The Edge of Order: Frances Walsingham

Frances Walsingham Full ImageAA

It had been simple, back then, when all eyes shone with approval; when she was the young bride of the Queen’s Champion, Sir Philip Sidney. This daughter of the ‘Sworn’, – the inner cabal of those who had vowed to lay down their lives, without question, in the defence of their embattled queen – could do no wrong.

He should be here, she thought, fighting back the mist that threatened to undo the mask of determined perfection she wore. Philip, help me…use that old magic to help me from beyond your premature grave, my love… You knew her so well.

Her shoulders dropped at the uselessness of the thought. Philip Sydney, Queen’s Champion, and the monarch’s most intellectual challenger, had died in battle four years ago – his life wasted in a minor skirmish – and Frances had had scant time to grow into the might of his intellect, his inner nobility, nor the ancient and magical arts he practiced alongside his renowned poetry.

The Queen noticed the shift in her mood, indicated by a slight shift in her stance. How does she do that? Frances thought, turning to nod, subtly, her only acknowledgement to the women at whose feet she had learned the craft of living with royalty. Nothing less than complete honesty of gesture would be tolerated… especially now…

What is she doing with us? thought Frances. Here in this chamber, carefully crafted for this, and possibly only this, occasion. She thought of her father, dying only an hour’s ride away from NonSuch – lying in his bed, untended. Father, forgive me, she thought. I had no choice but to obey her. You, above all men, would understand that!

And he would, she knew; would shine with pride that the line of his blood continued to defend the woman they had secretly called The Birth. She thought she knew what that meant, but neither William Cecil, Queen’s first minister and her father’s constant companion in their secret dealings, nor her irascible parent would ever say…

She looked around the marble floor, with its stark black and white squares – pure in its pristine readiness – and suppressed a shudder. ‘A welcome’ it said in the private invitation, a ‘homecoming for Dr Dee’, former astrologer to Her Grace, mathematician, and cartographer of maps now used to guide the expanding Navy: the glorious English navy that had defeated the mighty Spanish Armada, giving Elizabeth’s England legendary status.

She has nothing to prove! she thought. Why this. Why now?

On the far side of the dais, beyond the Queen, Robert Cecil shuffled from foot to foot in the way that eased the pressure on his deformed spine. The shoes he had inherited were too big for him, Frances thought, with a smile, and he does not trust women…Whereas his illustrious father, William, had befriended and adored the company of many intelligent women, learning, perhaps, from his lifelong service with the Queen.

She let her eyes glance at the woman beside her. I know… she thought, quietly, I know the arrangement you came to with his father: take the blame, be scolded, humiliated, be driven out of office for my sake; and, in return, I will protect your estate, and your capable son may inherit your role…

The death...

No-one dared speak of the death, the Scottish Queen. For a queen to kill a queen meant that queens could be killed–and Elizabeth was a queen, too. So, someone else, someone beyond corruption, had to trigger that blow, and then the screaming Queen of England would beat her breast at the injustice of a killed queen under her protection – plotter or no.

Her eyes would betray her, so she sought softer gazes in the faces turned to the royal party. Robert my love, her heart whispered to the young Second Earl of Essex, standing, calm and still, to her left. This will be hard. Lend me your strength… But, behind the comfort, darker emotions boiled. His furtive eyes never left her soft face as she read his look.. She will rage at us, but love is an anointing of freedom.

More than that – and she wondered if he knew – the very blood that now pulsed with his passion carried the seeds of a line that would engender more than rage in the Queen. in fact, if known, it might be the gravest danger she had ever faced.

The solid oak door to the Chamber of Questioning opened and three people entered. The tall man in the front of the party was familiar and a friend: Sir Walter Raleigh filled a room with his presence.

Frances could feel the Queen’s eyes appraising her former beau. She dared not check, but could sense the smile with which the royal eyes appraised him: beyond her reach, now; belonging to another.

