Food, Clothes, People, Entertainment, Books/Films

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Christmas!

Most people know of the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' in which one lucky (or unfortunate) person recieves a partridge in a pair tree, 5 gold rings, 7 swans, and 10 pipers piping, amongst other gifts. But seriously, who has 12 days of Christmas? Well, the Elizabethans sure did. Beginning on Christmas Day (December 25th) and ending on Janurary 6, known as the Feast of Epiphany, the Elizabethan would celebrate these 12 days, also known as Christmastide, with feasts and celebrations. Almost every days was an elaborate pageant or feast, and even some role-reversal as seen on Twelfth Night, which is the last day of celebration. Here is a breakdown of some days:

Christmas Eve (December24th)

Christmas Day (December 25th)

Boxing Day or St. Stephens Day (December 26th)

---from here until the Twelfth Night, there are no particular names for the days---

Twelfth Night (January 5th)

Feast of Epiphany (January 6th)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nicholas Hilliard

Nicholas Hilliard was an English goldsmith and limner best known for his portrait minaitures of members of the court of Elizabeth. He mostly painted small oval miniatures, but also some larger cabinet minaitures, up to about ten inches tall, and at least two famous half-length panel portraits of Elizabeth. He enjoyed continuing success as an artist, and continuing financial troubles, for forty-five years. His paintings still exemplify the visual image of Elizabethen England very different from that of most of Europe in the late sixteenth century. Technically he was very conservative by European standards, but his paintings are superbly executed and have a freshness and charm that has ensured his continuing reputation as "the central artistic figure of the Elizabethan age, the only English painter whose work reflects, in its delicate microcosm, the world of Shakespeare'searlier plays."

The two panel portraits of Elizabeth. Notice the intense detail of her gowns, a way to deflect attention from the aging queen (although she does not look old here, this was not a portrait from life) as well as a way to display the wealth of her position and of England. The one on the right is titled the "Pelican" Portrait, c. 1572, due to the jeweled pelican on Elizabeth's dress (right above her hand); the one on the left is titled the "Pheonix" Portrait, c. 1575, for the pheonix on her dress (again, right above her hand).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hatfield House

Hatfield House was the childhood home and favorite residence of Elizabeth I. The home was built in 1497 by one of Henry VIII's ministers, John Morton; the house was seized by Henry along with church properties during the destruction of the Abbeys. Elizabeth and her half-brother (by Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour) Edward, lived at Hatfield House during their youth. When Elizabeth was 15 years old, she was under suspicion of illegally planning to wed Thomas Seymour; the house and servants were seized by one of Edward VI's minister, and Elizabeth was further interrogated. She defended herself, retaining always the postion of innocence. It was supposedly at the "Queen Elizabeth Oak" on the grounds of Hatfield House where Elizabeth was told she was Queen after the death of Mary I.
These pictures actually show the Old Palace, as there is a "newer" part of Hatfield House that was built in 1607. The "newer" House was built by Robert Cecil, the son of William Cecil (the longtime chief of minister to Elizabeth). James I did not particularly like Hatfield House, and so exchanged it for the Cecil Family home Theobald House. On exhibit at Hatfield House are some of Elizabeth's belongings, such as a hat, gloves, and silk stockings. On display are the Rainbow Portrait, and Ermine Portrait, two of the most iconic portaits of Elzabeth. There are also documents written by Elizabeth and a scroll containing Elizabeth's family tree (which "dates" back to Adam and Eve!).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Elizabeth had many nicknames during her time (The Virgin Queen, Good Queen Bess, Belpheobe, etc.) one of the most well known is "Gloriana". But where did this nickname come from, and what does it mean, (if it means anything)? The name comes from Edmund Spencer's 1590 and 1596 epic poem. The piece was largely an allegorical work to praise Elizabeth I, and her England. The poem follows several knights who undergo various tests and are always enroute to Faerieland. As it was published in 1596, the poem follows 6 virtues: Holiness; Temperance; Chastity; Friendship; Justice; and Courtesy. According to Spencer, the Faerie Queen represents Glory, hence the name Gloriana. Unfortunately for Spencer and bibliophiles, he was unable to finish his 7th book (representing the virtue of "constancy") before he died in 1599.
Photo: Prince Arthur and the Faerie Queen, by Johann Heinrich Fussli

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Anne Boleyn "Chequers" Ring

The ring below is a ring commissioned by Elizabeth (circa 1575) which shows a portrait of herself and a likeness of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth's mother. It was very well known that Elizabeth did not speak of her mother to anyone, especially her father Henry VIII who had ordered the beheading of Anne when Elizabeth was just 2 years old.

