Hatfield House | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Hatfield House

Welwyn Hatfield, England, United Kingdom

Lily Johnson

19 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Hatfield House

Hatfield House is a Jacobean country house built on the site of what was Hatfield Palace, where Elizabeth I spent much of her life.

Hatfield House history

Built in approximately 1485 by John Morton Bishop of Ely, Hatfield Palace came into the possession Henry VIII in the 16th century where it was installed as the home of his young children.

Born on 7 September 1533, Princess Elizabeth was sent to live at Hatfield when she was around 3 months old, and was given a small household of nurses, courtiers, and tutors to help raise her. Included in this team of staff was her half-sister Mary, who had that year been branded illegitimate through Henry VIII’s divorce with her mother Catherine of Aragon, and had been given the humiliating task of waiting on her infant sister.

Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn often visited her at Hatfield, and on one occasion clashed with the 17-year-old Mary there following a period of conflict between the ex-Princess and her father. Boleyn attempted a peace offering should Mary accept her as queen, to which the headstrong teenager replied that the only queen she recognised was her mother.

Elizabeth would go on to spend many more years of her life at Hatfield – including throughout the reigns of both her brother and sister – before being told whilst there that she had ascended the throne in 1558.

During the Stuart era the Palace was given to favourite of James I, Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury, who duly ripped down three wings in 1608 and rebuilt the current structure in 1611. Renamed Hatfield House, it has since been owned by the Cecil family and remains their family home.

Hatfield House today

Today, the stunning Hatfield House estate is open to the public as well as being a popular venue for weddings and events. Visitors can embark on a tour of the Jacobean house that includes the ‘Rainbow Portrait’ of Elizabeth I, the extravagant Marble Hall, and the ornate Grand Staircase alongside a host of other fascinating features.

Despite the vast rebuild undertaken by Robert Cecil, the Old Palace of Hatfield survives in its magnificent Banqueting Hall, featuring striking Tudor brickwork and most of its original roof timbers. This is often used for events, yet may be viewed when free from the Stable Yard viewing bay and Upper Solar, as well as through tours booked at the Stable Yard Ticket Kiosk.

Hatfield House’s gardens are also a stunning aspect of the site, and include the Queen Elizabeth Oak – said to be the spot where Elizabeth I was first told she was Queen of England.

Getting to Hatfield House

Hatfield House is located in Hertfordshire, approximately 21 miles from central London, and can be reached by taking Junction 4 of the A1 and following the brown tourist signs to the site. Hatfield train station is directly opposite the pedestrian entrance to the site, with local bus services also stopping here.

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