Sunday, July 29, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: The Battle of the Gravelines

A detail of a portrait of Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, 7th Duke of Medina Sidonia. The Duke was a key player in the Armada conflict of 1588, as he was the commander-in-chief of the Spanish fleet.

On this day in Elizabethan history 1588, the English attacked the invading Spanish Armada in the Battle of the Gravelines. Gravelines was a port in Flanders, and thus part of the Spanish Netherlands. The battle lasted 8 hours, and Queen Elizabeth I's navy sank 3 ships before driving the rest away. The engagement resulted in an important English victory. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: The Death of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon

A portrait of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, by Steven van Herwijk. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan history, Queen Elizabeth I's maternal first cousin Henry Carey, 1st  Baron Hunsdon and Lord Chamberlain of England, died in 1596 at the royal residence of Somerset House. His death came a mere week after the passing of his sister's husband, Sir Francis Knollys, and the Queen was devastated (Weir, 266).

A closeup of the tomb effigy of Henry Carey's brother-in-law, Sir Francis Knollys. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Queen Elizabeth I was close to very few people in her life; her Carey cousins (the children of Mary Boleyn) were some of the few people to enjoy a personal rather than merely professional relationship with their Queen. Henry Carey, like his sister Katherine Carey, Lady Knollys, was unfailingly loyal to the Queen, serving her selflessly and asking for next to nothing in return. Elizabeth treated  her cousins more informally than the rest of her courtiers, and allowed them to speak to her frankly, and in Henry Carey's case, sometimes crassly, without much reprimand. It certainly helped that the Carey siblings were also no dynastic threat, unlike Mary Stuart, the Grey sisters, and Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (Weir, 259).

A detail of a portrait of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox c.1560-65. Margaret Douglas was the daughter of Margaret Tudor by her second husband, Archibald Douglas, the 6th Earl of Angus. Margaret's marriage to Matthew Stewart, the 4th Earl of Lennox produced Henry, Lord Darnley, the tempestuous second husband of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. Thus, Margaret Douglas was the grandmother of James VI of Scotland, later James I of England. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Rumors continually circulated that Henry Carey and his sister Katherine were actually the illegitimate children of King Henry VIII. There is a much stronger case that it was Katherine, not Henry, who had royal blood flowing through her veins.

Portrait of a Pregnant Lady by Steven van der Muelen, most likely Katherine Carey-Knollys, c. 1562. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Born in 1524, Henry Carey grew up first under the care of his aunt, Queen Anne Boleyn, who secured his wardship from her husband. His tutor was Nicholas Bourbon, a Protestant reformer Anne Boleyn had rescued.

A sketch by Holbein of the humanist and reformer Nicholas Bourbon. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

After Queen Anne's execution, young Henry continued to enjoy royal favor in the household of King Henry VIII. We know that Henry Carey, like his sister, was in the young Elizabeth's circle very early on; Elizabeth Tudor's Hatfield accounts from 1551-1552 show that Elizabeth was giving gifts to her cousin (Weir, 257). Additional evidence supporting their already close relationship is that Henry Carey would spend much of his patrimony to aid Elizabeth during her imprisonment in the Tower during the reign of her sister, Mary I (Weir, 262).

A miniature of Queen Anne Boleyn by Hoskins. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1545, Henry Carey married the 16-year-old Anne Morgan, the daughter of an obscure Welshman, Sir Thomas Morgan of Arkstone, Herefordshire (Weir, 257). One of the many bits of contemporary evidence Weir uses to build her case that Henry Carey was not King Henry VIII's illegitimate son is that his marriage, arranged by the King, was to a woman of no great importance. This is in marked contrast to Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond's important marriage to Mary Howard.

A portrait of Anne Morgan, Baroness Hunsdon by a follower of George Gower. This portrait is on display at Hatfield House. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Henry and his wife had a prolific marriage, spanning over 50 years and producing a dozen children. The marriage was marred by more than a few infidelities on Henry's part, one of which was with Aemilia Bassano Lanier (or Lanyer), the first female professional poet in England and a possible candidate for Shakespeare's "Dark Lady" (Weir, 266). Many of Henry Carey's extramarital relationships appear to have been long-term, involved affairs, rather that brief indiscretions, and a few produced illegitimate children. Still, Anne and her son's had included in Henry Carey's epitaph, on his impressive monument at Westminster Abbey, that they considered him to be, "the best of fathers and the dearest of husbands" (Weir, 257-58).

