Thursday, October 25, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Mary, Queen of Scots is Convicted of Treason

A portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots by an unknown artist, c.1575. Glasgow Art Gallery. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan history, October 25th, 1586 Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots was found guilty of treason, due to her involvement in the Babington Plot.

The Babington Plot was an elaborate Catholic plot, created by King Philip II of Spain and Don Bernardino de Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador in England; Mendoza had recently been banished from the English court because Queen Elizabeth I was growing suspicious of his motives. There would never be another Spanish ambassador in England during Elizabeth I's reign. 

In England, the representative of the plot was Anthony Babington, a Catholic nobleman. Babington and his co-conspirators (of which there were few of any importance, since most powerful Catholics were loyal to the Queen, to whom they owed their fortunes) planned to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I, a "heretic" Queen, and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots as a Catholic monarch. King Philip II of Spain would invade England and help to restore Catholicism to the country, thus securing Mary's new regime.

A portrait of King Philip II of Spain, by Sofonisba Anguissola. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

While Mary Stuart was not the instigator of this plot, once informed of Philip II's plan by Babington, she gave her consent in writing. An imprisoned Queen without a country, Mary was tempted by this offer of liberation and a kingdom to rule. Sir Francis Walsingham, who was tired of simply waiting for Mary to condemn herself through her other correspondances, orchestrated a ruse in order to obtain just cause to have her arrested. Under Walsingham's orders,  Mary Stuart was led to believe that her letters in support of the Babington plot were being smuggled out of the castle securely in wine barrels, when in reality the letters were delivered directly to Walsingham. Today, most modern legal systems would consider Walsingham's methods entrapment, but even so, Mary made the decision to commit her compliance to paper. Had she rejected Babington's plan entirely, she would have been clear of treason. 

A portrait of Sir Francis Walsingham by John de Critz, circa 1587. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain through Creative Commons licensing, NPG, London.

Babington described to Mary Stuart his plans in such great detail that there would be know way that Mary could have misinterpreted the message:

"First, assuring of invasion: Sufficient strength in the invader: Ports to arrive at appointed, with a strong party at every place to join with them and warrant their landing. The deliverance of your Majesty. The dispatch of the usurping Competitor. For the effectuating of all which it may please your Excellency to rely upon my service.... Now forasmuch as delay is extreme dangerous, it may please your most excellent Majesty by your wisdom to direct us, and by your princely authority to enable such as may advance the affair; foreseeing that, where is not any of the nobility at liberty assured to your Majesty in this desperate service (except unknown to us) and seeing it is very necessary that some there be to become heads to lead the multitude, ever disposed by nature in this land to follow nobility, considering withal it doth not only make the commons and gentry to follow without contradiction or contention (which is ever found in equality) but also doth add great courage to the leaders. For which necessary regard I recommend some unto your Majesty as fittest in my knowledge for to be your Lieutenants in the West parts, in the North parts, South Wales, North Wales and the Counties of Lancaster, Derby and Stafford: all which countries, by parties already made and fidelities taken in your Majesty's name, I hold as most assured and of most undoubted fidelity." (Pollen)

He also explained his intent to rescue Mary and have Queen Elizabeth murdered:

"Myself with ten gentlemen and a hundred of our followers will undertake the delivery of your royal person from the hands of your enemies. For the dispatch of the usurper, from the obedience of whom we are by the excommunication of her made free, there be six noble gentlemen, all my private friends, who for the zeal they bear to the Catholic cause and your Majesty's service will undertake that tragical execution." (Pollen)

After this letter was deciphered and read by Walsingham, it was re-sent to Mary, who received it on the 14th of July. Mary gave her enthusiastic consent:

