Heartsease (viola tricolour) – Elizabeth I’s flower

“There’s pansies, that’s for thoughts”.  Ophelia

Detail of pansy on hemline of Hardwick Portrait

The regular post has moved to a midweek time to accommodate the weekly history challenges. Let’s hope I can stay organised.

I’ve been doing some gardening today, making the most of the lovely weather. At this rate I’ll have the tidiest garden ever. Today I did some weeding and planted some seeds that I’ve found lurking in the back of a cupboard. Apparently heartsease populate walls, rockeries and paths easily. Time will tell. Anyway, heartsease as I know it has many different names including Jack-behind-the-garden-gate; kiss-behind-the-garden-gate; Kit-run-around; godfathers-and-godmothers; herb trinity and herb constancy to name but a few.

The name heartsease comes from the days when if you were suffering from a broken heart you could take an infusion of the pretty little plant to treat your woes. I don’t suggest that you try it. In Victorian times when courting couples couldn’t speak openly the flower represented happiness and if you gave it to someone the meaning might be that the recipient occupied the giver’s thoughts – presumably leading to the kiss behind the garden gate.

Gerard’s herbal reveals other medicinal uses for the pansy or heartsease:

It is good … for such as are sick of ague, especially children and infants, whose convulsions and fits of the falling sickness it is thought to cure. It is commended against inflammation of the lungs and chest, and against scabs and itchings of the whole body and healeth ulcers.’

So back to the history – the pansy was Elizabeth I’s favourite flower, and as a consequence it was everyone else’s as well. For Elizabeth the humble heartsease was not linked with kissing behind gates, it represented chastity- an important facet of being the Virgin Queen. In medieval times, prior to the Reformation, it was linked with the Virgin Mary. The colours of the heartsease, white, yellow and purple relate to purity, joy and mourning respectively which relate in turn to the Virgin’s life. 

The Stowe Inventory of the Wardrobe identifies many of Elizabeth’s clothes in 1600 as well as her new year’s gifts which included many hand embroidered items. Elizabeth herself hand embroidered gifts for her own family, most famously Katherine Parr’s prayer book cover stitched when Elizabeth was eleven-years-old, which includes pansies or heartsease.

Katherine Parr’s Prayer book cover stitched by Princess Elizabeth

Look closely at any number of Elizabeth’s portraits including the Pelican Portrait, the Hardwick Hall portrait and the Rainbow Portrait for example and you will find pansies.

The man who made priest holes

DSC_0094.jpgYesterday I found myself in the garderobe, sliding into a small space, ducking my head to avoid a low beam and then straightening to find myself in a priest hole.  Fortunately for me no one was going to slam the lid back into place and leave me in total darkness until it was safe for me to emerge or I was discovered and dragged off to the Tower.  I was enjoying a sunny afternoon at Oxborough Hall.

 

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During the reign of Elizabeth I Jesuits priests were feared as enemies of the state and hunted down by pursuivants.  Catholic priests moved from Catholic household to catholic household, often purporting to be cousins or other distant relations.  Wealthy families built hiding places in their homes so that when the priest hunters came calling there was somewhere to hide their illicit guest.

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The most successful priest holes were built by Nicholas Owen – not that he built the hole at Oxborough. Owen, an Oxfordshire man, was born in 1562.  He had three siblings one was a Catholic priest and another printed illegal Catholic books.  The brothers’ father was a carpenter and Nicholas in his turn was apprenticed to a joiner.  By the time he was in his mid twenties he was working for Father Henry Garnet and had become a lay brother in the Jesuit order.  He suffered from ill health including a limp from a poorly set bone and a hernia. Despite his physical frailty he travelled from house to house constructing priest holes.   Most of the people he worked for didn’t know his real name – to them he was Little John.  He worked by night in total secrecy to create his hiding places.  Many of the priest holes were so well concealed that they were only discovered in later centuries when houses underwent renovation.  Unfortunately the occasional hole is still found with its occupant still in situ.

 

Owen’s favoured locations seem to have been behind fireplaces and under stairs.  The pursuivants were men who could judge if an interior wall looked shorter than an exterior wall so Owen had to be very careful as to where he located his priest holes.

 

Nicholas was a man strong in faith.  He was eventually captured in 1606 at Hindlip Hall in Worcestershire in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot.  It is thought he allowed himself to be captured in order to distract attention from Father Henry Garnet who was hiding nearby.

