Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Shakespeare's Apricocks (p. 3)

house for the next 10 years, as the gardeners worked outside the windows.  How often he visited Burghley’s first great house, at Theobalds, some five miles from the Strand, where there were also extensive gardens, we are not apprised that I am aware.  It must have been at least as often as the Queen went on progress stopping at her treasurer’s beloved estate along her route.  This she did on numerous occasions.

But the Strand was also impressive enough to entertain a Queen as she was accustomed.  In June of 1583, in fact, she began her progress there, and, after touring the gardens, she permitted Oxford to her presence for the first time in three years.  The young Earl had been exiled from her court, in disgrace, after committing the greatest of sins: he had impregnated one of her Ladies-in-Waiting.

Her Majestie cam yesterday to Grenwich from my Lord Tresurer's. She was never in any place better plesed and sure the howse garden and walks may compare with any delicat place in Itally. The day she cam away which was yesterday my Lord of Oxford cam to her presence and after some bitter words and speches in the end all sins ar forgiven and he may repayre to the court at his pleasure.[1]

As much as we might wish to know more about the “bitter words and speeches,” we learn that the gardens at the Strand were a marvel even in the eyes of a Queen.

But nowhere in all of this is specific mention of apricot trees.  I am not aware of a single direct statement that Cecil had the trees in either of his gardens.  That’s not surprising.  A lot of small detail fails to survive 450 years.


But Gerard’s garden, one-half mile from the Strand, in Holborn, seems to have been something of a gift from Cecil to his botanical advisor.  It was this garden that taught Gerard the skills to build the garden at Burghley House.  Among the trees there was the apricot.

Another piece of circumstantial evidence argues for the presence of the apricot in the various gardens of William Cecil.  In 1607, William Cecil’s son, Robert, the then Earl of Salisbury, and King James I, exchanged Theobalds for Hatfield House.  The king is said to have spent considerable time at his new mansion.  Alterations were made.  Whether to gardens as well as buildings is not clear.

After James’ son, Charles I, was executed, an official survey of the royal lands was undertaken prior to selling them off.  The survey of Theobalds was accomplished in 1650.  Among the many fascinating facts, we learn that “Pheasant garden… conteynes… 5 Apricock trees…” and “goeinge into another garden called by ye name of the Laundrie garden… 5 aprecock trees,…”.[2]  In a corner of the massive kitchen garden, “Also A Dooreway in ye sayd garden, leading into ye Mulberrie walke. Which sayd garden is walled round, and there is growinge to the walls, 25 Apricock trees,..”.




[1] Purdy, Gilbert.  Edward de Vere was Shakespeare:at long last the proof @ 149.  Manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Rutland GCB preserved at Belvoir Castle ( London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1888), I.150.
[2] Amherst, Alicia.  A History of Gardening in England (1896), 327-329.

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  • Enter John Lyly.  October 18, 2016.  "From time to time, Shakespeare Authorship aficionados query after the name “John Lyly”.  This happens surprisingly little given the outsized role the place-seeker, novelist and playwright played in the lives of the playwright William Shakespeare and Edward de Vere."

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