The Tudor Society

23 December – Elizabeth I moves to a property her mother knew well

On this day in Tudor history, 23rd December 1558, just over a month after her accession, England’s new queen, Elizabeth I, daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, moved from Somerset House to Whitehall Palace, which became her principal residence.

Whitehall, formerly York Place, had once been home to her mother, Anne Boleyn, and had been the setting of Anne's marriage to Henry VIII. I wonder if Elizabeth felt close to her mother there.

Find out more about Whitehall Palace, and also Somerset Place, the property Elizabeth left, in today's talk.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 23rd December 1556, in the reign of Queen Mary I, Nicholas Udall (Yevedale), schoolmaster, cleric, humanist and playwright, was buried at St Margaret's, Westminster. You can find out more about him and hear a ballad he wrote for Queen Anne Boleyn's coronation celebrations in 1533, in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1513 – Birth of Sir Thomas Smith, scholar, humanist, colonialist diplomat (in Ireland) and political theorist, at Saffron Walden, Essex. He was the second son of sheep farmer, John Smith, and studied at Cambridge University and also in France and Italy. He served Edward VI as a Secretary of State, and was one of Elizabeth I's most trusted counsellors. He served her as a diplomat, Secretary of State and Chancellor of the Order of the Garter. Smith was the author of “De Republica Anglorum; the Manner of Government or Policie of the Realme of England” and “The Discourse of the Commonweal”.
  • 1558 – Death of Sir John Baker, administrator, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Under-Treasurer of England, in London. He was buried in Cranbrook Church in Kent.
  • 1559 – Death of Henry Morgan, Bishop of St David's, at Wolvercote in Oxfordshire. He had been deprived of his bishopric after Elizabeth I's accession because of his refusal to accept the religious changes of her reign. He was buried at Wolvercote.
  • 1568 – Roger Ascham, scholar and royal tutor, was taken ill, probably with malaria. He died on 30th December.
  • 1588 – The assassination of Henri de Lorraine, 3rd Duke of Guise and founder of the Catholic League, at the Château de Blois. He was killed by King Henry III's bodyguards, “the Forty-five”, in front of the King. His brother, Louis II, Cardinal of Guise, was assassinated the following day. The League had been controlling France, and the King was forced to act against it.
  • 1599 – Burial of Thomas Byng, civil lawyer, Regius Professor of the Civil Law at Cambridge and Master of Clare College, Cambridge. He was buried in Hackney Church, Middlesex.
  • 1607 – Death of Sir John Fortescue, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in Elizabeth I's reign.


On this day in Tudor history, 23rd December 1558, England’s new queen, Elizabeth I, daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, moved from Somerset House to Whitehall Palace, which became her principal residence.

Somerset House, just off the Strand in London, had been in Elizabeth’s possession since 1552, when John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, had offered her the property in exchange for Durham Place, her townhouse. Somerset House had been built by Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector, during his protectorate of 1547-49. As I mentioned in a previous talk, it had cost him £10,000 to build, and was built in a Renaissance style. He’d used stone scavenged from the charnel house of St Paul’s Cathedral to build it. Somerset had not had chance to make use of it as it had only been completed in 1550 and he was sent to the Tower of London for a second and final time in October 1551 and executed in January 1552.

In 1553, £900 was spent on preparing it for Elizabeth and she moved in on 29th July 1553 following her half-sister Mary’s accession. It was her London home during Mary’s reign.

Mary I died on 17th November 1558 and on that same day, Elizabeth, who was at her country estate of Hatfield, was informed that she was queen. She’d left Hatfield on 23rd November 1558 and processed to London with over a thousand people, being cheered by crowds on her way. She stayed at Charterhouse in London until 28th November, when she made her official entry into the city as queen. She processed to the Tower of London, where she stayed until 5th December, when she took a barge to Somerset House. Historian Sarah Gristwood writes that she stayed there until after Mary’s funeral, on 13th December, which “formally ended the late Queen’s authority”.

On this day in history, 23rd December 1558, Elizabeth moved out of Somerset House to make Whitehall her home, just in time for the Christmas revelry.

Whitehall Palace, formerly known as York Place, dated back to the 13th century when it was the official London residence of the Archbishop of York. In the reign of Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was Archbishop of York and he spent a vast amount of money making improvements to it, such as building a new outer great chamber and enlarging it by purchasing adjoining buildings. It was a magnificent property and it is little wonder that the king took it in 1529 when Wolsey fell from favour. In October 1529, Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, in reporting on the downfall of Wolsey, recorded that the king, his sweetheart, Anne Boleyn, and her chaperone, her mother, Elizabeth Boleyn, had visited York Place to view the cardinal’s treasures. They then spent the Christmas period planning improvements to the property. Anne Boleyn used it as her London residence, residing there with her mother, and her father and brother also had rooms there. In around 1532, the property became known as Whitehall, perhaps because of the colour of its stone and probably due to the king wanting its past links to Wolsey and the see of York to be forgotten.

On 25th January 1533, Whitehall served as the setting of the secret marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, who was pregnant with Elizabeth at the time. Just over three years later, on 30th May 1536, it was the setting of another marriage, that of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, just eleven days after Anne Boleyn’s execution. Then, in 1537, court painter, Hans Holbein the Younger, was commissioned by Henry VIII to paint a mural at the palace, on a wall of the king’s privy chamber. In the mural, was a central monument carved with an inscription commemorating Henry VII, Henry VIII’s father, as a great king. The monument was surrounded by four figures, Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour, at the front, and Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York, towards the back.

From this day in 1558, the palace became the main residence of Henry and Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth. Although it was convenient for Westminster and Parliament, I often wonder whether Elizabeth felt close to her mother there, knowing that her mother had resided at the palace and had a hand in its renovation. Elizabeth added a banqueting house and spent many Christmases at the palace. Sadly, the palace Elizabeth knew does not exist today. Most of it was destroyed by fire in 1698, having survived the 1666 Great Fire of London. The present Banqueting House dates back to 1619. Today, only Henry VIII’s wine cellar, situated under the Ministry of Defence building, survives from the Tudor period. It was originally an undercroft from Cardinal Wolsey’s Great Chamber.
It’s so sad that this building is lost.

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23 December – Elizabeth I moves to a property her mother knew well