Friday, December 30, 2011

On this Day in Elizabethan History: Dec 30th & 31st

On December 30th, 1568, Roger Ascham, renowned Cambridge scholar, lecturer and author, and most notably the tutor of Princess Elizabeth Tudor, died. Ascham maintained a lengthy correspondence with the young princess before he was appointed as her tutor in the household of Queen Dowager Katherine Parr. Ascham's copious praise of Elizabeth's academic abilities to his peers and superiors is genuine and showed what faith Ascham had in his pupil's potential. (

To read more about Ascham and Elizabeth's relationship, and her rigorous studies under his advisement, please see my article An Education: The Shaping of Elizabeth I Through Childhood Events and Academic Pursuits, published exclusively at On the Tudor Trail.

Portrait of Elizabeth Tudor c. 1546,  attributed to William Scrots. In the Royal Collection, residing in Windsor Castle. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

To give you an idea of the caliber of man Ascham was, even outside of his relationship with Elizabeth I, I would like to share with you a brief episode from his life, five years before he died, that I came across in D.M. Palliser's "The Age of Elizabeth: England under the later Tudor's".I have paraphrased it, below:

Roger Ascham was in attendance at a dinner hosted by William Cecil in 1563. The conversation turned to the distressing news that some boys from Eton College had run away from school because they feared the brutal beatings of their teachers.
Some of the dinner guests favored the longstanding practice of corporal punishment for pupils, but Cecil, among others agreed with the progressive Ascham that England should transition to a gentler form of education; an education that would be no less academically challenging, but more governed by positive reinforcement than negative. One of Ascham's greatest works, The Schoolmaster, first published posthumously in 1570, concerned the matter of Elizabethan education.

On this Day in Elizabethan History...December 31st

Portrait of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester c. 1564. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

And, in recognition of New Years, I will also share with you a very special gift that Elizabeth received from her beloved Earl of Leicester for the New Years celebrations of 1585:

 "First, a sable skynne, the hedd and four feete of gold, fully garnished with dyamonds and rubyes of sundry sorts."-from Progresses of Queen Elizabeth by John Nichols

A Happy New Year to all my BeingBess readers! Your support of this site galvanizes me to keep doing what I am doing; I am so happy to share Elizabeth and her remarkable story with many people worldwide who love her as I do.
You truly are my "Pastyme with goode companye"
I wish for health, happiness, and safety for you and yours in 2012...and of course, much more Queen Elizabeth I in the coming year!


Palliser, D.M. The Age of Elizabeth: England under the later Tudor's. Print.

Nichols, John. Progresses of Queen Elizabeth. Electronic.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Elizabethan Quote of the Day: An Excerpt From "The Faerie Queen"

Today I would like to share with you an excerpt from one of the most famous literary works composed to honor Queen Elizabeth I, Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene. (Note: some of the contemporary spelling had been retained to preserve the authenticity of the verse)

A picture of Queen Elizabeth receiving foreign ambassadors, by Elizabeth's female court painter Leevina Teerlinc. In my opinion, Teerlinc has an Edward Gorey like style! The practice of painting the walls in the court rooms is sumptuously brought to life in the Helen Mirren HBO miniseries Elizabeth I.
"High above all a cloth of State was spred,
And a rich throne, as bright as sunny day,
On whiche sate most brave embellished
With  royall robes and gorgeous array,
A mayden queene, that shone as Titans ray,
In glistring gold, and peerelesse pretious stones
Yet her bright blazing beautie did assay
To dim the brightnesse of her glorius throne,
As envying her selfe, that too exceeding shone."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Queen Elizabeth's first Christmas as Queen.

First let me say, Happy Christmas to all who celebrate the holiday! I hope the new year finds all of my readers (of any faith) and their loved ones happy and healthy.

Today I would like to share with you a pivotal event that happened the very first Christmas after Elizabeth had been named Queen of England, after the death of her sister Mary.

On Christmas Day, 1558, Elizabeth gave her subjects her first real hint as to her religious inclinations and the religious traditions she would observe as queen.

Normally, the Archbishop of Canterbury would have held a mass on Christmas morning for the reigning monarch and their court, but this position was now vacant since Archbishop Reginald Pole had died the same day as Queen Mary. This was fitting, as Reginald was one of Mary Tudor's lifelong supporters, like his mother Margaret Pole before him; his perfectly timed passing suggested that he was following his queen from this life into the next.

A detail from a portrait of Cardinal Reginald Pole. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Many of Mary's former clergy were wary of Elizabeth's religious beliefs. While she had never made any secret of her Protestant faith, it remained to be seen if her beliefs would lean more toward the Puritanical, like her brother's regime, or remain more moderate. Perhaps they feared, she would inhabit the same martyr like quality her sister had for her own faith, and exact revenge on the Catholic ministers who had sentenced Protestant "heretics" to death. Of course, none of the Catholic clergy and politicians fears would come to pass, but in the early months of Elizabeth's reign, they held their breath as they waited for the queen to shown her hand.

After the Archbishop of York boldly announced that he would not crown a "heretic" as  queen, there was only one clergyman willing to host a Christmas Day service for Elizabeth. He was Owen Oglethorpe, the Bishop of Carlisle.

Elizabeth, like her father, was prepared to maintain some of the "pomp & circumstance" of a Catholic service in an Anglican-style mass, but there was one element of the service she would not waver on, she told Oglethorpe in a message...

The Elevation of the Host was to be eliminated, since it implied the miracle of transubstantiation, (the belief that the bread and the wine was actually transformed into the body and blood of Christ, rather than just symbolically) actually occurred, which Protestants did not believe in.

Oglethorpe received the message, but he boldly chose to deny the queen's single order, and proceeded with his traditional service.

When the Bishop of Carlisle held the bread and wine up to the heavens to be transformed, Elizabeth was furious. From where she was seated in her chapel, she ordered him to cease and desist. When he ignored her and continued with the service as he saw fit, the queen rose and left the chapel, followed by her retinue.

The Clopton Portrait of Elizabeth I, c. 1558-1560 by an unknown artist. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Two days later, Queen Elizabeth issued a proclamation decreeing that some parts of a religious service be said in the people's language of English; she also ordered all preaching and prophesying, on both the conservative and radical sides of the religious question, to stop until further notice. She hoped that this edict would temporarily prevent Catholics and Protestants from aggravating one another in a war of words which could eventually lead to violence.

The states new policy on religion was scheduled to be determined in the Parliamentary meeting in January, after the queen's coronation.


Weir, Alison. The Life of Elizabeth I. New York: Ballantine Books, 1999. Print.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Elizabethan Quote of the Day: Elizabeth Holds Her Own Under Interrogation in 1549

When Elizabeth Tudor was interrogated during her brother Edward VI's brief reign, concerning the longstanding unscrupulous activity of Thomas Seymour, she eventually earned the respect of her interrogator. 

A detail from a portrait of King Edward VI, Elizabeth's brother. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

I have been reading a lot of the interesting contemporary accounts of Elizabeth's first time under suspicion, at the age of fifteen, long before her stay in the Tower under the reign of her sister, Queen Mary. Elizabeth's maturity, tenacity, and wit are remarkable given her stressful, and seemingly hopeless situation whilst being daily harassed by Sir Robert Tyrwhit. Tyrwhit was instructed to obtain an admission from the young princess of her supposed (but entirely unfounded) intent to secretly marry her brother's uncle, Thomas Seymour. Interestingly, and perhaps too close for comfort, Tyrwhit was related by marriage to Elizabeth's recently deceased stepmother, Queen Katherine Parr, through one of her husbands, before she married Henry VIII.

Portrait miniature of Thomas Seymour c.1545, from the workshop of Hans Holbein. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

While Tyrwhit was frustrated by Elizabeth's daily refusal to yield to his intimidation, he did come to respect her bravery, and her loyalty to her servants. One such excerpt, recorded on January 23rd, 1549, illustrates this point particularly well:
"I do assure your Grace, she hath a very good wit, and nothing is gotten of her but by great policy."
Elizabeth navigated Tyrwhit's attempts at entrapment effortlessly, partly because she was entirely innocent, but also because she was trying to protect her friends, Katherine Ashley and Thomas Parry. Elizabeth was herself an expert at deciphering the double-speak of Tudor politics, so she understood implicitly all of the tricks that Tyrwhit was using to try to confuse her; For instance, the presentation of a "confession" of guilt by Mistress Ashley-Elizabeth knew that falsified confessions were a favorite tactic of Tudor jailers, and would not be fooled.

A sketch by Holbein of Sir Thomas Parry c. 1538-1540. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

When Elizabeth made a carefully written statement about the nature of her relationship with Thomas Seymour, her lack of knowledge of his treasonous plots, and her ardent defense of her servants, she also included some statements for her own peace of mind. Elizabeth, who was keenly aware of the slander that was being circulated about her, and feared the unjust damage it would do to her reputation, implored the crown (her brother and his uncle the Lord Protector, Edward Seymour) to do the proper thing and defend her against such lies. Below, please see an excerpt from this remarkable document:

"Master Tyrwhit and others have told me that there goeth rumours abroad which be greatly against my honour and honesty (which above all other things I esteem), which be these; that I am in the Tower; and with child by my Lord Admiral. My lord, these are shameful slanders, for the which, besides the great desire I have to see the King's Majesty, I shall most heartily desire your lordship that I may show myself there as I am."

Alison Plowden analyzes Elizabeth's statement, saying:

"This famous letter, polite but by any standards a masterpiece of its kind. Elizabeth has wasted no paper on protestations of innocence or outraged modesty. She had defended herself and her servants against unwarrantable accusations with courage and dignity, and more than hinted that she would expect an apology." (Plowden, 111)

In conclusion, Elizabeth would declare,

"...My conscience beareth me witness which I would not for all earthly things offend in any thing; for I have a soul to save, as well as other folks have."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Our New Article is Up, at OntheTudorTrail!

