Week One: The Elizabethan Court

Professor Tracy Borman: Elizabeth I is my all-time historical heroine and where my love of history began. Despite being viewed as a "weak and feeble woman", she ruled for longer, and more successfully, than any of the other Tudor monarchs. Her reign has been hailed as a ‘Golden Age’, during which England vanquished the Spanish Armada and became a player on the world stage, while the ‘Virgin Queen’ presided over one of the most dazzling courts in Christendom. This week we explore Elizabeth's royal court – from her favourites to her food.

Week Two – Elizabethan Daily Life

Professor Tracy Borman: We might know a lot about the major events and personalities of Elizabeth I’s reign, but what was daily life like for the queen and her subjects? I have often wished that I could travel back in time to the 1500s and live like an Elizabethan for a day (if I lasted that long!). Well, this week we have the next best thing to a time machine. We will be exploring every aspect of daily life: from work and pastimes to how people at all levels of society dressed, washed, ate and spoke. As well as my mini-lecture, there is a host of fascinating articles about the Elizabethan world for you to uncover. But be warned, some of this is not for the faint-hearted! In a feature by Dr Ian Mortimer we're invited to experience the smells, tastes, sounds and sights of Elizabeth’s England, including lice-ridden sailors, liquorice mouthwash, deafening bagpipes and, of course, a bloody execution or two. The glamour of the royal court forms a sharp contrast to the violence, vagrancy and crushing hunger experienced by many of Elizabeth’s subjects.

Week Three – Plots and Rebellions

Professor Tracy Borman: Elizabeth I ruled for longer than any of the other Tudor monarchs. But so many times, her reign was almost cut short by the sword of an assassin or the threat of Catholic invasion. It was largely thanks to her spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, and his sophisticated network of informants that the Virgin Queen died peacefully in her bed after reigning for an impressive 44 years. This week, we’ll be exploring the dark and deadly world of Elizabethan plots and rebellions. Elizabeth knew more than most how fragile royal life could be. Her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed when Elizabeth was less than three years old, and Elizabeth herself had been a prisoner during the reign of her half-sister, ‘Bloody’ Mary. When Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558, at least half of her subjects viewed her as an illegitimate heretic and immediately began conspiring to overthrow her. Ironically, in this male-dominated age, all the queen’s most dangerous rivals were women – Mary, Queen of Scots foremost amongst them. The Catholic plots to put her on the throne in Elizabeth’s stead reached fever pitch after the Pope issued a bull of excommunication against the English queen in 1570, and actively encouraged her Catholic subjects to rise up against her.

Week Four – The Succession

Professor Tracy Borman: "In the end, this shall be for me sufficient, that a marble stone shall declare that a queen, having reigned such a time, lived and died a virgin." So Elizabeth declared to the first parliament of her reign, in January 1559. Although she is now celebrated as the Virgin Queen, her words shocked contemporaries. Tudor society considered women vastly inferior to men and their lives were dictated by husbands, fathers and brothers. As a self-confessed ‘weak and feeble woman’, the idea that Elizabeth might rule alone was preposterous. Besides, the new queen needed an heir. The throne had changed hands three times in 11 years and Elizabeth was the last of Henry VIII’s children, so if she died childless it might prompt a succession crisis. The Elizabethan succession is, fittingly, our theme for the final week of this course. In my mini-lecture, I will introduce you to some of the lead contenders for Elizabeth’s throne, including the frontrunner, James VI of Scotland (son of her greatest rival, Mary, Queen of Scots), Arbella Stuart (who had both English and Scottish blood in her veins), and Edward Seymour (grandson of the ill-fated Lady Katherine Grey, Lady Jane’s sister). We will also uncover startling new evidence that throws everything we thought we knew about the succession into doubt.
Click on the image below to download your end-of-course certificate

HEX Academy Certificate _Elizabethans