England as Seen by Foreigners in the Days of Elizbeth and James the First


[Page 69]


THE Author was an Antwerp merchant, who aettled in London, and resided here during the entire reign of the Queen. In 1575, in company with his cousin, Abraham Orteliut, the celebrated geographer, he travelled through the whole of England and Ireland. In 1583 he was appointed Dutch Consul (Illegible) for England, which office he held till his death in 1612. His "History of the Netherlands" (written in Dutch; 1599; 1614; 1636,&c.), is deservedly esteemed a masterpiece; the Author carefully collected his mate rials from every authentic source, and has produced a very valuable book to be consulted with profit by every student of the history of the period. The following are extracts translated from this work. Van Metereo was buried in the church of St. Dionya Backchurch, London, and a monument was erected to his memory. The church was destroyed in the great fire of 1666.

English are a clever, handsome, and well-made people, but, like all islanders, of a weak and tender nature. They are generally fair, like all northern nations, and especially the women, who know very well how to protect. the complexion of their faces against the power of the sun with hats ( hotytll) and veils, and their hands [Page 70] with gloves-even the very peasants there, as the ladies of the Court do in the Netherlands and in Germany. The people are bold, courageous, ardent, and cruel in war, fiery in attack (illegible), and having little fear of death ; they are not vindictive, but very inconstant, rash, vainglorious, light, and deceiving, and very suspicious, especially of foreigners, whom they despise. They are full of courtly and I affected manners and words, which they take for gentility, civility, and wisdom. They are eloquent (illegible) and very hospitable; they feed well and delicately, and eat a great deal of meat (illegible); and as the Germans pass the bounds of sobriety in drinking, these do the same in eating, for which the fertility of the country affords them sufficient means, although in general the fruits have not such strength and virtue as in France or the Netherlands for the want of hot sun. Even the grass, as the herbalists say, is not so nourishing, whereby the meat is in consequence softer and not so firm, although they have a great abundance of it; but it is well-tasted enough. The people are not so laborious and industrious as the Netherlanders or French, as they lead for the most part an indolent life like the Spaniards; the most toilsome, difficult, and skilful works are chiefly performed by foreigners, as among the idle Spaniards. They have a great many sheep which bear fine wool, of which for these 200 years they have learnt to make fine cloth. ;they keep many lazy servants, and also many wild animals for their pleasure, rather than trouble themselves to cultivate the land. The island which they inhabit is very large, and abounds with fish ; they have likewise the best harbours in Christendom. They are also rich in ships ; nevertheless they do not catch as many fish as they require, [Page 71] so that they are obliged to buy more from their neighbours ; but they do catch a great quantity of herrings, for which they have been in the habit of fishing for several years past, and so have taken annually from ten to fourteen hundred lasts, which for the most part they dry, and of which they send away every year more than five or six hundred lasts to Italy and elsewhere. The English dress in elegant, light, and costly garments, but they are very inconstant and desirous of novelties, changing their fashions every year, both men and women. When they. go abroad riding or travelling, they don their best clothes (illegible), contrary to the practice of other nations. Their garments are usually coloured and of a light stuff, and they have not many of them like as they have in the Low Countries, since they change so easily ; nor so much furniture or unnecessary house ornaments. The English language is broken German (illegible), mixed with French and British terms, and words, and pronunciation, from which they have also gained a lighter pronunciation, not speaking out of the heart as the Germans, but only prattling with the tongue. Where they have no significant words, they make use of Latin, and sometimes of German and Flemish words. In Cornwall England's furthest boundary westward-and in Wales, they speak the old British language, which they call in their own language Cymraeg, and which the English call Welsh, as the Germans do. (Van Meteren, Nederlandtsche Historie; edition of 1614, fo. 262.) [Page 72] Wives in England are entirely in the power of their husbands, their lives only excepted. Therefore when they marry, they give up the surname of their father and of the family from which they are descended, and take the surname of their husbands, except in the case of duchesses, countesses and baronesses, who, when they marry gentlemen of inferior degree, retain their first name and title, which, for the ambition of the said ladies, is rather allowed than commended. But although the women there are entirely in the power of their husbands except for their lives, yet they are not kept so strictly as they are in Spain or elsewhere. Nor are they shut up, but they have the free management of the house or housekeeping, after the fashion of those of the Netherlands and others their neighbours. They go to market to buy what they like best to eat. They are welldressed, fond of taking it easy, and commonly leave the care of household matters and drudgery to their servants. They sit before their doors, decked out in fine clothes, in order to see and be seen by the passers-by. In all banquets and feasts they are shown the greatest honour ; they are placed at the upper end of the table, where they are the first served ; at the lower end they help the men. All the rest of their time they employ in walking and riding, in playing at cards or otherwise, in visiting their friends and keeping company, conversing with their equals (whom they term gosseps) and their neighbours, and making merry with them at child-births, christenings, churchings (illegible), and funerals; and all this with the permission and knowledge of their husbands, as such is the custom. [Page 73] Although the husbands often recommend to them the pains, industry, and care of the German or Dutch women, who do what the men ought to do both in the house and in the shops, for which services in England men are employed, nevertheless the women .. usually persist in retaining their customs. This is why England is called the Paradise of married women. The girls who are not yet married are kept much more rigorously and strictly than in the Low Countries. The women are beautiful, fair, well-dressed and modest, which is seen there more than elsewhere, as they go about the streets without any covering either of huke or mantle (huytkt), hood, veil, or the like. Married women only wear a hat both in the street and in the house ; those unmarried go without a hat, although ladies of distinction have lately learnt to cover their faces with silken masks or vizards, and feathers, for indeed they change very easily, and that every year, to the astonishment of many. (Van Meteren, Nederl. Historie; edit. 1614, fo. 258.)