Natalie at OntheTudorTrail has honored me by publishing my newest article on Elizabeth I exclusively on her website.

I would be honored if you would read it by clicking the above link, and giving me your feedback either on Natalie's page or here on BeingBess.

In other exciting news, Simon & Schuester has contacted me to do book reviews of new Tudor themed  historical novels. I am honored to have been asked, and very excited to get started!

As always, I do this all for Elizabeth, but also for all of you; connecting her to a modern audience is always my goal!



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Elizabethan Quote of the Day: An Account of Queen Elizabeth from 1598

I recently came across a passage from Hentzner’s Travels, which captures in great detail a moment in time at Elizabeth’s court, toward the end of her reign. I have selected an excerpt, below, to share with you. While there are no portraits of Elizabeth as “old”-she had a fear of being perceived as such, and a monarch must never let her people think she was infirm or unfit to rule- this passage gives us the most accurate description of Elizabeth as a young mind, trapped in an elderly woman’s body. Presence was everything, and even at 65 with black teeth, she is still both beautiful and powerful.

Portrait Miniature of Queen Elizabeth I from 1590, by Nicholas Hilliard. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

"In the same hall were the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of London, a great number of counselors of state, officers of the crown, and gentlemen, who waited the Queen’s coming out; which she did from her own apartment when it was time to go to prayers, attended in the following manner: First went gentlemen, barons, earls, knights of the Garter, all richly dressed and bare-headed; next came the chancellor, bearing the seals in a red-silk purse, between two: one of which carried the royal scepter, the other the sword of state, in a red scabbard, studded with golden Fleurs de Lis, the point upwards: next came the Queen, in the sixty-fifth year of her age, as we were told, very majestic; her face oblong, fair, but wrinkled; her eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her nose a little hooked; her lips narrow, and her teeth black ( a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of sugar); she had in her ears two pearls, with very rich drops; she wore false hair, and that red; upon her head she had a small crown…Her bosom was uncovered, as all the English ladies have it till they marry; and she had on a necklace of exceeding fine jewels; her hands were very small, her fingers long, and her stature neither tall nor low; her air was stately, her manner of speaking mild and obliging. That day she was dressed in white silk, bordered with pearls of the size of beans, and over it a mantle of black silk, shot with silver threads; her train was very long, the end of it borne by a marchioness; instead of a chain, she had an oblong collar of gold and jewels. As she went along in all this state and magnificence, she spoke very graciously, first to one, then to another, whether foreign ministers, or those who attended for different reasons, in English, French and Italian.”
~From Hentzner’s Travels, 1598

            As you probably noticed, Elizabeth's dark, small eyes are mentioned, a trait she inherited from her mother. Her aquiline nose and wigs are also recorded. She would have been happy to know that her long fingers were being appreciated, as she was incredibly vain about them!

The Lord Chamberlain of England bears the Sword of State in front of Queen Elizabeth I. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The sword mentioned by Hentzner being carried in front of the Queen in a red scabbard is the Sword of State, or bearings sword. We have one at the museum where I work; it possibly belonged in the retinue of Henry IV or Henry V of England. It is an impressive weapon, meant to symbolize martial power and majesty, standing over 5ft tall! One will always be taken seriously with a bearing sword carried in front of them!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On this Day in Elizabethan History: The Death of Queen Mary I of England

The head of the funeral effigy of Queen Mary I of England. In the effigy collection at Westminster Abbey. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan History, Queen Mary I died at the age of 42 with no issue. The tragedy of the many years of Mary I's ill health and phantom pregnancies was juxtaposed by the joy Elizabeth undoubtedly felt when she was declared the new queen. 

A side-by-side 17th century engraving of Mary I and Elizabeth I, courtesy of Inor19 on Flickr. Image public domain.

History tells us that when Elizabeth received the ring of her deceased sister, a symbol of her accession, she quoted scripture, declaring, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in out eyes". While some have said this statement was apocryphal, I do not doubt that Elizabeth said something of this nature when she realized that the danger had passed and she now had the opportunity to fulfill her destiny and serve her country.

"This oak tree was planted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the 22nd July 1985, on the site of the original oak tree under which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I heard of her succession to the throne." Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Elizabeth survived to inherit the throne through a combination of intelligence, charisma, bravery, a keen understanding of politics, loyal supporters, and even to a certain extent the intervention of Mary's husband, Philip of Spain.

Elizabeth's coronation would take place on January 15th 1559; This glorious event was the very beginning of an iconic reign that would stabilize England and begin it on its path to the empire it would become in the 18th and 19th century.

Queen Elizabeth I's Coronation Portrait. The National Portrait Galley estimates this painting was created c. 1600, after an earlier version. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Among her many accomplishments, Elizabeth revitalized England's navy, though she would keep no standing army. Her moderate religious stance was revolutionary, and kept England from the religious wars and other conflicts that would devastate the kingdoms of the continent, and claim thousands of lives. Elizabeth would welcome and support religious refugees, nurture England's tradesmen and women, and as a result, the economy improved so that 16th century England could operate almost independently, more so than ever before. It should come as no surprise that there was also a rise in the lower and middle classes as a result. And Queen Elizabeth famously supported the arts, theatre, literature and pageantry, bringing her country into the Golden Age.

Every year from the 1570's onward, Elizabeth's Accession Day, or Queen's Day, was celebrated with an opulent tilt and other festivities in her honor. The English nobility was already at court in November for the beginning of the Christmas season, so the Tournament was held with all the pomp and circumstance it required.

Usually the Accession Day celebrations had a theme: Arthurian, Pastoral, or even the Classical Gods and Goddesses. The Queen's special champions in the tilt were Sir Henry Lee, commissioner of the famous Ditchley portrait, and George Clifford, the 3rd Earl of Cumberland, whose tournament armor now resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland's stunning armor for the Tournament. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Todd Hoogerland. Image public domain.
A German visitor to England, Lupold von Wedel, wrote that at 12 o'clock, on September 17th:

"...the queen and her ladies placed themselves at the windows in a long room at [Whitehall] palace, near Westminster, opposite the barrier where the tournament was to be held...Many thousand spectators, men, women and girls got places...

During the whole time of the tournament all those who wished to fight entered the list by pairs, the trumpets being blown at the time and other musical instruments.The combatants had their servants clad in different colours, they, however, did not enter the barrier, but arranged themselves on both sides. Some of the servants were disguised like savages, or like Irishmen, with their hair hanging down to the girdle like women, others had hoses equipped like elephants, some carriages were drawn by men,others appeared to move by themselves; altogether the carriages were very odd in appearance.Some had their horses with them and mounted in full armour directly from the carriage. There were some who showed very good horsemanship and were also in fine attire.The manner of the combat each had settled before entering the lists. The costs amounted to several thousand pounds each.

When a gentleman with his servants approached the barrier, on horseback or in a carriage, he stopped at the foot of the staircase leading to the queen's room, while one of his servant's in pompous attire of a special pattern mounted the steps and addressed the queen in well-composed verses or with a ludicrous speech, making her and her ladies laugh. When the speech was ended he in the name of his lord offered to the queen a costly present..."

von Wedel went on to record the excitement of the joust in his observations of this clearly spectacular event.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Power has been restored! (electrical, not political!)

Dearest readers,

I am delighted to inform you that my power has finally been restored! I have Internet access at home now, not just at work, which means that I can catch up on my emails, my article writing, my tweeting and my posting!

I thank those of you who expressed concern for my well being from the bottom of my heart-you are far too kind!

"Living simply" didn't bother me one bit-in fact, I rather enjoyed it! My main concern was all of my animals (I have, I think, a million at last count!) and that they be warm. I went to great lengths to keep the Piggles (my beloved Guinea Pigs) and my rabbit warm. My cat was very distraught, but I think my dogs rather enjoyed all the cuddling under the blankets!

I am looking forward to sharing more with you soon. Also, I begin construction of a new Elizabethan dress shortly, and I will be documenting the process in my costuming page on this site. It will be a sort of educational "dress diary" if you will!

Also, I wanted to share with you a wonderful new post on Barbara Alexander's site, concerning Hollywood vs. History and how we should approach movies that fall short of our expectations...Read it HERE:



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Power Outage!

An extreme power outage in my state has taken me away from you for far too long! I have had no power since Saturday in my home, which heat, no electricity, no internet. It is by my relatives good graces that I have been able to cook hot food tonight, take a shower, check my email, and publish this brief post!

Please know that the "National Grid" (responsible for the nations power here in America) cannot promise any date for power anytime soon-the best estimate they can give me is noon by Thursday, but who knows?

I shall do my best to tweet in the mornings from my work computer before I am on the clock, and I hold out hope to get back to my emails, write articles, and interact with you soon.

In the meantime, I am getting in touch with my Nordic roots, burying perishables in the snow, lighting candles, and bundling up!

Stay Warm, dear readers!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Elizabeth the Protector

BREAKING NEWS: The Act of Succession has been updated! Hundreds of years of Primogeniture has been turned on its head! Should the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a daughter first, and a son second, the son will not precede the daughter in ascending the throne, simply due to his gender. A daughter can now inherit first, regardless if her other siblings are boys!

This is wonderful news, and while I had no doubt that the act would pass, I am delighted and I think I can safely say that somewhere, Elizabeth I is smiling...In fact, Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria have been mentioned copiously in news coverage of this recent development in the monarchy. Some of the best monarch's of England where undoubtedly queens!

Think of all that Elizabeth, the Empress Matilda, and Mary Tudor went through to become monarchs, and to keep their thrones. It is a blessing no Princess shall have to struggle for the throne again!

