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.