The Hatfield House (page 2)

 How our royal continental visitor almost start a war.

Loius TarzanstaircaseHere is a little French Tarzan wanna be. He was the Prince and soon to be King of France Louis XIII, the Just.

I looked up once and he had the reins and a whip (from  a carriage) hanging from high beams above the stairs (left). The beams were at staggered heights starting at the top where the first one was about three floors up.

He was going to swing from one 'rope' to another and then another, etc on down to the floor like he had seen acrobats do.

There was no way he could ever make it from even the first to the second one and he would have been 30 feet over the floor when he failed to change 'ropes'.

The future King of France was about ten seconds from jumping to his death in my home when I screamed to him 'CESSE!'.

He was supposed to be in France but since he was the prince he got to do what he wanted. He liked to visit his auntie in England so his father would occasionally secretly sent him to Hatfield. France would have had to have accused us of kidnapping and killing him. Then they would have declared war. They might have said the Danish did it and start a war with them instead.

His three protectors had been off gambling with my kitchen staff.  There were a few changes made after this incident.

Maria Henrietta It's not every day that you look up in your home to see the future King of France about to plunge to his death. It's still quite overwhelming.

Also, his sister, Henrietta Maria of France (right) literally spent several years at Hatfield House while she was a child. Just about everyone who has ruled England (the U.K.) since then was one of her descendants right on down to the present queen.

She wore a crown with more ease than just about anyone I ever knew. She was also at just as much ease without it. (She was a very responsible person.)

secret passageThere was a secret passage behind this fireplace. From there conversations around the fireplace could be listened in on and lips could be read. Once members of a suspect group were invited to our house and we overheard them plotting to kidnap King James. The kidnapping was thwarted.

I recall that we only used these on the average of about once a year and they just gathered spider webs usually. Normally it was a betrayal of trust to use them unless it involved treason. We designed Hatfield House not too long after the Gunpowder Plot. There we had been desperate to build similar listening posts into a pre existing house so that we could gather evidence. We did not know whether or not we would need another house like that one 
so we included the hidden passages. You can read a bit about the house we set up with hidden recesses for scribes to hide in and take notes from during the gunpowder plot here.

(Also a ceiling in one of the rooms had listening holes. It was near what is now the winter dining room.)

I read Robert Cecil's bio and a few things are in error. One attempts to establish Robert's corruption based on the fact that he could not have afforded to build Hatfield house. He had lots of money. It was old money and it was his and mine. His was inherited from his father on up to his great grandfather who was made the Lord Treasurer of England 150 years earlier. He was made Lord Treasurer simply because he had made so much money that it was felt he did not need any more. Since he had shown impeccable honesty in obtaining his fortune and it was known that he could handle large amounts of money without being corrupted England gave him the job. That is all there was too it. By the time the money got down to us Robert was one of the richest men in England. That's where some of the money came from.  

Also, I was one of the most wealthy self made women in England. As a chamber lady to the queen I had ample opportunities to make money through investments.

Also, the trade of Theobalds to King James for Hatfield was an uneven trade which also involved the king paying us for the difference in it's value. That reminds me, they never paid it all off. I think the Stuart family or else the crown still owes us 15,000 crowns, of which 12,800 was mine and the rest the Cecils. Compounded at 4% annual that a pretty healthy sum that would buy most of England.

I saw King James as my protector but different than most protectors. As long as he was king they could not make me queen. I was right up there in line for the throne but it was a poorly kept secret. There was my brother and I think only one other Stuart (other than James) that were ahead of me. After my brother was murdered I may have been the next one in line. If James really messed up like with personal finances then some of Parliament would have used the Magna Carta's provisions for distraint to get rid of him. Essentially I think that is where they foreclose on everything the King owns and that forces him to abdicate. Once that starts everyone flees the king and soon it is the end. They would have jumped right over that Stuart and put me in that hot seat. I considered our loan a good investment that would have the side benefit of making certain that the leaders of England would leave me and my family alone.

Theobald was a huge house in tip top shape and on prime real estate. Hatfield was an old hunting lodge/castle. Half of it was so run down and in ruins that it had to be torn down before it fell on top of us. We did not have holes in the walls that mice got in, we had holes that entire packs of dogs got in! It took two weeks to find just those holes. There were three of them. We would close one up and think it was sealed then four days later hear one of the children screaming and find him backed into the corner with a wild dog growling at him with hungry eyes. Then two days later a dog bit my daughter in her room so we looked for and found another hole. The elderly caretaker and his wife were 'ruining' it all when we first got to Hatfield and he laughed about the dogs getting in. He and his wife resented us for intruding on his life of decay.

