The garden (rear) facade
The garden facade from a circa 1910 postcard
The house from a 1783 print
The entrance facade
The entrance facade
The house from a circa 1905 postcard
The west facade
The marble hall in 2021
The marble hall from a circa 1882 illustration
The marble hall
marble hall ceiling
The minstrels' gallery (with Shaun the Sheep) in the marble gallery.
Underside of the minstrels' gallery in the marble hall
The "Rainbow Portrait" of Elizabeth I in the marble hall
The King James Drawing Room
Ceiling of the King James Drawing Room
Fire surround, with statue of James I, in the King James Drawing Room.
The long gallery
The long gallery fire surround
The Chinese Bedroom
The entrance gates
The Old Palace from a circa 1903 postcard
The knot garden
Earlier Houses: The Old Palace was a brick house of four wings with a central courtyard that was begun in 1485 and completed in 1497 by Cardinal Morton, bishop of Ely and minister to Henry VII. In 1538, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII seized the estate and turned it into the royal palace of Hatfield. Here Elizabeth I spent much of her childhood, and it was in the garden at Hatfield, on November 17, 1558, sitting under an oak tree (long gone), that she was informed of her sister’s death and that she was now queen of England. Elizabeth held her first council of state in in the great hall of the Old Palace just a few days later. In 1611, after exchanging Theobalds for Hatfield, Robert Cecil demolished three wings of the Old Palace and used the bricks to build the current Hatfield House. The remaining wing (which retains its original 1485 roof timbers), where the banqueting hall is today, was used as a stables for 300 years, until it was restored in 1915.
Built / Designed For: Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
House & Family History: James I did not like the Old Palace and offered to exchange it for Theobalds, the seat of Robert Cecil, his chief minister. This exchange was accomplished, and Robert Cecil went on to serve James I for the remainder of his life, most famously exposing and suppressing the Gunpowder Plot. In 1608 Robert, later 1st Earl of Salisbury, began building the new Hatfield (using brick from the Old Palace), ultimately spending £38,000 (approximately £100 million in 2012 values using the labour value of the commodity index) on its construction. Another £30,000 was spent on the decoration and furnishing of the house (Hatfield contains one of the finest 17th century English staircases in existence) and the laying out of the gardens and grounds. The 1st Marquess of Salisbury (created marquess in 1789) was lord chamberlain to George III. His wife, who lived into her 80s, gambled, rode, and lived life with passion; she burned to death in 1835 when the west wing was consumed by fire, started, it's believed, by the feathers in her hair catching fire. Dickens refers to the fire in Chapter 48 ("The Flight of Sikes") of "Oliver Twist" (Dickens had covered the burning of the house as a young reporter). Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (1830-1903), was prime minister three times during Britain's world preeminence, serving Queen Victoria and Edward VII. The British phrase “…and Bob's your uncle,” which loosely means “and there you have it,” is believed to have originated in 1887, when the 3rd Marquess, then prime minister, appointed his nephew, Arthur Balfour, as chief secretary for Ireland. The decision was surprising because of Balfour’s seeming lack of qualifications for the job; in fact, the only qualification people could see was that his Uncle Bob was the prime minister. One of the 3rd Marquess's sons, Lord Edgar Algernon Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, received the 1937 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in establishing the League of Nations. In the early 20th century the war hero Lord Kitchener, who lived at Broome Park, Kent, commissioned the architects Blow & Billerey to redecorate his house, the high point of which was the hall, complete with two huge chimneypieces copied from those in the gallery at Hatfield House. During World War II the house became a hospital, and after the war, a Civil Resettlement Unit for prisoners of war. Hatfield features prominently in Steve Berry's 2013 novel, "The King's Deception."
Collections: Hatfield contains two of the most famous portraits of Queen Elizabeth I: "The Rainbow Portrait," attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger or Isaac Oliver, and "The Ermine Portrait," attributed to George Gower or William Segar, and sometimes to Nicholas Hilliard (see "Images" section for both). The collection also includes the garden hat, gloves, and yellow silk stockings (believed to be the first worn in England) supposedly owned by the queen. Hatfield's library and archives are among the most important in England, with over 10,000 volumes (some dating to the 16th century), important state documents, letters from Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, and several great seals of British kings and queens. The King James Drawing Room has a life-sized bronze statue of James I over the mantelpiece that was presented to the family by the king himself. A set of tapestries of the four seasons, made for Toddington Hall in Gloucestershire in 1611 by Ralph Sheldon of Warwickshire, was purchased in the 19th century by the 2nd Marquess of Salisbury and have remained at Hatfield ever since. Considered the finest English tapestries of their period, the set was restored over a 17-year period at the end of the 20th century/beginning of the 21st century.
Garden & Outbuildings: The Hatfield Estate today covers 7,000 acres.
Chapel & Church: The chapel was remodeled for the 3rd Marquess between 1869 and 1880.
Architect: Robert LymingeDate: 1607-12
Architect: Inigo JonesDate: Circa 1610
Architect: Isaac de Caus (de Caux)Date: 17th century
John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. I, p. 224, 1852.
John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. II, 1819.
Country Life: I, 491, 519, 1897. XI, 840, 1902. XII, 16, 1902. LXI, 426 plan, 462, 501 [Portraits], 524 plan, 1927.
Title: Buildings of England: North East and East Kent, The
Author: Newman, John
Year Published: 1969
Reference: pgs. 161-162
Publisher: London: Penguin Books
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 1990
Author: Kidd, Charles; Williamson, David (Editors)
Year Published: 1990
Reference: pg. P 1085-1086
Publisher: London: Debrett's Peerage Limited (New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc.)
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Movie Locations: A Guide to Britain & Ireland
Author: Adams, Mark
Year Published: 2000
Publisher: London: Boxtree
Book Type: Softback
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Grade I
Current Seat / Home of: Robert Michael James Gascoyne-Cecil, 7th Marquess of Salisbury; Cecil family here since 1611.
Past Seat / Home of: Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, 1611-12; William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Salisbury, 1612-68; James Cecil, 3rd Earl of Salisbury, 1668-83; James Cecil, 4th Earl of Salisbury, 1683-94; James Cecil, 5th Earl of Salisbury, 1694-1728; James Cecil, 6th Earl of Salisbury, 1728-80; James Cecil, 1st Marquess of Salisbury and 7th Earl of Salisbury, 1780-1823; James Brownlow William Gascoyne-Cecil, 2nd Marquess of Salisbury, 1823-68; Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, 1868-1903; James Edward Hubert Gascoyne-Cecil, 4th Marquess of Salisbury, 1903-47; Robert Arthur James Gascoyne-Cecil, 5th Marquess of Salisbury, 1947-72; Robert Edward Peter Cecil Gascoyne-Cecil, 6th Marquess of Salisbury, 1972-2003.
Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home
House Open to Public: Yes
Historic Houses Member: No