Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Queen Elizabeth's Political Aptitude

Elizabeth I in her Parliament Robes, c.1585-1590. Painting formerly attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, and is on display in Helmingham Hall, Stowmarket. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Today, I want to share an excerpt with my readers from the outstanding book The Armada by the late, great Garrett Mattingly. Mattingly's book details the causes and effects of the cold war with Spain, and the English navy's engagement and eventual defeat of the Spanish Armada. Mattingly has a gift for conveying the character of Queen Elizabeth amidst his chronology of the historical facts. It is apparent in reading Mattingly's work that he had a great admiration for Queen Elizabeth's political mastery, and he found several ways to describe her sensational gift for understanding and manipulating politics; one of these is below:

"Neither the shrewdest of her diplomatic adversaries nor her own intimate counselors ever succeeded in reading the mind of Elizabeth Tudor. No one can pretend to now. She was complete mistress of the politicians art of using words to conceal meaning on public questions and on personal relations she covered sheet after sheet with vigorous scrawl, winding her sentences like an intricate coil of serpents about her secret conclusions, hinting, alluding, promising, denying and at last gliding away from the subject with no more said than served her purpose. In council and in public negotiations she permitted herself at times the frankest outbursts, the most vehement outpourings of personal, apparently unrestrained, and those who knew her best were the least certain that they had netted from the torrent of her words the smallest fragment of her real intentions." (Mattingly, 27)

Elizabeth understood that knowledge of politics and wariness of intrigues was just as essential to governing as possessing a commanding stage presence and utilizing theatrics. She herself asserted this truth when she said,

"We princes were set as it were upon stages in the sight and view of the world."


Mattingly, Garrett. The Armada. Mariner Books, 2005. Print.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Theatre Thursday: Essex's Rebellion in Much Ado About Nothing?

A detail from a portrait of Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex by Marcus Gheeraerts. The painting is from the 1590's, so this is probably how Essex looked at the time he staged his senseless rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The rebellion of Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex (1566-1601) and his cronies is very likely alluded to in one of my favorite Shakespeare comedies, Much Ado About Nothing:

"Like favorites, made proud by princes, that advance their pride against the power that bred it."

Social commentary and political criticism was always very craftily hidden within Shakespeare and other early-modern playwrights works. There could be serious consequences for openly criticizing policies or questioning authority in the age of monarchy. For example, Ben Jonson's work The Isle of Dogs was banned from ever being published because it was deemed so utterly offensive after being performed only once in 1587. Jonson and two others were arrested and thrown into prison under the orders of Robert Cecil. The co-author, Thomas Nashe was spared the humiliation; Nashe claimed that he had merely written the introduction to the play, and those investigating the matter believed him. 

Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury and son of William Cecil Lord Burghley. Elizabeth called Robert Cecil her "pygmy" (she was fond of giving odd pet-names to those who were close to her) because of his abnormally small stature. This painting of Robert Cecil in his robes of The Order of The Garter is by John de Critz; It was completed c. 1608 in the reign of James I, under whom Robert Cecil also served. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

 The work was so effectively suppressed that to this day we still do not know why it was deemed to be objectionable. Some theories are that the Queen herself was satirized in the play, but more likely it was because the piece was lampooning a few high-ranking nobles at court. Jonson would also be reprimanded for other works in the 17th century under the reign of James I.

Monday, April 16, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: The Death of Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset

On This Day in Elizabethan History, Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset, died in 1587. She is buried in Westminster Abbey. Anne was the second wife of Edward VI's uncle, the Lord Protector Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset. Anne is most famous for her pride; her prestige as the Duchess of Somerset and the wife of one of the most powerful men in England led her to publicly declare precedence (without merit) over the Queen Dowager, Katherine Parr. Anne was, according to one Spaniard residing in London, "more presumptuous than Lucifer" (Fraser, 235). But Stanhope was no devil; she was also a reformer and a loyal wife...

Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset's tomb and effigy at Westminster Abbey. The inscription says: "A Princesse descended of noble lignage, beinge daughter of the worthie knight Sir Edward Stanhope, by Elizabeth his wyfe, that was daughter of Sir Foulke Burgchier Lord Fitzwarin, from whom our moderne Erles of Bathe are spronge. Sonne was he hunto William Lord Fitzwarin, that was brother to Henry Erle of Essex and Jhon lord Berners; whom William theire sire, sometyme Erle of Eu in Normandy, begat on Anne the sole heire of Thomas of Woodstocke, Duke of Gloucester, younger sonne to the mighty prince Kinge Edward the Third, and of his wyfe Aleanoure coheire unto the tenth Humfrey de Bohun that was Erle of Hereford, Essex, and Northampton, High Constable of England." Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

 Anne was born probably in 1497 in Suffolk to Sir Edward Stanhope and Elizabeth Bourchier. She had two elder-half brothers through her father's first marriage, Richard and Michael. One could argue that Anne's self-important nature had its root in her impressive ancestry: she was descended on her mother's side from Thomas of Woodstock, who was the youngest son of Edward III and his wife Philippa of Hainault (Martienssen, 125)

A 14th century drawing of the coronation of Philippa of Hainault, the Queen Consort of Edward III. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Anne enjoyed the privilege of being educated in her youth; she came to court in 1511 after the death of her father (Emerson, 214). She would soon become known for her tendency to voice her strong opinions.

A detail of a portrait of Anne Stanhope, wife of the Lord Protector and the Duchess of Somerset. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

 Somewhere between 1534 and 1535, Anne married Edward Seymour. It is said that she caught Edward's eye around 1520 when she was a maid of honour at court (Emerson, 214). Anne and Edward were equally matched in ambition and self-importance. By the time of Anne's marriage to Edward, King Henry VIII was already showing favor to Edward's younger sister, Jane Seymour, even though he was still married to Anne Boleyn. Anne must have surmised that either her new sister-in-laws relationship would bring great opportunities for her and her husband, or disastrous consequences.

By 1536, Jane Seymour had become the third wife of Henry VIII. As Henry had previously done for Anne Boleyn and her relations, the Seymour's were all promoted to new titles and high-ranking offices. Edward became Viscount Beauchamp, and in October of 1537, he enjoyed the distinction of becoming the Earl of Hertford. And long after the death of Jane Seymour in 1537, Edward was elevated to the title of the Duke of Somerset in 1547. As was customary, his wife became the Duchess of Somerset.

A detail of a portrait of Edward Seymour. The resemblance to his sister, brother, and eldest son is particularly noticeable in this representation. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Anne and Edward were incredibly successful in creating little Seymour's; together they had ten children! One of these children, also called Edward, would secretly marry Lady Katherine Grey, who was in line for the throne of England; both were reprimanded by Elizabeth I for marrying without her permission. Three of Anne's daughters, another Jane Seymour, (who was the sole witness at her brother Edward and Katherine Grey's marriage) Anne (later Countess of Warwick) and Margaret Seymour would be celebrated in the 16th century for their writing. The three co-authored a compendium of 103 Latin verses for the tomb of Margaret Valois, Queen of Navarre (herself an author; she wrote The Mirror of The Sinful Soul). Anne Stanhope valued her education, and she afforded her own daughter's the same opportunities.

Edward Seymour, Edward and Anne's second child (their first, a son also named Edward, and of whom Queen Jane Seymour was godmother, had died when he was a toddler). Edward married Katherine Grey, a claimant to the throne, without Elizabeth I's knowledge. Both were imprisoned as a result. They had two sons, both of whom were declared illegitimate. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

 Anne Stanhope made a name for herself in court circles as one who spoke her mind, often at the expense of others feelings. She was still an intimate at court by the time Henry VIII married his final wife, Queen Katherine Parr. Anne was even present at their wedding on July 12, 1543 (Martienssen, 153-154). When Edward VI came to the throne after the death of his father, his uncle Edward Seymour was appointed to govern in the boy-king's minority. Anne became sister-in-law with the former Queen of England when Katherine Parr married Edward Seymour's brother, Thomas.

A miniature, probably of Queen Katherine Parr. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

 Anne did not exactly welcome Katherine to the family; it would appear that The Duchess of Somerset could not bare the thought of sharing the spotlight with another accomplished woman. Anne claimed that by Katherine Parr marrying again, Katherine was forfeiting her title and powers as Queen Dowager, instead becoming merely the wife of an Admiral (Martienssen, 231). It was recorded that the Duchess of Somerset said of her sister-in-law, "If Master Admiral (Thomas Seymour) teach his wife no better manners, I am she that will!" (Fraser, 402).

Katherine won this debate, however, as she called upon the terms of The Third Succession Act to settle the score; this document stated that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Queen Dowager Katherine Parr would have precedence above all the other ladies in England. The Duchess of Somerset not only came behind Katherine Parr, but also the Lady Mary, the Lady Elizabeth, and Henry VIII's fourth wife, Anna of Cleves, who had remained in England, and was referred to as "the king's sister". History shows us that Katherine Parr was not an easy woman to anger, so her patience must have been tried significantly to cause her to start referring to Anne Stanhope as "that Hell" (Fraser, 403).  

