The Elvetham

William Mason

Melbourne, Australia

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The first record of The Elvetham is in the Domesday book. In 1426 it became the home of the Seymour family and through a succession of Seymours it came to be owned by Edward, the brother of Jane Seymour (the third wife of Henry VIII and mother of Edward VI.) Edward’s brother Thomas married Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s widow. He was also beheaded for high treason after becoming embroiled in scandalous liaisons with the then Princess Elizabeth. After his death, his estates were forfeited but eventually restored to his son Edward (by now created Earl of Hertford) who married the younger sister of Lady Jane Grey. Queen Elizabeth only heard of this bigamous marriage when Catherine became pregnant. The Queen reacted with great fury by sending them to the Tower of London. Eventually both were released, Catherine in 1567 and Edward in 1572. In order to regain favours and to have his children legitimised, he entertained the Queen at The Elvetham in 1591. The lavish entertainment lasted four days with a range of luxurious pavilions built near the house to accommodate Queen Elizabeth and her retinue of 500. The Oak tree she planted to commemorate the occasion still stands here today and is now more than 32 feet in circumference. The original house that Queen Elizabeth visited no longer exists having burned down in 1840. The new house was rebuilt on the same site in 1860. St Mary’s church was built in 1840 to resemble a Twelfth Century Norman church. The area of 35 acres surrounding The Elvetham is much the same today as it was recorded in the Domesday book.

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