"For divers great and important considerations (which were here too long to be deduced) I cannot but greatly praise and commend your common desire to prevent in time the designments of our enemies for the extirpation of our religion out of this realm with the ruin of us all. For I have long ago shown unto the foreign Catholic princes—and experience doth approve it—the longer that they and we delay to put hand on the matter on this side, the greater leisure have our said enemies to prevail and win advantage over the said princes (as they have done against the King of Spain) and in the meantime the Catholics here, remaining exposed to all sorts of persecution and cruelty, do daily diminish in number, forces, means and power. So as, if remedy be not thereunto hastily provided, I fear not a little but they shall become altogether unable for ever to rise again and to receive any aid at all, whensoever it were offered them. For mine own part, I pray you to assure our principal friends that, albeit I had not in this cause any particular interest (that which I may pretend unto being of no consideration unto me in respect of the public good of this state) I shall be always ready and most willing to employ therein my life and all that I have or may ever look for in this world." (Pollen)

The Babington Plot letter. Photo acquired through Pinterest courtesy of Barb Alexander. Image public domain.

This statement from Mary alone could have had her convicted of treason; there was no additional evidence needed. But, since Walsingham and his associates would leave no room for error in building their case to get Queen Elizabeth to believe in her cousin's guilt, Walsingham's man Phellipes made a copy of the original letter, adding an incriminating post-script. Phellipes than made another copy of the letter for Walsingham, doodling an ominous gallows on the paper. Mary was doomed.

The key to the Babington Plot cipher code, circa 1586. UK National Archives. Image public domain.

Despite Mary, Queen of Scots being convicted of treason and sentenced to death on October 25th, 1586, Queen Elizabeth I hesitated to sign her death warrant, despite pleas from Walsingham, her Privy Councillors and Parliament. To kill an annointed sovereign was taboo; monarchs were supposed to be subject to the laws of God, but not to the laws of one another. Furthermore, Elizabeth likely had an emotional reaction to the idea of killing a Queen; her mother, Anne Boleyn, had been callously disposed of in the exact same way.

A composite image of Queen Elizabeth I and her mother, Queen Anne Boleyn. Image courtesy Inor19.

Queen Elizabeth knew if she did not kill Mary, her life, her throne, and the security of her realm would always be in question. She also knew that when the axe fell on Mary's head, Philip II would invade England, though he had been planning to do that anyway.The next two years would be dark ones indeed for Queen Elizabeth I; on February 8th, 1587 Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle, and in 1588, England faced the Spanish Armada.

A 17th century interpretation of the execution of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. Image acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Pollen, J.H. "Mary Queen of Scots and the Babington plot," The Month, Volume 109. 1907. Online.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Theatre Thursday: East Yorkshire Schoolchildren Re-enact the Pilgrimage of Grace

The Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536, by Fred Kirk Shaw, 1913. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

I love when theatre is used as teaching tool; theatre as education is particularly effective with young children. This is why I use first-person historical interpretation myself to teach others about Queen Elizabeth I and the Elizabethan era. 

In East Yorkshire, young schoolchildren who have been learning about the Tudor period in England demonstrated their newly acquired knowledge by re-enacting the Pilgrimage of Grace, the northern rebellion during the reign of King Henry VIII (1536) in which many of their ancestors took part. Read more about his unique educational experience, directly from the children who experienced it, here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Sir Henry Sidney Gets a Promotion

A detail from a portrait of Sir Henry Sidney by or after Arnold van Bronckorst, 1573. Image public domain through Creative Commons licensing, NPG, London.

On this day in Elizabethan history, 1565 Queen Elizabeth made Sir Henry Sidney Lord Deputy of Ireland. He had proven himself worthy of the position, which called for administrative and military expertise, having previously served in Ireland in 1556. 

