Thursday 8th June. 9 AM – Wells Cathedral, Somerset. Filming on the extraordinary staircase that runs from the north transept to the chapter house. For us this is the main route into the palace and the place where Bess intercepts Raleigh to tell him some dangerous news..
We will probably never know if Bess’ pregnancy precipitated her marriage to Raleigh as the date of the their wedding is unknown but in an age before contraception, pregnancy was often the first sign to the outside world that a secret court liaison was happening.
The purpose of marriage in the Elizabethan mind was children – for the rich it meant the secure succession to family estates and commercial businesses and, for the poor, it provided someone to care for you in old age and succeed to your job.
Not all pregnancies were wanted however and there is circumstantial evidence that herbal medicines were available to bring about a miscarriage. As such medicines were the preserve of wise women who passed their information down through the generations verbally, there is little hard evidence as to how and if these really worked.
So how did a woman know she was pregnant before it became obvious) A favoured method was to place garlic by her bed – if she couldn’t smell it then she was pregnant! If that failed there was nothing to do but wait until the foetus ‘quickened’ and the movement gave the game away.