But the Queen did not know that Essex was, too…

The two men Raleigh was escorting into the chamber were less familiar. With a shock, she realised the one on her right was Dr John Dee… How he had aged! She would not have known that his bent figure had been the glorious champion of knowledge of her youth. What had befallen him to reduce the man of learning to this state?

Welcome him home? I don’t think so, my Queen!

The other man wore a simple robe. Its colour triggered the inner call to danger that her father had forced her to learn at his side. With a disguised gesture, she laid her hand over the concealed slit in her robe and felt for the presence of the ever-present dagger.

She had killed two men with it. The first by a dark London dock when a man attempted to rob her. The other, in the presence of her father, an act of execution forced by him in, a rite of passage, as the paralysing illness began to take his strength.

Her eyes, wise and deadly as those of a serpent, fixed themselves on the Jesuit cross hanging around the stranger’s neck…


In our five-act mystical story, when the company arrives at Elizabeth’s NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow.

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Frances Walsingham has a very special relationship with the Queen, but also with several of the other figures in the Court. Four years after the death of her beloved husband, Sir Philip Sidney, she has begun a relationship with the Queen’s current favourite, the Second Earl of Essex – Robert Devereux, whose name is to become infamous. Can Walsingham’s daughter maintain her objective judgement?

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of humanism and tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

Bess of Hardwick

The Dragon of Elizabeth’s Seas

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Banner Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Frances Walsingham, courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Images in background montages by the author – own photography.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

The Dragon of Elizabeth’s Seas.

Francis Drake SE18 Montage fullIt is the beginning of May, 1587, and a man known locally as The Dragon is headed for Cadiz on Spain’s Atlantic coast. His mission is not peaceful. The act of sailing to Cadiz poses few challenges for this master mariner, who, ten years prior, had already circumnavigated the globe – becoming only the second person (after Magellan) to do so.

But what follows his arrival in Cadiz, at the head of a small fleet centred on four English galleons, is extraordinary by any measure…

In the sixteenth century, Spain is the mightiest empire in Europe–its wealth boosted by gold plundered from the New World… It is also considered the fiercest defender of the Catholic faith; a faith under threat from the growth of Protestantism in Northern Europe, including its foremost enemy: England.

Phillip II has the Pope’s blessing to invade and subdue England, using whatever means is necessary. The Queen of England, Elizabeth I, has been excommunicated by the Pope and King Phillip is assembling a fleet of over a hundred ships to solve the ‘English problem’. English sailors, regarded as little more than pirates by the Spanish, have been a thorn in its side at home and abroad, especially in the New World, where British Privateers have been particularly effective in plundering the gold that Spain has so carefully extracted from the natives.

The man commanding the small fleet now sailing into Cadiz harbour is Sir Francis Drake. The Spanish hate and fear him so much, they have named him El Draque – the Dragon. History will record that he was here to ‘singe the King of Spain’s beard’.

The tiny English fleet – sent by Elizabeth to begin a preemptive action against the gathering might of the Spanish Armada – will spend the next few days in two key Spanish ports (the other being Corunna) destroying a total of thirty-seven of Phillip II’s best ships, despite adverse weather and constant shelling from the guns on the cliffs. Seldom had there been such a display of seamanship, against such difficult conditions.

The success of the raid will delay the Armada by a full year. More significantly, the cargoes plundered by Drake in Cadiz turn out to be well-seasoned timber staves essential for the construction of wooden barrels for food  and water storage. When the Armada finally sails, in the summer of 1588, one of the contributing factors in its failure will be the poor storage of supplies and consequent ill-health of the sailors in the Spanish fleet… Of such small details are vast changes in sovereign fortunes made…

The Spanish considered the raid on Cadiz so audacious that Phillip, himself, sent an urgent letter to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, the commander-in-chief of the Spanish Armada, warning him of the other likely targets of El Draque’s murderous voyage (below).

