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The Story of the Elizabethans

The Story of the Elizabethans

The Story of the Elizabethans 2020
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This in-depth special edition looks at how the era of exploration, entertainment and empire had a darker side, where poverty, violence and persecution plagued the lives of ordinary people. Discover: - Fresh perspectives on Elizabeth I and her court - The daily lives of ordinary people - A new era of public entertainment - An age of exploration and adventure

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United Kingdom
Immediate Media Company London Limited

in this issue

1 min.

“ If ever an English monarch merited the byname ‘the Great’, surely it was the last of the Tudor line: Elizabeth I. During her reign, England successfully repelled a mighty Spanish Armada. Extravagant ‘accession day’ celebrations and new theatres, in which William Shakespeare first performed his peerless plays, revolutionised public entertainment. Extraordinary palaces and ‘prodigy houses’ were built – expressions of wealth and artistic exuberance. Groundbreaking trading and diplomatic ties were established with Islamic states across north Africa and the Middle East. English explorers ventured far into Asia and the Arctic, sowing the seeds of a vast British empire. And Elizabeth herself overcame the odds: as a child declared illegitimate and cut from the succession after the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn, she faced a series of plots against…

9 min.
the elizabethan age

1558 Mary I dies on 17 November, and her half-sister, aged 25, succeeds to the throne as Elizabeth I. She immediately appoints Sir William Cecil (below) as her principal secretary and intimates that she intends to break with Rome (like her father Henry VIII) and to re-introduce the Protestant religious settlement of her half-brother, Edward VI. 1559 Elizabeth pushes her religious settlement through parliament: the Act of Supremacy, which declares her to be ‘Supreme Governor’ of the Church of England, and the Act of Uniformity, which demands conformity to a new Protestant English Prayer Book. The main task ahead is to persuade or compel the many Catholics in England to convert. 1560 1560 After Elizabeth sends military help to the Protestant ‘Lords of the Congregation’ against the Catholic regent of Scotland and her French allies, Cecil…

6 min.
the other elizabethan england

Work The actor’s wife aunts her wealth This painting of 22-year-old Joan Alleyn, wife of actor Edward Alleyn and stepdaughter of theatre owner Philip Henslowe, provides artistic evidence of the growing wealth of the Elizabethan middle classes. In 1596, when Joan posed for this portrait, England’s economy was flourishing and, as a result, merchants and traders of all sorts were finding opportunities to expand their businesses and improve their lifestyles. They soon began commissioning portraits not only of themselves, but also of their wives – who were often critical to their success – doing the accounts and other administrative tasks. Joan’s portrait probably hung in the couple’s house as evidence of their rising status. She is shown here wearing typically middle-class clothes, including a tall black hat (possibly of felt or velvet) and embroidered…

9 min.
the play’s one thing…

In 1567, London grocer John Brayne embarked on a new business venture. At a cost of about £20, he built England’s first theatre in a yard at the Red Lion, a farm in Whitechapel just outside the City of London. The venture was not a successful one. Though the exact circumstances have proved impossible to delineate, the Red Lion soon fell into disuse as a theatre. Undeterred, in 1576 Brayne – together with his brother-in-law James Burbage, father of the actor Richard Burbage, Shakespeare’s associate – opened a more successful venture, known simply as The Theatre. That opening marked the beginning of a flourishing era of theatrical performances in London. During the last three decades of Elizabeth’s reign, Londoners could attend a number of theatres – most famously The Globe, which opened…

1 min.
hold your noses… it’s the elizabethans!

Traditionally, the past is something we look at from afar. The very act of ‘doing history’ is one of reaching for something that has gone and is therefore, by definition, out of reach. So it is hardly surprising that we approach its remains objectively, picking over them with a pair of metaphorical tweezers. But what would we feel if the past were not out of reach? Imagine how your ideas about the past would be different if you could get close up and personal with your forebears. What would you notice if you could see through their eyes, hear with their ears, and smell through their nostrils? What were the tastes and feelings of the past? Can we make any headway in trying to recover them? Adopting this approach is a particularly…

2 min.
the visual world

For six months of every year there is less than 12 hours of daylight, and street lighting is almost unheard of in Elizabethan England, so time out of doors in autumn and winter is characterised by darkness. But dimness is also an aspect of being indoors, even in summer. Domestic glass is rare, because of the paucity of glassmakers in 16th-century England. Although the aristocracy have used glass since the late Middle Ages, and the Countess of Shrewsbury famously has “more glass than wall” at Hardwick Hall, most houses have only small windows to prevent massive heat loss in winter. Wooden shutters or small opaque screens of horn are used to cover the windows, so there is never much light inside. In winter, you will walk around a farmhouse or cottage in…