Tag Archives: Somerset House

“Melody and joy and comfort to all true Englishmen and women” (Henry Machyn, 1558)

Somerset House (Cornelis Bol, c. 1650)Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts of events in the history of London …

On this day in 1558, Henry Machyn wrote in his diary:

“And so her Grace [Elizabeth I] lay in the Tower unto the fifth day of December, that was Saint Nicholas even.  And there was in certain places children with speeches, and other places singing and playing with regals.

The fifth day her Grace removed by water under the bridge unto Somerset Palace, with trumpets playing, and melody and joy and comfort to all true Englishmen and women, and to all people”.

The Lord Mayor’s Parade (Bassompierre, 1626)

The Lord Mayor's Show in 1746, by Canaletto.jpg

Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts of events in the history of London …

On this day in 1626, the visiting Alsatian Chevalier de Bassompierre wrote in his journal:

November 9th, which is the election of the Mayor, I came in the morning to Sommerset [House] to meet the Queen [Henrietta Maria], who had come to see him go on the Thames on his way to Westminster to be sworn in, with a magnificent display of boats.  Then the Queen dined, and afterwards got into her coach and placed me at the same door with her.  The Duke of Boukinham [Buckingham] also by her commands got into her coach, and we went into the street called Shipside [Cheapside] to see the ceremony, which is the greatest that is made for the reception of any officer in the world.  While waiting for it to pass, the Queen played at primero with the Duke, the Earl of Dorchit [Dorset] and me; and afterwards the Duke took me to dine with the Lord mayor, who that day gave a dinner to more than 800 persons”.

Somerset House

Somerset House in 1722 (Kip)

The original Somerset House was built for the Lord Protector Somerset in 1547-50.  After Somerset’s  execution in 1552, it came to owned, occupied and modified in turn by the then-future Queen, Elizabeth I, in 1553; by    the then King, James I’s wife, Anne of Denmark, in 1603; by  the then-future King, Charles I, in 1619; and by the then King, Charles I’s wife, the French Henrietta Maria, in 1626.  It then survived the Civil War and Commonwealth of 1642-60, during which time it was temporarily appropriated by Parliamentarian authorities, as well as the Great Fire of 1666.  In 1669, the then King,  Charles II’s wife,  the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza, acquired it, and in 1692, shortly after Charles II had died and James II, who was a Catholic, had been deposed,  she relinquished it, fearing  for her safety there in the midst of what by that time had become a fiercely anti-Catholic populace.  It was then  allowed to fall into disrepair, and substantially demolished to make way for the present building in 1775.

Archaeology Room.jpg

Fr Hyacint(h), priest (d. 1692).JPG

Of the original, only some footings survive, in the “Archaeology Room”, together with some headstones from the former – Catholic – chapel, in the “Dead House”.