Power and Intimacy: Elizabeth I and her Court


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

Ruling for 44 years as a “Virgin Queen”, the extraordinary life of Elizabeth I has long fascinated scholars seeking to make sense of the upheavals of her reign. This course will focus on life and politics at the Elizabethan court. Our discussions will be grounded in primary source material as we address a series of key questions. How did Elizabeth retain the loyalty of those closest to her? What did it mean when the queen would not decide? What did it take to succeed at the court and to win and hold the favour of the queen? Who, in the final analysis, was in charge?

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.

Ministers. William Cecil was the dominant politician at court for much of Elizabeth’s reign, enjoying the trust of the queen and employing his considerable skills in securing her crown and establishing effective government. But he was not the only lawyer and bureaucrat to hold office under Elizabeth. In this session we will think more broadly about those who held office and managed the operations of government.

Favourites. This session will focus on the small number of men who found themselves in receipt of the queen’s particular favour, and whose careers developed in interesting ways as a result of her attention. Leicester, Hatton, Raleigh, and Essex will provide us with a series of examples through which to make sense of the queen’s particular inclinations and the ideas which lay behind her choice of men to serve her.

Palaces and progresses. In this session we will consider the material dimension of life at the court. We will follow Elizabeth’s summer visits to the great houses of her nobility, where as a more or less welcome guest she prompted vast expenditure on buildings and on entertainments. The queen herself spent very little on architecture but rather focused her expenditure on the royal wardrobe, for which the accounts survive, providing a fascinating glimpse into the visual, material world of the queen.

Field trip to Hatfield House

Women. Those who were physically closest to Elizabeth were the women of her Privy Chamber, with some of whom she enjoyed exceptionally close friendships, whilst others incurred the queen’s displeasure and were banished from the innermost circle. Today we will think about the political and social importance of these women, exploring what can be said of their lives and their experiences of life close to the queen.


Field Trip

Destination:   Hatfield House; Hertfordshire

Excursion Rating: Moderate
Up to two hours' walk on even ground or up to an hour's walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.


Description Costs
Programme fee (no accom–incl. field trip, lunch and dinner) £1145.00
Programme fee (with single en-suite accom, field trip and meals) £1640.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom, field trip and meals) £1455.00


Dr Janet Dickinson


Janet Dickinson specializes in the cultural and political history of early modern England and Europe. Her publications and research focus on Elizabeth I and the nobility.  She has three times been named ‘most acclaimed lecturer’ by her students at OUDCE.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Friday, 1 May 2020 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

The fee stated includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available*.

There is also a limited number of standard rooms available, which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but shared bath and toilet facilities. Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room)*.

*If you wish to book a twin en-suite room or a standard twin set room each person should complete an application form and email it to us at oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk as these rooms cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems. Students should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


If accommodation is unavailable in a particular week, we also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

If you wish to enrol on a non-residential basis please complete an application form and email it to us at oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk as this option cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)