A Visit to Dr Dee

Monday 12th June. 3.30 PM – ‘B’ Stage, Shepperton Studios. For this scene B Stage has become the study in Mortlake of one of the most fascinating and tragic characters of the Elizabethan era – Dr. John Dee.


Dee stood on the tipping point between the mediaeval and modern worlds. Part alchemist and astrologer, part mathematician and geographer, he was one of the brightest intellectual lights of his time. He first met Elizabeth when she was still under house arrest during the reign of her sister Mary and there a friendship began that would last a lifetime. It was Dee who translated the recently rediscovered works of Euclid into English, Dee who produced the navigational text ‘The Perfect Arte of Navigation’ which helped carry England’s nascent navy around the world and Dee who first proposed the calendar reforms that the country desperately needed.
But it was his interest in what many saw as the ‘darker’ arts that interested Elizabeth personally. His fascination with spirits began in 1581. He later wrote of how, as he knelt in prayer late in the autumn of that year, ‘there suddenly glowed a dazzling light, in the midst of which, in all his glory, stood the great angel, Uriel’. The spirit reported handed Dee a crystal ‘most bright, most clear and glorious, of the bigness of an egg’ and informed him that by gazing at it he could communicate with the world of the spirits. Dee’s apparent ability to speak with angels intrigued the Queen, indeed she consulted him over a propitious date for her coronation among other things, and granted him a license to keep banned books.
But this was also the side of Dee that would lead to his downfall. Amongst many he was considered a magician and when the church began preaching against black magic he was forced out of the country. Back in Mortlake a mob attacked his house burning much of his famous library and stealing his scientific instruments. Elizabeth was forced to distance herself from this suspected necromancer and Dee’s days of greatness were over.
Justin

9 Responses to “A Visit to Dr Dee”

  1. Sir Walter Raleigh says:

    Hey Justin.
    I remember bits of a story about Dee and his wife, maybe you know it. A man Dee was associated with also had magic powers and he told Dee that if he were to sleep with his wife their two talents for the dark art would combine into on person of great power. I feel that he just wanted Dee’s wife.
    WR

  2. Yes – this was Dee’s long-time friend and associate Edward Kelley who told Dee that angels had ordered them to share everything they had – including their wives!

  3. Sir Walter Really says:

    Since Dee could speak to Angels why bother telling Edward, when Dee’s around to listen.
    He wanted Dee’s wife, is their much known on her, Justin?
    WR

  4. Justin says:

    Dee was married three times,Jane being the last. Dee’s second wife died in March 1576, just a year after their marriage and he married Jane Fromands in February 1578. Together they had eight children.He had no surviving children from his first two marriages.
    Their eldest son was Arthur Dee, a noted physician and alchemist. He became physician to Michael I of Russia and lived in Moscow for fourteen years but returned to England on the death of his wife in 1637, becomming physician to King Charles I. He died in October of 1651.
    Jane died of plague in 1605 – three years before Dee.

  5. Sir Walter Ralegh says:

    Hey Justin,
    Thanks, she must of been a healthy woman to produced 8 children, what would another child matter, coming from the seed of Edward Kelly.
    WR
    PS I dont know how much you know on Raleigh but I have been looking for an answer to a question, maybe you can help. How did Raleigh’s 3rd born Carew Raleigh die in 1666, was it the London Fire?
    WR

  6. Justin says:

    I thin Carew was buried on 1 Jan 1668, in the parish church of St. Margaret’s, Westminster.

  7. Sir Walter Ralegh says:

    Hey, Justin
    It is strange the little bit of info on Carew, considering his father.
    WR

  8. Anon says:

    FYI, Walsingham, who had a certain attachment to numbers, designated Dee as “007,” which we can safely feel assured Ian Fleming was well aware.
    Anon

  9. sheol says:

    Dr. John’s son Arthur had seven sons. The seventh was also called John, does anyone know anything about him?

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