There were rules about torturing people with disabilities but this didn’t stop Robert Cecil from demanding that Owen be taken to the Tower and taxed about his knowledge by Topcliffe.  He was racked.  This caused his intestines to bulge out through his hernia.  Topcliffe ordered that they be secure by a metal plate. This cut into the hernia and he bled to death in his cell. He died rather than give away his secrets and the lives of the men who depended upon him keeping them.  The State announced that he had committed suicide.

St Nicholas Owen was canonised in 1970 and is the patron saint of illusionists and escape artists.

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Hogge Alice.  God’s Secret Agents

Reynolds, Tony. (2014) St Nicholas Owen: Priest Hole Maker

https://soul-candy.info/2012/03/mar-22-st-nicholas-owen-sj-d-1606-martyr-artist-builder-of-hiding-places-for-priests/

Two turtle doves…or in our case one phoenix, a turtle and Mr Shakespeare.

elizabethphoenix

The turtle dove has been in steep decline during the last century.

The Phoenix and the turtle was written in 1601 to go in an anthology entitled Love’s Martyr.  All the works in the anthology have the theme of the two birds.

Essentially the phoenix is married to the turtle dove. The pair love each other so completely that they grow like one another over the duration of their relationship. But times are changing. The pair die and when they die true love dies along with them – there will be no one as virtuous or in love as them ever again. They have been married but chaste – so they leave no children. They are buried and a variety of other birds come to mourn at the funeral. It is the end of a golden age.

There are lots of different interpretations and arguments which this post has no intention of covering. Suffice it to say each bird is the subject of academic speculation.  It doesn’t help that Love’s Martyr is dedicated to Sir John Salusbury – a fairly obscure personage.  In which case he logically should be the phoenix and his wife Ursula the dove.  In any event there wasn’t a great deal of chastity involved as they had ten children. And let’s not get into the whole who was Shakespeare thing!

The phoenix is often, but not always, seen as straight forward enough – Elizabeth I was linked to the phoenix on more than one occasion.    Most famously in 1575 Elizabeth featured in two portraits by Nicholas Hilliard.  In one she is holding a pelican pendant – pinched from Catholic iconography- Elizabeth is stating that she is the mother of her nation and that like the pelican which wounds itself to feeds its young so she has made a great sacrifice for her people – i.e. her unwed state.  The Phoenix Portrait pictured at the start of this post is a reminder that Elizabeth is unique and that having been consumed by the flames the phoenix arises from the ashes.  This could be a reference to the near disaster of her mother’s fall from favour and the dangers she faced during the reign of Mary I.  It could also reference the idea that the people of England should not fear for the future because a) the phoenix lives for 500 years before going up in smoke and b) just as the phoenix regenerates so the Crown will be reborn.  Unfortunately in 1601 it was clear that Elizabeth wasn’t going to last much longer and there was the small issue of who would succeed her.

Which brings us neatly to the other birds in the poem, the mourners.  One of them, the “bird of the loudest lay,” could very well be James VI of Scotland whilst the crow is often interpreted as being Shakespeare himself.  Essentially its important to have some understanding of bird lore before attempting the allegorical meaning behind the poem.  And many scholars take the view that it really is not the point of the poem to try and decipher the bird code at all.  It could simply be that Shakespeare was effectively whistling very loudly whilst writing about the intangibility of true love and trying to distance himself from the Earl of Essex’s Rebellion.  He must have been very aware of the possibility he would be associated with treason given that on the 7th February 1601 his players performed Richard II (and that didn’t end well for the monarch in question).  Shakespeare was paid forty shillings by some of the earl’s supporters, the Earl rose in rebellion the following day  with 300 supporters and marched on London – the play was some kind of signal- but Londoners didn’t take the hint.  Shakespeare must have spent some time afterwards checking that his head was still on his shoulders.

 

2nd earl of essexSo – let us get on to the turtle dove who is after all supposed to be the centre of this post.  In Tudor times the turtle dove represented fidelity.  If Elizabeth is the phoenix who then is the dove?  Robert Devereux the 2nd earl of Essex remains a popular choice.  The idea gained popularity in the 1960s with the analysis of William Matchett. Although, quite frankly, how rushing off  to fight the Spanish in 1586 without permission, getting married without Elizabeth’s approval, referencing the queen’s “crooked carcass,” arriving back from Ireland uninvited, unannounced and bursting into the royal bedchamber before finally revolting and getting oneself beheaded could be described as fidelity is another matter entirely.  One view is that the phoenix and the turtle dove have burned out their love for one another.  It is then argued that Shakespeare was not writing a straight forward poem at all. He was doing something very dangerous –  he was writing a pro Essex poem which basically turns the earl into a hero in the aftermath of his failed rising and subsequent execution on 26th February 1601.