Queen Elizabeth II rightfully announced this year's theme as "Women as Agent's of Change"! This will be a great year for British women, if it was not already!

Also, monarch's can now marry a Catholic; previously this was not allowed and could prevent an heir from inheriting the throne altogether. As Barb Alexander (@tudortutor) said on, "somewhere Mary I and Catherine of Aragon are high-fiving!"

Elizabeth the Protector

The Wanstead Peace Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, by Marcus Gheeraerts. Painted between 1580-85.Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

There are countless instances, recorded both in state records and in personal papers and letters, that demonstrate the magnanimous nature of Queen Elizabeth. While she could be temperamental and prone to outbursts, she balanced these volatile Tudor traits nicely with her genuine love for her subjects.
Today I will share with you two such instances that exhibit Elizabeth’s defense of those who could not defend themselves...

Queen Elizabeth personally intervened to protect some of the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury’s Derbyshire tenants, after they made allegations of his abuses of power. The fact that the Earl of Shrewsbury was a trusted courtier of the Queen, and that their friendship did not cloud her judgement and make her biased, is commendable. Elizabeth always could tell right from wrong.

George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury was appointed to keep Mary, Queen of Scots under house arrest in 1568. This was a position he would fill for the next 18 years. Shrewsbury was also the father of Catherine Herbert by his first wife. Catherine was a good friend of the queen who was married to Henry Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, whose 3/4 length suit of armor resides in the collection at the museum where I work. The Earl of Shrewsbury would go on to marry the impressive Elizabethan matriarch Bess of Hardwick

A detail of a portrait of George Talbot, the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1590, Queen Elizabeth protected a minor customs official who had “blown the whistle” on the financial corruption of some of his superiors. Cecil and Burghley disapproved of the queen’s involvement in what they thought to be a very trivial manner. She responded to their judgment that she was ‘queen of the meanest (lowliest) subjects as well as the greatest’ in her kingdom.

A detail of a portrait of Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's Spymaster. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Queen Elizabeth not only improved lives on a grand scale, but also in more minor and personal ways. She pardoned, pitied and assisted the nobles, the tradesmen and the poor of her kingdom, and I look forward to sharing more anecdotes of her good nature on this blog.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Elizabethan Quote of the Day: Elizabeth Reprimands Philip Sidney!

In 1580, Queen Elizabeth I reprimanded Sir Philip Sidney, the celebrated soldier/poet, for answering the Earl of Oxford’s insult with one of his own, thus perpetuating a feud. She said to Sidney of his behavior that... “the gentlemen’s neglect of the institution of nobility taught the peasant to insult upon both”.
Sir Philip Sidney

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Peerage in Elizabethan England

Everyone has heard of at least some of the notable personalities of the Elizabethan era, even if it is only in passing in school or in a movie. But how much do we really know about the institution of nobility in Queen Elizabeth's time?

Well, I have found us the answers and am going to decode the "peerage" for you here!

In 1547 there existed only 48 men within the peerage. In 1553 the number had grown to 56, then 57 in 1558. Then, their numbers decreased again, to 55, by the year of Elizabeth's death.

The power to appoint worthy men to the peerage was reserved for the sovereign, and the survival of a given title was dependent on the nobleman's ability to produce legitimate male issue. Should a member of the nobility die without a legitimate son, like the Earl of Oxford did, the title reverted to the crown and was, for lack of a better word, dormant, until resuscitated by the monarch.

In other unfortunate cases, such as a nobleman being convicted of treason and subsequently executed, the title and the land reverted to the crown, regardless of whether the nobleman had legitimate issue. Part of the tragedy of having a traitor in the family is that not only would your name be dishonored, but you would loose your inheritance.

There were cases when a monarch made exceptions, such as an instance where Elizabeth took mercy on the heirs of a corrupt nobleman and bequeathed land back to them.

During Elizabeth's nearly 45 year reign, the queen only created 18 peerages. All but two of those (Burghley and Compton) were restorations or grants to old, loyal aristocratic families. Upon her ascension, 46% of England's peers were first or second generation in their title. By 1603, only 18% were.

D.M. Palliser, a Reader in Economic History at the University of Birmingham,  proposes that the actions of the Dukes of Somerset and Northumberland in King Edward Tudor's brief reign made both Mary I and Elizabeth I wary of promoting any of their subjects to a dukedom. Being a duke was traditionally one of the most powerful positions in the English kingdom, and usually reserved for brothers of kings.

A detail from a portrait of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, wearing his chain of office. Somerset was the Lord Protector of England during his nephew King Edward VI's minority. He was eventually executed for high treason. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

After the execution of the traitorous Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk in 1572, England would remain without a duke until 1623.