A miniature portrait of a woman c. 1593 by Nicholas Hilliard, possibly Aemilia Bassano Lanier. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Upon Elizabeth's accession in 1558, the new Queen immediately gathered her loyal supporters and maternal relatives around her, promoting them to offices in which they could best serve her and the realm. Henry Carey was knighted, and elevated to the peerage, being created the first Baron Hunsdon (Wagner, 52). A few years later, in 1561, Lord Hunsdon was made a Knight of the Garter and a member of the Privy Council, two of the highest honors in the land.

A portrait of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon by Marcus Gheeraerts. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Henry, Lord Hunsdon excelled at every post given to him by the Queen. His administrative ability earned him the post of Governor of Berwick in 1568; through this post Hunsdon could assist with the always tense Anglo-Scottish relations (Wagner, 52). Part of Hunsdon's duties as Governor of Berwick was to go on diplomatic missions to the Scottish court, and to be in charge of border defenses (Wagner, 52). Still, despite being a kinsman Elizabeth and one of her best men, Hunsdon was himself subject to the parsimonious nature of the Queen, constantly asking for his wages so that he could do his job properly.

One of Hunsdon's finest (and arguably, one of the most savage) episodes in his career was when he brought down one of the most dangerous threats of Queen Elizabeth's reign, the Rebellion of the Northern Earls. His defeat of the earls in battle in 1569 earned him high praise from the Queen. While an official form letter was composed and sent out from the crown in gratitude to those who had quelled the Northern Rebellion, Queen Elizabeth added a personalized, rather heart-felt, post-script to Lord Hunsdon's letter (Weir, 263).

In 1583 Baron Hunsdon was elevated to become Lord Chamberlain of England, a profound distinction. In the mid-1590's, Hunsdon became a patron of a company of actors that became known as the Lord Chamberlain's Men. The Lord Chamberlain's Men included the celebrated Elizabethan thespian Richard Burbage. Hunsdon was immortalized through theatrical characters in several notable works; one of the more recognizable examples is his incarnation as Philostrate in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Weir, 266).

A detail of a portrait of Richard Burbage by an unknown artist. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Hunsdon was generous patron not only in the theatre world, but in the art world as well; Hunsdon was a patron of the court painter Nicholas Hilliard, commissioning the famous miniature of Queen Elizabeth playing her lute.

A miniature portrait of Queen Elizabeth I playing her lute c. 1580, by Nicholas Hilliard. This work was commissioned by her cousin, Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Weir also puts forth a theory that Hunsdon possibly commissioned portraits of his parent's, Mary Boleyn and William Carey, to hang in the gallery at Brooke House or Hunsdon House (Weir, 280).

A portrait of Henry Carey's father, William Carey. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1586 Hunsdon was made a commissioner at the trial of Mary Stuart, the deposed Queen of Scots (Wagner, 53). Other commissioners found this a heavy, unsettling appointment, but as Hunsdon had proven during the Northern Rebellion, he was not averse to stomaching situations others found unbearable. Hunsdon's position as a commissioner demonstrated yet again the great trust Queen Elizabeth had in her cousin. As someone who by now had an extensive background in dealing with the Scots diplomatically and on the battlefield, Hunsdon was also given the task of explaining to Mary Stuart's son, James VI of Scotland (later James I of England), why the court had found it necessary to behead his mother (Wagner, 53).

A rendering of the execution of Mary Stuart, the former Queen of Scots, at Fotheringay Castle on February 8th, 1587. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Shortly thereafter, Queen Elizabeth made "our cousin of Hunsdon" one of the main commanders at the English army's main camp at Tilbury, during the attempted Spanish invasion of England in 1588.

