The Queen Hawking
Queen Elizabeth I
The Elizabethan age is celebrated for its literary and dramatic culture, its music and chivalry. The Elizabethan nobility loved to have a good time, and knew just how to have it. The wealthy of the land would entertain each other with great banquets of rich foods, wine, music and dancing. They would play games against each other, play sports such as tennis or bowls, and they would ride and hunt. Women too would participate in some of these sports, aswell as play musical instruments, draw, sew and embroider.
When Queen Elizabeth was not busy with matters of state, she too would enjoy some of these pleasures. Evenings at court were full of entertainments, often dedicated to the Queen, and when she was travelling special performances were often put on for her, but the Queen also enjoyed less public activities.
Elizabeth loved to horse ride. She would spend many an hour riding fast through the Palace grounds. Her love for the sport terrified her Councilors, who feared that she would seriously injure, or even kill herself, from a fall. But Elizabeth was undaunted, and continued to ride long distances and at great speed until the end of her life. Even in her sixties she could ride a distance of ten miles, which she once proved to a courtier who advised the aging Queen to take the carriage. Elizabeth would tire out her ladies by riding hard, and early in her reign, Robert Dudley, her Master of Horse, had to bring over some new horses from Ireland, as the Queen's own horses were not fast or strong enough for her. Elizabeth and Dudley would ride together often. He was probably the most accomplished horse-man in England, and could match the Queen's speed and vigor. In the summer of 1560, Elizabeth and Dudley rode together almost everyday, while some of her ministers bewailed that the Queen was neglecting matters of state.
Queen Elizabeth Hunting
The Queen also loved to hunt. On horseback, she would hunt deers and stags with her courtiers, and when the unfortunate animal was caught, she would be invited to cut its throat. In 1575, the French Ambassador reported that she had killed "six does" with her cross bow. Hunting was quite an event, and would take several hours, so the Queen and her courtiers would often have a picnic in the forest.
Hawking was another hunting sport that Queen Elizabeth enjoyed. Again on horseback, the Queen and her courtiers would watch as a trained
hawk took to the skies in search of prey, would wait for it to dive in for the kill, and then they would race to recover the hawk and its
The Elizabethans had no concept of animal cruelty, and enjoyed a whole manner of violent animal sports, such as bear baiting, cock-fighting, and dog fighting. Elizabeth was particularly fond of bear baiting, in which a bear would be chained up in a pit and tormented by dogs. However, animals were also kept as much loved pets, and pets were well looked after. Elizabeth's horses were well cared for, and in all likelihood, Elizabeth had her favorite horses that meant a lot to her. She also had a little dog (perhaps several over the course of her long reign) that she loved very much, and who went everywhere with her.
As well as participating in sports, the Queen also enjoyed watching them. She would occasionally watch a game of tennis, especially if one of her favorite courtiers was playing, and once she even dressed up as one of her ladies so that she could secretly watch Robert Dudley compete in a shooting match, and afterwards surprised him by revealing her identity. Sometimes tournaments would be held, and from 1572 onwards, a very grand tilt tournament was held to celebrate the Queen's accession day.
Elizabeth loved the outdoors, and was especially fond of taking long walks in her beautifully ornate gardens. In one of her many palaces, she even had a terrace built so that she could walk away from prying eyes.