Elizabeth 1, Nonsuch Palace and Diana Part 2

Elizabeth 1, Nonsuch Palace and Diana Part 2

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Many of you will have watched my presentation on the portrait of Queen Elizabeth which hangs in Hampton Court Palace. I will start with a brief summary to remind you of some of the important points.

The artist was Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger who also painted the Rainbow portrait, both around 1600. The subject is a sad pregnant young woman in a magnificent gown standing under a walnut tree on the edge of a stream and crowning a weeping stag with pansies. On the right of the picture is a sonnet written in the first person, with the theme of wrongdoing and loss of a child. Hidden within the picture are references to William Shakespeare’s poem The phoenix and the turtle (dove).

Although the portrait has had many alterations in the 400 years since it was painted, analysis by my series of digital photographs, has helped reveal some of its features. The portrait is highly allegorical, in essence an illustrated sonnet, with the theme of the myth of Diana the goddess and Actaeon the hunter, who having spied on her bathing, was turned into a stag and rendered mute.

I became convinced that the portrait was of Queen Elizabeth, for a whole series of reasons explained in the presentation. She was depicted as pregnant and was wearing rings around her neck to denote some sort of betrothal. The stag represented someone who had wronged her and to whom she was expressing regret at having ostracised or rendered mute.

I should say that I was delighted by the response to the presentation. It certainly stimulated some discussion, which was the whole point of the exercise. I intend to produce an update shortly.

There is one feature of Nonsuch which I have purposely not referred to until this stage. It is the area which lies to the West of the palace itself

This drawing of the palace was made after the 1959 excavations and shows the land lying to the west of the palace itself.

At this stage Cherry Orchard farm stood close to the palace, but his has now gone. The land next to the palace was called the wilderness and orchard.

Further west was a banqueting house.

In between is an area termed the grove of Diana

Here is the layout of the garden superimposed upon a modern map of the area. Let’s have a look at each area of the garden in turn.

The Wilderness

A description was provided by Anthony Watson sometime after 1582.

“Leaving the privy garden we enter the wilderness, which is in fact neither deserted nor wild. The land is somewhat hilly and plentifully watered and is set out in lofty lines of trees to the south and west. Sandy paths led through a dense wood. Parts of the walks were boarded and partitioned off for ball-games. Some of the trees were trimmed and trained, both for shelter and as topiary, and among the trees were wire-netted aviaries. The central path provided a vista towards a banqueting house.”

The concept of a wilderness in Tudor gardens was borrowed from Classical traditions. It contrasted sharply with the formality of the Privy garden, but was still very much a managed area.

The path through the centre of the wilderness in 2020.

The wilderness at Nonsuch consisted of three paths the central one was sandy and the two outer ones grassy. A variety of fruit trees was planted including plum. apple cherry and pear. The trees were largely deciduous including walnut, oak, ash and Yew. At ground level were planted strawberries, ferns and honeysuckle.

There was a large plain tree, the branches of which had been cut and rested on posts, thus providing a place of shade for visitors to sit.

Watson went on to describe that “ Many people sit down, converse on various topics and listen to the calls of the animals and the songs of birds. They gaze upon the wire fenced enclosures crowded with pheasants and partridges from across the sea. There were also peacocks and guinea fowl.”

Visitors to the wilderness were interrupted by the calls of wild animals.

For as Watson continues..

“The wilderness is from time to time shattered by the terrifying roar of lions or now resounds with the savage grunt of the foaming boar.

Here a bear falls killed by a shot from a gun, there a deer struck by a forester’s spear, breathes its last breath.

Here the mute crocodile armed with sharp claws, pursues those that flee and flees from its pursuers, pouring out tears at the site of a man, but snaps him up if he comes too near.

On the other hand cunning dogs fill the whole place with baying and are urged on through the wilderness in a swift hunt.”

Quite how this menagerie was created was not explained. One assumes much was conducted by actors dressed costumes. There is no doubt that the whole experience must have lasted long in the memory.

