Friday, April 13, 2018

England 2018, Day 7

The Old Palace, Hatfield House
The one place my mother wanted to see more than any other on this trip was Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, where Elizabeth I had grown up and where she was living, under house arrest, on November 17, 1558 when Sir Nicholas Throckmorton*  rides from London to tell Elizabeth her sister Mary I had died and she was now queen. Tradition has it that Elizabeth was standing under an oak tree when she heard the news and said, "This is the Lord's doing: it is marvelous in our eyes." Of course, we wanted to stand beneath that same oak tree. There were two small obstacles: the first was that the ree was a 20 minute walk and we were already tired. Luckily, before we had been walking for more than five minutes, a man
Where Elizabeth I and Edward VI did lessons
appeared on a golf cart and magically whisked us to the oak. However, the second obstacle is that the tree is gone. Although many oaks older than 16th century have survived, this one did not. Luckily, the Cecil family handled that by asking Queen Elizabeth II to plant a tree in the same place. My mother had been planning to declaim Psalm 118 (or the excerpt cited above) but was too modest in front of our driver. Still, it was worth it to get a ride!

We toured both the Old Palace (three-quarters of which was torn down to provide bricks for the new house) where young Elizabeth I had spent most of her child and young adulthood, sometimes with her brother Edward (who ruled briefly before Mary as Edward VI), and it was a thrill to be in the same room where Elizabeth had studied with her tutor Roger Ascham (and our guide received an impressed, "I learned several things I didn't know," from my mother who often knows more than the docents). Then we went to Hatfield House next door which is gorgeous and was built in 1611 by Robert Cecil (son of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I's lord treasurer). Robert succeeded his father as one of Elizabeth's most trusted advisors, and the estate is still owned by his descendants; the current owner is the 7th Marquess of Salisbury.
The Famous Oak Tree

This ceiling was painted gold for Queen Victoria's visit!
One of the reasons Hatfield House has a different feel than other sumptuous estates is that the current owner and his family actually live in the house (presumably on the top floors, although we were told they use the main floors we were touring for parties). I was reminded of Eva Ibbotson's A Company of Swans in which the heroine's dreadful aunt and her friends like to go to visit Stately Homes in the hope of a sighting of the owners. No sightings for us but we had tea and lunch at the restaurant on site before taking a look at the front of Hatfield House, then walked back to the train.
Hatfield House from the front
Once back in London, my mother went to visit her favorite church, St. Etheldreda near Fleet Street, and I went to a shrine of my own (just kidding), Foyles on Charing Cross Road! I had fun browsing and made the mistake of reading half a book without writing down the title or author (debut novel about a woman having an affair; her lover gets murdered and she is the suspect). I got a pot of tea and bought a classic old mystery by Lois Austen-Leigh. Book count for the day was a mere one.
In the evening my niece and I went to see Chicago! It was an amazing production with a strong cast and Cuba Gooding Jr. playing Billy Flynn. He seemed to be having a great time, and if his voice was not the strongest in the cast, no one seemed to mind. The theatre was full and the audience very appreciative, as were we.

* I suspect it is Throckmorton's daughter who later serves as the queen's lady in waiting and falls into permanent disfavor when she and Sir Walter Raleigh fall in love and someone winds up pregnant and secretly married (in that order).

Book count: one
Miles walked: 4.6

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