The Ulster chieftain Shane O'Neill had become an irritant for England that needed to be suppressed. Sidney was able to effectively control O'Neill, and later his successors, after O'Neill was murdered. After containing the difficult Desmond Rebellions, Sir Henry Sidney returned to England, exhausted, in 1571. By 1575 he was back in Ireland, trying to contain further uprisings. Sidney formed an uneasy alliance with Grace O'Malley, the Irish Sea Queen of Connaught, in 1577. O'Malley offered the Lord Deputy some of her ships and support, on the condition that he would help her son succeed to the title of MacWilliam. Sidney kept his promise to O'Malley. O'Malley made an impression on another member of the Sidney family, as well; she was celebrated in verse by Sir Henry Sidney's son, Philip, who had met her the previous year (Chambers, 36). O'Malley would famously have an audience with Queen Elizabeth in 1593.

The meeting of Grace O'Malley and Queen Elizabeth I. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1578, Sir Henry Sidney was recalled by Queen Elizabeth, who disapproved of the amount of money he was spending in his post. To be fair, being Lord Deputy of Ireland was a necessary but thankless job, and Queen Elizabeth, who held England's purse-strings tightly, always took issue with the expenditures of her Deputies. 

Lord Deputy Sir Henry Sidney sets out with his forces from Dublin Castle. From The Image of Irelande by John Derrick, 1581. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Yet Sidney was generally well-liked by Queen Elizabeth due to his reliability and efficiency, but also because of his marriage to Mary Dudley. Mary was the sister of Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth I's enduring favorite, and a personal friend of the Queen as well. The couple had been married in 1551. Just three years prior to Sir Henry's promotion, Queen Elizabeth had fallen ill with smallpox at Hampton Court Palace. Mary Dudley, Lady Sidney, attended to her Queen so selflessly that she herself was stricken with the disease. Mary was very badly scarred as a result, and retired from court life.

A portrait of Mary Dudley, Lady Sidney, attributed to Hans Eworth, circa 1550-1555. Petworth House, The National Trust. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Henry Sidney and Mary Dudley Sidney had three sons and four daughters. One of their sons was the esteemed soldier-poet, Sir Philip Sidney, and one of their daughters was Mary Sidney-Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, an author in her own right.

Chambers, Anne. Granuaile: Ireland's pirate queen Grace O'Malley c. 1530-1603. Dublin: Wolfhound Press. 2003. Print.

Friday, October 12, 2012

In Praise of 'Young Bess': One Girl's Journey to Understand Elizabeth I

Ashlie and Mia after Mia's debut of her Young Bess program. September 8th, 2012. Picture taken by/property of Ashlie R. Jensen.

In March of last year I presented two programs that I researched and wrote myself about Queen Elizabeth I of England. After each presentation, I left time for audience questions and one-on-one interaction. There was one little girl and her mother that seemed particularly interested in the subject matter. A few weeks later I received an email from this family that I had spoken with at length; the mother, Donna, wanted to inform me that my presentations had lit a spark of interest in her daughter, Mia. She shared with me that Mia was currently working on a school project about Queen Elizabeth I. They also wanted to know if I would be interested and available to look over Mia’s research and offer her presentation tips.

I was more than delighted to mentor Mia. Over the next couple of weeks, I answered historical questions, suggested books for her research, and gave feedback on presentation format and costuming through email. We then coordinated a meeting so that I could see Mia’s finished product. Donna and Mia came to the Higgins to meet with me, and by this time, Mia was already developing a second program! Mia had decided to expand upon her school presentation to develop a more in-depth format for her local library. Her program, Young Bess, was a first-person interpretation of the young Elizabeth Tudor. 

Mia alongside one of her Young Bess display tables. Picture taken by/property of Ashlie R. Jensen.

I continued to help Mia refine her presentation, which in addition to her monologue now includes posters, material objects, and a portfolio. I was honored to be in attendance when she performed Young Bess at her local library to a full house. Mia purposefully selected September 8th for her presentation; she had wanted to present on September 7th because that is, of course, Elizabeth Tudor's birthday, but she was in school on the actual date!

