Hatfield House – Guest Post & Giveaway

The King's SistersI am delighted to welcome Sarah Kennedy to On the Tudor Trail! Sarah has written a wonderful guest post for us about Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, but before I share with you this entertaining and informative read, some more good news, to celebrate the release of Sarah’s novel, The King’s Sisters: Book Three of The Cross and the Crown Series, I will be giving away a copy to one lucky reader! Here’s how to enter…

Conditions of Entry

For your chance to win a copy of The King’s Sisters, you must be subscribed to On the Tudor Trail’s newsletter (if you are not already, sign up on our homepage where it says ‘Free Enewsletter Subscription’).

Then simply leave a comment after this post between now and 6 October 2015. Don’t forget to leave your name and a contact email. Please note that I have comment moderation activated and need to ‘approve’ comments before they appear. There is no need to submit your comment twice.

This giveaway is open internationally.

A winner will be randomly selected and contacted by email shortly after the competition closes. Please ensure you’ve added natalie@onthetudortrail.com to your address book to avoid missing my email.

Good luck!

Hatfield House

By Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy, photo by Rachel Fowler of RFD Photography.

Sarah Kennedy, photo by Rachel Fowler of RFD Photography.

Many Tudor history fans know something about Hatfield House, where Elizabeth Tudor, supposedly under the famous oak tree, learned of her succession to the throne. The tree is long gone, of course, but what many people who have not visited the site don’t realize is that most of the original house no longer exists, either.

I travelled to Hatfield during a recent holiday in London with a friend. I’d been there once before, many years ago, but when I was researching my second novel, City of Ladies, but I didn’t remember much about it, except for the grand staircase and the walking gallery where the ladies took their exercise during bouts of bad weather. We had a glorious July day, and we were staying within walking distance of King’s Cross station, which runs trains every hour or so to Hatfield, so off we went.

The last time I was there, I’d been in a car, so when we stepped off the train I was a little disoriented. The driveway to the house is actually right across the street from the station, but a road sign seemed to direct us another way, so we followed the sign and ended up walking up the back way, which gave us an unusual view—the old Palace where Elizabeth lived and the stables were right in front of us, as they might have been had we been visitors in the sixteenth century.

Old Palace, Hatfield

The place was changed since my last visit. The stables and yard are now filled with shops and a café, and the entire site was much more crowded. At the same time, the interpreters and ticket-takers were efficient and helpful, and we strolled up to the house after just a few minutes’ wait in line. We took in the view of the grand exterior, then made our way through the house itself. I wanted to revisit the portraits of Elizabeth (the famous Rainbow Portrait hangs there) and Henry. The kitchens particularly interested me because Catherine Havens, the heroine of my series of Tudor novels, The Cross and the Crown, tends to hide in kitchens and still rooms to avoid the intrigues of nobles and royals going on over her head. I wasn’t able to go down there the first time!


© Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

Hatfield House is certainly a grand structure . . . but it’s not the house where Elizabeth lived as a child with her half-sister and half-brother. Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury, built it in the early seventeenth century. The original palace, or what’s left of it, stands next to the current Hatfield, and many fewer visitors actually look inside this much-reduced structure.

The original Hatfield was a square palace, with a courtyard in the center, built by the Bishop of Ely in 1497. The palace, so closely associated with the Tudors, was acquired by Henry VIII during the Reformation. It contains some pretty bad portraits of Henry VIII’s six wives (with Henry at their center), but the real jewel is the gallery, set up on the day we visited for an upcoming wedding. It’s not as big as the one at Hampton Court, but it’s easy to imagine Elizabeth as a child here, newly outcast from her position as princess, and then as a girl, defending herself against charges that she had secretly agreed to marry Thomas Seymour, then again as a young woman, anxiously awaiting the news of her half-sister’s death. Elizabeth seems to have had great affection for the old palace, and she held her first Council of State in its gallery (which is now used for celebrations and events).

Only a quarter of the old palace remains, but the place, with its relatively small rooms, has a strangely homey feel. The docent told a story of the young Henry, who stayed here with his own mother and grandmother, being persuaded against his will to marry the much older (!) Katherine of Aragon. The accounts I have read suggest just the opposite—that the young king was eager to wed his widowed sister-in-law—but the story makes for a pleasant tale of intrigue, as it’s easy to imagine the young man, too big for the rooms, sitting by these intimate fireplaces and discussing the future of England.

Hatfield was home to Henry’s children. It was conveniently only a few miles from London and so easy to visit, but it was far enough away to keep the children out of the way when necessary. Sadly, however, during Elizabeth I’s long reign, Hatfield fell into neglect, then decay, and by the time she died in 1603, it was in sore need of repair. James I, with his envious eye on Robert Cecil’s house, Theobalds, forced an exchange of property, and Cecil ended up with Hatfield. He almost immediately tore down three-quarters of the palace to construct the current Hatfield House.

Why Cecil left the remaining quarter of the original Hatfield Palace is a mystery to me still. Perhaps he had confiscated all the bricks he needed for his new abode. Perhaps he wanted to use the old place for servants, or storage, or he wanted to keep it as a reminder of the Tudors, whom he had outlived. Whatever the reason, I am certainly glad that at least this part remains. I like to think of my heroine, Catherine Havens, out of place and unsure of herself, keeping her head down as much as she can as the drama of Henry VIII’s children plays out around her in this ruddy palace. Here, she finds herself caught between her loyalty to Mary Tudor, the daughter of Katherine, and her sympathy for the little girl Elizabeth, who must have been bewildered and angry at her sudden change of status. Walking out into the summer heat, I can feel myself pulled back in time as I gaze up at the red walls. Then I turn a corner, and it’s over. The Tudors are gone, and the Stuart era rises up to replace them.

