Thursday, December 27, 2012

Theatre Thursday: Winter in Love's Labour's Lost

Edwinsford Manor in winter; Edwinsford was built in the 16th and 17th centuries. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Photo shared for public use by Anthony Gostling.

"When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the Sheperd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail..."

-Winter in Love's Labour's Lost

A comedy, Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost was first published in 1598, though it was most likely written in the mid 1590's. Around this same time, Shakespeare also composed two of his more popular plays, the comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream and the tragedy Romeo and Juliet.

Stay warm, dear BeingBess readers!

Semper Eadem,


Friday, December 21, 2012

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Ice Skating on the Thames

"Frost Fair on the Thames", from The Elizabethan People, Henry Thew Stephenson. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In the winter of 1564, the River Thames became frozen solid. The people of Elizabethan London took advantage of this rare, exciting occurrence and ice skated across the river.

"River Thames with the Docks from Woolwich to the Tower", from A Dictionary Practical, Theoretical, and Historical of Commerce and Commercial Navigation by J.R. M'Culloch, 1882. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Francis Walsingham Appointed Secretary

A portrait of Sir Francis Walsingham by John de Critz, circa 1597. Image public domain through Creative Commons licensing, NPG, London.
On this day in Elizabethan history in 1573, Queen Elizabeth I appointed Sir Francis Walsingham as her principal secretary. Though he was a competent statesman, Walsingham's true calling was intelligence and espionage. Through a combination of diplomacy and the use of informants and spies, Walsingham and his men managed to keep Queen Elizabeth safe from several assassination plots. 

Walsingham's finest hour was also to be his most controversial: exposing Mary Stuart's approval and support of the well-organized Babington Plot. Anthony Babington and his co-conspirators sought to have Elizabeth I deposed and killed, and then liberate the imprisoned Queen of Scots and place her on the English throne. Mary Stuart, with the help of Philip II, would restore Catholicism in England and bring the country back under papal influence. Walsingham's methods for obtaining proof of Mary Stuart's guilt may be considered entrapment by modern standards, but the fact remains that Mary did give her consent in no uncertain terms.

The Babington letter. Photo courtesy of by Barb Alexander, the Tudor Tutor.

The cipher code used by Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, to correspond with Anthony Babington and, unknowingly, Walsingham and his men. UK National Archives.

Mary Stuart, the former Queen of Scots, was executed for her crimes at Fotheringay on Febrary 8th, 1587. Walsingham served as Queen Elizabeth I's secretary in an official capacity, and her "spymaster" in an unofficial capacity, until his death on April 6th in 1590.

For further reading, we recommend:

Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage by Stephen Budiansky.

The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I by Stephen Alford

Also, to learn more about Sir Francis Walsingham and his family, please visit our Walsingham Family board on Pinterest.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Theatre Thursday: Shakespeare's Globe Sets 2014 Date

 The reconstructed Globe Theatre along the Thames. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Shakespeare's reconstructed Globe Theatre has set a 2014 date for the opening of their new indoor theatre space. To read more about the Jacobean-style construction and what lies ahead for the theatre, view The New York Times article here.

Friday, November 30, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Queen Elizabeth I Delivers The Golden Speech

On this day in Elizabethan history in 1601, Queen Elizabeth I delivered her celebrated "Golden Speech" at Whitehall Palace to 141 members of the Commons. The speech, in which Queen Elizabeth articulately and passionately reflected on her reign, and expressed her great love for her subjects, is considered one of the finest moments of her career. Perhaps Elizabeth I intuitively knew that her life, and therefore her reign, were drawing to a close, and she deemed it wise to convey her feelings while she was still able. 

A detail of Queen Elizabeth I, from the Charter of Emmanuel College, Cambridge from 1584. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Elizabeth I's love-affair with the people of England was unprecedented, as was her choice to express her feelings toward them so openly. The Golden Speech was written down, printed and distributed throughout the kingdom, so that all of the English people would know of their Queen's gratitude for them. At least one version, a printed pamphlet that is marked, is thought to have been edited by Queen Elizabeth I herself.

Included below are select passages from the Golden Speech, Queen Elizabeth I's great love-letter to her people; some spelling is modernized for clarity.

"We perceive your coming is to present thanks unto us; Know I accept them with no less joy than your loves can have desire to offer such a present, and do more esteem it then any treasure of riches, for those we know how to prize, but Loyalty, Love and Thanks, I account them invaluable, and though God hath raised Me high, yet this I account the glory of my crown, that I have reigned with your Loves. This makes that I do not so much rejoice that God hath made Me to be a Queen, as to be a Queen over so thankful a people, and to be the mean under God to conserve you in safety, and preserve you from danger, yea to be the instrument to deliver you from dishonor, from shame, and from infamy; to keep you from out of servitude, and from slavery under our Enemies; and cruel tyranny, and wild oppression intended against us: for the better withstanding whereof, We thank very acceptably your intended helps, and chiefly in that it manifesteth you loves and largeness of heart to your Sovereign."