I have been astounded by all that Mia has been able to achieve in such a short amount of time, and I have been honored to be a part of her creative and learning process. Mia will reprise her Young Bess program for her school this Monday. I believe that Mia will one day inspire someone else to fall in love with history!

Mia with her celebratory flowers after her Young Bess performance. Picture taken by/property of Ashlie R. Jensen.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Theatre Thursday: Shakespeare Exhibit, Improv, and The History of the Reconstructed Globe Theatre

Today for Theatre Thursday I bring you more important links related to Elizabethan Theatre from around the web!

The reconstructed Globe Theatre in London. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

See a Play as Shakespeare Would've Staged It: The History of the Reconstructed Globe Theatre

A cameo version of the Chandos Portrait of William Shakespeare. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Shakespeare Puts All the World on Stage: Staging the World Exhibit at The British Museum

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Queen Elizabeth I Contracts Smallpox

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth I in a frame, circa 1565, by an unknown artist. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan history, 1562 Queen Elizabeth I contracted smallpox, taking ill at Hampton Court Palace. 

An exterior view of the gatehouse at Hampton Court Palace, where Queen Elizabeth I fell ill with smallpox early in her reign. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

For more information on the the 29 year-old Queen's calamitous brush with death, please visit The Elizabeth Files for Claire Ridgway's article on the event. Included are Sir Henry Sidney's thoughts about his wife, Mary Dudley-Sidney, and the effect that nursing her Queen and dear friend through a nearly fatal illness had on her.

A portrait miniature of Mary Dudley, Lady Sidney by female court painter Leevina Teerlinc. Lady Sidney was the sister of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and one of the few people Queen Elizabeth I trusted. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Elizabethan Power Couple: William and Mildred Cecil, Lord and Lady Burghley

When we envision Queen Elizabeth I's right-hand man, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, we picture a consummate statesman, a champion of the Puritan faith, and steadfast fixture in the realm of Elizabethan politics. Yet few among us would ever assert that Elizabeth I's Master Secretary was a true romantic. It may come as a surprise that William Cecil married not once, but twice for love. The nature of both of his relationships reveal a tender, if not passionate man, who deeply loved both of his wives.

A detail from a portrait of William Cecil from the 1560's. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

William Cecil's beginnings were humble; around 1520 he was born into the Northamptonshire gentry, being the only son of Richard and Jane Cecil. William's parents had high-hopes for him, enrolling him in a succession of distinguished academic institutions, among them Gray's Inn and Cambridge University (Wagner, 59)

Like the future Elizabeth I, William was taught by the celebrated humanist academics Roger Ascham and John Cheke. Through his association with Master Cheke, young William met his tutor's daughter, Mary. Neither the Chekes or the Cecils approved of their children's relationship, but the young couple did not seem to care. They defied their families by getting married. To have ignored their families wishes so boldly suggests that William and Mary were probably in love. It also shows us that even the stately William Cecil experienced rashness of youth and perhaps even lust.

An engraving of John Cheke by Joseph Nutting, from The Life of Sir John Cheke by John Strype, 1705. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Tragically, Mary Cheke-Cecil died a year after giving birth to the couples only child, a son named Thomas, later 1st Earl of Exeter. While we do not have any insight into William Cecil's state of mind after the death of his first wife, I believe it is safe to assume that he was devastated. Cecil had so recently seized a chance at happiness, only to have his wife taken from him abruptly.  

Though a widower with a young son, Cecil did not permit his personal pain to affect his public reputation. A natural lawyer and politician, he quickly rose through the ranks at the Tudor court of King Henry VIII; Cecil would serve each of his children in turn. 

An engraving of the Tudor monarchs that William Cecil served in different capacities: King Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. Picture acquired through Flickr courtesy of Inor19.

In 1546, a highly educated young woman by the name of Mildred Cooke accompanied her father, Sir Anthony Cooke, to court when he was appointed tutor to Prince Edward. Mildred already had a reputation as a scholar. Roger Ascham had praised her for her fluency in Greek, and had included her and her sisters among the women he deemed to be the brightest in the land (Larsen and Levin, 74).  

