Royalty & aristocracy

Arise ladies and gentlemen, as we step back in time to a world of courtiers and courtship. From the drama and intrigue of of Elizabeth I's court, to the rags to riches tale of Lord Nelson's mistress, Lady Emma Hamilton, we explore the lives and legacies of some of history's most colourful characters.

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On 22 July 1588 the Spanish Armada, a force of 130 ships and 18,000 men, left northern Spain and headed for the English Channel. Its objective was to rendezvous with a large army assembled in the Netherlands, commanded by the Duke of Parma.


Queen Elizabeth I's tempestuous relationship with Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, greatly influenced the latter part of her reign, and resulted in Essex's execution in 1601.

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Discover the romantic marriage and brave life of the 'Winter Queen', daughter of James I, and hidden figure of British history

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What was the legacy of the defeat of the Spanish Armada and Elizabeth I's famous Tilbury speech, and what can the Armada Portrait tell us about it? 


Early portraits of Queen Elizabeth I stress her God-given right to rule. By her death she symbolised national unity.


Who was Mary Tudor, sometimes known as 'Bloody Mary'? During her turbulent life, Mary became the first ruling queen of England, led an unpopular Catholic reign, and condemned many Protestants to death. 

Henrietta Maria

Drawing in particular on material from our archives, Dr Elaine Murphy explores the diverse connections between women and the navy in the 17th century, researched during her time as a Caird short-term fellow.


The threat to the Crown from Catholic forces continued to grow for Queen Elizabeth I during the 1580s.

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Our experts answer how and when Queen Elizabeth I died, as well as some bizarre facts about the iconic monarch's final days.

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Montagu’s journals revealed a subtle ability and versatility of character and in many ways he was quite similar to his cousin, Samuel Pepys, whom Montagu was patron to. He was many things: an able soldier, a distinguished admiral, a Fellow of the Royal Society and an ambassador and diplomat. He was highly valued and liked by both Cromwell and Charles II; and praised by Clarendon and Milton. He delivered Charles II to England from exile and fought in the Dutch Wars, but was killed at the Battle of Solebay before he could reach the age of fifty.