Meeting on Tuesday 8th February. 2011
We may think of stress as a modern phenomenon but speaker Monica Place demonstrated to the Society on 8th February that there was an abundance of it around in the Tudor era. Henry VIII had provoked religious strife with his dissolution of the monasteries. Any dissent from the party line could lead to banishment to the Tower – or worse! Into this atmosphere was born Elizabeth, daughter of Henry and Ann Boleyn, in 1533 and she was crowned Queen in 1559. Taking as her title “Elizabeth 1 in Suffolk” Monica told how this self-reliant, devout, adventurous, sometimes devious and dance-loving woman travelled around with her large, male-dominated court. Earlier monarchs on their state tours – or progresses, as they were known – would be accommodated in monastic houses or abbeys but Elizabeth’s progresses took her to the properties of aristocrats and rich merchants. Her full court accompanied her together with her state bed and her hip bath. Elizabeth expected her court to be well dressed at all times.
Elizabeth made two visits to East Anglia. The first was in 1561 when she came by boat from Harwich to stay at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich – home of merchant Sir Edmund Withipoll. Local inhabitants were assessed for a tax to pay for the visit. From there she went to Shelley Hall and Smallbridge, near Bures, home of the Waldegrave family.
Her second visit, in 1578, was more extensive taking in Cavendish, Melford Hall – then the home of the Solicitor General, Sir William Cordell. There followed calls at Lawshall Hall, Bury St Edmunds and Rushbrooke Hall. The Queen and her entourage then moved into Norfolk where her hosts attempted to outshine the hospitality Suffolk had showed. An outbreak of the plague brought this tour to an end. On the way back to London visits were made to Shotley and Hengrave Hall.
What did these progresses achieve? For the monarch it drew the affection of her subjects and her self esteem rose. She bestowed honours on those she visited – especially some prominent Protestants; on the other hand, many Catholic men were imprisoned! For the house owners – rich as they were- the honour and prestige of the royal visit was sometimes overshadowed by the financially crippling costs involved.
Miss Place illustrated her talk with numerous slides of portraits, grand houses and maps and was warmly thanked on behalf of 20 members present by the Society’s President, Ashley Cooper. Chairman, Alan Fitch, welcomed a new member and reminded all that the next meeting would be the AGM at 8pm in Foxearth Village Hall on 8th March. Members were invited to bring along an item of interest and/or antiquity and there would be cheese and wine to follow.