"A Ladye Fayre"…
Compiled by Leslie J. Weddell
When I was a schoolboy I hated history.
Maybe it was the way it was presented to me and my class mates, but I cannot truthfully say this for sure. I was probably more interested in playing music for it was one of the few subjects that I was any good at, and later led me to a career spanning over fifty years as a professional musician.
But as life has mellowed me like an old wine I have found myself becoming fascinated by how others lived in the past.
I invite you to join me on a trip back into Tudor times in Old England;
To a troubled time of ‘skulduggery and plots afoot’ in dark corridors of power, for we are going back in our ‘time machine’ to the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1.
But before we enter the court of ‘good Queen Bess’ let us briefly catch up with all that history you have long forgotten, and unfold how she, and the Tudor era, came about.
King Henry the V111 was behind it all.
After his triumph in settling the so-called ‘War of the Roses’ between the Duchy of Lancaster (Red rose) and the House of York (White Rose) his problem was to ensure the succession of an undisputed heir to the throne after his death. So as we all know, he married six wives, quickly dispatching two of those unfortunate ladies who did not bear him a son.
Three children survived him; two daughters and a son. As was traditional in those days, the male was first choice to take the throne. So at only ten-years of age Edward V1 was anointed King of England in 1547. Unfortunately, the lad died six years later from consumption.
Mary, the elder of Henry’s two daughters, was preferred to reign as Queen rather than to search for a suitable male.
The plot thickens.
Mary not only revealed herself to be a Catholic who persecuted Protestants, but she went off and married Philip 11, King of Spain. He was one of the most aggressive and devout foes of Protestantism. That led to her jailing her sister (Elizabeth, a staunch Protestant) on a trumped up charge of plotting a revolt. Mary dies just five years later, and so in 1558, twenty-five year old Elizabeth is released from jail and became Queen of England.
Are you still with me? Good. Now let’s enter the court of Queen Elizabeth 1.
There is an odd odour in the air; a sort of combination of perspiration and perfume.
Bear in mind they did not have bathrooms as we know them, and washing ‘too often’ was frowned upon, as it was thought to ‘sap the goodness of the natural oils from the skin’
(There must have been a dreadful pong in the air during the summer months!)
Arriving suddenly in the great hall in our ‘time machine’ like the Tardis from a ‘Doctor Who’ TV episode, we exit to see a sombre looking court official wearing a skull cap and long black robe and chains of office proudly displayed around his neck. He bids the Earl of Leicester to enter the Royal Chambers and be received by her majesty, and we follow the two men into the room.
(Did I neglect to tell you that we can see them but they can’t see us? Well, what do you expect? We are only observers, and as such, cannot interfere with History. If we revealed ourselves and told them from hence we came –we would most certainly be burned at the stake as witches!)
A wisp of a woman breezes into the room and we instantly recognize her as the Queen. She is wearing one of those distinctive Tudor gowns she designed herself, with the high bodice and surrounding lace head collar. The jewels glitter in the tiara crown that sits on her bright red hair, decorated with jewels and baubles.
The Queen then commands her ladies in waiting and other officials to leave the room.
Upon the door being closed, the Earl of Leicester courtesies in a long sweeping bend of his head and arm in the presence of his Monarch. Elizabeth laughs and embraces him, happy to see her favourite back from the wars against Spain.
Although never proven, it is hinted in the chronicled diaries from that period that Leicester was her lover, or at least there was a not too discreetly hidden affair going on between them.
Leaving Leicester, she walks through a corridor into the council room to be greeted by bowing old cronies on her privy council, who again raise the boring question in regards to a future heir to the throne. They tell her that both houses of Parliament are petitioning her to marry soon, but not to a foreigner. They want to ensure she marries an Englishman and bear a boy child to be sure of succession to the throne after her death. In this manner, no foreign husband could have a claim to the throne.
(It should be pointed out here that she was under pressure to marry her sister’s widower, Philip of Spain).
Elizabeth 1 lived for Seventy Years, practically unheard of in those days. She was wise and fair with her subjects and built a prosperous England from the bankrupt state it had been in when she became the Queen. She reigned for forty five years and has been acclaimed the greatest Monarch England has ever had.
Her advisors knew well that Elizabeth was a sharp witted woman, wise to the ways of politicians. She was extremely well educated and fluent in Greek and Latin, as well as being a writer of note. She composed most of her own speeches, and wrote and performed music to a very high standard.
If I have wetted your appetite to find out more about Good Queen Bess, then go to www.google.co.uk and type in ‘’Queen Elizabeth 1 of England.’
A wealth of websites will appear for you to feast your eyes on. Many contain the lengthy speeches and letters she wrote to prominent people - and you must read the wonderful and famous speeches she prepared to address her Parliament. They match anything Winston Churchill made during WW11.
Here is one of her most celebrated Poems.
It is said that this poem implies the break-off of a marriage engagement between Elizabeth and the French Duke of Anjou in 1582. More to the point, it was probably more associated to her affection she held for the Earl of Essex, another of her suitors in her long reign. She is said to have favoured him more than anyone else, but he betrayed her towards the end of her reign and had his head removed for treason.
The poem is entitled ‘On Monsieur’s Departure’ (How apt!)
"I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
O love and yet am forced to seem in hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.
My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me,
Doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid of him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it must be suppressed."
Compiled by Leslie J. Weddell
For the record the wives of Henry V111 were: