Astronomy, by F. Bull, W. Herbert and John Boydell, 1750–1800

Queen's House closure

Visitor notice. On Friday 20 July the Great Hall, Tulip Stairs and some ground floor rooms will be closed. The rest of the Queen's House will remain open, including the iconic Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I.


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Queen's House

This fanciful print sets the stage for sociable star gazing. Well-dressed gentlemen and ladies converse in a fashionable garden, complete with classical ruins. They use a number of astronomical instruments – an armillary sphere, telescope and globe.

Astronomy provided a topic of polite conversation in the 18th century, in which men could educate their female companions, while women served to improve their manners and behaviour. As with many aspects of polite society, however, there was also the possibility of intrigue, as star gazing offered the opportunity for flirtation under the cover of darkness.

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