Saturday, December 27, 2008

Question from Nancy - Surviving items of Elizabeth I

I wonder if anyone knows what is left -- if anything -- of Elizabeth I's personal possessions. The jewels I know are long gone. She is supposed to have owned something like 2000 dresses when she died. Did they all end up being filched away to bedeck humbler and humbler classes of women, until they became rags and disappeared? What about things like plate, books, musical instruments, or saddles?

[Ed. note - some of this has been touched on in the threads below]


Anonymous said...

I read that a lot of Elizabeth's elaborate court dresses had been cut-down by James I/VI queen, Anne of Denmark. She enjoyed performing in masques, and used the resulting material as costumes. Who knows where they went from there.

Lara said...

There are several musical instruments around that have links to Elizabeth For example - there is a gittern in the British Museum that has her arms and Robert Dudley's added to it, so one of them probably gave it to the other (don't know which way... I think it is thought he gave it to her?) I think there are some virginals linked to her as well.

Interestingly (to this astronomer) she had several astrolabes made for her too. I don't know if they were commissioned or just made and given to her though. Henry VIII had at least one too (again, an example is in the British Museum). I have no idea if they ever actually used them, since I think they were considered fashionable to own, but not necessarily go out and make observations with. Kind of like telescopes today, for some people!

There is a saddle at Warwick Castle that is another one of those "believe to have belonged to" items... Unfortunately there are a lot of things out there that are labeled "linked to", "connected to", "may have been owned by", etc. You get the idea. :)

Anonymous said...

The astrolab owned by Henry VIII..."Rumor" says that it was presented to him by Sir Thomas More. The two of them used to get on the roof of a palace and gaze at the night sky.

True? I have only ever read this piece of information in 'hys'terical novels, and have always wished that it was a real event.

A gittern with two pairs of arms...surely that is a piece which should be featured in "Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum" (grin)

Lara said...

*groan* Hehe.... with that many arms it could play itself quite nicely!

As for the astrolabe, the one in the BM dates from the end of Henry's reign, so at least that one couldn't have been given to him by More, but that doesn't mean he couldn't have given him a different one. It does ring a bell, but I think I might have also read it in a novel (possibly the same novel!).

Anonymous said...

wait, the jewels cant be completely gone...
in the past 3 documentaries on Queen Elizabeth II, it keeps saying that on the crown (excuse me if it has a specific name, just that big one they keep in the tower)has 3 pearls dangling on it that were originally on a necklace belonging to elizabeth i...
i know that dosen't really count as a JEWEL

Anonymous said...

Olivia, you are thinking of the Imperial State Crown. (St Edward's gold crown is very heavy and is worn for only a few moments during a coronation and never again by the monarch.) You often see pictures of the present Queen wearing the Imperial State Crown for the State Opening of Parliament, usually in November.

It has:
2,868 diamonds
17 sapphires
11 emeralds
5 rubies
273 pearls

As well as these there are five exceptional items:

a sapphire from the ring of Edward the Confessor

the Stuart Sapphire

the Black Prince's Ruby

The Second Star of Africa (cut from the Cullinan, the largest diamond ever found)

Queen Elizabeth's earrings.

These last, four massive drop pearls, are just below the intersection of the crown's arches. Elizabeth owned a set of 7 such beauties , possibly the ones given to the young Mary Queen of Scots as a wedding gift by her first mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici, who herself had been given them as a wedding gift by her kinsman, Pope Clement VII - he who refused Henry VIII his divorce. When Mary was imprisoned in Lochlevan Castle she was forced to give up her jewels to Murray, the Regent, and they were subsequently purchased by Queen Elizabeth I for the (then) astonishing sum of £12,000.

Much of Elizabeth's jewellery went to James I's daughter, also called Elizabeth, who married the King of Bohemia and was the grandmother of George of Hanover who, when the Stuart line died out with Queen Anne, became George I of England. In the National Portrait Gallery there is a 1642 painting of Elizabeth of Bohemia wearing four enormous drop pearls as earrings.