The Banqueting House

This stood on a small hill and was three stories high with cellars underneath. The base was brick and the structure of wood. It was quadrangular in shape and at each corner of the whole house a “balcone for prospect”. Effectively this gave each level four bay windows. The lowest floor was a wood panelled hall, and most of the other rooms were also panelled.

The support stanchions which were clad in lead, with a lead roof on top surmounted by a lantern. There were distant views across the palace and park from its balconies. The structure was 100ft across.

Remarkably the base of the banqueting house has survived, although it is now tree covered. Walking around it gives some impression of the scale of the building.

This was an after dinner party house for wine, fruit, music and masques. There was a 40ft. wide promenade around the building for summer entertainment.

Such buildings were quite common in Elizabethan gardens. Not surprisingly the ones constructed of wood have not survived.

Here is a plan of the Nonsuch building, showing the cellar and kitchen in the centre and the brick walls of the base.

The photograph shows the excavation of 1959, with the oven in the far corner. This is part of one of the corners of the brick base

There is no doubt this was a party venue and must have been a wonderful setting on a summer’s evening.

The Grove of Diana

In order to understand the next delight of the garden we need to think about “Groves”, these were one of the ways in which Classical knowledge was translated into an Elizabethan garden setting. These were areas of woodland, wilder than formal gardens, yet still used for pleasure and inhabited by mythological deities, whom they honoured. Trees were arranged to create copses and glades with shaded walks contrived by topiary. Here the landscape abandoned its symmetry – but not its meaning. Groves were also sacred spaces, frequently dedicated to deities and ascribed metaphorical significance. They often included a significant and symbolic tree.

To the north east of the banqueting house was the Grove of Diana, which is thought to have been created by Lord Lumley son in law of Arundel in the 1580’s, as it contained his coat of arms. As Watson describes

“ Diana herself lurks in the shadows near the vale of Gargaphy with its icy spring. Natural water springs out of a rock and into a basin and on this was portrayed with great life-like execution the story of how Diana and her nymphs took their bath naked and sprinkled water on a hunter called Actaeon, (who was spying on them) putting out the flames of love and turning him into a stag. He stands nearby sprinkled with inscriptions by Diana and her nymphs.”

So what does all this mean, who was Diana and where was Gargaphy?

Firstly you need to know more about this man whom we met briefly earlie

Publius Ovidius Naso born 43 BC Italy died Constantia Romania. Better known as Ovid.

He wrote a very long poem extending to15 books. Its title was Metamorphoses, changing physical shape, like a tadpole to a frog. The poem tells the history of the world from Adam to Roman times in a series of some 250 scenes based mainly on mythology. The poem was written in Latin and translated into English in the 1560’s by Arthur Golding the uncle of Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford (AKA William Shakespeare). In fact Golding a very doer individual with Puritan views, was living in the same house as de Vere when he did the work and many believe that it was the teenaged Earl who did the translations, many of which were somewhat salacious.

The Grove at Nonsuch makes reference to Ovid re-telling of the Greek myth of Minerva (aka Diana in Roman folklore) and Actaeon. Diana was goddess of the hunt and the moon, and was associated with wild animals and woodland, as well as being the virgin goddess of childbirth, who swore never to marry. She preferred to dwell on high mountains and in sacred woods and is depicted as a beautiful, youthful huntress, carrying bow and arrows; her attribute is a diadem (small jewelled crown), shaped as a crescent moon.

Here she is ready for the hunt. The painting by Luca Penny is from Fontainebleau.

The figure is based on Diane de Poitiers the mistress of Henry 11 of France. I’m sure an interesting topic of conversation between the king and his wife wherever it was hung in the house.

The grove in Diana and Actaeon is in the mythical vale of Gargaphy which was said to be on Mount Kithairon close to Thebes in Greece.

