I am currently in the 2nd year of a Collaborative Doctoral Award working with Roehampton University and the NMM on my doctoral research topic entitled 'The Queen's House at Greenwich: The Courts of Queen Anna of Denmark and Queen Henrietta Maria, 1603-1669'. The varied and fascinating history of the Queen's House includes its uses as a keeper's lodge, headmaster's residence and school dormitory for the Greenwich Naval School. It is now home to part of the Museum's vast art collection. My research focuses on its earliest history as a place for the display and expression of early modern English queenship.
The focus of my first year has been on the relationship between Queen Anna of Denmark (consort to King James VI and I) and Stuart Greenwich from 1603 until her death in 1619. Queen Anna commissioned the House to be built in 1616 but died well before the construction of the ground floor sections were completed. No record has been left detailing Anna's intentions for the aesthetic characteristics of the exterior and interiors or the functionality of the space. What we do know of the original interiors, including the surviving grotesque ceiling in the Queen's Bedchamber (first floor, north side) is from the 1630s decoration created under the auspices of Charles I and Henrietta Maria.
QH 131a.jpgUnknown artist, Grotesque coved ceiling (detail), Queen's Bedchamber, The Queen's House.
One significant feature that does bridge the gap (excuse the pun) however between Anna and Henrietta Maria's royal House's was the road running beneath the central bridge room. The intention for a house of two separate sides to be built across the main public thoroughfare (running from Woolwich to London) was never deviated from in either the 1616-18 or the 1629-35 designs, and has thus produced one of the most debated questions regarding the building of the Queen's House: why would the queen wish to have a house built across a main road? My research will hopefully provide more insight into this enigmatic feature.
QH 164.jpgThe Queen's House (east-west) showing the site of the old Woolwich-Deptford road
As well as my archival research I have been taking advantage of my access to the House by walking the routes around it and gaining a sense of the different visual perspectives towards both the hunting grounds to the south (Greenwich Park) and Greenwich Palace to the north (now Wren's buildings), even venturing up onto the roof to witness the same (if not similar) view the queen and her courtly entourage would have observed from the specifically designed observation platform as seen in the painting below. This architectural detail suggests the exterior roof space was always intended to be utilised for the view that was otherwise obscured by the rambling buildings of the old Tudor Palace.
BHC1808.jpgJohannes Vorsterman, Greenwich and London from One Tree Hill, c.1680. (BHC1808)
My research into Anna of Denmark's movements to and from Greenwich during her period as English queen consort have so far revealed patterns of personal, cultural and political use, including birthing rituals and diplomatic visits. As part of these ceremonial displays the construction of the Queen's House did not constitute the start of a radical new building programme, but the culmination of an agenda that reinforced and regenerated the public image of the first royal female of the Stuart court.