The ring, which bears the initial 'E' in table-cut diamonds, contains miniature enameled busts of the Queen and her mother. It is believed that the ring was removed from Elizabeth's finger in 1603 and taken to James VI of Scotland in Edinburgh as evidence of her death. The ring has been known as the "Chequers" ring because it belongs to The Chequers Trust. Considering Elizabeth's astute and sometimes distant manner, it is very interesting that she harbored a much softer and sentimental side to her.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Tempest

Movie alert! The wonderful Helen Mirren (who has played both Queen Elizabeth II and our dear Queen Elizabeth I) is staring in a movie adaption of Shakespeare's The Tempest. For those not familiar with the plot-line of The Tempest, it is set on a remote island where Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place using illusion and skillful manipulation. He conjures up a storm, a tempest, to lure his usurping brother Antonio and the complicit King Alonso of Naples to the island. Helen Mirren will play (a female version of) Prospero. Also starring Djimon Hounsou and Russel Brand. The film opens of December 10th, and is PG-13. See the trailer below:

The Tempest (December 10th, 2011)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Elizabeth Still Reigns

Most recently a portrait minature of Elizabeth was up for sale at the auction house Bonhams. The portait was by one of Elizabeth's favorite painters, Nicholas Hilliard. One can see that the painting highlights Elizabeth's clothing and jewelery, while keeping her face much more simple. This indicates that she was probably toward the end of her reign when this was painted, since ornate gowns and jewels were used more and more often to deflect attention from Elizabeth's aging beauty. The miniature sold for $63, 411. 36 (40,800 pounds).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Black Friday traditionally marks the first shopping day for Christmas, and to help you find the perfect Elizabethan or Renaissance gifts, I've compiled a list of stores and items that would be perfect for the ones you love.

The Shakespeare Folger Library is not only the largest source of Shakespeare's work, but they also have a fantastic museum shop (see
here) with Shakespeare themed items or Elizabethan items. Here's some of my favorites below:

Henry VIII and His Disappearing Wives Mug

"We Are Such Stuff as Dreams are Made of" pillow

Queen Elizabeth Sieve Poster

The British National Portrait Galley is another great museum, and also has another great museum gift shop (see here), some things they offer:

Great Music from the Court of Elizabeth I

Music for the Six Wives of Henry VIII [I own this and it is great, highly recommend!]

The National Portrait Galley Book of Tudors

Postcards: 16th Century portraits [including Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, and Richard III]

And of course I couldn't forget my favorite store, Etsy! I've found many great things there over the past few years and here's some of my favorites:

Elizabethan Ruff: Sonnet to Delia

Tudor French Hood

Anne Boleyn "B Necklace" shirt

For those who want to give a gift to the younger children, here are some items to think about:

Queen Elizabeth Barbie

Princess of Portuguese Empire Barbie

Renaissance 'Go Fish'

Medici vs. Strozzi Board Game

And Finally, the fun and quirky gifts for just about anyone (from

Quill pen and ink set

Catapult and Trebuchet kit

BBQ sword

Sword Handle Umbrella

Happy Shopping!

Ailments Cured by Tobacco

Nicholas Monardes (1493-1588) was a a Spanish physician and botanist who wrote an influential book on the wonders of the "New World." His work was then translated into Latin, then into English by John Frampton. The English translation is known as Joyfull Newes Out of the Newe Founde Worlde. Here are some of the ailments that Monardes believed tobacco could cure.

1. Cancer

2. Shortness of breath

3. Chest Colds

4. "The grief of women" (labor pains)
5. Kidney stones

6. Scurvy

7. Stomachaches

8. Constipation

9. Toothaches

10. Arthritis
11. Absceses

12. Worms

13. Boils

14. Venomous bites

15. Cuts and wounds

16. Headaches

17. Cold sores

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Elizabeth's Suitors

With all the buzz over Prince William and Kate Middleton's recent engagement, I thought it oh-so befitting to mention the many suitors of Elizabeth. Many men vied for her hand for several decades, even as the ability for her to have children became less and less sure. Marriages tended to be political, in order to create alliances or strengthen nations, and Elizabeth played the game exceptionally well (consider this: Elizabeth was born in 1533 and her first offer of marriage was in 1534, when she was one years old!). She was able to juggle numerous suitors, and use them to her advantage in order to use their country for a purpose without officially declaring an engagement. Here is a list of her suitors who were considered to be Elizabeth's husband:

1534: Duke of Angouleme (third son of Francis I)

1544: Prince Phillip of Spain (Phillip II)

1547: Sir Thomas Seymour

1553: Edward Courtenay

1554: Emanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy

1554: Prince Frederick of Denmark

1556: Prince Eric of of Sweden

1556: Don Carlos (son of King Phillip II)