Here as an extract from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Diana was angry that she been seen naked together with her nymphs by Actaeon a hunter who had been watching them. She defied him to tell what he had seen. Then she sprinkled him with water in revenge, turning him into a dumb stag which is killed by his 50 hunting dogs.

In the original Greek myth individual poets were left to interpret the punishment metered out to Actaeon. The Romans preferred the gory version and this was picked up by Renaissance artists.

This drawing is from Fontainbleau copied from one by Luca Penny, and carried out well before an English version of the tale was available. Note how the water is being thrown over him by the Goddess.

Titian produced his interpretation of the event in around 1560. Complete with Diana who seems to have outgrown her head.

He followed this up with his death of Actaeon in the late 1560’s, this time shot with an arrow by Diana, and still not quite transformed into a stag.

In parallel with painting, Renaissance gardens also featured Diana / Artemis. The fountain below is in the gardens of the Villa D’Este in Tivoli near Rome. She is shown here in her guise of motherhood to humanity with water spouting from a full chest of breasts.

Diana of Ephesus. Gillis den Vliete 1568

She is derived from this first century carving from the temple of Artemis
in Ephesus. In fact the multiple breasts may actually be an incorrect
interpretation of the statue. Research has indicated that it was copied from
an original wooden statue and the prominences were designed to attach
offerings and gifts to the statue.

In another part of the Villa D’Este garden is the Grotto of Diana.

Anyone who has been to Ephesus will recognise the depiction of the library there in the background.

The grotto is a large underground vaulted chamber, decorated in 1570-72 by Paolo Caladrino.

It has a series of caves completely covered with mosaics of mythological scenes, with images of fish, dragons, dolphins, pelicans and other animals, as well as the eagles and apples of the d’Este family.

The central feature of the whole display was a rustic fountain with statue of the goddess Diana, in a large niche decorated with stucco reliefs of landscapes, the sea and a ship.

All of the statues were sold in the 18th century and are now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

This was all about honouring Diana as a Goddess rather than focussing on her encounter with Actaeon. I can find not reference to anything similar to what was constructed at Nonsuch in any other Renaissance garden of the period. Sir Roy Strong art historian, suggests that in the Grove of Diana nature was used as allegory for the first time in Elizabethan England. On an artistic level, this contrasts with the privy garden. In the Grove the visitor entered the setting of a classical story, consciously constructed as a theatrical experience. I will explain shortly why this particular scene may have been created.

There are no images of the display at Nonsuch, but it was described in 1600 Baron Waldenstein:

“We entered the famous (note the use of the word famous) grove of Diana, where nature is imitated with so much skill that you would dare to swear that the original grove of the real Diana herself was hardly more delightful or of greater beauty.

The Grove is approached by a gentle slope leading down from a garden path hidden in the shade of the trees..which leads to the fountain of Diana itself . The spring rises in a secluded glade at the foot of a little cliff. The source was from a number of pipes hidden in the rock, and from them a gentle flow bathed Diana and her two nymphs. Actaeon had approached; he was leaning against a nearby tree to hide himself and gazing lecherously at Diana; she, with a slight gesture of her hand towards him , was slowly changing his head into that of a stag. His 3 hounds in close pursuit. Reports indicate that the figures were painted in flesh colours.”

It would be another 200 years to achieve the level of sophistication of imagery shown below.

The Diana fountain Royal Palace of Caserta Italy 1750 ( Persico, Brunelli, and Solari)

Watson describes the scene after Actaeon/The Stag ran into the woods:

Francois Boucher 1703 1770

“Now the divine virgin enjoys the pleasures of the rock-well in peace, washes her limbs in the icy liquid […] and listens to the wily hounds pursuing with pleasing barks the new stag (ie Actaeon)

through all the wood. Of no matter what art, nature or divinity it may be, who does not admire in this hardest rock, the skilful arrangement of stones, the plentiful variety of blossoms and fruits, but especially how the rush of spraying water now subsides with gentle murmur, now bubbles up on high in full force?”

The Actaeon fountain Royal Palace of Caserta 1750

At Caserta the whole scene of Actaeon’s demise plays out in front of your eyes.

In the middle of the Vale of Gargaphy at Nonsuch was a bower dedicated to Diana, and Watson’s account continues: “Where the most renowned goddess bathes the snowy parts of her virgin body, the way leads through the middle of the vale to a stately bower (usually shady under the trees). This had a winged Eagle on top of its arch, with a Pelican on one pinnacle and a Phoenix on the other.”

The Pelican and Phoenix were both symbols used by Elizabeth, and portraits of her with them were painted in the 1570s by Nicholas Hilliard. The Pelican is a symbol of self-sacrifice with the mother pelican often shown pecking at its own breast to feed its offspring with blood. The Phoenix, connected with virginal purity, represents imperial renewal, implying that the Queen will re-create a new Golden Age.

Pelican Portrait
Phoenix Portrait

Nearby was the equivalent of a bandstand for musicians. The arboretum, in which all this stood, also contained pyramids or fountains, one with birds disgorging streams of water, another with hidden pipes to drench the unwary. There was also a maze and formal fountain to Diana.

The Drawing of the Diana fountain was found in the red velvet book from 1590. It was described as a Caryatid fountain. In other words one where a human figure supports an architectural feature.

It is obviously derived from the statue of Artemis from Ephesus, but for the English viewer the profusion of breasts has been replaced by spouting lion heads.

The curious head piece appears to be based on the Crown Imperial flower surmounted by a royal crown and the crescent moon of Diana.

Wooden steps nearby and post and rail fencing guided the visitor to a woodland palace just past the fountain, in the form of a small vaulted temple.

Watson continues:

“Further on we came to a small vaulted temple, where was a fine marble table where inscribed here thus on the nearest wall.”


On the right was written:

On the left was written:

So what does all this mean?

Well in 1991 Michael Leslie writing on the Gardens of Eloquence gives us an explanation. Nonsuch offers a series of experiences, as the visitor follows his path. At the heart of the garden there is a challenge to the onlooker.

The visitor is asked to read the scene and apply the moral. It seems to me that the moral is pretty clear:

If you are involved in any sort of vice, you will be punished

Reference to Diana and Actaeon was also made at Whitehall Palace, where there was an inscription at the entrance to the park. It was later moved to Nonsuch, where it was probably more suited to the

Grove of Diana. Elizabeth herself was frequently portrayed as the chaste Diana and there is a clear reference to the Queen in the final lines:

The fisherman who has been wounded, learns, though late, to beware;
But the unfortunate Actaeon always presses on.
The chaste virgin naturally pitied:
But the powerful goddess revenged the wrong.
Let Actaeon fall a prey to his dogs, an example to youth,
A disgrace to those that belong to him!
May Diana live in the care of Heaven;
The delight of mortals;
The security of those that belong to her!

What we see here is that there are two clear elements to the Queen’s persona. We can interpret the message thus:

Anyone with any sense learns by their mistakes
Only a fool repeats them.
Although the human side of the queen sympathises
The Goddess side reaps revenge
She is acting for the good of all

The distinction between the “chaste virgin” and the “powerful Goddess” is interesting as it signals that although the Queen may have pitied an Actaeon ( ie anyone who kept crossing her), The Goddess element of her overrode this and punished him. This firmly establishes her ability to control her courtiers, by blaming her alter ego for her actions.

It is likely that the Grove was begun by Arundel (or perhaps Arundel and Lumley together), but took some years to complete. There is evidence of work being carried out in the gardens in other years during Arundel’s ownership of Nonsuch.The sculptures were probably completed by Lumley some time between Arundel’s death in 1580 and 1592. Lumley was an extremely learned man who as we have discovered accumulated a huge library.

