If you had Queen Elizabeth I standing in front of you and you could ask her anything- and I mean ANYTHING- you wanted, without fear of being sent to The Tower, what would you ask?
Well, audiences at my talks get exactly that opportunity. Er...obviously, not quite, I mean, it's me standing there, not Her Most Royalle and Goode Majestie. But you get the picture.
So what do people ask? About religion, or the sticky question of the succession, or about the many failed plots to assassinate her? Not quite.
Here's a countdown of my top five most frequently asked questions, and the answers I usually give:
5) "How often did she have a bath?" No one really knows for sure. We can assume that as an aristocrat with access to servants, plentiful water supplies and fuel for fires, Her Maj bathed more regularly than the average peasant.
4) "How long did it take her to get dressed?" Um. I can get into my (pretty accurate) costume and make-up in about 20 minutes, with help. Although it takes me considerably longer if I talk about each item as I put them on, as I do during my talks. Elizabeth would have had a team of women, but probably a few more layers, and definitely a lot more pins. I guess it probably took about half an hour.
3) "Did she dress up like her portraits all the time?" No. She wore a simple black velvet gown whilst in her chambers, and a linen shift for bedtime. All the regalia was for show; to maintain her public image, to intimidate and to impress.
2) "Did she sleep with Dudley?" Ahem. That's a secret she took with her to her grave. My opinion? Probably not. Her Divine Right was to be monarch, yet within the patriarchy over which she ruled, man must rule over his wife. So marriage was off the cards. As for extra-marital pleasures, I reckon her teenaged, dress-slashing flirtations with Thomas Seymour probably put her off all that. And the risk of pregnancy, of course...
...which brings me to my Number One Question. With all-female groups I get asked this Every. Single. Time. Sometimes a lady will mutter the question confidentially to me at the end, sometimes it will be pronounced loud and clear for all to hear. The questioner will usually reference the fact I've already said that as far as we know, knickers weren't worn.
So here it is. Don't blush...
1) "As they weren't wearing proper knickers, what did ladies do about...you know...PERIODS?"
A very good question, and one, let's face it, everyone in the room was wanting to ask. Well, I always say, your guess is as good as mine. Ropes and pulleys, I suggest, to encourage a chuckle.
Of course, as with so many things from 500 years ago, we don't know the answer for sure. We DO know that Elizabeth's 'small linens' were checked by her ladies in waiting, and reports made verifying the royal body was functioning as expected, and most importantly, NOT pregnant.
The average female could expect to be married fairly young and then be dutifully pregnant for the next few years, so the monthly 'curse' wouldn't be as regular an occurrence then as now.
And on that delectable note, we reach the end of my Top 5 Queen Elizabeth FAQs. I hope this has been entertaining and informative. I've read a lot of stuff on QE1, but my research never ends. If any readers can enlighten me with any other useful bits of info related to the above topics, I welcome comments below. And there's widgety things below too (!) if you'd like to 'share'.
My website is readily available at www.rachelduffield.co.uk.