North Mymms Park
A short history
The identity of the female figure wearing on her head a laurel wreath and proffering a crown is less problematical. She is almost certainly Fortune. Fortune could forsake her favourites (Alexander the Great was struck down prime, as was Julius Caesar). She was a dichotomy of Good and Evil, sitting wheel doling out rewards and punishment - proffering with one hand a crown with the other scattering flowers, emblematic of folly.
The winged female figure to Fortune’s right, appears to be leading the procession and is labelled ‘Fame’. The Victoria & Albert Museum describes her as being dressed in the height of fashion for the 1580s with an open ruff and full sleeves tapering to the wrist. Her small waist is emphasised by full rounded hips created by a ‘bum roll’ under her petticoat. Her hair has been centrally parted, then tightly curled and finally brushed away from her face. The distinctive high forehead of the period has been achieved by shaving back the hairline. She holds two trumpets, one for ‘good’ and one for ‘ill-repute’. She blows the one to which a banner attaches.
It may be that this emblematic figure of ‘Fames is Queen Elizabeth, included here among the Worthies by order of the house’s owner in the hope that she might one day be prompted by vanity to visit the property to view her likeness.
Did she ever do so? It’s all a mystery .... as so much else concerning her, but there are some grounds for supposing that she did . She was unquestionably vain - as witness the fantastically elaborate dresses and jewels and she was also familiar with the area. In March 1536, when she was just two years old, her mother Anne Boleyn was executed. Shortly afterwards Elizabeth was declared illegitimate and removed from Court. She spent most of her childhood at Hatfield House, a short distance from North Mymms Park.
Throughout her reign Elizabeth embarked on frequent ‘royal progresses’ availing herself of the hospitality of her wealthier subjects. It is an established fact that she tried to control all royal portraits and she may well have wished to vet the one here. The figure of ‘Fame’ is dressed in the height of upper-class Tudor fashion, has Elizabeth’s high-shaven forehead and - as one would expect of a queen - gives the impression of leading the procession. The allegorical title of the portrait does not preclude it from being a true representation of the Queen. Painters such as Nicholas Hilliard celebrated her in a variety of mythological and allegorical guises -as Diana, the chaste goddess of the moon, Astraea, the goddess of justice and most famously - as Gloriana, queen of the fairies.
Chapter 5 - Further Discoveries and Antiques
Index North Mymms Park - A short history