Phillip II's letter about Drake and Cadiz
Phillip II’s letter to the Duke of Medina Sidonia warning of Drake’s likely next targets. A rare example of a document that backs up an audacious legend (source)

Nowadays, we are acutely aware of historical exaggeration and propaganda, but this letter is a rare piece of factual evidence that proves how infamous Drake actually was; not that he was shy at promoting his own image…

Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, West Devon, in 1540, seven years after his future queen. He was the eldest of the twelve sons of Edmund Drake, a Protestant farmer. In 1549, the family had to flee local religious persecution and re-settled in Kent, where the resourceful Edmund secured religious training and a position as Deacon of Upnor Church on the Medway, a busy part of the Thames estuary. From Upnor, he was able to minister to the men in the King’s Navy – a first contact upon which he was able to build his, and his children’s, future.

Drake was apprenticed to the master of a barque used to ship merchandise from London to France. Drake’s work pleased the owner of the vessel so much that the childless ship’s master bequeathed the boat to Drake on his death.

The family already had naval connections, and the sea was to shape his life from this point onwards. John Hawkins, later Sir John Hawkins, was Drake’s second cousin and, following the younger man’s successful apprenticeship, he was taken into the extended family’s shipping business, based in Plymouth. In 1563, aged twenty-three, Drake made his first voyage to the Americas, under the command of his cousin. Three more voyages followed, during which the English ships attacked Portuguese towns and ships on the West African coast. Hawkins has a dark reputation as the first English slave-trader, and inducted the young Drake into the trade. The captured cargoes of slaves were, ironically, sold to Spanish plantations…

On the third such voyage, the Hawkins fleet, undergoing resupply and repair in Mexico, was attacked by Spanish warships. Only two of the family ships survived. Drake and his cousin only escaped by swimming to safety. This incident, combined with the persecution of his childhood, set Drake on a course against Catholic Spain, a course he would pursue with delight and skill as his fortunes unfolded.

The coast of Panama was used as a staging post for the Spanish treasure-gatherers, and Drake polished his privateering skills along its coast, taking considerable riches from the raids. He seemed both skilful and lucky in his exploits, but was severely wounded on more than one occasion.

On Elizabeth’s secret instructions, Drake went on to circumnavigate the world, sailing around Cape Horn and entering the Pacific, where he claimed California for the English Crown. The voyage of exploration was punctuated with several acts of plunder on Spanish ships and ports, and, in 1580, with only one ship (The Golden Hind) remaining, he returned to England with a full cargo of treasures, including an exotic jewel made of enamelled gold and bearing a diamond and an ebony ship, which he presented to Queen Elizabeth.

DrakeKnightedTavistockMonument
Drake is knighted by Elizabeth I. The monument to Drake in Tavistock. Wikipedia public domain.  Source.

The Queen delighted in his successes against the Spanish, and knighted him aboard the  Golden Hind in 1581 – an act that enraged Phillip II of Spain. On William Cecil’s advice, all the records of the voyage were made state secrets, and the remaining crew were sworn to secrecy. Everyone knew that war with the Spanish would be forthcoming, but with men like Drake at her side, Elizabeth felt that the spirit of her England had a chance of success.

Drake was a commoner and had risen to be one of Elizabeth’s favourites; quite an achievement. For his coat of arms he adopted a shield showing two stars; representing the Arctic and Antarctic, connected by the oceans, topped by an image of the Golden Hind. The Hand of God is shown as benevolent fate within his lifetime, indicating, with appropriate humility, that his good fortune was not wholly his own doing.

Francis Drake coat of armsAA
The Coat of Arms adopted by Sir Francis Drake

The year after the raid on Cadiz, one hundred and twenty Spanish ships set sail to invade Elizabeth’s England. Drake was second in command of the outnumbered English fleet, which was led by Lord Charles Howard. There is no historical evidence that Drake delayed his departure for battle while he finished his game of bowls in Plymouth. The apocryphal story appeared some thirty years later and fits with our heroic and stylish picture of the man, so it lives on in the imagination.

