The Ridolfi plot

On May 16 1568 the catholic regnant Scottish queen Mary Stuart arrived in England. She had been deposed, marginalised  and effectively disowned by the protestant establishment in Scotland, where her young son James VI, aged 13 in 1569, was now a minority king. Mary was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret, and therefore had … Continue reading The Ridolfi plot

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John Callis, pirate, and the Elizabethan ambivalence about his trade

Born in Monmouthshire, John Callis, generally worked out of the south Wales ports of Penarth and Cardiff, “where he and many other pirates (as it is commonly reported) are furnished, vittled, aided, received and succoured”, according to one local justice of the peace. But many local officials were effectively in the pirates’ pocket, receiving stolen … Continue reading John Callis, pirate, and the Elizabethan ambivalence about his trade

The persecution of Edward Rookwood: a Catholic victim of Elizabethan state power

There was politics behind the choice of East Anglia for Elizabeth’s summer progress in 1578. During the course of the summer, Elizabeth stayed twice with Philip Howard, Earl of Surrey – heir of the foolish traitor Thomas Howard, fourth duke of Norfolk – just turned 21 that June. Kenninghall, Norkolk's great palace, had been shuttered … Continue reading The persecution of Edward Rookwood: a Catholic victim of Elizabethan state power

Thomas Cobham: a life of recklessness and reprieve

I didn't know a great deal about Thomas Cobham when I came across his name in the Middlesex Session Rolls, where he is recorded as one of two men standing surety for a young Walter Ralegh on December 19, 1577, after the latter's servants had been arrested for a drunken assault on the nightwatch in … Continue reading Thomas Cobham: a life of recklessness and reprieve

The gains doth seldom quit the charge: Henry Noel at the court of Elizabeth I

This is the third in my series of posts on a disparate group of courtiers in the 1570s and 1580s – for the purposes of this blog, I am calling them the Lost Elizabethans – who I first encountered researching The Favourite. Although well known in their day – I suspect both Noel, the subject … Continue reading The gains doth seldom quit the charge: Henry Noel at the court of Elizabeth I

Dreams of escape – George Gifford: courtier, con-man, conspirator

Despite the notoriety which still clouds men like Anthony Babington, executed in 1586 for plotting to assassinate Elizabeth I, history's selective memory has been kind in overlooking the dubious career of other men who flirted with regicide in the same period. Indeed, one man, despite never having attempted the act, seems to have been almost … Continue reading Dreams of escape – George Gifford: courtier, con-man, conspirator

Deleted scenes

As I wrote and edited The Favourite, I became aware that there were many subjects about which I wanted to write, but which didn't fit neatly into the structure of the book. Many of these were portraits, whether of men in Ralegh's circle or of others caught up in the deadly dramas around Elizabeth I … Continue reading Deleted scenes