Hatfield House

Hatfield House, located to the east of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, was built in 1611 and is the family seat of Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 7th Marquess of Salisbury.

The Royal Palace of Hatfield that was the childhood home and favorite palace of Queen Elizabeth I no longer exists. Built in 1497 by Henry VIII's minister John Cardinal Morton, it comprised four wings in a square surrounding a central courtyard.

Elizabeth's successor James I did not like the palace much and so traded it to Elizabeth's chief minister (and his own) Robert Cecil, First Earl of Salisbury, in exchange for Theobalds which was the Cecils' family home. Cecil liked to build and so tore down three wings of the Royal Palace (the back and sides of the square) in 1608 and used the brick to build the present structure.

Hatfield House is a popular tourist attraction because it has so many objects associated with Queen Elizabeth including some gloves and a pair of silk stockings that are believed to have been the first ones in England.

Excerpt From visitor's pamphlet

Hatfield House was built by Robert Cecil, First Earl of Sailsbury and Chief Minister to King James I in 1611. This celebrated Jacobean house, which stands in its own Great Park, has been in the Cecil family ever since, and is the home of the Marquess of Salisbury. The State Rooms are rich in world-famous paintings, exquisite furniture, fine tapestries and historic armour. Superb examples of Jacobean craftsmanship can be seen throughout Hatfield House, such as the Grand Staircase, with its wealth of lively detail carved in wood, and the rare stained glass window in the private chapel.

In the extensive and beautiful gardens is the surviving wing of the Royal Palace of Hatfield (circa 1485). It is here that Queen Elizabeth I spent her childhood. In November 1558, following the death of her sister Mary Tudor, she held her first Council of State in the Great Hall, where marriages now take place and evening banquets are serve throughout the year.

Displayed in the House are many historic mementos collected over the centuries by the Cecils, one of England's foremost political families. The Third Marquess of Salisbury was three times Prime Minister during the closing years of Queen Victoria's reign, when the British Empire was at the height of its power and influence. To see the State Rooms, join a midweek guided tour or look around in your own time at weekends. On Friday, the Garden Connoisseur's Day, the House is open for guided tours and for pre-booked specialist groups. Visitors to the Park can enjoy the national collection of model soldiers, 5 miles of marked park trails, a picnic site, a children's play area, a gift shop and a licensed restaurant and tea room. There is also a full and varied events programme throughout the year.

The Gardens at Hatfield House date from the early 17th Century when Robert Cecil employed John Tradescant the elder to plant and lay them out around his new home. Tradescant was sent to Europe where he found and brought back trees, bulbs, plants and fruit trees, which had never previously been grown in England. These beautifully designed gardens included orchards, elaborate fountains, scented plants, water parterres, terraces, herb gardens and a foot maze. Following the fashion for landscape gardening and some neglect in the 18th Century, restoration of these gardens started in earnest in Victorian times. Over the last thirty years, the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury continued to recreate the grounds in a style that reflects their Jacobean origins. Today, the gardens to the west of the house, which include the Herb, Knot and Wilderness areas, can be seen when the house is open. However, all 42 acres (170,000 m²), including the Kitchen Garden and the formal parterres to the east of the house leading down to the lake, are open specially for connoisseurs on Fridays.


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