"Of myself I must say this, I never was any greedy scraping grasper, nor a strict fast holding Prince, nor yet a waster. My heart was never set upon any worldly goods, but only for my subjects good. What you do bestow on Me, I will not hoard up, but receive it to bestow on you again.Yea, Mine own properties I account yours to be expended for your good, and your eyes shall see the bestowing of it for your welfare."

"I esteem my peoples love, more than which I desire not to merit: And God that gave me here to sit, and placed me over you, knows that I never respected myself, but as your good was conserved in me; yet what dangers, what practices, and what perils I have passed, some, if not all of you know: but none of these things do move me, or ever made me fear, but it is God that hath delivered me."

"And in my governing this Land, I have ever set the last Judgement day before mine eyes, and so to rule, as I shall be Judged and answer before a higher Judge, to whose Judgement Seat I do appeal in that never thought was cherished in my heart that tended not to my peoples good."

"And if my Princely bounty have been abused, and my grants turned to the hurt of my people contrary to my will and meaning, or if any in authority under me have neglected, or converted what I have committed unto them, I hope God they will not lay their culps to my charge."
"To be a King, and wear a crown, is a thing more glorious to them that see it, than it is pleasant to them that bear it: for myself, I never was so much enticed with the glorious name of a King, or to the royal authority of a Queen, as delighted that God hath made me His Instrument to maintain His Truth and Glory, and to defend this Kingdom from dishonor, damage, tyranny, and oppression. But should I ascribe any of these things unto myself, I were not worthy to live, and of all most unworthy of the mercies  have received at God’s hands but to God only and wholly all is given and ascribed."

"The cares and trouble of a crown I cannot more fitly resemble then to the drugs of a learned physician, perfumed with some aromatic savor, or to bitter pills gilded over, by which they are more acceptable or less offensive; and for my own part, were it nor for conscience sake to discharge the duty that God hath laid upon me, and to maintain his glory, and keep you in safety; in mine own disposition I should be willing to resign the place I hold to any other, and glad to be freed of the Glory with the Labors, for it is not my desire to live nor to reign longer than my life and reign shall be for your good. And though you have had and may have many mightier and wiser Princes sitting in this seat, you never had nor shall have any that will love you better."

Queen Elizabeth I presiding over Parliament, circa 1580-1600. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: The Death of Sir Christopher Hatton

A detail of a portrait of Sir Christopher Hatton, circa 1575. Image public domain through Creative Commons licensing, NPG, London.
On this day in Elizabethan history in 1591, Lord Chancellor Christopher Hatton, whom Queen Elizabeth affectionately called her "lids" and her "sheep", died in London at Ely Palace. The Queen herself had visited her ailing favorite on November 11th. A month after his passing, on December 16th, there was a state funeral for Hatton at the Old St. Paul's Cathedral. His monument, which stood at the altar, was described as " outrage to the susceptibilities of the devout but an object of marvel to London sightseers until the Great Fire of 1666 dethroned and destroyed it" (Deacon, 213).

Since Henry VII, the Tudors had favored promoting men in government based on merit rather than hereditary right. Christopher Hatton was a prime example of one of these "new men". The second son of a member of the Northamptonshire gentry, William Hatton, and his second wife Alice Saunders, Christopher became a leading figure in Queen Elizabeth's court.

Unlike most to join Queen Elizabeth's inner circle, Hatton was no academic. Though he was able to attend Oxford in the 1550's, he received no degree, and after being admitted to the Inner Temple (one of the four residences for learning common law and appointing barristers) in 1559, he was never actually called to the bar (Wagner, 145). So, even though Hatton took the traditional path to earn a career at court, he did not succeed in his academic endeavors, and it was therefore assumed that he earned his place through his skills at dancing. 

The handsome Hatton had first caught the Queen's eye when he performed a dance for her at the court masque given at the Inner Temple during the Christmas celebrations of 1561 (Wagner, 145). In just three years, Hatton had benefited from Queen Elizabeth's patronism, receiving court appointments and grants of land and money. Over time, Hatton honed his abilities as a politician, and Queen Elizabeth entrusted him with more responsibilities. In 1572, Queen Elizabeth made him captain of her Royal Guard. 1577 was an excellent year for Hatton, since he was both knighted and appointed to the Privy Council. He sat for Northamptonshire in several parliaments, and became the Queen's spokesman in the Commons. 