In theory, Katherine Parr and Anne Stanhope could have been great friends; both were heavily involved in the Protestant reform movement, so much so that both put their own lives at risk to aid those who were persecuted for their beliefs. While no one should ever turn to the Showtime series The Tudors as gospel, the plot line of Anne Stanhope* sending aid to Anne Askew, who was burned at the stake as a heretic, was absolutely true. Both Parr and Stanhope were friends of Askew, and they were both profoundly affected by the nature of her death. Stephen Gardiner, one of my least favorite people in Tudor history, attempted to get Anne Askew to implicate the Queen and the Duchess of Somerset as fellow heretics, but she would not give in. Eustace Chapuys called Stanhope a "stirrer of heresy" for her promotion of reform. (*It should be mentioned that the character of the Duchess of Somerset in the show is a conglomeration of the real Anne Stanhope and Edward Seymour's first wife, Catherine Filliol, whom he divorced on grounds of her adultery.)

Anne's treatment of the beloved Queen Dowager had started to aggravate and alienate other courtiers. To make matter's worse, her husband Edward had grown exceedingly power hungry, and his wielding of absolute authority in England was unpopular. The Privy Council challenged him on his behavior, and he and his wife were sent to the Tower in October of 1549. Anne, though an irritant, was by no means as politically dangerous as her husband, and due to her distance from his professional missteps, she was released shortly thereafter (Loades, 150). After cooling his heels in prison, Edward was released in January of 1550.

A 16th century portrait detail of the Lord Protector of England, Edward Seymour, wearing his chain of office. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

 According to the Imperial Ambassador, the Duchess of Somerset had been working overtime on her husband's behalf, visiting the new chief advisor to the king, John Dudley, the Earl of Warwick (and father to Robert and Ambrose Dudley). She was petitioning him to allow her husband to rejoin the Privy Council after his brief disgrace. The plan worked, and as soon Somerset was back on the council, the Dudley's and Seymour's were arranging a marriage between Anne Seymour (the aforementioned writer) and John Dudley (jr).

Unfortunately, Somerset's freedom was to be short-lived, as he was arrested again in October of 1551, on charges that he had been conspiring against Warwick, now the Earl of Northumberland. Northumberland, like Seymour, was ambitious to a fault, and when he saw his opportunity to rid himself of another power-player, he took it. The Duchess of Somerset must have been frustrated when all her negotiating (or as she might have seen it, 'condesceding to') Dudley had come to naught, as she was also imprisoned, again, along with her husband.

On December 1st of that same year, Somerset was convicted of the charges against him, and  sentenced to death, and on January 22nd, 1552, the young King Edward VI's uncle was beheaded. His other uncle would soon share the same fate. The Duchess was not released from the Tower until May 3 of 1553 (Loades, 188-190). One can only imagine how she managed to bare the confinement and humiliation of her family's fall from power.

After Mary Tudor came to the throne and the Earl of Northumberland was executed for his role in a coup d'etat, the Duchess of Somerset was allowed to rummage through the personal belongings of the Dudley's to take whatever she wanted. This must have brought her great satisfaction!

A portrait of Queen Mary I early in her reign. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Anne Stanhope was made of strong stuff; she had endured the public backlash for her unfriendly behavior toward Katherine Parr, survived two stints in the Tower of London, and the public disgrace and execution of her husband. Anne gradually put herself back into society. She would marry for a second time to the former steward of her and her late husband, Francis Newdigate. This marriage was presumably for love, since she already had mothered ten children and because Newdigate was her social inferior (something that Stanhope typically paid great attention to!) Newdigate and Anne were likely already friends, or at least acquaintances, given their close proximity in earlier years.

In 1560, Queen Elizabeth I granted the manor of Chelsea to Stanhope for life, and granted "the widow of the Protector" an annuity for the payment of her household. Not much of Anne and her second husband's marriage is known, but in 1570 they were prosecuted for failing to pay rent on the property for ten years (History of the County of Middlesex, pages 108-115). Francis died shortly before his wife, in 1581. Anne lived the remainder of her life away from court, in Shelford, Nottinghamshire. On the 14th of July in 1586 she completed her will; it was later published in it's entirety in The Gentleman's Magazine issue from April of 1845, on page 371. In addition to being buried at Westminster, there is a memorial for Anne in St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Shelford.

A detail from The Clopton Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, circa 1560-65. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Had Anne lived just one year more, she would have witnessed one of the greatest triumphs in English history...the defeat of the Spanish Armada.


