Great Houses – The Age of Gloriana

The reign of Elizabeth I (the last Tudor monarch) is often associated with a golden age in English history – The age of Gloriana.

Burghley House

Burghley House - Photo Credit: Anthony Masi
Burghley House – Photo Credit: Anthony Masi
by Unknown artist, oil on panel, after circa 1585 © National Portrait Gallery, London

“Sir William Cecil built his extravagant ‘prodigy house’ on the Burghley estate, which his father, Richard Cecil, had purchased after it had been seized from Peterborough Abbey on the Dissolution of Monasteries under Henry Vlll. Construction too 32 years, from 1555 to 1587. During this period, Cecil proved an indispensable adviser to Elizabeth l, establishing himself as the leading politician of his day. Born in 1520, he had begun his career as secretary to the Protector, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, during Edward Vl’s reign; on Elizabeth’s accession in 1558 , he was appointed Secretary of State, then made 1st Baron Burghley in 1571 and Lord High Treasurer in 1572.” - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillps (p. 366)

Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle
Kenilworth Castle
by Unknown artist, oil on panel, circa 1575
© National Portrait Gallery, London

“In 1563, Elizabeth l granted Kenliworth Castle, a 12th century Norman stronghold in Warwickshire, to her great favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He built a gatehouse and elegant residential quarters to make the historic fortifications sufficiently grand for the Queen. She visited him at Kenilworth Castle in 1566, 1568, 1572 and 1575.”  - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillps (p. 368)

“From the 9th to the 27th July 1575 Elizabeth I stayed at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, home of her great friend Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. She had visited Kenilworth three times before but this was a special visit in that it lasted 19 days and was the longest stay at a courtier’s house in any of her royal progresses. We know a substantial amount about Elizabeth’s visit to Kenilworth because it was recorded in a letter by Robert Langham, a member of Dudley’s household, and in an account by poet and actor George Gascoigne, a man hired by Robert Dudley to provide entertainment during the royal visit” – Claire, The Elizabeth Files (Read More)

Hardwick Hall

Hardwick_Hall_in_Doe_Lea_-_Derbyshire“Famously declared to be ‘more glass than wall’, Hardwick Hall is celebrated above all for its west front, with its glittering array of symmetrically marshalled windows.” -  - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillps (p. 374)

"Bess of Hardwick as Mistress St Lo" by Unknown - http://gouk.about.com/od/englandtravel/ss/visithardwick_2.htm. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons
“Bess of Hardwick as Mistress St Lo” by Unknown – . Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Hardwick Hall was built by Bess of Hardwick who started from humble beginnings and grew through marriages to a position of great wealth. The architect was Robert Smythson. Bess was Grandmother to Lady Arbella Stuart – niece to Mary Queen of Scots.  Arbella’s uncle was Lord Darnley.

“It was the formidable Bess of Hardwick who first created Hardwick in the 1500’s. In the centuries since then her descendants, farmers, gardeners, builders, decorators, embroiderers and craftsmen of all kinds have contributed and made Hardwick their creation.” – via National Trust, Hardwick Hall

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