There is a hypothesis, that there was a political impetus behind the construction of a sanctuary of a virgin goddess. In short Arundel and Lumley’s discomfiture at their association with the duke of Norfolk’s scheme to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1569-72. Representing Elizabeth as Diana, Arundel and Lumley constructed an allegorical act of contrition, both a tribute to the queen and a warning to any who should attempt to cross her.

In choosing to identify Elizabeth with the virgin-huntress, Arundel and Lumley signified their intention to meddle no more in Elizabethan marital politics. The Queen made a special visit to Nonsuch in October 1574, and again on the progress of 1576, when she would have had opportunities to view any changes Arundel made to the gardens.

The central message of the Grove was thus an apology for involvement with Norfolk. The wounded fisher had learnt his lesson and grown wise after a spell as a political outcast. The passage is a clear warning to would-be plotters, and a declaration of loyalty to Elizabeth, the protectress of the realm.

There is, I think a better explanation.

Given that Elizabeth was a regular visitor and that the Palace and gardens were important social venues. It seems highly likely to me that she had a hand in designing the Grove of Diana for her own purposes. Firstly as a place to enjoy while living the dream of being the mythical Goddess.

Secondly it was a powerful warning. Enjoyed by many as a social event, entry into the world of the Goddess, would have been, among the jollity a stark reminder of their fate if they crossed her.

I suspect that Lumley was an instrument to achieve this end. Although he was hopelessly in debt I suspect that he footed the bill for the developments in the garden as well as the upkeep of the palace, and this was why his name and impresas were allowed to be displayed. Elizabeth was well practiced in exploiting people often to the point of ruination as happened with the Devereux family.

Water water everywhere

There is one more aspect to all of this and that involves water. I said at the start that the site for the palace was partly chosen for the ample supply of water from the Epsom Downs. Well this was not just ordinary water and to understand its significance we need to go back to Henry V111.

The Roman practice of bathing returned to England in the 16th century. It came from the traditional muslim rituals of Istanbul to Venice and spread throughout Europe as part of the Renaissance.

Alongside other cultural revivals, arose a new regard for the use of mineral waters in bathing and healing.

University of Padua 1600

The Italian University of Padua near Venice, set out to recover, translate and study the texts of the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome. By the 16th century it was considered the premier medical school in the civilised world. The fact that Padua possessed nearby numerous celebrated hot natural mineral springs used for bathing was no coincidence. The University attracted scholars from throughout Europe and the Tudor physicians Linacre, Chambre and Edward Wooton all held Padua medical degrees.

The Renaissance movement spread to England about this time, particularly under the enterprising influence of Henry VIII (reigned 1509-1547) who set out to restructure the then art, rather than science, of healing from the former, rather dubious collection of operatives and practices of the time. Henry VIII took a direct interest in advances in medicine and his knowledge was at least equal to that of his advisers. In 1511, two years after Henry come to power, the Medical Act determined that practitioners of physic and surgery should be qualified at university or licensed by a bishop after examination. Shortly afterwards, Thomas Linacre, established what was later to become the Royal College of Physicians.

Thomas Linacre 1460-1524
Royal College of Physicians 1524-1614

Amongst Henry VIII’s doctors was Augustine de Augustinis, born in Venice, he often travelled with the Court throughout Europe and was involved at the highest level in medical practice in particular the treatment of leg ulcers by mineral water bathing. By 1537 Augustine was one of four physicians on Henry VIII’s medical staff.

Evidence that Henry VIII pursued a Renaissance lifestyle, which included bathing, emerged from the excavations of the royal palace in Whitehall in 1939. This included a steam room and substantial tiled sunken bath, which had green tiles and was about three feet deep with steps down at one end. This was later identified as a cold plunge pool. In addition there was a Continental style ceramic tiled stove, based on designs installed in Germany which heated both the water and the bath chamber. The Whitehall bathing facility was in situ during the last decade of Henry’s life and this coincided with the construction of Nonsuch Palace.

Henry V111’s bath unearthed in 1939 at Whitehall.