The brilliant Mildred captured the heart and mind of the scholarly and driven Cecil. In addition to Greek, Mildred was also fluent in French and Latin. Besides being passionate about education, Mildred and Cecil also shared a strong conviction in the Protestant faith (Wagner, 58). Cecil's romance with Mildred again demonstrates his ability to love. The pair were wed on either December 21st or 25th, 1546. Mildred was twenty years old.

It may have been Cecil's father-in-law that introduced him to the uncle of Edward VI, the Lord Protector of England, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset. Cecil entered Somerset's service in 1547, quickly earning his master's trust. He accompanied him on campaign and assisted him with diplomacy. In 1549 Cecil became secretary to the Duke of Somerset (Wagner, 59). The Duke's wife, Duchess Anne Stanhope, was a patron of Mildred Cooke-Cecil. Cecil's star continued to rise until the fall of his master, who was executed for treason on January 22nd, 1552 due to the machinations of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick.

A detail of a portrait of the Lord Protector Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset wearing his chain of office. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Guilty by association, Cecil was imprisoned in the Tower for a time, but he was pardoned by Warwick, and named Secretary of State and privy councilor in 1550 (Wagner, 59). Despite owing a great deal to Warwick, now the 1st Duke of Northumberland, Cecil's scruples would not allow him to support the Duke's coup to put Lady Jane Grey and his son Guildford on the throne of England; Cecil knew that there was only one rightful heir, Mary Tudor (Wagner, 59). This was a brave move for a man who was very close to the epicenter of a dangerous plot, and it speaks to Cecil's integrity that he did not allow fear, greed, or the promise of power to sway his moral compass. It also demonstrates that Cecil honored the order of succession over his personal religious beliefs.

A portrait of Princess Mary Tudor by Master John; Mary is depicted at about 28 years old. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Cecil instead gave his support to Mary Tudor, becoming one of her first Councilors when she came to the throne. Despite his loyalty to his sovereign, Mary declined to re-install Cecil as Secretary of State due to his Protestant faith (Wagner, 59). However, he still maintained his seat in Parliament. Many capable men who were willing to serve the new Queen were denied the opportunity due to their personal religious convictions. It was a mistake for Mary to turn them away, and it lessened her initial popularity considerably; it was a mistake that Queen Elizabeth would not repeat, instead choosing to employ Protestants, Catholics, and Puritans in her government.

In 1550, Mildred Cecil circulated her translation of St. Basil the Great's homily on Deuteronomy, which she herself had translated from Greek. The work was dedicated to her former mistress, Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset. Yet Mildred never actually published her writing and translations, like her contemporary Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. She did contribute to academia in a different way, however, becoming a benefactress of libraries. There are records that document Mildred Cecil-Cooke's charitable donations, including portions of her personal library to St. John's College, Cambridge, Christ Church, Oxford, and Westminster College, respectively (Hartley, 190). The books donated by Mildred Cecil-Cooke still bear her inscriptions.

A miniature portrait of Mary Sidney-Herbert, Countess of Pembroke by Hilliard, circa 1590. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Mildred was a loving stepmother to young Thomas Cecil, who had never really known his own mother. For many years, Mildred and William struggled to have children together; those children that were born to the couple did not live for very long. Eventually the couple had two healthy children that survived into adulthood.

A detail of a portrait of Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In addition to Cecil's son Thomas, the Cecil's had Anne (1556) and Robert (1563). Anne, like her mother and her aunts, was an academic and an accomplished poet; she also became the long-suffering wife of the Cecil's ward, the tempestuous Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Robert would later succeed his father as Queen Elizabeth I's Secretary of State in 1590. Queen Elizabeth I, who was fond of giving her courtiers and Councillors clever nicknames, called Robert her "pygmy" due to his diminutive stature. As Earl of Salisbury, Robert would also go on to serve James I.