[Page 103]


THis interesting Journal was penned by. Paul Hentzner, a native of Branden, burg, a jurist by profession, and counsellor to Duke Charles of Mlinaterberg and Oela. He was a man poaseased of great and various attainments, and in August and September of the above-mentioned year visited this country as companion or travelling tutor to Christoph Rehdiger, a young nobleman of Silesia. Some Bohemians-one of whom was the celebrated Slawata-joined company in seeing the sights in England, and the party would ieem to have journeyed on horseback. The author died in 1623. The first edition of the original Latin Itinerary of Germany, France, &c. appeared at Nuremberg In 1612,(illegible text). Horace Walpole printed in 1757, for private circulation, the portion relating to England, with an English translation-omitting however the dates of visit. Although this is generally quoted as Walpole's translation, it was made by Richard Bentley, the son of the celebrated Master of Trinity. This version we have used for the extracts which follow, and have revised, enlarged, and annotated the same, while other extracts, descriptive of places visited by Hentzner, are distributed among the Notes at the end of our volume.

ELIZABETH, the reigning queen of England, was born at the Royal Palace of Greenwich, and here she generally resides, particularly in summer, for the delightfulness of its situation. We were admitted by an order, which Mr. Rogers (Daniel Rogerius) had [Page 104] procured from the Lord Chamberlain, into the Presence-Chamber hung with rich tapestry, and the Boor, after the English fashion, strewed with hay, through which the queen commonly passes in her way to chapel. At the door stood a gentleman dressed in velvet, with a gold chain, whose office was to introduce to the Queen any person of distinction that came to wait on her. lt was Sunday [Sept. 6, N. s. ]; when there is usually the greatest attendance of nobility. In the same hall were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, a great number of Counsellors of State, Officers of the Crown, and Gentlemen, who waited the queen's coming out, which she did from her own apartment when it was time to go to prayers, attended in the following manner:- First went Gentlemen, Barons, Earls, Knights of the Garter, all richly dressed and bareheaded ; next came the Lord High Chancellor of England, bearing the seals in a red silk purse, between two, one of whom carried the royal sceptre, the other the sword of state in a red scabbard, studded with golden fleur-de- lis, the point upwards ; next came the queen, in the 65th year of her age (as we were told), very majestic ; her face oblong, fair but wrinkled ; her eyes small, yet black and pleasant ; her nose a little hooked, her lips narrow, and her teeth black, (a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of sugar) ; she had in her ears two pearls with very rich drops ; her hair was of an auburn colour, but false (crinem fulvum, sed faclilium) ;upon her head she had a small crown, reported to be made of some of the gold of the celebrated Luneburg table ; her bosom was uncovered, as all the English ladies have it till [Page 105] they marry ; and she had on a necklace of exceeding fine jewels ; her hands were slender, her fingers rather long, and her stature neither tall nor low ; her air was stately, her manner of speaking mild and obliging. That day she was dressed in white silk, bordered with pearls of the size of beans, and over it a mantle of black silk shot with silver threads; her train was very long, the end of it borne by a marchioness ; instead of a chain, she had an oblong collar of gold and jewels. As she went along in all this state and magnificence, she spoke very graciously, first to one, then to another (whether foreign ministers, or those who attend for difFerent reasons), in English, French, and Italian; for besides being well skilled in Greek, Latin, and the languages I have mentioned, she is mistress of Spanish, Scotch, and Dutch ( Belgicum ). Whoever speaks to her, it is kneeling ; now and then she raises some with her hand. While we were there, William Slawata, a Bohemian baron, had letters to present to her; and she, after pulling off her glove, gave him her right hand to kiss, sparkling with rings and jewels -a mark of particular favour. Wherever she turned her face as she was going along, everybody fell down on their knees. The ladies of the court followed next to her, very handsome and wellshaped, and for the most part dressed in white. She was guarded on each side by the gentlemen pensioners, fifty