Internet Shakespeare Editions


"Progresses" and popularity

The Entertainment at Elvetham. Reproduced from Shakespeare's England.

Elizabeth well knew that to retain her popularity she had to be seen by her subjects. In the summer she would go on "progresses" through the country, staying at her favourites' estates--and being entertained as she went.

Though it was a great honour to have the Queen visit, it was also a great expense. The illustration illustrates an elaborate entertainment staged by the Earl of Leicester* in 1575 at Elvetham. An artificial lake in the shape of a crescent moon (a compliment to Elizabeth, who was often compared with the classical Diana) was constructed, and a whole series of small dramas written for the Queen's stay, involving nymphs, satyrs, "savages," fireworks, a mock sea-fight, and feasting. Three islands were in the lake: a ship-isle, a fort, and a "snail mount"; there was also a fully decked and manned pinnace. The whole show cost Leicester £6,000.

The Queen also ensured the admiration of her subjects by ensuring that the Court was an showplace of art, drama, and other festivities, including masques and dances, especially during the Christmas season.


  1. The Earl of Leicester

    Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was an energetic Protestant. He was involved in the abortive attempt to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne after the death of Edward VI, and was imprisoned in the Tower.

    When Elizabeth came to the throne, he became her favourite, and, some thought, a possible husband (the death of his wife under mysterious circumstances made this possible, but also made him for a time suspect). He was for many years a Privy Councillor, and even after his marriage to the Countess of Essex, Elizabeth trusted him.

    One of the earliest acting companies to be accorded royal approval was under his patronage.