“…she had wept on remembering that, as a prisoner there [the Tower of London], she had not even been allowed to walk in the garden”.
Elizabeth the 1st had sought refuge in gardens all her life. Knowing this, the two most powerful men in Elizabethan England, Lord Dudley and William Cecil, set out to woo the Queen by building the most fantastic gardens ever seen. Marriage to the Queen would give Dudley the prestige and wealth he craved, while Cecil sought the Queen’s steadfast commitment to his political strategy.
|Queen Elizabeth 1|
Trea Martyn in her book “Elizabeth in the Garden” describes the magnificent gardens and the attendant intrigue, passion, rivalry, libel and deception. Throw in an execution or two and an upstart French suitor and garden making starts to look like a perilous venture.
Lord Dudley is thought to have spent the equivalent of 15 million dollars on improvements to the castle and gardens at Kenilworth. He was all about show. The festivities for Elizabeth’s nineteen day visit in 1575 were designed to excite and entertain.
In contrast, William Cecil understood Elizabeth’s need for refuge and respite. He designed the garden at Theobolds as a safe haven and balm for a weary soul. For all that it was still lavish, covering seven acres with orchards and hunting grounds beyond. He also appealed to her knowledge of plants by scouring the world for the new and unusual.
Trea Martyn gives a comprehensive account of each garden, the history of garden design to that point, the influence of French and Italian landscapes, describes other royal gardens of the period and provides information on the plants. All of which I found fascinating.
Enough biographical information is provided to allow one to ponder the character of the individuals and the nature of their relationships.
More difficult to follow were the political and historical events. They were not kept in chronological order which I found unnecessarily convoluted.
I finished the book wishing I could have walked in those gardens however I wouldn’t have enjoyed the fear of losing my head on a royal whim. Would I like an Elizabethan garden, not on that scale! I wouldn’t mind a knot garden, the shape outlined in lavender, hyssop and thyme, as described in the book.
Both gardens have been lost over time. Recently the one at Kenilworth has been recreated from an eye witness account.
|Aviary, Kenilworth Castle|
William Cecil’s handwritten description of his garden at Theobolds is still in existence at Hatfield House..
|Hatfield Old Palace with Knot Garden. Childhood home of Elizabeth 1|
I enjoyed this book and will refer to it when designing my new garden. If you like a linear flow of information, however, it may become a frustrating read. Purists may take exception to scenes that drift into imaginative re-creation.
Posted for the Garden Book meme hosted by Roses and Other Gardening Joys.