Thame Local History
Queen Elizabeth I and Rycote

Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I
Baron Williams of Thame, who lived at Rycote Palace, had been charged by Queen Mary Tudor with conveying her half sister Elizabeth from Hatfield to London and then to Woodstock, where she was to be kept in semi-confinement.

Baron Williams had put on a lavish welcome for Elizabeth at Rycote, as they stopped over on their way to Woodstock.

Such kindness was the hallmark of Baron Williams' treatment of Elizabeth, and she is known to have called him "my favourite uncle".

Baron Williams died shortly after Elizabeth ascended the throne. His daughter Marjorie had married Henry Norreys, whose own father, also called Henry Norreys, had been executed along with Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn.

The elder Henry Norreys, who was Chief Gentleman of the King's Privy Chamber, had been falsely accued of adultery with Anne Boleyn, along with others.

Queen Elizabeth is said to have sympathised with Henry Norreys over the death of his father. She made him her ambassador to France.

She was also seemingly very fond of Marjorie Norreys, whom she affectionately called 'mine own crow'.

Whilst on the throne of England, and now making journeys between London and Oxford, Elizabeth formed a life long association with Henry and Marjorie Norreys at Rycote.

In 1566 Elizabeth visited Rycote Palace in the company of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whom some suspect may have been her lover. At this visit she knighted Henry Norreys.

The Queen is also known to have been at Rycote in 1568, 1570, 1572 and 1592.

During her visit of 1572 she further ennobled Sir Henry Norreys, making him Barron Norreys of Rycote, in return for his services as her ambassador to France.

In a celebrated incident in 1582, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was sent on to Rycote to inform Marjorie Norreys that Elizabeth would not be coming as planned. Marjorie was so upset she made Dudley sleep in the stables.

Robert Dudley wrote a letter to his Queen from Rycote Palace, in 1588, shortly before his death. Elizabeth was to keep this letter beside her bed until she died, having written upon it 'his last letter'.

Eliabeth's visit to Rycote in 1592 was an occasion of some poignancy, as the she received letters from the sons of Henry and Marjorie Norreys, on military service abroard. It was strongly suspected that the Norreys sons had been killed in action.

There was without doubt a close bond between Elizabeth and both Henry and Marjorie Norreys. There is also no doubt that Elizabeth found Rycote Palace a fond refuge.

There are several local legends concerning Rycote, and there is one relating to Elizabeth.

The Spanish Armada sailed against England in 1588, and was defeated. Whilst at Rycote, Elizabeth and the Norreys family would have worshiped at Rycote Chapel, built in the fifteenth century.

Local legend has it than upon hearing that the country was safe from Spanish invasion, Elizabeth chose to give special thanks to God in the place she felt most secure, at the heart of her realm, in Rycote Chapel.

John Williams

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