Shakespeare and Greenwich | The Shakespeare blog

The remains of the Tudor palace at Greenwich

There is something special about the place where important events took place, no matter how long ago. Even where there are no remaining signs on the ground people still visit: perhaps the draw is that these sites make us use our imaginations so strongly.

It’s always surprising to find bits of the London that Shakespeare knew beneath…

Source: Shakespeare and Greenwich | The Shakespeare blog

The Spanish Armada of 1588 – just history posts

The Spanish Armada is one of the most famous events in English history, and a story that many can recount. The terrible Spanish tried to invade to depose the beloved Elizabeth I, but due to English…

Source: The Spanish Armada of 1588 – just history posts

Did William Cecil Murder Amy Robsart? | History And Other Thoughts

In 1560, Amy Robsart, Robert Dudley’s wife, was conveniently found dead at the foot of the stairs at Cunmor Palace, near Oxford. Her husband, now free to marry Queen Elizabeth I, has always been considered the prime suspect by those who don’t believe the suicide or accident theories. After all, the culprit is always the one with the most to gain, right? And what’s more coveted than a crown?

The problem with this theory is that Amy’s death put an end to all talk of marriage between Dudley and the Queen. Elizabeth I certainly couldn’t risk marring a man suspected of killing his first wife. Robert must have known this, so it would have been a very risky gamble on his part, especially if his wife really was as ill as some sources claim. Waiting for her to die would have been a safer bet. It’s not like Elizabeth was in any rush to marry anyone else.

This is probably why this theory is now beginning to lose popularity. But a new one, which is by no means less popular, is emerging: the culprit is William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth I’s Secretary of State. Alison Weir, in her biography of Queen Elizabeth I, wrote:

One man did profit from the death of Amy Dudley, and that was William Cecil. … He was a perceptive man, and he could foresee that if she died in suspicious circumstances, as many people expected her to do, then the finger of suspicion would point inexorably to her husband – as indeed it did. Cecil also knew that Elizabeth…

Source: Did William Cecil Murder Amy Robsart? | History And Other Thoughts.

An analytical perspective on the ‘Armada Portrait’

Painted in 1588, the Armada Portrait sums up the devastating or triumphant events of the same year, depending on the view you take. Elizabeth I successfully fought off the Spanish Catholic threat that was openly supported by Pope Sixtus V and led by King Philip II.

The Queen herself is portrayed as a heroic warrior, which is illustrated through the paintings of the jubilant happenings within the naval war within the portrait, giving a dramatic insight of another place and time in the painting.  Elizabeth’s face is…

Source: An analytical perspective on the ‘Armada Portrait’

The Queen’s Favorite


“Your Majesty!  Your Majesty!”

Elizabeth awoke from her slumber to hear her Lady in Waiting knocking at the door to her bed chamber.

“A messenger from Cumnor Place with urgent news”

Elizabeth immediately knew  the subject of the news.  She knew who lived at Cumnor Place.  No one however would wake theQueen unless the message was of utmost importance. “Have the messenger enter the ante-room. I will hear his message from my bed chamber”. No one would see the Queen in her night clothes.

“Your Majesty, I regret to inform you that the Lady Amy Robsart is dead at Cumnor Place”.

Elizabeth was stunned.   She knew the message would be about Lady Robsart but didn’t expect she would be dead.  Lady Amy was ill with the disease which began with the lump in the breast but the regular reports she received from her informants did not indicate that death was imminent.

“Did she die…

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On this day in 1588 – Queen Elizabeth delivered a speech to the troops at Tilbury

Tudor Chronicles

On 9th August 1588 Queen Elizabeth I visited her troops who were stationed at Tilbury, Essex during the Spanish Armada and delivered a speech that was designed to unite and rouse her army.

Elizabeth visiting Tilbury

Although the Armada had been defeated in the Battle of Gravelines 11 days previously, the Armada had headed up and around Scotland in an attempt to flee the English navy. It was unknown whether they would try a second attempt at invading England on the way back past or if the Duke of Parma would attempt to cross the channel and invade. Therefore troops were still on high alert at Tilbury.

Upon arrival at Tilbury, the Queen left her bodyguards and went amongst her subjects with an escort of six men. Lord Ormonde walked ahead of the group carrying the Sword of State followed by a page leading the Queen’s charge and another page carrying on…

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Gresham, the Great Golden Grasshopper

London Historians' Blog

gresham grasshopper The Gresham family badge: a grasshopper.

Elizabeth I’s most well-known favourites were bellicose types like Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Ralegh or Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, whose head in the end was too hot for his own impatient, impetuous shoulders. They smote the queen’s enemies and filled her coffers using fire and sword.

Far more considered and cerebral ways of benefiting the Exchequer were employed by an altogether lesser-known servant: Sir Thomas Gresham (1518/9 – 1579). From a family of Norfolk merchants, this London-born entrepreneur gave the City not one but two great institutions: the Royal Exchange and Gresham College.

Gresham achieved better results than most by more peaceful means.

His upbringing was a privileged one. He was the younger son of Sir Richard Gresham, a successful merchant and Lord Mayor of London 1537. Born at his father’s house in Milk Lane in 1518/9, Thomas’s boyhood remains obscure but he spent…

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The History Girls – All in the Wrist – a guest post by Frances Hardinge

Re-blogged from The History Girls

Russian Officer's Watch, 1912

Russian Officer’s Watch, 1912

Right now I am wearing something quintessentially feminine, which no self-respecting man would consider putting on.

What is it? A wristwatch.

Naturally any gentleman would be carrying a sensible, sturdy pocket watch. A watch bracelet is women’s jewellery, too frail and ornamental for a man to wear…

Before World War I, this was exactly how “watch bracelets” or “wristlets” were generally regarded. In a much-repeated quote, one gentleman even declared that he “would sooner wear a skirt as wear a wristwatch”.

I stumbled upon this detail during my research for Cuckoo Song, a book set in the aftermath of the First World War. The male suspicion of the wristwatch surprised me. Surely it must have been obvious how practical such an arrangement would be? Apparently not. Wrist watches were considered too small to keep accurate time, and too vulnerable to dust, weather and shocks.

The wristwatch was an old idea, but had been slow to take hold. The Earl of Leicester allegedly gave Elizabeth I an “arm-watch” in 1571. The Clockmakers’ Museum have an exquisite, pearl-studded Broillal watch with a black velvet wrist strap, dating from about 1780. In 1810 the Queen of Naples commissioned a watch on a wrist-chain from the Breguet family. However, these were luxurious novelties, and very rare.

Jewelled wristwatches became more common amongst aristocratic women in the latter part of the Victorian era. After the turn of the century, wristlets became more affordable, but were still elegant works of art in their own right, fastened to the wrist with bracelet chains or ribbons.

Most men of that time would not be seen dead in a wristwatch. Curiously enough, the few exceptions were all men with very real odds of ‘being seen dead’, who wanted to keep those odds as long as possible…

Read more: The History Girls – All in the Wrist – a guest post by Frances Hardinge

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge