El­iz­a­beth I and Wind­sor

A gallery range com­mis­sioned by El­iz­a­beth I is the most im­por­tant sur­viv­ing me­mo­rial of her per­sonal ar­chi­tec­tural pa­tron­age and tes­ti­fies to her af­fec­tion for the Earl of Le­ices­ter, as Si­mon Thur­ley ex­plains

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Si­mon Thur­ley re­veals the Queen’s ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage and how it tes­ti­fies to her af­fec­tion for the Earl of Le­ices­ter

That henry VIII was a mega­lo­ma­niac is well known. his ar­chi­tec­tural out­put was prodi­gious: on his death, he owned per­haps as many as 70 houses, at least 50 of which were ac­quired for the Crown dur­ing his life­time. henry’s chil­dren could not but fail to be in the shadow of this ar­chi­tec­tural colos­sus.

Ed­ward and Mary were barely on the throne long enough to build any­thing and El­iz­a­beth I, who reigned for 44 years, is gen­er­ally thought to have been lit­tle in­ter­ested in ar­chi­tec­ture. But was this re­ally the case? El­iz­a­beth was in­tensely im­age-con­scious and an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent in es­tab­lish­ing the im­age of the Queen was the ar­chi­tec­tural set­ting she in­hab­ited (Fig 2).

It was not only im­age that might have in­spired El­iz­a­beth I to build—it was also com­fort and pri­vacy. Un­like those of her father, whose in­ner rooms were filled with male courtiers and politi­cians, El­iz­a­beth’s pri­vate lodg­ings were pop­u­lated only by her ladies and there she liked to re­lax, loung­ing on large turk­ish cush­ions on the floor.

Of all the Queen’s houses, Wind­sor Cas­tle was the most ven­er­a­ble. It had been trans­formed into a great palace by Ed­ward III be­tween 1359 and 1368 and, sub­se­quently, al­most ev­ery monarch had favoured the place. In 1498 to 1501, henry VII mod­ernised the vast medieval cham­bers of his pre­de­ces­sors by adding a neat, com­fort­able tower con­tain­ing a new bed­room, closet and li­brary; henry VIII had then used the rooms his father had built (Fig 1).

On ac­count of its tremen­dous set­ting and its hunt­ing parks, El­iz­a­beth I loved Wind­sor and she made her favourite, Robert Dud­ley, Earl of Le­ices­ter, its con­sta­ble. Dud­ley was a bril­liant horse­man and, with the Queen,

hunted fear­lessly, El­iz­a­beth some­times rid­ing pil­lion be­hind him on the same horse.

The Span­ish Ambassador said of the Queen hunt­ing at Wind­sor in Au­gust 1565 that she ‘went so hard that she tired ev­ery­body out, and as [for] the ladies and courtiers who were with her they were all put to shame. There was more work than plea­sure in it for them’.

By the time El­iz­a­beth be­came queen in 1558, the bed­cham­ber that Henry VII had built at Wind­sor was very old-fash­ioned. Although there were two hand­some rooms above it, prob­a­bly used as a li­brary, there was no pri­vate ac­com­mo­da­tion for the Queen and her ladies. At all her other houses, next to the bed­cham­ber, was a pri­vate (or privy) gallery for re­cre­ation and pri­vate au­di­ences. This is why El­iz­a­beth asked her sec­re­tary, Wil­liam Ce­cil, Lord Burgh­ley, to com­mis­sion a new gallery for her in 1576.

The Of­fice of Works ar­chi­tect, Henry Hawthorne, was in­structed to pre­pare a num­ber of op­tions for the Queen to look at. The de­sign finally cho­sen is most in­ter­est­ing be­cause it not only pro­vided a gallery and clos­ets for El­iz­a­beth, but it linked her bed­cham­ber with the lodg­ings of Dud­ley.

In ev­ery royal house, Dud­ley had lodg­ings close to the Queen. At Green­wich, for in­stance, he had rooms on the river­front over El­iz­a­beth’s and his bed­room had a bal­cony on the roof where he had sup­per. They were richly fur­nished with his own ta­pes­tries and fur­ni­ture: in Novem­ber 1584, when Dud­ley moved his stuff from Hampton Court to St James’s, eight men spent two days trans­port­ing it in nine carts at a cost of 9s 6d.

The Con­sta­ble’s Lodg­ings at Wind­sor oc­cu­pied the whole of the in­ner gate­house, now mis­lead­ingly called the Nor­man Gate, a spa­cious struc­ture of 1351–68 (Fig 5). The fact that it was in­tended to in­ter­con­nect with the Queen’s pri­vate lodg­ings shows that, although the pas­sion be­tween them had some­what cooled by the 1570s, ac­cess to Dud­ley was still re­ally im­por­tant to her.

In July 1600, with the Court away from Wind­sor, a young Mo­ra­vian noble­man was shown the gallery and tells us that it con­tained a couch on which El­iz­a­beth sat to con­sult privately with her min­is­ters. The new privy gallery was not only a place for busi­ness, it was also a place of pri­vate re­cre­ation. Roger Ascham, El­iz­a­beth’s for­mer school­mas­ter, would come to Wind­sor and read Greek and Latin texts with her; this, and her work trans­lat­ing Boethius’s de

Con­so­la­tione Philoso­phie, that she started at Wind­sor in 1593, is likely to have been un­der­taken in her gallery—a room linked to the rooms above her bed­cham­ber that prob­a­bly con­tained her li­brary.

Be­fore the Con­sta­ble’s Lodg­ings were in­cor­po­rated into Hawthorne’s cho­sen scheme, how­ever, Dud­ley was sent to the Nether­lands, where, the fol­low­ing Jan­uary, he be­came Gov­er­nor Gen­eral. For three

Of all the Queen’s houses, Wind­sor Cas­tle was the most ven­er­a­ble

To ‘walk in­vis­i­ble’

A re­con­struc­tion of the gallery range de­signed by Henry Hawthorne in 1576 spe­cially com­mis­sioned by COUN­TRY LIFE show­ing the in­tended con­nec­tion with Earl of Le­ices­ter’s rooms in the con­sta­ble’s lodg­ing (1). The build­ing was of stone and in­cor­po­rated a gallery mea­sur­ing 100ft long and 15ft wide on its up­per floor (2). At its west end, the gallery ter­mi­nated in a gi­ant bay win­dow (3) opened through one tower of the 14th-cen­tury gate. Next to this was the site of the in­tended door (prob­a­bly never built) that com­mu­ni­cated with Dud­ley’s lodg­ing (4).

On the north side of the gallery was a square closet with a fire­place and bay win­dow look­ing out to­wards Eton and the north (5). The floors be­neath this con­tained a large stair­case built round a solid newel (6). The stair did not come up to the Queen’s gallery, but was linked to it by a se­cret stair (7) built into the wall that con­nected with the gallery through a hid­den door in the bay win­dow.

This was a very in­ge­nious piece of plan­ning. The se­cret stair al­lowed the Queen to leave her lodg­ings and go down to the ter­race (8) where she could mount her horse and ride out into the park. It was also a place in fine weather to prom­e­nade and en­joy the views.

The stair also had an­other pur­pose. On the other side of the gallery, on the ground floor was an an­te­room and, in here, peo­ple could wait to be ush­ered up se­cretly to the Queen’s gallery (9). There had been back stairs be­fore in many royal houses, but never had one been so care­fully in­te­grated into the plan of the build­ing. Burgh­ley was a master at this. In his own houses, the Queen’s lodg­ings were ser­viced by se­cret stairs that al­lowed peo­ple to come and go to her in­ner lodg­ings. Fran­cis Ba­con, the fu­ture Lord Chan­cel­lor and nephew of Burgh­ley, thought such de­vices al­lowed his un­cle to ‘walk in­vis­i­ble’ at Court.

years, his lodg­ings at Wind­sor lay empty; the Queen’s gallery was com­pleted, but no door­way was made.

Then, in 1588, in prepa­ra­tion for Dud­ley’s re­turn, work restarted on the Con­sta­ble’s Lodg­ings with the creation of a fine new en­trance hall, stair­case and other new rooms on the south side of the gate (Fig 6). How­ever, it was all too late for, with his health fa­tally weakened by his time in the Nether­lands, Dud­ley died in Septem­ber 1588 be­fore his lodg­ings were com­pleted.

In 1590, Lord Howard of Eff­in­g­ham be­came con­sta­ble, so it is very un­likely that the long-planned con­nec­tion was ever made be­tween the Con­sta­ble’s Lodg­ing and the Queen’s bed­cham­ber.

Although the gallery was re­mod­elled in the 1830s (Fig 4), when it was con­verted into the royal li­brary, it is the only room from the hun­dreds of El­iz­a­bethan royal in­te­ri­ors that gives some im­pres­sion what they were like. The orig­i­nal ceil­ing was in­no­va­tive—in­stead of mak­ing a fret of shal­low tim­ber ba­tons en­riched with lowre­lief dec­o­ra­tion in tim­ber, the whole ceil­ing was moulded out of plas­ter, cre­at­ing a much more har­mo­nious com­po­si­tion that flowed in white, uni­fy­ing the whole space. It was widely copied.

The fire­place cre­ated by the Lon­don joiner and carver Robert Pinck­ney (Fig 3) was a mas­ter­piece—not only was the qual­ity of the carving the very finest, but the pro­por­tions and use of the Clas­si­cal or­ders of ar­chi­tec­ture were much more so­phis­ti­cated

than the jum­ble of mo­tifs that had been so fash­ion­able un­der Henry VIII.

The hard ar­chi­tec­ture of El­iz­a­bethan royal in­te­ri­ors was soft­ened and en­riched by tex­tiles that formed the prin­ci­pal dec­o­ra­tive el­e­ment. There were ta­pes­tries, of course, but it was the silks and vel­vets that gave these rooms their rich ap­pear­ance. In big rooms like the Wind­sor gallery, there were floor-to-ceil­ing cur­tains hung from metal rods over the windows, cre­at­ing splashes of bright colour.