Although abundant springs around Ewell had been known prior to the 16th century, there is no evidence that they were considered to be anything but clean water. It is interesting to speculate that the siting on Nonsuch palace may not have rested solely on it hunting potential, but also the ability to create fantastic water features to rival the palaces of Europe. The state of the art doctrines of healing and bathing by water re-emerging from Italy at the time, through Augustine and the other Royal doctors, may also have played a part in choosing this site

The issue of water from the local springs had been estimated as 4,500,000 gallons per day although many of these sources have now been lost due to changing water tables and drainage schemes. The springs provided both magnesium sulphate impregnated water (useful as a purgative) and the more prolific chalk aquifer water (pure groundwater filtered through limestone).

The proximity of the Ewell springs to the Nonsuch site makes it likely that the waters were employed for medicinal use either in the palace or at the springs themselves. An aqueduct carried water from the springs to the basins and fountains. As I have discussed these included a grotto, a griffin fountain and landscaped spring, a Diana fountain with gushing breasts in the Privy Garden and an Italian Mannerist pyramid (a fountain rising to a point) which deluged visitors when they stood on a particular stone in the Grove of Diana.

It was known that watercourses ran hidden through the innermost parts of the wilderness and grove, and broke out gently in the neighbouring valley where there was a pond with shoals of trout. This corresponds to the lake which was in the garden of what was later Ewell Castle.

As you can see at one stage it was a Japanese style garden

Here is an image of how it looked. The whole area has now been built over.

Italian architects and craftsmen were employed for the new palace importing modern Renaissance knowledge and technology. Nonsuch was therefore a demonstration of England exercising its supremacy over Rome, adopting the celebration of healing, pleasure and beauty through its utilisation of the mineral waters, landscaping and buildings, yet taking its inspiration directly from Italy. As such it endorsed Monarchy’s personal supremacy over the Italian church by demonstrating comparable opulence.

Hentzner, a German tourist, described Nonsuch in 1598 as:

“a place pitched upon by Pleasure herself, to dwell in along with Health”

Tradition states that Elizabeth used the water facilities in the Grove of Diana for bathing. She even insisted on a daily supply of the water from the Ewell springs.

It is recorded that the monarch’s bathing was carried out at least once a month as part of her healthy regime. Elizabeth’s awareness of the benefits of natural waters for health is further endorsed by her willingness to allow the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots, to attend Buxton in 1573 with further visits in the ensuing years. She also dispatched Sir Christopher Hatton her Chancellor to Spa in Belgium in 1573.

In 1568 an Englishman William Turner who had studied in Italy wrote ‘A Booke of the Natures and Properties as well of the Bathes in Germanye and Italye for all syche persones that can not be healed without the helpe of natural bathes’. It was to become the first textbook available for the establishment of spas. Under the general rules he recommended May and September as the best time for bathing and then outlined ancillary requirements such as purging, diet and exercise. He also detailed the effects of alum mineralised baths, which is particularly relevant to the purging wells in the vicinity of Ewell.

In the first half of her reign Elizabeth’s progresses around England had satisfied Elizabeth’s instinct to explore. Such an exodus from the London palaces enabled her to avoid the plague, particularly prevalent in summer and provided an opportunity to clean the palaces. During the second half of her reign however she spent the summers at Nonsuch. Although there is no direct evidence it seems very likely that she enjoyed bathing in the nearby mineral waters.

Before I pull all this together there is one other interesting finding which may be relevant, and this concerns a play by Ben Jonson entitled Cynthia’s Revels or The fountain of Self Love. The first recorded performance was at Court at Christmas 1600. Like many of the plays at this time the aim was to ridicule some of Jonson’s contemporaries.

Cynthia’s Revels 1616 edition

The play is a comedy and allegorical representing Elizabeth’s Court in which all of the members have to drink from the fountain of self love. Then there are 3 masques and at the end as they reveal their real faces Cynthia finds that bad members have been impersonating good. As this is a comedy, they are punished by a telling off or chased away.

