Elizabeth Jane Weston

Today in Mailbox we disclose the identity of the mystery lady from our January quiz. Listeners quoted: Henrik Klemetz, Dileepa Ehelepola, Dimtry Mezin, S B Sharma, Hans Verner Lollike, Uday Nayak, Gordon Martindale, David Eldridge, Anne Harding, Jayanta Chakrabarty, Kristýna Pletková, Charles Konecny Colin Law, Barbara Ziemba.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox. All your competition answers reached us on time; thank you very much for them. January’s mystery person was not Marie Louise Berneri or Maria Theresa or Eliška Krásnohorská but rather:

“Elizabeth Jane Weston, known as the ‘Maid of England’.”

Elizabeth Jane Weston
as Henrik Klemetz from Sweden wrote in the very first answer that reached us.

Dileepa Ehelepola from Sri Lanka wrote:

“The English Renaissance poetess who was born in 1582 (or 1581 as some say) in Oxfordshire and came to Prague with her alchemist stepfather Irishman Edward Kelley and was fluent in Czech, English, German, Italian, and the lingua franca of that era, Latin, in which she wrote her poetry later published as Poemata and Parthenicon libri (‘Maidenly Writings’), was none other than Elizabeth Jane Weston, the English maiden in the court of the King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolph II.”

Dmitry Mezin lives in Russia:

“As the poetess mostly wrote in Latin, many readers know her by her latinized name: Elisabetha Joanna Westonia.”

S B Sharma from India writes:

“Although Elizabeth spent most of her time in Prague she considered herself an Englishwoman.”

Hans Verner Lollike listens to Radio Prague in Denmark:

“You made it very easy for the sharp listener, since Mailbox was followed by a rebroadcast of an excellent portrait of Elizabeth Jane Weston aired on July 16th, 2006.”

Uday Nayak from India also remembered that programme:

“She is Elizabeth Jane Weston. I listened to the episode on her which Radio Praha broadcast on 16/7/2006.”

Gordon Martindale from the UK also found the answer through Radio Prague:

“... the penny dropped when I found the lady in the Radio Prague article, entitled ‘Elizabeth Jane Weston, an Englishwoman at the Court of Rudolph II.’"

Edward Kelly
And David Eldridge is our regular listener in the United Kingdom:

“I found difficulty finding reference to this month's mystery person but sitting at a breakfast table with a mobile phone connected to the Internet managed to solve the clues. The person is Elizabeth Jane Weston and was featured on your edition of Czech Books of 16th July 2006. The programme, available as an archive on your website, gives a charming account of her life... The programme does her far more credit than any words I could write.”

Anne Harding writes from Iowa:

“She was praised for her poetry and called the tenth muse. Her stepfather was Edward Kelly who was an alchemist in the court of Rudolf II who was known for surrounding himself with a wide variety of scientists, alchemists and artists. This is the first time I've been able to identify the mystery person, thanks to a book I just received as a Christmas gift, ‘The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague’. What a funny coincidence.”

Jayanta Chakrabarty is our faithful listener from India:

“The neo-Latin poetess Elizabeth Jane Weston began composing poems in a comparatively challenging Latin language as a means of financial support for herself and her family after her alchemist stepfather Edward Kelley's disgrace and death in the Prague Court of Rudolph II. Her orphaned state and Prague's rich cultural ambiance seems to have given the impetus to carefree writings backed by a strong command of languages, being herself multi-lingual. Her poems and letters reflect the highly artistic self-presentation available to women in the Age of Renaissance. Modern editors, while evaluating her remarkable works and achievements, have put Elizabeth on a high pedestal praising her among the foremost women writers of the early modern literary period.”

Kristina Pletková follows Mailbox in South Bohemia:

Emperor Rudolf II
“She used her paramount literal talent and repeatedly appealed to the Emperor Rudolf II and the members of Czech nobility. Her endeavor unfortunately did not bring the desirable success, however she continued to write verse appeals for the rest of her life... She left behind some marvelous Neo-Latin poetry (Poemata, Parthenica) which had been published already during her life.”

Charles Konecny writes from Ohio:

“I read little poetry, but Weston's poems (we called her ‘Westonia’) are ones I can actually understand and get the meaning of what she was writing. Of the poems I read, her words are very moving and they just grip you. And of course, in the Renaissance years for a woman to get her poems published was a big accomplishment. And to speak five languages... that is also impressive. It is too bad she died so young. So I bow my head to the lady who started in England and ended with the Czechs.”

Colin Law from New Zealand wrote:

“Kelley was at that time employed as a scryer (crystal-ball gazer) at the court of Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II of the Hapsburg family, who was a contemporary of Elizabeth I of England and Ireland. In 1589 Edward Kelley received a knighthood from Emperor Rudolf II, but some years later he offended the Emperor and was sent to prison in 1591 where he remained until his death in 1597. His property was confiscated and Elizabeth and her mother became destitute. The situation became worse in 1600 after her brother, John Francis, who was studying at Ingolstadt University, became ill and died.

“By the time she was 14 Elizabeth was writing Latin verse and was also fluent in several languages. This resourceful young teenager set about writing appeals in Latin verse to influential patrons, appealing for their help. One of them was even addressed to the Emperor. In 1603 Elizabeth married a lawyer, Johannes Leo, and they had four sons and three daughters. Leo was an imperial agent who aided Elizabeth and her mother in their legal moves against Rudolf II to have Kelley’s estate returned to them. Johannes Leo also edited some of Elizabeth’s poetry for publication.”

Barbara Ziemba follows Radio Prague in Illinois:

“As a writer, she is well renowned for having her works published at this time period in history. She was even so, as to be ranked along with Sir Thomas More as one of the best Latin poets of the 16th Century. In 1603 she married a lawyer and courtier, Johannes Leo. She gave birth to seven children, four sons who died very young, and three daughters. Professionally she was known as Westonia and described herself as Elizabeth Jane, wife of Johannes Leo, Agent in the Imperial Court and Englishwoman of the Weston family. She died in childbirth on November 23, 1612 and was laid to rest in the Church of St. Thomas located in Malá Strana.”

Many thanks to all of you for taking part in our monthly quiz. This time a Radio Prague goodie bag is on its way to Dileepa Ehelepola from Sri Lanka. Congratulations!

If you haven’t been lucky this time, why not give it another try in February.

This month we are asking you to tell us the name of the 10th century Bohemian nobleman, priest, bishop and missionary who traveled around Europe and was killed while trying to spread Christianity in Prussia. He is the Patron saint of Bohemia but also Poland, Hungary and Prussia.

You can send in your answers by the end of February to or Radio Prague, 120 99 Prague which are also the addresses for your reception reports, questions and comments. Until next week, happy listening.