1559: Phillip II

1559: Sir William Pickering

1559: James Hamilton, Earl of Arran

1559: Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel

1559: Lord Robert Dudley, Lord of Leicester

1560: King Eric XVI of Sweden

1560: Henry de Valois, Duke of Anjou

1563: Lord Darnley

1568: Archduke Charles of Austria

1570: Henry, Duke of Anjou

1572: Francois, Duke of Alencon and then Anjou

But alas, in the end Elizabeth declared that she was married to England.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Elizabeth and Pearls

Pearls were the Queen's favorite adornment because they were a symbol of virginity. Here she wears them as "teardrops" sewn to her clothing and in her hair, as well as around her neck in ropes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Burghley House

Burghley House was the country home built by Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, who was the Lord High Treasurer to Elizabeth. The house is located just within Cambridgeshire, England. The main part of the house has 35 major rooms, and 80 lesser rooms and numerous halls, corridors, bathrooms and service areas. In one room (the Pagoda room) hangs a portrait of Elizabeth I (as well as the Cecil family, Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell). Now that's what I call a country house!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

All Hail the Queen!

November 17th 1558 marks the beginning of the Elizabethan Era: Queen Mary I was dead and was succeeded by our dear Elizabeth I.

An account from Elizabeth Jenkins biography "Elizabeth The Great" has this to say on Mary's death and Elizabeth's accession: "Cecil noted: 'In June [they were still using the Julien calendar] now burning in Smithfield seven at one fire.' The last martys were burned on Novemeber 11, and after their names, the Register exclaims: 'Six days afters these were burned to death, God sent us our Elizabeth.' At Hatfield, in the excrutiating excitment of the hour, ELizabeth had not let go of caution. She had told Sir Nocholas Throckmorton that he was to bring her the black-and-gold betrothal ring that would never leave Mary's hand until she was dead. Meanwhile Cecil came and went, with draft proclamations and plans to take over the government in the new Queen's name...At daybreak on November 17 Mary died, and Throckmorton set out for Hatfield with the ring, but he was outdistanced on the road by the Lords of the Council. When they arrived Elizabeth was walking in the park and they came up with her as she stood beneath a leafless oak. At their words she knelt on the grass and exclaimed: 'A domino factum est et mirible in oculis nostris!' ['This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes']. "

On November 23 Elizabeth left her home of Hatfield for St. James palace in London. She was attended by the Lords of Council, her ladies in waiting and a royal household retinue which numbered "a thousand and more." Along the way she was met with loud acclamations and Elizabeth would stop to recieve the her Subjects greetings and oaths of allegiance, graciously extending her hand for each to kiss.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Elizabethan Food and YouTube Unite!

I found the most pleasant discovery on YouTube, a BBC production called "The Supersizer Go...[insert time period here]" which is a food program that recreates dishes from different periods in British history, and yes they have an Elizabethan episode! It's a very funny show, with lots delicious as well as atrocious looking food which the two hosts (restraunt critic Giles Corin and broadcaster and comedian Sue Perkins) must endure, all while wearing the traditional outfits of the time. Check it out here!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Luftwaffe spy photo reveals lost Tudor garden

I recently found an article on a German spy plane in 1944 taking secret photos of a lost Tudor garden. Obviously the Luftwaffe cameraman thought/hoped the oddly marked fields would have military significance. The reason this has come up now is because the National Trust requested copies of the photos from the U.S national archive within the last 6 months. There's a very interesting story behind this garden, which you can read here, even involving Catholicism and the Gunpowder Plot.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Elizabethan Public Relations

With all the buzz over Queen Elizabeth II now having a Facebook page (as well as a YouTube channel, Flickr account, and Twitter account), it got me thinking about how Elizabeth I reached out to the people of her realm. It is very well known than Elizabeth I aimed at presenting herself as a capable monarch, full of all the splendors and riches of her positions, as well as later the image of an ageless regal queen. But what about the real "grass roots" way of connecting to people? Elizabeth I was a times on unstable ground in terms of her retaining the crown, and she felt the best way to preserve her position and the future of England, was to play to the people to gain their loyalty. Let's break down some methods she used.

1. She often traveled throughout England on her progresses; this was not only because it was fiscally reasonable to do so (since the nobles she visisted would have to pay for everything) or because of sanitary issues (because there were hundreds of courtiers, and no indoor plumbing) but also so Subjects would find Elizabeth a familiar sight. Sometimes mid-travel she would stop the carriage she was in and get out to wave and greet Subjects, and thank them for their loyalty.

2. In a time when few could read, the Queen still regulated the use of printed material in order to make sure no slanderous things were said about her/her reign/or anything that would inspire rebellion. As early as 1557, Queen Mary instituted the Company of Stationers—–the printers and booksellers guild—–creating a restricted membership which had the sole right to publish books. The Crown granted itself the authority to ensure that no printed materials “should be either heretical, seditious, or unseemly for Christian ears.” Any new books were to be licensed, prior to printing, either by the Queen herself in writing, or by six of her Privy Council, (or by one of the following: the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishop ofLondon, or the Chancellors of both universities).