A portrait of Sir Christopher Hatton by an artist after Cornelius Ketel, circa 1585. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Hatton was now in a position to become a patron himself; Edmund Spenser and Thomas Churchyard benefited from his support. Hatton was also one of the first courtiers to invest in Sir Francis Drake's attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1577. In tribute, Drake's famous ship, the Golden Hind, was named after one of the heraldic emblems on Hatton's coat-of-arms (Wagner, 145).

A reproduction of Drake's Golden Hind. Photo acquired through Wikimedia Commons, shared for public use by Steve FE Cameron.

Hatton's rapid rise at court was somewhat stalled by his opposition to Queen Elizabeth's proposed marriage to Francis, Duke of Alencon, and his rivalry with another favorite of the Queen, Sir Walter Raleigh. Also, Hatton, along with most of the Queen's advisers, supported the idea of executing Mary Stuart, the former Queen of Scots, which earned him Elizabeth's displeasure (Wagner, 145). Hatton encouraged secretary William Davison to defy the Queen's orders and send Mary Stuart's signed execution warrant to Fotheringay, rather that retain it indefinitely, as she had instructed. After the Queen's wrath dissipated, Hatton was welcomed back into the royal fold.

A portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, circa 1578. Attributed to Oultry. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Like the Queen, Hatton was a religious moderate, and opposed any drastic actions taken against Puritans and Catholics. The Puritan's suspected him of being a secret Catholic, and a Puritan fanatic actually tried to assassinate him in 1573.

In 1587, Hatton earned his most distinguished position, becoming Lord Chancellor, which was the most important legal position in the land; this was quite the triumph for a man that never made the bar! In 1588, after Queen Elizabeth's world was turned upside-down by the death of her long-time friend and favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, someone needed to succeed to his many positions; Hatton became the next Chancellor of Oxford University and the High Steward of Cambridge University (Wagner, 145). For Queen Elizabeth to select Hatton as her beloved Leicester's successor signifies her placement of trust in his abilities, and her affection for him.

A miniature portrait of Sir Christopher Hatton, circa 1588-91. By Nicholas Hilliard. Hatton is shown with the seal of his office of Lord Chancellor on the table by his side. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Sir Christopher Hatton succeeded in one way where Leicester had always failed Elizabeth; the consummate courtier, Hatton never married. However, it was rumored that he had married secretly, and perhaps fathered an illegitimate child. Hatton's nephew, Sir William Newport, inherited his estates upon his death. As a sign of respect, Newport adopted the surname Hatton. Also passing without issue, the Hatton estates passed to a second Christopher Hatton in 1597.


Wagner, John. A. "Hatton, Sir Christopher". The Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World. First ed. 2002. Print.

Deacon, Malcolm. The Courtier and the Queen. Northampton: Park Lane Publishing, 2008. Print.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Queen Elizabeth's Former Jailor Grovels for Forgiveness

Directly before and immediately after Elizabeth Tudor's accession to the throne of England on November 17th, 1559, well-wishers and fortune seekers came to court the new Queen; everyone aspired to earn a place in her household or her government. Sir Henry Bedingfield, the man whom Queen Mary I had appointed as Elizabeth's jailor in the Tower of London and at Woodstock from 1554-55, hurried to present himself to Elizabeth I to ask for her forgiveness. Bedingfield had been a particularly cruel and calculating keeper (though this has been contested by Marian apologists), and Elizabeth had come to believe that Bedingfield had been ordered by her own sister to find a way to quietly dispose of her. 

A portrait of Queen Mary I by Hans Eworth, 1554. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

There were other alleged Marian plots to murder Elizabeth; it was suspected that both Stephen Gardiner, Mary's Lord Chancellor, and the Spanish ambassador, Simon Renard, had sent assassins to kill Elizabeth. The plots were thwarted only because Bedingfield had instituted a strict policy that no one be allowed to visit the Princess Elizabeth without him being present. Bedingfield transported Elizabeth to Woodstock, and then to court, in June of 1555.

A 16th century portrait of Bishop Stephen Gardiner, who served as Queen Mary's Lord Chancellor. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Several years later, it was Elizabeth who had the upper-hand over Sir Henry Bedingfield; she dismissed her grovelling former jailor, saying, "If we have any prisoner whom we would have sharply and straightly kept, we will send for you!"

A detail of a 16th century portrait of Sir Henry Bedingfield. Picture acquired through Image public domain.