In­creas­ingly, gal­leries in par­tic­u­lar were hung with paint­ings for which richly carved and gilded frames were made. Paint­ings also had their own cur­tains hung from neat rails fixed to the walls above them.

Smaller and more in­ti­mate clos­ets were hung with silk and vel­vet. We don’t know what the Queen chose to hang in her new clos­ets at Wind­sor, but, in 1596, El­iz­a­beth had a room she called her ‘cab­i­net’ re­dec­o­rated at Green­wich. The walls were hung with panes of yel­low, crim­son and light-blue vel­vet with white-satin em­broi­dery on the bor­ders. The vel­vet field was em­broi­dered with gold and twisted braid of gold and silver.

A match­ing suite of five cloth-of-gold cush­ions was sup­plied as well as long yel­low­damask win­dow cur­tains. The clos­ets and bed­cham­ber in and around the Queen’s gallery at Wind­sor must have been sim­i­larly dec­o­rated.

The Wind­sor gallery so care­fully de­signed and dec­o­rated for El­iz­a­beth I re­mained a key part of the royal lodg­ings un­der James I and Charles I. There is lit­tle doubt that both El­iz­a­beth and James would have agreed with Michael Dray­ton, who, in 1612, in his po­etic de­scrip­tion of Eng­land, PolyOl­bion, de­scribed Wind­sor Cas­tle and For­est as ‘that supremest place of the great English Kings’. How­ever, the Civil War treated the cas­tle roughly. The royal fur­ni­ture and fur­nish­ings were sold off and, for pe­ri­ods, the cas­tle was a bar­racks.

In the 1670s, Charles II de­cided to make Wind­sor the cen­tre of Court life near Lon­don and or­dered a re­mod­elling of the state rooms. The scheme, ex­e­cuted by the ar­chi­tect Hugh May, en­vis­aged no ma­jor role for the Queen’s gallery and it re­mained a ves­ti­gial part of the royal suite un­til, in 1830–36, Sir Jef­fry Wy­atville con­verted it into a li­brary for Wil­liam IV. Most of the Tu­dor in­te­ri­ors were lost, but, in Goth­icis­ing mode, some were re­pro­duced, re­tain­ing the feel­ing of an an­cient in­te­rior.

To­day, in its new guise as the royal li­brary, El­iz­a­beth I’s gallery is one of the most evoca­tive of all royal in­te­ri­ors, cap­tur­ing a re­mark­able mo­ment in time when El­iz­a­beth and the Earl of Le­ices­ter used Wind­sor Cas­tle as their play­ground.

‘Houses of Power’ by Si­mon Thur­ley (Ban­tam Press, £30) is pub­lished this month and re­viewed on page 122

El­iz­a­beth I’s gallery is one of the most evoca­tive of all royal in­te­ri­ors

Fig 1 above: Wind­sor Cas­tle as de­picted on John Nor­den’s 1607 sur­vey of the cas­tle. Ed­ward III re­cast the up­per ward of the cas­tle as a palace in the 14th cen­tury. El­iz­a­beth I’s gallery is de­picted here be­neath the cen­tral Round Tower. It ex­tends be­tween a tower with com­pass windows con­structed by her grand­fa­ther, Henry VII, and the Nor­man Gate. Fig 2 left: A de­tail of Mar­cus Ger­ard’s Pro­ceed­ing of the Sovereign and Knights of the Order of the Garter at St Ge­orge’s Feast in 1578. Wind­sor Cas­tle is shown in the back­ground, with the Up­per Ward above the Queen’s head. The ends of the gallery range are just vis­i­ble to ei­ther side of the cen­tral ar­cade pier

Fig 3 above left: The gallery fire­place carved by the Lon­don joiner Robert Pinck­ney is de­signed in a so­phis­ti­cated and id­iomatic neo­clas­si­cal style. Fig 4 above right: In the 1830s El­iz­a­beth I’s gallery was con­verted into a li­brary. The dec­o­ra­tive Tu­dor ceil­ing was recre­ated, but the ter­mi­nat­ing win­dow punched through the wall of the Nor­man Gate, vis­i­ble here, was re­duced in size

Fig 5: The Nor­man Gate, ac­tu­ally built in 1358-61, stands be­neath the motte and the Round Tower. It is the prin­ci­pal en­trance to the Up­per Ward. The ter­mi­nat­ing win­dow of the li­brary fills the mid­dle storey of its left-hand tower

Fig 6: The Nor­man Gate in a late-18th-cen­tury view by Paul Sandby. This shows how the Con­sta­ble’s Lodg­ings were ex­tended and main­tained in fash­ion­able style and pro­vided with a moat gar­den. The huge El­iz­a­bethan win­dow of the gallery is clearly vis­i­ble to the left

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.