C16 makeups: Bess Throckmorton

Bess Throckmorton

Elizabeth Raleigh (1565–1647), née Throgmorton, was sir Walter Raleigh’s wife, and a Lady of the Privy Chamber – lady-in-waiting –to Queen Elizabeth I.

Bess was the daughter of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton who was the cousin of Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr. Bess is said to have been intelligent, forthright, passionate and courageous.

While at court she and Raleigh, at least twelve years her senior, fell in love. Her pregnancy in the summer of 1591 led to their secret marriage. The marriage was discovered on 31 May 1592, and the Queen, who required ladies-in-waiting to get her permission to marry, had Raleigh arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London and Bess expelled from court. Elizabeth probably expected the couple to sue for pardon, but they refused and Raleigh fell into disgrace for five years. By the end of her reign he was back in favour as from 1600 to 1603, Raleigh was the Governor of the Channel Island of Jersey but he was arrested when James came to the throne and spent thirteen years in the Tower before being released only to be re-arrested and executed two years later.

It is said that Bess had her husband’s head embalmed and carried it around with her for the rest of her life – some thirty years.

The movies

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007): This sequel to Elizabeth deals with Elizabeth’s handling of the Spanish Armada, and the problem of Mary Queen of Scots, while infatuated with sir Walter Raleigh. The Armada is dealt with in short order, Mary with much anguish but thanks to Bess Throckmorton (Abbie Cornish) Raleigh slips from her grasp. Jenny Shircore was hair & makeup designer.

The Virgin Queen (1955): Sir Walter Raleigh gains audience with Queen Elizabeth I seeking her support – and money for ships to sail – but soon finds himself caught between the Queen’s desire for him and his love for Beth Throgmorton (Joan Collins). Ben Nye was makeup artist.