So far so ridiculous, there are however several things of interest here. The play is set, guess where? The vale of Gargaphy. The name Cynthia is synonymous with Diana ie Elizabeth. There are two characters who are in the play by name only Actaeon and Narcissus both of whom we are told died at the fountain of self love. At the start of the play it is reported that Cynthia has arranged the revels in memory of Actaeon’s death. At the end of the play Cynthia says that Acteon, by presuming he was exceedingly fair, has met with a terrible death. Cynthia wants to make his fate a lesson for the self-conceited mortals who dare challenge the divine powers.

As for Narcissus, in mythology he was forced to gaze at his reflection in a clear pool as a punishment for not returning the love of Echo. Narcissus pined away and died. In pity, the gods changed him into a lovely flower, a daffodil, bending its head on the water. In the play Echo laments the death of her lover beside the fountain in the valley of Gargaphy where he died.


Is this all coincidence or was Jonson making some sort of point?

Many commentators conclude that Actaeon represents the Earl of Essex. There is however one inconvenient fact. The play was both written and performed before he died. There were many variations and additions to the play at later dates and the argument goes that the Actaeon sections were added later. I am not so sure, as this does seem to be an integral part of the reason for the whole play. In order to warn the Court not to cross her by being too consumed by self love.

There is another man who was consumed by self love. This is the first section of sonnet 62 by William Shakespeare (Edward de Vere) written during the 1590’s.

Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye
And all my soul, and all my every part;
And for this sin there is no remedy,
It is so grounded inward in my heart.
Methinks no face so gracious is as mine

By the time the play had been written he was ostracised from Court, and his reputation destroyed. The reasons for which have never been entirely clear, however there is increasing evidence that at least in part it was due to a serious scandal.

The brilliant work of Alexander Waugh (which is on YouTube) is gradually uncovering a love triangle between de Vere, his mistress Lady Penelople Rich (the Dark Lady of the Sonnets) and Henry Wriothesley (pronounced Rosely) the 3rd Earl of Southampton (the Youth of the Sonnets). An illegitimate son sired by Wriothesley was being brought up as the 18th Earl of Oxford. Such was the scale of the scandal that the poets and writers of the day were obsessed with it, creating a barrage of allusions to it in their work.

Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton

Wriothesley himself was another man consumed by self-obsession, indeed at the age of 19 he was the dedicatee of a poem by John Clapham entitled Narcissus. This is the same young man who was the subject of the first 17 sonnets, which have the central theme of trying to convince him to break out of his self obsession, and preserve his virtues by fathering a child.

Could these two men be represented by Actaeon and Narcissus in Jonson’s play?

It is true that both were still alive, but this was an allegory based on the Court and as far as this was concerned they were dead to it.


I have described to you a story about a king who built for himself and his son an incomparable palace to celebrate their elevation to godlike status.

One of the reasons for siting the palace was the abundance of spring water, the merits of which the king was well aware.

His daughter became increasingly involved with the development of the palace and its gardens. It became her favourite place, even though it was the smallest of her residences.

The influence of the classics spread from Italy and the influence of the works of the Roman poet Ovid particularly his Metamorphoses was very strong. Its themes were incorporated into the designs of the palace walls and the palace gardens.

Queen Elizabeth chose to associate herself with the goddess Diana. Although primarily associated with hunting, Diana was also revered as the goddess of the woods, children and childbirth, fertility, chastity, the moon, and wild animals. All things to all life if you will.

Cametti 1740

Whether or not the depiction of the story of Actaeon in the gardens led to her adoption of it, or whether she actively designed it is not known. The local springs certainly provided an ideal setting for the depiction.

The palace and gardens allowed Elizabeth to live the life of the Goddess, hunting by day, and occasionally bathing in clear spring waters, isolated from life in London.

I propose there was a dual purpose in being portrayed as part Goddess.

