Wednesday 12 December 2012

Queen Elizabeth I's visit to Cambridge

The young Queen Elizabeth came to Cambridge in the summer of 1564 with the intention of spending a few nights in King's College. It was said the whole of Cambridge was full of excitement with the news of the Queen's visit.

Detailed instructions as to how the university was to entertain the young Queen were sent by Sir William Cecil.  All the Scholars had to cry out as the Queen passed them 'Vivat Regina!' which means 'Long live the Queen' and then they were to lower themselves and kneel while an orator was to tell the Queen how happy they were to see her.

Elizabeth I, Darnley Portrait, c1575
Each of the fourteen colleges at that time made its own plans and preparations for the hundreds of courtiers and servants who would be accompanying the Queen, who would all somehow need to be accommodated.

The town was said to be busy itself getting ready for the Queens visit, which included sanding the streets, painting the market cross, laying in stocks of beer, buying sugar loaves to give to the leading courtiers and a silver cup for the Queen, to be filled with coins called angels.

On Saturday August 5th the royal procession made its way from Haslingfield to Grantchester. The Mayor met the Queen near the hamlet of Newnham and it is said that at Newnham mill she changed horses.

There are notes to say that trumpeters sounded fanfares and crowds of people all cheered as the Queen rode into Cambridge.

It is also said church bells began to sound as she entered Cambridge, but the churchwardens of Great St. Mary's received a fine for not ringing as the Queen entered the town.

She entered King's College Chapel, which her father Henry VIII had completed, and she is said to have praised it above all others in her realm.

The Queen stayed in the Provest's lodge at King's and had only a few yards to walk the next morning to chapel for Sunday service.

Monday 7th August saw entertainment put on for the Queen in Great St. Mary's, the university church. As she entered, the graduates knelt and cried out 'Vivat Regina!'.

Nothing public was done the next day apart from at 9pm, when an English play called 'Ezechias' by Nicholas Udall was put on by King's college men.

The Queen apparently decided to stay a day longer in Cambridge, so pleased was she with things.

On Wednesday 9th August the Queen took her progress about the colleges, riding in state royal, where all the lords and gentlemen were riding before her and all the ladies followed on horseback.

The Queen is said to have ridden into each college, beginning with Clare, where she was to receive a oration in Latin. In Trinity, the newest college, she was able to see how the work was progressing on the new chapel. At St John's college she rode right into the hall.  She left out Jesus College because it stood too far out of the way.

The Queen the rode on to Christ's College for an oration in Greek and she was given a pair of gloves in memory of her great grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. She then went via Market Hill to Corpus Christi College, where she was to receive another pair of gloves, then on to Pembrooke for a Latin oration, the same at Peterhouse, where it was spoken by one of the youngest undergraduates, Anthony Mildmay.

The Queen then rode back to King's.

Later at Great St. Mary's there was a disputation in divinity and in law. The Queen was then going to receive a surprise as the lords knelt down and asked her to speak something to the university in Latin. It is said at first she refused, saying that she might speak her mind in English, but she was then informed that English could not be used in addressing the University. It was then the Bishop of Ely knelt and said that the three words of her mouth were enough. The Queen is then said to have delivered some four hundred words in Latin!

The next morning, August 10th, many of the courtiers received honorary degrees; at 9am there was a final Latin oration by Thomas Preston; then with her courtiers about her, she rode past Magdalene College towards Long Stanton to dine with the Bishop of Ely.

As the Queen rode out of Cambridge, never to come again, the cries of students rang out 'Vivat! Vivat! Vivat regina Elizabetha!'

She went on to stay at Hinchingbrooke House, near Huntingdon.