Emerson, Kathy Lynn. Wives and Daughters: The Women of the Sixteenth Century.Whitston Publishing Company, 1984. Print.

Fraser, Antonia. The Wives of Henry VIII. Vintage, 1993. Print.

Martienssen, Anthony. Queen Katherine Parr. McGraw-Hill, 1974. Print. 

Loades, David. John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland 1504-1553. Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.

"Landownership: Chelsea manor", in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 12: Chelsea (2004), pages 108-115, at

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Theatre Thursday: The Mysterious Marlowe and His Works

This anonymous portrait that hangs in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, is allegedly of Elizabethan playwrite Christopher Marlowe. The painting was completed c. 1585, when Marlowe was 21 years old. He was the only 21 year old student at Cambridge that year; the painting itself was discovered on Cambridge grounds. This painting graces the cover of almost every major Christopher Marlowe biography. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Christopher Marlowe's (1564-1593) first play, Tamburlaine The Great tells the story of Timur, a 14th century Turkish warlord. Marlowe portrays the historic figure, "threatening the world with high astounding terms, and scourging kingdoms with his conquering sword." The play was first performed in 1587 by The Admiral's Men, the theatre company of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham, Lord High Admiral and maternal relation of Queen Elizabeth I. Tamburlaine was an immediate success, due to the writing, but equally because of the exotic setting. Marlowe, the son of a Canterbury shoemaker, moved to London in time to see it put to the stage (Wagner, 194).

A detail of a portrait of Charles Howard, Lord High Admiral under Elizabeth I. Howard is depicted wearing his robes for The Order of the Garter. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Marlowe's literary contributions, like the man himself, were dark, psychological, and pushed the boundaries of societal expectations and propriety in Elizabethan London. He was charged with atheism, and widely suspected to be a spy before he was killed in a bar brawl (though some conspiracy theorists have called it murder, or a way for Marlowe to stage his own death and then disappear). We know that Marlowe's literary patron was Thomas Walsingham, brother to Queen Elizabeth I's spymaster Francis Walsingham, and that Francis and Christopher were well acquainted, which could have led to his employment as a spy or informant (Wagner, 194). Had he lived in the 17th century, and more specifically under the reign of King Charles II, Marlowe's material and his character would have been far less shocking to the sensibilities of the theatre-goers of London.

A detail of a portrait of Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I's spymaster and a likely acquaintance of Marlowe.

Marlowe's most famous work is The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Dr. Faustus. According to Logan and Smith, "no Elizabethan play outside the Shakespeare canon has raised more controversy than Doctor Faustus. "(Wagner, 14).  In the play, Doctor Faustus learns necromancy from two magicians. In a thirst for knowledge and power, Faustus summons a devil named Mephistopheles, and sells his soul to Lucifer in exchange for 24 years of Mephistopheles doing his bidding on earth. Even if you have not read Doctor Faustus yourself, you can already surmise that no good can come of such an arrangement.

Doctor Faustus was first published in 1604, eleven years after Marlowe's death, but it had been staged much earlier; The Admiral's Men performed it twenty-five times in three years, between October  of 1594 and October of 1597. It was probably revived again in 1602 (Chambers, Vol. 3, pages 423-424).

Today I would like to leave you with a dark, twisted visual from Marlowe's play, and thus his mind. This line is spoken by an 'evil angel' (one of Lucifer's followers) :

Now Faustus, let thine eyes with horror stare
Into that vast perpetual torture-house,
There are the furies tossing damned souls
On burning forks. Their bodies broil in lead.

A cautionary tale about faith by a suspected atheist? An example of the psyche of the author? I will let you decide!


Wagner, John A. The Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World. Print.

(pages 194-195)

Chambers, E.K. The Elizabethan Stage, 4 Volumes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923. Print.

Logan, P. Terence, Smith S. Denzell. The Predecessors of Shakespeare: A Survey and Bibliography of Recent Studies in English Renaissance Drama. University of Nebraska Press, 1973. Print.

For further reading on Christopher Marlowe:

Christopher Marlowe: His Life and Work by A. L. Rowse
Christopher Marlowe and Edward Alleyn by Adam Hart.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: The Signing of the Treaty of Troyes

On this Day in Elizabethan History, The Treaty of Troyes was signed between the English and the French after the siege of the city of Le Havre. Le Havre was known in the 16th century as both Franciscopolis and The Harbor of Grace.