A portrait of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon in old age. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon served his cousin the Queen well, up until his death in 1596. Hunsdon's children, like his sister's children, would continue to serve Queen Elizabeth I. Hunsdon's youngest son Robert Carey, later the Earl of Monmouth, and his second-youngest daughter Philadelphia Carey, Lady Scrope, took care of Elizabeth in her last illness; by Robert Carey's own account in his memoirs, he was the one to take the ring from Queen Elizabeth's hand, (while she was still barely alive, mind you) bringing it to her successor, James VI, in Scotland (Weir, 268).

A portrait c. 1617 of Henry Carey's son Robert Carey, the Earl of Monmouth (center) with his family. From left to right: Henry Carey, 2nd Earl of Monmouth, Elizabeth, Countess of Monmouth, Robert Carey, 1st Earl of Monmouth, Philadelphia, Lady Wharton, and Thomas Carey. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.


Weir, Alison. Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings. New York: Balantine Books, 2011. Print.

"Carey, Henry, Lord Hunsdon." The Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World. Print. (By John A. Wagner)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: The Death of Sir Francis Knollys

On this day in Elizabethan history, 1596, Sir Francis Knollys, a Privy Councillor, Knight of the Garter, and Vice-Chamberlain of the household of Queen Elizabeth I, died.

Francis Knollys was born c.1514 to Robert Knollys, a court official of Henry VIII, and his wife, Lettice. After receiving some schooling at Oxford University, Francis began to earn favor at King Henry's court, becoming one of Henry VIII's esteemed gentleman-pensioners. In 1540, Francis' future wife Katherine Carey, daughter of Mary Boleyn, arrived at court. She was secured a place in Queen Anne of Cleves household by Henry VIII. (Historian Alison makes a convincing case based on ample primary and secondary sources that Katherine Carey was the illegitimate daughter of King Henry VIII, though her brother Henry Carey, later 1st Baron Hunsdon, was almost certainly Mary's child by her husband, William Carey.) Francis was now in almost daily contact with his future wife, and if their eventual happy marriage is any indication, they perhaps fell in love before they were even wed.

This Portrait of a Pregnant Lady, 1562, by Steven van der Muelen  is most likely of Katherine Carey-Knollys. For further information on this portrait, and the controversy surrounding Katherine's paternity, please see Alison Weir's biography, Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1542 Francis was admitted to The House of Commons (Dictionary of National Biography), and in 1546 he married Katherine Carey. By an act of Parliament, the couple would be joint owners of the estate of Rotherfield Greys.

By all accounts, Francis Knollys was always an outspoken champion for the reform movement in the Church of England. His opinions resonated with the young King Edward VI, and  Francis became an important member of his government (Wagner, 174). His dedication to King and country paid off, as he was knighted in 1547.

A detail of a portrait of King Edward VI. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Things changed for Sir Francis and his family upon Mary Tudor's accession in 1553. The Knollys's fled to the Protestant state of Germany with their children rather than face persecution for their faith (Wagner, 174). This was especially wise in their case, as Sir Francis had long been ardently defending and promoting his beliefs. 

Upon the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558, the Knollys's could breathe a sigh of relief. Sir Francis had been a loyal servant of Queen Elizabeth's father and brother, and longing to serve the new Queen, he had returned to England before his wife and children, in the hopes of securing an appointment and setting up a household. Katherine Carey-Knollys was the Queen's first cousin, if not her half sister; the two had become acquainted in their in youth and had developed an unbreakable bond. Katherine Carey-Knollys and the children followed Sir Francis home to England.

As he had hoped, Sir Francis did earn one of the first appointments of Queen Elizabeth's reign, becoming a member of the Privy Council in 1558. Shortly thereafter he was made Vice-Chamberlain of her household, a post that would later on be held by his son (Wagner, 175).