And yes – there are many more theories about who the turtle dove might be but I think it’s time to move away from the topic as I could go around ever decreasing circles for some considerable time.

Incidentally Salusbury was knighted for his part in the suppression of Essex’s rebellion whilst his brother  got himself executed in 1586  for supporting Mary Queen of Scots.

 

 

Bednarz, J. Shakespeare and the Truth of Love: The Mystery of ‘The Phoenix and Turtle’

 

Which witch- some Jacobean witch trials

king-james1The History Jar’s previous post showed that James’ witchcraft trials were no respecter of rank, although it is telling that Francis Stuart survived the encounter.  When James became king of England as well as Scotland he carried his interest in witches with him- not that trials were a new phenomena- between 1560 and 1701 there were 279 trials for witchcraft in Essex and those are only the ones that made it into the record books.

Like James, Henry VIII had thought that witches were plotting against him. And let’s not forget the rumour concerning Anne Boleyn. It was suggested that she carried the “devil’s mark”  in the form of a mark on her neck and in the existence of a sixth finger on her right hand.  Elizabeth introduced a law against witches in 1563.  James was simply able to dust the law down and remind folk that practising witchcraft and consulting with them was an offence punishable by death.

Probably the most famous English case during the reign of James I was that, in 1612, of the Pendle Witches where three generations of one family found themselves on the wrong end of the swimming test (that’s the one where if you sink and drown you’re not a witch but if you bob to the top of the water having had your hands tied to your feet then you were a witch and having been hauled out and dried off could be burned.) To be honest it’s the case that springs to mind when thinking about Jacobean witch trials.  Yet, in Scotland between 1603 and 1624 there were approximately 420 witchcraft trials a year which is a lot of elderly crones when all is said and done, even if only half of them were executed.

There were many fewer trials in England, Notestein suggests somewhere between forty and fifty, but they did tend to have a much higher profile and were mostly at the start of James’ reign.  Take for example the scandalous affair of Francis Howard, Countess of Somerset and the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in the Tower.  Francis  was said to have gained poisons from her friend Anne Turner who had a reputation for being a wise woman and it it was discovered had associated with Simon Forman who had predicted his own death.  Even worse, if possible, Cunning Mary (a name with which to conjure) told the court that Francis had promised her a £1000. Anne was executed for her part in the murder whilst Francis who pleaded guilty was quietly pardoned and released.

Other notable cases were as follows:

1606

  • Royston in Hertfordshire, Joanna Harrison was found to have in her possession the bones of a man and a woman. Her property was searched after she made a man ill simply by looking at him.

1607

  • The Bakewell Witches demonstrates that it paid not to get on the wrong side of anyone. “A Scotchman staying at a lodging-house in Bakewell fell in debt to his landlady, who retained some of his clothes as security. He went to London, concealed himself in a cellar, and was there found by a watchman, who arrested him for being in an unoccupied house with felonious intent. He professed to be dazed and declared that he was at Bakewell in Derbyshire at three o’clock that morning. He explained it by the fact that he had repeated certain words which he had heard his lodging-house keeper and her sister say. The judge was amazed, the man’s depositions were taken down, and he was sent to the justices of Derby.” The writer (Wallace Notestein) added that there was little evidence for this but that a number of women were hanged in Bakewell on charges of witchcraft at this time.

1612

  •  Witches discovered in Northamptonshire. Eight women were accused of  torturing a man and his sister as well as causing lameness in the neighbourhood. One of them Agnes Brown had a wart that was taken to be the devil’s mark. She and her daughter already had a dubious reputation.  Another was suspected because a child looked at her in church and when he got home went into convulsions.
  • Arthur Bill and his parents were accused of bewitching Martha Aspine.
  • The Pendle witch trials which was essentially two families at feud with one another.  Sixteen women found themselves locked up in Lancaster Castle on witchcraft charges.

 

1613

  • In Bedford Mother Sutton and her daughter,Mary, fell foul of the local landowner who was called Enger. Enger claimed that on moonlit nights Mary was in the habit of manifesting herself at his side.  She would sit and knit and tell him that if he agreed her terms that he would be restored to full health.