On the other hand Theobald had a staff of five that were the best there were and they stayed with the estate. Then there was the trip into London which took twice as long in a carriage than from Theobald but if the weather turned bad the road became so impassable that you had to stay where you were for up to a week. Theobald had a main highway to London pretty close to the gate. That main highway is now the A1 and was the major Roman Highway north from London. Theobald was worth at least three times as much as Hatfield and that is where the rest of the money came from (though the debt has not all been paid off).

Hatfield House didn't cost very much to build. We took a wall down in that huge old building whenever we needed more bricks and we had the best timber in the world in our own back yard. That was almost all of the materials that were needed and for almost everything else we traded bricks. Bricks were as good as coinage and I do recall that I used them to barter for eggs at the rate of 1 brick for 2 eggs. A hare went for 4 bricks and chickens for 12. Robert had this deal going to let men live on the land in exchange for working on the house so the labor did not cost us anything at all.  They had to work 40 days a year but only after their own needs were taken care of such as harvesting the crops they planted for personal consumption, which they kept. That works out to be about 10% of a years work to pay for the rent of a home and a field. That is a lot less than you have to work just to pay your rent or mortgage I'll bet. Oh, and his wife (or else a daughter/niece/cousin/etc) had to be available to assist at 4 functions a year but we couldn't keep them away. The 4 functions were fun and they got to meet a lot of nice people including eligible bachelors. It was like working at Disney World.

We did bring in from London a team of professional brick masons to do the brickwork. They would stay for a week and go home to their families with...and you probably guessed it, bricks which we paid them with. London was in a building boom and it needed all the bricks they could get and these masons knew where to sell them. I think about 80 bricks was the same as a weeks wages so we paid the men with about 120 bricks.

We had lots of bricks from that old palace and I think I noticed in a photograph of the 'ruins' of the old palace that there were still a lot of them around loose. I'll try to find it. I still take a mental note of how many there were like I used to (and like you would of the money you have in your pockets).  

We weren't wealthy because of greed but due to conservative fiscal policies that never left anyone short-changed. It was the Cecil way which stayed continuous throughout his family's history. Because of our fairness half of those in power in England and many in Europe (those who were not freebooters, thieves or con artists) wanted to invest with us.
We just had more good opportunities to invest than most people do. We took on as many good investments as we could do justice. That gave us even more opportunities and most important, better opportunities.

Hey, we were not building contractors, we had lives. Robert was the Secretary of State and we didn't need the headaches of having to build our own house! Besides that we were the worlds most unlikely pair of house builders. 
Robert wanted to learn to do some carpentry when he was a child but they took a saw right out of his hands because they thought he would cut himself and die or something. He was sickly but I don't know how that meant he would die from sawing wood. It was that his parents were always worried about his health so they quickly became overly protective about everything.

either one of us had ever built any thing in our life. However, everything we did, we did right and nobody can argue about how the Hatfield House turned out,

And as far as
having such a debt when my husband died that 'a large portion of his estate had to be sold in order to recover this' that is bull. There was simply too much land for an aging widow to handle and trade was opening up to Asia. Beside importing jewels to sell to European Royalty I also built textile factories in India that hired mainly untouchable women at great wages. These women were literally dying of starvation by the millions. They could not believe their luck. The other castes would put them to work and just give them food while they worked and that was all. They felt no responsibility towards them so they were less than slaves. Nobody cared if they starved to death but a slave owner would at least care because if a slave died he lost money.

We then did an unheard of thing, we opened what is now called a day care center for their children.
Those factories all made for far better investments than land which was laying fallow while it was waiting for me to be buried in it. However, that particular money was invested for my son and I never took a penny of it. All of it went to my young son. I think after about 4 years I bought back that 'large portion of his estate' with profits from the orient.

I'll tell you this, I was very wealthy when I married Robert.  I think I was about the twentieth richest woman (and the third richest self made woman) in England but I only had about 1/2 the amount Robert did.

A queens chambermaid got the best business tips of anyone earth other than the queen and I was one of those for over 20 years. Not at first though. I thought it might be a conflict of interest and I was going broke just trying to keep up with her changing clothing styles. I was even making my own dresses and I was still going broke.

After 4 years she took me aside and told me how she could make more money if she was in my position than as the queen. As the queen she could only invest in 1 out of 3 offers she got because the other two were conflicts of interest for her (but would not be for me). She not only had to stay above board but she had to be certain of everyone involved. Not a single one of the investments she made could 'ever stink' even a little or else war might be the outcome whereas I could stand quite a bit of stink and nobody would care. There were lots of possible issues like hidden Catholic involvement since many people in England were secretly Catholic, etc. They could just expose themselves as being Catholic and she would lose support in Parliament. Or her enemies would expose those same Catholics and she would lose support. Or the Catholic Church would expose them even when it meant the person death (and the Catholic church did expose their own dozens of times for the 'greater glory to God') just to undo her support in Parliament. 

