I’m back from London now but on the way home we stopped by at Hatfield House!
On the site there is the Old Palace, the House itself, a park, farm, a good few shops and an exhibition or two. It’s a bit like a miniature Hampton Court Palace (well worth a visit also!) We just went to the main house and it is truly grand. It’s also home to the Rainbow and Ermine portraits of Elizabeth I as well as a copy of perhaps the most famous of the portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots (I saw another copy of the portrait yesterday at the NPG!).
As for the ‘Old Palace’ this is where Elizabeth I spent the majority of her childhood. She was sent there at three months old, as was tradition for the time, especially as Henry VIII was so paranoid about disease, and left when she ascended the Throne in 1558 when she was twenty-five. The only times I can think of that she wasn’t in Hatfield for the first twenty-five years of her life are the times at Court, Sudley Castle when she was under the wardship of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour, the short time she spent at Chestnut and the Tower and various other places she was kept under house-arrest at under Mary I. I suppose we can call the place Elizabeth’s first proper home. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open today because it had been hired for an event.
Also in the House is one of the first editions of the King James Bible, given to Cecil after its first publication. It is generally agreed by many historians that this is the only first-edition of the Bible (which we celebrate the 400th anniversary of this year) still in existence. It’s a worthwhile visit just a couple of miles off the M1.
This year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the building of the main House for Robert Cecil, who unfortunately dies one year after it’s completion. Cecil is known famously as the spymaster of both Elizabeth I and James I and for his very interesting and unique role in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. ou can read more about Robert Cecil here.. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/robert_cecil.htm
Here are two of the most famous portraits in the House. They are simply marvellous.
The famous Rainbow Portrait by Nicolas Hillard. This is full of symbolism and there are so many details which you just do not notice until you see the real thing.
The Ermine Portrait. The guides are more than happy to tell you the exact history of this remarkable portrait.
One downside to a visit is the food. If, like me, you are a picky vegetarian/vegan (I love you) there is hardly any nice food. They try to hard with the meat then leave hardly any nice veggie food. Options are limited and it really doesn’t taste good either, so I wasn’t particually impressed with that. But ignoring the food it was a very enjoyable trip.