1616

  • The Leicester witch hangings.  A boy had fits and claimed that they were caused by witches. As a result nine women were executed and six more were saved by James who was on progress and found that the boy was lying.

1618

  • The Earl of Rutland claimed that both his sons had been killed by witches.  The Belvoir witches were tried in Lincoln. Joan Flower and her two daughters were dismissed from Belvoir Castle and when the second of the earl’s sons died it was realised that not only had he been killed by witchcraft but so had his sibling who had died several years earlier. It should be noted that Joan and her daughters had been dismissed some five years before the boy died. I’ve posted about the death of the earl’s sons earlier. https://thehistoryjar.com/2018/01/20/witchcraft-scandal-and-the-duke-of-buckingham/

 

1620

  • The saw called Bilston Boy case. Essentially thirteen year old William Perry craved attention and got it by having fits. He accused Jane Clarke of causing the fits and the case went to trial.  It was only thanks to a very perceptive bishop that Jane didn’t hang.

1622

  • The Fairfax case in York saw six women accused on the testimony of children.

 

Notestein, Wallace (1909) A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 1718.

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/31511/31511-h/31511-h.htm#Footnote_115-3_42

Elizabeth I – the final decade

queen_elizabeth_armada_portraitIn many ways the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 can be seen as the apex of Elizabeth’s reign – the Armada Portrait shows that God was definitely on her side and that in addition to reigning over England Elizabeth also ruled the waves and other parts of the globe – the latter can be seen from her proprietorial grip on a globe whilst the former is manifested in the carving of a mermaid on her chair – admittedly the artist had to do some reworking as the traditional symbolism of a mermaid was the opposite to that which usually depicted the Virgin Queen’s qualities.

It wasn’t long before Fortunes wheel began its downward cycle for the raging monarch.  The Earl of Leicester died on his was to take the waters in Buxton. Elizabeth, retired to her chamber to grieve and refused to come out. After the doors to her bed chamber had been broken down on the orders of Lord Burghley, the queen did not display much in the way of magnanimity to the widow -Lettice Knollys.  Instead she pressed for Dudley’s debts to the Crown to be repaid.  The irony cannot have been lost on Lettice.  Dudley had mortgaged Kenilworth, Leicester House in London and Wanstead to finance the campaign in the Netherlands.

At court the power dynamics changed without Dudley in the mix.  Sir Christopher Hatton rose in seniority whilst Dudley’s step-son  the earl of Essex became engaged in a bitter battle for supremacy with Sir Walter Raleigh.

Elsewhere radical Puritans made their voices heard and when Sir Christopher Hatton tried to silence them with laws of blasphemy the Queen found it politically expedient to be equally harsh to her Catholic subjects.  The war against Spain continued to drain the treasury. The Irish revolted. The Jesuits sent more agents. Harvests failed, prices soared and there was an out break of plague.  There were butter and fish riots.

Unsurprisingly there were one or two plots – including that of Dr Lopez- the queen’s own physician. Lopez as well as being a physician had also spied for both Walsingham and Dudley – now those particular chickens came home to roost when the Earl of Essex accused Lopez of plotting.  Lopez paid the price for playing the role of agent provocateur and also of Essex’s campaign to overthrow the Cecils.

The Earl of Essex was no Dudley -ultimately Robert Dudley had loved Elizabeth.  He and William Cecil might have cajoled and flattered on occasion but they knew that trying to bend the queen to their wills was not something to be undertaken lightly.  They did not see her as a mere woman – Essex on the other hand rather over rated his own appeal and powers of persuasion. And what was worse he ignored Elizabeth’s commands, returned from Ireland without permission, burst in on her when she was not rigged out in the full Gloriana costume and told her that she had a crooked carcass.  It was not behaviour designed to win friends and influence people. Defiance by Essex turned into rebellion.

After the Earl of Essex went to the block Elizabeth did her very best to appear as though she was neither aging nor tired but she stumbled when she got out of her coach at the opening of Parliament, was more bad tempered than in the past, ate little, suffered from arthritis and was prone to melancholy. It didn’t help that all her old friends and servants were dying one by one. Her fear of the darkness grew and she struggled to sleep more than a few hours each night – all of which is a bit of a contrast to the monarch bedecked in ribbons and pearls with her hand on the world.

Guy, John. (2016) Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years. London: Penguin

 

Queen Elizabeth I’s godchildren

elizabeth-1-rainbow-portraitAs you might expect Elizabeth I had many godchildren including Mary Queen of Scots’ infant son James – her proxy had to lurk outside the chapel during the baptism as Mary obviously had her son baptised within the Catholic faith whilst Elizabeth was very clearly Protestant. Once Mary was forced to abdicate and her half-brother the Earl of Moray took charge of the new king crowned by John Knox in Stirling, James was raised a Protestant.  In later years, when James was nineteen Elizabeth started to write to James with advice.  The pair exchanged correspondence occasionally thereafter.

Very conveniently the exact numbers of godchildren can be traced through the queen’s accounts.  In 1562 she gave 37d for “Mr Sakevill’s child.”  Unsurprisingly she was godmother to Lord Hunsdon’s child  and Sir Francis Knolly’s child the same year.  Both of the former were part of the extended Boleyn family through Elizabeth’s aunt Mary – they are sometimes referred to rather enviously of being the “tribe of Dan”  in an Elizabethan court context.

In addition to family she was also godparent to the children of her advisors – Robert Cecil’s son, William, became her seventy-ninth godchild. Then there were her nobility who angled for a royal sponsor for their children in the hope of royal patronage. The Earl of Northumberland’s son Algernon was one of Elizabeth’s godchildren in 1602.  Elizabeth was fond of the boy’s mother, Dorothy Devereaux and had helped arrange the marriage so it is perhaps not so surprising. More surprising is that the French ambassador’s children could also claim Elizabeth as her godmother.

As the years passed Elizabeth even became godparent to her godchildren’s children – notably the case of Sir John Harrington in 1587. Sir John’s mother was Isabella Markham, like Dorothy Devereaux a lady of the privy chamber. Sir John Harrington of Kelston is probably Elizabeth’s most famous godchild mainly because of his invention of a flushing toilet which Elizabeth decided might be unsanitary.  Elizabeth also described him as “saucy.”  He in his turn wrote fondly of her but recognised that as her death drew close that he needed to hitch his wagon to the rising star of James VI of Scotland.  Harrington was also in receipt of quite an unusual gift from his godmother.  She translated Seneca’s Moral Letters as a gift/advice for the six-year-old.

In total Elizabeth became godmother to one hundred and two children. Each of them received a gift of money upon their baptism, hence the detail of the list, and each of them could hope once they were adults to draw upon the favour of their relationship with Gloriana.

Just as an aside children could expect three godparents – two of  their own sex and one of the opposite sex.  The most senior godparent of the same sex had naming rights – presumably unless trumped by Her Maj.

“Queen Elizabeth’s Godchildren.” by Constance E.B. Rye. The Genealogist (NS) vol.2 (1885) page 262-265 [1]

 

Gloriana

Halifax Thursday 25th October

Places still available – 

If you’re thinking of coming to Gloriana a life in pictures there are still a few places available.  Please let me know if you’re a regular and would like to attend.

queen_elizabeth_armada_portraitElizabeth is most usually depicted in costumes laden with symbolism but when she made her first appearance on the political stage in September 1533 shortly after her brith on the 7th of that month she was paraded as a naked babe in arms by her proud father for the benefit of Europe’s ambassadors.

Ann Boleyn had retired for her confinement in Greenwich Palace in August 1533.  The room with its fastened windows and tapestry heavy walls must have seemed close and airless.  Henry had been promised a son but the child who was born at 3pm on the 7th was a girl.  Henry was swift to say that boys would follow – Elizabeth appeared to be a healthy infant and this particular father knew that many babies didn’t arrive safely in the world so he made the best of a bad bargain.

She was baptised when she was three days old at Greenwich in the Church of the Observant Friars.  An account of the baptism may be found in  Henry VIII’s letters and papers for 1533:

the Childe was brought to the hall, and then every man set forward: first, the Cittizens two and two; then Gentlemen, Esquires, and Chap-laines ; next after them the Aldermen, and the Maior alone; and next the Kinges Counsell; then the Kinges Chappel in coaps; then Barons, Bishops, Earles, the Earle of Essex bearing the covered basons gilt; after him the Marques of Excester with a taper of virgin wax; -next him the Marques Dorset bearing the salt; behind him the Lady Mary of Norfolke bearing the crisome, which was very rich of pearle and stone. The old Dutches of Norfolke bare the Childe in a mantle of purple velvet, with a long traine furred with ermine. The Duke of Norfoike with his marshal’s rod went on the right hand of the saide Dutchesse; and the Duke of Suffbike on the left hand ; and before them went Officers of Armes ; the Countesse of Kent bare the long traine of the Childes mantle; and meane betweene the Childe and the Countesse of Kent went the Earle of Wilshire and tlie Earle of Darby on either side, supporting the said traine in the middest: over the Childe was borne a rich canapie, by the Lord Rochford, the Lord Hussey, the Lord William Howard, and the Lord Thomas Howard the elder. After the Childe, followed many Ladies and Gentlewomen.