The result is well-known. A combination of inspired seamanship by Drake and Howard, plus adverse weather, saw the invasion flounder. What is less well known is that two-thirds of the ships returned safely to Spain, having circumnavigated the British Isles, pursued by an English fleet that was unable to inflict too much harm. The greatest damage was to Phillip II’s reputation. His life had been intertwined with England’s queens since his earlier marriage to Queen Mary – Catherine of Aragon’s daughter. In his journals he claimed to have influenced Mary to restore Elizabeth to the royal line of succession.

We may never know the truth of this; if so, it is doubly ironic that the bravery of Elizabeth and her senior officers brought about the decline in respect for Phillip, and he never recovered.

Although Drake’s place in the heart of England was secure. His military fortunes declined, and the English Armada ordered by Queen Elizabeth I, fared no better than had the Spanish fleet.

Sir Francis Drake died in Panama on the 28 January 1596 of dysentery. His last unsuccessful expedition was with his cousin, Sir John Hawkins. They died together and their bodies were buried at sea. Drake had asked to be dressed in his armour for his death, and had already made provision that his body be placed in a lead coffin before it was committed to the deep.

 

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018 – The Jewel in the Claw?

Sir Francis Drake is an obvious heroic archetype to use in a mystical play like this. But his life illustrated far deeper issues that were at the heart of Elizabeth’s England. Heroes operate within a theatre of circumstances and responses in which there are few freedoms. Only by being unafraid of being alone, could Elizabeth release the potential of her age. Drake, along with Raleigh, was one of her most visible heroes, but there were many others – men like William Cecil, who moved with equal precision behind the scenes. Nor can the age’s ‘scientists’ like Dr John Dee – at the centre of our story – be considered to be any less heroic in their world of knowledge rather than action.

In our mystical drama, Sir Francis Drake is one of Elizabeth’s appointed champions. But, he has a more difficult and deeper layer to his role within her ‘court’. His depth of experience lends his character special skills when it comes to understanding the motives of men… and women.

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow.

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Drake has a very special relationship with the Queen, one in which his grasp of the importance of Naval warfare can be used to royal advantage…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of humanism and tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

Bess of Hardwick

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Banner Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Sir Francis Drake, courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Images in background montages by the author – own photography.

Underlying images:

Sir Francis Drake Wikipedia Commons – public domain. source.

Underlying image of plaque of ship CC BY-SA 3.0 source

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

 

/div>

She of the Voice

The Shining One Fatima“Ra-bi-ya, Ra-bi-ya…’

As she surveys the black and white squares of the court before her, the song echoes in her head, a beloved memory of time spent, long ago, with her mother, playing their hiding game among the orange groves in the gardens of the royal home.

She of the voice, the inner voice,’ had been the way they referred to her, later in childhood, when she would suddenly go quiet and listen to that wonderful, silent dialogue that taught her so much about what was really happening in front of her; watching others react while she smiled and laughed so much they thought she was just being girly.

But he knew better, too…

He, her mysterious spiritual guide, teacher of English and word games. Nur al-Din; whose name whispered its meaning – Light of the Faith. At first she hadn’t understood what he was teaching her; ‘the author of the words’ he had called it, a voice within the ‘voice of the world – the story being told is not the storyteller… come to know the storyteller.’

But it had been the other; the dark and purposeful figure of Muhammad al-Annuri, who strode into her life and spirited her away, un-graduated, from the mystical enchantment of learning the truth within the truth. The dark Muhammad had loved games, too. Games of the mind  had fascinated him… Games of the body they had shared with a mutual passion.

“Forget all you think you know,” her sad-eyed teacher had said as she was taken from him. “Let it teach you what it is…” No-one listening would have known what he meant.