Even a voyage she had invested in where a cannon got fired accidentally near the wrong ship could thrust England into a war.*

There were lots of issues that prevented her from investing in the majority of enterprises. The enterprises were completely legal and most just needed money that she could not provide (openly). She hated to see men walk away, for example, because their uncle was a Catholic in France so the queen asked me if I could take up the slack and invest in them for both the future security of the country as well as my own future. So from then on I obeyed my queen's suggestion as much as I could. 

I got rich really quickly after that by investments that averaged returns of 10 fold in 1 to 2 years. That was typical. Queen Elizabeth made 47,000 crowns from a 1,000 crown investment in Francis Drakes around the world expedition.

The Queen was astounded by the tremendous quantity of silver, gold and jewels Drake had taken from the Spanish. Because she had personally invested 1,000 crowns in the venture, she received 47,000 crowns in return. This was enough money to pay off England’s foreign debt as well cover future expenses of the country for several years. Here

Most investments involved trade in far away lands. The captains would come to get a charter or a license from the queen and I'd be right there watching and listening to why their expedition was such a great deal, the whole time my long purse, a kind of money belt, was under my dress. It was filled with up to 10 pounds of coins and I mean 4.4 kilograms of gold disc's. Sometimes, like when Sir Frances Drake had an appointment it was so heavy that it made me waddle. Every two weeks on the average I'd hear of a great deal while standing next to the queen and then meet the man or men in the hall outside the court afterwards. In two minutes of negotiation I would make another investment and that went on for about 18 years.
Most of my money I made from these investments I actually gave away. Literally over half of what I made. Strangely I kept to a policy of never telling anyone about my charity/welfare contributions and I still have a problem with saying anything about them. (Maybe I have said enough already.)

The most beneficial of my charities were interrelated. It involved orphanages and training nurses. Medicine seem to have fallen into a big crack without the Catholic Church.
They had operated nearly all the hospitals. The decrease in nuns, I guess, caused a huge lack of nurses. Those nurse/nuns that had come from the Catholic Church were so superstitious that they would not treat Jews and even dark Welsh men. They often thought that only curses caused the plague and that about every third unmarried mother had immaculately conceived because that is what the women had told the nurses. That was fair since the nurses were forbidden by the church rules to tell the young women how babies came about.

For example the training of nurses was well in need of reform so I paid for the non religious training of close to 4,000 nurses in one period of about 6 years. Nobody ever knew who had paid that bill.

There were a lot of great hearted women without money that came to Queen Elizabeth to ask her to pay for an orphanage. The plague caused the inadvertent starvation death of many thousands of innocent orphaned children when their parents died. I built about seven orphanages for these women who could then support it themselves.

Lots of royalty from other countries stayed at Hatfield whether they visited England secretly or not. Secret visits from the royalty of other countries happened a lot more often than people know. Possibly as many as 100 a year. They considered it the safest place in Europe because my husband Robert Cecil and I had been in charge of England's spy network.

Hatfield was built for fun. It's just too bad nobody else realizes that it is a big toy. I thought that was obvious.

What you don't know is that lots of pirates were really ships of the line of other countries that had taken down their flag temporarily!

This happened once and if it wasn't for Queen Elizabeth being such a skilled tactician we would have gone to war.

An English merchant ship had stopped to get fresh water and shoot game at some isolated and unoccupied coastline and another country's ship thought it would be an easy victim. They thought the crew were all ashore which was typical. So they were sneaking up on the English ship (with their national flag down) to board it but most of the English were back on the ship to eat a hot meal. The English ship had only 3 small pivot cannons to 15 cannons on the other ship so they were completely out gunned. The captain was asleep on shore so the English first mate waited and fired the three small cannons at very close range (20 feet away) for effect with heavy loads of grape shot which caused incredible damage. It killed a half dozen men including the captain and first mate who were all standing on the rails with swords drawn and ready jump on the English ship.

That ship had been doing this for quite awhile because the dead captain was playing pirate and thought he could get away with it since either his or his first mates uncle was the king of a small country. (There were over a dozen little governments around the edge of Italy like Monaco and they were all tied in to the big Catholic nations by treaties. You had to be very careful how you dealt with these small countries or you could end up facing 50,000 Spanish troops and 15,000 large cannons on about 250 ships.)