The previous year, the First War of Religion had started in France, and the French Protestants, known as the Huguenots, were being persecuted by their countrymen, and more specifically the House of Guise. The Huguenots appealed to the greatest Protestant Queen in Europe, Queen Elizabeth, for help. Despite Elizabeth's skepticism in involving her country in foreign affairs, she decided to send military aid to the city of Le Havre, which the Huguenots were attempting to hold under a siege; the siege was led by the Catholic Francois, Duke de Guise. The Huguenots had promised to give Le Havre to Queen Elizabeth if she would help them (Wagner, 89). This was a tantalizing proposition, since her sister Queen Mary I had lost England's last foreign land possession, Calais in 1558 before she died.

A portrait of Queen Mary of England. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Elizabeth chose Ambrose Dudley, the Earl of Warwick to lead the relief force of 6,000 men. Warwick was the brother of her longtime friend and favorite Robert Dudley. Robert had himself expressed interest in delivering the Huguenots and thus the city of Le Havre in Queen Elizabeth's name, but she denied him permission to part from her.

A portrait of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, c. 1564, the same year when the Treaty of Troyes was signed between the English and the French. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

An engraving from 1620 by Willem de Passe of Ambrose Dudley, the Earl of Warwick (1530-1590). Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons.  Image public domain.

Once the Earl of Warwick arrived in October, it became clear that the situation was less than hopeful. Warwick and his soldiers waited for further instructions from the Queen, and by March 18th of the following year the French had solved their own dispute by agreeing to a truce, negotiated in part by Catherine de Medici after the death of her son the Duke de Guise. The treaty that brought about the end of the First War of Religion was called the Edict of Amboise. Elizabeth instructed Warwick to hold Le Havre until the French agreed to make an exchange for it with the English ancestral city of Calais (Wagner, 182). Unfortunately for Warwick and his men, the Huguenots, in a desperate attempt to prove their new-found loyalty to the Guise family, turned against the English.

A detail of a portrait of Queen Catherine de Medici, depicted in her mourning attire, after she was widowed in 1559 upon the death of her husband King Henri II of France. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Warwick bravely held the poorly fortified medieval city until July of 1563 when, with his men dying of plague around him, and his wife back in England having died in his absence, Queen Elizabeth granted him permission to surrender the city and return home (Wagner, 308). In a further affront by the French, the Earl of Warwick was dishonorably shot in the leg amidst negotiations, and the wound festered so badly that by the time he arrived in Portsmouth, he was gravely ill. Warwick would recover, but the bullet wound would bother him for the rest of his life, and it tragically prevented him from accepting any of the honorable military posts that Queen Elizabeth considered him for. However, he would serve as commissioner at the trial of Thomas Howard, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, for treason (Wagner, 89).

A 16th century portrait of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, likely from 1564, the same year that the Treaty of Troyes was signed.  The Latin inscription, if original, gives us this clue, since it says " in the 49th year of his age". Artist unknown. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Though the Earl of Warwick and his men were finally home, the English involvement with Le Havre and the French was not over until the Treaty of Troyes was signed on April 11th of 1564. Elizabeth's two ambassadors in France, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton and Sir Thomas Smith negotiated the terms of the treaty. The final document did not dictate the return of Calais to the English crown, though the French did frustratingly acknowledge the English's right to Calais in it, based on the 1559 Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis (Wagner 54, 309). Elizabeth would not even get to keep the city of Le Havre; instead, she was paid 120,000 crowns, which was 20,000 crowns less than she had originally loaned the Huguenots.

A detail of Queen Elizabeth from The Clopton Portrait, c. 1560-65. This is how Elizabeth was depicted during the time of the English involvement with Le Havre. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Still, the Treaty of Troyes was somewhat victorious in that it improved relations between England and France for some time. In 1572 the two countries would sign The Treaty of Blois, which recognized the growing threat of Spain and bound France and England to support one another in the tumult ahead (Wagner 31, 309).

Queen Elizabeth had tried to recover Calais for England; its historical and strategic significance for England was certainly not lost on her. Interestingly, Calais was also the same city that King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had visited together, and it is probably the city where Elizabeth herself was conceived (Denny).

Elizabeth was not a woman to easily forget, and her experience with the Huguenots further developed what would come to be a characteristic apprehension to getting involved in foreign affairs, such as with the Dutch in the near future. None of Queen Elizabeth's councilor's were able to persuade her to aid the Huguenot's in their struggle against the French Crown and The Catholic League ever again (Wagner, 309).