But she did… and never forgot it. That was all back then, in distant Morocco. Back then…

The Saracen woman’ they call her, now, in the streets of London. They have little understanding of the place from which she came. They see a beautiful and dutiful wife to the Moroccan Ambassador. Her husband, with his royal connections, has done well, and now sits astride two civilisations. With one face, he is an ambassador; with the other, a spy and co-conspirator…

He has told her little, but his voice has told her much. She trembles at what she knows.

Guns… Ships and guns. Just the beginning.

And now, summoned, mysteriously, to be at the Queen’s gathering: this strange chamber. “Another leading woman,” was all they told her. “Great honour.”

The others are ranged around the edge of a floor patterned like a great game board in the middle of the room.

‘Revealing,’ the voice whispers. ‘A place of great revelation…’ Rab’ia breathes in the way he taught her, letting the other shadows emerge, the hidden ones, the ones with secrets… She opens hazel eyes that have made warriors wither and seeks the other awakened eyes in the room, surprised and smiling at the result.

Perhaps it has all led to this, she thinks, smiling in the way he used to do.

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

Rab’ia al-Anuuri is the wife of the Moroccan ambassador in London, during the time when Elizabeth I is seeking a closer relationship with the Saracen world – what we would now call the world of Islam. The Saracen world is a potent force and has more than enough might to challenge the other super-power in Europe – Spain.

In our five-act mystical drama, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow. Rab’ia, wife of the Moroccan Ambassador is brought into this chamber as a personal guest of the Queen, whose goal is to begin with as much of a male-female balance as she can achieve, in an age when powerful women were not abundant – not in the political sense, that is…

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Rab’ia will come to have a unique relationship with the Queen, as she is a powerful foreign dignitary in her own right and truly beyond the monarch’s power – or is she? The Queen of England is a potent force when it comes to defending the interests of her own country…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

Bess of Hardwick

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

A Woman of Power and Substance

Bess of Hardwick montage fullAA

It is the winter of 1584. The well-dressed woman watches as her fourth husband storms out of the dining hall at their present home, Tutbury Castle, in Staffordshire.

In the corner of the room sits a younger woman, now smiling at the angry departure of the man of the house–the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury. The seated woman with the secretive smile has good reason to be pleased at the turn of events. She has been a captive in this house for nearly fifteen years and used that time to create mayhem with sexual politics. Her name is Mary, better known as Mary, Queen of Scots. Her fortunes are diminishing by the month.. But that hasn’t stopped her using human emotions, particularly jealously, to drive a deadly wedge between the Count and Countess, her gaolers.

The lady of the house is already one of England’s richest women, in fact she will shortly be second only in wealth to the Sovereign – Queen Elizabeth I. She already owns the Chatsworth House estate; fabled, even then, for its beauty and gardens. She hates the partial ruin that is Tutbury Castle, but, for that fifteen year period, has done her duty by her husband and her Queen in keeping watch over the exiled Scottish monarch, who is a prisoner in their castle. In this way, and, astutely, at the expense of the Shrewsburys, Queen Elizabeth has kept her biggest problem at arm’s length.

The tall woman staring at the slammed door through which, metaphorically, her beloved husband has passed for the last time, is the Countess of Shrewsbury. She has inherited the goodwill and wealth of three of her previous spouses. She has over ten children from those marriages; some of whom will end up with a future, though distant, ‘claim’ to the throne.

She has led an interesting life, to say the least. On this angry morning, engineered by the jealousy deliberately created by the royal prisoner, Bess of Hardwick, as she is better known, vows that, within the year, she will return to her beloved Chatsworth and pick up the threads of her old life, again…

Earl and Countess Shrewsbury have had to keep moving around the many houses owned by the Earl, as Mary’s life is constantly being manipulated by those who would use her as a figurehead to overturn the fledgling Protestant religion, instigated by Queen Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII.

Born in 1527, Bess was the fourth daughter in a family of four girls and one boy. Their father died when she was young, but he managed to leave a Will which included a small dowry for the four girls.