The creation of a dual personality. A warm sociable persona and a harsh and cruel one. Allowing one side of her personality to absolve herself from the difficult choices that had to be made in order to keep control of her courtiers

Reports indicate that the palace was a party house, the site of lavish entertainments for both the Court and dignitaries. It is easy to see how a visit to the Grove of Diana would be a stark warning to everyone that the the Queen, as her alter ego Diana would not hesitate to strike down anyone who crossed her.

Now you might be thinking what all this has got to do with the painting hanging in Hampton Court Palace which was the subject of my first presentation.

Many of you commented that Elizabeth would never have posed for such a picture, others said that the subject was far too young to be her, and she had never been pregnant.

Well, we have to remember that the picture was an allegory. The scene never happened. Elizabeth would not have posed for a portrait around 1600. All of the later portraits were adapted from an earlier pattern developed by the artist Nicholas Hilliard, that of the face of eternal youth. In addition this is a portrait of Elizabeth as Diana, who was usually portrayed as a young huntress. As for a pregnancy, Elizabeth had absolute power and the threat of removal of your tongue or worse was a big incentive for people to be quiet. The machinations of William Cecil the official Elizabethan censor have also to be considered.

Someone commissioned this portrait to make a statement. In my view not a very complimentary one.

What better way to do this than to portray the Queen as Diana in the setting with which she was most familiar, that of Nonsuch gardens.

The theme of regret by the mortal queen for the transgressions of her divine alter ego, follows directly from the themes displayed in the Grove of Diana.

Here we have the Royal tree, and even today there are many walnut trees on the site. Analysis of the image has revealed a rock pool and a stream. One that is running downhill, from the horizon. This can only mean that it was a spring. There is evidence that at some point in the painting’s life, there were flowers around the site, very typical of Nonsuch.

The existence of Ben Jonson’s Play Cynthia’s Revels uses the same Principle as the painting with reference to the death of Actaeon and Narcissus. Who I would argue represent Edward de Vere and Henry Wriothesley.

I believe that my findings concerning the relationship between Elizabeth and Nonsuch palace add further weight to the already strong case for the painting to be of Elizabeth in her guise as Diana, who having just bathed is wearing a robe.

It has been said that Elizabeth had an almost endless supply of fantastic clothes perhaps the one shown here was one of them.

And then what about the identity of the stag? Well I still believe that this is de Vere rather than Essex. Although he may have fathered a child with her in the mid 1570’s their relationship soured over the years. He crossed her so many times with his feckless behaviour, culminating with the scandal over Lady Penelope Rich. Ostracised from Court, financially ruined, silenced from being able to reveal himself as the author of his works, he was a broken man. I still believe that it was he who commissioned the painting to embarrass the Queen, to reveal what the humane side of her personality should have been suffering for what she had done to him.

After all the poem is about loss, of a child which still puts Henry Wriothesley in the frame as the son of Queen Elizabeth and Edward de Vere. I will be taking a closer look at the poem in another presentation.

Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford. 1575

Have I found the Grove of Diana?

Well I thought I had.

I visited Nonsuch on a very hot day in the summer of 2020. I began scrambling around north east of the banqueting house on a fairly steep slope and came across what looked like the entrance to a cavern.

With great excitement I then came across this site which was fenced off and partly covered. Secret excavations I thought. As it turned out I was in the middle of the old abandoned Nonsuch pottery, and the mounds were part of a BMX circuit.

Nonsuch Pottery as was.

Professor Biddle has said that preliminary studies have located structures buried in this area, but these would need to be investigated by a large scale excavation.

Thank you so much for reading this document. Once again I present it in good faith to stimulate discussion and further study.

Please do go and see Nonsuch Park and the magnificent model of the Palace in the Mansion house. It is very easy to imagine yourself in the middle of a huge hunting estate. You need more imagination to envisage the palace and privy garden. Hope fully my presentation will help you.

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