Power and Intimacy: Elizabeth I and Her Court


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, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study, or exploring the many places of interest in and around the city.

Please note that OUDCE reserves the right to alter course content and/or cancel field trips in accordance with government guidance.

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
Fee option 1 (single en suite accom and meals) £1650.00
Fee option 2 (single standard accom and meals) £1465.00
Fee option 3 (twin en suite accom and meals) £1557.50
Fee option 4 (double en suite accom and meals) £1557.50
Fee option 5 (twin set standard accom and meals) £1465.00
Fee option 6 (no accom; incl lunch and dinner) £1155.00


All fees are charged on a per week, per person basis.

Please be aware that all payments (and refunds) are subject to exchange rates at the time of processing.

Payment terms

  • If enrolling online: full payment by credit/debit card at the time of booking
  • If submitting an application form: full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of invoice date

Cancellations and refunds

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk or by post to The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK.

The following cancellation and refund policy applies in all cases:

  • Cancellation within 14 days of online enrolment / payment of fees – full refund of all fees paid

  • Cancellations received up to and including 31 May 2021 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received between 1-30 June 2021 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received on and after 1 July 2021 - no refunds will be made.

Important note: You need to take out travel insurance to cover the programme fee and travel costs.


Dr Janet Dickinson

Janet Dickinson specializes in the history of early modern England and Europe, with particular interests in cultural and political history. Her first book, Court Politics and the Earl of Essex was published in 2011. Current projects include work on the Elizabethan nobility and the last years of Elizabeth I’s life as well as court history in general.  She has taught for OUDCE since 2007 and in 2014 and 2016 was named ‘most acclaimed lecturer’ by her students.

Teaching methods

Participants will be taught in seminar groups of up to 12 people. Elements of this teaching will normally include mini lectures and presentations by tutors and tutor-led class discussions.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Registration closes on 1 May 2021.

Please note: most courses fill up fast so early registration is strongly recommended.

Single accommodation and non-residential places may be booked online by clicking on the “Book now” button in the “Course details” box at the top right-hand side of the course page.

If you experience any difficulties enrolling online please contact the Programme Administrator at oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk

Those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an application form as these rooms cannot be booked online. Completed forms should be sent:

Covid-19 guidance for summer school participants

Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of participants is our highest priority. We've introduced a range of measures to protect you when you are in university and college buildings, in accordance with University and UK government guidelines. These measures may include: enhanced cleaning regimes and additional facilities for hand washing and hand sanitising; spaces adapted to support social distancing with clear signage and markings; a requirement for the wearing of face coverings during in-person teaching and in indoor shared spaces.

You'll be required to follow University and UK government guidelines whilst in Oxford, and to sign a ‘Student Responsibility Agreement’ in advance of the course, confirming that you will do so (this will be similar to the version for University students, which you can review online).  Further information is available at https://www.ox.ac.uk/coronavirus/health. You should particularly review the University’s Face Coverings policy, which you will need to comply with at all times on University property.

If UK government regulations require you to quarantine on arrival in the UK, then you will need to arrange this yourself at your own expense. Unfortunately, we aren’t permitted to let you quarantine in University accommodation. Travel is not encouraged – and may not be permitted – if you are travelling from or through a country on the UK government’s ‘red list’.

If we have to cancel your course

Should it be necessary to cancel your course, we will make every reasonable effort to give you as much notice of cancellation as possible, and we will refund all course fees paid by you (including the cost of accommodation, if booked through us as part of your course). Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than in pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the date they are processed.

The Department cannot be held responsible for any costs you may incur in relation to travel or accommodation bookings as a result of a course cancellation, or if you are unable to attend the course for any other reason. You are advised to check cancellation policies carefully and to purchase travel insurance.


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.

Participants should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The following types of accommodation are available:

  • Single en suite

  • Single standard

  • Twin en suite

  • Double en suite

  • Standard ‘twin set’

En suite rooms include private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Standard rooms have their own washbasin and shaver point but bathroom facilities are shared. ‘Twin sets’ comprise two single rooms opening off a sitting room.

Please note that only single accommodation may be booked online; those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an application form. (See “Application”.)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form), together with a note of any mobility problems.

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.

We also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals (lunch and dinner) at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.