Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Friday, September 9, 2011

Elizabethan Fun Facts

Starting now! History Undressed will have a weekly post of fun historical facts.  Enjoy!

Elizabethan Fun Facts

  • Elizabeth, while Queen of England, rarely mentioned her mother. In fact she did not even attempt to have her birth legitimized as her sister, Queen Mary I had done before her. (Her father, Henry VIII, while he did put her in line for the succession had also claimed she was a bastard, as did her brother, King Edward VI after her.) With her reign tenuous in the beginning, and threats and plots throughout, bringing light to the topic of her birth would have only made her hold on her reign weaker. Many did not even believe she was Henry VIII's true daughter, despite how similar her appearance and bearing was to his.
  • Elizabeth I, imprisoned many of her ladies when they dared to marry without her approval.
  • Suspicion, to this day, surrounds Elizabeth I and her role in the death of her long time love, Robert Dudley's wife, Amy Robsart.
  • Elizabeth's Secretaries of State, Cecil and Walsingham, developed an intelligence agency and ring of spies that spanned all of Europe and more.
  • Elizabeth had forty pairs of velvet shoes until, in 1575, she decided to switch to Spanish leather. Don't panic! She didn't get rid of her shoes, simply had them refurbished.
  • Female characters in plays were played by men--not women.
  • Shakespeare became a popular playwright during the Elizabethan era, but in fact, it was very late into Elizabeth's reign. He was not even born until she'd been Queen for several years. His first play was published and acted in the 1590's. Elizabeth did see at least one or two of his plays. Many vicious rumors abound that Elizabeth is Shakespeare's mother, but these are just rumors.
  • People drank beer at breakfast.
  • Of every 100 babies born alive--not stillbirths--about 70% survived to their first birthday. Less than 50% would make it to the age of 5.
  • Farting and peeing were to be done in private. (If you farted in public, you were supposed to try and cough to cover the sound). Belching at the table was totally acceptable. But it you had to blow your nose or spit you had better turn away.


Victoria Roberts said...

Interesting post, Eliza. I wasn't that familiar with this era. You have a vast array of knowledge. Thanks for sharing!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Have you read Lee Miller's book about the Lost Colony of Roanoke? Her premise is that Walsingham sabotaged the colony in an attempt to get back at the ever popular Raleigh.

Tara said...

The movie "Shakespeare in Love" revolves around the tradition of males playing female characters...great movie.

Beer at breakfast? Ugh...of course, I drink Diet Coke at breakfast instead of coffee, so what do I know ;)

Great post, Eliza!


Eliza Knight said...

@Victoria -- Thank you :)

@Caroline -- No, I haven't read that book! That sounds fascinating! I wouldn't be surprised. I have my suspicions that Cecil was actually involved in the death of Dudley's wife so that Dudley could never marry Elizabeth because of the devastating rumors surrounding that sad situation.

@Tara-- lol! I'm with you on the beer for breakfast... ugh! I love the movie "Shakespeare in Love" it was so good. And Ralph Fiennes... yummy!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Fascinating post! Thank you.

Jena Lang said...

I enjoyed reading the Elizabethan Fun Facts. Great addition to your blog!