in number, with gilt halberds. In the ante-chapel, next the hall where we were, petitions were presented to her, and she received them most graciously, which occasioned the acclamation of God save the queen Elizabeth! She answered it with I thancke you myn good peupel. In the chapel was excellent music; as soon as it and the service were over, which scarcely exceeded half-an-hour, the Queen returned in the same state and order, [Page 106] and prepared to go to dinner. But while she was still at prayers, we saw her table set out with the following solemnity : A gentleman entered the room bearing a rod, and along with him another who had a table-doth, which after they had both knelt three times, with the utmost veneration, he spread upon the table, and after kneeling again, they both retired. Then came two others, one with the rod again, the other with a saltcellar, a plate and bread; when they had knelt as the others had done, and placed what was brought upon the table, they too retired with the same ceremonies performed by the first. At last came an unmarried lady of extraordinary beauty (we were told that she was a countess) and along with her a married one, bearing a tasting-knife ; the former was dressed in white silk, who, when she had prostrated herself three times, in the most graceful manner approached the table and rubbed the plates with bread and salt with as much awe as if the queen had been present. When they had waited there a little while, the yeomen of the guard entered, bareheaded, clothed in scarlet, with a golden rose upon their backs, bringing in at each turn a course of twenty-four dishes, served in silver most of it gilt; these dishes were received by a gentleman in the same order as they were brought and placed upon the table, while the lady-taster gave to each of the guard a mouthful to eat of the particular dish he had brought, for fear of any poison. During the time that this guard, which consists of the tallest and stoutest men that can be found in all England, 100 in number, being carefully selected for this service, were bringing dinner, twelve trumpets and two kettle-drums made the hall ring for half-an-hour together. At the end of all this ceremonial, a number of unmarried ladies appeared, who with particular solemnity lifted the meat off the [Page 107] table, and conveyed it into the queen's inner and more private chamber, where after she had chosen for herself, the rest goes to the ladies of the Court. The queen dines and sups alone with very few attendants ; and it is very seldom that any body, foreigner or native, is admitted at that time, and then only at the intercession of some distinguished personage. Near this palace is the Queen's park, stocked with various wild animals. Such parks are common throughout England, belonging to those that are distinguished either for their rank or riches. In the middle of this is an old square tower, called (illegible), supposed to be that mentioned in the Romance of Amadis de Gaula ; and joining to it a plain, where knights and other gentlemen use to meet at set times and holidays to exercise on horseback. It is worthy of observation, that every year upon St. Bartho lomew's Day, when the Fair is held, it is usual for the Mayor, attended by the twelve principal Aldermen, to walk into a neighbouring field, dressed in his scarlet gown, and about his neck a golden chain, to which. is hung a Golden Fleece, and besides, that particular ornament (the collar of SS], which distinguishes the most noble Order of the Garter. During the year of his magistracy, he is obliged to live so magnificently that foreigner or native, without any expense, is free, if he can find a chair empty, to dine at his table, where there is always the greatest plenty. When the Mayor goes out of the precincts of the City, a sceptre, a sword, and a cap are borne before him, and he is followed by the principal Aldermen in scarlet gowns, with gold chains; himself and they on horseback. Upon their arrival at a place appointed for that purpose, where a tent is pitched, the mob begin to wrestle before them, two at a time ; the con- [Page 108] querors receive rewards from the Mayor. After this is over, a parcel of live rabbits are turned loose among the crowd, which boys chase with great noise. While we were at this show, one of our company, Tobias Salander, Doctor of Physic, had his pocket picked of his purse, with nine crowns (illegible), which without doubt was so cleverly taken from him by an Englishman who always kept very close to him, that the Doctor did not in the least perceive it.

A village : this was the first place where we observed that the beds at inns were made by the waiters. This palace, abounding in magnificence, was built by Henry I, to which he joined a very large park, enclosed with a stone wall ; according to John Rosse, the first park in England.In this very palace the present reigning Queen Elizabeth, before she was confined to the Tower, was kept prisoner by her sister Mary : while she was detained here, in the utmost peril of her life, she wrote with a piece of charcoal the following English verses, composed by herself, upon a window-shutter:'** —


Oh fortune thy Wresting wavering
Hath fraught with Cares nay troubled
witt ;
Whese witnes this present prisonn late,
Could beare mhere once was loy aloune
Thon causedst the gnitle to be losed,
Frombandes wehre innocents wehre
And consed the gniltles, te be reserned.
And freed these that death had well
Butt allhereni canbe nothing Wronghle,
So God send to my foes althey have


O Fortune I how thy restless wavering
Hath fraught with cares my troubled
wit !
Witness this present prison whither Fate
Hath borne me, and the joys I quit.
Thou causedest the guilty to be loosed
From bands, wherewith are innocentt inclosed ;
Causing the guiltless to be strait re-
And freeing those that death had
well deserved:
[Page 109]
But by her envy can be nothing
So God send to my foes all they
have thought.
A.D. M.D.LV. Elizabeth Prisoner.

All that remains of Rosamond ClifFord's tomb of stone, the letters of which are almost worn out, is the line—

" * * * * Adorent,
Utque tibi detur requies Rosamunda precamur."

The rhyming epitaph was probably the performance of some monk : —

" Hie jacet in tumba Rosa mundi non Rosamunda,
Non redolet sed olet, quae redolere solet."

