expanded from the 1598 Survey of London by John Stow), Book 2, Chapter 12 (Candlewick Ward, St Lawrence Poultney), p. 189. (hrionline, The Stuart London Project, Humanities Research Institute, The University of Sheffield: accessed 03 September 2016).
  4. ^ "Elizabeth Lucar". The Dinner Party database of Notable Women. Brooklyn Museum. 19 March 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  5. ^ D.N. Carvalho, Forty Centuries of Ink, or, A Chronological Narrative concerning Ink and its Backgrounds (Banks Law Publishing Co., New York 1904), pp. 106-07.
  6. ^ Worldcat first offers 'calligraphy' in an original book title in Guillaume Le Gangneur and Simon de Vries, La caligraphie, ou, Belle écriture de la lettre grecque (Paris, 1599); The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (3rd Edition, 1964 revision) dates its English usage from 1613. The word 'curious' carries the old sense of 'skilled' or 'careful'.
  7. ^ Memoirs of Several Ladies, p. 36.
  8. ^ Consult: S. Frye, Pens and Needles: Women's Textualities in Early Modern England (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), pp. 1-2.
  9. ^ British Library Manuscript Catalogue online, Piece description for Royal MS 2 A XVIII, fol. 32v. (lower right of page.)
  10. ^ W. Marshall, [A Prymer in Englysh, with certeyn prayers and godly Meditations, very necessary for all that vnderstonde not the Latyne Tongue], Jmprinted at London in Fletestrete by John Byddell, dwellinge at the signe of the Sonne nexte to the cundite for Wylliam marshall the yere of our lorde god M.D.xxxv. the. xvi day of June. (1535) (Bodleian Library, Oxford, benchmark Clar. Press suppl. e. 29h, fol C ii verso.)
  11. ^ C. Hopf, Martin Bucer and the English Reformation (Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene (Oregon) 2012), pp. 227-28.
  12. ^ Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery accession K 1394; the side panels, which include the Withypoll arms, are in collections of the National Gallery, accessions NG 646 and 647. See National Inventory of Continental European Paintings. Archived 19 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine Images: Photo by Lisa Radley in flickr.com. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.
  13. ^ H. Miller, 'Withypoll, Paul (by 1485-1547), of London and Walthamstow, Essex', in S.T. Bindoff (ed.), The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558 (Boydell and Brewer 1982) History of Parliament Online.
  14. ^ E. Greenberg, "Elizabeth Lucar," Project Continua, http://www.projectcontinua.org/elizabeth-lucar/
  15. ^ Hervey (Clarenceux King of Arms) Suffolk 1561 Heraldic Visitation, see W.C. Metcalfe, The Visitations of Suffolk 1561, 1577, 1612 (Private, Exeter 1882), p. 82.
  16. ^ A.D.K. Hawkyard, 'Withypoll, Edmund (1510/13-82), of London; Walthamstow, Essex and Christchurch, Ipswich, Suff.', in S.T. Bindoff (ed.), The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558 (Boydell and Brewer 1982) History of Parliament Online.
  17. ^ J.R. Dunlop, Pedigree of the Withipoll family of Somersetshire, Shropshire, Essex and Suffolk, (Mitchell, Hughes and Clarke, London 1925).
  18. ^ Metcalfe, The Visitations of Suffolk (1882), p. 82.
  19. ^ T.P. Wadley, Notes or abstracts of the wills contained in the volume entitled the Great Orphan Book and Book of wills, in the Council House at Bristol (Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, c.1882), p. 180, item 291.
  20. ^ H. Dalton, Merchants and Explorers: Roger Barlow, Sebastian Cabot, and Networks of Atlantic Exchange 1500-1560 (Oxford University Press 2016); forthcoming, H. Dalton, 'Portraits, pearls, and things "wch are very straunge to owres": The Lost Collections of the Thorne/Withypoll Trading Syndicate, 1520-1550', in C.M. Anderson (ed.), Early Modern Merchants as Collectors (Routledge, London and New York, 2016). See Conference Abstracts, Ashmolean Museum, 15–16 June 2012, pp. 2-3. Archived 18 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Pedigree of 'Lucar of Bridgwater' in F.T. Colby (ed.), The Visitation of the county of Somerset in 1623, Harleian Society XI, (London 1876), p.71. The Pedigree is derived from a contemporary Lucar manuscript.
  22. ^ An account of Emanuel Lucar will be found in C.A. Bradford, 'Emanuel Lucar and St. Sepulchre, London', Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society New Series VIII Part 1 (Bishopsgate Institute, London 1938), pp. 14-30, (pdf pp. 100-116).
  23. ^ Lucar married Joan Trumball in 1541, see Bradford, 'Emanuel Lucar and St. Sepulchre', at p. 21.
  24. ^ J.J. Howard and G.J. Armytage (Eds), The Visitation of London in the year 1568 taken by Robert Cooke, Clarenceux King of Arms, Harleian Society I (London 1869), p.49.
  25. ^ Bradford, 'Emanuel Lucar and St. Sepulchre's', p. 25; Will of Emanuell Lucar, Gentleman and Merchant Tailor of London (P.C.C. 1574).

External links

  • Project Continua: Biography of Elizabeth Lucar Project Continua is a web-based multimedia resource dedicated to the creation and preservation of women’s intellectual history from the earliest surviving evidence into the 21st Century.

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