Thomas Howard, the proud 4th Duke of Norfolk, who after many shady grasps at power, was executed for treason. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

 As for knighthoods bestowed during Elizabeth's reign, the queen and her lords and generals created 878 knights. Robert Devereux, the tempestuous and willful Earl of Essex, would create the most knights at any one given time during Elizabeth's reign, 81, when he knighted his following during his disastrous term in Ireland. Essex did this without reason, as he had achieved no military victory; he also failed to ask the queens permission, which was becoming more and more typical at this point in their relationship. His knighting of his cronies was a thinly veiled attempt at earning loyalties and building a faction. Elizabeth of course saw through it, and was not pleased.

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. The stepson of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, and the queen's  favorite for the second half of her reign, until he betrayed her. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Essex was an exception, as was Norfolk, and for the most part, the members of the Elizabethan peerage were extremely loyal to their queen and hardworking on her behalf. Elizabeth's confidence, charisma and diplomacy commanded respect and instilled fierce commitment, and her people served her well.


Statistics taken from D.M. Palliser's socio-economic study The Age of Elizabeth: England under the later Tudors 1547-1603

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Great Day for Bess...

Dearest Readers,

I apologize for not updating recently! I have been very busy at work, and all the while thinking, I hope I have a chance to update Being Bess soon...

My wonderful job has once again allowed me to nurture my mission of sharing Elizabeth's legacy with the world. In a addition to an exciting new exhibit opening on the evening of the 21st, Extreme Sport: The Joust, I was asked to appear, as Queen Elizabeth I, at our most recent evening museum event The Tournament of Wines. The event was a fundraiser for the museum that featured quality wines, gourmet foods and exciting raffles, and amidst the festivities I did have the opportunity to talk to a lot of visitors about who I was, and what I was wearing, as well as take pictures with guests. I was also able to debut my new replica Dangers Averted medal, one of the commemorative coins Queen Elizabeth had issued and distributed to the veterans of the Armada conflict during the Spanish War. I retained my persona all night, interacting with guests and my two armored co-workers. The night was a success for the museum, and also a victory for Elizabeth!

I am delighted to inform you that in my spare moments I have been compiling a series of mini-articles to release to you daily, to renew your interest in the site and to hopefully gather new readers. Please spread the word, and I will be indebted to you!

Coming tomorrow is a new mini article for the blog-the first of many. I also intend to complete my article for Natalie at On the Tudor Trail, which she had asked for, and has been very patiently awaiting; it will be premiering exclusively on her wonderful blog.



Sunday, October 9, 2011

Who Was the Earl of Oxford?

A detail from a portrait of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, by Marcus Gheeraerts. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Some of you may be wondering what all the fuss is about, with the upcoming controversial movie Anonymous, opening Oct. 28th worldwide.

In the literary world there has long been controversy over the true authorship of the most important pieces of drama in the Western world. Was William Shakespeare of Stratford-Upon-Avon the actual author of the collected works of Shakespeare, or was it perhaps a more believable candidate using a pen name or a decoy, such as Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford?
This brief article is intended to give a brief introduction to the “Authorship Question” of Shakespeare’s works, and provide you with a brief overview of the facts supporting Oxfords candidacy. I hope this article will clarify much of the confusion that will be caused by the upcoming film Anonymous (see my previous post on the films problems/inaccuracies HERE) and I also hope that it will galvanize you to learn more on the Earl of Oxford and why he is the most likely candidate for Shakespeare, in my opinion. Once you discover the facts, of which there are too many to include here in a mini-article, it will be hard for you to believe that William Shakespeare was anything more that a front man for the works, employed by De Vere.
Many people ask me if I believe in any Tudor or Elizabethan conspiracy theories. Let me be clear: I do not subscribe to any of them. The "authorship controversy" would be the only thing that could come remotely close to being categorized by others as a conspiracy theory; however, to me it is more a historical misunderstanding than anything else, not some great, epic cover up in order to protect the crowns secrets, as the new film Anonymous suggests!
I am in good company; The De Vere Society, among other societies of literary, legal, and 16th century academics are dedicated to proving the Earl of Oxfords authorship. And early 20th century game changers like Sigmund Freud and Mark Twain, though by no means the first to be suspicious about lowly William Shakespeare being the true author of the plays, did bring great attention to the idea that the Earl of Oxford is a more likely candidate.
The traditionally accepted Shakespeare, or Shaksper, as it is spelled in some written records, (and how I will refer to him hear, for clarity) was born in 1564, attended grammar school, traveled to London in 1580, and died in 1616. Church records detail his marriage and his children’s baptisms, and financial records show him to be a significantly wealthy moneylender. Legal documents from 1612 recorded a deposition in court from Shaksper. However, no evidence exists anywhere of a higher education and no letters to or from this supposed great literary figure have ever been found. If you had received a letter from the great Shaksper, wouldn’t you save his signature? Even more surprisingly, no books or manuscripts were listed in his will. No contemporary referred to him as a writer of any sort, and no one dedicated any works to him, which was a common homage of respect and admiration in 16th century literary circles. His physician son-in-law referred in his notes to knowing another author of the time, but never once mentioned his own father-in-law as a literary genius!
In 1550, Edward de Vere, later the Earl of Oxford, was being educated by private tutors and subsequently graduated from the two premiere institutions in England, Cambridge and Oxford Universities, all by the tender age of 16! He was a royal ward of Queen Elizabeth I’s most trusted advisor, William Cecil. In 1571 he was married to Cecil’s daughter, Anne, although they did not like one another and Anne would later be under suspicion of infidelity, and the paternity of one of her children questioned. Oxford had an affair with the 'interesting in her own right' Anne Vavasour, and an illegitimate son. 

