"This is my book. It was not always mine. Long ago, someone very important gave it to Father, and told him to give it to a lady. My mother can read a little, but cannot write, so he kept it for me."
—Tilly Middleton[3]

Lady Matilda Lumsden (née Middleton; born September 7, 1540), also known as Tilly, was the daughter of Mrs. and Mr. Middleton. During her childhood, she lived at the Tower of London, where her father worked as a physician. Tilly later married Nicholas Lumsden, who worked with Francis Walsingham for Queen Elizabeth .


Early life

Matilda, nicknamed "Tilly", was born on September 7, 1540.[2] She shared her birthday with Princess Elizabeth.[4] Tilly grew up at the Tower of London, where her father worked as a physician. She had an older brother, William, and two younger brothers, Jack and Harry. She also had an older brother, named Edward, who died before reaching the age of two.

1553 – 1559

In 1553, Tilly's father gave her diary, which he received from one of the prisoners of the Tower. Tilly later found a letter to "EL" hidden in her diary, and suspected that it was for Princess Elizabeth. The following July, King Edward VI passed away, naming his cousin Lady Jane Grey as his heir. Tilly watched Jane's procession as she made her way to the Tower. Jane ruled for nine days, before being overthrown by Edward's half sister, Mary.

Jane and several others involved were imprisoned, creating an influx of warders and guards. Therefore, Tilly's father forbid her to wander the Tower, though she was allowed to go into the city. She often met with her friend, Tom, who worked at the Royal Menagerie. After Mary's coronation, Jane was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. Tilly believed at the time that she would be pardoned, however on February 12, 1554, Jane was beheaded. On the same day, Tilly makes a new friend, Frances Lea.

In August 1554, Tilly's mother gave birth to her sisters, Mary and Susannah "Susy". Tilly rarely had time to write in her diary, since she was busy caring for her younger siblings. Around the same time, Queen Mary began burning Protestants at the stake. After reigning for six years, Mary died childless on November 18, 1558. Elizabeth inherited the crown and stayed at the Tower for her coronation. Tilly was finally able to give her the letter, which she had kept safe for almost seven years.


After meeting Queen Elizabeth, Tilly was introduced to several members of court, including her future husband, Nicholas Lumsden. Her husband worked for the Queen, possibly as a spy, which kept him away from home often. They had six children together, Richard, Joseph, Harry, Catherine, George, and Elizabeth. Tilly's best friend, Frances also married Tilly's elder brother, William, and had two children, Kathryn and Edmund.

1583 – 1586


Tilly's daughter, Kitty

Every year on her birthday since 1559, Tilly received a brand new diary from the Queen. In turn, Tilly encouraged her daughter, Kitty to also write in a diary. She was often visited by Francis Walsingham, who was a friend of husband. Tilly was also a confidante to her husband, who told her everything about his work.

During this time, Anthony Babington was plotting with his friends to overthrow the queen and place Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots on the throne. Tilly was likely kept up to date about the plot, thanks to her husband and Francis. In September 1586, Babington and his co-conspirators were executed for their crimes. The following month, Tilly went with her family to Greenwich Palace and met with the queen.

Personality and traits

Tilly was extremely curious and spent many hours wandering the Tower of London. As she grew older, Tilly took on more responsibilities, such as taking care of her younger siblings and cooking. Her brother also remarked that she would "one day become a good housewife." She also had a talent for sewing, which she continued to enjoy well into her adulthood.

Family tree

The Middleton-Lumsden Family Tree
Mr. Middleton
Mrs. Middleton
William Middleton
Frances Lea
Matilda Middleton
(b. 1540)
Nicholas Lumsden
Jack Middleton
(b. 1550)
Harry Middleton
(b. 1553)
Mary Middleton
(b. 1554)
Susannah Middleton
(b. 1554)
Edward Middleton
(b. 1556)
Kathryn Middleton
(b. 1567)
Edmund Middleton
Richard Lumsden
Joseph Lumsden
Catherine Lumsden
(b. 1571)
Harry Lumsden
George Lumsden
Elizabeth Lumsden

Behind the scenes



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