Tuesday 30th May. 5.30 PM – The Nave, Ely Cathedral. Scenes today centre around Elizabeth’s discovery that she has been betrayed by one of her own.
Elizabeth closely controlled many aspects of the lives of her ladies-in-waiting. Paramount amongst these was her granting permission (or not) for them to marry. This was not simply because she wanted a good match for them however as organising the marriages of her ladies – particularly ladies with large inheritances – allowed her to reward loyal courtiers. Her attitude towards marriage however was inconsistent. She was often reluctant to allow her ladies to marry at all, fearing that a husband and family might divide the loyalties of one of those closest to her.
Of course sometimes events ran out of her control and ladies who had either fallen pregnant, or simply despaired of waiting for permission, married without her consent. The Queen always found out in the end and when she did that fiery temper she had inherited from her father Henry VIII flared. The results could vary from a box round the ears (as happened to Mary Shelton) to imprisonment for one or both of the unhappy couple.
For Elizabeth such secret arrangements were a betrayal and the worst sort at that – one by those closest to her. In our scene it is Bess Throckmorton who feels the force of her tempestuous anger. Not only has she become pregnant and wed behind the Queen’s back but the man she has married is none other than Sir Walter Raleigh. As the waspish Sir Edward Stafford wrote as the storm broke “if you have anything to do with Sir Walter Raleigh or…Mistress Throckmorton, at the Tower tomorrow you may speak with them…”. He was not wrong.