Bedingfield lived out the rest of his days away from court politics in Norfolk, but occasionally he resurfaced in the records as a Catholic recusant.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: The Accession of Elizabeth Tudor to the Throne

On this day in Elizabethan history in 1558, Queen Mary I died and Elizabeth Tudor was declared the new Queen of England. The last of the Tudor dynasty, Queen Elizabeth I would also become the most successful Tudor monarch. Her coronation would take place on January 15th, 1559.

A coronation portrait miniature of Queen Elizabeth I, possibly by Levina Teerlinc. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Accession Day, also called Coronation Day or Queen's Day, is the anniversary of Elizabeth I's accession to the throne in 1558. Historically, the day was always celebrated by the ringing of bells and the lighting of bonfires. People celebrated in the streets for the continued health of their Queen and the prosperity of their country, England. 

Starting in 1570, after the suppression of the Northern Rebellion, the Accession Day celebrations became more elaborate, now including tournaments held before thousands of spectators at the Westminster tilt-yard. These royally-sponsored tournaments were attended by both the noble and the lower classes; the tournaments promoted a feeling of unity and nationalism.

A miniature portrait of by Nicholas Hilliard of George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland. The Earl of Cumberland was one of Queen Elizabeth I's tournament champions; Clifford is shown wearing the Queen's favor, an elaborate glove, in his hat. National Maritime Museum, London.

After 1585, when tensions with Spain were reaching a fever-pitch, the Accession tournament became a patriotic expression of a free Protestant country. Interestingly, Queen Elizabeth I's successor, James I, continued the November 17th Accession Day celebrations during his reign. Elizabeth I's Accession Day was observed well into the 18th century, a testament to her legacy and its impact on England's national identity.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Theatre Thursday: Tudor History, Italian Style!

"Anne Boleyn receiving proof of Henry VIII's passion for Jane Seymour", a 19th century engraving from the novel Windsor Castle. Image courtesy of Inor19 on Flickr.

In past Theatre Thursday features I have included several article links concerning productions of the tragic Italian opera, 'Anna Bolena'. As someone who once performed in Carmina Burana as a child, I really would love to see this operatic production, if it ever comes to my part of the country.

Anna Bolena is the last of Gaetano Donizetti's "Tudor trilogy". His other Tudor themed operas are (unsurprisingly) also tragedies, 'Roberto Devereux' and 'Maria Stuarda'.

Anna Bolena, Giovanna Seymour, and Enrico VIII take the stage in, 'Anna Bolena' !

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Ministry of History

Presenting my original program,"In Her Own Words: An Audience with the Queen" to an AP history course at Ashland High School on 9/18/12. Photo by Mike Wurster.

Some people are called to the ministry of their church; others are born caretakers, destined to become doctors or nurses; and others still possess an innate maternal instinct that makes them wonderful parents. I believe that I am a person who has been called to the "ministry of history". My purpose is to research and educate others about the past. Through BeingBess and History, Inc., I aspire to get as many children as possible excited about history

When I was younger, I did not fully understand the reason why I was so intensely drawn to the people and events of the past, and more specifically, the 16th century. Once I recognized that my entire day was revolving around historical research, writing, and interpreting, I then understood that this was a force bigger than myself. This was to be my life's work.

My inspiration in all things, Queen Elizabeth I, painted from life and attributed to Zuccaro. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The life of a researcher can be a lonely one, and some days it means I know the historical figures on the pages of my books better than my own friends and family; some days it means that I must forsake going out and socializing in favor of meeting a deadline. But all of these sacrifices are worth it to me, since I take my "calling" very seriously. Days away from turning twenty-four, I am more certain than ever of what I believe I was put on this planet to do.

I wish to express my gratitude to the online community of Tudor and Elizabethan bloggers, authors, and enthusiasts who inspire and support me on a daily basis. It is wonderful to know that there are others who share with me the passion for teaching others about history!

Semper Eadem,


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Theatre Thursday: Upcoming Lecture on the Bad Boys of Elizabethan Theatre

Dr. Andy Kesson, a writer, teacher, occasional director & historian at the University of Kent & The Globe Theatre, alerted me to his upcoming lecture at the Globe on December 10th at 6 pm. The lecture will be nothing short of exciting, since Dr. Kesson will be discussing the "bad boys" of Elizabethan theatre! 

A 16th century portrait of a man, likely the playwright Christopher Marlowe, who is one of the more famous "bad boys" of Elizabethan theatre. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Dr. Kesson's work on John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship & The Elizabethan Top Ten will be available to the public in 2013.

There are also other educational lectures and seminars to look forward to at The Globe this holiday season; if you are in the London area, you should certainly check them out!

A photo of the reconstructed Globe Theatre along the Thames in London. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.