Author Bio

Sarah Kennedy holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance Literature from Purdue University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. The author of seven books of poems as well as /The Altarpiece/ and /City of Ladies/, books one and two in /The Cross and the Crown/ series, she has received individual artist grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, as well as an award for scholarship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. She teaches at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. Her website is http://sarahkennedybooks.com/.

Related posts:



  1. I would love to win a copy !

  2. Ann Ormond Fennell says:

    I have added this book to my Wish List. I am looking forward to a great and interesting read.

  3. Michelle Bollig says:

    This looks fabulous! Thank you for sharing your experience at Hatfield. 🙂

  4. The history of Hatfield it has always fascinated me, so to add Sarah’s book to my collection would be good.

  5. Elaine Fearnley says:

    This sounds fascinating!! Would love to read this book.

  6. Chimene Kalinowski says:

    Would love a chance to read this book!

  7. Lori Stoppel says:

    Would love to win this!! Love all things History!!

  8. April Yvonne Denn Bouchard says:

    Oh, the book sounds very exciting and I’d love a copy to add to my collection. Hatfield House has always intrigued me in many ways. 🙂

  9. Nicole Gerrior says:

    Love this time period. Would love a copy 🙂

  10. ? The Tudors! Someday I hope to see Hatfield !!

  11. Oh, I truly love Tudors Monarch’s history. This would be an amazing piece to read.

  12. The Tudors is one of my favorite history periods 🙂
    Thanks for the sharing your experience at Hatfield 🙂

  13. Hazel Oreluk says:

    I would love to win a copy! Every time I read your newsletter or website, I miss England more. Next in my bucket list: Visit Hatfield. Hope you’ll have a book tour in Chicago, IL soon!

  14. sasyla dyrs says:

    Really really love to win this awesome
    giveaway ?

  15. wow i am intrigued by this book and its subject a must read I recon

  16. Perlz Imperiali says:

    Would love to add this book to my collection! Can’t wait to read!

  17. I wish I could just read all day, every day!

  18. Love all things Tudor and always looking to expand my library.

  19. Laura Patterson says:

    I would love to read this book! 🙂

  20. Elise moonen says:

    My Tudor book shelf could always use one more fantastic book!

  21. Jennifer Deguzman says:

    I would love to win a copy!

  22. I was unaware of these books . I would greatly love to read the third book . I noticed the necklace that the author wears . The necklace is lovely .

  23. Raquel M. says:

    Sounds like a great tour. It seems that visitors are allowed access to many rooms. Not many places allow you to see the kitchen area. Thanks for the giveaway!

  24. This looks FABULOUS!

  25. i’m a bit confused about the Old Palace having a gallery. I think you mean the banqueting hall which is used for weddings and tudor banquets.

  26. Love your website. .. I keep adding new books to my wish list!

  27. María Teresa Bueno Reina says:

    I love the Tudors and Anne of Cleves are one of the queens I wanted to read more about.
    So… cross fingers.
    Mª Teresa Bueno: terebueno21@hotmail.com

  28. Jennifer G. says:

    I can’t get enough of historical novels! I’m sure it will be very interesting, can’t wait to read it. Thank “onthetudortrail” for this giveaway.

  29. Thank you for the giveaway!!

    Always a pleasure to read guest posts!

  30. Ankie Bakker says:

    I am a Tudor fan from Holland; when I set my first steps on Englands soil it felt like coming home. I am convinced I lived here during the Tudor age. Love reading everything about this flamboyant family!

  31. Want.want,want. Love to read this ?

  32. Brittany Adams says:

    Love your site! Would love to win! 🙂

  33. Gail Marie says:

    Hatfield House is a must-see for me in 2016. Also want to read this book and would love to win a copy!

  34. Would be so happy if I were picked..fingers crossed

  35. I love to read anything dealing with Tudor history. This book would be a great addition to my growing library.

  36. Cathy Brooks says:

    Totally fascinated by all things tudor – would love to win this.

  37. Mentioned in the article stating their are bad portraits of King Henry’s wives . What bad portraits would these be?

  38. Bonnie Barton says:

    Love anything that has to with Tutor history!

  39. Sounds like a wonderful book to read.
    Nice of you to gift away a copy.

  40. Theresa Johnston says:

    Thank you for helping me find a new Tudor author. Can’t wait to read Sarah’s books!

  41. Kaye Nitschke says:

    Would dearly love to read this novel, an author whose books I have never read, but sounds great.

  42. Tammy Chenoweth says:

    The Reneaissance is so beautiful. Being born and raised in New Mexico my family looks at my love of the Tudors and English history somewhat odd but I simply can’t get enough. Thank you for literature, your books and your heritage,

  43. Jenny Vote says:

    Would love to win! Thanks for all you do, love all your articles!

  44. Anne Wickenden says:

    I love reading books based on English history and am looking forward to adding a new author to my collection.

  45. Nicole Gerrior says:

    This would be awesome 🙂

  46. Lindsey M says:

    My book pile is looking a little short, this looks like a great read to add to it.

Leave a Comment