A detail of the Clopton Portrait of Elizabeth I c.1560-65, shortly after she became Queen of England. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

By the 1560's, Sir Francis's Protestant beliefs had developed into Puritan ones, and he often spoke in favor of Puritan causes in the Elizabethan Parliament's (Wagner, 175). This was problematic, as anything perceived as religious extremism during Elizabeth's reign, be it on the conservative Catholic side or the reformist Protestant side of the spectrum, was monitored closely. Nothing could threaten the moderate, largely tolerant Anglican Church Queen Elizabeth and her administration had worked so hard to establish (please see Religious Policy under Elizabeth I). Still, Sir Francis' personal beliefs were never a threat to the realm, and true to Elizabeth's declaration of wishing "not to open windows into men's souls", and perhaps due in part to her great love for both Francis and Katherine, the Knollys's were left in peace. 

In 1568, Sir Francis was entrusted with keeping Mary Stuart, the so-called Queen of Scot's under house arrest, after she had provocatively crossed over into England without permission. Francis would guard Mary Stuart on and off, along with George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury.

A detail of a portrait of George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, one of the men who guarded Mary, the so-called Queen of Scots in England. He was also Bess of Hardwick's last husband. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

This duty kept him away from court, and thus away from his wife and children, of whom his personal letters and life choices proved he loved very much.  Sir Francis would frequently ask permission from Queen Elizabeth to give his wife leave so that she could come and visit him, but usually his requests were denied (Weir, 271). Katherine Carey-Knollys was one of about five women that Elizabeth ever developed a close friendship with, and she preferred to keep her close. According to Ambassador Fenelon, the Queen "loved Lady Knollys above all other women in the world." Thus, Sir Francis was often at odds with his sovereign concerning quality time with his wife.

A miniature of Mary, Queen of Scots, painted by Nicholas Hilliard while she was under house arrest in England. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Sadly, Katherine Carey-Knollys died on January 15th, 1569 at Hampton Court Palace with Queen Elizabeth, while Sir Francis was away guarding Mary Stuart at Bolton Castle (Weir, 271-72). Katherine was given a lavish, nearly royal burial at Westminster Abbey, paid for in part by Queen Elizabeth herself. Francis wrote of his grief over the loss of his wife while they were separated, and the Queen was equally devastated. Sir Francis never remarried.

The Western facade of Westminster Abbey. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
In 1572, just three years after his wife's death, Sir Francis received another honor, being appointed Treasurer of the Royal Household , a position he would hold until his death (Dictionary of National Biography).

The eldest of Sir Francis and Katherine Carey-Knollys's thirteen children, Lettice (likely named for Francis' mother) secretly married Queen Elizabeth's closest friend and favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in 1578. When Sir Francis found out about the nuptials, he demanded to be a witness at a second ceremony. This is understandable, given Leicester's controversial marital history, but also somewhat dangerous, seeing as it was inevitable the Queen would find out about it.

A portrait of Lettice Knollys as Countess of Leicester, c. 1585 by George Gower. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

And find out about it, she did. The Queen's wrath was two-fold, having been betrayed by the only man she ever loved as well as of the Knollys children, who had been like surrogate children to her (Weir). Sir Francis's new son-in-law was briefly imprisoned, and Lettice was banned forever from the royal court. Luckily, Sir Francis was not held responsible for the the poor judgement exercised by his daughter and Leicester, although his grandson, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was to become a thorn in his side.

A miniature by Hilliard of Francis Knollys and Katherine Knollys's grandson, Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
From the 1580's through the 1590's. Knollys's Puritan beliefs put him at particular odds with Queen Elizabeth I's Archbishop of Canterbury, (1583-1603) John Whitgift (Palmer, 32). The Archbishop was entrusted with suppressing Puritan and Presbyterian non-conformity in England (Wagner, 175).

In 1593 Sir Francis Knollys entered into a prestigious brotherhood, being made a Knight of the Garter. Just three years later Sir Francis Knollys died, bringing his long and illustrious career to a close. Sir Francis and his brother-in-law, Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon died within a week of each other. The loss of two of the people Elizabeth was closest to in such a short amount of time truly devastated her (Weir, 266). Sir Francis was laid to rest at Rotherfield Greys; a memorial to his wife was erected there as well, though her body still resides in St. Edmund's chapel, Westminster Abbey.

Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon in his old age, wearing his chain of office. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Sir Francis Knollys certainly enjoyed the distinction of being a part of Queen Elizabeth's family, having married one of her maternal relations, but he also earned every honor bestowed upon him. Unlike her father, Queen Elizabeth was not one for sycophancy, and "was never prone to handing out offices and favors to the undeserving, however close they were to her in blood." (Weir, 234). When Sir Francis disagreed with Queen Elizabeth on matters of state, which happened on more than one notable occasion, he did not mince words, always giving her his honest opinion. Since her accession, Elizabeth I had demanded that her Councillors always tell her the truth, even if it was not something that she necessarily wanted to hear; Sir Francis consistently lived up to that expectation, and he was rewarded because of it.


"Knollys, Francis." Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885-1900.

"Francis, Knollys." The Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World. Print. (By John A. Wagner)

Weir, Alison. Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings. New York: Balantine Books, 2011. Print.

Palmer, Michael. Reputations: Elizabeth I. London: The Bath Press, 1988. Print.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Herstory Project: Eleanor of Aquitaine Podcast by Ashlie Jensen on Chick History

I was honored to be asked to participate in Rebecca Price's inspiring #HerStory project for 2012, published exclusively on her website, Chick History. The goal of this unique project is to, 

"...tell the stories of 52 women, not through names and dates of textbooks, but through the voices of contemporary women."

I signed on to the project for several reasons; firstly, because Ms. Price, (as well as Janice Formichella) and myself had combined forces on a previous project, and I enjoyed working with these gracious, accomplished women very much. Secondly, I chose to participate because my greatest goal in life is to inspire little girls to fall in love with history. #Herstory is yet another wonderful medium to assist in accomplishing that goal; as Ms. Price says on her website,

"#HerStory is also an empowering way for contemporary women to express their gratitude to these historical women, by becoming an advocate and amplifier of their lives - sharing their stories with the larger world so that others may also find inspiration in their lives"

Since Ms. Price (and Ms. Formichella) and I are planning on working together on another joint project about Elizabeth I in the near future, I was asked to entertain the idea of highlighting someone other than Good Queen Bess for the #HerStory podcast. Two names immediately sprung to mind: the "Empress" Matilda Plantagenet, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Since Eleanor was one of the first woman in history I came to admire, along with Elizabeth, I decided to tell her story...

A contemporary drawing of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

I hope you enjoy listening to or downloading the podcast; please let me know what you think by leaving comments below, or on Rebecca's site!



Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 12th, 1543: The Wedding of Henry VIII and Katherine Parr

A miniature portrait, most likely of Katherine Parr. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Tudor history, 1543, King Henry VIII married his sixth and final wife, Katherine Parr at Hampton Court Palace. Queen Katherine Parr was to become the mother figure that the young Elizabeth and Edward never had. While Mary was now an adult and in no need of mothering, she and Katherine were friendly, even if they differed on matters of religion.

A view of some of the sumptuously recreated Hampton Court Palace Gardens. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Twice widowed before she wed the King, Katherine was a mature and accomplished woman who made a competent Queen. Just one year after her wedding, Katherine would serve for three months as regent in England while Henry VIII embarked on another fruitless campaign in France. Henry VIII's decision to entrust his realm to Queen Katherine showed a tremendous amount of faith in his sixth wife's judgement and ability to govern, a trust he had not given since his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

A portrait miniature of Catherine of Aragon with her pet monkey, by Lucas Horenbout. Painted between 1525-26. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

To learn more about the accomplished Queen Katherine Parr, I recommend reading,  Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII by Linda Porter. Read my review HERE.

To learn more about Elizabeth's relationship with her stepmother Katherine Parr, please see my article, published exclusively at On The Tudor Trail, An Education: The Shaping of Elizabeth I, through Childhood Events and Academic Pursuits.

To learn about the young Elizabeth's impressive gift to her stepmother, a lengthy translation of The Mirror of the Sinful Soul, and to read a letter written by Elizabeth to Queen Katherine in 1548, please see Elizabeth Tudor's letter to Katherine Parr.