A portrait of a pregnant lady, most likely Mildred Cooke-Cecil, from 1562-63. If the sitter is in fact Mildred Cecil, she was pregnant with her son Robert at the time the portrait was painted. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

When Queen Mary I was dying, Cecil pledged his support to Elizabeth Tudor. He had been keeping up correspondence with the Tudor princess, and assisting her in minor ways during the dangerous years her sister ruled. In 1558 Cecil gathered, along with other ministers, privy councilor's, and members of the peerage, at Hatfield House to hear Elizabeth's first public speech, and to learn of her appointments for her new government. Elizabeth trusted Cecil implicitly, and she made him her Secretary of State. The familiarity that the Queen and Cecil already had with one another was essential for developing the productive government she was striving for.

The Clopton Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, circa 1560-65. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain through Creative Commons licensing, NPG, London.

Elizabeth publicly addressed Cecil in front of the other prominent witnesses, making an example of him and his new position, saying,

"I give you this charge, that you shall be of my Privy Council and content to take pains for me and my realm. This judgement I have made of you, that you will not be corrupted with any manner of gifts, and that you will be faithful to the state; and that without respect of my private will, you will give me that council which you think best; and, if you shall  know anything necessary to be declared to me of secrecy, you shall show it to myself only; and assure yourself I will not fail to keep taciturnity therein." (quoted in Plowden)

Elizabeth had learned from the mistakes of her father, brother, and sister. She would suffer no sycophancy in her government, and she wanted to hear the truth always, even if the truth would be disagreeable to hear. Cecil would uphold these instructions better than most who served her.

Cecil worked tirelessly for Queen and country, managing Parliament, supervising the exchequer, facilitating the deliberations of the Privy Council, advising on foreign policy and keeping up foreign correspondence (Wagner, 59). Cecil was an incredible record keeper of all things personal and political, and his Burghley Papers and state records are rich, detailed primary sources for historians to study.

The Cecil Map, 'a general description of England and Ireland' by Laurence Nowell, circa 1564. The artist's name is in the lower left-hand corner and his patron, Sir William Cecil, is listed in the right corner. The British Library. Image public domain.

From 1561 onward, William Cecil was the Master of the Court of Wards and Liveries, putting him in charge of the education of aristocratic boys whose fathers had died before they reached maturity. Mildred would take great care to not only personally supervise the education of her own children, but also the various wards and charges that her husband brought into their household (Wagner, 58). Among them was the aforementioned Edward de Vere, as well as Robert Devereux, later 2nd Earl of Essex and Henry Wriothesley, eventual 3rd Earl of Southampton. William Cecil appreciated his wife's ability to shape young minds, later writing to their son, Robert, "the virtuous inclinations of thy matchless mother, by whose tender and godly care thy infancy was governed, together with thy education under so zealous and excellent a tutor".

William Cecil presiding over the Court of Wards and Liveries, by an unknown artist. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Though not a constant presence like her husband, Mildred also earned attention at court; Mildred was a Protestant with Puritan leanings, and the Spanish Ambassador hatefully described her in a letter from 1567 as a "furious heretic with great influence over her husband."(Hartley, 190). Seeing that England was a Protestant country, Mildred must have been particularly demonstrative of her beliefs to earn such disapproval from the ambassador. 

Since Queen Elizabeth valued discourse with well-educated women and men, it should come as no surprise that Mildred earned her respect. Mildred entertained the Queen several times at the Cecil's fine estate of Burghley House (Hartley, 190). The magnificent Burghley house was built between 1555-87 and is a prime example of architectural ambition in the 16th century.
The front view of Burghley House. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Cecil earned the nickname "spirit" from his Queen, who appreciated his moderate stance in matters of state and foreign policy. Cecil, like Elizabeth, was not hasty in his decision making, but occasionally he did goad the Queen into acting quicker than she would have liked. One of the best examples of Cecil being insistent would be the Mary Stuart debacle. Cecil also thought it necessary that Queen Elizabeth marry and produce an heir, a matter on which they often clashed heads, until Cecil and the rest of the Privy Council admitted defeat.

