Mary Tudor was the daughter of Henry VIII by Catherine of Aragon, and so Elizabeth I’s half-sister. Mary ruled as Queen of England before Elizabeth, briefly returning the country to the Catholic faith before Elizabeth restored Protestantism again. Mary’s reign was one of violence and persecution of Protestants, for which she earned the nickname ‘Bloody Mary.’ Her husband King Philip II of Spain became King of England when Mary ascended the throne. The terms of Philip and Mary’s marriage in 1554 stated that both would sign official documents and Acts of Parliament, coins would bear both their images, and Parliament would be called under their joint authority. In other words, Philip would co-reign with Mary. When Mary died, however, Philip lost his rights to the throne.
At first Philip attempted to gain power again by marrying Elizabeth, but his offer of marriage was refused. He then turned to plots to put Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic queen, on the throne. Eventually, with England allied with the Protestant Netherlands and English ships carrying out a policy of piracy against Spanish trade and treasure ships, Philip saw Elizabeth as too great a threat. He assembled an armada of ships (followed by another two armadas) to attack England, but all his efforts failed.
" The Earl of Arundel’s town residence is one of these grand red-brick houses bristling with tall chimneys whose abundant lawns stretch down to the river’s edge "
The Inner Temple began as a Templar building in the 12th century. A group of lawyers came to live there in the 13th century as legal advisors to the Templars. When the Templar Order was disbanded, the land was given to the Knights Hospitaller, a holy Order who provided medical aid in Jerusalem. The Hospitallers did not live there, but earned money through rent instead. The lawyers remained in the old buildings, one group occupying the consecrated inner buildings (inner inn), and the other moving into the unconsecrated buildings between the inner inn and the Outer Temple. The former became the Inner Temple and the latter the Middle Temple. By the Elizabethan age it had become a large centre for the teaching and selecting of barristers, and extensive building projects and beautification had taken place there.
" a shaggy white dog, a Talbot hound by its appearance "
A Talbot is a very large white hunting dog, now extinct. References tell us that the Talbot hound and the greyhound are the only dogs to have appeared in heraldry. ‘The Talbot’ or ‘Talbot Arms’ is a common name for English pubs, usually displaying a white hound with long ears on the sign.
" Dishes are carried in, richly scented and steaming: capons stuffed with fruit; venison; coneys in fragrant sauces, piled with thyme and rosemary; calves’ foot jellies and pies of larks and blackbirds with delicate latticed pastry. "
The main part of an Elizabethan meal was meat. For the rich this could be pork, beef, lamb, poultry, rabbit, venison or wildfowl. According to law, meat must not be consumed on Fridays or during Lent, with fish eaten instead. At first fruit and vegetables were not as popular, and eaten mainly by the poor, but in the later Elizabethan period exploration and foreign trade were bringing in new varieties only available to the rich. These included peppers, pumpkins and potatoes from the New World, and gooseberries and raspberries from Europe.
New ingredients for the rich - Credit: John Eckert
New spices brought from the east were also incredibly popular, as well as sugar, which came from Asia and was very expensive. The rich ate bread made from white flour, called Manchet bread, and drank wine from Spain and France. Water was too dirty to drink at this time, so ale was used in its place.
Rich Elizabethans loved to create spectacle with food, presenting dishes in exciting new ways and with exotic ingredients in order to show off. Meals would be eaten at a long table with a raised platform at the head for the host and important guests. The dishes were arranged on a side table so guests could choose what they wanted, and glasses also stood at the side. Guests would call a servant when they wanted to drink, who would wipe the cup and return it to the side when they were finished. This prevented anyone from getting too drunk! Desserts were also very popular in the Elizabethan period, and set out alongside the main dishes. Varieties of dessert included cakes, tarts, custards, sugared fruit, and flavoured jellies made from calves’ hooves.
The poor did not enjoy the same variety of food as the rich. They ate less meat and more vegetables, bread made from rye or ground acorns, and could not afford foreign spices. Sugar was too expensive, so honey was used as a sweetener instead. They drank ale, cider, perry (made from pears) or buttermilk.
Below is a clip from the BBC television programme The Supersizers Go Elizabethan, in which Giles Coren and Sue Perkins explore Elizabethan food and dining. It features many of the foods mentioned above, including a calves’ foot jelly ‘the colour of sadness.’