A composite image of Elizabeth's parents, King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Wagner, John A. The Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World. Print.
(Pages 31, 54, 89-90, 182, 308-309)

Denny, Joanna.  Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen. De Capo Press, 2007. Print.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: William Camden's Priceless "Annals of Queen Elizabeth"

The frontispiece and title page from the 1675 edition of The Annals (History) of Queen Elizabeth. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

William Camden (1551-1623) was an Elizabethan/Stuart antiquarian and author. His Annals of Queen Elizabeth is widely considered to be the most accurate contemporary source account of Elizabeth I and her reign (Wagner, 12). The Annals full and proper title, it should be mentioned, is The Annals or the History of the Most Renowned and Victorious Princess Elizabeth, Late Queen of England. Containing All the Most Important and Remarkable Passages of State, Both at Home and Abroad (So Far as They Were Linked with English Affairs) during Her Long and Prosperous Reign. Phew!

The account was begun only five years after Queen Elizabeth I's death, in 1608, and Camden had experienced her reign personally. Unlike other "Annals" of the time, which had a distinct tabloid flavor, (example: Holinshed's Chronicles) Camden's work is based entirely on oral interviews and written sources, rather than hearsay and gossip (Wagner, 12).

Camden had personal access to the state papers of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and other members of the Elizabethan administration. Many of these members were still living, and they shared information with him personally (Wagner, 12).

My favorite portrait of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, riding a mule. Although Burghley was dead at the time of Camden's research and writing, Camden had access to the extensive records that Burghley kept. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Camden had a great regard for Elizabeth I, and he believed her memory, "...among Englishmen ought ever to be...sacred." Still, he sought to write the facts, rather than his opinion of her and the events that transpired during her reign. Though an Anglican, Camden's work was written in Latin, (ANNALES RERUM ANGLICARUM et HIBENNICARUM REGNANTE ELIZABETH). His Annals is also surprisingly void of the anti-Catholic sentiment which filled the writing of the early 17th century, under the reign of James I.

William Camden was depicted in the famous Funeral Procession of Queen Elizabeth illustration. He is the man wearing the hood in the middle, and the inscription above him describes his role, saying "The coat borne by William Cambden, Clarenceux King of Arms". The 'coat' is the tabbard he holds, bearing the royal heraldry of the House of Tudor. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The first volume was started in 1608, and published in 1615 (Wagner, 12). Needless to say, it was a huge success.Volume 1 covered the years 1558 (the years when Elizabeth took the throne) to 1588 (the year of the defeat of the Spanish Armada). The second volume was completed in 1617, but was unfortunately not published in London until 1627, four years after Camden's death.

A 1609 engraving of William Camden. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

I encourage all admirer's and scholars of Queen Elizabeth I and her achievements to purchase, or at least read a translated copy of William Camden's Annals of Queen Elizabeth.


The History of the Most Renowned and Victorious Princes Elizabeth, Late Queen of England edited by Wallace T. MacCaffrey, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Wagner, John A. The Historic Dictionary of the Elizabethan World. Print.

(Page 12) 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Easter in Elizabethan Times

Happy Easter!
If you celebrate Easter, we wish you a happy day filled with friends, family, and faith.

And because I never miss an opportunity to tie anything to Queen Elizabeth I, I would like to share with you some information on the Elizabethan Easter....

The celebration of Easter is the most important feast day in the calender of the Elizabethan Church, also known as the Anglican church. Just like today, Easter was a "floating" holiday in the 16th century, and could occur on a Sunday in either March or April.

By the time Elizabeth was on the throne, Easter resided on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurred on or after March 21st. This means that Easter could fall anywhere between March 22nd and April 25th during Elizabeth's reign (Wagner, 93-94).

Proceeding the actual feast day of Easter was 40 days of Lent, a period of fasting and abstinence from a variety of forms of merriment. Lent was, and still is intended as a time for reflection of Christ's sacrifice on the cross for our sins. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, and concludes with the week before Easter, appropriately titled "Easter Week" or "Holy Week". Easter Week begins on Palm Sunday. Holy Week concludes with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, all of which were observed retaining some Catholic traditions (Wagner, 94). Queen Elizabeth I herself continued the royal tradition of having a Maundy Thursday rendezvous with the common people, and the annual event was commemorated in the miniature below:

An Elizabethan Maundy, a miniature of Queen Elizabeth observing the tradition of a Maundy with the common people. The miniature is by Elizabethan female court painter Leevina Teerlinc. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The Easter Sunday service was one of the three times in a year that Anglican church-goers took communion; the others were Christmas and Whitsun. Whitsun was the feast of Pentecost, which fell in either May or June. After attending church, the Elizabethans would partake in extravagant feasting celebrations.

Since we know that by Queen Elizabeth's reign Easter had acquired some secular customs, the Elizabethans, like modern Christians, were celebrating with decorated eggs and other pagan-derived symbols from ancient Anglo-Saxon culture (Wagner, 94). Though we can say with surety that the Queen herself probably did not participate in any sort of an egg-hunt!


Wagner, John A. The Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World. Print.

(Pages 93-94.)

For further reading on Elizabethan religious customs, please see: 

Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calender in Elizabethan and Stuart England by David Cressy

ALSO: On this Day in Elizabethan History, Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I's spymaster died in 1590. But because this year this weekend is Easter Weekend, and every year ever-after April 6th will be the death of Sir Francis Walsingham, we will write a mini-bio on him and his achievements next year!

A detail of a 16th century portrait of Sir Francis Walsingham, whom Queen Elizabeth called her "moor", due to his swarthy complexion. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In the meantime, to learn more about Walsingham's life and work, please read:

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

Mr. Budiansky is an author who specializes in military and intelligence history. We own this book and highly recommend it!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Theatre Thursday: Literary Rivalries of Elizabethan London

It is no secret that the theatrical type thrives on drama. Broadway and the West End are no more competitive and sensational than the 16th century theatre community along the Thames.

Robert Greene (c.1558-1592) wrote an attack on a playwright in Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit bought with a million of Repentance, whom he refers to as "Shake-scene". Most literary scholars agree that through a copious amount of allusions, puns and references it can be determined that the object of Greene's disdain was Shakespeare, although most anti-Stratfordian's disagree (and whoever you think Shakespeare was or certainly wasn't, I thinkwe can all agree that, by any other name, there was still a genius who wrote the plays). In any case, Greene's dislike of Shakespeare was so strong and so bitter that he was willing to devote the last moments of his own life to speak ill of his competition. Greene's rant was found in his personal papers after his death, and published posthumously.

A woodcut of Robert Greene writing in his burial shroud, symbolizing that his words come from beyond the grave. This woodcut is from the title page of English author and Greene- follower John Dickenson's Greene in conceipt: New raised from his grave to write the Tragic History of Valeria of London (1598) . Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Greene was an eccentric character-flamboyant in both his mannerisms and clothing. Greene mastered the art of self-promotion, publishing pamphlets about the exploits of himself and his fellow rogues and rakes to boost his own popularity. Green's most successful works were The Honarable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (1591) which was first performed in 1594, two years after his death, and The Comical History of Alphonsus, King of Aragon (c.1590). Some have suggested that the faerie characters present in his work The Scottish History of James the Fourth, Slain at Flodden (1590) inspired Shakespeare's use of faeries in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Wagner, 129). An earlier play, Pandosto (1588) has a plot similar to Shakespeare's later work  A Winter's Tale, though the plot of the latter likely drew inspiration from a variety of other materials.

The title-page of the first edition of Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit, which most scholars agree is an attack on the great English dramatist Shakespeare. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
 We know that Greene had masters from Cambridge in 1583, and that he earned another at Oxford in 1588. But Greene preferred the life of a bohemian to the life of an academic, and according to Greene's own pamphlets (much of which we can assume was sensationalized) he abandoned his well-born wife and child in Norwich for a life in the theatre (Wagner, 129). If born in modern times, this man with the red beard, formed to a devilish point with sculpting wax, would have been ready-made for reality television.

Playwright and poet Ben Jonson (c.1572-1637) felt that Shakespeare's seemingly never-ending production of material was a sign of carelessness. Of course, it is also quite possible that Jonson was just jealous of Shakespeare's talent, (not that Jonson was lacking any himself) or perhaps that he was just a little irritated at Shakespeare's fame. Jonson took pride in revising his work until he deemed it to perfect, and he frowned on others who did not do the same. In Timber, published after his death, Jonson wrote that he had heard much of Shakespeare's lack of revision, saying, "Whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line." Jonson mused slyly, "Would he had blotted a thousand."

One of Jonson's earliest plays, The Case is Altered is startlingly similar in its story arch and themes to Shakespeare's Italian comedies. But Jonson's craft developed over time, and he soon received a lot of praise for his comedic plays, earning a reputation as one of the best humorists of the Elizabethan theatre scene. He is best remembered for plays like The Devil is an Ass, (and one has to love it for the title alone!) Eastward Ho, and The Magnetic Lady. Jonson also enjoyed the prestige of writing masques for the court of King James I, Queen Elizabeth's successor, as part of the newly formed company The Kings Men (Wagner, 170).