A portrait of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, in his robes for the Order of the Garter, painted sometime after 1585. The portrait is attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Image public domain through Creative Commons licensing, NPG, London.

In addition to serving in Queen Elizabeth's government, William Cecil was a patron of the arts, a commissioner of many building projects, and a genealogist. He was also a faithful husband and devoted father. Mildred wrote that in her marriage to William she felt, "everlasting with this noble man in divine love and charity".

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Lord High Treasurer of England, riding a mule from the 1570's. Bodleian Library, Oxford. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1572, Queen Elizabeth I raised Cecil to the Peerage as Lord Burghley, as well as naming him Lord High Treasurer. In 1589, Cecil's beloved wife Mildred Cooke-Cecil died. She and Cecil had enjoyed an incredible 43 years of marriage together, and Cecil was devastated. In yet another example of his usually overlooked passionate nature, Cecil grieved publicly, writing a very personal eulogy for his wife. Cecil called Mildred his "dearest above all"; he also declared that she was "far beyond the race of womankind."

She was laid to rest beside her daughter Anne, Countess of Oxford, in a tomb in Westminster Abbey. Cecil spared no expense, seeing the gesture as,

 “a testimony of my harty love which I did beare hir, with whom I lyved in the state of matrimony forty and tow yers contynually without any unkyndnes” (original spelling retained).

The tomb effigies of Mildred Cooke-Cecil and her daughter Anne Cecil, Countess of Oxford. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Ever loyal, Cecil served the Queen until his death in 1598. He was succeeded by his son Robert Cecil, who had been previously sworn in as a privy councilor in May of 1591.

William Cecil, Lord Burghley, should be remembered as an integral part of Queen Elizabeth's government; their administrative partnership was strong and effective, and Cecil's council to the queen on delicate matters was invaluable. Yet shouldn't Cecil also be recognized as a man capable of passionate love and making grande gestures? Mildred Cooke-Cecil should be remembered for earning the distinction of being one of the most educated ladies in England. She was also a loving wife and a mother, as well as an educator of both her own children and her wards.

Plowden, Alison. The Young Elizabeth. The History Press, 2011. Print

"Cecil, Mildred, Lady Burghley." The Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World. Print. (By John A. Wagner)

"Cecil, William, Lord Burghley." The Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World. Print. (By John A. Wagner)

Caroline M. K. Bowden, ‘Cecil [Cooke], Mildred, Lady Burghley (1526–1589)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

Robin, Diana Maury, Larsen, Anne R. and Levin, Carole (2007). Encyclopedia of women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England. ABC-CLIO, Inc.

Cathy Hartley. A Historical Dictionary of British Women, Psychology Press, 2003. pg 190.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

'I, Elizabeth' Play Continues to Earn Praise

Rebecca Vaughn in I, Elizabeth. Photo from the Berwick Advertiser Online.

Several months ago, I reported on the exciting one-woman play I, Elizabeth, created by and starring actress Rebecca Vaughn. Using original source material, Vaughn's script "delves deeper into the struggles and inner demons of a woman who to many seemed untouchable but at times was like a graceful swan on the surface but a frightened cygnet paddling away underneath."  

The play has been praised by critics and audiences alike; it was recently brought to The Maltings in Berwick by Dyad Productions. 

A new article in 'The Guide' of the Berwick Advertiser delves into Vaughn's inspiration for the show, and her creative process. The insightful article concludes with Vaughn's lament, "...I think saying goodbye to Elizabeth will prove very hard for me.”

While all shows must come to an end, I have no doubt that Vaughn will never leave the captivating Queen Elizabeth I behind completely!