That pirate ship got out of there very fast. The English ship never even knew who they were and wanted to know. Dozens of ships had disappeared in that region in the previous 5 years. It was now clear that they had been hit by these same pirates while loading up water and not lost at sea or destroyed by savages farther on which is what everyone was thinking happened.

They opened up a can of worms when the captain of the other ship lied to the dead man's uncle, the king, about what had really happen and the king complained to Queen Elizabeth. It exposed who they were but it put England in a real bind since the other ship was a ship of the line, owned by that country's navy and royalty had been killed. They claimed their flag was raised and they were just passing by. If the Queen had paid for over half the trip then it meant she controlled as well as owned the ship and that meant war. If she owned the shipment and not the ship I think that meant war too. Some countries considered even a 1% investment by royalty automatic war. Also, if she did not hang the crew or hand them over, neither of which she was prepared to do, it meant support of the murder of European royalty and that meant war for sure. (You are probably beginning to see why Queen Elizabeth could not invest in lots of expeditions.)

When the other country's king claimed their flag was raised she blew her top for about 15 minutes. Then she calmed down completely when she recognized that she had a way out. The smile on her face told me she 'had him checkmated'.

She had me write back
that our officer in charge of the guns had gone half blind (because of bad whiskey) and had accidentally fired on the wrong ship after the captain ordered him to fire on a pirate ship. As she later explained to me the next message that she got from the other country was that there had been another ship that witnessed our ship do the attacking. The king would then have another mini nation then claim that they had a ship conveniently nearby and had witnessed the whole thing. Queen Elizabeth knew beforehand that this is what the king would claim.

Maybe you have figured it out already. The other country could not say there was another ship without looking like the other ship was a party to the piracy that had unfolded or had been the pirate ship. The queen knew which nation the king would use as a witness and they hated pirates worse than anything. They would not put up with being pre-labeled as pirates themselves. They would not get involved in the other countries piracy and if an attempt was made they would look into it after they got called pirates and find out who the real pirates were even if they had to capture that ship while coming into port and torture the crew.

She had them. They had to accept an apology and her word that the blind man was serving a 10 years prison sentence for his misdeed.

She wanted to knight the English ships first mate since he held his fire until right at the perfect time but her ministers advised against it. She was emphatic as many women are when a man does the absolute perfect thing. So we changed his name and then she knighted him.

That is 'check' of 'check mate'. What about the 'mate' part?

Everyone sent letters (actually 15 countries did and I had to deal with those letters) and roughly they all wanted to know the following: Did only one cannon or were all 3 cannons fired at the wrong ship or if perhaps our ship managed to shot at the pirate ship and if they had, did they kill the captain and first mate and also did we know who the pirates were.

I think William Cecil, Robert's father and the queens primary advisor, took things in hand since I did not know what to do and how to answer all those letters without starting a war. He went only to the Dutch Ambassador and he made a special trip to show him how important the information was that he had. William knew that the information would be passed on to everyone perfectly and word for word as if it had been written down. That was the Dutch way. Then William told the Ambassador a bold face lie when he said that absolutely nothing had happened and that everyone was mistaken and that he wished people would stop gossiping since it took too much of his time. Then his coachman stayed behind when he left and stood outside the door, though it was wide open. His coachman told the Dutch Ambassador exactly what had really happened but as gossip (off the record). The gossip that came from the person left behind by the English diplomat or came in behind him was always perfect and word for word as if it had been written down (because he was reading it). T
hat was the English way.

The strangest thing happened. The last ship that disappeared was the sister ship of the one which the English merchant had fired on. The king had swapped the two crews. He had taken the men and captain off the one ship and put them on the sister ship just to make sure they did not get preyed upon. If the ship that was fired on got boarded the 'new' crew and captain, which were from the sister ship, would claim the old captain and crew were gone and they knew nothing about it. They knew they would be let go. (But 4 nations including England and France, who had lost 3 ships had spies on the docks who saw the crews change ships.) That is why the sister ship disappeared.

Incidents involving other countries ship lowering their flags and becoming temporary pirates happened dozens of times when I was around (1570's-1628) and each time it was pretty similar.

Queen Elizabeth had the most incredible mind and it was so blinding fast with diplomacy that it awed me every time she opened her mouth.

I think the island this happened at was
Mauritius Island which was the Dodo Bird island. Writing about that durn bird on this page must have reminded me of this story and is what got me sidetracked on this long tangent. I hope you didn't mind the detour? 

What you have read about on these pages concerning Hatfield House may seem stupendous and remarkable but I'll tell you the truth, I think it may be less than 5% of the secrets that old house holds.


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