November 20 – Elizabeth I’s “mouton”


On this day in Tudor history, 20th November 1591, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, a man Elizabeth called her “mouton” died.

Sir Christopher Hatton was fifty-one at his death and as well as being one of the queen’s favourites, he’d served as her lord chancellor.

Hatton had a dazzling court career, was a patron of learned men and explorers, and had a very special relationship with Elizabeth I.

Find out all about Sir Christopher Hatton…


Sir Christopher Hatton

On this day in Tudor history, 20th November 1591, Sir Christopher Hatton, Elizabeth I’s Lord Chancellor and favourite, died aged fifty-one.

Sir Christopher Hatton, the man Elizabeth I nicknamed her “mouton” (sheep) and her “lids”, was born in around 1540 in the reign of King Henry VIII. He was the son of William Hatton of Holdenby, Northamptonshire, and his wife, Alice Saunders, and was educated at St Mary Hall, Oxford, and then enrolled in the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of the Court in London, in 1560.

It is not known exactly when Queen Elizabeth I noticed him, but it may have been in the Inner Temple festivities performed to the queen at New Year 1562, in which Hatton may well have participated, along with Robert Dudley. He became one of the queen’s gentleman pensioners in 1564 and was also chosen to welcome the Scottish ambassador and to escort him into the queen’s presence.

As one of Elizabeth I’s favourites, he had an amazing career. Offices included Captain of the Queen’s bodyguard (1572), Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household and member of the Privy Council (1578), Queen’s Spokesman in the House of Commons (1578), Lord Chancellor (1587), Chancellor of the University of Oxford (1588) and High Steward, Salisbury (1590).

Between 1564 and 1587 he was such a favourite that he saw the Queen most days, and the longest he was ever away from court was one week. This led to Mary, Queen of Scots claiming that he was Elizabeth’s secret lover. He was a member of the commission that found Mary guilty of treason in 1586, and was one of the councillors who urged William Davison, Elizabeth I’s private secretary, to send Mary, Queen of Scots’ death warrant to Fotheringhay.

Elizabeth’s favour is apparent not only in the offices she gave him and the duties she entrusted him with, but also in the gifts she lavished on him, such as in 1572 when she gave him 400 oz of silver plate, which Wallace T. MacCaffrey points out was twice the amount awarded to ranking dignitaries and eight times the usual gift of 50 oz. He was said to be a good dancer, he took part in jousting, and not only enjoyed the tradition of courtly love, but was what MacCaffrey calls “a consummate player”. MacCaffrey goes on to say that “His role was that of the perpetual suitor, who forever worships an earthly goddess with unwavering devotion—a devotion that cannot be fulfilled but never wanes”, and that when he wrote to Elizabeth from Spa in 1573, he said:

“This the twelfth day since I saw the brightness of the sun that giveth light unto my sense and soul, I wax an amazed creature”.

He had a way with words!

He would also use a special symbol in his letters to her – three parallel triangles.

He seems to have genuinely cared for Queen Elizabeth. MacCaffrey notes that he was unmarried and had no family to benefit from his favour, that his loyalty to her was undivided, and that they had a very special and stable relationship. He was also a reliable councillor, his attendance record being as high as Sir Francis Walsingham and William Cicil, and was used by the council as a mediator with the queen, due to his good relationship with her. The only time there seems to have been trouble between the queen and Hatton, was when he sided with the Earl of Leicester in opposing the queen’s plans to marry the Duke of Anjou. Hatton ended up being banished from her presence for a week.
As well as being a charming intelligent man and a loyal servant of the queen, Sir Christopher Hatton also served as a patron to men of learning, earning his many dedications in works. He also invested in overseas expeditions, supporting Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation and Martin Frobisher’s North-West passage voyages.

Sir Christopher Hatton died on this day in 1591 at Ely Place in London. He had been ill for some time and Elizabeth I had visited him on the 11th November. He was given a state funeral on 16th December 1591 at the old St Paul’s Cathedral, and a monument was erected at the high altar by his nephew, William. Unfortunately, old St Paul’s Cathedral was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

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