BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week “Elizabeth’s Women”

Posted By claire on September 19, 2009

Title: BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week “Elizabeth’s Women”
Location: BBC Radio 4
Link out: BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week Website – You can listen live on the site or catch up with recordings.
Description: Emma Fielding reads from Tracy Borman’s biography of Elizabeth I, which explores the relationships she had with the women in her life
Start Date: 2009-09-21
Start Time: 9:45am UK Time (GMT), each episode repeated at 00.30 GMT
End Date: 2009-09-25

Programme Synopses

Monday 21st September: The influence of the life and death of Anne Boleyn on Elizabeth’s future.

Tuesday 22nd September: Elizabeth’s stepmother Katherine Parr sets an inspiring example.

Wednesday 23rd September: The public world of Elizabeth’s court and the greater intimacy of her private apartments.

Thursday 24th September: Elizabeth is compelled to confront that ‘bosom serpent’, Mary Queen of Scots..

Friday 25th September: In the final years of her reign, Elizabeth begins to lose her grip on matters at court.

You can listen online at the BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week Website – click top right “Listen Live – BBC iPlayer” or you can listen to recordings of each episode as they are published.


3 Responses to “BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week “Elizabeth’s Women””

  1. rochie says:

    Thank goodness somebody has remarked on Elizabeth’s eyes as black, which every portrait clearly shows. I have heard quite respectable historians and art critics state that she had brown or hazel eyes. That’s nonsense. Black say’s Ms Borman, and she is right.
    What I am a bit puzzled over, though, is this thing about blocking up the keyholes to shut out the light! Is she implying that light was not allowed in the chamber and that the queen and her ladies had to scurry about like moles for all those weeks? Blocking up a keyhole for light implies that no light, not even a chink was allowed. So light within the room would not be allowed either, on this premise. There seems to be a slight crisis of logic here.

  2. Rob says:

    Interesting. Blocking the keyholes could have been for any one of the following reasons:

    Firstly diseases such as the plague were thought to be caused by a miasma of poisonous gas, associated with foul air or water – so it was perhaps thought prudent to block out external air at certain times – i.e. In hot weather such as might have existed during late august or early September at Greenwich.

    Secondly, ghosts and malevolent spirits of all kinds were thought to be able to enter rooms via the tiniest gaps – through cracks and keyholes. These would thererfore be sealed so that the delicate young soul, un-christened and vulnerable, would be protected from demonic possession. Fennel-seed was sometimes made into a paste for precisely this purpose – to block up cracks and keyholes to prevent such spirits entering – fennel being a herb that was considered suitable for warding off evil.

    Finally, prying eyes would not be welcomed at such a time (or any time). Complete privacy was required at such an important time, yes, but also secrecy – as the all-important, vital time of birth would have been noted and kept confidential in order to protect the future monarch from damaging speculation or propaganda based on his/her astrological data.

  3. Claire says:

    Hi Rochie and Robert,

    I agree with you, Rochie, it’s good to hear Tracy Borman mention Elizabeth’s dark eyes, although I think David Starkey also descirbes them as coal-black. In the “princess” portrait, she definitely has very dark eyes, so like her mother’s in the Hever Castle portrait – the one with Anne holding a rose.

    Yes, the blocking of the keyholes is rather strange. I can’t see it being because of light and I like Robert’s reasons better – I can just imagine servants etc. trying to peep through the keyhole! And yes, the other reasons all make better sense than blocking out light.

    Thanks for the comments!

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