 

Robert Cecil

00cecilR3Robert was born in 1563, the second son of William Cecil.  His mother was Mildred Cooke.  Robert had an elder half-brother called Thomas who would become the 1st Earl of Exeter but it was this younger, much more clever son, upon who William lavished his affection as well as training him to take over the reins of government.

When he arrived at court he initially seemed at a disadvantage when compared with the young and handsome Earl of Essex.  Robert was small and had a twisted back.  He had only is mind to recommend him and for a while the contest between the new young favourites cannot have been comfortable but in 1596 Elizabeth made Robert, who she called her “pygmy”, her Secretary of State.

In 1601 the Earl of Essex rebelled against the queen and suffered the ultimate penalty.   Robert had blamed his uprising upon the queen’s poor advisor’s of whom Cecil featured.  In the aftermath of the short-lived uprising Cecil counselled clemency but it did him no good in popular imagination.  People had rather liked the flamboyant Essex whereas Cecil was regarded with suspicion in part because of his physical disability – body reflecting godliness etc- there were ballads placing the blame for Essex’s death squarely on Robert’s head.

Interestingly when the conspirators of the Main  and Bye Plot were brought to trial – and bear in mind one of them was his brother-in-law Lord Cobham- it was Cecil who expressed some doubt over Raleigh’s guilt.  Modern historians tend to look at the transcript of the trial and wonder how anyone could have thought Raleigh guilty and are more inclined to consider the possibility that Cecil was helping a political opponent out of the picture.

Robert, like his father before him was a loyal servant to the queen but he opened a secret correspondence with James VI of Scotland.  The stability of the country was largely due to Cecil’s careful management of the transition between monarchs.   The reward for the ease with which James became king was an elevation to the peerage in 1605.  Cecil also became Lord Treasurer.

The Earl of Salisbury was at the root of James’ good governance in the years between 1603 and 1612.  It was he who negotiated the peace with Spain in 1604 – which although unpopular helped to stabilise the economy which was leaking money into the ongoing war. It was he who introduced a Book of rates in 1608 and it was he who attempted to negotiate the Great Contract between King and Parliament in 1610.  This particular venture didn’t come to fruition as neither side particularly trusted the other – and yes it will be a post very shortly.  Robert’s financial policy wasn’t helped by the king’s expenditure, his generous gifts to his favourites or the cost of maintaining a royal household that contained a king, his wife and their children.

Like his predecessor, James  had a predilection for nicknames – Cecil moved from “pygmy” or “elf” to “little beagle.”  The little beagle became increasingly over worked.  In addition to finances there was the matter of religion and the Gunpowder Plot. James also had a new favourite – the handsome but somewhat brainless Robert Carr. Cecil found his advice increasingly spurned in favour of that provided by Robert Carr – or more truthfully- Sir Thomas Overbury who advised Carr.  Francis Bacon’s political aspirations also made life difficult for Cecil who was increasingly adrift in the Stuart world.

And then there is the matter of the Gunpowder Plot – Cecil presents himself as the saviour of king and parliament but there are some doubts about exactly how much provoking Cecil might have done beforehand – he’d learned from that master of espionage Sir Francis Walsingham how to implicate suspects in a web of guilt.

He died in 1612 having swapped his father’s home at Theobalds in 1607 for the Royal Palace at Hatfield on account of the fact the king had taken a shine to Cecil’s house and garden. Cecil demolished the medieval palace and used the bricks to rebuild a new house.

 

The Millenary Petition and Hampton Court Conference.

king-james1I’ve posted a James I timeline before.  It can be opened here in a new window.  Many of James’ problems at home stemmed from the religious changes that were underway during this period.

He hadn’t even been crowned when he found himself being asked to change the way religion was viewed.  In the Spring of 1603 as he travelled south he was presented with the so-called Millenary Petition.  The Petition, signed by Puritan ministers, commented on the state of the Anglican Church (thy weren’t wildly enthusiastic) however, they had a fine line to walk as criticism of the Church implied criticism of the monarch.  For that reason the preamble made it very clear that the Puritans had no desire to move a way from the Anglican Church.  They did not wish to be regarded as separatists.

