Tracy Borman
will give a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Monday, October 30, at 12:15 pm. Her talk is entitled “The Private Life of Elizabeth I.”

This talk will explore the private life, loves, and pastimes of Elizabeth I. The iconic Virgin Queen led a very different life in private to the one that most of her subjects witnessed. It was vital for the queen to show no vulnerability to the outside world: any sign of frailty, illness, or even the natural process of ageing had to be disguised by a mask of invincibility. If this mask slipped, then so might her dynasty. But Elizabeth’s closest attendants knew the truth. They saw the clandestine meetings with her favorite, Robert Dudley, they watched as she practised her dance steps so that she could perform flawlessly in front of the court, and towards the end of her reign they saw the “crooked carcass” beneath her carefully applied makeup, gowns, and accessories.

Dr. Borman will set Elizabeth’s private life in context by exploring the evolution of private life during the Tudor period. Drawing upon her expertise as joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, she will consider how the architecture of the Tudor palaces reinforced the privacy—and thereby mystique—of this most famous royal dynasty. She will also examine the nature and role of the Privy Chamber, and how this had to be adapted for a female sovereign. Finally, she will consider the legacy of Elizabeth’s private life and the dramatic contrast with that of her successor. In so doing, Dr. Borman will draw upon the accounts of those who served the Virgin Queen: women such as her longest-standing attendant, Blanche Parry, and her old governess, Kat Astley. The presentation will be based on a rich array of other contemporary sources—correspondence, household accounts, architectural and pictorial evidence, ambassadors’ reports, and the words of the queen herself.


Tracy Borman studied and taught history at the University of Hull, where she received her PhD in 1997. She went on to a successful career in heritage and has worked for a range of historic properties and national heritage organizations, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, The National Archives, and English Heritage. She is now Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust, a charity that encourages children to visit and learn from historic properties through the Sandford Award scheme. She is also joint Chief Curator for Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that manages Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, the Banqueting House, Whitehall, and Hillsborough Castle. She often appears on television and radio and is a regular contributor to history magazines, notably BBC History.