Young Bess, aged twelve years, entered service for a great Derbyshire family, Sir John and Lady Zouche, (after whom the town of Ashby de la Zouche is named) whose home was Codnor Castle, in Derbyshire. Codnor was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and was at that time the property of William Peveril of Castleton, in the High Peak.

It must have been a wrench when the employing family moved her from her beloved Derbyshire to London, where she married her first husband (also in service), Robert Barlow, nursing him back to health after being ill with chronic distemper. Robert was weakened and died soon after their they were married. Despite being only seventeen, Bess was eventually granted a widow’s pension, which was one third of his income; but she had to fight though the courts to secure this – an example of her determination to better herself and her standing in society.
Above – Arms of the Cavendish Family (Source: Wikipedia: CC Public Domain)
Sir William Cavendish had been married twice before and was the father of two daughters. He courted Bess, who was at this time a beautiful and talented young woman, and married her in 1547. Despite his being more than twice her age, they were very happy and had a further eight children.
Sir William had made his fortune as an official of the Court of Augmentations – responsible for the dissolution of the monasteries and the appropriation of the properties. He was able to select from these some very attractive residences for himself. It is recorded that, even at this early stage, Bess had a talent for managing and trading property, and Sir William was persuaded by her to sell his lands in the south of England and buy the Chatsworth estates in her native Derbyshire…
Bess of Hardwick had come home.
Bess’s husband was less talented in business, He died in 1557, having squandered much of the Cavendish estate. Bess managed to claim the sum of the estate and retained Chatsworth, but was heavily in debt and faced a bleak future. Bess was a shrewd business woman, and set to, increasing her assets with business interests including mines and glass making workshops in her home county.
Above – Arms of the St Loe Family (Source: Wikipedia: CC Public Domain)
In 1559, Bess married Sir William St Loe, who was Captain of the  Guard to Queen Elizabeth I. He was a very wealthy man, with large estates in the West Country.
He died, under suspicious circumstances, in 1564. Bess was not implicated, but there had been bad blood between Sir William and his brother, on whom suspicion fell. Bess was just thirty-seven when she inherited the full estate, paid off her former husband’s debts, and became one of the wealthiest women in England.
Sir William had been close to the Queen, and this had enabled Bess to be presented at Court. Following Sir William’s death, Bess became a Lady of the Bedchamber, with daily access to the Queen, who looked upon her kindly, respecting what she, another ‘feeble’ woman, had made of herself…
Bess had retained her good looks and health and was pursued by a number of important men.

 

Despite being courted by several prominent suitors, Bess did not remarry until 1568, when she was betrothed to George Talbot, Sixth Earl of Shrewbury, and one of the senior figures in Elizabeth’s hierarchy. Bess became Countess of Shrewsbury. It was into this marriage–a happy one in the beginning–that the disruptive presence of Mary Queen of Scots was to intrude, though Bess and Mary were friends for a long time before the marriage eventually crumbled.

 

George Talbot was in poor health and died in 1590. Queen Elizabeth was fond of the couple and had made several attempts to reconcile them, but the ‘Mary’ years had taken their toll. Perhaps Elizabeth felt some guilt over this; but, if she did, it did not prevent her from imprisoning Bess in the Tower on two occasions when the Queen felt this other powerful woman was advancing her own cause at the expense of the Crown’s.

At sixty-three, Bess was now Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury and would not marry again. She devoted the remainder of her life to the welfare of her many children, getting into trouble several times because of their distant claims to the throne.

Bess of Hardwick died on 13 February 1608, aged 81. She outlived Queen Elizabeth by five years. She is buried in Derby Cathedral, where there is an elaborate monument to her life and achievements.

(References and heraldic shields)

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

Bess was an unusual figure, being so successful in a man’s world which had intensely patriarchal values.

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow, not even Bess…

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Bess has a very special relationship with the Queen, one in which her grasp of the ‘common touch’ can be used to royal advantage…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Bess of Hardwick, courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

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