The soil is fruitful and abounds with cattle, which inclines the inhabitants rather to feeding than ploughing, so that near a third part of the land is left uncultivated for grazing. The climate is most temperate at all times, and the air never heavy, consequently maladies are scarcer, and less physic is used there than anywhere else. There are but few rivers. Though the soil is productive, it bears no wine; but that want is supplied from abroad by the best kinds, as of Orleans, Qascon, Rhenish, and Spanish. The general drink is ale, which is prepared from barley, and is excellently well tasted, but strong and intoxicating (cerroisia qua facile eos inebriat). There are many hills without one tree or any spring, which produce a very short and tender grass, and supply plenty of food to sheep ; upon these wander numerous Rocks extremely white, and whether from the temperature of the air or goodness of the earth, bearing softer [Page 110] and finer fleeces than those of any other country. This is the true Golden Fleece, in which consist the chief riches of the inhabitants, great sums of money being brought into the island by merchants, chiefly for that article of trade. The dogs here are particularly good. It has mines of gold, silver and tin (of which all manner of table utensils are made, in brightness equal to silver, and used all over Europe), of lead, and of iron, but not much of the latter. The horses are small but swift. Glass-houses are in plenty here. The English are grave like the Germans, lovers of show ; followed wherever they go by whole troops of servants, who wear their masters' arms in silver fastened to their left arms, and are not undeservedly ridiculed for wearing tails hanging down their backs. They excel in dancing and music, for they are active and lively, though of a thicker make than the French; they cut their hair close on the middle of the head, letting it grow on either side ; they are good sailors and better pirates, cunning, treacherous, and thievish ; above 300 are said to be hanged annually at London ; beheading with them is Jess infamous than hanging ; they give the wall as the place of honour; hawking is the comm~n sport with the gentry. They are more polite in eating than the French, consuming less bread but more meat, which they roast in perfection ; they put a great deal of sugar in their drink ; their beds are covered with tapestry, even those of farmers ; they are often molested with the scurvy, said to have first crept into England with the Norman Conquest; their houses are commonly of two stories, except in London, where they are of three and four, though but seldom of four ; they are built of wood, those of the richer sort with bricks, their roofs are low, and where the owner has [Page 111] money, covered with lead. They are powerful in the field, successful against their enemies, impatient of anything like slavery ; vastly fond of great noises that fill the ear.... September 14th. As we were returning to our inn [at Windsor], we happened to meet some country people celebrating their Harvest-home (spicilegia sua celebrantes); their last load of corn they crown with Rowers, having besides an image richly dressed, by which perhaps they would signify Ceres; this they keep moving about, while men and women, men and maidservants, riding through the streets in the cart, shout as loud as . they can till they arrive at the barn. The farmers here do not bind up their corn in sheaves, as they do with us, but directly they have reaped or mowed it, put it into carts and convey it into their barns. There is a certain sect in England called Puritans. These, according to the doctrine of the Church of Geneva, reject all ceremonies anciently held, and admit of neither organs nor epitaphs in their places of worship, and entirely abhor all difference of rank among ecclesiastics, such as bishops, abbots, &c. They were first named Puritans by the Jesuit Sanders. They do not live separate, but mix with those of the Church of England in the colleges. We came to Canterbury on foot. Being tired, we refreshed [Page 112] ourselves with a mouthful of bread andi some ale, and immediately mounted post-horses, and arrived about two or three hours after nightfall at Dover. In our way to it, which was rough and dangerous enough, the following accident happened to us. Our guide or postillion (illegible) a youth, was before with two of our company, about the distance of a musket-shot, we by not following quick enough had lost sight of our friends ; we came afterwards to where the road divided, on the right it was down hill and marshy, on the left was a small hill ; whilst we stopped here in doubt, and consulted which of the roads we should take, we saw all on a sudden on our right-hand some horsemen, their stature, dress, and horses exactly resembling those of our friends ; glad of having found them again, we determined to set on after them; but it happened through God's mercy, that though we called to them, they did not answer us, but kept on down the marshy road, at such a rate that their horses' feet struck fire at every stroke, which made us with reason begin to suspect that they were robbers, having had warning of such, or rather that they were nocturnal spectres, which as we were afterwards told, are frequently seen in those places ; there were likewise a great many Jack-wa- lanthoms (illegible), so that we were quite seized with horror and amazement. But fortunately for us, our guide soon after sounded his horn, and we following the noise, turned down the left-hand road, and arrived safe to our companions; who, when we had asked them if they had not seen the horsemen who had gone by us answered, not a soul. Our opinions, according to custom, were various upon this matter; but whatever the thing was, we were without doubt in imminent danger, from which that we escaped the glory is to be ascribed to God alone. [Page 113] We take ship for Calais (Sept. 24). In our company were the noble Lord Wilhelm Slawata, a Bohemian baron, with his servant Corfutius Rudth, a noble Dane, Wilhelm and Adolphus ab Eynatten, brothers, from Juliers, and Henricus Hoen their relation. Before we set sail from hence [i. e. Dover], each of us was obliged to give his name, the reason of his visit to England, and the place to which he was going. This having been done, and permission to depart obtained, our valises (illegible) and trunks were opened by those who are appointed for this object, and most diligently examined for the sake of discovering English money, for no one is allowed to carry out of Ehgland more than ten English pounds. Whatever surplus there may be, it is taken away and paid into the royal Exchequer.

This is a selection from the original text


abundance, animals, cattle, climate, drink, fruitful, plenty, soil, travel

Source text


Author: W.B Rye


Publication date: 1865

Original compiled 1592-1610

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: http://archive.org. Original compiled 1592-1610

Digital edition

Original author(s): W.B Rye

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) tp, pages 69-73, 103-113


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: Britain > surveys description maps

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