Childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I…
Home to the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury, Hatfield Estate has been in the Cecil family – one of England’s foremost political dynasties – for the last 400 years, but its history goes back much further. In 1485, John Morton, Bishop of Ely, built Hatfield Palace and, when the possessions of the Church were disbanded by King Henry VIII in the mid-1500s, Henry used it as a residence for his children, Mary, Elizabeth and Edward. Indeed, Elizabeth – later to become Queen Elizabeth I – spent much of her childhood happily at Hatfield.
During her long reign, Elizabeth was to depend upon 1st Baron Burghley, William Cecil, her chief advisor. William was founder of the Cecil dynasty, which has produced many notable politicians, including two Prime Ministers. Hatfield passed to Robert Cecil, William’s second son, when King James I proposed to exchange it for Robert’s residence, Theobalds House. Robert agreed, and in 1607 he pulled down three sides of Hatfield Palace and built himself the present House.
Today, Hatfield is an exquisite example of Jacobean craftsmanship – from the extravagant oak carving by John Bucke in the marble hall, to the winter dining room, which houses tapestries know as the ‘Four Seasons’ by Robert Sheldon, probably the finest tapestries of the period in existence. The chapel is still in use as a place of worship and features a rare stained glass window depicting scenes from the Old Testament, and the armoury exhibits a valuable jousting set made in Henry VIII’s workshops. Historic mementos associated with Elizabeth I – as well as Robert Cecil’s exquisite rock crystals – are on display throughout the House.
Countless productions have been filmed at Hatfield – both Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey Jr., Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and The King’s Speech. It is particularly fitting that Christopher Nolan’s revival of Gotham’s dark knight (Batman Begins) was filmed here, the House also playing host to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman.