Elizabethan Greenwich (Paul Hentzner, 1596)

Plaque marking site of Greenwich Palace

Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts and descriptions of the historic City of  London, this one written by another German visitor, Paul Hentzner,  in 1596


“Elizabeth, the reigning Queen of England, was born at the royal palace of Greenwich, and here she generally resides, particularly in summer, for the delightfulness of its location.  We were admitted by an order … procured from the Lord Chamberlain, into the presence-chamber hung with rich tapestry, and the floor, after the English fashion, strewed with hay, through which the Queen … passes on her way to chapel.  At the door stood a gentleman dressed in velvet, with a gold chain, whose office was to introduce to the Queen any person of distinction that came to … her.  It was Sunday, when there is usually the greatest attendance of nobility.  In the same hall were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, a great number of counsellors of state, officers of the crown, and gentlemen, who waited the Queen’s coming out, …  when it was time to go to prayers, attended in the following manner:-

Portrait of Elizabeth I

First went gentlemen, barons, earls, knights of the Garter … ; next … the Lord High Chancellor … , … between two, one of whom carried the royal sceptre, the other the sword of state … ; next the Queen, … very majestic; her face oblong, fair but wrinkled; her eyes small, yet … pleasant; her nose a little hooked, her lips narrow, and her teeth black (a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of sugar);… her hair of an auburn colour, but false; upon her head … a small crown … ;  her bosom … uncovered, as all the English ladies have it until they marry; … her hands … slender, her fingers … long, and her stature neither tall now low; her air … stately, her manner of speaking mild and obliging.  That day she was dressed in white silk, bordered with pearls … , and …  a mantle of black silk shot with silver threads; her train … very long, the end … borne by a marchioness … .  As she went along in all this state and magnificence, she spoke very graciously, first to one, then to another … , in English, French and Italian … .  Whoever speaks to her, it is kneeling; now and then she raises some with her hand.  While we were there, … a Bohemian baron had letters to present to her; and she, after pulling off her glove, gave him her right hand to kiss, sparkling with rings and jewels – a mark of particular favour.  Wherever she turned her face as she was going along, everybody fell down on their knees.  …  In the ante-chapel, … petitions were presented to her, and she received them most graciously … .  In the chapel was excellent music; as soon as it and the service were over, … the Queen returned in the same state and order … ”.

Plaque marking site of Greenwich Palace

Plaque marking site of Greenwich Palace

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