The title page of the 1616 edition of Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour. As the title page explains, the play was first performed in 1598 by The Lord Chamberlain's Men. The Lord Chamberlain at this time was Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, who depending on who you asked, was either a maternal cousin or a half-brother of Queen Elizabeth I. Stratfordian's will recognize that Shakespeare was a member of the company The Lord Chamberlain's Men (Wagner, 61). Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
 All good artists, whatever their craft, draw inspiration from one another. They use their rivalries, real or manufactured, as motivation to do better, (or outdo their peers) and as a way to generate attention. (And I am sure that we all can think of many celebrity "feuds" that gain artists attention today.) In the end, Jonson expressed some repressed admiration for Shakespeare, writing "there was ever more in him to be praised than pardoned." He also declared of Shakespeare, "He was not of an age, but for all time."

I do not think that Shakespeare could have written his own epitaph better than that.

A detail of The Chandos Portrait of William Shakespeare, long thought to be the only portrait of the "Bard of Avon" painted from life until the discovery of The Cobbe Portrait in 2009. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.


Wagner, John A. Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World. Print.
(Pages 61, 129-130, 170-171.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Borgia's Window Display in LA...or, What do Anne Boleyn and Lucrezia Borgia have in Common?

Dear Valued Readers,

I have recently been getting a lot of emails concerning different educational and PR related opportunities for Elizabeth I and BeingBess Blog. These recent developments are exciting beyond words! To know that my efforts are in some small way increasing interest in Elizabeth I and her era is nothing less than a dream come true!

One of these opportunities I want to share with you today: Although this blog is dedicated to Elizabeth I, I am a lover of all things pertaining to European history, and the Borgia's are no exception. Lucrezia Borgia, like Anne Boleyn, is one of the most misunderstood, and wrongly maligned female figures of history. 

A detail of St. Catherine of Alexandria,. The model for this painting by Pinturicchio, made c. 1492-1494, is generally accepted by scholars to have been Lucrezia Borgia. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

A miniature of Anne Boleyn, thought to be around age 25, by Hoskins. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

An employee of an Atlanta, GA based social media agency, Everywhere, read an article about my Elizabeth I programs and our Women in Armor Month programs that run every March at the museum where I work.  She contacted me regarding a new Borgia-themed window display at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles CA, running through April 15th.

If any of my readers are from LA, or traveling there before the 15th, you should check OUT this stunning display, configured to promote Season Two of The Borgia's on Showtime, premiering on April 8th 10 P.M ET/PT.

Below is the link for details on the display:

If any of my readers view the display firsthand, please leave a comment of your reaction, and share a photo or two of yourself standing in front of it! I would love to see it!



Monday, April 2, 2012

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Armories in Elizabethan England

By the middle of the 16th century, at-home armour production was now thriving in England. In previous centuries, the majority of armor had been produced in Milan, Italy, Paris, France and Germany, and purchased by much of Western Europe.

King Henry VIII's armor, now residing in the Tower of London Armory exhibit. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

King Henry VIII can be almost solely credited with encouraging and investing in armor and weapons manufacturing in England. His Royal Armories at Greenwich produced some of his finest tournament suits.

The tournament armor of King Henry VIII, with an "H" and "K" detailing along the edge of the tassets. The "H" refers to the king himself, and the "K" refers to Henry VIII's first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Image acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

A 16th century illustration of King Henry VIII jousting  for his wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon. He is either wearing blackened or blued armor for the tilt. At the museum where I work, we have a stunning composite suit from around 1575 that is decoratively blued. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

But because of the increase in personal ownership of arms and armor, the possibility of rebellion and civil war was of course heightened. An edict from 1558, the year that Elizabeth Tudor came to the throne, required that all members of the peerage keep an armory to stockpile weapons and armor for the safety of the queen and the realm. Henry Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke maintained one of the more impressive armories of the Elizabethan Age.

A 16th century portrait of Henry Herbert, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke. Image public domain. Please see the 3 quarter length suit that possibly belonged to the Earl of Pembroke in my photo's on the side bar and bottom of the page. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Hawkins and Tobacco

A portrait of Sir John Hawkins from 1581. Hawkins was one of Queen Elizabeth I's more successful "sea-dogs", being both a privateer and an explorer. However, his name is remembered today primarily because of his involvement with the slave trade. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

"Tobacco was first brought, and made knowne in England by Sir John Hawkins, about the yeere one thousand five hundred sixty five, (1565) but not used by the Englishman in many yeers after, though at this day commonly used by most men, and many women..."- From Howes' edition of Stow's Annales of England