In 1569, like almost every year, Queen Elizabeth went on summer progress. Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, reluctantly accompanied her. The reason was that he was planning his marriage to Mary Queen of Scots (who was in Elizabeth’s custody), and he did not want to attract negative attention through his absence. On 11 August the royal party stopped at the new house of Sir William More, Loseley, which had only been finished the year before. The next morning Norfolk went to see the queen in the room that served as her privy chamber. The scene he found there he described months later when he was in trouble over his plans with the Scottish queen: What he saw was a boy, one of Sir William’s sons seated before the queen, who was “playing upon a lute and singing, Her Majesty sitting upon the threshold of the door, my Lord of Leicester kneeling by Her Highness”.
On seeing the duke, Elizabeth commanded him to come to her. “Not long after my Lord of Leicester rises and came to me, leaving Her Highness hearing the child, and told me that as I was coming, he was dealing with Her Majesty in my behalf; to which I answered, if I had known so much I would not have come up”. Norfolk then inquired how the queen was disposed to him, to which Leicester replied, “indifferent well”, and that Elizabeth had promised to speak with Norfolk at the next stop on her progress, the Earl of Arundel’s house.
This beautiful scene is one of several that show us that Elizabeth was not always surrounded by her ladies, as is usually claimed, but that she did enjoy quiet moments without them. Robert Dudley is usually not far away. The scene piqued the interest of the prolific Victorian painter William Frederick Yeames, who painted it in 1865.
Williams, Neville (1964): Thomas Howard, Fourth Duke of Norfolk. Barrie & Rockliff.