The fact was though that they didn’t think the Church had gone far enough with its reformation. Their objections were to do with the rites and rituals of the Church such as the wearing of the surplus and even the wearing of wedding rings. Currently there is no original copy of the Millenary Petition available which is odd because no one could cause Robert Cecil of being sloppy with his filing – but on the other hand during the opening months of James’ reign he was being petitioned about all manner of issue.

They went on to say that they would appreciate it if the king would discuss matters.  James got their hopes up by indicating that he was prepared to debate these things.  The only problem was that at this point no one was aware that James liked to show off his knowledge.  Thus when The Hampton Court Conference was convened in January 1604 Puritans, and rather surprisingly Catholics alike, were hopeful that there would be steps towards religious toleration.  The Puritans had been forced into secrecy at the end of Elizabeth’s reign whilst Catholics faced heavy recusancy fines depending which part of the country they lived in.

 

The conference opened its doors on the 14th of January 1604. Archbishop Whitgift of Canterbury was also there as were eight other leading clerics all dolled up in the ecclesiastical finery which irritated the Puritans so much.  The Puritans chose their representatives carefully.  They opted for moderate men.  The king was very pleased with himself – he felt that he was leading a discussion of learned men.  During the next three days he listened to what they had to say – or rather he told them what he thought of what they said.  He had no wish to live under presbyterianism, felt that standards of preaching needed to improve and agreed that clerics should be able to debate theological matters – Elizabeth had banned such discussions.

The Puritans must have had cause for hopefulness after all of that so it came as a bitter disappointment when the official outcome, announced by proclamation in July, was one of conformity and business as usual.  The only real outcome was the commissioning of the King James Bible.

Part of the problem was that despite his education as a protestant, James believed in the Devine Right of Kings.  The Puritans want the Church to govern itself and this in James’ mind detracted from the monarch’s special relationship with the Almighty.

On the other hand someone somewhere must have told James not to go poking sticks into ants’ nests because by the end of his reign only two puritan ministers had been turfed out of their livings for non-conformity and George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1611 to 1633 was known to protect Puritan ministers on account of his sympathy with many of their beliefs.

As for the Catholics – their hopes of toleration dashed- a number of men sought to blow up the Houses of Parliament and paid the ultimate penalty but in all only twenty Catholic Priests were executed during the period of James’ reign.  It doesn’t sound particularly kindly but in relation to Elizabeth’s tally of executed priests it looks positively tolerant!

 

Cavendish, Richard. (2004) “The Hampton Court Conference.” History Today. Vol 54, i

 

Robert Dudley’s last letter

Penelope Devereux will be following shortly – I’ve got rather engrossed in the reading!  In the meantime here’s Robert Dudley’s last letter to Elizabeth I.  On 28th August 1588, an ill Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, wrote his final letter to his queen and childhood friend, Elizabeth I. He wrote it from the home of Lady Norreys at Rycote, where he was staying on his way to Buxton, to take the waters there.   He died on the 4th September 1588.  He is thought to have died either from malaria or stomach cancer.

 

It read:

“I most humbly beseech your Majesty to pardon your poor old servant to be thus bold in sending to know how my gracious lady doth, and what ease of her late pains she finds, being the chiefest thing in this world I do pray for, for her to have good health and long life. For my own poor case, I continue still your medicine and find that (it) amends much better than with any other thing that hath been given me. Thus hoping to find perfect cure at the bath, with the continuance of my wonted prayer for your Majesty’s most happy preservation, I humbly kiss your foot. From your old lodging at Rycote, this Thursday morning, ready to take on my Journey, by your Majesty’s most faithful and obedient servant,

Leicester

 

Elizabeth kept the letter in a box beside her bed for the rest of her life.  She marked it in her own hand “His last letter.”  Their relationship had changed over the years but she never fully recovered from his death.  Although Robert’s step-son the Earl of Essex stepped into Dudley’s place the world in which Elizabeth I found herself was changing.  Not only that but it has been argued that she relied on having familiar faces around her to overcome the anxiety of temperament that had haunted her since the days of Thomas Seymour.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/elizabeth-monarchy/earl-of-leicester-to-elizabeth/

Robert Dudley’s Last Letter