The joint tomb of Edward de Vere's wife, Anne Cecil, and her mother, Mildred Cooke-Cecil in Westminster Abbey. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

 Like so many of Shakespeare’s characters, Oxford had credentials as a favorite in the queen’s court (although this in no way insinuates a romantic relationship, as the new movie suggests!) and he was known to possess the most celebrated talents a nobleman could have: being an accomplished dancer, champion jouster, a participator in court masques, and an unusually sharp dresser! 

The Earl of Oxford was the Lord Great Chamberlain of England; he is depicted here bearing the Sword of State in front of Queen Elizabeth I. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

He was a known writer of poetry that pleased the queen and her court, and it was once said that he was a man who “shaketh like a spear”. The atmosphere in which Oxford resided made him knowledgeable in tournaments, armor, and court customs, and he helped to facilitate the planning of court entertainment for the queen. These are things Shakper of Avon could only have guessed at, especially with no library of his own to speak of!

A detail of a portrait of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1575 Oxford traveled to the European continent, visiting many places mentioned in Shakespeare’s stories, such as Venice and Verona. William Shaksper, on the other hand, never left England.  There are written records of Oxford receiving a 1000 pound grant each year from the queen beginning in 1586, which was an unusually large sum for any courtier. Interestingly, James Stuart, Elizabeth’s successor, continued Oxfords annuity, again with no explanation. Oxford would die a year after his queen, in 1604, with no will and according to my research, his resting place is still unknown. (However, if anyone has knowledge of where he has been buried, I would be interested to know!)

A portrait of Anne Vavasour, Edward de Vere's mistress and the mother of his only son. She was also the longtime live-in love of Sir Henry Lee, Queen Elizabeth's tournament champion and commissioner of the Ditchley portrait. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain. 

Proponents of the "Earl of Oxford as Shakespeare" theory, also known as Oxfordians, are able to point out many extraordinarily intimate, specific details of his life residing within the volumes of Shakespearean works. While it is true that many of Shakespeare’s plots are “lifted” from earlier stories or legends, and also histories (Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, King Lear) the details are purely the authors creation. In the plays, there are characters and events that replicate the situations surrounding the Earls engagement and wedding, his involvement in the re-enactment of the Gads Hill Robbery, his mother’s hasty remarriage, his cousin Horace, his encounter with pirates, and unusual character names such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. In yet one more coincidence, the book that Hamlet reads, which many scholars believe to be the epic Beowulf, only existed in printed form in one library in England at the time: William Cecil’s, Oxford’s father in-law. 

A portrait of William Cecil, Lord Bughley, in his robes for the Order of the Garter. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

It would have been political suicide for Oxford not to have used a pen name; most of the Shakespearean plays include direct commentaries, and often criticism, of political figures and policies of the time. A nobleman who was too free with his social views, especially Oxford, who already had attracted controversy for various other reasons, risked being reprimanded, banished from court, or worse. While it was not acceptable for a courtier to write anything for the playhouses, affluent men, Oxford included, could run or support theatre companies. Oxford could easily have crossed paths with Shaksper in his London residency, and paid him to be the front, or the face of his work.  The nature of their proposed relationship and much more on the Earl of Oxford and the authorship controversy is worth looking into. I hope I have sparked your interest to go and learn more!
Thoughts, dear readers?

To learn more, we recommend the following books...

Shakespeare by Another Name: A biography of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford
by Mark Andersen
First published 2005

One of the best and most popular studies on the Earl of Oxford. Andersen makes his case for Oxford as the true author of the Shakespeare canon.

De Vere as Shakespeare: An Oxfordian Reading of the Canon
By William Farina
First published 2005

Each of the Shakespearean plays and sonnets are analyzed through an Oxfordian lens, finding ties to the Earl of Oxford through references, writing style and syntax. A good read for people as interested in the literature as in the history

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Read Our Interview at On the Tudor Trail!

Dear Valued Readers,

Natalie at On the Tudor Trail, Anne Boleyn aficionado and blogger extraordinaire, has interviewed me!

I was honored to have been asked to participate in her lovely column, Tudor Talk, and I greatly enjoyed answering her thought-provoking questions. We are honored to have been included among the ranks of people like Vanora Bennett and Elizabeth Norton.

I hope you will support Natalie and her mission to preserve the memory of Anne Boleyn, and also me and my mission to preserve Elizabeth I's legacy by reading our interview. Click the links below...