The cover to Elizabeth Tudor's translation of The Mirror of the Sinful Soul, embroidered in her own hand. Elizabeth has incorporated her stepmother's initials, "KP" , in the center of the knot-work on the cover. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

And to learn more about the Katherine Parr Quincentenary celebrations at Sudeley Castle, visit the Sudeley Castle Website

An exterior view of Sudeley Castle. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Queen Elizabeth Visits the Royal Mint

A miniature, most likely of Queen Elizabeth, by court painter Leevina Teerlinc. The painting is dated between 1560-65. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan history, 1561 Queen Elizabeth I visited the Royal Mint at the Tower of London. Naturally, new gravel was brought in for the occasion, to cover the path that the Queen would be walking on! 

To find out more about the Royal Mint in Tudor times, visit the Royal Mint's Henry VIII page.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Theatre Thurs: Cut-purses in the Elizabethan Theatre District

Market Scene with a Pick-pocket by Louise Moillon, (1610-1696) from the first half of the 17th century (a little late in time, I know, but it was a brilliant representation and I wanted to use it!) Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Like any major city today, 16th century London had its fair share of crime. Elizabethan London was full of cut-purses, many of whom worked in organized bands. 

In the year 1585, it was discovered that a school to train young cut-purses was being run at a tavern in Billingsgate. The school was being run by a Mr. Wotton, an ex-merchant turned criminal mentor (think of him as a 16th century Fagan).

One of the ways Mr. Wotton honed his aspiring criminals skills was by having them practice lifting coins from a purse that had bells sewn onto it, without ever making a sound. When the junior cut-purses could do this successfully, they were ready to be released into the wider world, preying upon wealthy theatregoers in the playhouses. These boys "nipped a bung" in the city, which was criminal slang for cutting a purse.

The City of London from Southwark in Elizabethan Times. The drawing is from the second edition of The History of London (1894) by Sir Walter Besant. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Mr. Wotton, like the other men (and women) who trained bands or criminals, found that small boys made good cut-purses because they could move through the packed crowds in and around the theatre virtually unnoticed. As an added bonus, their small fingers caused minimal to no disturbances when pilfering coins or cutting purse strings!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Elizabeth Visits Oxford on Progress in 1566

During Queen Elizabeth I's summer progress in 1566, she chose to visit the University of Oxford. The university and the student's were eager to impress the Queen, who had honored them with her visit. So, they prepared a showcase of Oxford talent, where Queen Elizabeth and her courtiers were entertained with debates and plays. 

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, c.1590 that hangs in the Hall of Jesus College, Oxford University. Queen Elizabeth founded the school on June 27th, 1571. Jesus College was the first Protestant college to be founded at the university. Elizabeth originally intended Jesus College to be an academic institution for Anglican clergymen. These men would help to enforce her Elizabethan Religious Settlement (please see my article: Religious Policy under Elizabeth I). Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Queen Elizabeth supported education in many ways throughout her reign; one of the ways in which she showed her support to higher education was by making frequent visits to universities. Queen Elizabeth even helped to pay for some of her god-children's schooling. This is generous, considering she had more than one-hundred in her lifetime! We know that Elizabeth greatly valued her own education; while she believed God had preserved her through many dangers in order to assume the position of Queen of England, it was Elizabeth's education and intellectual ability that can be largely credited for creating the consummate stateswoman we study to this day. (For an assessment of Elizabeth's political aptitude by scholar Garrett Mattingly, click here.)

One of Queen Elizabeth's godchildren was the writer John Harrington; he attended Eton and King's College, Cambridge. The Queen helped to fund his education. Some of Queen Elizabeth and John Harrington's correspondences have survived, and they were published by his descendent under the title Nugae Antique.

Interestingly, John Harrington holds the prestige of being the inventor of the first flushing toilet in England in 1596. He describes this invention, which he originally installed in his house at Kelston in his work, A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax. He also installed the flushing toilet for his royal godmother at Richmond Palace.  


Doran, Susan. The Tudor Chronicles 1485-1603. London: Quercus, 2008. Print.

Kinghorn, Jonathan."A Privvie in Perfection: Sir John Harrington's Water Closet." Bath History.