3. Since literacy was not obtainable by every Subject of England, they turned to plays as entertainment, and Elizabeth certainly used them as an opportunity to heighten her image while degrade her enemies. So many productions often took aim at England's key enemy Spain, that Bishop Quadra (Spanish Ambassador to England from 1559 to 1563) complained "As I was tired of complaining to the Queen of the constant writing of books, farces, and songs prejudicial to other princes, and seeing that notwithstanding her promises, no attempt was made to put a stop to it." And Elizabeth did not interfer with plays so long as they were directed against her enemies. Historian David Bevington notes that "in the 1560s and 1570s is the vogue of “mirror” plays exploring the nature of tyranny and the proper attitudes of subjects under its cruel sway: Cambises, Appius and Virginia, Virtuous and Godly Susanna, Jocasta, Promos and Cassandra, and Damon and Pythias . . . obviously dare[d] not hint at dictatorial abuses in Elizabeth herself. Instead, they implicitly or explicitly flatter Elizabeth by the contrast between her and the conventional tyrant." This is the kind of anti-foreign sentiment whichElizabeth may have influenced.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Elizabethan England: Approximately 4,000,000
Modern Day England: (2008 estimate) 51,446,000

Monday, June 21, 2010

Modern Elizabethan

Keira Knightly recently co-starred in a short film titled Maze which is the directorial debut of Stuart Pearson Wright (who also co-stars in the production). In the film Keira and Stuart play Elizabethan courtiers lost in a maze and trying to reach each other. Apparently the film is a metaphor for a relationship breaking down.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day, and though it was not celebrated in the time of Elizabeth, I think it is befitting to explore who her father was: Henry VIII. Interestingly, Henry was not suppose to be King. He had an older brother, Arthur (older by 5 years), but who was a sickly child and a few months after being married to a certain Spanish Princess, died unexpectedly. This meant that Henry became Heir Presumptive and given the title Prince of Wales, as well bear all the burdens that came with it. Their father Henry VII was still eager to have an alliance with Spain and proposed that the newly widowed Princess, marry Henry. The marriage was allowed but only after consent from the Pope, as to marry his brother's wife would be considered incest. After 7 years of marriage, Catherine gave birth to their only surviving child. A daughter, they named her Mary (who would later become Mary I a.k.a Bloody Mary). Henry became increasingly agitated by the fact that no male heir had been born and survived during his marriage to Catherine. With the idea that God was punishing him for having committed an incestuous act, as well as been enchanted by one of Catherine's Lady-in-Waiting, Anne Boleyn, Henry tried to obtain an annulment from the Pope. Contrary to popular belief, Henry after becoming the "Supreme Head of the English Church" granted an annulment to his marriage with Catherine, not a divorce, as Catherine would never have consented since she was a staunch Catholic. Anne Boleyn had refused to become Henry's mistress, like her sister Mary, but only his wife and Queen. When this was accomplished she consented, and nine months after their marriage, she gave birth to a daughter whom they named Elizabeth.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Today in History

Today two key events in Elizabeth's life took place, though at the time she may or may not have known of their significance. The first event, which took place in 1566 was the birth of King James I (of England and VI of Scotland). James was born at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland; he was the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. After Mary was forced to abdicate the Scottish throne, James became King. In 1601, with the increasing worry of who would succeed the aging Queen Elizabeth, some of her councilors began a secret correspondence with James, to ensure a smooth succession. Elizabeth died on March 24, 1603, and James was proclaimed King later that day. He died in 1625.

The second event was the death of Francis, Duke of Anjou in 1584. Francis is perhaps best known in history as being one of the many suitors to Elizabeth. During the courtship he was 24 and she was 46, but in spite of their ages they grew very close. Elizabeth, as was often her custom to give her "favorites" nicknames, she called Francis her "frog". This was because of a frog-shaped earring he had given her. How very French! After a humiliating military defeat in Antwerp in 1583, Elizabeth formally cut all possible courtship. Francis soon became ill and in 1584 died.


Dear Readers,

For many years now I have had a great passion for history. There are several blogs I have come across devoted to historical icons, and yet I have never found one for Elizabeth I. I am the first to admit that I am not a great fan of blogs, but this I felt was different. The purpose of this blog is to explore the Elizabethan era; such as food, entertainment, lifestyle, courtiers, events. There will of course be a great focus on Elizabeth I herself. I will not be posting things about myself unless it is germane to the Elizabethan subject. I hope that you will enjoy this blog, and I will try my best to post often and enhance this blog for your greater benefit.

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