An introduction to our interview:

The Q & A portion:

I look forward to hearing from you all about what you thought of the interview...

Post your comments below!


Read what people are saying about the interview:

@SonnyandBrenda tweeted to me, @ERITudor and @OntheTudorTrail :

"I LOVED the Interview and I love your passion for Elizabeth and the Tudors. Very inspiring! :)"

, Tudor humorist and author tweeted to me and Natalie:

"Fabulous job...the poets did not call you 'Gloriana' for nothing!"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Pirate Queen is Spotted on the Horizon...

I just want to thank everyone who made Queen Elizabeth's birthday so very special for me (and her!)
I now have more than 600 followers, which is the best birthday gift I could have asked for, on behalf of her Majesty, of course!

Queen Elizabeth and her legacy live on in me, and in all of you, forever, and her birthday is a special day to call attention to her life. Thank you for being a part of that with me!

Did anyone try the Marzipan recipe I posted? If so, please send me pictures of your creations so I can post them on this blog! (see email address to the right of this post)

This week, I will be very preparing for two shows I am doing on Saturday the 17th with two of my brilliant co-workers, on the "Real Stories of Women Pirates". One of us will be portraying Anne Bonney, another will be Rachel Wall, and I will be....(drum roll) Grania O'Malley! *surprise surprise*

Grania O'Malley seems a natural choice, given that she is Elizabethan (although no doubt she
would never have referred to herself as a subject of England!) and I have long been drawn to her courageous, exciting life since my mother read me a picture book about her when I was young (thanks mom!) 

The dates of her long-life almost exactly mirror Queen Elizabeth's own, Grania being born in 1530 and dying in 1603, Elizabeth of course being born in 1533 and dying the same year. The fact that Grania and Elizabeth met, negotiated terms, and parted with a new found respect for one other is just the icing on the cake to Grania's story.

  1. An artistic rendering of Grania O'Malley's audience with Queen Elizabeth I. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

My Irish accent is almost at performance quality, although I will keep working at it until the last possible moment to get it right. I have to fight my tendency to slip back into an aristocratic London accent on certain words! By Saturday I will (hopefully) have it down!

Pictures will be shared, probably on Tuesday, with perhaps a mini-article on Grania herself!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Confections Fit For a Queen!

Take a look at the birthday platter I prepared in honor of Queen Elizabeth I's 574th birthday...
Pictured are marzipan Tudor roses, "ER" medallions, crowns, and my attempt at a Phoenix bird. I am sure my candy-crafting skills will improve with time! 

The marzipan is made from the recipe I posted on the 5th, and I also made sinfully delicious vegan cupcakes from The Kind Diet cookbook. My co-workers and I will be enjoying these birthday goodies tomorrow!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Her Majesty's Marzipan

What do you give a queen for her birthday?

Marzipan, of course!

Marzipan is a confectionery delight made of sugar, almond paste, and more sugar! It had its hey-day in Tudor-Elizabethan times, served as one of the many delightful desserts at a court feast.

The beauty of Marzipan, other than its taste, is that it can be molded into any shape you can imagine, and also tinted with vegetable dies (or the modern equivalent, food coloring!) The Tudors ordered up miniature ships made of marzipan for their tables, or castles and cathedrals, or anything else that they desired!

For my own celebration of Queen Elizabeth I's birthday, I will be making Marzipan, upon other things. I wanted to share my recipe with you all in case you feel inclined to do the same! Keep in mind you can also buy pre-made Marzipan (Danish company Odense Marcipan is available at you local supermarket here in the states) but you will still need to make the glaze and do the coloring and shaping yourself! Also, if you are vegan, like me, or even vegetarian, this is one of the few historically accurate Tudor foods that you can actually consume without having to modify the recipe!

Her Majesty's Marzipan

1 8-ounce can     almond paste
1 1/2 tablespoons     light corn syrup
1 1/3 cup sifted     confectioner's sugar
                 food coloring

2 tablespoons    light corn syrup
1/4 cup     water

Step 1: In a medium bowl, by hand, knead the almond paste , then pour in light corn syrup and continue to knead.

Step 2: Add the sugar gradually, continuing to kneading until the ingredients are completely mixed together.

Step 3: Cover mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to shape.

Step 4: Tint the Marzipan by kneading in food coloring as desired, then shape.

Step 5: To prepare the glaze, combine corn syrup and water in a saucepan, mixing well. Bring water to a boil, stirring until the syrup has dissolved.

Step 6: Brush the marzipan with the confectionery glaze and let it dry overnight on waxed paper before refrigerating in an airtight container.

This recipe makes enough to shape about three dozen small marzipan figures.

Tomorrow I will be posting pictures of my creations-Granted, I know my artistic limitations and will not be attempting to replicate Westminster Abbey or anything of the sort, but there will be a Tudor theme!

Perhaps if any of you try it at home, you can share your pictures with me and I will add them to the site! I would love to see them!

Happy Cooking!